My Life as a Traveler

In the Shadow of the Cathedral

I sit up in bed and type to the sound of flute out of the window. It’s coming from the square in front of the Notre-Dame de Strasbourg Cathedral outside my window, right in front of our hotel. For the last couple of posts, I’ve been complaining about the noise from the people walking by, the dishes clinking in the kitchen across the way, the garbage and delivery trucks that come (so George says) at 5:30am.  But, the square in front of the Cathedral also has been the source of some very delightful music and sounds.

First, starting at 7am, the bells in the high tower of the cathedral ring in the hour and then every 15 minutes in between. Then the delivery trucks come, bringing wine and food to the surrounding restaurants. The first people you see are quickly crossing the square heading to work or school, then the individual early am tourists come, walking slowly, eyes raised to the spires. Clumps of older folks following a closed umbrella raised into the air mean the groups from the tour buses have arrived. The walls around the Cathedral reflect the multitude of voices.

About that time, maybe 9am, the musicians show up. Now the place has the feel of a medieval market. Right now, it’s the flute, but I’ve also heard violin and acoustic guitar. They seem to be the warm-up acts for the loudest musicians, a trio of bass, accordion, and horn who show up from 12-2pm for lunch and 7-10pm for dinner. They play “Hello, Dolly”, “Strangers in the Night,” and “La Vie on Rose.” Very Parisian. They will often play right under my open window.

Finally, the rains have come. The pollen count and temperature is down. I let Morgan sleep til 11am while I catch up on blog writing and email. We’re supposed to meet our friends from Seattle, Adele and her son Bergen, at the Cathedral to see the Astrological Clock work its magic. Every day at 12:30pm the mechanical cock crows. Jesus blesses the apostles (12 – one for each hour). Underneath them, the skeleton rings the bell with an extra bone as figures representing childhood, youth, middle age, old age, and death shuffle past. This was high entertainment in the 1400s and I imagine the wonderment of the pilgrims who saw this hundreds of years ago.

In the shadow of the Cathedral is the former palace of the Cardinal (Napoleon slept here) and the archaeological museum with a 600,000 year-old rock from which someone back then chipped a piece off and used it as a tool. I think this is the oldest thing ever touched by someone else that I have ever seen. Fragments of pottery tell us that before the Cathedral, this square was the center of a Roman village.

There’s a bench under some trees between the palace and the Cathedral. We sit and chat. It’s nice to chat with Adele, because they travel more than we do, and we share plans and stories. It rains, but we stay dry under the trees and the Cathedral blocks most of the wind. Who else has sat in this place and what did they talk about?

Back to the room, nobody’s really hungry except me, but I don’t have enough energy to get out and go find food. I scrounge for a pear and some pastry I kept from breakfast for Morgan to eat and wish for a better dinner as I watch Gordon Ramsay in French buying steaks for a restaurant in New York. I’m tired, though, and don’t have the energy to go out. It’s finally cool enough to close the curtain for some privacy from the chefs across the way. I can hear the accordion trio and am glad to be in the shadow of the Cathedral tonight.

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