Monday, August 7, 2006

Log 50 - (Aug 2006) - Paris - aka The City of Lights, The City of Love or The Capital of France - all of the above.

 "The great legacy we can leave our children is happy memories." - Og Mandino.

This log covers August 7th - 17th, where we enjoy 10 days exploring the wonderful city of Paris.  Hands on homeschooling opportunity at its best.  What a treat before we begin to head farther north and the reality of family reunions enter our minds. 

Monday, August 7th - Paris arrival.

July Column at Place de la Bastille

By the time we get settled into the Arsenal Marina it is getting later in the day.  We opt for a quick walk down Boulevard de la Bastille to see the famous July Column (Colonne de Juillet) before the sunsets.  

The Bastille fortress was originally constructed in the late 1300's to protect Paris from opponents during the Hundred Years' War and then it became a prison in the early 1700's.  The Bastille today no longer exists, except in small pieces scattered throughout Paris.  Today, the area where the fortress stood is called 'Place de la Bastille' and in the center is this large column.  It is called the July Column and it commemorates the revolution of 1830, also called the 'July Revolution'. Today, July 14 is a national holiday marking the beginning of the French Revolution and the day that the storming of the Bastille took place.  

Tuesday, August 8th - Our first day out in grand Paris!

Notre-Dame de Paris
We head out for the day on our bikes as we know there is a lot to cover.  
Notre-Dame de Paris ('Our Lady of Paris') is a medieval Catholic cathedral on the Ile de la Cite, a natural island in the river Seine.  The cathedral's construction began in 1163 and was largely complete by 1260, though it has been modified frequently in the following centuries. 
Unfortunately for us today the line-up to get in is longer than we have time for.  We do learn of a few fun facts:  First, the twin towers behind the black spire are actually not twins...the north tower is in fact a bit bigger than the south tower.  Second, during the French Revolution all 20 of its bells (except the colossal 1681 bourdon called Emmanuel) were removed and melted down to make cannons. Third, there is a 'forest' in its roof involving around 52 acres of trees that were cut down in the 12th century.  For this reason, the lattice of historic woodwork is nicknamed 'the Forest.'

Bronze statue of Charlemagne

Sitting just beside the Notre Dame Cathedral is this bronze statue of Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne.  These sorts of statues commemorating important people from the past are everywhere. It literally is a history lesson wherever you are in Paris. 

Canadian embassy in Paris.
We bike to the Canadian Embassy to get a glimpse of the oldest posting in the Canadian foreign service.  Canada's presence in Paris began in 1882 and was precipitated by the actions of the province of Quebec. Unknown to us we aren't even allowed to stop and we are scooted along very fast.  We put it down to the uncertain times in the world thus no gawking allowed by nice families.

Arc De Triomphe
Every trip to Paris requires a trip down the Champs-Elysees to take in the Arc de Triomphe.  Napoleon commissioned the triumphal arch in 1806 to celebrate the military achievements of the French armies.  The arch is 50 meters (164 ft) high and 45 meters (148 ft) wide. Along with the Eifel Tower, the Arc is one of the most famous monuments in Paris.  

Names inscribed in the walls.

The Arc de Triomphe honours those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, with the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces.  Beneath its vault lies the Tomb on the Unknown Soldier from World War 1.  

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
On November 10, 1920 at the Citadel of Verdun, Auguste Thien reviewed eight identical coffins, each bearing the remains of an unknown French soldier who had been killed during the Great War. Thien selected the sixth of the eight coffins, which was transported to Paris to rest in the chapel on the first floor of the Arc de Triomphe. There the coffin remained until January 28, 1921 at which time the Unknown French soldier was laid in his permanent place of honor at the base of the Arc de Triomphe.  On November 11, 1923 Andre Maginot, French Minister for War, lit the eternal flame for the first time.  Since that date, every evening at 6:30 pm it is rekindled, and veterans lay wreaths decorated with red, white and blue near its flickering flame.  It burns in the darkness to recall the sacrifices of the dead who gave their lives and were never identified, now from both world wars.

Thursday, August 10th - Parc Floral de Paris

SNCF high speed train.

Today we decide to hop the French SNCF high speed train to Parc Floral de Paris. These trains can get you to every corner of France in comfort and ease as they travel at up to 400 kph at times.  For us it's just a 20 minute ride through the city but still very cool to experience.

Parc Floral de Paris.

The fourth largest park in Paris, Parc Floral de Paris is about 28 hectares of recreation ranging from outdoor concert stages, restaurants, playgrounds, art galleries and gardens of every variety. 

Japanese bonsai display. 

The land was originally a royal park and hunting domain.  After the French revolution, the park was turned into a training ground for the soldiers and remained under military control well after the World Wars.  In the late 1960's a major international flower show called the "Floralies" was looking for a place to house their event.  The rest is history and the park was born.  The architecture of the park is very much inspired by Japanese style.  Apparently this is the first permanent bonsai exhibition in Europe.  

This huge net quickly attracts our boys and they have fun for a long time.  They have been privileged to see and do so much in their young lives...this kind of fun is much needed in the overload of history they soak in.  
Spiderman net catches our boys. 

After dinner at a hole in the wall Vietnamese diner, we head back to TIOGA via the Seine river walk.  It's a gorgeous night in Paris.

Spectacular evening. 

Saturday, August 12th - Our trip to the Palace of Versailles.

A mere glimpse of the Palace.

The Palace of Versailles was the principle royal residence of France from 1682, under Louis X1V, until the start of the French Revolution in 1789, under Louis XV1.
Our picture is just of the middle portion of this grand fa├žade, which was the hunting lodge of the royals prior to the  massive expansion you can see today.  

Inside the palace is a long series of lavish rooms each with its own theme and every part of it sumptuously decorated.

The Royal Chapel was completed in 1710 at the end of the reign of Louis X1V.  It was the fifth - and final - chapel built in the Palace. 

Palace of Versailles Chapel

Hall of Mirrors. 

The Hall of Mirrors is the most famous room in the entire palace. At the time mirrors were a great luxury and this room certainly exuded the economic prosperity. There are 357 mirrors within the 17 arches opposite the windows apparently demonstrating the new French manufacturers could rival the Venetian monopoly on mirror making.

The white marble bust of Louis X1V was created by none other than Bernini in 1665. Apparently this is one of the few times Louis X1V agreed to pose for such a thing. It took Bernini forty days to create and he was only allowed thirteen sittings by Louis. 

Bust of Louis X1V of France

We pop into the King's Throne room, which was commissioned by Louis X1V and was used until 1789 when everything came off the rails for the royals. This is the room where monarchs held official ceremonies, held council, gave awards and received foreign ambassadors. 

King's Throne.

The Latona Fountain.
We feel we have the general idea of how grand the Palace is so we head outside to take in some of the gardens.  There are 50 fountains in total on site and this, The Latona Fountain, is the first we see in this magnificent view.     

The Latona fountain resulted when Louis X1V desired in the center of his garden, a fountain telling the story of the childhood of Apollo, the sun god that he had chosen for his emblem. Latona is the mother of Apollo in Greek mythology and through many alterations over the years, Latona is now raised above the other figures with her back to the Palace and she looks out towards the horizon. 

Red marble pillars...stunning. 

Dry fountain waiting for its time of day. 
The fountains are on timers and come on and off at prescribed times. Some are even musical fountains but we never found any of those. This Fountain of Apollo depicts the Greek sun god Apollo rising from the sea at daybreak in his four-horse chariot. 

Water brings the fountain to life. 

All of a sudden the fountain's time of day has come and Viola...water brings it to life. 

What became of all this opulence? Well after the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, King Louis XV1 and his wife Queen Marie Antoinette would be stripped of power, brought to Paris and ultimately beheaded. The palace fell under the control of the new republican government.

Versailles offers an incredible insight into French history, bringing to light the lavish and elaborate lives of former monarchs. It is a symbol of power and influence that to this day, still wows visitors from all over the world.

Monday, August 14th - Les Invalides (The Disabled)

Beautiful picture of Les Invalides with Eiffel Tower in behind.
Les Invalides, formerly The Hotel des Invalides, was commissioned in 1670 by Louis X!V in order to provide accommodation and hospital care for wounded French soldiers. By the time it was completed, the complex had fifteen courtyards, a gilt-domed chapel (Dome of the Invalides), and enough room for 4000 residents. A century later, during the French Revolution, on July 14, 1789, angry rioters stormed Les Invalides and gained control of the ammunition stored in the cellars. They stole the cannons and muskets and took to the streets, storming the Bastille. The rest, as they say, is French history. 

Ancient bronze cannon barrels of Les Invalides.

One of the first things you notice when you approach Les Invalides is the rows of cannons. These are not little cannons, they are for the most part giant beasts requiring iron trolleys just to stay in place. These cannons are part of the Museum of Artillery (Musee de l'Artillerie) founded in the aftermath of the French Revolution and expanded under Napoleon. Apparently Napoleon inspected the place and visited his men in 1808, 1813 and again in 1815 just before his abdication. 

Gilt-domed chapel (Dome of the Invalides)

Today Les Invalides is a complex of buildings containing museums and monuments all relating to the military history of France.

The glittering golden roof of The Dome of the Invalides is an unmissable landmark in the Parisian landscape. It is the tallest church in Paris at a height of 107 meters (351 ft) and is gilded with 12.65 kg (27.9 lbs) of gold leaf. Inside are the tombs of some of France's greatest war heroes, most notably Napoleon Bonaparte. 

Napoleon's Tomb (Sarcophagus)
The story of Napoleon is complicated. For years he was very successful and popular with his troops and country. Yet after a disastrous French invasion of Russia, he abdicated the throne and was exiled twice, first to Elba and second to the island of Saint Helena where he died May 5th, 1821. In 1840 it was arranged for Napoleon's remains to be returned to French territory. The event is known in history as "the return of the ashes". The monument today was only placed at the center of the Dome of the Invalides on April 2, 1861, a full 40 years after he died.  Napoleon Bonaparte's tomb is stunning, it is made of red quartzite, standing out even more as it rests on a block of green granite from Vosges in eastern France. It is surrounded by Napoleon's Angels (two shown in our picture) - twelve grave-faced marble angels guard the emperor's tomb at Les Invalides. 

Knight in shining armor.

Inside the Museum of Artillery there are nearly 100,000 interesting exhibits about the French Revolution, both world wars, clothing and weapons, warfare and strange gadgets from days long past. This area quickly becomes one of our favorite with the great displays of armor not only for the knights but for their horses too. 

Majestic horse in armor.

8:12 pm Pont de l'Alma Tunnel - Diana, Princess of Wales tragic death.

The Flame of Liberty in honour of Princess Diana. 
We take the time to head over to Pont de l'Alma Tunnel to pay tribute the to beautiful Princess Diana. We remember to this day, August 31st, 1997, we were camping with friends in Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta.  Out for an early morning stroll in the badlands, an unknown person told us of Diana's death. It was shocking then and our hearts are heavy today as we solemnly remember that tragic day. 

The Flame of Liberty at the bridge's north end has become an unofficial memorial to Diana. The square is now officially named Place Diana. 

East bound entrance into the Pont de l'Alma tunnel. 

At 00:23 the driver of the vehicle lost control at the east bound entrance to the Pont de l'Alma tunnel. The car struck the right-hand wall and then swerved to the left of the two-lane carriageway before it collided head-on with the thirteenth pillar that supported the roof. At the time of our visit, the tunnel remained closed to traffic and the crash investigation ongoing. 

Flowers left for Diana inside the tunnel.

The thirteenth pillar is badly gouged from the head-on collision of the car Diana was a passenger in. Diana was rushed to hospital with massive chest injuries where she sadly passed away at 4:53 am on the morning of August 31, 1997.

Many people have written notes on the pillar to Diana and flowers are still being left in her honour. She truly was the People's Princess.  RIP

Eiffel Tower just before dusk. 
We have had one busy day but the Eiffel Tower is the last stop on our list.  We specifically choose to come here later in the day to watch it come to life with lights.  

The Eiffel Tower is considered to be a technological masterpiece in building-construction history. When the French government was organizing the International Exposition of 1889 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution, a competition was held for designs of a suitable monument. Bridge engineer, Gustave Eiffel, got the green light from the Centennial Committee with his concept of a 300 meter (984 foot) tower built almost entirely of open-lattice wrought iron. When completed, the tower served as the entrance gateway to the exposition. 

The Eiffel Tower's Illuminations.

The Eiffel Tower lights up every evening from sunset to 1am (2am during the three months of summer), coupled with the lighthouse on the Tower top that sends out its light beams during the same hours. There is also a glimmering light show where it sparkles for 5 minutes every hour on the hour. An impressive show making the Eiffel Tower one of the top 10 most visited monuments in the world. 

The line-ups are long to get to the top of the Eiffel Tower so as a family we admire this iconic monument and then head home after another great day. It is almost tomorrow now :)

Wednesday, August 16th - The Louvre

The Louvre Pyramid. 
For our last day in Paris, we decide to tackle The Louvre. Not only is it the largest art gallery in the world, it is also the most visited art gallery in the world and that soon becomes clear to us as we jostle the large crowds. 

Originally a fortress built in the medieval period, it became a Royal Palace in the 14th century and remained that way until Louis X1V moved his court to Versailles in 1682. Its present structure has evolved in stages since the 16th century with the idea of using the Louvre as a public museum originating in the 18th century. 

Main entrance to the Louvre museum. 
The Louvre underwent major remodeling in the 1980-90's. It had become so popular that is could no longer handle the enormous number of daily visitors, thus the pyramid and vast underground lobby beneath were created. The large pyramid constructed entirely of glass segments and metal poles now serves as the main entrance to the Louvre museum. 

The Dying Slave by Michelangelo. 
We take on medieval and Renaissance works first.  This room houses Michelangelo's - The Dying Slave, a sculpture created in 1513-1515 for the tomb of Pope Julius 11. It came to the Louve in 1794.  

As one of Michelangelo's most famous sculptures, The Dying Slave is perhaps the closest any artist will come to hewing human emotion out of marble. The collection in this gallery is amazing. 

Double Bull - Richelieu Wing of Louvre Museum. 

This is our absolute favorite of the Near Eastern Antiquities collection. 

Double Bull column. 

The Double Bull, which belonged to the audience hall of the palace of Darius 1 in Susa, Iran. Sculpted from gray limestone around 510 BC, this colossal piece was from one of the columns which supported the roof of the Apadana, the largest and most magnificent buildings begun by Darius and finished by Xerxes. 

Great Sphinx of Tanis. 

The Great Sphinx of Tanis is a granite sculpture of a sphinx, which is a mythical creature with the head of a human and the body of a lion with the wings of a falcon. It is dated to the 26th century BC and was discovered in the ruins of the Temple of Amun-Ra in Tanis, Egypt's capital at the time. The Louvre acquired this great sculpture in 1826 and is now housed in the Egyptian Antiquities wing.  

The Mona Lisa from afar. 

Finally we find The Mona Lisa. As you can see this is a popular exhibit. Painted by Leonardo da Vinci in the 16th century, the model, Lisa Gherardini, was the wife of a wealthy Florentine silk merchant, Francesco del Giocondo. The painting is thought to have been commissioned for their new home and to celebrate the birth of their second son, Andrea. 

We don't wait to get close enough to confirm the phenomenon that her eyes follow you around the room. That is a task or another date...we are out of here.  

Thursday, August 17th - Depart Paris

Au Revoir Paris!
Once again it is time to cast off TIOGA's lines and make some miles north. Ten days flew by in this grand city but we are all excited to get moving again. We decide to get back on the the busy Seine River rather than take Canal Saint-Martin. There are rumors floating that people have had chains pulled up across the canal and boats denied passage or even boarded and robbed. Who knows for sure but we'll take the busier river out. This way we get last glimpses of the Eiffel Tower from a unique perspective.

Statue of Liberty - Pont de Grenelle, Paris
We pass by the Statue of Liberty! France gave the USA a Statue of Liberty in 1886 and the USA gave France a smaller version of the same statue in 1889. A very nice link between the two countries.

It literally takes us a couple hours to completely clear the city and get back into the pastoral country again. 

Join us in Log 51 as we head into the World War battlegrounds, come face to face with the Red Baron and enter Belgium.