Today was another Typical Tourist Day starting with an optional trip to Versailles. We had our usual guide on our bus, which was great. She filled us in on the stories of Kings Louis XIV (the Sun King), Louis XV (the Fun King, for his love of hunting both animals and women) and Louis XVI (the Dead King–you know). I vaguely remember visiting the place when I was a student. At the time my revolutionary self thought the excesses of the place were disgusting so it didn’t make much of an impression, just a bunch of decorated rooms and ornate exteriors. This time I felt sad that so many people had suffered so much to indulge a group of privileged people who were in their own way sad in their narcissism and self-absorption. Our guide led us and did her usual excellent job but there were so many people pressing in I felt like I was in a semi-permenent rugby scrum. I was glad to escape to the cool and quiet of the gardens. This all reflected one kind of light, the light of the Sun King and the light of the, well, Enlightenment.
Since we had two buses our leaders polled us and determined that one bus would return to the hotel and one would get as close as possible to Notre Dame. We took the Notre Dame bus and, with two young friends, set off for some shopping in the Marais, a section where most stores are open on Sunday. We then came back to Notre Dame, met up with some friends, and joined the thousand-yard line (no kidding) to get into the cathedral. The line moved surprisingly quickly, though,and we sat through most of the concert. Then we made our way to the Metro where we encountered our guide. It was good to see her! We went back to the hotel where we rested for a while. Then we found a cafe and enjoyed a very good French meal. We took the Metro to Sacre Coeur, gazing on the vistas lit pink by the last of the sun (this was about 10:15 PM). We made our way back and tumbled into our room about 11.
It occurred to me that we experienced at least four kinds of light this day. One was the light of the deluded Sun King. Another was the light of the Enlightenment, a third was the light of religion at Notre Dame and Sacre Coeur while the fourth was the light of the setting sun. That last light seemed appropriate as our time here nears an end.
Tomorrow we travel to Normandy where we remember those for whom the light was extinguished all too soon.