Paris–August 10

Our intention this morning was to stray from the cliche tourism of the Bateau Mouche and ride a City bus at the quai to the end of the line and back as we’d done in London.  We walked a new way toward the river and came upon a tiny corner sculpture park centered on a travertine marble box behind which a large red circle was painted on the blank wall of a building.

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A sign indicated that the box was used as a base for temporary art installations, this one entitled “Pandora’s Box.” A young woman walked up to the pedestal and pressed  a button causing the plastic assemblage to revolve and look like a discharge of steam.

Behind the pedestal stood a group of men earnestly conferring, perhaps about a future display.

At the end of the next short block, the street opened to a large construction site bordered to the south by yet another beautiful medieval cathedral and on the west by two large contemporary murals, a crude one on the left portraying a huge face with a silencing finger over the lips and an awkwardly drawn cat and an elegant one on the right framed in a mandala containing a lotus flower  growing out of a strand of barbed wire and held by two female figures standing on piles of books, an open book between them printed with the words “the future/is unknown,” the whole rising on a platform supported by the words KNOWLEDGE ACTION POWER.

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An inviting pedestrian promenade offered a new route to the riverside

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crowded with walkers, skaters, dogs, and booths loaded with books, prints, and souvenirs.

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Following our plan, we boarded a bus not knowing its destination. But it reached the end of the line in just a few blocks and left us off by a bridge crossing to the Isle de St. Louis, adjacent to the Isle de la Cite.

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Its swanky quaiside streets were almost empty of people and graced with artful utilities and graffiti.

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From the embankment we saw the rear of Notre Dame obscured by scaffolding and flanked by cranes.

Across a bridge between the islands, we entered a walkway whose walls were covered with images telling the story of the calamitous 2019 fire and the heroic (and unbelievably costly) ongoing efforts to repair the cathedral.

The sights of photographic murals, steel lattice, gargantuan machinery, and living people–some high up at work, others gazing from the ground–all superimposed on the medieval stonework left me spellbound.





The square in front of the facade was packed with a hectic crowd lulled by an unobtrusive musician.

After lunch, we yielded to the temptation of taking a final bus tour of must-see attractions.

By contrast to the morning’s exploration, its boring canned narrative left me feeling trapped in city traffic and ready for the next day’s flight back to California.

But that night’s supper of wine, cheese and bread at Le Ju’, the sprightly neighborhood cafe where we’d repeatedly mixed with the locals, left me longing to return.


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