Bright Sunlight, Fleeting Shadows: Sens

Even cars try to find shade

First off, let’s get the pronunciation right: Say the word “sense,” but say the –en part the way you would say “on”. Now, picture this:

You take the train from Paris into Burgundy, one of many legendary wine growing regions in France. Out of your window, you see the hills undulating gently, like rolling swells far at sea, tinged golden in the hot summer sun, crested with growths of old forests that have escaped the plow. Above, the sky glows til it is nearly pink, and clouds float lazily in the mid-August heat.

Crossing into Sens

Leaving the train, you make your way across a small bridge lined with planters that bristle with color, and below you the River Yonne reflects the sun—and a welcome breeze—into your eyes.

A courtyard

Eager to find shade, you turn onto a quiet side street, looking for an inviting alleyway but knowing that anything will do. The doors are shy and mostly keep to themselves, but then you stumble across the dimmed entryway to a sun-washed courtyard. Without hesitation, you step into the shade and rest for a minute or two.

Another alleyway

Across the courtyard beckons an alley with vines lining the walls, and you stride toward it with curiosity, wondering where it might take you. After winding through other streets it eventually deposits you near a plaza lined with small cafes and tables; many people mill about in the mid-day sun, and the cathedral looms overhead.

The covered market

Before you enter the cathedral, you notice a covered market that borders one end of the square; it has a brick façade, and on the inside it has a white roof and green iron posts in the Art Nouveau style.

St. Etienne de Sens, West Facade

You re-emerge into the midday sun and stare up at St. Etienne de Sens, a treasure of a building that spans the peak of Romanesque art and bridges the gap to Gothic; after a moment of contemplation, you step inside.

Nave

As your eyes adjust to the gloom, you note the relative absence of people inside this beautiful church.

Light

Walking up the side aisles, you see chapels with stained glass streaming beams of pure color onto the walls and the floor. After staying in the cathedral long enough for the heat of midday to burn itself out just a little bit, you venture outside again.

La Yonne

This time you make your way toward the river, and you walk along it for some time, until you find yourself on the outskirts of Sens.

Open window

Before night falls, you trace your steps back into the city, find the only McDonald’s for miles around, and wished the Internet didn’t have to be stuck in another century like the rest of this beautiful place!

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