Thursday, August 15, 2013

Paris – by Gary

Another hectic exhausting visit, but made particularly pleasant by having a lovely apartment on the Marne to retreat to each evening.  Our proposed itinerary included Versailles, the Louvre, the Catacombes, Montmarte, Napoleon’s tomb, Cathedrale de Notre Dame, The Jardin des Tuileries, Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysee, the Eiffel Tower and Musee D’Orsay – and yes we saw them all, and more, in just four days!

The palace and gardens of Versailles are an amazing UNESCO listed World Heritage Site.  Unfortunately word has got out – and it was standing room only in the palace – so we chickened out and just did the outside (still pretty remarkable huh?) and the gardens.

The gardens are stunning formality, full of statuary...

... parterre gardens...

... and water.

Indeed, water is what really brings these gardens to life – Zeke in particular was incredibly impressed.

Musée du Louvre
The Louvre’s stunning modern forecourt – and what better place on a hot day to soak those weary, blistered feet.

Inside Leonardo’s painting looks anything but stunning, high up on the wall, behind glass....

.... as you jostle with the hordes clamoring to get their equally crap snap.  Within minutes I was ready to flee – let me out of here!

.. however away from Moaning Lisa we managed to immerse ourselves in a really excellent guided audio tour and found we could more or less forget the mob.

The Catacombs
The plain on which Paris is built is under-layed with limestone, deposited when the area was covered by a shallow sea.  For hundreds of years vast underground mining operations excavated the rock to build many of the city’s fabulous buildings like the Notre-Dame Cathedral.

Apparently collapses of abandoned mines became something of an issue!

Then in 1786, with bulging cemeteries becoming health hazards, authorities decided some of the abandoned mines could be turned into ossuaries. 
In all the skeletons of over six million Parisians were moved from cemeteries into the Catacombs.   In 1809 the place was turned into a rather ghoulish, but immediately popular tourist destination – a popularity undiminished!

Thankfully above ground once again we lightened the tone of the tour, heading up this famous of hills to admire the view...

... and a few thousand, mostly indifferent, interpretations of that other famous landmark, the Eiffel Tower.

Napoleon’s Tomb
Remember this?  It’s Napoleons first gravesite on the island of St Helena.  But the French couldn’t let it end like that.

So they moved him here...

I personally remain confused.  The French are justifiably proud of their rejection of the ‘old order’ through revolution – but made this guy Emperor! Swings and roundabouts huh?

A Walking Tour of the Centre
We chose a grey cool day to walk many of the other sights – a welcome weather change except when it rained.

Possibly my most favourite building of all time - Notre-Dame Cathedral

The security presence in the city could be a bit full on.

Sights, sounds, smells...

The Place de la Concorde.  King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette were guillotined here along with many others.

Nina leads the way when it comes to flashing a bit of haute couture on the boulevard.

Deja vue – Wellingtons Arch???  So many triumphs.  Can you spot the people on top?

more sights...

Ha... finally that tower.

Yep... it’s impressive.

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