Paris

 

Click on any image to see a larger version of that image.

  See more from: London, Paris, Rome, Venice, Germany.



At the top of our list when we got to Paris was to take the subway over to the Arc de Triumphe and climb up to the top

 



The Emperor Napoleon III instituted a vast program of city renewal and planning between 1853 and 1879, which involved the demolition of medieval neighborhoods that were deemed overcrowded and unhealthy. They substituted wide avenues, new parks and squares, sewers, and fountains.

To view Paris from a height is to be clearly aware of city planning. Also, there are clearly strict building codes that prevent most buildings taller than 7 stories from competing with the Eiffel Tower.

 



The climb up the Arc de Triumphe involved fewer than half as many stairs as the St. Paul's Cathedral in London. But still, we were the oldest people by far to make it up onto the roof of the arc.

 



I quite liked this marble of Napoleon the First getting a laurel wreath placed on his head by a naked woman. I suggested to Debbie that we re-enact this pose with her placing my Tilley hat on my head, but she seemed unenthused.

 



As evening fell, we took a stroll down the Champs Elysees...an 8 lane road with an enormously wide sidewalk beside it. Because the road is so wide, when we crossed, we only made it across the first four lanes to a little island where we waited for the next light. This made it easy to take a picture. (My cellphone was not up to the challenge on this early-evening photo, so I borrowed a shot from Google.)

 



The next morning we had breakfast in a little brasserie that opened early. It was there that we learned that a) conventional Canadian coffee was not available in France (nor Italy or Germany). Rather, your choices are espresso (a tiny bit of extremely strong coffee in the bottom of a tiny cup), capuccino (espresso with steamed milk), or macchiato (steamed milk with a touch of espresso coffee in it). b) The French take their hot chocolate very seriously, and do a superb job of it.

The weather was lovely for our whole time in Paris, and the restaurant folded back their glass wall to be open to the outside. It was a great way to start the day...and we returned there for the next 3 mornings in succession.

 



Our hotel was in the so-called Latin Quarter of Paris, which is filled with students...and bookstalls along the Seine River. Our hotel was just five minutes from the Sorbonne University, and another five minutes from the Notre Dame Cathedral.

 



France has clearly worked at getting the infrastructure in place to support electric cars. You can parallel park on the street in front of a charging station, swipe a credit card, and carry on with your day as your car charges.

 



There was so much I enjoyed about Paris. But surely one of the many highlights was getting to the Louvre Museum. It is a perfectly enormous facility with a central entrance in the pyramid, and two gigantic wings filled with treasures.

 



The Louvre was so big, it had a bit of a "Hotel California" flavor about it: "You can check out any time you like but you can never leave."

I stopped to take this picture of two exit signs, pointing in different directions, neither of which actually worked. We ended up in the wing filled with Egyptian mummies and hieroglyphics, not so much because we chose that...but because we were trying to get out, and landed in Egypt by mistake.

 



The people of Egypt and Mesopotamia spent centuries taking no particular note of their past. In the 1800s, archaeologists from Britain, France, and Germany came to these areas, excavated, and took much of what they found back home.

It is quite understandable today that these countries would now like their patrimony back. But it is also understandable that these eastern countries took no real interest in their past until they figured out from watching European archaeologists that Europeans actually valued this history

In any case, the best places to see the wonders of ancient Egypt, Persia, and Greece is in the British Museum in London, the Louvre in Paris, and various museums in Germany (including the Pergamon Museum in Berlin).

 



The positive aspect of this for the tourist is that it is a good bit safer to look at mummies in Paris than it is to view them in Cairo, much less heading to Iraq to get a feel for ancient Persia.

It is also true that some of the artifacts that we saw on our trip to the Cario Museum - just three months before the Arab Spring uprisings - were damaged by rioters after we left. Europeans tend to take better care of the Egyptian treasures in their museums than the Egyptians themselves do.

Deb and I went to Egypt some years ago, and that is of course the only way to see the Pyramids and to sail on the Nile - both of which are a treat! But we found Egypt an anxiety-producing place to visit, and had a more-or-less constant, low-level concern for our personal safety whenever we left the walled fastness of our hotel.

For my money, a trip to Europe is a less hair-raising place to see mummies and hieroglyphics than Egypt...and of course, only an idiot would go to Iraq to see remains of the Babylonian and Persian empires, when he could do just as well by staying in Paris or London.

 



I was stunned to see the kinds of things that were on the interior walls of the Persian Emperor Darius the First' palace, and how the color pigments have survived after 2,500 years.

Darius was, of course, the king who instigated the unsuccessful invasion of Ancient Greece at the Bay of Marathon. He is mentioned in the biblical books of Haggai, Zechariah and Ezra–Nehemiah.

 



The Louvre also has a wealth of artifacts excavated from Greece. This is the "Venus de Milo".

 



I was staggered at the extent to which Greek sculptors from before the time of Jesus were able to carve stone in a way that evokes really light, translucent fabric...and to capture intricate detail.

 



This chap was more fortunate than most who served as models for ancient Greek sculptors, in that he still has his penis.

It seems that it was a pretty big deal in the ancient world to snap a penis off a statue and take it home, to use as a paperweight on your desk. The Greeks - and the Romans after them - were carving nude statues in abundance. There were almost as many ancient desks with really interesting paperweights.

 



In the background, an incredibly detailed statue, which has survived in its entirety, of Athena, patron goddess of Athens. In the foreground, Debra, patron goddess of Callingwood.

 



Winged Victory ("Nike") of Samothrace, with Nike (and yes...Nike is a great name for a running shoe) riding on the prow of a ship, commemorating (maybe) the Greek victory over the Persians at the Battle of Salimis (480 BC).

The Persians were led by Xerxes I, husband of Queen Esther - from the eponymously named biblical book - who had triumphed earlier at the Battle of Thermopylae, which was the battle described in the movie, The 300.

 



The Romans were also great carvers-of-marble. Here is a his-and-hers sarcophagus.

 



The Louvre had gallery after gallery of paintings. Here is a picture I took - while accompanied by 800 of my closest friends - of the Mona Lisa.

 



In the Renaissance, David's victory over Goliath was a popular theme. The Louvre has several paintings depicting this...including this interesting painting that had slightly different takes on the same event painted on both sides of the canvas.

 



The largest painting in the Louvre's collection covers an enormous wall, and depicts the wedding at Cana, from John 2. Deb and I enjoyed standing before this one and picking out the little vignettes of people in this or that corner of the painting.

 



This is a painting I have known of for years, and was impressed to see it with my own eyes: The Raft of the Medusa.

 



Here is "The Death of Cleopatra" from an Italian artist, done around 1500 AD. That is a poisonous asp biting her on the breast, but she looks rather blissed-out to me.

 



Upon leaving the Louvre, we found a cafe where we could have lunch outdoors, with a view of the Eiffel Tower in the background. From here, I had outstanding (as one would hope and expect) French onion soup for lunch, followed by a terrific creme brulee.

 



We bought tickets for a hop-on-hop-off water taxi that traverses up and down the Seine River, and headed for the Eiffel Tower. Debbie's idea - and it was a good one - was to arrive around 90 minutes before sundown, so we could watch the sun set and see the lights of Paris come on.

The next day we were again in that corner of Paris, and I felt drawn to take another picture of the tower. It is just so impressive...and kudos to the Paris government for not allowing skyscrapers to grow up nearby and dwarf the tower.

 



Elevators take you up from inside the four legs to the second viewing platform. From there, you take a different elevator that goes up the central part of the tower...to the third platform, 280 meters (918 feet) above the ground.

 



As you walk on the streets of Paris, you are liable to find some fortified home/castle of indeterminate age. Canada and the USA both seem to be forward looking countries. It seemed to me that France and Italy were encumbered by their history, and tended to look to the past rather than the future.

Being in a country that looks to the past is a good thing as far as tourists are concerned, however.

 



The Seine clearly is an important part of the local economy.

 



A bridge built during the time of Napoleon's leadership.

 



It is a custom in Paris to engrave a couple's names on a padlock, and to affix it to one of the bridges over the Seine, to symbolize unbreakable love.

 



There were some sailing vessels on the Seine...but no drawbridges in Paris. You can see that this vessel has "lee boards" that can be swung down, rather than a permanent, deep keel underneath. If you look closely at the mizzen mast, you can see that it is hinged. So to go under a bridge, they lower the masts.

Of course, this is not a terrific design for offshore. But if you are going to bop around the coasts and rivers of Europe, it is pretty good.

 



Debbie has a particular spot in her heart for painters from the Impressionist school...so a must-see spot for us was the Orsay museum, which has the finest collection of Impressionists in the world. There were several by Remoir and Monet.

We figured this young woman might be Renoir's daughter, as we saw a younger version of her in a different painting.

 



As we were taking the train out to the Versailles Palace, a busker joined us on the train to play accordion tunes. Click here to listen to what Debbie recorded.

This will take several seconds to download to your computer. If you are using Chrome, you will see it appear as a downloaded file along the bottom of your browser window. Click on it and choose "Open".

If you are using Internet Explorer, you will find a "Do you want to open or Save 2018P_AccordionRECORDING.mpeg" question. You should answer "Open". If you are asked a security question, click on "Allow".

 



The French Kings who decorated the Versailles Palace went far beyond the British in the extent to which they used gold leaf to guild even the outside gates and fence.

 



The ostentatious display of wealth inside the Versailles Palace, as well as the gardens behind the palace, simply beggarded the imagination.

 



Some of the portraits were interesting, both in the representations of faces and hands that were so skilled that they left me feeling almost like I knew the person, and in the representations of the clothing they were wearing. I was left impressed by the caliber of pre-industrial fabric making.

 



We particularly enjoyed this fountain which, like the Bellagio Hotel in Vegas, had syncrhonized the fountain to music.

You need to click on this picture to see it full-sized, so you can enjoy the rainbow.

 



We enjoyed the gargoyles on the Notre Dame Cathedral.

There were also a fairly whimsical set of statues up on the bell tower, including one that appeared to be losing his balance, and another trying to climb up to the platform.

 



But the real (largely) undiscovered treasure in Paris is on the Île de la Cité, an island in the middle of the Seine River, and just a 5 minute walk from the Notre Dame Catheral. It is the Sainte-Chapelle church, home to the most amazing stained glass windows I have ever seen.

Unlike Notre Dame, which took over 200 years to build, Ste. Chapelle was built with a single architect and team of artisans in just 6 years, from 1242 to 1248. So it realizes a single artistic vision.

 



We arrived before the doors opened in the morning, so were able to grab chairs and just sit-and-enjoy. There was no photographing these windows with a cellphone, so upon arriving back home, I got a bunch of these from a French government cultural web site.

I had brought along binoculars for just this occassion, so Deb and I were able to enjoy views of the individual window panes.

 



While St. Paul's Cathedral had almost nothing to do with Jesus, the artisans who created Ste. Chapelle were immersed in Scripture. It was a pre-Gutenberg-Bible era, so there were few copies of the Bible to work with. But there must have been Bible classes and discussions each day, for most of the hundreds and hundreds of panes illustrate some Bible story or verse. This one depicts the original sin.

 



God gives Adam and Eve clothes.

 



God knocking down the Tower of Babel.

 



Abraham sending Hagar away.

 



Abraham taking Isaac off to make a sacrifice to God.

 



Pharaoh dreams of cattle and sheaves of grain.

 



Here is a window that I took to represent the Four Horsement of the Apocalypse...but on returning home and looking closer, there seemed to be too many people. So I really don't know what this is intended to represent...but I like it anyway.

 



The angel sounding the fourth trumpet.

 



The trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised.

 



I am supposing that the various artisans used a divide-and-conquer strategy in terms of picking biblical stories and themes. The exception here was the seven-headed dragon of Revelation 12. EVERYbody seemed to want a crack at that. Deb and I counted six or so different treatments of that dragon...which led me to believe there were six or so stained glass artisans working to build these windows.

These closeup photos were taken as the government was doing some restoration work - cleaning and so on - of various panes.

 



The large circular array of panes over the entrance was mostly filled with scenes from the Book of Revelation.

My favorite was at the center of the circular array, with Jesus from Revelation 1, with a sword in his mouth, surrounded by seven candle sticks and seven churches, each with an angel at the door, and John taking dictation at Jesus' feet.

 



At the entrance to the church, there were several scenes carved in marble. Here we see the snake tempting Eve, and Eve giving a fruit to Adam.

 



Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

 



The angel of God driving Adam and Eve from the Garden.

 



Caine and Abel preparing their offerings to God.

 



Caine kills Abel.

 



Noah and the dove.

Now it is a general principle that I can see when I am having fun because I have a ton of pictures from that moment. And that was certainly true here.

I felt I had little in common with the people who built St. Paul's Cathedral. They and I are really on completely different pages when it comes to what "church" is all about.

But I felt a real kinship with the people who built the Ste. Chapelle church. These were people who cared about Scripture, and about God. For the 6 years they took to build this church, they simply immersed themselves in the Bible, literally from Genesis to Revelation. My kind of people.

 



Before catching a train to take us to the airport, to leave France, we bopped into this little tea room to have some crepes with ice cream.

  See more from: London, Paris, Rome, Venice, Germany.