jeudi, août 17, 2006


This is a time of adjustment. Leslie has returned to the States. The apartment feels empty, and so do the days. This should not be in Paris! Fall is coming, as odd as it is to say this in the middle of August, but you can feel it in the air. I’m intensely conscious of the flight of time. There are only two weeks left in Paris, three in France. Some will smile at the word only, but suddenly I feel the pressure of the end approaching. There is still so much to do, and the gulf between me and my dreams is wide.

After putting Leslie on the plane, I rode the RER back to town and planned the rest of the day. Tidy the apartment, no chance to shop as the grocery stores are closed on Assumption Day (so no milk for cereal or coffee the next morning), study some French (I have piles of undigested notes and vocabulary from the course of the past two weeks), and then off to an organ concert at the Eglise Saint-Paul Saint-Louis in the now familiar Marais neighborhood not far from the Hôtel Sully, Place des Vosges, Carnavalet Museum, etc. I am one of perhaps 150 people over 60 comprising the audience. Lovely music by Buxtehude, Bach, and Franck.

A slow walk home. Why go underground, why rush home? And a good thing, too, as the walk takes me by the “mystery high-rise in white.” For weeks, I and others with me have been wondering, what is this funny tall building wrapped in white, this out-of-place jarring bright oblong jutting up from the midst of low 19th Century Paris. It always seemed to be just over there from wherever we were, as though it was aware of us and shifting around to stay out of reach but not out of sight. Well, on the way back from the concert, I happened to walk right by it. And here’s what it is: the Tour St. Jacques, currently being restored and thus garbed in protective échaffaudage. A very thoughtful set of panels on the gating surrounding the Tour explains that the edifice is the remaining belfry of the four centuries old église St-Jacques le Boucherie. The church grew on the site of a succession of earlier chapels and churches in the bustling commercial center of the butchery trade. I forget now why the church was torn down, possibly because it was eroding and costly to maintain, but the intervention of a well-placed individual saved the one tower. Over the years, it saw service as a testing station for Blaise Pascal’s experiments on gravity and later as a weather station. After several earlier efforts at restoration, a definitive restoration project was begun at the beginning of this century, to be completed in 2008. The restoration is proceeding from the top of the Tour’s four or five layers to the bottom, and the scaffolding will be removed as each layer is completed. Paris will have a step by step gander at the beauty slowly revealed underneath, a kind of large-scale urban “extreme makeover” strip-tease.


Blogger Leslie said...

Ahah! A great relief given how it sits in the middle of the old section of Paris. Wonderful discovery!

3:46 PM  

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