Exploring the Basilica of Saint-Denis in Paris while reading “Pillars of the Earth” by Ken Follet

I found Saint-Denis while stumbling through Paris on my off-day from oilfield training. I explored a-lot of the city but my favorite by far was the Basilica of Saint-Denis. This was largely due to a friend who gave me Pillars of the Earth to read. The book does a fine job of mixing a love story with royal intrigue and the incredible task of building a cathedral in the 12th century.

Saint-Denis was built early in the transition from Romanesque architecture to Gothic architecture. Saint-Denis was the first Bishop of Paris and was beheaded on Montmarte. The legend goes that he walked headless until he reached this spot and the church was built over him. In Pillars of the Earth the protaganist, Jack Jackson travels to find work at Saint-Denis and is marveled by the revolutionary new techniques in cathedral building, ie. flying buttresses, pointed arches, and ribbed vaulting.

paris-basilica-saint-denis

http://www.francethisway.com/paris/saint-denis-basilica.php

Pillars does a great job pitting the dark triad royalty against the pious Prior Philip, the leader of Kingsbridge Priory, who wants to bring prosperity to a decaying and insignificant monastery and township. Philips efforts are thwarted and resisted along the way by a machiavellian Bishop Waleran Bigod and psychotic Lord William Hamleigh.

img_0515

Philip is aided in his quest by the hero of the book, Jack Jackson, a skeptic of the church but intelligent, hard-working, and of high character.

He leaves England and makes his way to Paris while Abbot Suger is constructing the Basilica of Saint-Denis. The new design incorporates ribbed vaulting and point arches, replacing the Romanesque groin vaulting and rounded arches.

img_0508

One thing I took away from the book was an appreciation for cathedral architecture.

 “To someone standing in the nave, looking down the length of the church toward the east, the round window would seem like a huge sun exploding into innumerable shards of gorgeous color.”
-Ken Follet

img_0506

“I’ve worked with volunteers before,” he began. “It’s important not to… not to treat them like servants. We may feel that they are laboring to obtain a heavenly reward, and should therefore work harder than they would for money; but they don’t necessarily take that attitude. They feel they’re working for nothing, and doing a great kindness to us thereby; and if we seem ungrateful they will work slowly and make mistakes. It will be best to rule them with a light touch.”
― Ken Follet

wpid-photo-apr-1-2013-614-am-antionette

https://traveltoeat.com/saint-denis-basilica-paris/

Saint-Denis is also the final resting place of 800 years of French Royalty. One of the more interesting memorials include the remains of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. I am currently reading about Alexander Hamilton and the Reign of Terror. Hamilton is loathe to intervene in European wars even though they are bound to France. Hamilton argues that the US should remain neutral because the Treaty of Alliance signed in 1778 with King XVI was voided when he was beheaded in 1793.

“The cathedral is God’s shadow over history, Father. We… we live in a world that is striving for order, which is art, which is learning, which is people creating something that will bring God’s heart into their community, that will survive wars and famine, that will survive history.” -Ken Follet

How I paid for my vacation to San Miguel de Tucuman, Argentina

Studying abroad in Tucuman, Argentina was a turning point in my life. Now at 23 I want to return to see friends I made when I was 16. When I got my job in the Oil Field I made sure that my first vacation would be back to Red Clay Courts of Tucuman.

I come from a middle class family who believed in hard work and the promise of education. Through college I worked odd jobs and saved money.

In sophomore year I listened to a podcast from Ramit Sethi, and promptly bought his book, I Will Teach You to Be Rich. A crazy title I know, but that ostentatiously titled book laid out the basics of money management.

All together the 18 day trip cost me $2400. When I got back my bank account wasn’t empty and there was no money hangover in the form of payments to credit card companies. This journey taught me how to save and be frugal; habits that will stick with me for the rest of my life.

Argentine Asado.
Argentine Asado.

1) The biggest strategy was Automatic bank withdrawal into a high yield online savings account with Capital One 360. $50 to $150 withdrawn without me having to move a muscle. Slowly building up money for 24 months, this was how I bought my ticket straight up.

Open an account now
2) Bring stuff to sell there. This was something I researched before going down. In Argentina Iphones are highly prized due to import restrictions and high tariffs. Labtops, ipads, and anything Mac related will sell for high prices. I took down skateboards to sell to my friends for a steep discount and in exchange for staying at his place.

The Country where an Iphone cost $3,500
3) Learn how to cook. I began with Mexican food. Its a lot of cleanup so I wouldn’t recommend it for beginners. I would recommend grilling a whole chicken.

 

4) Got on Mint and started tracking all my spending. I used to spend irrationally at the grocery store. I used to have a full refrigerator. Now I buy for 1 week, and use up everything. I have cans of soup for when food gets low, but I enjoy being creative with meals.
5) Buy a bike. I use it all the time being close to the grocery store, and gym. I save money on gas and repairs for my car.
6) Follow Personal Finance Bloggers. Ramit Sethi helped me negotiate my rent down 15% using his scripts in my emails. I ended up saving $800 from 1 email.
7) Take care of the stuff I own, I like to keep the stuff I have equal. If I buy something like a new shirt I have to either give a dress shirt away or throw it out. I clean the shoes I own and now they last 50% longer than before. Learn how to wash certain things. Jeans don’t need to be washed that much, and when you do, make sure to flip them out. When my phone screen cracked, I learned how to repair it online and bought a kit to do it. Now I have repaired it twice.

iphone-5s-repair-kit-complete-screen-lcd-glass-touch-panel-tools-black
8) Bring cash. The official rate is 9 pesos. Dollar Blue is 13 pesos. Bring $100 bills only. Go to where the banks are and people outside will trade with you. Listen to the word, “Cambio”. It means change in Spanish.

IMG_2920
9) Get a Skymiles credit card. Got into the lounge area for $30. I had food, drinks, Wifi, and a shower. Yeah it was worth $30 to pass 5 hours in the Atlanta airport. If I could do it over again I would have opened up the card 2 years ago. You can ask for a limit increase every 6 months. Right now my limit is only $1000. And tickets to Argentina are between 1,300-2,000 roundtrip. This is to save up miles for my next trip to Tucuman.