I took advantage of the sunny weather to enjoy a walk inside one of the two natural islands in the Seine within the city of Paris, Île de la Cité, the other being the Île Saint-Louis. It stands as the centre of the French capital and being the location where the medieval city spread out its reestablishment, the island's positively the oldest area of Paris.
Once largely residential, it's only the western and northeastern extremities of the island that remain so today. It's also believed that in 52 BC a small Gallic tribe, the Parisii, lived here. At a later point in history, Romans escaped to the island and errected a Merovingian palace on it. The island remained an important military and political centre throughout the Middle Ages. In the 10th century, a cathedral - the predecessor of Notre-Dame, was built here.
From early on wooden bridges linked the island to the riverbanks on either side, multiple ones being swept away by floodwaters. The Pont Neuf, the new bridge that is now the oldest bridge in Paris, was completed by Henry IV, who inaugurated it in 1607. The bronze equestrian statue of Henry IV was commissioned under the orders of Marie de Medici, Henry's widow and Regent of France.
The Île de la Cité remains the heart of Paris as all road distances in France are calculated from the 0 km point seen encapsulated in the ground at the Place du Parvis de Notre-Dame, the square facing Notre-Dame's pair of western towers. Opposite the square lays Place Dauphine, built in 1609 while Place des Vosges was still under construction and named for the Dauphin of France, which was among the earliest city-planning projects of Henry IV.
I was headed to one particularly astonishing building that's shielded behind gilded gates - the Palace of Justice. Adjacent to it, tourists often visit the Conciergerie where Marie Antoinette awaited execution in 1793. In the courtyard on one side stands the Sainte-Chapelle or Holy Chapel, built in the 13th century. It was built to house Louis IX's collection of relics of Christ, which included the Crown of Thorns and the Image of Edessa, all purchased from the Latin emperor of Constantinople.
On the way to Marie Antoinette's cell, you can pass through the Chapel which is particularly famous for its stained glass in predominantly purple and violet colors (being one of the largest such masterpieces in the world). Next to the intricately ornated windows, the stone wall surface - equally decorated and richly coloured, is reduced to little more than a delicate framework.
Few people know that the experience could be made special by attending a concert inside. I decided to book the event which let me not only enjoy the Chapel at the absence of the bustling crowds, but also marvel at its twinkling purple hue under the violon notes of Bach and Vivaldi. I am definitely going back a second time, hopefully, to attend the most renowned event there - Vivaldi's Four Seasons.