Paris, France: June 17 to June 23
(Pictures are thumbnails. Click on them for a larger view. You may click on the subjects listed to go directly to them.)
Subjects: Eiffel Tower Notre Dame French Deportation Monument Ste. Chappelle Paris Sights Louvre Versailles Museum d'Orsay Arc de Triomphe Paris Labor Strikes Paris Friends - Brehon's Rodin Museum Picasso Museum
Click on Update at the top of this page (or the navigation frame to the left) to see many views and details of our fun time in Paris. Right now, we are beginning our tour of the United Kingdom and will travel through England, Wales and Scotland, as well as the Republic of Ireland. We plan another update of the Rich Odyssey before we return home on July 25th. Stay tuned!
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Since we were staying very near the Eiffel Tower, we had opportunities to visit it on different days and different times of the day. For a tower made up of pieces of iron, it really is beautiful. At the time it was being built, however, the Parisians found it very controversial. The first picture is the normal daytime view on a very nice day with puffy summer clouds. Next, a lovely pink sunset, and, as evening progresses, the lights come on, and the tower continues to change its appearance.
We have all seen full view pictures of the Eiffel Tower, but it is hard to appreciate just how big it is until you start walking towards it. You keep thinking that you will be right there, but it just keeps getting bigger and bigger. Click on this picture to compare the size of people and vehicles with the tower. It IS big at 1,050 feet high (6 inches higher on a hot day). Finally, the 2000 year celebrations added one terrific element to the tower. It is now covered with thousands of big strobe lights that go off every evening for five minutes each hour. In the last picture you can see some of the strobes going off. It is really fun to watch. One day, as we were getting home from a typical late dinner, Steffi wanted to see it one more time: this shot was taken at midnight!
We went up in the tower both at night and one morning. We thought you might enjoy the contrast in the City of Lights between the two. This shot is of the Palais de Chaillot, across the Seine River.
Next, a shot in the direction we were staying down the long parkway called the Parc du Champs de Mars. The building at the end is the Ecole Militaire (Military School), our Metro stop.
Last, a shot southwest along the Seine showing the crowded Paris buildings, old and new. The round building is the "Maison de Radio France."
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Second to the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame (Our Lady, i.e. Mary), the famous Catholic Cathedral, is synonymous with Paris. The first shot from across the Seine River to the island, Ile de la Cite, shows how clean Notre Dame is now, with the exception of the tall steeple which still needs cleaning. Click on the next picture for a view of the front of the Cathedral, and, finally, a shot of the inside. While it is large and beautiful, it is not the most spectacular Gothic church that we have seen.
Notre Dame is noted for its fanciful figures and gargoyles which you can see better if you click on the pictures.
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French Deportation Monument
Another worthwhile site on Ile de la Cite island is the French Deportation Monument. Click on the first picture to see what the entrance wall looks like. You descend narrow stairs into a lower area surrounded by a high wall. Passing through another narrow wall and door, you see this view of 200,000 little lights on two walls representing the total number of French citizens that were 'deported' by the Germans and who died during the war. It is a very moving memorial.
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Also on the Ile de la Cite is the famous chapel, Ste. Chappelle. This chapel was built around 1300 as a personal chapel for King Louis. It is noted for its very large and beautiful stained glass windows, which you see here, which miraculously were not destroyed during the French Revolution, though the chapel itself was looted. Over the entrance to the chapel is another beautiful stained glass window in the shape of a rose. Underneath the main chapel is a smaller chapel for the non-royal courtiers and churchmen. Though much lower in height, it is also striking with its star studded ceiling.
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Paris is a very large city: we were told that it now has about 15 million people in the entire metro area. Anyway, there are a lot of sights to see around the city. Rather than tell you details about each one, we'll give you a sampling of what we saw as we toured Paris.
In the Parc du Champ de Mars near our hotel, the French Army had an extensive exhibition used to recruit young people. Here is their version of a Navy SEAL-type floating in a pond with a fountain. Click on the picture to check out the dog frolicking in the water. The French love their dogs and go literally everywhere with them. The next picture shows some boats docked along the Seine River near the Eiffel Tower. If you click on the picture, you can see the small black and white boat in the middle. This belonged to a nice family from Baltimore that we met while cruising the Louvre exhibits. They had been touring the rivers and coasts of Europe for over a year with two kids! We didn't get a chance to spend much time with them, but it looked like their life was similar to ours when we were in Betty, our RV. They pretty much just went everywhere they wanted to. Germany, they said, was an exception because the rules on German waterways are very strict.
This shot is of a large building called the Palais du Justice on the Ile de la Cite. It is a government building that has a prison in the basement. This is where many famous people were jailed before meeting their death on the guillotine, such as Marie Antoinette. The next shot is of a major intersection called Place de la Concorde. During the French Revolution it was called the Place de la Revolution where the guillotine killed many people. Brochures stated that the tall obelisk was a 'gift' from the 10th viceroy of Egypt. When we were in Egypt, however, we got a different story about whether it was a gift or was just taken by the French.
Click on the picture of the statue on top of the Museum d'Orsay. You get a perspective of how similar the Statue of Liberty looks. Clearly these sculptures of women are classic French. In an area called La Defense, which is similar to our Denver Tech Center, there is a huge arch named Grande Arche de la Defense, which you see here behind the tall modern office buildings.
Steffi and Jennifer are enjoying walking along the Seine River looking over the various booths selling books and art work. These are at the heart of Paris. We are not sure how these people make a living, but they must, since they were everywhere. On June 21 each year, the city of Paris celebrates with a Festival of Music, fortunately we were there. Concerts and performances are held literally all over the city. This music celebration has been happening each June for 20 years and is very popular. In the Parc du Champ de Mars shown here, we are checking out a madrigal choir. Closer to the Eiffel Tower, there was an orchestra on a stage playing big band music from the 1940s. Fun!
This is a shot of the famous Paris Grand Opera building which was built in 1875. Next, The Centre National d’Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou or just Centre Pompidou is a major tourist site and houses the Modern Art Museum.
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No visit to Paris is complete without a visit to the fabulous French art museum, the Louvre. It would take many days to tour it all, but we spent an entire day here. A recent modernization of the entrance to the Louvre has helped with crowd control. The entrance is located underground beneath the glass pyramid in the first picture. Chinese-born American architect I. M. Pei designed the controversial pyramid, which was completed in 1989. You get off a nearby Metro subway train, walk through a new shopping mall and enter the open area under the pyramid which is shown next. Our Paris combined Museum Card avoided all lines into major museums and sites. Slick! The last shot shows some of the huge Louvre buildings.
The Louvre started as a castle in the 13th century. A model of the original Louvre is shown here. Look closely at the sloped base of the towers. The real thing is shown in the next picture which is in the basement of the current Louvre. It is kind of a museum inside a museum since the base of the original structure is still intact. There is a neat exhibit showing how the Louvre Museum has expanded over the years to house more and more major works of art.
We are just going to show you just a few shots inside the Louvre. At least, they would let you take pictures!! In the first picture, Jennifer is playing tour guide leading us down one of long corridors. Next, we are standing in the VERY small exhibit of English artists (contrasted with French, Italian, and the Dutch) next to another famous painting by Jennifer's ancestor, Sir Joshua Reynolds. You all have seen the famous Mona Lisa, but you probably haven't seen what it looks like in the Louvre. Here are the large crowds looking at it, set on its own wall. It is behind gray glass protecting it from light.
There is a large Egyptian collection in The Louvre. We have seen lots of Egyptian art, but here a couple that were unique. The first shows a girl holding on to the tail of a duck as if they were both swimming. Next, a set of mummified cats. As you recall, the Egyptians worship cats.
And here are three works we liked a lot. The first is a headless statue of Victory that was once high on a cliff near the ocean to welcome home ancient sailors. Next, a very large painting (about 30 x 40 feet) of a scene where Jesus and Mary are attending a wedding. It is so large that museum visitors blend right into the scene. And we enjoyed these medieval people playing cards, each looking off in a different direction as they were hiding something.
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Louis XIV's palace, Versailles, is located a short train ride to the southwest of Paris. Jennifer and Stephanie are standing in the very large square in front of the palace.
The first shot if of the bright chapel that was used by the king. Next, the famous Versailles hall of mirrors with its ornate chandeliers. Last, a hall of very large paintings which were created just for Versailles.
This picture looking out a window from the Hall of Mirrors toward the Grand Canal gives you some idea of the size of the grounds around Versailles. Here are some hedge gardens and a shot of the back of Versailles looking over a fountain which has horses and a chariot emerging from the water. Too bad it wasn't in operation. (Only on Sundays, we understand.) We LOVE working fountains.
The Versailles palace was spectacular and huge, but we preferred the smaller garden palace, built earlier by Louis XIII, set away from the main palace. These pictures are from this smaller and more intimate palace. By comparison, we felt it was one that you could actually live in. Maybe not soon...
After visiting the wonderful clock museum in Vienna, we have now been looking everywhere for neat old clocks. Here is another astronomical clock from the late 18th century. It was in very good shape, but was not running. If you click on the picture, you can check out the movements that show the moon, sun and the planets. Cool!
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The Musee d"Orsay is housed in an old turn-of-the-century train station, as you can clearly see in the first picture. This museum has a fabulous collection which includes thousands of paintings, sculptures, photographs, and other works of art created between 1848 and 1914. The museum was extensively refurbished in the 1980s and was fabulous. We really had a good time visiting here. The ground floor has sculpture displayed in the main hall, as you see here. Throughout the museum much of the French Impressionists' and Post-Impressionists' work is presented. Jennifer and Steffi enjoy standing on an exhibit of the city of Paris around the Opera House. You can see the model right below their feet!
Here are a couple of impressive sculptures featured on the main floor. The contrast between colored, black and white stone makes a great impression.
Among the extensive displays of impressionist works, we particularly liked this night star scene by Van Gogh. Finally, there is a large collection of art nouveau furniture from the early 20th century. This unique work was very popular for a while until people found they had a hard time finding ways to match particular pieces of furniture with another. After a while, we guess it became art that was no longer 'new' and therefore became out of favor.
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Arc de Triomphe
At one end of the long Paris street, the Champs-Elysees, stands the famous Arc de Triomphe which was built by Napoleon in 1806 as a monument to the success of his troops. At the base of the arch is the French tomb of the unknown soldier, built after WW I. The middle picture shows, we think, the sculpture on the left side of the arch of Napoleon being crowned with a victory wreath. On the right side is a more interesting sculpture of a lady soldier leading her troops to victory. Click on the pictures to get a better view of the more interesting details.
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Paris Labor Strikes
Normally, we would have been able to climb up to the top of the Arc de Triomphe to get a good view of the surrounding streets (12 of them converge in one giant rotary (roundabout) at this location). However, as the first picture shows, a notice in the ticket window announced a strike of civil servants and the monument was closed. In another location, Jennifer ponders how long the trash had been building up in the RER regional train stations. The steps and walkways were literally covered in trash from a strike of cleanup people that had clearly gone on much longer than a day. Oh well... France, what a country!
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Paris Friends - Brehon's
Throughout the Rich Odyssey it has been fun to meet people and, occasionally, to hook up with friends or relatives along the way. Jennifer's college classmate, Jill Woodruff Brehon, has lived in France for the last 25 years, and she and husband Daniel were fabulous hosts, having us over to their house for dinner TWICE during the week we were there. They also helped us retrieve our BritRail passes which had been sent via Fedex by Denny's sister, Nancy. Here are Jill and Daniel in their beautiful home. We enjoy real filtered American-style coffee in their living room. Here is Jill with their son, David, who is studying engineering in college. We had a great time and look forward to their visit to Colorado.
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Before we left Paris, we fit in a couple more great museums. The Rodin Museum featured a large collection of his sculpture. Of course, the most famous sculpture of all time, The Thinker, was on display outside. We learned that 33 different castings have been made of this sculpture and are scattered around the world. Another sculpture inside the museum shows how well Rodin was able to capture the force and power of the human body.
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Steffi has been a fan of Picasso ever since she studied famous artists in the second grade which has left a lasting impression on her. We had already missed other Picasso collections in Barcelona and Nice. The Picasso Museum in Paris has a large collection, and we were especially glad to be able to visit since we got to the museum a little late one day, and they would not let us in 30 minutes before closing. So, we came back the next day, much earlier. We learned a lot about Picasso as we toured the museum, and here are some examples of his art. The first picture, one of his earlier works, depicts women frolicking on a Mediterranean beach. During WW II, Picasso painted many pictures which showed the effect the war had on him personally. As an example, this cat is shown devouring a bird. Finally, a cat sculpture just sitting beside a doorway. Even though the museum is not close to the Metro, it was well worthwhile.
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