Même avec la radiation? I asked
Oui. He replied.
We were standing in the crypt of the Pantheon beside the tombs of Marie and Pierre Curie. We had just passed Voltaire. And Rousseau.
It is the kind of awe you have when those you've read and heard about all your life are right there, so to speak. For better or worse, I had the same sense at the tomb of Christopher Columbus in Seville. It's a sense that history is alive, present, grounded. Although, it is real in abstraction, there is nothing like being in front of the tomb of great scientists and writers to shake you up - they existed beyond the pages of books in high school classes. (The awe is followed afterwards by several thoughts..there should be more great women in here, was that really Victor Hugo, and what am I doing with my life?)
I read the children's version of Les Misérables. He listed off the names of the men in first National Convention (France's first government as a republic) their arms raised and Napoleon on the right, complexing on his horse.
Notre journée du patrimoine (heritage day) was spent at the Pantheon, Sainte-Geneviève Library (the patron saint of Paris... with its arched metal ribs), a picnic in Luxembourg gardens with French, German, American and Canadian friends, the small but luminous and overwhelming Sainte Chapelle (built to house the thorns of Christ before it was moved to Notre Dame cathedral - apparently on view every Friday) an Icons photo gallery exposition on its last day and dinner with the family where we shared our discoveries.
We had moved through immortal and sacred spaces and were captured in the still of cinematic scenes.
It was a day of discovery and humility, joy and eventually fatigue (we walked 14 km in the end all over the city). This open doors to historical sites and monuments was started by Jack Lang, ministre de la Culture de François Mitterrand in 1984. It has now seeped across borders to other European countries.
Such a brilliant idea.