Easter Sunday usually means a day of rest and relaxation for me, but this year, I decided to break the cycle…. after all, I’m in Paris! I woke up early so I could head downstairs to the local farmer’s market to pick up some groceries for the coming week before heading out to mass. I did some research online and read that the Gregorian mass held at none other than Our Lady of Paris would be an ethereal experience not to be missed if ever given the opportunity. On Easter Sunday, Parisians have the pleasure of waking up to the great bell Emmanuel, hung at the top of the South Tower, ringing in all its glory. The bell towers only ring on special occasions… those marked by Easter, Christmas, and visits from the Pope himself.
I suppose word must have leaked out about this awesome event since there was a huge turnout for the 10am mass. I arrived just after the 9:30am Lauds service and there wasn’t an empty seat in the entire cathedral! People stood in the aisles and gathered around the main alter just to catch a glimpse of the archbishop and the church choir that stood behind him.
Once mass begun, the crowd fell silent and listened in awe to the melodic Gregorian chant. I didn’t understand a word that was being sung, but it was truly heartfelt. All of my stress and worries seemed to just melt away, and even though I was surrounded by strangers, I actually felt at home… an unforgettable moment in time.
After the service, I headed out to the park just outside Notre Dame. I was so happy to see that the trees and tulips were in full bloom. At last, spring has arrived in Paris!
As I walked back towards the church, I caught a glimpse of the archbishop and the choir just as they were leaving… perfect timing I must say =)
Since it was still early and the weather was quite nice, I decided to take a stroll to the 3eme for a light snack at Le Pain de Sucre, headed by pastry chefs Didier Mathray and Nathalie Robert, who were actually awarded Pastry Chefs of the Year in 2007-2008 by Gilles Pudlowski, France’s most respective food writer and critic. Quite impressive, don’t you think?
This being my second visit there, I decided to skip the desserts and opted for a pain au chocolat (basically a chocolate croissant). Last time I was here, I tried their chocolate cake, suitably named, etat de choc (’state of shock’) which was absolutely divine… probably the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had! In between the smooth layers of chocolate mousse and creamy hazelnut praline sits a crispy Sacher almond biscuit, all of which is topped with a luscious coating of dark chocolate ganache… positively sinful! Next time I go back, I’ll attempt to take a snapshot of the etat de choc… that is, if I can resist devouring it the moment I get my hands on this exquisite dessert =P
With my chocolate croissant in hand, I headed further down the street Rue Rambuteau and stumbled upon the Garden of Les Halles. There, in front of the Gothic church, St. Eustache, sat a giant, 70-ton sculpture of a head resting on its hand. This rather peculiar sculpture, entitled L’Ecoute (’Listening’), was created by Henri de Miller and placed here in 1986. Since then, it seems to have become a popular climbing stone for children and adults alike.
The Garden of Les Halles had plenty of resting ground for people to sprawl out and just relax on a lovely Sunday afternoon. I found my own little patch of grass at the top of the steps and finished my croissant while I watched the pigeons bathe in the still fountain. Satisfied and fully re-energized, it was time for me to head back home.
Having travelled far and wide on foot for the past couple days, I definitely need to rest my feet… and perhaps invest in a new pair of walking shoes.