For some years I have wanted to visit Paris, but not for the usual reasons. On our many trips through France to and fro to the house in La Fresneda, Spain I have looked longingly at the large blob on the map and copped out, I just could not face driving the motor caravan into that madness. So we took the train.
There were two churches on my must see list, the most important was Saint Denis. Through guiding I have developed a strong interest in architecture and the Basilica of Saint Denis is generally regarded as the birthplace of Gothic. Its western frontage was a little disappointing (Romanesque), but the nave, crossing and choir are truly inspiring and very gothic: vast pointed windows plus rib vaulting everywhere and externally the eastern end boasts what must be some of the earliest flying buttresses. What’s more most of the French Royals are buried there including the guillotined Louis XVI and his famed queen, Marie Antoinette.
My other long term ambition was to visit Sainte Chapelle, partly because I have been telling visitors for years that it is the inspiration for Exeter College’s 19th century chapel. It did not disappoint. Though not as grand as Saint Denis its Rayonnant Gothic windows are superlative in design, colour and depiction - and all so lovingly restored.
The train journey from Paris to Barcelona takes about six hours and becomes more interesting the further south one goes. We had the luck to have seats on the upper floor of the train and saw parts of France which we knew quite well, but from a very different aspect. The city was warmer and brighter of course, but we missed the Parisian buildings even though we were staying just around the corner from Sagrada Familia. Most memorable, apart from visiting our grandson Robin, was a trip to Tibidado a high hill topped by a church from which you can see the entirety of that great Spanish city and the Med.
Then, home again for some decent food and drink. And to the horrible news of Putin’s attack on the free people of Ukraine.