Two films I saw recently reminded me of my love for the city of Paris. I saw “Hugo” on the big screen, with those 3-D glasses. The film itself overwhelmed with its beauty; the parts where Hugo looks out on the night city from the clock tower of Montparnasse Station really took my breath away. I remembered that I could see the roof of that station from my bedroom window at our Motherhouse at 140 rue du bac, when I stayed there in October of 2004. From the bathroom window on the other side of the hall, I could see the Eiffel Tower!
The other film, “Midnight in Paris,” I saw via Netflix. I loved it – what a wonderful “English teacher movie,” as my non-literary friends say. It was Woody Allen’s fantasy of Paris, and partly mine, too. I remember reading Hemingway’s A Movable Feast when I was in high school, imagining Paris even then.
I wasn’t in Paris nearly long enough. I was there in 1976 too, but barely remember that trip – didn’t take many photos, didn’t keep a diary, and was way too occupied with worrying about my students ( we were on a foreign study league trip) and thinking about what I was going to do with my life.
On the 2004 trip, I stayed for over a week in our Motherhouse, at 140 rue du bac.
It is an amazing building, taking up most of a city block in the 7th arrondisment, right around the corner from Le Bon Marchee, a legendary department store. The building containing our Motherhouse was built in 1760, as the Hôtel de Châtillon, living quarters of a mistress of Louis XIV! We moved into it in 1813, An imperial decree on 25 March 1813, granted the Daughters of Charity the hotel. In 1814 the construction of a chapel began. The chapel was consecrated in Paris on August 6, 1815 . This convent chapel is where novice Catherine Laboure received her first of four visions of the Blessed Virgin on July 18, 1830. I took the following photos there:
I only had two days to really wander about the city on my own. I went to Montmartre with three other sisters, rode the funicular and visited Sacre Coeur, walked down the million steps and ate crepes from a streetcorner vendor… then I left them and went on the Metro over to Pere Lachaise Cemetery, where I wandered all afternoon. I’m working on a long poem about that. On the other wandering day, I walked from the Motherhouse to the Rodin Museum, spent a long time there, walked along the Seine, and back down rue du bac, stopping somewhere along the way for a glass of red wine. As a group we toured a bit, visiting churches important to Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac and Frederic Ozanam ( founder of the St.Vincent de Paul Society) We also visited Notre Dame and Sainte-Chapelle, and I spent some time in a sidewalk café right across the street from Sainte-Chapelle, feasting on Crème Brulee and watching people. But I could have happily continued my wanderings for many more days!