Saturday, March 16, 2013

The ecstasy and then the agony

This post was intended to be cleverly titled "Stony Feathers and  Ghost-cicles" because we had just spent an amazing hour and a half in a Mozart concert in the spectacular St. Chapelle built by Louis VII. I have written before about the 700 year old royal chapel built to house the Crown of Thorns, and its oldest-in-the-world stained glass windows. It is all that survives of the Capetian kings' royal palace supplanted in the 1600s by Louis XIV. The string quartet lifted notes into the impossibly high ceiling in the sub-zero temperature in the unheated and bare room where ultimate rulers strolled a third of the way back to Christ's birth. In the year 280 the undisputed Emperor of the Roman Empire - and thus the entire Western world from Mesopotamia to the Pyramids to modern Portugal, Scotland, and Germany - had converted to Christianity and sent envoys to see if there were any then-younger-than-our-Declaration-of-Independence relics of the crucification of Jesus. The early church had been in hiding until Constantine's conversion and had treasured relics in their possession. Whether those relics from 280 AD were actual relics from 247 years earlier is unknowable.  But the relics formerly in St. Chapelle and now in Notre Dame where I saw a piece of the Cross are certainly what Constantine's envoy found in 280. After about 500 years on display in Jerusalem, the monarch there transferred them to Constantinople when he became uncertain he could protect them from an approaching Muslim army.  Louis VII's cousin Baldwin II in Constantinople was the monarch who sold the relics to Louis VII for a sum greater than half of France's GDP that year!

Anyhow, the concert was spectacular.

Apparently to offset, our customs and immigration experience at British immigration began at Gare du Nord. There was a mob backed up by the ponderously slow British customs officers as we watched time pass. The train would leave with or without us.  I got in the wrong line - the line to the left said "EU citizens only" but Donna noticed it so we got in line on the right which specifically said "All Others". After the British customs line and before the British security line was the British passport control which - when we arrived at the front - had a sign saying EU citizens only. But we were out of time. While Donna waited as the agent cleared a girl with an expired passport I went back to reread the signage:  EU citizens to the left, all others to the right. We were in the right-hand line.  So, the female agent berated us for not being in the correct line. Donna said that the sign says EU citizens to the left and the scowling agent facing us raised her left hand, pointed at Donna's corresponding right hand, and said "that is your left hand" to which Donna almost exploded. Then she lectured us for not knowing Robert and Dorothy's complete address in Suffolk. She stamped our passports and began a speech about "next time..." to which we said to each other "why would anyone want to come visit their country with this greeting?"

We were still taking off our coats as the doors closed and the train left.  We were seated in the middle of the car next to a stereotypical group of 8 Germans: grossly loud and unconcerned that everyone on the car was disturbed by their howling. We moved to empty seats at the far end of the car. Between the noise of the train and the distance their screeching was lessened.  Yuk!

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