A day of “lasts:” the last day in Paris, last day of the Euro2008 expedition, last day of a nine year sojourn in the Old World. You might expect that the weather gods would reward us with one last brilliant, Indian summer day, a gold and russet day, a fond au revoir to departing guests. Instead, Paris does what she does best, thumbs her nose at us and pours on the drizzle.
I can't say that I am disappointed. In many ways, the downpour suits my downcast spirits. I want to catch the essence of Paris, the grainy monochrome of a black and white day. The younger members of the team are reluctant to leave the flat in the inclement conditions, and I spend a good part of the morning simply wandering the rain-slicked streets alone, camera in hand, snapping away from beneath the umbrella we purchased in Rome. I treat myself to another Falafel sandwich for lunch in the Marais, and by 2:00 I have returned to the flat.
We want to make one more run at climbing the towers of Notre Dame, so, with the clouds breaking to the south we set off for the city cathedral. As it turns out, we were very fortunate, as they closed the line behind us and began to turn away further climbers.
The two towers of Notre Dame stand 69 meters tall, and for years were part of one of the largest cathedrals in Europe. To reach the top, visitors climb the north tower, winding up an interminable spiral staircase. I did not get an exact count of the number of stairs in the stone coil; I didn't start counting until midway through the ascent. My estimate is that there are around 300 steps. Up and around and up. It was a long trudge, slowing as we neared the top.
The magnificent view made it all worthwhile. From the Chimera Gallery, Paris spreads away to the horizons. The sun was fighting its way through vents in the clouds, casting a golden glow over the city. The stone statues (the chimera which give the gallery its name) glared fiercely out over Paris, as if standing guard, ever-vigilant sentinels.
Since we were the last group to make the ascent, the guards did not waste much time before they began to chivvie us along. Much to our surprise, there was a further climb to make. We entered the South Tower, expecting to descend to street level. Instead, we faced further steps which led upward. Another long wind and we broke out on the roof of the south tower. Here we had 360 degree views from which to admire the panorama stretching to the horizon.
Going down was easier than the ascent, but slightly dizzying. We emerged—like well-wound pocket watches or spun out tops—at the foot of the tower. The girls headed off for one last great pass through the souvenir shops while I set out to take my last shots along the Seine.
Our Paris excursion ended with a slightly downbeat dinner in an Italian restaurant. Mary and Annie remember favoring this particular eatery with our custom several times during our last visit here. I have no memory of it. The food was overpriced and forgettable. Perhaps that's why I can't recall it.
The evening ended with a thud. The next morning would find us queuing up for a long flight to America, the new world. The rain sent tears upon us as we wound back to our flat. The great adventure of the Euro2008 tour had come to an end.