This week’s blog was going to be all about what’s happening in the Burgundian vineyards where they are setting smoke pots every night to try to keep the frost off the budding vines.
It’s all quite mystical and ethereal of an evening. You don’t really see many flames, so the French title which translates to ‘There’s no smoke without fire’ was sort of amusing.
Then news came in overnight of what had happened on the Ile de la Cité in Paris. Seeing the smoke pour from the top of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame conjured up a whole new set of emotions.
It also made us realise that we don’t really talk about Paris in our blogs or on our website. But perhaps we have become too Burgundy-centric and isolated because the vast majority of our tours start and end in Paris. It’s a jaw-droppingly fabulous city that most of our guests spend at least 2 or 3 days in either before or after their cruise with us.
We know Notre-Dame de Paris (our Lady of Paris) very well, both from land and water. Over the years we’ve often cruised past the awe-inspiring bell towers in Le Papillon – and only Le Papillon knows how often she has cruised past them under other pilots in her 100 year plus life.
The whole of France is shocked. The country is no longer as religious as it used to be, but Notre-Dame has always been more than just a place of worship – it is a French and Parisian icon, every bit as important at the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triumph or Sacre Coeur. It’s unthinkable to have Paris without her.
Started in 1160 she took around 100 years to finish – but that still means people were worshiping there 260 years before Columbus discovered America. She was the quintessence of French Gothic architecture complete with rib vaults, flying buttresses and a magnificent rose window. She survived the vicissitudes of the French Revolution, saw the crowning of Napoleon I, and escaped unscathed through two major world wars.
Victor Hugo’s famous tale ‘The Hunchback of Notre-Dame’ – an irredeemably tragic tale of love between a hunch-back and a gypsy beauty that, these days, may seem rather non-politically correct in many respects – kindled interest and sparked a major restoration.
But now a random spark has landed amongst kindling in the old oak beams and the old lady has been laid low. The damage is still being assessed but fire-fighters are sanguine that much can be saved. President Emmanuel Macron has vowed she will be restored – not only good for Paris but good for his waning popularity!
It probably won’t take another 100 years, yet it will be some time to restore her to her glory. But the River Seine will still flow, ageing Parisians will keep on playing pétanque and there will still be much of enormous beauty and culture to enjoy in France’s capital city. Thinking about it we really should get out of our fluvial backwater more and get up there to enjoy the buzz and see the sights.
But tonight our heart bleeds for Paris and we raise a glass and drink to our friends there.