We were dining in Montmartre when the news broke that Notre Dame was on fire. Almost instantly, our phones began dinging with texts from back home.
“Notre Dame is on fire!”
“Where are you? Are you ok?”
Concern for our well-being came with snarky comments, too: “Was John smoking cigars in the restroom at Notre Dame?”
“We are fine! We did not do it!”
After dinner, we made our way to the steps of Sacre Coeur, the highest point in Paris, where we joined many others in dismay to watch the glow of a historical treasure burning into the night. We stayed up there until 11:00 p.m. to give our group their first glimpse of the twinkling Tour Eiffel, but the Tour Eiffel did not twinkle that night.
Our initial fear for the structure of the cathedral gave way to concern for the bees of Notre Dame. We knew that three hives were kept on the roof of Notre Dame, but the roof was now gone! Fortunately, the hives were not kept on the very top of the cathedral (that would be a bit difficult to manage!), but rather, thirty meters lower on roof of the sacristy on the north side of the cathedral. The sacristy did not burn; however, Notre Dame beekeeper Nicholas Geant had concern for the temperature near the hives. The bees would be doomed by melting wax as much as by flame.https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/19/europe/notre-dame-bees-fire-intl-scli/index.html
Miraculously, the bees were not harmed by flame, heat, or water. Drone footage and video by those with access to the roof show the bees zipping hither and yon as usual. (Now the question is when the beekeeper will be permitted to tend to the hives. Spring is a very busy time for beekeepers as well as bees!)
The fire at Notre Dame affected, but did not diminish, our trip. We had planned to attend a Tenebrae service on Holy Thursday. Instead, we took our group to see the magnificent stained glass at Sainte Chapelle, built in the 13th century to house the Crown of Thorns relic which was rescued from the burning Notre Dame.
Streets near Notre Dame were blocked and some metro stops were closed, which made getting to dinner in the Latin Quarter less direct, but we had only one glitch, when our guide had us going the wrong direction on the metro! Good thing our group knew to follow the listing of metro stops posted on the train!
“Hey, Bibi! Aren’t we going the wrong way?”
“Oh! Yes! We are! Everyone off at the next stop!”
And just like that, our group of twenty-three hopped off and turned around to go toward the Latin Quarter. At dinner, our waiter told us of the cinders that fell just outside the restaurant when the spire of Notre Dame crashed in flames.
Our Seine River cruise detoured to avoid making its usual circuit around Notre Dame on Ile St. Louis, but we still got plenty of photos of a now-twinkling Tour Eiffel.
But amidst all the usual touristy stops, Beekeeper John and Beekeeper Wife Me were in search of honey. Our first stop, at the Opéra Garnier, yielded nothing. The honey from the hives on the roof of the Opéra had sold out quickly after last summer’s harvest.
We had more success in Giverny at Monet’s Gardens. John found a sticky jar of Normandy honey in the gift shop. I gave him grief for selecting a sticky jar, but he assured me that all the jars were sticky. Ah, what a homey touch! (I would have wiped the jars before selling them in a gift shop!)
My coup came at the unlikeliest of places–the Paris Catacombs. My students had added this to our itinerary and waited patiently–and even happily–in line for three and a half hours–yes, 3.5 hours–to climb down and up over 200 steps to see the bones of 6 million Parisians arranged in artistic patterns. The drama teacher sang creepy stage songs and multiple students simultaneously played their cellphone recording of another student’s laughter for a frighteningly good creepy atmosphere.
We emerged from the Paris underworld and entered the gift shop, which was full of ghoulish humor and plenty of skulls on tee shirts, mugs, posters, magnets, you name it. And there it was…Le Miel de Paris! Paris honey from the beehives of Les Invalides gardens, L’Ecole Militaire, and the Musée D’Orsay. Sweetness, for sure! I was even willing to pay eighteen euros for the tiny jar.
Some people wonder why we would buy honey in Giverny and Paris when we have our own honey at home. It has to do with terroir. Just as wines vary not just by grape but by the environment in which they are grown, every honey tastes different. This French-teaching beekeeper wife came home from Paris with three new scarves, four new kitchen magnets, two jars of French honey, and a sigh of relief that the bees still buzz at Notre Dame.