Christmas, Calvary and the Coronation

imageedit_14_6639771661The most important message of Christmas is not so much that Jesus came, but why He came.  Jesus was arguably the first and only human to ever be born, with the express purpose, from day one, to die.

There was no salvation in His birth. Nor did the sinless way He lived His life have any redemptive force of its own.  His example, as flawless as it was, could not rescue men from their sins.  Even His teaching, the greatest truth ever revealed to man, could not pay the penalty for our sinful actions.

But a penalty needed to be paid.  Someone had to die. And only Jesus Christ filled the bill.  


Jesus came to earth, of course, to reveal God to mankind.
He came to teach truth.
He came to fulfill the Law.
He came to offer His kingdom.
He came to show us how to live.
He came to reveal God’s love.
He came to bring peace.
He came to heal the sick.
He came to minister to the needy.

Yet, Jesus could have done them all without being born as a human. He could have simply appeared—like the angel of the Lord often did in the Old Testament—and accomplished everything in the list above, without actually becoming a man. But He had one more reason for coming…

He came to die.  And you can’t die if you were never born.

Here’s a side to the Christmas story that isn’t often told: Those soft little hands, fashioned by the Holy Spirit in Mary’s womb, were made so that nails might one day be driven into them.  Those baby feet, pink and unable to walk, would one day stagger up a dusty hill with complete determination to be nailed to that Cross. That sweet infant’s head was formed so that someday men might force a crown of thorns onto it. That tender body, warm and soft, wrapped in swaddling clothes, would one day be stabbed by a spear to confirm for the Roman soldiers at the Cross that He was dead – after he also had 39 strikes of a cat-o-nine-tails rip that body to shreds.

40 was the death penalty. 

In that stable, which may have been surrounded by palm trees, we might have seen a lone donkey standing in a corner, quietly chewing his barley straw and witnessing a historic visit from several kings of the East to this oddly-quiet baby boy.  Years later, another donkey, perhaps a descendant of this one in the stable, would carry this same boy, now even quieter than He was as an infant, though a King now Himself, through the streets of Jerusalem – with branches from palm trees carpeting their path. 

A star was shining over that birthplace in Bethlehem the night that the shepherds, out tending their flocks, were the first to hear the Good News of the birth of this “someday Saviour” from the announcing angels.  33 years later, even the sun itself refused to shine over the city of Jerusalem, as the man they called the Good Shepherd… 

…was nailed to a tree that He grew from a seed, on a hill that He formed as Creator.

Though He had the power to call 10,000 angels – just like the ones that announced His birth – to come and spare Him from a horrible death, He chose not to.   

The angels sang “glory to God” the day He was born – but on the day He died, even God Himself hid his face from the unfolding proceedings. 

The messenger angel told the shepherds to not be afraid.   On the day He died, everyone who believed in Him was terrified.

The public proclamation of those angels at His birth was “Good news of great joy to all the people.”  The day He died, His own disciples didn’t even publically acknowledge that they knew Him. It was all bad news and great sorrow on that day, when “all the people” called for Him to be crucified.

And that good will to men” that was promised on the day He was born was repaid on the day He died with nothing but ill will from those men. The “peace on Earth” that God promised to mankind was thrown into chaos when mankind had the gall to actually kill the Prince of Peace.

b814198f967597170ca000c870276c58Jesus’ parents ended up having to borrow a barn to shelter their newborn baby in.  33 years later, His mother would be forced to watch as real estate was once again borrowed on His behalf – this time the tomb that would shelter His now-dead body in. 

 And just as she wrapped Him in swaddling clothes on His first day as a human beingMary also assisted in wrapping His body in burial cloths on His last day too.

As author John MacArthur wrote:

“It’s appropriate to commemorate the birth of Christ. But don’t make the mistake of leaving Him as a baby in a manger. Keep in mind that His birth was just the first step in God’s glorious plan of redemption. Remember that it’s the triumph of Christ’s sacrificial death that gives meaning to His humble birth. You can’t truly celebrate one without the other.

 

cradlecrosscrownIn Billy Graham’s book “The Cradle, Cross and Crown“, he summarizes Jesus’ mission this way:

“The entire saving action of God was:
Inaugurated at Bethlehem,
Achieved at Calvary,
Authenticated by the Resurrection, and
Celebrated at the Ascension”.

We could have had Christmas without Easter.  And it would have been meaningless – the birthday of yet another dead religious leader, whose life was cut short too soon, but whose death, in the end, would have meant no more than yours or mine.

We cannot have Good Friday without Christmas.  Jesus had to come and be born as a human being, to wrap the eternal and divine in the “flesh suit” of a human being, so that He could take on the sins of the world as a man, pay for those crimes with His death on the Cross.  But if that was the end of the story, then ladies and gentleman, we are serving a dead God – no more able to deal with our sinful lives than any other religious figure could have.  Buddha, Krishna, Mohammad all have graves that you can visit too.

We cannot have Good Friday without Easter Sunday.  Without the Resurrection of Christ, the famous hymn would say “What can wash away my sins?  Nothing!”.

The Apostle Paul wrote that “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your 

faith is in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14).

The Resurrection gave Jesus victory over death, Hell and the grave.  Without it, He would have been more appropriate to cry “I AM Finished” instead of “It Is Finished”, from the Cross.  His death alone had no meaning, if He stayed in that tomb. 

At best, He would die a martyr for His cause. While that may have the power to whip up even millions of faithful followers over the centuries, it does nothing to pay the price for their sinful pasts.  Christianity would then have been just another meaningless dead religion, perhaps able to thrill and inspire us with the heroic actions and teachings of Christ, but like all the other dead religions, unable to answer the problem of sin.  Or raise us from the dead one day as well, as the Bible says we will someday experience.

tomb-of-jesus-wallpaper-7-news24hours.in_

Whether the disciples actually showed great faith or not after His crucifixion is debatable, but they DID intentionally borrow His tomb, not buy it.  Perhaps that was their only option – but if Jesus had in fact never resurrected from the dead, they eventually would have had to come up with a solution that was more permanent.

And one has to wonder what Joseph of Arimathea was thinking in loaning out a tomb for Jesus?  On the surface, it sounded like a pretty dumb business decision.  The Bible doesn’t say that he rented the tomb out to the disciples.  They borrowed the property much like one might borrow a car or an item of clothing or a book.

Joseph of Arimathea would have possibly assumed he was never getting that borrowed tomb back, but the Bible doesn’t say that.  After all, Jesus attended 3 funerals in his lifetime that we see recorded in Scripture – for his friend Lazarus, for the Roman centurion’s young son who had recently died, and His own.  He interrupted all three with a resurrection.  Perhaps the disciples had more faith than we thought?  

We are quick to judge poor Peter, not just on that day when he denied Christ 3 times, but starting some time before, when he jumped over the side of a boat he was in, and started walking on water toward Jesus.  Reality eventually set in, and he started to drown – needing Jesus to rescue him.  “What weak faith”, we may sniffBut Peter actually jumped over the side of the boat and started walking on water.  And as the head of the Church, appointed by Jesus as such, Peter also would have some hand in the arrangements for borrowing Jesus’ tomb too.

quote-the-men-who-followed-him-were-unique-in-their-generation-they-turned-the-world-upside-down-because-billy-graham-74270No wonder the Early Church “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6).  Being able to return the borrowed tomb of Jesus to Joseph of Arimathea – after Christ rose triumphant from the grave on that first Easter Sunday – would have been all the faith booster that most people would ever need.

The resurrection solidified the faith of the disciples permanently.  We never read again that Paul, Peter, or any of the 10 other disciples –  even the guy they nicknamed “Doubting Thomas” – ever actually doubted anything Jesus said ever again.  And today, there are approximately 2.6 billion Christians around the world – a testament to the power, not only of the Cross, but the Resurrection too.

And Christ has a new position in heavenly places because of the REsurrection too.  Ephesians 4:10 expresses the full dimensions of it: “He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.”

Every king is crowned in a coronation ceremony. Jesus Christ is no exception! He too will be crowned as supreme Ruler—as King of kings.

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By Shawn Jorgensen,  Founding Editor
Calling Out Community
Posted:  December 14, 2019
[God’s Got A Plan For You!]asadfz

Landing on the Beaches of Normandy (Paris 2009, Day 09c)

Today, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day landings at Normandy, France, I am reposting my original travel blog of Paris, and specifically, of the bus tour I took to visit the Normandy region, including all 3 major landing beaches for Omaha (America), Gold (UK) and Juno (Canada) beaches. The article’s wording has not been edited since my original Blogger posting in 2009.

 For the events of Saturday, September 5, 2009


1:00 PM – As we departed the Caen Memorial, our tour guide told us the museum is made out of the local stones of Normandy and built on top of an old Nazi bunker! The Germans actually flooded all the roads we are driving on today just before D-Day, to try to slow any potential successful Allies landing, which obviously didn’t work.

AMERICAN SECTOR (OMAHA BEACH)

1:04 PM – We are now on a 45-minute drive to the Coast. As we moved along, I noticed that the houses were all out of a movie set – everything is primarily the same as it was before or during the D-Day landing. I liked this particular house because it had all the historic charm of the French coast, seen for hundreds of years – but with a satellite dish stuck right in front . Also went by a church that had served the community for centuries . Apologies for the blurry pictures at times – I was taking them out of a bus window traveling at a good clip down the little roads.

Our first stop on this historic trip for me is the American Sector codenamed Omaha Sector – it’s not actually known only as Omaha Beach as many know it today, because some parts of it don’t have beaches at all. So far this has been a very high-end trip – the guide talks a lot (15-20 min) of background which is good. She kept saying we’d be a bit rushed in places this AM but I didn’t feel that way. Really impressed so far.

If it weren’t for the heroic efforts of the tens of thousands that died on D-Day, the beaches of Normandy would not have been cleared for more than 2.5 million other Allied soldiers that flooded France by the end of September, halting the German invasion and slowly liberating country after country from the Nazi death grip.

D-Day was without a doubt the greatest military invasion in human history, and the largest amphibious landing of troops of all time. Operation Overlord (as the invasion was codenamed) began just midnight on June 6, 1944 first with an aerial assault of tens of thousands of American, British and Canadian troops behind the enemy lines. What followed at 6 AM was later described by the Germans as a total horizon of ships – more than 5,000 in fact, carrying over 175,000 soldiers to 50 miles of beaches. Operation Overlord continued until the advance to the outskirts of Paris on August 19, and the Battle of Paris began.

The German defenses used an interlocking firing style, so they could protect areas that were receiving heavy fire. They had large bunkers, sometimes intricate concrete ones containing machine guns and high caliber weapons. Their defense also integrated the cliffs and hills overlooking the beautiful view. The defenses were all built and honed over a four year period and were extremely complex. It was like a city made out of concrete, and included guns so huge they ran on rail cars. Those who landed on those beaches faced what was later described as the greatest concentration of firepower in world history.

My Uncle Clayton was one of those young boys that jumped off a boat and faced that horror on Juno Beach. Having seen how open some of these beaches were to enemy fire, I’m actually amazed anyone survived. The Allies were to bomb the smithereens out of the German guns before the landed, but in some cases,the bombs never hit a single target, especially at Juno Beach, and it caused an unknowing Allied landing party to come under tremendous attack.

PM – Our first stop of the tour, situated between Utah Beach to the west and Omaha Beach to the east was a little jutted-out place called Pointe Du Hoc (see map – the tip of which is the Pointe), where many American soldiers first landed. This is an original map from the invasion, and the Americans erroneously called it Point du Hoe on this map until later corrected.

Pointe Du Hoc is not a beach, but sheer cliffs rising from the water, making it very difficult to storm. The German guns, housed in 6 concrete bunkers, some with living quarters built into them, were able to reach as far as Utah Beach to the left (west) and Omaha Beach to the right (east), so it was imperative that the Americans successfully neutralize this area.

Though they literally bombed the heck out of the area first, they realized that they would still need to land troops there to ensure all guns were neutralized, and the 2nd Ranger Battalion was ordered to take the Pointe. However, before they could get there, the Germans, alerted by the continuous bombings, moved all the big guns about 1 mile away for safety. Before the Rangers attacked, their leadership knew the guns were moved, but the soldiers didn’t.

Regardless of the big guns being gone, the concrete fortifications were intact, and would still present a major threat to the landings if they were occupied by artillery forward observers. On these cliffs, 75 American troops were shot trying to climb the 100-foot cliffs with ropes, ladders, and grapples, and the troops had no ammunition reinforced to them for two full days after finally taking the Pointe – an eternity when you are being shot at constantly. Because of the price America paid to take this Pointe and ensure the success of D-Day itself, and the future liberation of France, the French gave this particular piece of land to America, and it is now permanent American soil.

1:55 PM – The first thing I noticed when I got to the Pointe, beyond the German bunkers, was how many bomb craters there were – it was like looking being on the surface of the moon. The second thing you notice is that literally nothing had been

touched since the landing – except for the guns, etc. removed. The broken concrete of the bombed-out German bunkers was left completely untouched.

The bunkers themselves were amazing (see photo for the German’s viewpoint), and completely available for you to crawl and wander through, which in hindsight seemed so crazy from a liability perspective, but then, who would you sue? They had open-ended concrete tunnels to connect them and were extremely dangerous to crawl through in places, with concrete half-bombed out and left dangling, etc., crawlspaces made half as big because they had collapsed, etc.

It was neat to see the track where the huge battery gun had been placed and ordered removed by General Rommel before the Americans attacked. It was huge – looked like it could turn 360 degrees on something like a gear set, and about 40-50 feet across, with about 6 stairs leading down on 4 sides.

I guess it was felt that the horror of war should not be put behind glass or barricades, but touched and felt. The blood of German and American soldiers had soaked the concrete in places, and it was left as it had been shed. It was both fantastic to see and horrifying to be near at the same time.

2:27 PM – Had to run to catch the bus back and did exactly on time – I was the last one. Oops! Felt rushed there but I understand there’s lots to see! I literally could have spent hours walking through those bunkers. It was beyond amazing. Definitely would like to come back and wander around more someday.

At this point, the roads are only one lane and very windy – they haven’t been changed since they were first constructed for humans and horses, with big trees on both sides – as it was in 1944. Beautiful old stone houses. And I just saw… a furry pig!

2:45 PM – We stopped for a 5 minute look at Omaha Beach itself, which wasn’t much to see – just a huge flat beach that seemed to go for miles, and some hills overlooking it that now had houses built up. Would be amazing real estate now and a very popular beach in summer time, but horrific on that June day. In that picture, there’s a little memorial at the bottom right hand corner. That is the marker of the first American cemetery in France, right on the beach – a mass grave where they just had to dump bodies for days to get them out of the way. They were later moved to the American Cemetery at Omaha Sector, our next stop.

3,700 Americans and 1,200 Germans died at Omaha Beach from 6:30 AM to noon. That’s 1 soldier every 4 seconds – and it went on for 5.5 hours.

3:00 PM – After a short drive we arrived at the American Cemetery at Omaha Sector, officially named the Colleville/Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer Cemetery. The cemetery was inaugurated in 1956 after four years work, overlooking the beaches of Omaha. Emotion overwhelms the visitor facing the large central viewpoint, the Memorial decorated with a huge Battle map, the Garden of the missing, where are carved the names of 1 557 missing soldiers. At the entrance to the Cemetery, a capsule is dedicated to General Eisenhower which contains his hand-written report of the D-Day fighting, sealed there on June 6, 1969 (the 25th anniversary of the landing).

But it’s the number of crosses that cover over 10 acres of land (and official American territory) that literally brings tears to your eyes and a lump to your throat. 9,386 American men (and 4 women) are laid to rest in this unbelievably beautiful and peaceful place.

I have seem video of this cemetery before (it was shown at the beginning and end of Saving Private Ryan), and thought I was prepared. Had a picture in my mind of my visit to Arlington National Cemetery as well but so wrong. This was like nothing I’ve ever seen in my life.

There are 50 people time staff that do nothing but cut the grass here. Of course they use electric equipment for the most part, but around each grave, the grass is always trimmed by nothing but hand clippers only. The graves are located at random, but are in sections of the alphabet from A-Z, and numbered rows in each section. There are four big sections in four quadrants, which have a central Chapel in the middle of them. While the majority of the Cemetery is filled with crosses, there are 300 Stars of David for Jewish soldiers as well.

As much as this was a nice place, we spent far too much time here. Why we had to be so rushed at the Beach and then spend an hour almost here is beyond me – I thought it was pretty stupid. I strongly recommend not doing a tour of the Normandy region in a bus – take a car from Paris and go on your own.

4:00 PM – We departed from the Cemetery and made our way out of the American Sector to the neighboring British Sector. Here, the roads so narrow and houses right up to the road, so it was difficult to take many pictures from the bus. At some points, you literally could have reached out the window from your seat and touched the walls of the buildings – a large charter bus such as ours could only go at a crawl, and no other vehicles could be coming from the other direction. In a few places some of the buildings were a bit farther off the road, allowing for a good shot, like this beautiful historic church.

The tour guide told us that the best dairy products in France, including Colbert and Camembert cheeses, come from here. There are also a lot of farms here with sheep and cows on them.

BRITISH SECTOR (GOLD BEACH)
4:15 PM – stopped at the British sector (Gold Beach) at Arromanches-les-Bains (or Arromanches as it’s known mostly), at low tide. I fell in love with this adorable little town at first sight – it reminds me of the Rock of Gibraltar on south tip of Spain, where I spent my 16th birthday in 1983. I just told myself I’ll be back here for summer vacation someday. I imagine it would be insanely busy- would like to rent a house or apartment and stay in the area for a week or two. Cute as a postcard with little souvenir shops, restaurants and B&Bs.

The town lies along the stretch of coastline designated as Gold Beach during the D-Day landings, one of the beaches used by British troops in the Allied invasion. Arromanches was selected as one of the sites for two Mulberry Harbours built on the Normandy coast, the other one built further West at Omaha Beach. Sections of the Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches still remain today with huge concrete blocks sitting on the sand, and more can be seen further out at sea.

At a meeting following the disastrous Dieppe Raid, Winston Churchill told his generals he remembered that in World War I, they had sunk old ships for a bridgehead for an invasion in the Danish Islands during World War I. The concept of Mulberry Harbours began to take shape quickly, to build an artificial harbour at Arromanches to make it easier to ship supplies in, etc without rough seas at the landing spots.

By June 9, just 3 days after D-Day, two harbours codenamed Mulberry “A” and “B” were constructed at Omaha Beach and Arromanches, respectively. However, a large storm destroyed the American harbour just 10 days later, leaving “Port Winston” at Arromanches with heavy duty for 8 months— despite being designed to last only 3 months. It was used to land over 2.5 million men, 500,000 vehicles, and 4 million tonnes of supplies providing much-needed reinforcements in France.

 

Today Arromanches is mainly a tourist town. Situated in a good location for visiting all of the battle sites and War Cemeteries, there is also a museum at Arromanches with information about Operation Overlord and in particular, the Mulberry harbours.

My second biggest regret on this tour was how much time we wasted at the Cemetery, and how little we spent here. I could spend a week here, however, so another trip is a must!

Got a great coffee-flavored Italian gelato for about 1€ from a street vendor across from the bus.

CANADIAN SECTOR (JUNO BEACH)

5:05 PM – We got back on the bus and again, after only a few minutes were at what I waited for all day – a moment (it seemed, almost literally a moment only) at Juno Beach, where my Uncle Clayton landed and lost so many friends. Canada had the second largest losses at Normandy behind the US – and we were such a little country then. I think that’s when the whole world sat up and took notice of us – and watched as we liberated country after country. People celebrating by the thousands in the streets and throwing flowers on Canadian tanks in Holland, Belgium, and France.

The biggest regret on this tour was that we were only to spend 15 minutes there. Screw that, I thought – there are 8 Canadians out of 23 on this bus, and we’ll hold it up as long as we want. The Americans got hours, we’ll get a few more minutes – and I talked to the other Canadians and we agreed to just drag it out a few minutes longer. The Americans understood later and didn’t complain at all. They all agreed the Museum there is the nicest of them all today.

Juno at the town of Courseulles-sur-Mer was the second most heavily defended (the British Gold beach was the least defended) of the five landing sites chosen. The Germans had 11 heavy batteries of 155 mm guns and 9 medium batteries of 75 mm guns at their disposal, plus pillboxes and other fortifications were present all along the beach, most heavily concentrated in the Courseulles-sur-Mer region. The seawall was twice the height of Omaha Beach’s, and the sea was heavily mined. German troop strength numbered under 8,000 soldiers and was one of the weakest divisions in Normandy. Thankfully, or the Canadian casualties, the second worst of the D-Day invasion, would have been much larger.

In the first day of the invasion alone, Canadian casualties numbered nearly 1,000 killed and wounded, but it was such an unbelievably chaotic day that no accurate record is possible to indicate how many were killed on the beach and how many became casualties inland. Once the Canadians cleared the seawall (about an hour after leaving the transports) they were able to advance towards their objectives farther inland.

Having seen how completely open this beach was, I’ve never been so proud of my country in my life. There were several completely intact bunkers at this beach, that had full living quarters built into them underground. Quite amazing. I didn’t get pictures, but have a bit of video and will show upon request.

The Centre Juno Beach, paid for with individual Canadian donations, was beautiful. Sorry folks, it was so dismal outside, and I had so little time, that I didn’t get great frontal shots of the building. It was a very impressive looking centre, designed to look from the air like a stylized maple-leaf, made with polished copper to shine in the sun. And it had these little posts that had little nameplates of donors from coast-to-coast in Canada, who had given more than $6 million total. Only Canadians would rally together for something like that. I encourage everyone to visit http://www.junobeach.org to learn more about the Centre, and the price Canada paid to free Europe.

5:30 PM – could have spent much more time here, but maybe this would be a great second trip. Beautiful place. But finally we had to get ready to leave. As we left the region, I saw that Juno is right by a pretty little harbor that looked a bit like False Creek. Would be a great place to live, so close to the ocean. They also had an oyster farm there, which was interesting.

 

7:00 PM – we stopped at a truck stop on the way called Total. It was the most unique thing I’ve seen all day, as it seemed to look best on a Canadian freeway – really different than anywhere else I’ve been to in France. They had a bank of coffee machines against one wall that made expressos, chocolate cappucinos, anything you wanted practically. Really neat. Got a ham and Emmental cheese (which I’ve never had before in my life) sandwich, a Lion chocolate bar (which was really amazing – had Rice Krispies, caramel and covered with chocolate), and a Fanta Tropical juice for the road back. But was so tired I fell asleep right away and didn’t eat any of it!

8:00 PM – Woke up in time to see a high-speed “bullet” train that takes you from Paris to Normandy. I swear it was the fastest thing I’ve ever seen with my own eyes run on land. Amazing – must have been going a few hundred kms/hour.

9:00 PM – we made great timing back, and were back around 9:00 (supposed to be 9:30) back at the station. Before I hopped on the train, however, I ran over to the Louvre (just a block away from the Cityrama office0 to get a great night shot. It’s so beautiful at night, and it was a great night in Paris, so I couldn’t resist. A bit creepy at night there, mind you.

9:45 PM – I quickly took the train back, and got back to the hotel. Found a really nice fruit basket at the hotel that they had left as a thank you gift – nice touch. Going to head to bed around 9:45 PM so I can get up and pack and finish some of my blog in the morning. Good night – loooooooong day, but really amazing.

Was exhausted so ate the supper I bought at the truck stop, some of the fruit, and went to sleep.

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By Shawn Jorgensen,  Founding Editor
Calling Out Community
Original Post:  September 5, 2009.  Reposted:  June 6, 2019
[God’s Got A Plan For You!]

The Magnificent Notre Dame Cathedral and Louvre (Paris 2009, Day 08b)

Tonight, in honor of the great Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, heavily damaged in a tragic accidental fire, I am reposting my original travel blog of Paris,  specifically of the day I visited this landmark Cathedral. The article’s wording has not been edited, since its original Blogger posting in 2009.

 For the events of Friday, September 4, 2009


10:15 AM – After going down to breakfast, I came back to the room to see that the rain clouds had seemingly weakened, and the sun was starting to come out. I quickly finalized my final plans for a big a day of travelling. Today I plan to see all of the biggest icons of Paris in one day – it’s a bit of a stretch whether I can actually make it happen or not, but will definitely try!

I took the RER C train to the Saint Michel-Notre Dame station. As I exited, I could see a big crowd was starting to already gather about a block away. I had to cross a small bridge over the Seine river, which was frankly unmemorable, and as I crossed the far end of the bridge, I was actually on Île de la Cité or “Island of the City”.

This little area is actually the first site of the 2,000-year-old city of Paris, and right in front of me, in all of its 840-year-old glory, was Notre Dame (“Our Lady”) Cathedral – the seat of the Archbishop of Paris (see picture left, click for larger). This beautiful cathedral, which took over 200 years to build, was just opened a few minutes before, and already seems to have busloads of tourists in its big open courtyard in the front of the building.

The building itself is amazing – you are immediately drawn to all of the incredible statues of saints and sinners that adorn it’s walls and buttresses (see picture right, click for larger). A man close to me said “it looks like the rain is gone” and his wife said “hallelujah”, and for some reason, I thought I could trust them to take my picture with my camera, so came up and introduced myself. They were really friendly, and we got a few good shots for each other in front of the massive Cathedral.

A minute or two later, a lady came up and asked if I spoke English, and when I said yes, she held up a weird sign talking about how she was from Bosnia and had all these kids to take care of blah blah. She looked like a stereotypical image of a gypsy and I was immediately on guard. I knew something was up here – why not just talk to me if you spoke English too? And if not, how did you write the sign in English? She kept getting closer, and I laughed and said “sorry honey, my pockets are zippered closed” and walked away – she looked a little stunned at being found out, but quickly scurried on to the next sucker. And to think she was trying to pickpocket me in front of a Church!

I followed a big group of what sounded like Italian-speaking people into the church, and heard the massive bass of the pipe organ playing as my eyes adjusted to the darkness for about a minute or two before it stopped – it was really amazing to hear it! And for the next hour, that was the only time it was played, so it was a real treat. I caught some of it on video to capture the sound.

I spent about the next hour walking around and looking at statues of Archbishops and others who were buried within the walls, and spent a bit of time at the front altar of the church. I have to admit, not being Catholic, that the Cathedral, beyond its architecture, wasn’t of much interest to me anymore, and it was unbelievably crowded. Big tour groups of Italians (not sure why there were so many) were literally filling all of the corridors to the point you couldn’t walk around them. I was starting to feel claustrophobic, so decided to get back outside.

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris – September 2009 (Credit; Shawn Jorgensen)

11:30 AM – I crossed back over the bridge and away from the crowds, to get a few pictures of the backside of the Cathedral (see picture left, click for larger), and got some nice shots. The rain clouds seemed to be getting darker and closer as time went on, and I was getting concerned that my whole day was going to be wrecked. It was by no means hot outside, but whatever, I wasn’t going to quit unless it literally was pouring.

I made a call to the tour group I was going on tomorrow, and I’m glad I did – found out that the Metro stop they had stated in the brochure was best to go to (Palais Royal/Louvre) was in fact a 10 minute walk. I needed to go to Tuileries station, and it was only a 2-minute walk. I was to look for a courtyard with a gold statue, and the Cityrama office was apparently right there. I found out I was confirmed for tomorrow morning and was to be there at 6:45 AM. I’m getting excited now – hope the weather improves!

11:45 AM – Found a great little souvenir shop and spent about 20 minutes finding some Eiffel Towers, keychains, etc. for folks, friends and work colleagues back home. In hindsight, it wasn’t the smartest thing I did all day, but stuff was cheap. Now I have to haul it all around with me! I have a schedule to keep and I don’t want to go all the way back to the hotel to drop stuff off, but was tempted to after I carried everything out.

I was walking up the street, parallel to the Seine River, and saw a few little booksellers (see picture right, click for larger) that I’d read about that were open and selling things. Apparently, they have been doing this exact same thing for over 400 years in this area. The booths almost look like big green garbage bins – they flip open a lid that’s locked down to the street and up pops a bunch of tables with books, etc. on them.

In case you are tempted to bypass this area of the city as being cheap tourist junk, think again. These are real genuine antique bookstore owners who sell some amazing nostalgic stuff – I bought a bunch of litho copies of a painting of the Eiffel Tower for people back home, and continued to head down the street back to the Metro.

1:15 PM – To get the to the Louvre, I had to first transfer to the Châtelat Metro station. I got on the RER B train and was there in just a few minutes. I was stunned at how enormous this place was – it is clearly the Grand Central Station of Paris. It’s named after Grand Châtelet – a castle destroyed by Napoleon in 1802 after the Revolution. It was so big it had about 6 or 7 stores in the main atrium area, which was like the spoke of a wheel, with all the corridors leading down to the various trains branching from it. This particular station is the connector for 7 Metro stations and 4 RER stations, and was already incredibly busy.

I had to walk all the way down from one end of the station to another, which according to Wikipedia – is more than 1 kilometre long! In fact, I had to go down two different moving sidewalks (see picture right, click for larger) to get to the last platform for Line 7 – which was to take me to the Louvre Metro station. It took nearly 15 minutes to walk all the way through the station, getting lost a few times and finally getting on Line 7 train, which is again one of the little LRT style trains that are so old and over-used.

2:00 PM – after about a 20 minute ride, I was at the Louvre station, and exited to a beautiful art deco exterior which I had to stop and take a picture of (see picture left, click for larger). I was clearly in the artsy section of the city. It was located in a little park, that had a comedy theatre beside it.

When you exit the station, you come up into a little square, with the Hotel du Louvre behind you, something like looked like an embassy to the left, an antique mall across a little courtyard, and to the right, the magnificent, several-block-long Musee du Louvre.

2:50 PM – I spent a bit of time wandering around the neighbourhood, which seemed to be full of people but empty of sights, so I walked back to the courtyard, walked up to the Louvre. There was a walkway that went through the outer ring of the Louvre to the inner courtyard and main entrance. As I did, I walked by huge floor to ceiling windows that were showcasing some beautiful sculptures and statues inside. I wasn’t planning to go inside the Louvre at all, because I had a lot I wanted to do today, and I wasn’t really into art to that degree. But this was a neat little treat (see picture right, click for larger).

Musée du Louvre or officially the Grand Louvre — in English, the Louvre Museum or Great Louvre – or simply “the Louvre” — is the largest national museum of France, the most visited museum in the world, and a historic monument. It is a central landmark of Paris, located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the 1st arrondissement (neighbourhood). Nearly 35,000 objects from prehistory to the 19th century are exhibited over an area of 652,300 square feet.

The museum is housed in the Louvre Palace (Palais du Louvre) which was a fortress built in the late 12th century under Philip II – and parts of the fortress are still visible. In 1672, Louis XIV chose the Palace of Versailles for his household, leaving the Louvre primarily as a place to display the royal collection, including, from 1692, a collection of antique sculpture. During the French Revolution, the National Assembly decreed that the Louvre should be used as a museum, to display the nation’s masterpieces.

The museum opened on 10 August 1793 with an exhibition of 537 paintings, the majority of the works being confiscated church and royal property. The size of the collection increased under Napoleon when the museum was renamed the Musée Napoléon. After his defeat at Waterloo, many works seized by Napoleon’s armies were returned to their original owners. As of 2008, the collection is divided among eight curatorial departments: Egyptian Antiquities; Near Eastern Antiquities; Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities; Islamic Art; Sculpture; Decorative Arts; Paintings; and Prints and Drawings.

3:00 PM – I exited into the inner courtyard of the Louvre, which features the Pyramid. Suddenly the sky’s opened up and it just started pouring rain. The courtyard had been just full of people and they scurried to all sides of the courtyard to escape the rain, including myself. I hadn’t brought an umbrella because I didn’t really think it was going to rain in the afternoon – this sucked. I thought it would last forever, but a major wind came up out of nowhere all of a sudden, and within minutes the sky’s temporarily cleared – long enough for me to a get a few dismal shots in front of the Museum. Sigh.

3:30 PM – soon it started to rain again, and I lost patience. I was tired, had been hauling the souvenir bag around for hours and was ready now to get back to the hotel. I had actually had seen most of the sights today on my list. I crossed the street back to the courtyard, and walked down a block-long area with souvenirs, restaurants, etc. It was crowded, noisy and irritating.

I came up to a restaurant called Rivoli Cafe and bought a quiche that looked like a pizza (see picture left, click for larger). It was really quite awful – very greasy, but it was only about 2,50€ so I couldn’t resist. I was pretty irritated to see a McDonald’s a block away, however – I should have eaten there instead. I was already feeling a bit upset before I even left the area.

Then I had an extremely irritating follow-up trying to find a bank or currency exchange that would break my 50€ bills, because they were sticking up outside my wallet, advertising to everyone who wanted to see, and made me nervous. First I went to two different currency exchange places, and asked where a bank was at both. Both said they didn’t know where one was. Turned the corner, there was a bank. Good lord.

I waited in line at the bank for over 20 minutes and they wouldn’t break my bill, and the currency exchange places wouldn’t either. One actually told me to go to a supermarket and buy something. I told him to drop dread and stormed out.

4:04 PM – This was the Paris that sadly many warned me about – ignorant, unhelpful, rude barbarians. But I do not believe these are true Parisians, just as I don’t believe this tourist nightmare is a real cross-section of the wonderful city. I admit I was starting to get really sick of the city at this point, and wanted to go home, but knew I was just overreacting and tired, so headed back to the hotel to relax before heading out tonight.

As I left the area of the Louvre, it was really starting to rain again by now, so I was getting discouraged that I wouldn’t get to go out tonight, but I was going to go on the boat cruise whether it was nice out or not.

More adventure to follow!

CCClogo-small


By Shawn Jorgensen,  Founding Editor
Calling Out Community
Original Post:  September 5, 2009.  Reposted April 15, 2019
[God’s Got A Plan For You!]

Day 7b – Something’s Fishy In Boston!

For the events of Thursday, June 4, 2009

1:15 PM – Got back on the Green Line train at Prudential, going toward Lechmere (final stop). I’m getting off at Government Center to change trains to Blue Line – to the New England Aquarium. I just saw a woman wearing a toque, scarf, gloves, and floor length parka on the train – and it’s +21C. The poster girl for mental illness. If you’re worried about the sun, you get SPF 30-60, not 3 layers of clothes.

At Park Street, one stop before Government Center, the doors of train open on both sides, which makes it chaotic. This station is like Sydney, where all tracks for different lines are side by side, not on different levels like Skytrain. It sounds like a good idea,but isn’t – you still have to walk down one level and under tracks and back up to catch trains. Park Street has 3 lines so it’s a bit crazy there.

Weird because at Government Center (the next stop), you can go down one level to Blue Line tracks. When the old trains go by overhead, the whole station shakes – it was a bit disturbing. Almost like a minor earthquake I guess, though I don’t know I’ve ever felt one. Guess everyone else is used to it.

Blue Line trains are again different than Green – more like Red but newer. I don’t get why they aren’t all the same. Unless when they built new lines they couldn’t buy enough older models. Reminds me of Canada Line and Skytrain – one can’t run on the others’ tracks. This is repeated at least 3 times here and they even paint trains to match Stations.

Inside these trains reminds me of newer Red Line I took to JFK, but not the ones back from JFK, which were horrible. In this case, the train was newer, clean and I’m only going 2 stops to Aquarium station anyway. At stop just before mine, State Street, the doors opened to the most horrible mess I’ve ever seen in my life (see picture left, click for larger) – it was like exiting to a dimly lit cave. Unbelievably horrible. I guess they are renovating it, but I mean, good grief, that’s ridiculous to have to look at every day. They could have spray painted everything white or something for now.

At Aquarium Station it was the exact opposite – beautiful new station that had computerized audio announcements when next train was coming. Exit gates were my height (no fare jumping there!) – very sci fi looking. Coming out of the Atlantic Avenue exit and walking down State street to the water was like what I would think Atlantic City would look like – a big wooden boardwalk with tacky tourist souvenirs, food etc. The New England Aquarium is right there, built out on the water. There’s also an IMAX theater here too. They have a replica tall ship tied up by the Aquarium that you can take out on tours, and lots of bus and boat tour operators have booths and boats here, with a Boston transit ferry stop here (like they have Sydney) that takes you to the Navy Yard.

Aquarium was really neat – all housed in one huge building, unlike Vancouver Aquarium, where many exhibits are outside and a smaller building only houses about 25-30% of the total exhibits There was the opportunity earlier in the morning to go whale watching on a special Aquarium boat, with their staff, out on the ocean, but it left just before I got there sadly. Oh well. Next one is tomororw morning, and that won`t work, but not the first time I`ve done whale-watching.

Inside the Aquarium was pretty standard fair – piranha, sharks, a giant octopus (which would have been neat if he wasn`t sleeping the whole time I was there) and a few other interesting things like giant crab and lobsters, etc. The real attraction, though, was the penguin exhibit. They were so cute, and there so many of them! I got there just as feeding time started. They would hand feed each of them individually and write down their names from little collars they all wore – so they ensured all were properly fed. You could tell they took good care of them. Some of the little guys were such posers for pictures – not afraid at all of all the screaming kids and flashes. Very cute – well worth the $18 to get in – cheaper than our Aquarium though again, not as big, and they don`t have any dolphins or whales of any kind there – so you don`t need big tanks. They had a neat 3 storey tank that you walk around and around up an incline – with sharks, etc in it – and divers swimming around with them. Again, nice touch. Also had a really cool jellyfish display with a lot more times and bigger tanks – much better than Vancouver`s. Overall, definitely worth a visit if you get the chance – but get on the whalewatching boat, it`s an incredible value of $40 for a 4 hour trip. I paid nearly twice that much for the same ride in Cape Cod.

3:39 PM – left Aquarium and headed to Quincy’s Market to maybe grab something to eat and check out souvenirs for the last time.

4:03 PM – was walking into Quincy’s Market after buying some souvenirs and a box of salt water taffy across at Faneuil Hall. A street performer was doing done kind of act and pointed me out on my way in and said something about me ‘inventing the steam engine’. No idea what he Was talking about. I gave the thumbs up and kept walking and the crowd laughed. I heard him say on the way in – ‘doesn’t he look like the inventor type’ and they laughed again. What does THAT mean?

Quincy’s Market is about 200 years old and is a giant food court with about 40 restaurants. They have Chinese, Thai, etc and also things like a fudge shop, Philly Cheesesteak place, a Boston hot dogs with Boston beans shop, etc. I picked a 1/2 chicken dinner with rice and veggies at a place called Ari’s BBQ for $7.59! I was shocked! It was really good too! Grabbed some maple fudge on the way out and walked 2 blocks to Haymarket station (Green Line). 2 stops back to Park Street, where I changed trains to Red Line to go 2 stops to South statio…right in the middle of rush hour. It got really busy really fast, and I wasn’t ready for it. I was at downtown stations and skyscrapers were emptying by the thousands into the streets, and many were coming to the stations. You had no time to think or stop to look at a map. It was just a wall of people going down the stairs. Exciting and scary – no one in this city has any tolerance or patience if you’re in their way, so I just rolled with the punches.

5:08 PM
– got off the train at South Station. That was my station but I had to get off the train regardless – I was starting to panic a bit because I couldn’t figure out where I was going. I was planning to walk most of the way back to the hotel – was close to the edge of Financial District where my hotel was.

I had bought a $9 day pass and used it a lot but won’t again until at least rush hour is over. I’ve been in Grand Central in NYC at rush hour and it was busy but wasn’t like this – this was more compressed and faster and shorter so more people at once. Told there’s too rush hours here – blue collar and white collar rushes. Trains were back to back to back – they are driven by operators do they can do that, unlike Skytrain. But not very orderly I didn’t think.

Was typing this at the station with my iPhone just now when a Chinese lady with a suitcase came up to me and scared the liver out of me – got right in my face with map in hand asked ‘where is cheap hotel’ just like that. No ‘excuse me’, nothing. Sigh. You’d think I’d be used to it by now but it never gets old.

She looked pretty harried so I said jokingly “in Cleveland” and told her I was from Canada. I said my hotel was cheapest I had researched – at $250 a night. She suddenly huffed, stormed off and yelled back – “I don’t go to Cleveland Canada and I not stay with you.’. Yah, you read that right.

My mind instantly thought ‘what the…..’. I actually thought I was on Candid Camera and kind of looked around, thinking the punch line to the joke was coming… coming… coming…. Like she would pull off a wig and Howie Mandel would be laughing at me. Yah, it never came. I was then really irritated. She embarrassed me in front of hundreds of people walking into the station – like I was some kind of pervert or something. She came up to me, not the other way around.

I felt like yelling back ‘ honey, grab some English next time before you come to a city like Boston. Do they not have hotel reservations in Shanghai?’ but I restrained myself. Sorry, but honestly I think they get dumber all the time. How could you just show up in a major city right ‘off the boat” (substitute plane, etc.) without booking something first and not having a clue what anyone is really saying. It seemed she had no clue where she was either but obviously just got here – airport tags on luggage. I’m still shaking my head on that one. Bizarre.

5:30 PM – walked a few blocks from station to where Congress Street crosses some unknown waterway.. Right at that bridge was where the Boston Tea Party ship – used to be. I saw it 6 years ago and got video but not pictures, and VHS tapes aren’t as useful as they used to be. In its place was a ripped up mooring and a big “Coming soon sigh. Coming soon? They do realize it happened over 235 years ago, right?

6:00 PM – Walked back to South station, and didn’t see as many people going in. Probably because I went in the wrong entrance and found myself at the Amtrak and bus station. I saw one sign that said NYC for $1 on the bus and thought – yah right. Then saw a Greyhound sign for $15 and I was tempted to just get a ticket!

A nice lady could tell I was a bit lost and confused and pointed me to the subway entrance – which was all part of one big building. She walked the same way and gave me good tips on seeing Boston. Best restaurants in the city are on North End in Little Italy by Paul Revere’s house. Too bad it was my last night here and couldn’t get motivated.

Finally got down into Red line (2 levels down) thinking I’d take that to hotel, then realized I came to South station on the Green Line and needed to be on that platform to get back to hotel (South station is a transfer zone), so walked up a level. Two trains were on either side of the platform and both were … going the wrong direction. What the…?

Then I saw other tracks farther down but you couldn’t just walk over to them, so I had to go down and exit up just in time for a train to show up. I figured the other trains both went one way so these did too. A guy behind me asked if this was the right train to Boylston, and I was so proud of myself that I actually knew the answer!

Except I was wrong! The train announced Haymarket while we were on it, and I said out loud ‘you’ve GOT to be kidding me.’. People kind of glanced but said nothing. That’s where I started from! I was still somehow going the wrong direction! How idiotic – there’s one Green Line train going North from South Station (which they stupidly call “Inbound”) and it breaks into 3 lines going off in 3 directions either South or West. So basically on the 2 platforms, only 1 train out of 4 was going my direction! Thank God for an unlimited pass. I decided to get off at Park Street, 2 stations down – suddenly had a craving for a McDonald’s hot fudge sundae – and they’re only $1 here! It’s the same McDonald’s I’ve been to a few times now at Boston Common.

6:30 PM – Went back to same station I just came from, and waited. First train that came through was – wrong direction again! You’ve got to be freaking kidding me. K, I’m officially DONE with this stupid system. I walked out thinking I had to just go back to the other platform and then realized I had right platform, just wrong side. Thought I’d give it another try – went back down and stuck in my card – and it beeped and said ‘Pass already used’. Already used? It’s a 24 hour pass!

Done, done, done.. I started walking through Boston Common back to the hotel.

MBTA officials – hope you’re reading this. Burn your freaking subway to the ground and start again. Seriously, it’s hopeless, and it stinks too (literally). It’s hopelessly shot in the head and so is whoever designed it. You either gave to be a rocket scientist or on crack to get it. I’ve apparently got neither ‘advantage’ so…. Beautiful evening for a walk through the park! The sundae helped too.

There must be a University or College graduating today – lots of people getting pictures taken in the Public Gardens – pretty spot to do it for sure, and the weather was just perfect, though a bit overcast. It was a great day – glad it all worked out the way it did, though the subway made me a little crazy. Um crazier. I’m going for accuracy on this blog.

Day 6a – NBC Today in Boston!

For the events of Wednesday, June 3, 2009

7:11 AM – Just got up and turned on the TV to NBC’s Today show, which I watch every day on my way to work on a video podcast. This morning, Matt Lauer is here in Boston doing his part of the show in front of the Quincy Market, which I was just at yesterday afternoon! It was really cool to see – but I didn’t go downtown to see him live, as I don’t know you’d be able to anyway. He interviewed Mitt Romney, who ran for President with the Republican party (and lost to John McCain in the primaries).

Matt is here to follow a story of a guy in court today in Boston who calls himself Clark Rockefeller and claimed for 12 years to be part of the famous wealthy family. But he’s really Christian Gerhartsreiter, a native German who moved to the U.S. as an exchange student in the late 1970s. He became the subject of an international manhunt after abducting his daughter from his ex-wife during a supervised visit. Now he not only awaits trial on kidnapping charges in Boston, but has been identified as a “person of interest” in a double homicide during the mid-1980s in California. His wife was a corporate climber that at one point was making $40,000 a week, but he took control of her money and she couldn’t even access the account balances online! Why she felt she needed to be married this idiot (and he’s ugly too!) is the mystery that has got this whole city talking for quite some time now – big story here.

Also, other big story today is the announced sale of GM’s Hummer division – to a heavy construction company in China called Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery! If you are reading this and you own a Hummer – sell it this afternoon, as it won’t be worth it’s weight in metal tomorrow. What on earth would these peopleknow about fixing and making Hummers? Even analysts in China say it’s a bizarre potential deal. Maybe they don’t actually know what a Hummer is. This goes in my special “stupid story of the day” file.

8:00 AM – When I just went to get my breakfast at Au Bon Pain, I was wearing shorts and it was a bit chilly. Big change from yesterday afternoon where it was hot hot hot. Overcast but supposed to be burn off by early afternoon and then rain overnight, which is just fine with me.

9:30 AM – headed off to Convention Center. Forgot Dr. Keown’s poster at the booth, which is being torned down at noon, so have to rescue it from behind the booth this morning. Then going to head out to the JFK Presidential Library – should be interesting.

Day 4a – A Great Day Awaits

For the events of Monday, June 1, 2009

8:30 AM – I can’t believe it’s June already. Where has the year gone? Woke up and heard on the news that the weather outside is – well, different! Apparently some parts of the city woke up to the 30sF (meaning almost freezing). It was approx +8C here at the hotel. Crazy considering how warm it was yesterday – probably mid 20s.

Heard on NBC Today that an Air France jet from Brazil has ‘disappeared’ off radar over the Atlantic ocean, with over 225 people on board. It was bound for Paris, which definitely got my attention, as I’m going there in just a few months. They think they may never find the plane if it actually crashed into the ocean – was experiencing electrical problems along the way. Lots of places over the ocean where there is no radar and so no way to detect them.

I see Susan Boyle was overthrown on “Britain’s Got Talent” by a dance troupe of teens – they were just amazing. Never seen anything like they – they were all joined together at the beginning and looked like a single octopus, etc. – really cool. Susan Boyle did an amazing job too – she’ll have a great career I’m sure. But a lot of people said she messed with success – died her hair, wore an evening gown, etc. which then lost the ‘magic’ for some people of the simple woman with the Broadway musical voice.

Weather is supposed to be great here now – they’ve changed the forecast. I guess the rain got out of its system yesterday – could have a small chance on Wednesday, but not concerned about it at the moment. Today is going to be really nice – not too hot (mid 70s) and not as humid. Tuesday is supposed to be something like 28C!

I have to be at the Convention Center for 9:30, so going to run downstairs to the little sandwich place and get some breakfast. More later – am at the American Transplant Congress (which I’ll call ATC from now on) until about 2:30 or so, then will do some touring. Got some definite ideas of where today, but will leave as a surprise. More later.