Recently, a collector of mine purchased a vintage Marty Magic Gargoyle Pendant on eBay. She e-mailed me, asking the story behind the piece.
Plique-a-Jour is an enameling technique similar to cloisonné but where there is no backing so that the end result is that light can shine through the enamel giving the illusion of stained glass. A temporary backing is used before the enamel is applied within the cells but after firing the backing is dissolved by acid or rubbed away. It is a challenging technique with a high failure rate but the results can be stunning.
I have visited Paris many times and each time, I make sure to climb the Notre Dame tower to visit the gargoyles. In my youth the climb was an easy one, but the ancient stone tower stairs seem to get longer with every visit. In the late 1980’s, I traveled to Paris with friends of mine, Nancie and Terry. While Terry and I climbed the tower, Nancie perused the gift shop and purchased two gold plique-a-jour rose window medallions. That evening, she and Terry generously gifted me the pair of transparent Notre Dame rose windows. Their instructions were that I was to design myself a pair of Gargoyle earrings incorporating the stained glass medallions. I began by creating a full bodied gargoyle with the intention of adapting the piece as the settings for my gargoyle earrings. I treasure the pair of earrings and the memories they ignite.
In the summer of 2013, Art, John and I visit Paris for a few days before attending a friends wedding in Loudon, France. It is our last morning in Paris and we have a 12:23 p.m. train to catch to Loudon. The wedding is the following day. I have the alarm set for 7:30 and we shower, pack and check out of our tiny Maris district hotel. We walk briskly towards the river and Notre Dame. It’s a beautiful sunlit morning with white clouds dotting the sky and although Art and John wish for a leisurely breakfast at our usual café, I am set on getting to Notre Dame before lines form and to climb the tower to visit the gargoyles. When we arrive at 9:00 A.M. we walk straight into the majestically cathedral and as in the past, all my senses are stirred. I inhale the scent of frankincense and candle wax and my eyes follow the soaring lines of the gothic arches, splashed with rainbows of color from the stain glass windows. Immense lighted chandeliers illuminate the interior and we circumambulate the cathedral more quickly than I would like.
The tower climb opens at 10:00 A.M. and when we exit the cathedral at 9:40 there is already a significant line to climb the tower. We scurry to the back of the line and within a matter of minutes the line extends beyond my view. We sit on the stone wall encircling the cathedral, leaning back against the iron rails of the enclosure. Tourist cafes across the street sell coffee and crepes and I bring three scalding cups of café crème back to our place in line. My next foray is for ham and cheese crepes and we eat and drink and wait in line for the tower to open.
When it opens the line moves up suddenly but at 10:07 it hasn’t moved further and I walk to the front to investigate. The attendants explain that they let 20 people in every 5-7 minutes. I walk back to our position and shake my head glumly telling John and Art that there is no way we will make it to the front of the line in time to make it to our train. John goes forward and counts and tells me that there are exactly 60 people ahead of us. Another group of 20 is let in and we count again. It is 10:20 and we are now number 37, 38 and 39. I wait anxiously and then suddenly they let 36 people in, cutting the line off just before Art. Art tells the “gate keeper” that we have a train to catch and amazingly, she lets the three of us in! There are 400 stairs to climb but the climb is surprisingly easy since it is orchestrated into three stages. I forget to count but guess that the first part of the climb is about 150 steps up to the ticket counter and gift shop. We must buy tickets here and I watch the clock anxiously as people fumble for their credit cards or money. Eventually our group is ushered onwards and upward to the gargoyles. We emerge at bell tower level and step out on the extremely narrow, wire enclosed promenade around the tower. We have the option to descend or to take an additional flight of spiral stone stairs to the very top view tower of Notre Dame. I am watching the clock and mutter that it might be best to descend, but Art starts the up the stairs and John and I follow him. It’s a short flight of less than 100 stone steps but the spiral stairs are narrow and as much as I want to be exploring, I am anxious about the ticking clock and the train to catch.
The view is more dramatic from here but just as on the previous level, one is not allowed to ascend or descend at will, but only with the group. This tower climb is so popular that in order to accommodate the hordes of tourists they have up and down access to the stairs carefully timed. We circumnavigate the tower taking photos from all directions but it is now 10:55 A.M. and I am no longer enjoying the experience. Our group is finally allowed to descend at 11:00 A.M. and we raced down the ancient spiral stairs, emerging street level at 11:05. A.M. (Although we have paid our bill, our bags are still in our room and check out is at 11:00 A.M.) The first leg of our train trip to Loudun is at 12:23. John and Art sprint ahead towards our hotel and I fast walk from I’ll de la Citie over the bridge to I’ll St. Louis, crossing over the Seine at a cardiovascular pace. I make all the green lights and then pause in confusion, wondering which left turn will take me to our Marias Hotel. I walk a block further and see Rue du St. Paul, make a left and am relieved to see Hotel du 7th Art up on the right. John has carried the luggage down from our 3rd floor room and within a minute all three of us are wheeling our bags towards the Bastille metro, a direct connection to Gare du Montparnasse. It’s 11:30 and we are good with plenty of time to spare.
John hands us our metro tickets just as we comprehend a sign telling us that this metro stop is closed for rennovation. Adrenaline surges as we carry our bags back upstairs in search of bus #5 which will supposedly connect us to the Montparnasse trains station. Place du Bastille is an immense square with many streets radiating out and we lose a precious 5 minutes trying to ascertain which direction we should walk to catch the bus. Some anxious minutes later we sprint across the street to find three #5 busses waiting. We board the first one, confirming with other passengers that it does indeed go to Gare du Montparnasse. The bus deposits us at the station at 11:55 and we wheel quickly into the station and towards the SNCF ticket counter. Because this is our first train trip, I must have our Eurail passes validated before we can travel. There are 40 people in line ahead of me but Art tells me to relax since there are 10 open windows. I reach the window at 12:12; have our passes validated and we wheel quickly to our platform and board our first class car to Orleans with 15 minutes to spare.