Today, for the first time since arriving last Tuesday, we made it out of the house before noon — if only to attend an 11:30 am Mass around the corner. As the day went on, we actually had both lunch and dinner — another landmark toward achieving a normal biorhythm after the challenge of jetlag.
The silence and the calm in the streets and parks was surprising. It was Sunday, after all, and clearly Sunday is still observed here for the most part as a weekly day of rest. When we left the church after Mass and started down the street, there was virtually no traffic, even where it is incessant on other days. People were strolling rather than hurrying. Or they were standing on the sidewalk, just chatting with friends, as children played around them, riding scooters or small bicycles. Usually the atmosphere on streets and sidewalks is purposeful, not relaxed. We were astonished at the difference between Sunday and other days of the week.
We strolled down the street, enjoying feeling at one with the sense of relaxation around us, and found what turned out to be a hearty lunch at a sidewalk cafe. We had decided to attend a concert that we had seen announced on a poster at the Schola Cantorum. It intrigued us — a whole Mass by Puccini, the famous writer of operas. We'd never known of this piece. We were also interested to learn that Puccini had composed this Mass for symphony orchestra and large chorus as his exit exam from his own conservatory training, in Italy.
We were very proud to have finally mastered the bus network to change buses and get from one place to another seamlessly across the city. So we took a bus from our neighborhood, changed to another bus, and arrived at the Ile St. Louis, in the 4th arondissement. We'd been advised on our first day here, by a clerk in the Metro, to purchase an unlimited weekly travel pass called “Navigo.” With this, for about 20 Euros — a bargain — we can go anywhere in Paris using the Metro or buses, without having to pay any additional fares. We just scan the pass as we get on any public transit vehicle, and we're good to go.
The Ile St Louis church is a large neo-Gothic church that serves the once exclusively fashionable island next to Ile de la Cite, which is the site of Notre Dame Cathedral.The acoustics were quite good. The church was jammed for the concert, which was offered on a donation basis to support Argentinian street children by giving them access to music education. The orchestra, composed of young professional musicians, was truly magnificent. The civic chorus of about 50 individuals was spectacular. The tenor soloist was sublime. The music was ethereal and robust at the same time. The first chord of the Mass was enough to move us to tears, and it only got better after that. The concert was recorded for broadcast — I wonder when and where. It was easily one of the two or three most exquisite classical concerts I'd ever heard — a beauty of sound that will remain in my memory for a long time. After it ended, we applauded for over 15 minutes straight.
The concert ended around 7 pm, and we strolled the length of Ile St. Louis, past restaurants and tea rooms. We were enticed into a tea room restaurant that was quiet, with beautiful classical flute music playing in the background. We ordered a light supper of Parma ham, sliced melon, and Normandy butter with bread. Each element of the meal complemented each other element perfectly for a symphony of tastes and a beautifully composed and artistically colored plate of enticing food.
I was reflecting that so much in Paris focuses on perfect sensory enjoyment, for all of our physical senses. What an invitation to practice mindfulness, to savor and to be fully present in every moment! Having the luxury to visit here, to pursue the pleasure of this great city, is a blessing that truly invites gratitude!