The Stained Glass of La Sainte-Chapelle, Paris, France

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Throwback Tuesday Post (TBTP): Every Tuesday, I re-post a past post that I think is relevant and that you’ll enjoy.

This post was originally published on May 6, 2015, and updated on May 7, 2019. 


In support of the world’s loss of part of the Notre Dame Cathedral this spring, I’m posting the next few Throwback Tuesday Posts from my last trip to the City of Light in 2015.

I’m sure all of you made my guacamole recipe for Cinco de Mayo this week! If not, you don’t have to wait for a Mexican holiday to enjoy it. Go get your avocados as soon as you finish reading this blog post!

Unrelated to Cinco de Mayo but still exciting, I spent the last week in Paris with my husband and another couple, Cyndie and Bram, our dear friends from Florida.

It was my fourth visit to the City of Light and amazing, as usual. We did the town, including the major sights and a dinner cruise on the Seine. Today I’ll tell you about a wonderful chapel dating from the 1400s, La Sainte-Chapelle.

Someone had recommended we see “The Holy Chapel”, as the name translates, because of its stained-glass windows. I wasn’t aware of the chapel before last week, but it was only a few steps away from Notre Dame Cathedral on Paris’ island, Île de la Cité (Island of the City).

At our hotel, we piled into perhaps the fourth or fifth taxi of the week. I must tell you that the cab drivers in Paris are as diverse as the tourists who mob the city regularly, and each one interesting and terrifying in a different way. This one spoke less English than I do French but was really trying.

However, he absolutely REFUSED to hear us say “Sainte-Chapelle”; instead, he heard, and maddeningly repeated, “Saint Germain” each time we said “Sainte-Chapelle”. Saint Germain is an interesting Parisian district with restaurants, boutique hotels, shops, cafes, museums and galleries. But it isn’t in the same place as Sainte-Chapelle. The dialog went like this:

One of us: “Sainte-Chapelle?”
Driver: “Sure. Saint Germain”
Another of us: “No, Sainte-Chapelle.”
Driver: “Yes. Saint Germain. Saint Germain.”
Us: “No, Sainte-CHAPELLE!”
Driver: “Oui. Saint Germain. Saint Germain.”

…and so on throughout the entire trip until we arrived in, you guessed it, Saint Germain! Finally, Cyndie thought to show him the name of the chapel on a printout she had.

Driver: “OH, you want Saint-Chapelle! Ok, that’s over there.” And we drove for another few blocks.

Fortunately it wasn’t far. We had him let us out near Notre Dame and the husbands got to tour the inside of the famous cathedral. Meanwhile, Cyndie chatted up a local gendarme for directions to the chapel. Presently we found ourselves in a line waiting at the entrance to, finally, Sainte-Chapelle (not Saint Germain).

The reason for the line was that all visitors have to go thru a security check. After the unpleasantness at Charlie Hebdo last year, I saw a lot more police and soldiers patrolling the city. The security here was especially tight because the chapel is inside the Palace of Justice complex.

A little Parisian history: In the first century BC the Parisii tribe settled this small island (Île de la Cité) in the middle of the Seine in what is now the center of Paris. From the 10th to the 14th Centuries there was a royal palace on the island. Sainte-Chapelle was built as the chapel of this palace. The other surviving part of the palace complex is the Conciergerie, a former prison (now museum) where Marie Antoinette spent her last 76 days. A newer palace building (1868) on the site is now the Palace of Justice, which is France’s center of judicial activity.

So, with all those judges, lawyers and legal and legislative types around, the X-ray machines are deemed necessary.

Once through security, we found ourselves in yet another line for tickets! Fortunately the lines moved fairly quickly. Also, waiting for tickets gave me a chance to examine the outside of the medieval chapel, surviving from the year 1248. She had me at gargoyles!

I am thrilled to report that my new zoom lens allowed me to get up close and personal with them:
Here’s the facade and entry portal:
…and the little creature guarding it (if anyone knows the name of this guy, please let me know; I think I’ve seen a similar sculpture in other places):
Finally we found ourselves inside. The chapel is actually two chapels in one. The lower one, where we entered, was for servants and the upper one was for the royals themselves.
Even the lower chapel for underlings was impressive:
The decor reminded me of Moroccan design, with rich colors and repetitive patterns. But the proliferation of the fleur-de-lis was unmistakably French:
The chapel was built by King Louis IX, the future Saint Louis, to house Christ’s purported crown of thorns and other relics of the passion of Christ, which the chapel brochure leads you to believe were purchased for a price higher than the cost of the chapel itself!
We made our way up a narrow, claustrophobic, wooden spiral staircase to the upper chapel, home of the relics back in the day. Of course now, after some destruction, theft and restoration, the remaining relics have been moved to Notre Dame cathedral.
This upper chapel has much higher vaults and tall, stained-glass panels that seem to reach the sky.
Even the floor is ornate:
The detail in the 1,113 individual Bible scenes depicted on the 15 panels is amazing. They tell religious stories from Genesis to the Resurrection. Here, I’ll show you (my zoom lens says, “You’re welcome.”):


Of course, some of the panels are restorations, but about two-thirds are original, something that’s really hard to get my head around. Here in Germany most things had to be rebuilt after WWII. Paris did not suffer that fate, fortunately.

The crowning glory of the chapel is the western rose window. It depicts St. John’s prophecy of the Apocalypse:

That ladder on the bottom left of the photo above was part of an ongoing restoration project. Gloved technicians were cleaning and restoring the nearby wall.

After our visit to the medieval chapel, it was time for lunch. Happily, I can report that Paris has no end of great eateries and we just had to cross the street to find a wonderful brasserie called Les Deux Palais, whose interior reminded me of an old-fashioned carousel and whose service and food I can highly recommend.

Here’s a parting shot of us two women in our souvenir berets atop the Eiffel Tower.

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Denver’s Casa Bonita – Family Restaurant or Roadside Attraction?

For those of you who have liked or follow my ATFT FB page, you’ll know that last weekend here in my new home state of Colorado came a snowstorm! Snow started falling on Friday evening, covered everything for Saturday, then completely melted away on Sunday. Here’s a shot from Saturday:

and one from Sunday:

Good thing I’d read about late-spring snowstorms or I’d think I was in some kind of bizzaro world!

Since I’ve lived here, all of three weeks now, I’ve noticed a huge number of Mexican restaurants. I’m in the process of determining which ones are best, of course. And, for Cinco de Mayo this week, I’m bringing you probably the most famous one in Denver – Casa Bonita.

I mentioned in last week’s post that I’d visited Casa Bonita, a place I’d heard about only from a South Park episode – I didn’t know it was real! I learned that it actually existed from reading about Denver before we moved here. During a drive down Colfax in the western part of the city, my husband and I spotted it in a strip-mall parking lot and decided to duck in. I didn’t have my proper camera with me that day, so these photos are all from my iPhone, and I apologize for any crappy quality in advance.

According to its website, Casa Bonita was built in 1974. I’ve heard people say it’s Chuck E. Cheese if Disney had designed it. But it’s not as (excuse me) cheesy as Chuck but not quite as slick as Walt. Somewhere in between. I will say I was surprised that it wasn’t as hokey-looking as I’d expected.

It was relatively deserted when we arrived, which was late afternoon on a Friday, well after lunch and well before dinner. When we first went in, there was no one in sight, though we could hear people talking over a microphone and hear water. We had to follow a seemingly endless series of winding pathways.

The woman in the next photo, seeing that we were newbies, said to us, “You know people don’t come here for the food, right?” Well, I’d heard that, too!

We continued down and around the walkways til we came to the hostess. We quickly learned you have to place your order with her, so we hurriedly ordered pretty much the first thing on the menu, which was a combo special. Then you have to pay her. Everyone age 2 and above has to order a meal – you can’t just stroll around taking pictures! The menu items seem pricey, but it’s all you can eat, so I guess it’s not so bad.

After you get a receipt with your number on it, you walk around some more tiled and decorated pathways. Some of the decorations are really very nice – and clean, too. Sometimes places like this are dusty and unkempt.

When you round the last bend, you are faced with a large bank of cafeteria trays, one of which you have to take and slide along the ledge to the kitchen area:

There’s a guy behind the ledge in this kitchen area who looks at your number. Then some disembodied, latex-gloved hands shove plates out the small window in the rear wall. The window appears in the above photo directly below the “Plates are Hot” sign and below the mural painted on that wall. You can see a couple of rows of rectangular hotel pans back there. The guy places your plate on your tray (the plate WAS actually hot) and you continue sliding the tray down the ledge to the end:

Once you run out of ledge, you have to carry your tray up an incline to a host at a podium who shows you to a table. He offered to carry my try for me, but I’m liberated.

A super-friendly waiter greeted us and helped remove the plates from the trays, etc. I was secretly hoping he’d get lost because the water I’d heard upon entering was from a 30-foot waterfall just across the walkway from our table! One of the famed Casa Bonita “cliff” divers was performing! I vacated my chair as quickly as I could and hurried to the footbridge across the pool from the “cliff” to try to get some photos. Unfortunately, it was his last dive of the performance and my phone wasn’t quite up to the action photo. However, here’s a REALLY blurry shot of him behind the waterfall getting ready to dive and looking absolutely like a South Park cartoon character:

Here’s a shot a second later as he was diving. You can just make out some of him behind the palm tree about to enter the water. At least the water was in focus for this one!

I, and about 15 other children, then vacated the bridge and returned to our seats. The food wasn’t actually terrible. Everything was drowning in white cheese sauce, but I can see where kids would be ok with it. Also, I’m sure other things on the menu would suit me more, but we were caught off guard when we had to order at the hostess stand.

A few minutes after the diving, two “pirates” came out (one had wet hair, hmmmm….) and did THE lamest skit I’ve ever seen on a small stage next to the waterfall. Apparently there is a skit or two there during peak hours involving “dancing monkeys”, which, after some research, I found out is really someone in an ape costume, I think.

As you can tell, it was rather dark in there, because there are no windows to the outside and only mood lighting and strings of dim lightbulbs. However, everywhere you turn is a different type of scene.

After we finished our meal, the waiter asked if we’d like some sopaipillas. “Yes, please,” just like Cartman:

Sopaipillas are a fried-dough dessert, kind of like a beignet. These weren’t especially tasty, but they weren’t bad. You drizzle honey on them and make a mess while you eat them, accidentally getting honey on your iPhone cover. I’ve since had some really good sopaipillas at a Mexican place down the street from our apartment. When you come to visit, I’ll take you there, too!

Anyway, the waiter told us to walk around to our heart’s content after we paid the bill. BTW, the bill had a Casa Bonita sticker on the cover, and I’ve seen several cars on the road around here with the same sticker:

So we walked around and I took these pix:

There was plenty to see, being as how the place is 52,000 square feet! There are seats for over 1,000 people! Most of it was empty, much to my delight. I can get better photos for you without pesky people in the way!

You can walk behind the waterfall and there are dining tables back there, too. However, you’re not allowed to dive into the 14-foot pool or throw anything in there, either.

Black Bart’s Hideout is a mini haunted-house type thing. We started through it, but as the passage narrowed, I bailed because it got real claustrophobic in there! My husband heroically completed the course, though. For that matter, Black Bart isn’t too smart advertising his hideout like that, amiright?

There are at least three levels in Casa Bonita, and we saw some of each. Like the Mine Dining area:

On this stage is where the mariachi band performs. Since it was dead quiet, my husband decided to liven the place up with his comedic stylings:

We saw an upper arcade:

And this:

Plus a jail! You can dress up and get your picture taken in jail. Unfortunately, even though we had cash, the jail was closed that day!


While we didn’t get to see any strolling musicians, exciting gunfights, amazing magicians or hilarious puppet shows, I feel I got the full sense of the place. I hope you did, too. I can imagine it at capacity on a weekend when the kids are swarming the place. Here’s a decent YouTube video that’s pretty accurate. When you visit, I’ll take you there personally! And I’ll bring my good camera this time.

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

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Orchids for Mother’s Day

First, happy Cinco de Mayo! Last week I posted photos of my tortilla endeavor. I’ve made them again since then and discovered something helpful. So click here to go directly to the updated information. In any case, don’t forget to make my sangria or guacamole as part of your Cinco celebrations.

Second, you may have noticed some changes to the blog’s appearance. I’m happy to announce I’ve made some major back-end changes, including a larger server with more bandwidth. Also, I’m using WordPress now, which is why it looks so different.

This is my first post on the new tech, and I’m still learning, but I think you’ll like the result. I migrated all the old blog posts to this new place, and all the links are updated, too. The old blog is still online so all your prior links should still work, but that site is static now and will not be updated. I’ll eventually take it down completely.

In the near future you’ll see even more new format changes and I’ll soon have a new subscription method. Of course I’ll let you know when that happens – there may even be some freebies involved for re-entering your email address! For now, you don’t have to do anything except enjoy the posts as always.

Third, happy Mother’s Day! My husband and I recently visited an orchid show and sale presented by the Tampa Bay Orchid Society (TBOS). TBOS does a great job of helping people purchase and learn to care for orchids, and I highly recommend joining them if you’re so inclined. Tell ’em I sent ya.

I’ve dabbled in growing orchids, both here in Florida and in Germany, and I know enough to be both enamored of and awed by the sheer variety of this stunningly beautiful group of plants. One of my favorite things about orchids is you can’t rush them. They take their sweet time growing and blooming and just seem to be so confidently uncompromising. Another favorite quality is the incredible range of colors and configurations, each one more amazing than the next.

So, in case if you’ve forgotten to get your sweet mother something for Mother’s Day, here are some orchids from the show you can pass along (tell her I sent them!):

orch1 orch10 orch9 orch8 orch6 orch5 orch4 orch3 orch2 orch14 orch18 orch17 orch16 orch15 orch14 orch13 orch12 orch11

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