Paris – Day 13 – Guillotines and Symphonies…

Paris Days 1-5, including our trips to the Sacré-Cœur, Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Notre-Dame, Catacombs of Paris, Versailles, and much more, can be found on the London and Paris page.  You’ll also find posts about our seven days in London – with visits to the Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben), London Eye, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, The Who Shop, and more pubs than I care to admit.  On to day 6, which is day 13 of our trip…


Day 6 – Paris – 4/12/2016

So as hinted at in the previous post (Day 5 – 4/11/2016 – Our First Anniversary!), we had a decision to make.  We had tickets to the symphony and Disneyland – with the original plan being a trip to the symphony on Tuesday and a trip to Disney on Wednesday.  Seems legit, why would there be a decision to make?  Well, because the Weather Channel app apparently goes a little brain dead in Europe.

We’d been watching the app all week, trying to plan our outside and inside days accordingly, but one thing had been incredibly steady – it was going to rain on Wednesday with “severe thunderstorms” possible all day.

  • On Thursday (4/7/16)
    • Tuesday’s (this post’s day) weather: Sunny, 10% chance of rain, Highs in the 60s
    • Wednesday’s (the proposed Disney day) weather:  Cloudy, 70% chance of rain, Highs in the low 50s.
  • By Monday (4/11/16)
    • Tuesday’s weather: Partly cloudy, 20% chance of rain, Highs in the low 60s
    • Wednesday’s weather:  Cloudy, 90% chance of rain, Highs in the upper 50s, Severe Thunderstorms possible all day.

We both wanted to go to the symphony, but the Disney tickets were WAY more expensive (symphony tickets were only €15).  Would it be worth going to Disney on a day when the Weather Channel was calling for a 90% chance of severe thunderstorms all day?  Fortunately, between Monday afternoon and Monday night, everything had changed on the app.  Now it was calling for rain on Tuesday and Thursday…and Wednesday was supposed to be nice.  Whew, problem solved.  So Symphony on Tuesday and Disney on Wednesday after all.


Place de la Concorde

Other than the symphony at 8PM, we had no plans; however, if you’ve read any of our other Paris posts you’ve seen that we were in search of a bookstore that sold kid’s books.  We researched it, and found an English bookstore (WH Smith).  The bookstore was near the Tuileries Gardens (the gardens in front of the Louvre), and we had been wanting to walk through those gardens, so we headed that way.

The Metro let us out right beside the Roue de Paris, which is in the Place  de la Concorde.  We definitely wanted to check this area out, but first the bookstore…and lunch.   Hmmm…the sky is awfully blue…didn’t you say it was going to be raining all day, Weather Channel App?

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What a difference an hour makes…

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So a continuation of the story that began this post:  Blue skies turned to fierce grey skies pretty quickly, and while it had sprinkled a bit, it definitely wasn’t raining (like the Weather Channel app said it would be), but it looked like it would be soon. We checked the app again, and, even with the clouds looking as they did, chances of rain today – suddenly very small, chances of rain when we were going to Disney – back up to like 70%!!!  How?  How had the weather app changed with such extreme fluctuation within an hour?  Ahhh!!!  At this point, it really didn’t matter, though.  I guess we were going to be rained on at Disney.  Hopefully, they wouldn’t shut half the rides down.  C’est la vie

So the photo above shows looming grey clouds, but it also shows (left to right) the Roue de Paris, Lion (also called the Concorde Lion), the Luxor Obelisk, and the Eiffel Tower.

The photo below shows a similar scene without the ferris wheel.

Lion is by Italian sculptor Giuseppe Franchi and was placed here in 1819.  (Waymarking.com)

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The Place de le Concorde has quite the history – At 20 acres, it is the largest square in Paris.  In 1763, a large statue dedicated to Louis XV was erected here, and by 1772 the square around the statue had been completed.  However, in 1792, during the French Revolution, the statue was removed and replaced by a statue called ‘Liberté‘ (freedom) and the square was called Place de la Révolution. A guillotine was installed at the center of the square and in a time span of only a couple of years, 1119 people were beheaded here. Amongst them many famous people like King Louis XVI, Marie-Antionette, and revolutionary Robespierre.  After the revolution the square was renamed several times until 1830, when it was given the current name ‘Place de la Concorde’.  (AViewOnCities.com)

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Luxor Obelisk

The Luxor Obelisk is a 75 ft high Egyptian obelisk standing at the center of the Place de la Concorde. It was originally located at the entrance to Luxor Temple, in Egypt, where its sister still stands.  The obelisk is over 3,000 years old, and is decorated with hieroglyphs exalting the reign of the king Ramses II.  It has been in its present location since 1836 (three years after it arrived in Paris).  Similar obelisks can be found in New York and London (these two are from the city of Heliopolis).  All three were gifts from Egypt.  (Wikipedia)

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Fountains of Concorde

Two fountains flank the obelisk.  To the north is the Fountain of the Rivers.

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Figures at this fountain represent the Rhône and the Rhine River. Other major figures represent the main harvests of France; Wheat and Grapes, Flowers and Fruit.  The figures above the vasque who support the cap represent the spirits of River Navigation, Agriculture and Industry.

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And to the south, the Maritime Fountain.  Both were installed by 1840 (around the same time the obelisk was installed).  Together they are referred to as the Fountains of Concorde.  (Wikipedia)

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Figures on this fountain represent the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Other figures beneath the vasque represent the industries of the sea; coral, fish, shells and pearls.  The figures are seated in the prow of a ship, the symbol of the City of Paris, and they are surrounded by dolphins spraying water through their nostrils.

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From the Place de la Concorde, you can see the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and the Arc de Triomphe (as seen the the photo below)

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From the Pont de la Concorde (the bridge connected to the square) you can also see Notre-Dame Cathedral.

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Across the Pont de la Concorde is the Palais Bourbon (the seat of the French National Assembly).  Originally built in 1728 as the home of Louis XIV’s legitimized daughter, Louise Françoise de Bourbon, and his mistress, Madame de Montespan, the building was nationalized during the French Revolution.  (Wikipedia)

The statue in front of the building is of Henri François d’Aguesseau,Chancellor of France three times between 1717 and 1750.

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The fence surrounding the palace also had an interesting feature – this tree, weaving its way in and out of the fence, was fascinating.  We were both wondering how long it had taken to grow this way.

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Pont Alexandre III

Directly west of the Palais Bourbon was the Pont Alexandre III.   The bridge spans the Seine, and connects the Champs-Élysées quarter with those of the Invalides and Eiffel Tower.  Several colossal statues are displayed on the bridge (and we all know how much Brittany and I like statues.)

The bridge was built at the end of the nineteenth century as part of a series of projects undertaken for the Universal Exposition of 1900. The exposition took place on either side of the Seine river and the new bridge would enable the millions of visitors to more easily cross the river. (AViewOnCities.com)

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Four pillars provide stabilizing counterweight to the bridge’s arch without obstructing the view. On each base sits an allegorical sculpture representing France in a different era: King Charlemagne, the Renaissance, King Louis XIV who built Versailles, and modern times. Magnificently gilded allegorical statues crown the pillars. The Sciences, Arts, Commerce, and Industry each bringing the winged horse Pegasus to heel. (BonjourParis.com)

On the Right Bank (in the photo above),Renommée des Sciences (Sciences) and Renommée des Arts (Arts); at their bases, (unseen in the photo) La France Contemporaine (Contemporary France) and France de Charlemagne (France of Charlemagne).
On the Left Bank (in the photo below),Renommée desCommerce (Commerce {on the right}) and Renommée de l’Industrie (Industry {on the left}); at their bases France de la Renaissance (France of the Renaissance) and La France de Louis XIV (France of Louis XIV).

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France de la Renaissance (France of the Renaissance)…

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La France de Louis XIV (France of Louis XIV)…

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Grand Palais

Crossing the Pont Alexandre III led to the Grand Palais.  “In 1900, Paris was playing host to the Universal Exposition. Because of the importance of the event, the city undertook a number of building projects which included the construction of the Pont Alexandre III, the Grand Palais, and the Petit Palais (seen in the next section).  The Grand Palais is one of Paris’ most recognizable landmarks thanks to its magnificent glass-domed roof, and is currently the largest existing ironwork and glass structure in the world.

For more than one hundred years, the Grand Palais has been a public exhibition hall and host to a variety of grand events. Though the main gallery is now a designated site for displaying contemporary art, you’ll see everything here from antique car shows to fashion extravaganzas from some of Paris’s top designers.” (AViewOnCities.com)

 

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Petit Palais

Directly across the street from the Grand Palais is the Petit Palais, which was also built for the 1900 Universal Exhibition.  The building was originally meant to be a temporary structure (like the Parthenon back home in Nashville), but after the exhibition it was left standing.  Today the Petit Palais serves as the home of the Musée des Beaux-Arts (Museum of Fine Arts).

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Jardin des Tuileries

We completed the loop and ended up back at the Jardin des Tuileries (Tuileries Garden), which is a public garden located between the Louvre Museum and the Place de la Concorde.

Several public gardens in Paris offer garden chairs that you can take to sit wherever you like (for free).  So Brittany and I grabbed two that were already in prime position, and she took a nap in the garden (which she is also currently doing beside me as I write this).

When she awoke, well rested, we took a stroll through the garden.

The gardens are very nice.  It contains several fountains, a couple of cafés (that are named after famous cafés that once stood there), and many, many statues.  The Grand Carré (Large Square) had a fountain at its center and was surrounded by 15-20 statues.

That’s where we found La Comédie by Julien Toussaint Roux in 1874 (I’m assuming it’s a representation of Thalia – muse of comedy).  Anyway, she’s a nice addition after we saw Melpomene: Muse of Tragedy the day before at the Louvre.

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We also found this battle…Thésée combattant le Minotaure (Theseus fighting the Minotaur), by Étienne-Jules Ramey in 1821.

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And a shot of the Minotaur about to be brained by Theseus.  I mean, come on man, the guy’s so unconscious his tongue is lolling about…

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So, in the background of the photo below, we have the Louvre Pyramid and the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, but that’s not what this picture is about…Nope, we’re looking at the Pigeon Whisperer (the guy in the leather jacket surrounded by pigeons).  This guy was pretty amazing (and weird).  He was here everyday that we visited the Louvre, and he was always surrounded by pigeons.  He would whistle and kind of point to a kid watching him, and all of the pigeons would go perch on the kid.  Then he would whistle again and hold up his arm and they would all come back to him.  It’s one thing to train animals in captivity, but it takes a totally different kind of commitment to train random pigeons (and, I’m assuming, a lot of bread).

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It was around 5PM and the symphony wasn’t until 8PM, so we decided to hop on the Metro at the Louvre and go to Montmartre before we went home to change.  Entrance to the Louvre’s metro is in the Carrousel du Louvre, which is the underground shopping center we had visited a few times.

Also in the Carrousel du Louvre is La Pyramide Inversée (The Inverted Pyramid), which was completed in 1993.  It is a skylight constructed in the Carrousel du Louvre shopping mall in front of the Louvre Museum. It may be thought of as a smaller sibling of the more famous Louvre Pyramid proper, yet turned upside down.  Directly below the tip of the downwards-pointing glass pyramid, a small stone pyramid (about 3.3 ft) is stationed on the floor, as if mirroring the larger structure above: The tips of the two pyramids almost touch.  (Wikipedia)

In our photo (below), we were able to capture a series of rainbows refracted though the pyramid…

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We got off at the Anvers stop (below Sacré-Cœur) and casually walked up the hill toward Montmartre.  Along the way we found the Maison Georges Larnicol (maison=house).  The shop sells pastries and chocolates, which is obviously nice, but what drew us into the store was this scale model of Notre-Dame…made of chocolate…yum.  There were other chocolate models in the store, but this was the most impressive.

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By the time we made it up the hill to Montmartre, it was almost 6:30.  Our plan of walking around, going to change, and then going to the symphony had a hiccup…we forgot we hadn’t eaten dinner yet.  So we stopped and had dinner in Montmartre.  Poor Brittany – she tried to order the Daily Special, a steak, but they were out of it.  So she ordered the other Daily Special, thinking it would be a different cut of steak, but it turned out to be a filet of fish.  She said it was good, but when you’re expecting steak, a filet of fish just doesn’t cut it.  I, on the other hand, ordered a bucket of mussels and a side of fries…and they were delicious.  (Don’t worry, I let Brittany have some.  In fact, there were so many that we couldn’t finish them all.)

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Dinner was good, but it meant that we wouldn’t have time to go home and change before heading to the symphony.  We got to Avenue des Champs-Élysées around 7:30PM.  Champs-Élysées runs between the Place de la Concorde and the Place Charles de Gaulle, where the Arc de Triomphe is located.  It is known for the theatres, cafés, and shops that line the avenue.  In retrospect, we should have just walked from Place de la Concorde, but we didn’t know how close we were at the time.

I thought the symphony started at 8:30, so when I saw the Disney Store across the street, I insisted we go in.  And I’m glad we did…I found Spider-Man!  (Don’t worry…I played it cool…)

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And Brittany found a section of the store dedicated to Minnie Mouse’s apparent love of Paris…

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We left the Disney Store and made our way toward Théâtre des Champs-Élysées.  We got there right at 8PM. It was only then that Brittany informed me that the performance was at 8 not 8:30…I’m sure she told me earlier, but…

“The theatre opened in 1913, and provided a venue suitable for contemporary music, dance and opera, in contrast to traditional, more conservative, institutions like the Paris Opera. It hosted the Ballets Russes for its first season, staging the world première of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring on Thursday May 29, 1913, thus becoming the celebrated location of one of the most famous of all classical music riots.” (Wikipedia)

A shot of the orchestra warming up…

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As seen in both the above and below photo, the ceiling (painted by Maurice Deni) is fantastic…

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There was absolutely no one around us during the performance (we bought seats in the nose-bleed section), but that was really, really nice.  It meant we could kick back and enjoy the music in our own little area.  (After 13 days of walking around London and Paris, I actually kicked my shoes off while watching.)


When the concert ended, we went back to Avenue des Champs-Élysées to walk around.  We ended up back at the Disney Store to buy Brittany a sweatshirt and found ourselves in the midst of a civil war…(I’m still not sure which side I’m rooting for…probably Cap’s…probably…)

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At the north-western end of Avenue des Champs-Élysées we found ourselves back at the Arc de Triomphe.

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Bellona, the Roman goddess of war, might be even more intimidating at night…

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Seeing the arch at night is completely different.  The shadows highlight unique areas that the glaring sun hides.

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The night also gave us a chance to mess around with the camera again.  We got a nice shot of the lion on this lamppost with the arch in the background…(I love lion statues…and they’re everywhere!)

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And one last photo of the arch behind the Place Charles de Gaulle sign.

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Well Day 6 in Paris may be forever known as the “Will it or won’t it rain” day to Brittany and I (FYI…it never did), but just like all of our other days, we were able to stumble into interesting and beautiful places.  So onto Day 7…officially our day at Disneyland Paris!!!

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Paris – Day 12 – Our First Anniversary!!!

Let’s see…Day 1 was the general visit of the “Must-See” areas of Paris (Sacré-Cœur, Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe).  Day 2 was more “Must Sees” because Paris has so many things to offer (Notre-Dame, Louvre exterior, Moulin Rouge at night).  Day 3 included a visit to the Catacombs of Paris.  Day 4 was spent in Versailles.  Man, that’s quite a bit of touristing.  But with 3 full days and 1 partial day remaining, we were finding that there’s always something to see and do in “The City of Love.”

So what did we do on Day 5?  The Louvre Museum.


Day 5 – Paris – 4/11/2016

On the day we went, the Louvre was open from 9AM-6PM, and I originally thought we’d have plenty of time to walk the museum in 9 hours…I was so wrong.  Our tickets into the Louvre called for us to arrive at the museum 30 minutes before it even opened, which is no big deal – we like to arrive early for things anyway.  However, when we actually got to the Louvre a conundrum arrived.  The Metro dropped us off right at the inverted pyramid.  It had been raining off and on all night, so we were fine being inside, but, even though there was an entrance at the inverted pyramid, our tickets stated that we had to be at the other entrance.  Since there was no one at the entrance to ask, we played it safe and went to the above ground entrance.  The lines there were very long (made longer by the fact that some people can’t read signs), but when it came time to actually open, our line miraculously thinned out suddenly (because a huge group of people hadn’t read the sign about which line they were supposed to be in).  We pretty much walked right in.

And for the first 45 minutes to an hour, we were the only people in some of the galleries.  It was really, really nice.

We’ve already done a bit of history on the Louvre when we visited its exterior on day 2, but here’s a bit about the museum itself.  The museum contains “nearly 35,000 objects from prehistory to the 21st century exhibited over an area of 652,300 square feet (massive). The Louvre is the world’s most visited museum, receiving more than 9.26 million visitors in 2014.  It is also one of the largest.” (Wikipedia)  The Louvre Palace, which was originally built as a fortress in the 12th century by Phillip II, was extended many times until 1682, when Louis XIV moved his residency to Versailles.  The palace held The Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture for the next 100 years, but in 1793 it officially opened as the Louvre Museum with an exhibition of 537 paintings (they’ve grown a bit since then).

The museum is broken down into 3 wings, and each wing has between 3 and 4 floors.  There’s the Denon Wing, Sully Wing, and Richelieu Wing.  We did our best to see everything, but really that’s nearly impossible.  So we saw all of the recommended “must-sees,” and then tried to scope out our favorite painters and pieces.  As with all of our museum visits, we take as many pictures of the pieces we find interesting as possible.  It’s really nice to be able to go back, zoom in, and study these pieces.  Obviously we’re not going to put every picture we took on this post, but if you click the ones that are here, a higher resolution photo will open in a new page.

So…onward I guess.  We started in the Richelieu Wing with Cour Marly and Cour Puget (cour=court).  These are two open courts that house several beautiful statues (you know Brittany and I with statues…).  And as I said, it was a long time before we saw anyone in the area except employees…

(Unless otherwise stated, all information about museum piece comes from placards associated with the items or the official Louvre website.)


Title:  Captives

Artist:  Martin Van Den Bogaert, called Desjardins

Date:  1682

Info:  (From the placard – translated from French.)  “Bronze, once golden.  From the pedestal of the statue of the Place des Victoires, these captives represent the nations defeated in the Peace of Nijmegen. Each also expresses a different feeling in the ordeal of captivity : revolt, hope, resignation, dejection. The models were executed in 1682. The bronze trophies have been added after the contract of March 9, 1685. After being preserved at the Invalides (1804-1939), they were awarded to the Louvre museum in 1960 and deposited in the Château de Sceaux from 1961 to 1992.”

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Title:  Winter

Artist:  Attributed to Pierre I Legros

Date:  unknown (Supposed artist’s life was from 1629-1714)

Info:  Marble

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Title:  Hercules fighting Achelous turned into a Serpent

Artist:  François-Joseph Bosio

Date:  1824

Info:  (French)  Bronze.  “The plaster model exhibited in the 1814 Room.
The subject draws from Ovid’s Metamorphoses: Achelous was the rival of Hercules for the love of Deianeira; during the bout, Achelous turned into a serpent but was vanquished by Hercules.  Thus Hercules was beloved of Dejanira .
Later, trying to rekindle his love for her, Deianira offered Hercules a tunic impregnated with Nessus’s blood, instead of being a love potion, the tunic proved to be a burning poison.”

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Title:  Philopoemen

Artist:  Pierre-Jean, called David D’Angers

Date:  1837

Info:  Marble.  “Nicknamed “the last of the Greeks” by Plutarch, this strategist organized the struggle of Hellenic cities against the Roman threat.  Taken prisoner by the Romans, he was sentenced to drink hemlock .”

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Title:  The Hero Overpowering a Lion

Artist:  Unknown.

Date:  circa 721-705 BC

Info:  “Façade M of the entrance court of the excavation site of Khorsabad.”

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One word – Perspective…(also shown in this picture – Bull with Human Head and Wings)

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This is a photo of Cour Marly to show 1) just how large the area is (and a huge chunk of the court is not shown) and 2) just how few people were here at the time.

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A quick side note here, as mentioned, hardly anyone was at the Louvre yet.  At this point we were on the Ground Floor of the Richelieu Wing, and two girls were in the same area.  Brittany and I and the group of girls walked around individually for a bit before one of the girls said, “Brittany?”  Brittany had just randomly run into two people she knew…from the states…in one of the largest museums in the world.  Apparently one of Brittany’s friends from Bologna was also at the museum that day too, but we never saw her.  Weird but true.


Title:  Tympanum decorated with a Leafy Mask

Artist:  Unknown

Date:  end of the 13th century, beginning of the 14th century

Info:  “Possibly from the Abbey of Saint-Denis.  Artwork used by Alexandre Lenoir in the decor of a fictional mausoleum of Queen Blanche of Castile, placed in 1804 in the introductory hall of the Museum of French Monuments . Around the arc of the eardrum can be glimpsed the remains of the inscription engraved on it: Madam Queen Blanche, mother of Saint Louis.”

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Title:  Tomb of Philippe Pot (1428-1493) , Grand Senechal of Burgundy

Artist:  Unknown.

Date:  1493

Info:  Limestone.  “Represented laid on a bed in knightly attire, with a lion lying at his feet; the catafalque is supported by eight pallbearers clad in hooded black habits. From the chapel of St John the Baptist in the abbey of Cîteaux.”

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Title:  La Mort Saint-Innocent

Artist:  Unknown.

Date:  around 1530

Info:  Alabaster.  In the Saints-Innocents cemetery since 1530 (where many of the bones in the Catacombs of Paris were).  When the cemetery was closed in 1786, this sculpture was moved to Saint-Gervais church, then to Notre-Dame, where the arm was restored by Deseine. Then, to the French Museum of Monuments.  The shield reads: “Il n’est vivant tant soit plein d’art, Ne de force pour resistance, Que je ne frappe de mon dard, Pour bailler aux vers leur pitance, Priez Dieu pour les trepasses.”  (I spent several hours today trying to translate this, but it never made any sense…why 16th century French would make sense to me is something I never asked myself.  Brittany even emailed it to a French friend of hers, and she couldn’t quite get it to make sense.  But I finally…finally found a translation online from a book published in 1825, Paris: From the Earliest Period to the Present Day; Volume 2 by William Walton.  Thank you, Project Gutenburg!)

“There is none living, however artful or strong to resist, that I do not strike with my dart, to give to the worms their share. Pray to God for the dead.”

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Title:  Ummm…Darth Vader’s Helmet…very nice…

There was a special exhibit called “Founding Myths: From Hercules to Darth Vader” going on while we were there.

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Also in the exhibit was this original storyboard…

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The Louvre Palace (and subsequently the Louvre Museum) is a giant maze.  This place is floor to ceiling art, and floor to ceiling go on and on and on.  Even with a map we were struggling to figure out just where we were sometimes.  Versailles is beautiful, and its gardens are unmatched, but as far as palaces go, I think the Louvre would have the edge.  What it would have been like to see them both in their prime…

At some point we ended up in the Sully Wing with the Ancient Egyptian artifacts.


Title:  Mummies of Cats

Artist:  None.

Date:  Not Listed.

Info:  Seriously just cat mummies…

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Title: Stele dedicated by King Amasis to the Apis bull that died during his reign

Artist:  Unknown.

Date:  26th Dynasty  (circa 1069-30 BC)

Info:  Limestone. “This stele is an official monument, dedicated by King Amasis to a sacred Apis bull that died during his reign. It is very thick, and must have been incorporated into the stonework that blocked the entrance to the bull’s tomb at the Serapeum of Memphis. At the top of the stele, under the hieroglyph for sky and a winged sun disk, King Amasis kneels before the Apis bull, separated from it by an offering table covered with slices of bread. The text records the major dates in the life of the sacred animal.”

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Title:  Mummy of a Man

Artist:  None.

Date:  Ptolemaic Period (305-30 BC)

Info:  Linen fabric coated and painted.  “This extremely well preserved mummy is that of a man who lived during the Ptolemaic Period. According to the results of an X-ray analysis, this mummy is that of an adult man. His name, written hastily, can be read as either Pachery or Nenu; the interpretation is still uncertain.  According to the customs of the time, the body of the deceased was carefully wrapped in strips of linen; the design formed by these strips, notably around the face, was often extremely sophisticated. The mummy is covered with a cartonnage consisting of several elements: a mask covering the head, a wide collar over the chest, an apron across the legs, and finally, a casing over the feet.”

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Title:  Relief from the Temple of Montu at Tod

Artist:  Unknown.

Date:  11th Century Dynasty

Info:  Limestone.  “The late 11th Dynasty witnessed the revival, after more than two centuries, of the difficult art of bas-relief sculpture. It can be admired on vestiges from one of the earliest stages of construction of the temple at Tod. This bas-relief and the blocks that are exhibited beside it were found buried beneath the foundation sand of the later sanctuary, which explains why they escaped the fate of most limestone works: disappearing into the lime kilns.”

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Now, we know the description of this piece that is listed above is important, but what it fails to describe is that this is like the ultimate poster of the upcoming X-Men Apocalypse movie.  I mean, come on, an ancient Egyptian relief with what’s clearly the symbol for the X-Men…


Title:  Six Sphinxes

Artist:  Unknown.

Date:  possibly 13th Dynasty (1803-1649 BC)

Info:  Limestone.  “Several hundred sphinxes similar to this one once lined the processional way to the Serapis Temple (the Serapeum in Saqqara), which no longer exists. This sanctuary, a major pilgrimage site in late antiquity, was once very famous. All that remains today is its underground structures: the necropolis of the Apis bulls begun during the reign of Ramesses II. Archaeologist Auguste Mariette determined the location of the temple as the walkway was cleared, one sphinx at a time.”

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Title:  Eyes Inlaid in Wooden Coffin

Artist:  Unknown.

Date: end 18th Dynasty (1543-1292 BC)

Info:  None listed.

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Title:  Athena known as The Pallas of Velletri

Artist:  Cresilas (Original)

Date:  430 BC (Original)

Info:  Marble.  “This huge statue of Athena, found in Velletri in the eighteenth century, is a copy of a bronze effigy, now lost, known from Roman copies and fragments of antique casts, found in Baia, near Naples. The original, dating from about 430 BC, is generally attributed to Cresilas, a Cretan sculptor who also produced a portrait of Pericles, a copy of which is in the British Museum. The hero’s oval face and sharply defined features are strikingly similar to those of the goddess.”

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Title:  Athena (called Peaceable or Mattei Athena)

Artist:  Unknown.

Date:  late 2nd century BC of 2nd century AD

Info:  Marble.  “The Athena Mattei is exceptional in that it is a Roman replica of a Greek statue that has also survived. The figure is a copy of the Piraeus Athena, a fourth-century BC bronze statue, created by Cephisodotus or Euphranor, discovered in 1959. The erstwhile goddess of war – seen here in a more benevolent attitude – wears a helmet and, across her chest, the aegis (the skin of the goat of Amaltheia), bordered with snakes and adorned with the head of the gorgon Medusa.

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Title:  Crouching Aphrodite (called Venus of Vienna)

Artist:  Unknown.

Date:  1st or 2nd century CE

Info:  Marble.  “Aphrodite, the Venus of the Romans, is seized upon while bathing, and seems surprised.  The small hand preserved on her back belonged to Eros, the god of Love, who plays with the goddess, his mother. The pattern is known because of many antique replicas particularly appropriate for the decor of the public and private baths. It is inspired by a crouching Aphrodite Greek, now lost.”

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Title:  Aphrodite, known as the Venus de Milo

Artist:  Unknown.

Date:  around 100 BC

Info:  Marble.  “This graceful statue of a goddess has intrigued and fascinated since its discovery on the island of Melos in 1820. Is it Aphrodite, who was often portrayed half-naked, or the sea goddess Amphitrite, who was venerated on Milo? The statue reflects sculptural research during the late Hellenistic Period: classical in essence, with innovatory features such as the spiral composition, the positioning in space, and the fall of the drapery over the hips.  The goddess originally wore metal jewelry — bracelet, earrings, and headband — of which only the fixation holes remain. The arms were never found.”

Honestly, Brittany and I both agreed on this, Venus de Milo is an interesting statue somewhat shrouded in mystery, but it pales in comparison to some of the other sculptures we’ve seen…namely Michelangelo’s David. 

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Title:  Old Centaur teased by Eros

Artist:  Unknown.  (Possibly Aristeas and Papias of Aphrodisias)

Date:  1st–2nd centuries AD

Info:  Marble.  “Roman copy of a Greek original of the 2nd century BC.  Found in Rome in the 17th century, belonged to the Borghese collections. A grey-black marble statue of the same type was found in the Villa Adriana in Tivoli together with a grey-black marble Young Centaur laughing at Eros’s wounds. The pair, now shown in the Capitoline Museums, bear the signature of Aristeas and Papias of Aphrodisias, a city in Asia Minor. It can surmised that the Louvre statue was an element from a pair as well.  The original right arm of the centaur is pulled tautly back showing that he has his hands bound tightly behind his back, and grimaces in pain and sorrow as an amorino pulls the centaur’s head back at an abrupt angle.” (Wikipedia)

We nicknamed this pair Josh and Dylan, since we had established at the Uffitzi Museum that Josh has been a centaur in a previous life.

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We then entered the Denon Wing (although we’d probably wandered in and out of it already without knowing).


Title:  The emperor Lucius Verus

Artist:  Unknown.

Date:  between 180 and 183 AD

Info:  Marble.  “This is a colossal head of Lucius Verus, co-emperor with Marcus Aurelius from AD 161-169. Lucius’s features are familiar from a number of other portraits. The monumental dimensions of this effigy, which exemplifies the transition from the sensitive works of the Antonian period to the more extravagant baroque style, served to glorify the ruler after his death.  The prince’s features are recognizable from many other portraits – notably his luxuriant hair and beard, portrayed here with deeply sculpted curls.”

We called this one Chris Pratt…

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Title:  The Tiber

Artist:  Unknown.

Date:  early 2nd century AD

Info:  Marble.  “This statue, very much admired since its discovery in 1512, is a personification the Roman river Tiber. It decorated a temple dedicated to Isis and Sarapis, and was the pendant to a similar statue depicting the Nile.
The work explores the river’s link to Roman mythology, and its fertility – the river-god is accompanied by Romulus and Remus, the city’s legendary twin founders, while the reliefs on its base illustrate their mythic exploits and the river’s beneficial effects.”

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(I thought this was a fun and interesting angle…)

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Title:  Melpomene: Muse of Tragedy

Artist:  Unknown.

Date:  1st century BC-1st century AD

Info:  Marble.  As with five other statues of the same size, Melpomene was discovered at the Champ de Mars. This is probably the group of nine muses that decorated the theater or the portico of Pompey, the first building of stone spectacle in Rome.

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Title:  The Winged Victory of Samothrace

Artist:  Unknown.  (Possibly Pythokritos of Lindos)

Date: circa 190 BC

Info:  Marble.  “The winged goddess of Victory standing on the prow of a ship overlooked the Sanctuary of the Great Gods on the island of Samothrace. This monument was probably an ex-voto offered by the people of Rhodes in commemoration of a naval victory in the early second century BC. The theatrical stance, vigorous movement, and billowing drapery of this Hellenistic sculpture are combined with references to the Classical period-prefiguring the baroque aestheticism of the Pergamene sculptors.”

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“A presentation mixing grandeur and theatricality:  This exceptional monument was unearthed in 1863 on the small island of Samothrace in the northwest Aegean. It was discovered by Charles Champoiseau, French Vice-Consul to Adrianople (Turkey). The goddess of Victory (Nike, in Greek) is shown in the form of a winged woman standing on the prow of a ship, braced against the strong wind blowing through her garments. With her right hand cupped around her mouth, she announced the event she was dedicated to commemorate. The colossal work was placed in a rock niche that had been dug into a hill; it overlooked the theater of the Sanctuary of the Great Gods. This niche may also have contained a pool filled with water in which the ship appeared to float. Given its placement, the work was meant to be viewed from the front left-hand side; this explains the disparity in sculpting technique, the right side of the body being much less detailed. The highly theatrical presentation-combined with the goddess’s monumentality, wide wingspan, and the vigor of her forward-thrusting body-reinforces the reality of the scene.”

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“A commemorative Rhodian monument: The sanctuary at Samothrace was consecrated to the Cabeiri, gods of fertility whose help was invoked to protect seafarers and to grant victory in war. The offering of a statue of Nike perched on a ship was a religious act in honor of these gods. It has also been suggested that this monument was dedicated by the Rhodians in commemoration of a specific naval victory. The type of ship depicted and the gray marble used for the prow and base of the statue both suggest that this is indeed a Rhodian creation. If it is associated with a major Rhodian naval victory, the work can be dated to the second century BC-it would have been erected in honor of the battle of Myonnisos, or perhaps the Rhodian victory at Side in 190 BC against the fleet of Antiochus III of Syria.”

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“A Hellenistic work steeped in tradition: The Winged Victory of Samothrace is one of the masterpieces of Hellenistic sculpture. The figure creates a spiraling effect in a composition that opens out in various directions. This is achieved by the oblique angles of the wings and the placement of the left leg, and emphasized by the clothing blowing between the goddess’s legs. The nude female body is revealed by the transparency of the wet drapery, much in the manner of classical works from the fifth century BC, while the cord worn just beneath the breasts recalls a clothing style that was popular beginning in the fourth century. In the treatment of the tunic-sometimes brushing against the body, sometimes billowing in the wind-the sculptor has been remarkably skillful in creating visual effects. The decorative richness, sense of volume, and intensity of movement are characteristic of a Rhodian style that prefigures the baroque creations of the Pergamene school (180-160 BC).”

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Title:  The Virgin of the Rocks

Artist:  Leonardo da Vinci

Date:  1483-1486

Info:  Oil on wood panel.  “Leonardo’s emblematic and complexly symbolic The Virgin of the Rocks celebrates the mystery of Incarnation in portrayals of the Virgin Mary, Christ and Saint John the Baptist. For the first time, these holy figures, bathed in a gentle light, are set in rocky landscape. The many contemporary copies of the picture attest to the immense popularity of this new vision of the theme.”

We saw the other version of this painting at the National Gallery in London.  This version is generally considered to be the older of the two.

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Title:  Mona Lisa (Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo)

Artist:  Leonardo da Vinci

Date:  circa 1503-1506 (possibly continuing to work on it until as late as 1517)

Info:  Oil on panel.  “This portrait was doubtless started in Florence around 1503. It is thought to be of Lisa Gherardini, wife of a Florentine cloth merchant named Francesco del Giocondo – hence the alternative title, La Gioconda. However, Leonardo seems to have taken the completed portrait to France rather than giving it to the person who commissioned it. After his death, the painting entered François I’s collection.
The history of the Mona Lisa is shrouded in mystery. Among the aspects which remain unclear are the exact identity of the sitter, who commissioned the portrait, how long Leonardo worked on the painting, how long he kept it, and how it came to be in the French royal collection.
The portrait may have been painted to mark one of two events – either when Francesco del Giocondo and his wife bought their own house in 1503, or when their second son, Andrea, was born in December 1502 after the death of a daughter in 1499. The delicate dark veil that covers Mona Lisa’s hair is sometimes considered a mourning veil. In fact, such veils were commonly worn as a mark of virtue. Her clothing is unremarkable. Neither the yellow sleeves of her gown, nor her pleated gown, nor the scarf delicately draped round her shoulders are signs of aristocratic status.”

This is about as close as we got to the painting.  It is, by far, the most popular piece at the Louvre, and everyone wants to see it.

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Luckily we didn’t need to get to close to zoom in with the camera.  The painting is beautiful, but you don’t really get a good opportunity to just look at it, so we went to look at something else…

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Title:  Ceres (or Abundance)

Artist:  Giulio Romano (a pupil of Raphael)

Date:  around 1516

Info:  Oil on wood.  “The work was probably carried out in 1516 by order of Cardinal Bernardo Dovizi whose name means “Abundance” and six ears of corn were on his coat of arms.  The figure is directly inspired by an antique Venus Genitrix that adorned the Marmi Gallery, a room of the Ducal Palace of Mantua decorated by Giulio Romano.” (Wikipedia)

I really liked this painting because it seemed out of time.  It looks like it should be an Art Deco piece (you’re welcome, momma) from the 1920s, 30s, or 40s rather than something painted in 1516.

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Title:  The Intervention of the Sabine Women

Artist:  Jacques-Louis David

Date:  1799

Info:  “After the abduction of the Sabine women by the neighboring Romans, the Sabines attempted to get them back – David depicts this episode here. The Sabine women are intervening to stop the bloodshed. Hersilia is throwing herself between her husband, the king of Rome, and her father, the king of the Sabines. David is using the subject to advocate the reconciliation of the French people after the Revolution. His increasingly simple style is inspired by Ancient Greece.
David’s painting depicts a legendary episode from Rome’s beginnings in the 8th century BC. After the Sabine women had been abducted by the neighboring Romans (the scene Poussin depicted in his masterpiece The Rape of the Sabine Women, Louvre), the Sabines attempted to get them back. David shows the Sabine women intervening to stop the battle raging beneath the ramparts of the Capitol in Rome. The painting is a masterful summary of the whole episode. Hersilia is leaping between her father Tatius, the king of the Sabines, on the left, and her husband Romulus, the king of Rome, on the right. A woman is pointing at her children; another has thrown herself at a warrior’s feet. The picture also evokes the happy consequences of their intervention. The horseman on the right is putting his sword back into its sheath while, further away, hands and helmets are raised in gestures of peace. Unlike in David’s previous paintings (The Oath of the Horatii, Brutus, Louvre), women play the crucial role here.”

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We took several detail pictures of this piece (I’ve only included one here) because there’s SO much detail to look at.  Plus, after going to Rome (Roma) and living in Italy for a while, we understand a lot of the painting’s references now.

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Title:  Aurora and Cephalus

Artist:  Baron Pierre-Narcisse Guérin

Date:  1810

Info:  Oil on canvas.  “This ethereal night, reminiscent of The Sleep of Endymion by Girodet (1791) , was involved in the ‘graceful’ last phase of neoclassicism.”  Aurora is the Roman goddess of Dawn.  Eos (the Greek version of Aurora) kidnapped Cephalus when he was hunting. The resistant Cephalus and Eos became lovers. (Wikipedia)

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Title:  Korwar reliquary (container for relics)

Artist:  Unknown.

Date:  late 18th century

Info:  Wood and human skull.  “Ancestor figure protecting the household.”  Indonesian.

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Title:  Easter Island Moai

Artist:  Unknown.

Date:  between 1250 and 1500 CE

Info:  Tuff (rock made of volcanic ash).   “Monolithic human figures carved by the Rapa Nui people on Easter Island in eastern Polynesia.”  (Wikipedia)

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Our wanderings led us back near the stairs leading to The Winged Victory, so I grabbed a shot of the statue “in its natural habitat.”  Though, there is another flight of steps leading further down that isn’t pictured.

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Title: Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss

Artist:  Antonio Canova

Date:  1777

Info:  Marble.  “This winged young man who has just landed on a rock where a girl lies unconscious, is the god Eros – Cupid in Latin – and can be recognized by his wings and his quiver filled with arrows. The girl’s name is Psyche. Cupid’s mother Venus, goddess of Beauty, demanded that Psyche bring back a flask from the Underworld, strictly forbidding her to open it.

But Psyche’s curiosity got the better of her; and no sooner had she had breathed in the terrible fumes than she fell into a deep, deathlike sleep. Seeing her lying motionless, Cupid rushed to her and touched her gently with the tip of his arrow, to make sure she was not dead. This is the moment caught by the sculptor: Cupid lifts his beloved Psyche in a tender embrace, his face close to hers. Psyche lets herself sink slowly backwards, languorously taking her lover’s head between her hands.

Canova took his inspiration from a legend recounted by Latin author Apuleius in the Metamorphoses At the close of the tale the gods decide in council to grant Cupid Psyche’s hand in marriage, according her immortality and making her the goddess of the Soul.”

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Title:  The Rebellious Slave

Artist:  Michelangelo Buonarroti

Date:  1513

Info:  Marble.  “The two chained slaves express entirely different emotions. The one known as the Dying Slave is superbly young and handsome, and apparently in a deep (perhaps eternal) sleep. The other, called the Rebellious Slave, is a coarser figure whose whole body seems engaged in a violent struggle. Michelangelo intended both statues for the splendid funerary monument originally planned for and by Pope Julius II — a project which was repeatedly modified during forty years of successive programs.” (continued below)

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Title:  The Dying Slave

Artist:  Michelangelo Buonarroti

Date:  1513

Info:  Marble.  “The iconographical theme is something of a mystery; there are few clues, beyond the figure of a monkey which is roughed out beside the dying slave. Do these captive figures symbolize the subjugated provinces? Or the Arts, reduced to slavery by the pontiff’s death? Perhaps they have a role to play in his eternal triumph? Should they be interpreted as enslaved passions, or (in accordance with the Platonic theme which inspired Michelangelo) do they represent the human soul, burdened by the body? An extraordinary force emanates from these tormented bodies — whose state of incompletion reinforces the impression of power.”

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A view of the exterior of the Louvre Palace from underneath the glass Pyramide du Louvre (Louvre Pyramid).  It is “a large glass and metal pyramid designed by Chinese American architect I.M. Pei, surrounded by three smaller pyramids, in the main courtyard of the Louvre Palace. The large pyramid serves as the main entrance to the Louvre Museum. Completed in 1989.  It contains 603 rhombus-shaped and 70 triangular glass segments.” (Wikipedia)

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Title:  Fuseau Vase

Artist:  Sèvres Manufactory

Date:  1810

Info:  From the area of the Louvre titled Apartments of Napoleon III.  “On the baptism of his son, King of Rome, on 10 June 1811, Napoleon offered the infant’s godmother – his own mother, Madame Mère – this spectacular porcelain fuseau vase. The tortoiseshell ground provides a sumptuous setting for a portrait of Napoleon crossing the Alps, after Jacques-Louis David’s famous painting. The vase is typical of the designs of Alexandre Brongniart, director of the Sèvres Manufactory, who saw in porcelain a way of giving great history painting imperishable form.”

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And somehow we ended up completely above the Louvre Pyramid this time.  I like this picture, though, because you can see people in the museum’s lobby through the glass.

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Title:  Gabrielle d’Estrées and One of Her Sisters, the Duchess of Villars

Artist:  Unknown.  (Thought to be the work of a painter from the Fontainebleau School in France.)

Date:  circa 1594

Info:  Oil on wood.  “The models have been identified as Gabrielle d’Estrées (1571-99), the favorite of Henry IV (1553-1610), and one of her sisters: the Duchess de Villars or Madame de Balagny. The oddly affectionate way in which the sister is pinching Gabrielle d’Estrées’ right breast has often been taken as symbolizing the latter’s pregnancy with the illegitimate child of Henry IV. This interpretation would seem to be confirmed by the scene of the young woman sewing – perhaps preparing a layette for the coming child – in the background.
Although very much in the style of the second school of Fontainebleau, this work remains anonymous. It shows the influence of Italian Renaissance art in the sensual contours of the bodies of the two young women, but also contains references to Flemish art, such as the intimacy of the background scene.”

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And I think that does it for our trip to the Louvre Museum.  We thoroughly enjoyed our trip, and as I said at the beginning of all of this, we could have easily walked around for several more hours.

I’m very thankful that the Louvre’s website has “highlighted” pieces.  It selects several of the more popular pieces throughout the museum and gives information (title, date, artist, etc) in English.  The placards associated with each piece inside the museum were all in French, which doesn’t always translate well in the world of art.

So, is that it for the day?  Absolutely not.  What could top the Louvre?  Well, Brittany and I were celebrating our 1-year anniversary so we had to rush home and get ready for our anniversary date (mysteriously arranged by Brittany).



We had our anniversary date on top of the Quai Branly Museum at a restaurant called Les Ombres (Shadows), and while their food was quite delectable that wasn’t what they were known for.

Instead they are known as being in “the shadow” of the Eiffel Tower.

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Truly one of the best places to view the Eiffel Tower…

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The restaurant offered us a spectacular view of the tower while we ate…

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It wasn’t quite warm enough for them to have the outdoor roof terrace open, but we could walk around on it as much as we wanted.

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After dinner (and dessert of course) we walked around the roof for quite a while.

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And we ended up getting some really amazing shots of the tower reflected off of the water pooled on the museum’s rooftop.

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And let me just take one more opportunity to tell my muse just how much I enjoyed our anniversary date…just how much I enjoy all of our life together.


We left the restaurant, but it was almost time for the tower to twinkle again, so we took a short stroll over to watch from the base.

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The Eiffel Tower really is something to behold…especially at night…

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At this point, a few street vendors tried to sell us bottles of beer and champagne…which we hadn’t seen up to that point.

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So beautiful to watch…

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Well, that was that.  I don’t think we could have asked for a better anniversary!

However, the end of Monday night held a choice for us.  We had already purchased tickets to go to the symphony on Tuesday night, and we had already purchased tickets to go to Disneyland Paris that were good for any weekday (which meant either Tuesday or Wednesday for us).  The problem…tickets to Disney were WAY more expensive than tickets to the symphony, and the Weather Channel app had been calling for a 90% chance of severe thunderstorms on Wednesday.  We both really wanted to go to the Symphony, but would it be worth sacrificing what we paid for admission to Disney to go and have everything be rained out?  Dilemma.  So what did we do…Symphony or Disney?  Find out on Day 6.

Paris – Day 11 – Versailles

Paris is spectacularly beautiful, there’s absolutely no doubt about that.  Don’t believe me, then go check out some pictures from Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3.  With so much to see and do in the City of Light, what would Day 4 hold?  Leaving the city of course…


Day 4 – Paris (Versailles) – 4/10/2016

Day 4 in Paris (Day 11 of our overall trip) was a gorgeous day…all day.  It never rained…it never even hinted at rain.  It was warm.  It was pretty much the perfect day.

We started the day back at one of my favorite spots, Notre-Dame.  We purchased a combo ticket for the Catacombs of Paris and the Crypt of Notre-Dame, and today was the crypt’s day.

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No lie to tell, when we saw the sign for the crypt on Day 2, I got excited.  When we had an amazing little journey through the Catacombs on Day 3, I got even more excited.  So when we actually went into the Crypt…I was really disappointed.  Don’t get me wrong, the Crypt is interesting, just not what I expected.  Basically the Crypt of Notre-Dame is an archeological site containing remnants of Roman structures that have been excavated in the area in front of Notre-Dame.  Paris would have been called Luteia at the time.  I guess we are a bit spoiled, but there’s one thing that we have seen a ton of during our stay in Europe, and that’s Roman ruins.  Some are way more impressive than others, and those at this site were just…normal…I guess.  Actually, the most interesting part of the very small exhibit was a virtual interactive guide demonstrating the different building phases of the Notre-Dame Cathedral.  Looking at other photos on Google that are supposedly from the Crypt of Notre-Dame, there may be an actual crypt directly under the cathedral, but this was not it.  I think we were expecting ancient relics from the church or mausoleums from its history.

Because the Crypt was relatively small, and because we have seen quite a bit of Roman ruins, we didn’t stay in the area very long.  Instead we hopped onto the nearest train that would take us outside of the city…12 miles southwest of the city, to be exact…


Versailles

Brittany has a lot of good ideas (marrying me was one…going to the Catacombs of Paris was another).  Well she was apparently on a roll because it was her idea to visit Versailles.  Much like the Catacombs, I knew a little about the site, but not much.  It is known as one of the most beautiful places in the world, and we weren’t let down.

In 1623, Louis XIII had a château built as a hunting lodge, but his son, Louis XIV (the Sun King), enlarged the château into a royal palace beginning in 1661.  By 1682, work on the palace was sufficiently advanced enough for Louis XIV to proclaim Versailles as his principal residence and the governmental center of France.  It remained France’s center of political power until 1789, when the royal family was forced to return to Paris after the beginning of the French Revolution.  (Wikipedia)

The Palace of Versailles is very close to the train depot, so after purchasing tickets that allowed us access to everything Versailles had to offer, we had a very short walk to the gates.  Followed by, as seen in the photo below, a long wait to get in.  (Actually, the line moved along fairly quickly.)

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In front of the gates into the palace stands a statue of Louis XIV.  Born in 1638, his reign as King of France from 1643 until his death in 1715 (72 years and 110 days) is the longest of any monarch of a major country in European history.  According to Louis-XIV.de, “Louis XIV chose the sun as his emblem. The sun was associated with Apollo, god of peace and arts, and was also the heavenly body which gave life to all things, regulating everything as it rose and set.  Like Apollo, the warrior-king Louis XIV brought peace, was a patron of the arts, and dispensed his bounty.  Throughout Versailles, decoration combines images and attributes of Apollo (laurel, lyre, tripod) with the king’s portraits and emblems (the double LL, the royal crown, the scepter, and hand of justice).”

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At the most exterior southeastern gates into the palace stand two statues holding wreaths.  The statue to the right is Victory over Spain

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And the statue to the left is Victory over the Empire

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Once past the first security fence, you have access to the Royal Fence.   It is a beautiful, gilded gate / fence that is an exact replica of the original that was torn down during the French Revolution.  There are also two more statues.

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This is a close-up of the top of the gate…

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The statue to the right is Paix (Peace)…

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And to the left is Abondance (Abundance)…

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A close-up of the emblem of the Sun King built into the fence with Fleur-de-lis (symbol of French royalty) scepter and Main de la Justice (hand of justice) scepter…

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The building to the right of the gate (the Royal Chapel) offered a few gargoyles…

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After waiting in line, to then wait in another line to actually get in, we finally made it.


Château de Versailles (Palace of Versailles)

In the photo of Brittany below, on the left is the South Wing (containing the Hall of Battles), in the center is the Central Body (containing the Hall of Mirrors), and on the right is the North Wing (containing the Royal Chapel and Royal Opera).  The King’s and Queen’s chambers are also in the center section, but they’re on the First Floor (or what we would call the second floor in America).

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We started our tour in the North Wing of the palace.  As soon as we walked in, there was the Royal Chapel, the room where Marie Antoinette married Louis XVI on May 16, 1770.

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The half-dome of the apse is decorated with Charles de la Fosse’s The Resurrection of Christ.

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A better view of the chapel’s organ, which was built between 1709-1710.

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Below is a photo looking down the Galerie de Pierre…

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Next on our palace tour was the Salon d’Hercule (Hercules Room).  The ceiling is titled Apothéose d’Hercule (Apotheosis of Hercules), which gave the room its name.   On the wall is Feast in the House of Simon (Verlet, 322). Louis XIV received the painting as a diplomatic gift from the Republic of Venice in 1664.  (Wikipedia)

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The fireplace is this room is massive…

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We left the Hercules Room and heading into the Central Body of the palace.

Almost every ceiling in the palace was painted, and each seemed to be more impressive than the last.

This is from the Venus Salon…

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And this one is from the Mercury Salon…

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Also in the Mercury Salon is a “clock offer to Louis XIV by its maker Antoine Morand in 1706.  The bed that is now at display in the Mercury salon is the one that Louis-Philippe placed there when he transformed Versailles from a royal residence to a museum.” (ThisisVersaillesMadame)

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“Most spectacular of all is the Galerie des Glaces (Hall of Mirrors), a 235-foot-long drawing and ballroom­ lined along one side with 17 huge mirror” arches.  Each arch contains twenty-one mirrors with a total complement of 357 used in the decoration of the Galerie des Glaces.   “On the other side of the room, a row of windows opened onto vast gardens and the sunset.” (HowStuffWorks.com)

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This room truly was magnificent.  And it gave us a chance to ham up the fact that we were tourists…

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In the 17th century, mirrors were among the most expensive items to possess at the time.

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One thing that I really liked about the room was how the artwork of the ceiling spilled over onto the wall murals on both sides of the room.

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Leaving the King’s and Queen’s chambers took us into the South Wing of the Palace.

“In the 1792 room, Louis-Philippe assembled the portraits of the heroes of the Revolution and the Empire wearing the uniforms and badges of their ranks in September 1792 when the Republic was proclaimed.” (Napoleon.org)

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The Galerie de Pierre is mirrored on the South Wing.  The entire hallway is devoted to statues.  Like this one of Napoleon (Napoleone di Bonaparte), born August 15, 1769 and died May 5, 1821.  He was a French military and political leader who rose to prominence during the French Revolution and led several successful campaigns during the Revolutionary Wars. As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 until 1814, and again in 1815.” (Wikipedia)

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Charlemagne, “also known as Charles I, was King of the Franks. He united most of Western Europe during the early Middle Ages and laid the foundations for modern France and Germany. He took the Frankish throne in 768 and became King of Italy from 774. From 800, he became the first Holy Roman Emperor — the first recognized emperor in Western Europe since the fall of the Western Roman Empire three centuries earlier.” (Wikipedia)

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Louis XIV, whom I’ve already discussed in this blog…

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Running parallel to the hall of statues, is the Galerie des Batailles (Gallery of Battles).  It is a 390 ft. x 43 ft. gallery, and was intended to glorify French military history from the Battle of Tolbiac (traditionally dated 495) to the Battle of Wagram (5–6 July 1809).  (Wikipedia)

The paintings in this gallery are absolutely massive.

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Before leaving the palace, we walked through the apartments of Mesdames, which were what the King’s daughters were called.  This is the bedroom of Madame Victorie.

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Well the palace certainly had a lot to offer, so we were excited to see what lay behind it in the gardens.


Jardins du château de Versailles (Gardens of Versailles)

We were met with a pretty amazing view.  The Versailles Orangerie, built between 1684 and 1686, houses several orange trees.

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It offered us a pretty nice place to sit and relax for a minute.

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The gardens were full of topiary, fountains, and statues.  Also, there were several of these urns, and each one had unique statues on its side.

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If we thought the South Wing of the gardens was impressive, then we were positively blown away by the main section of the gardens.  The gardens cover almost 2000 acres of land, much of which is landscaped and named (there’s the Queen’s Grove, The Colonnade Grove, The Grove of the Arc de Triumph, etc.)

This is the Latona Fountain.  Inspired by Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’, the Latona Fountain illustrates the legend of Latona, protecting her children Apollo and Diana….

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Brittany and I with the Latona Fountain and the palace behind us…

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Further north-west into the garden lies “The Apollo Fountain.”  A fountain already existed here from 1636, under the reign of Louis XIII, known as the Swans Fountain. Louis XIV extended and decorated it with the impressive and celebrated group in gilded lead representing Apollo on his chariot. The work of Jean-Baptiste Tuby, from a drawing by Charles Le Brun, it is inspired by the legend of Apollo, god of the Sun and emblem of the King.” (ChateauVersailles.fr)

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The gardens were open until 8:00PM, and there were a few other things at Versailles that closed earlier, so we headed off in search of those.


The Grand Trianon

The northwest corner of the property known as Versailles contains the Trianon Palaces (the Grand Trianon, the Petit Trianon, and the Queen’s Hamlet).  After a really nice walk down a grassy trail, we arrived at the Grand Trianon.  It was built at the request of King Louis XIV, as a retreat for the himself and his mistress of the time, the Marquise de Montespan, and as a place where he and invited guests could take light meals away from the strict étiquette of the Court.  (Wikipedia)

The Music Room.  Origianlly a music room for Louis XIV, Napoleon converted it into an officers’ room and Louis-Philippe converted into a billiard room.  (Louis-Philippe was King of France from 1830 to 1848.)  The pool table in this room is by far the largest I’ve ever seen…I want it…

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The Louis-Philippe Family Room…

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The Cotelle Gallery.  The 24 paintings in this gallery depict the Gardens of Versailles and Trianon as they appeared when they were created in 1687.

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The Petit Trianon

A bit further to the northeast we found the Petit Tianon.  Built between 1762 and 1768  by the order of Louis XV for his long-term mistress, Madame de Pompadour.  Madame de Pompadour died four years before its completion, and the Petit Trianon was subsequently occupied by her successor, Madame du Barry. Upon his accession to the throne in 1774, the 20-year-old Louis XVI gave the château and its surrounding park to his 19-year-old Queen Marie Antoinette for her exclusive use and enjoyment. (Wikipedia)

We actually had a bit of trouble finding the entrance to the Petit Trianon, but several others did as well, there was a general mass of people wondering around pulling on doors trying to find a way in.  Instead of worrying too much about it, we started in the gardens.  We followed a few paths and came to the Temple de l’Amour (Temple of Love).

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This temple was built entirely out of marble and could be seen by Marie-Antoinette out of her bedroom window.  Another shot of Cupid inside the temple…

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We did eventually find our way inside of Marie-Antoinette’s estate.  Most of the rooms consisted of furniture and decoration from her time.  We took photos, but I’m not going to post them all here since they are very similar to those I’ve already shown (at least to someone who has no training in antique furniture).

There was a nice portrait of Marie-Antoinette in the billiard room…

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We left the Palaces of Trianon area and walked back to the Gardens of Versailles.  (Actually we got lost for a little while walking trails, but it was a beautiful day and getting lost was really nice.  FYI, a huge park is connected to the gardens so it’s difficult to tell which is which.)

When we finally found our way back into the “official” gardens, we were at a huge fountain, The Neptune Fountain.  It was built between 1679 and 1681, and was then called the “Pool below the Dragon.”  Jacques-Ange Gabriel slightly modified the pool area and, in 1740, the sculptural decoration was installed. It is the largest fountain in Versailles.

Although the fountain is adorned with several urns and fountain sculptures, there are three primary statue groups: Neptune and Amphitrite, Proteus, and Ocean God.

Neptune and Amphitrite

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Ocean…(Narwhal sightings on our European trip: 2.  Awesome.)

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Proteus

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A fountain in the fountain ready to send water cascading…

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And then there’s this side fountain of a cherub fighting with a demonic-looking fish…

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Just a few feet away from the Neptune Fountain is The Dragon Fountain.  It depicts one of the episodes of the legend of Apollo: the Python snake killed by an arrow shot by the young Apollo. The reptile is surrounded by dolphins and Cupids armed with bows and arrows riding on swans.

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These fish are frightening…

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Brittany sat down for a while and let me take some photos…

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But I soon joined her…Fabulous…

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A path right next to us led to the Grove of the Arc de Triumph.  The fountain in the grove is La France Triomphante…

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Leaving the grove left us back near the palace.  We tried to get a panoramic shot of it…which kind of worked…

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We found a café just outside of the gardens and had a light dinner.  We had a beautiful view of the park that honestly felt like Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.

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Next we headed back into the gardens to see what else we could find.  The Colonnade, build in 1685, was gated off, but we were still able to see inside.  It has 32 marble columns and at its center a piece called Proserpine Ravished by Pluto.

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The Chestnuts Room was redesigned in 1704, but was once lined with eighty antique statues.  Now there are eight antique busts and two statues.

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Of all the sculptures the Gardens of Versailles had to offer, Milon de Crotone (Milo of Croton) was my favorite.  The original is now at the Louvre, but it was unveiled first at Versailles in 1683.

“Milo was a Greek athlete who was a several times champion of the Olympic and Pythian games. As an old man, he wished to test his vigor by splitting a tree trunk that he found already cleft. His hand remained caught in the stump and he was devoured by wolves. Puget replaced these animals with the nobler figure of a lion and created a composition imbued with baroque passion and drama.”

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“Milo’s body is writhing in pain and his flesh appears to be shuddering under the chisel’s touch.”  (Louvre.fr)

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The closing time for the gardens was quickly approaching, but we did get a few last shots in before we left.

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The gardens seem to be endless in this picture…

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Just before the exit gates, we ran into these guys again.  We had passed them earlier, but they were surrounded by people at the time, so we took this opportunity to check them out.

Amour Porté par un Sphinx (Love Carried by a Sphinx)…

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A closer shot of love…

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And on the other side of the steps leading to the orange grove is a cherub / sphinx combo of the same name…

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Outside the palace, we got a photo in front of the Royal Fence without being surrounded by hundreds of people.

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And one last shot.  (Please note that the Gardens closed at 8:00PM, and we stayed as late as we could.  Meaning that it was probably right at 8:00 when this photo was taken.  Do you see how light it still is?!?)

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So Versailles is beautiful.  No doubt about that.  On Day 5 we finally took a trip inside the Louvre Museum…will that compare to our day in Versailles.  It better because Day 5 is our One Year Anniversary!  Check it out…Day 5…same Bat-time, same Bat-channel…

Paris – Day 10 – Bones…

We saw a lot of what Paris had to offer on Day 1 and Day 2, including the Sacré-Cœur, Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, Moulin Rouge, and Notre-Dame.  So where did we go to keep Day 3 interesting?  Underground of course…


Day 3 – Paris – 4/9/2016

While we were at Notre-Dame the day before, we saw a sign directing you to the Crypts of Notre-Dame.  Crypts of Notre-Dame sounds pretty awesome, but we weren’t sure about how much it would cost or what the tour would include.  It prompted Brittany to ask if I would mind if we went to the Catacombs of Paris.  Now, I’d heard of the Catacombs, but honestly I knew absolutely zero about them.  I agreed anyway…I mean, at the time, she had just let me walk around Notre-Dame for an hour or so pointing at all the gargoyles and chimera I saw…it was the least I could do.

So that night we went home and looked up the Catacombs.  Funny enough you could add a discounted ticket to get into the Crypts of Notre-Dame with your Catacomb ticket, so we decided to do both.  In our research, though, we did see several people commenting on how long you have to wait in line to get into the Catacombs.  We decided to get up and go early…

It didn’t matter…when we actually got to Place Denfert-Rochereau, the public square in the Montparnasse district of Paris where the Catacomb entrance is located, the line already stretched from the entrance all the way around the square.  At this point in our trip we really hadn’t had to wait in any lines, but this one was monster to start with.

After a two hour wait (which included my walking to the nearest McDonald’s to get coffee and a muffin for us, a quick trip to the Pharmacy to ask about an ear ache, and lots of overheard conversations from the American girls in front of us about how much they missed the convenience of Target {we felt their pain}), we finally made it to the entrance…just as it started to rain.

I did get to snap some pictures of a replica of The Lion of Belfort while we waited though…

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…I’m easily amused.


So we finally made it into the gate, and I have to say, I was a bit skeptical about all of this.  After all, we just waited two hours to go see some bones…

But I guess I’m getting ahead of myself.  I suppose I need to explain what the Catacombs of Paris really are…

The following information comes from placards at the Catacombs, Wikipedia, and the Catacombs’ official website.

Catacombs of Paris

Where to begin…In the 10th century, Parisians began moving their urban development from the Left Bank of the Seine River (the south side) to the Right Bank (the north side); however, it wasn’t like the Right Bank was completely void of buildings.  Most notably, for the purpose of explaining the Catacombs, there were already churches with cemeteries.  One in particular, and most central, was the parish, Saints Innocents, with a cemetery often used for mass graves called “Cimetière des Innocents” (Cemetery of Innocents).  This meant that, unlike most human-inhabited areas, the Right Bank of Paris was established with cemeteries at its center rather than on its outskirts.  By the end of the 12th century the cemeteries were already overflowing, with the Cemetery of Innocents being the worst.

Paris had another problem at this time as well.  Haphazard mining techniques were being used to extract limestone deposits.  (The stone that was used to build much of the city came from these mines.)  Often when these mines were depleted they were left uncharted, abandoned, and forgotten.

These two seemingly unique problems came to a head in the 18th century.

In 1774 the first of a series of mine collapses occurred, which led King Louis XVI to name a commission to investigate the state of the Parisian underground. This led to the creation of the mine inspection service.

The need to eliminate the Cemetery of Innocents gained urgency in May of 1780, when a basement wall in a property adjoining the cemetery gave way under the weight of the mass grave behind it. The cemetery was closed to the public and all inner-city burials were forbidden after 1780.

The problem of what to do with the remains crowding inner-city cemeteries was still unresolved.  However, the mine renovation and cemetery closures were both issues within the jurisdiction of the Police Lieutenant-General Alexandre Lenoir, who had been directly involved in the creation of a mine inspection service. Lenoir was firmly behind an idea of moving Parisian dead to the newly renovated subterranean passageways that had been circulating since 1782.  The idea became law in late 1785.  Beginning from an opening ceremony, that included blessing the former quarries as an ossuary, on April 7, 1786, the route between Les Innocents and the “clos de la Tombe-Issoire” became a nightly procession of black cloth-covered wagons carrying millions of Parisian dead. It would take two years to empty the majority of Paris cemeteries.

Cemeteries whose remains were moved to the Catacombs include Saints-Innocents (the largest by far with about 2 million buried over 600 years of operation), Saint-Étienne-des-Grès (one of the oldest), Madeleine Cemetery, Errancis Cemetery (used for the victims of the French Revolution), and Notre-Dame-des-Blancs-Manteaux (not the Notre-Dame we visited).

So, to summarize, haphazard mine tunneling and overcrowded, unsanitary cemeteries were both a problem in Paris from the 12th century to the 18th century.  When mine cave-ins began in the 18th century an organization was formed to investigate the tunnels and secure them.  Not long after the first cave-in, a supporting wall at the Cemetery of Innocents collapsed.  Both problems fell under the same jurisdiction…the solution…move the cemetery remains to the renovated mines.

At first the bones were just placed unorganized within the tunnels, but in 1810 Louis-Étienne Héricart de Thury, head of the Paris Mine Inspection Service, undertook renovations that would transform the underground caverns into a visitable mausoleum. He was in charge of directing the stacking of skulls and femurs into the patterns seen in the catacombs today.

Okay, that’s about as brief of a history lesson as I can give about the Catacombs.  Now for a few detailed facts about our excursion.  Once you purchase your ticket, you immediately begin winding your way down a very narrow, very steep spiral set of steps.  130 steps take you to the entrance of a low-ceilinged tunnel.  At this point you are now roughly 66 feet underground (the height of a five-story building).

WARNING: Some may find the images that follow disturbing or frightening.

A picture of the entrance tunnel…(it’s very dark, so some pictures are a little blurry)

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Along the wall of the tunnel are dates and titles, these were used as markers by the quarry inspectors.  1780 is the earliest date that we got in a picture…

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The black line on the ceiling of the tunnel was used as a guide. (Remember, we have haven’t always had fancy electricity or portable phones with built in flashlights!)

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And finally, after you feel like you’ve walked forever, you reach this sign…

“Stop!  This is the empire of the dead.”

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Chills abound…

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There’s not going to be much I can say about these pictures, it’s not like I can label this one “Tom Holcomb” or that one “Margaret Pinkerton.”  So for the most part, unless there’s a tidbit to add, I’m jut going to leave you to the pictures…they say quite a bit for themselves anyway…

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Some of these “walls” of stacked bones were at least 5 feet tall…

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Some of the skulls are arranged in an artistic fashion…

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There are between 6 and 7 million Parisians whose remains lie in the Catacombs…

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A marker for the Cemetery of Innocents from 1787…

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This one was calling our name…

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It was surreal at times, it’s not like there are glass walls or iron bars between you and the remains.  You can absolutely get as close as you want.  Obviously because of this, some of the bones have graffiti on them…but not many…

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And after a mile and a quarter of bones, we found the end.  “He fears not death who has learned to despise life.”

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And another 83 spiraling steps up to the surface.

Regardless of a two hour wait, walking through the Catacombs was honestly one of the most interesting, unique, and morbidly enjoyable things that I’ve ever done in my life, and I’m extremely glad Brittany suggested it.  Talking with people after the experience, the number one question has to do with whether or not it was creepy or scary.  Honestly, there wasn’t a single moment that I felt anything close to scared (maybe I’ve been desensitized by reading too many Stephen King novels).  Actually, it’s way more frightening to get crammed tighter than sardines in a can onto a Parisian subway train with a bunch of live people.


I have to say, there’s not much else you can do after walking through the Catacombs, nothing else we did that day could quite “live” up.  But we basically just wandered around after that, so no big deal I guess.

Actually, we went in search of a children’s bookstore, but our fruitless search led us to the area around Palais Garnier (Paris’s opera house).

Also in this area was the Opéra-Comique, which has been at this location since 1783, although multiple fires have led to new and updated buildings.

This is the rear exterior of the building…

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And one of many sculptures along the wall…

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We did pass the Palais Garnier, but it started raining soon after so we were forced to find shelter.

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Luckily we were very near the children’s bookstore that had led us to this area, but in order to find it we had to run into the nearest Starbucks to use their Wifi (and restroom).  That led to its own little adventure.  As I’ve said in previous posts, finding a McDonald’s or Starbucks in Europe is nice because they both have Wifi and restrooms; however, the Starbucks restrooms in Paris were tricksy…

Here’s the deal, all of the McDonald’s require you to make a purchase before using their restroom.  You buy something and the code to open the restroom door is on the receipt.  Fairly easy once you know that’s what you have to do.  But the Starbucks hadn’t been like that, we had been able to just walk in.  Well, in Paris, the Starbucks were set up like the McDonald’s…only we tried every number combination that was on the receipts we got and still never could get the doors to open.  And you’d think that it would be as simple as asking an employee, but we’re in Paris, remember?  And we’ve been trying to learn Italian, which is very similar to French.  I don’t know how many times we were trying to talk to someone and Italian came out first followed by English, and finally some bastardized French would stumble out…we confused ourselves quite often.

However, we did finally manage to find the bookstore.  Only..its children’s book section was on a table that wouldn’t have been large enough to fit a good game of Monopoly on.

I can’t complain too much.  They did have an awesome Marvel book…

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This book seriously weighs 15 and a half pounds.  I looked it up…


While we were online at Starbucks, we looked up other “children’s book stores” in the area, and there was supposed to be one a few streets over near the Louvre.  Well, it turns out it was in the Louvre’s shopping area, which is underground near the inverted pyramid.  Only, when we got there, we discovered there wasn’t a bookstore.  Why?  Because it was being renovated…story of our lives…

It did give us a chance to check out the inverted pyramid though!

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As seen in The Da Vinci Code

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While we were at the Louvre again, we decided to walk around and see what night had to offer.  We watched the Eiffel Tower twinkle again from here…(seriously, the twinkling starts at 9PM…how is it this light outside?!?)

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At the end of the Tuileries Gardens in front of the Louvre is the Roue de Paris (we went back to check it out on a later day).  If you keep going straight past the ferris wheel, you will eventually run into the Arc de Triomphe.

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A view of the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel at night, with the Roue de Paris in the background…

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And a few pictures of the Palais du Louvre and the pyramid at night…

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A better view of just the pyramid.  You actually enter the Louvre museum here, at the center…

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Palais Garnier

Since it had stopped raining, we decided to walk back to the Palais Garnier to get a better look.  The opera house, which was built from 1861 to 1875 for the Paris Opera, is named after its architect, Charles Garnier.  The Palais Garnier is “probably the most famous opera house in the world, a symbol of Paris like Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre, or the Sacré Coeur Basilica.”  This is at least partly due to its use as the setting for Gaston Leroux’s 1910 novel The Phantom of the Opera and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s popular musical.  (Wikipedia)

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Like many other pieces of French architecture, the opera house is covered in statues.  My favorite was “Lyrical Drama.”

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This piece looks fierce from almost every vantage point…

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But my favorite item on the sculpture, is the mirror…

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After a long and exciting day, we hopped on the Metro in front of the Palais Garnier and headed home…where we finally enjoyed the wine, cheese, and crackers we had previously purchased.  Good day.


Day 3 was a creepy underground adventure.  What will Day 4 hold?

Paris – Day 9 – Gargoyles, Chimeras, and Pepper-spray…oh my…

During our first day in Paris, we saw the Moulin Rouge, Arc de Triomphe, and Eiffel Tower (among other things), and, as documented in that post, Paris definitely lives up to the hype.  So was it possible to further increase our enjoyment of the city on day 2?  For Brittany, I’d say the beauty and excitement didn’t diminish at all, but I wouldn’t say it increased much.  For me, though, yeah…I’d say it increased quite a bit.  Why?  Well read on and find out…


Day 2 – Paris – 4/8/2016

Our second day in Paris started a bit differently than our other London and Paris days had thus far.  For starters, we slept in just a little bit, but we had stayed out fairly late the night before to watch the Eiffel Tower twinkle.  Secondly, when we did get on the Metro (Paris’s subway) it was a bit intense, a bit intimidating, and a bit frightening.

London’s Underground was (for the most part) very clean and organized.  There were very few times during our visit were we had to stand for any length of time, and we never felt crammed.  Paris’s Metro is kind of the opposite.  Some of the stops were extremely well taken care of (like the Louvre exit), and some of the stops looked like a concrete bunker (one even looked like it had recently been completely burned).  Now I will say this, some of those that looked sketchy were clearly being renovated…but not all of them.  There were also times during our stay in Paris where you were crammed into the train as tightly as possible with absolutely no room to move (seriously, I was a bit jealous of the freedom sardines have in their cans).  And this wasn’t just during rush hour…there were times when this happened near midnight…apparently Parisians do not sleep.  Anyway, back to my original story, we got on the Metro at Simplon, which was the hub on our street, and the train was rather full…not packed to the uncomfortable gills, but still pretty full.  We were heading to the Cité stop, which was 12 stops away…roughly a 30 minute ride.  Along the way the destinations are announced, in French of course, but the recorded voice is very easy to hear and understand.  Occasionally you get other announcements, like “Mind the Gap” or “Beware of Pickpockets” in english, and these are recorded as well, so still nice and easy to understand.  We got as far as Gare du Nord, four stops into our journey…Gare du Nord (North Station), according to Wikipedia, “is the busiest railway station in Europe and the busiest in the world outside Japan.”  So lots of people get on and off of the Metro there.  We were staying on, but after the train let everyone off and on the doors opened again.  This horrifically loud french voice came blaring over the speaker system of the train, and quickly ran through several sentences that neither Brittany nor I understood.  It sounded like someone random had gotten over the PA system and was messing around, but it wasn’t.  Everyone on the train got up and started leaving.  To alleviate any fears some of you may be having, no one was panicking or rushing or running over anyone to get off the train, so everything seemed safe and unthreatening, but for a moment there it was surreally frightening.  We all waited in a giant horde just outside of the train, and after about 5 minutes the doors reopened and everyone casually got back on.  What happened?  No idea.  But for Brittany and I, it was our first real experience with how bad not understanding much of a language could potentially be.

After that, we reached Cité with no other delays.  After getting out of the Metro, we stopped and had brunch at a little café…delicious french baguette with jam, fried eggs, toast, and a croissant…yum.  We had a destination in mind (that was very near the Metro and the café), but there were a few other eye-catching things around so we wandered for a little while first.

We started by running into the Fontaine du Palmier (Fountain of Palm).  It is also called the “Victory Column.”  This is actually a copy of the original fountain, which now resides in the Carnavalet Museum.  The fountain, which was commissioned by Napoleon in 1806, was “modeled after a Roman triumphal column, and takes its name from the sculpted palm leaves at the top, commemorating Napoleon’s Egyptian Campaign. The bands of bronze on the column pay tribute to Napoleon’s victories at the siege of Danzig (1807), the Battle of Ulm(1805), the Battle of Marengo (1800), the Battle of the Pyramids(1798), and the Battle of Lodi (1796).  At the top of the column is a statue of Victory made of gilded bronze, carrying the laurels of victory.”  (Wikipedia)

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Next we stumbled upon Saint-Jacques Tower, originally built between 1509 and 1523.  “This 171 ft Flamboyant Gothic tower is all that remains of the former 16th-century Church of Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie (“Saint James of the butchery”), which was demolished in 1797, during the French Revolution, – like many other churches, leaving only the tower.” (Wikipedia)

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Inside of the tower, is a statue of Blaise Pascal, a French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer, and Christian philosopher.

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The tower inspired Alexandre Dumas (author of The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo) to write the play La tour Saint-Jacques-de-la-boucherie in 1856.

Nicolas Flamel (a successful French scribe and manuscript-seller, who, after his death, developed a reputation as an alchemist believed to have discovered the Philosopher’s Stone and achieved immortality), was a patron of the church, and was buried under its floor. (Wikipedia)

The tower had its fair share of interesting architecture and beautiful sculptures…

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Another shot of the tower from the small park that surrounds it…

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After leaving Saint-Jacques Tower, we finally headed back to our original destination.

Notre-Dame de Paris (Our Lady of Paris) (It is also known simple as Notre-Dame or Notre-Dame Cathedral.)

This medieval Catholic church is “widely considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture, and it is among the largest and most well-known church buildings in the world.  Construction began on the cathedral in 1163, but was not fully completed until 1345.”  (Wikipedia)

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A picture of the “Tympanum of the Last Judgement” on the church’s Western Façade…

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To the left of Notre-Dame’s entrance, there is a statue of Charlemagne from 1882…

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This cathedral is really what made day 2 of Paris so special for me.  I love the church’s architecture, both inside and out, but what really draws me to this church is the exterior sculptures (and all of its gargoyles!).  I really could sit with a zoom lens or binoculars and just search for interesting statues all day.

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And Brittany snaps a photo of me doing my best gargoyle / chimera impersonation…

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A final shot of the Western Façade before we enter (which, unlike a certain Westminster Abbey in London, is free)…

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Not to be outdone by the exterior, the interior is also beautiful to behold…

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As you enter the cathedral on the right hand side, a huge stained-glass window greats you.  The Tree of Jesse dated 1864, is a depiction in art of the ancestors of Christ, shown in a tree which rises from Jesse of Bethlehem, the father of King David.

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A couple of detail shots of the window…

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Notre-Dame’s North Rose window…

“Notre Dame’s north transept wall, consisting of a rose window surmounting 18 lancet windows, was built ca. 1250-1260 while Jean de Chelles was architect.Most of the original 13th C. glasswork is still intact, filtering light into a rainbow of blues, reds, greens, browns and yellows. The wide of spectrum of colors achieved in Medieval France’s stained glass windows was produced by varying both the proportion of metal added to molten glass and the temperature to which the mixture was heated. Details (facial features, drapery, foliage, etc.) were painted on with a mix of cullet (scrap glass), copper and Greek sapphire dissolved in wine or urine. This ‘glass painting’ was baked again, stimulating further chemical reactions that yielded visually interesting results.In the center oculus of the north rose window is the image of Mary enthroned holding the Christ Child. Surrounding them are images of kings and prophets of the Old Testament.” (Georgetown.edu)

Notre-Dame actually has three impressively large rose windows…

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A statue of Joan of Arc..

This peasant girl helped France win victories over England with her visions from God, but she “was captured by the Burundians’, accused of heresy and burned at the stake. But this was not the end of the brave girl. On the 7 July 1456, Joan of Arc was declared innocent and a martyr. In 1909 she was beatified in the famous Notre Dame cathedral in Paris by Pope Pius X.” (NotreDameCathedralParis.com)

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Another breathtaking view of the inside of this enormous church…

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And, as much construction / renovation that was going on outside, it seemed that an equal amount was going on inside.  This statue, covered for the renovations, added just a hint of creepy…

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Beautiful, starry ceilings…

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A couple of views of the alter…

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And one more before we left…

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Again, the inside is beautiful and the architecture of the outside is amazing, but now it was time for gargoyle heaven…

This guy has been worn down to almost nothing…

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The exterior of the North Rose Window (as seen earlier from the inside)…

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3 of the 12 Apostles on Notre-Dame’s spire…

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The Flying Buttresses…

“The Notre-Dame de Paris was among the first buildings in the world to use the flying buttress. The building was not originally designed to include the flying buttresses around the choir and nave but after the construction began, the thinner walls grew ever higher and stress fractures began to occur as the walls pushed outward. In response, the cathedral’s architects built supports around the outside walls, and later additions continued the pattern.” (Wikipedia)

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Another view of the flying buttresses…

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Intricate faces, some of men, some of animals, and some of monsters, can be seen all around the cathedral…like this excrement-splattered guy who looks a bit like a representation of wind or leaves…

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And then there’s this guy…I’m pretty sure this is Saint Denis, who is said to have been “martyred…shortly after 250 AD. Denis is said to have picked his head up after being decapitated, and walked six miles, while preaching a sermon of repentance the entire way.” (Wikipedia)

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The South Rose exterior, with the front two towers on the left…

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This terrified / terrifying face sets under a gargoyle whose feet and torso can be seen…

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“Many small individually crafted statues were placed around the outside to serve as column supports and water spouts. Among these are the famous gargoyles, designed for water run-off, and chimeras. The statues were originally colored as was most of the exterior. The paint has worn off. The cathedral was essentially complete by 1345. The cathedral has a narrow climb of 387 steps at the top of several spiral staircases; along the climb it is possible to view its most famous bell and its gargoyles in close quarters, as well as having a spectacular view across Paris when reaching the top.” (Wikipedia)

The term “gargoyle” has come to describe the grotesque figures perched over Notre-Dame, but, in fact, gargoyle comes from an old french word meaning “throat.”  So the true gargoyles are the sculptures that are used as water spouts…the water pours from their “throats.”

The term “chimera” is more accurate for the non-functional statues that watch over Paris from Notre-Dame.  “The term chimera has come to describe any mythical or fictional animal with parts taken from various animals, or to describe anything composed of very disparate parts, or perceived as wildly imaginative, implausible, or dazzling.” (Wikipedia)

Call them what you like, but they are, by far, my favorite part of Notre-Dame, and they aren’t quite as old as people might believe.  In the 1790s, during the French Revolution, much of the church’s religious imagery was destroyed (the head’s of several statues were removed because they were associated with those of power in Paris).  However, in 1845, Eugene Violet-le-Duc began a restoration of the cathedral.  “By the mid-19th C., the medieval gargoyles that had protectively spouted water away from the building had deteriorated. Inspired by Victor Hugo’s 1831 book The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Viollet-le-Duc replaced the gargoyles with chimères, as he called them, guardian-demons that, from an architectural viewpoint, are simply decorative.”  (GeorgetownUniversity.edu)  He also added the green apostle statues on the spire seen earlier.

I’ve been searching to see if the chimera have official names, but have thus far been unsuccessful in my endeavor (with one exception).  If, at some later time, I find they have names, I will update this page…

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The one chimera with an official name…Le Stryge (the vampire)…

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I’m putting together a post with nothing but interseting statues, gargoyles, and chimera.  There will be plenty more photos of these guys available later…

In the photo below, if you’d like to know just where the chimera are located, (from the top down) on the second level of each of the two towers, on the extreme left and right you can just make some of the figures out.  (They are actually located on all of the tower corners, but, due to the lack of contrast, those really can’t be seen in this photo.)

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Onward…

We (finally) left Notre-Dame.  Making our way north, we found the Hôtel de Ville, which is the City Hall and houses the Mayor of Paris.  Although the city administration has operated on this site since 1357, the current building was not completed until 1628.  Much of the façade and all of the interior were renovated in the 1870s after a fire swallowed the building from the inside. (Wikipedia)

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We have no idea what was going on in front of the building (probably construction or renovation), but the face of Hôtel de Ville was absolutely covered in sculptures (they’ll make it on my statue page later).

We did manage to get a nice photo of the hall’s spire with France’s flag (often called Tricolor) flying high in the wind…

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And amidst the construction / renovation we were able to get my photo with a chimera.  This thing looked like a real statue even while I was standing right beside it, and there are only a few places in this photo where it looks like what it really is…a picture of the statue.

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Next, we found our way to the Louvre…

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We had already purchased tickets to go into the museum on a different day, so today was just the exterior…but there is absolutely more than enough to see on the outside.

The Louvre Palace was originally built as a fortress in the late 12th century under Philip II. Remnants of the fortress are visible in the basement of the museum (although not really because of, you guessed it…renovation and construction!).  The building was extended many times to form the present Louvre Palace. In 1682, Louis XIV chose the Palace of Versailles for his household, leaving the Louvre primarily as a place to display the royal collection.  As far as palaces go, it must have been a real pain in the keister trying to decide between the Louvre Palace and the Palace of Versailles.  (We took a trip to Versailles later in our adventure, and it’s pretty freaking spectacular.)

The Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture (an art institution) used the building as a residence for artists for 100 years.  It wasn’t until the French Revolution, that the National Assembly decreed the Louvre should be used as a museum to display the nation’s masterpieces.  (Wikipedia)

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See the red building to the left of the pyramids? Know what that is?  The temporary gift shop / bookstore set up while they renovated the current shops. Know when it wasn’t open?  Any of the days we were there…

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“By 1874, the Louvre Palace had achieved its present form of an almost rectangular structure with the Sully Wing to the east containing the oldest parts of the Louvre, the Richelieu Wing to the north, and the Denon Wing, which borders the Seine to the south.  (The photo below shows the Sully Wing on the left, the Richelieu Wing in the center, and the Denon Wing on the right.)  In 1983, the French President proposed the Grand Louvre plan to renovate the building and relocate the Finance Ministry, allowing displays throughout the building. Architect I. M. Pei was awarded the project and proposed a glass pyramid to stand over a new entrance in the main court, the Cour Napoléon.  The pyramid and its underground lobby were inaugurated on October 15, 1988; the pyramid was completed in 1989. The second phase of the Grand Louvre plan, La Pyramide Inversée (The Inverted Pyramid), was completed in 1993.” (Wikipedia)

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I absolutely love that the French adorn the exterior of all of their buildings with statues.  (Brittany and I both love statues!)  And it’s even better when we know who they represent.  Like this guy, Molière (Jean-Baptiste Poquelin)…

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He was a French playwright and actor (best known for his plays Tartuffe, The Miser, and The Misanthrope {I played Alceste in The Misanthrope in college}).  Molière procured a command performance before King Louis XIV (The Sun King) at the Louvre, and through this royal favor brought a royal pension to his troupe and the title Troupe du Roi (“The King’s Troupe”). Molière continued as the official author of court entertainments. (Wikipedia)


Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel

In the Place du Carrousel (a public square at the open end of the Louvre) is the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel.  “It was built between 1806 and 1808 to commemorate Napoleon’s military victories of the previous year. The more famous Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile, was designed in the same year; it is about twice the size and was not completed until 1836.” (Wikipedia)

Around its exterior are eight Corinthian columns of marble, topped by eight soldiers of the Empire.  The horse-drawn chariot atop the arch is a copy of the Horses of Saint Mark that adorn the top of the main door of the St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice.  It was originally topped with the original piece from St. Mark’s Basilica, which had been captured in 1798 by Napoleon. However in 1815, France ceded the sculpture to the Austrian empire. The Austrians immediately returned the statuary to Venice.  The original horses are now inside the basilica, but a copy is also outside of St. Mark’s.  We saw them both on our trip to Venice.

The Arc du Carrousel inspired the design of Marble Arch, constructed in London.  (Which we also saw on Day 3 of our adventure.

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We walked around the Place du Carrousel for quite a while before deciding to head back to the Montmartre.  At the beginning of the twentieth century, many artists had studios or worked in or around Montmartre, including Salvador Dalí, Amedeo Modigliani, Claude Monet, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Piet Mondrian, Pablo Picasso, Camille Pissarro, and Vincent van Gogh.  And though some of the areas where they found inspiration can still be accessed, it’s difficult to find because much of the area is now a tourist-trap with every store offering the same “I heart Paris” design…that’s not to say that we didn’t visit and purchase from these shops…

Mons Martis, Latin for “Mount of Mars”, gallicised (changed to the French language) as Montmartre, signifying ‘mountain of the martyr’; it owes this name to the martyrdom of Saint Denis, who was decapitated on the hill around 250 AD.  (Remember that statue holding its own head from Notre-Dame…that’s him.)

Of course, now the area is known as the home of the Sacré-Cœur, which takes exceptionally beautiful photographs at night…

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Down the hill, in the Pigalle district, we ran into Le Chat Noir, which was a famous bohemian entertainment establishment.  This is the third location of the cabaret, with the second being its most famous.  It’s more of a café now than a nightclub; however, it still displays copies of the famous Théophile Steinlen poster from 1896 on its neon façade.

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So the Boulevard de Clichy (Le Chat Noir and the Moulin Rouge are both on this street) is a pretty lively place at night…well into the night.  Most of the street is lined with peep-shows and other shops advertising all things erotic in nature, but there is the occasional nicety, like crepe stands.  At the stands, vendors make the crepes right in front of you and then fill it with a variety of things (bananas, Nutella, strawberries, etc).  Brittany was really wanting a Nutella crepe while we walked around, so we stopped.  After figuring out how to order (although the stand was built into a food shop, you apparently paid the guy making the crepe, not the man at the cash register inside), we waited behind the lady who was ahead of us in line.  The crepe-man finished making the other lady’s food, and as Brittany and I began to order, a crazy…very strange thing started happening beside us.  A man plopped down at the café table next to us and began blowing his nose all over the sidewalk.  Then another guy appeared with a can of Coca-Cola and began pouring the can into the guy’s face.  The guy getting the coke bath even started cupping his hands to catch the soda to splash it back onto his face.  Obviously our interaction with crepe-man was hindered by soda-man, but then out of nowhere (like Batman meets ninja) two cops appear.  Crepe-man slowly starts to close the window of his stand and Brittany and I slowly start backing away.  THEN…as if all of this wasn’t enough…another guy shows up and starts yelling at the cops in french.  Now, I don’t know many french words, but I understand the tone of words, and his were not nice.  Brittany and I were well on our way away from the situation when yelling-guy starts pushing the cops (who were looking more annoyed than anything else).  It’s funny, as Brittany and I (and several other people who were in the area) began to leave, a whole new group of people were trying to get closer to see what was going on.  We think that soda-man was dowsed with pepper-spray, potentially by yelling-guy.  This led me to a few conclusions.  1) I have no idea what to do if I got hit with pepper-spray…other than cry.  2) The guy helping coke-man didn’t go for water, he went directly for a can of Coca-Cola…is soda better at relieving pepper-spray symptoms than water?  Maybe.  3) If this guy knows soda is better than water than this has happened before, and there was no panic about getting the soda.  So just how many times has his friend been sprayed before?!?  4) Parisian police officers are psychic and know exactly when and where trouble is going to break out.

So the moral of this story…we didn’t get our Nutella crepes…


After not getting Nutella, we continued down Boulevard de Clichy until we finally got to the Moulin Rouge (where we saw the police van go by with yelling-man in the back).  Our goal was to get a really cool motion-blurred picture of the windmill at night, but the windmill actually moves incredibly slowly and the Moulin Rouge is very well lit…so altering the aperture was tricky.  We ended up just getting some good Moulin Rouge night photos.

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As demonstrated by Brittany…

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Oh, and as luck would have it, their was another crepe vendor right in front of the Moulin Rouge…

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…so everything turned out deliciously in the end…


Day 2 in Paris was full of weird excitement (and awesome gargoyles).  Would Day 3 be just as fun?  Find out…

Paris – Day 8 – Churches, Arches, and Towers

Warning:  I’d like to start out by apologizing for the mass amounts of Eiffel Tour pictures included in this blog post, but really…we’re in Paris and the Eiffel Tower is pretty spectacular (magical is the word Brittany used).  So prepare yourself…for there will be Eiffel Tower pictures from every conceivable angle…you’ve been warned…

Now that your warning has been taken care of, having spent seven glorious days  in London (London and Paris), Paris had a lot to live up to.  Sure Paris is the city of lights, the city of romance, the city of love, but London had famous playwrights, stunning architecture, and a queen with an army of corgis.  So could Paris live up to the hype?  In simple terms.  Yes, yes it could…and did.  Although, it didn’t start out with a bang…


Day 1 – Paris – 4/7/2016

After arriving in Paris, finding the way to our apartment (without getting lost!), and climbing to the sixth floor where we were staying, we were given the general lay of the land by our Airbnb host.  One of the things he mentioned was that the apartment building’s door had just received an update, and we would now need a key card to access the building (which he obviously provided).  He asked if we wanted him to show us how it worked, but having just used an identical system in London we told him “no thanks.”  Mistake 1.

I have a Master’s Degree and Brittany is currently working on hers…pretty smart people, right?  Normally yes, but this door was Satan in bright blue, wooden flesh.

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As seen in the photo below, there are three buttons on the right and a latch on the door.  There are also two more button just outside of the picture in the hallway, and two more near the stairs.  What’s with all the buttons?!?

We would eventually push all the aforementioned buttons as we desperately sought escape from the malicious portal, but none of them seemed to do anything (except for the one set near the stairs…they toggled the lights on and off).  Even the button that looked like it had a door on it didn’t do anything!  We pushed buttons, hoping that we weren’t randomly buzzing the other people in the apartment, while at the same time hoping that someone would walk in to free us from the blue and white devil.

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I’d like to pause here for a moment and add a side note or two.  Note 1:  This wasn’t like a quick 30 second “Ah, we’re stuck.”  No, we were probably trying to figure this out for 2-3 minutes.  (No, I’m not proud.)  Note 2:  You might not be able to tell in the above photo, but the silver guard down the middle looks (in person) like it was attached to the left door and made to catch the right door.  Well it wasn’t.  And as it would with a very, very wet log, the fire finally caught, and the light bulb went off in Brittany’s head…pull the door instead of pushing.  Nope.  Okay, how about pushing all the buttons and then pulling?

Glory hallelujah we were free!  (And only feeling slightly like complete idiots!)  (Oh, and just in case you were wondering, the clearly marked door button that we found…it wasn’t the one that opened the blue door.  It opened the back door…that we didn’t even know was there.)

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Mistake 2.  Walking to the Sacré-Cœur…okay…not really a mistake per say, but really, really exhausting…

In the photo below, do you see that blue steeple just to the left of the two white towers in the background…that’s the church near our apartment.  It was all uphill.  When we stopped to take this photo we weren’t quite all the way up the hill to the Sacré-Cœur.

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Sacré-Cœur (Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris)

We did finally manage to make our way up the hill to the Sacré-Cœur.  FYI…the climb to the top of the hill was so steep because, as we would later find out, Montmartre (the area where the Sacré-Cœur is located) is the highest point in the city.

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Construction of the church began in 1875 and was finished in 1914.  According to placards around the church and French Moments, “The project to build the basilica was triggered by a group of influential people who had two good reasons to do so. Firstly, a National Vow was made to build a church if Paris escaped untouched from the war with the Prussians army in 1870-1871. Secondly, the defeat of the French army in 1871 was interpreted as a moral condemnation of the sins of Paris. Authorized by the National Assembly in 1873, the project was to build an imposing Christian church visible from all over Paris.”

So what does that mean?  A vow was made that the French would atone for their sins by building the basilica.  “Alexandre Legentil and Hubert Rohault de Fleury vowed to build a church dedicated to the Sacred Heart “as reparation” (i.e. as penance for infidelity and sin) for they held that the misfortunes of France had spiritual rather than political causes.” (Sacre-Coeur-Montmartre.com)

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For me, it housed some absolutely beautiful gargoyles (more can be seen on our gargoyle page…when I finish it)…

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The entrance to the basilica offered a breathtaking view of Paris…

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The statues overlooking Sacré-Cœur’s front entrance are King Saint Louis IX (on the left) and Joan of Arc (on the right).

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Mistake 3.  See those menacing dark clouds behind the Sacré-Cœur in the above photo.  Yeah…they’re rain clouds.  And not like London rain clouds, where it would rain for a little bit, drizzle for a little bit, and then stop.  No, these were the real deal.  And by the time we got to the bottom of the hill in front of the Sacré-Cœur it was pouring down.  And we didn’t bring our umbrellas…

Luckily it only lasted about thirty minutes…and then it was blue skies…for a little while.  After finding shelter under a few trees and the awnings of some buildings during the rain shower, we headed towards our next Parisian landmark.


Moulin Rouge

The Moulin Rouge (literally translated to red mill) is a cabaret in the Pigalle district of Paris.  The original Moulin Rouge was founded in 1889 and burned down in 1915.  Famously attended and drawn by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, it is best known as the spiritual birthplace of the modern form of the can-can dance.  Although, in modern days, it is best known for the 2001 film Moulin Rouge! by Baz Luhrmann starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor. (Wikipedia) (Also known as one of Brittany’s favorite movies ever)

Don’t worry, we came back and took some photos at night.  We were going to have dinner and see a show, but with tickets running between 90 and 450 €, we thought better of it…

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As Grover would say…near…

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Far…

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Even their subway entrances were designed artistically…

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But since it was turning into such a nice day, we decided to skip the Metro and walk.


We had a destination in mind, but before we got there we found this little gem of a park.

Parc Moceau

This 20.3 acre park was established by “Phillippe d’Orléans. In 1769 he had begun purchasing the land where the park is located. In 1778, he decided to create a public park, and employed the writer and painter Louis Carrogis Carmontelle to design the gardens.” (Wikipedia)

This is a photo of the park’s rotunda entrance…

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Brittany and I thought this park was absolutely amazing.  It seemed to have elements of several different time periods scattered about.  Well, there was a reason for that.

“His intention was to create what was then called an Anglo-Chinese or English garden…with its examples of the architectural folly, or fantastic reconstructions of buildings of different ages and continents.”

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“Finished in 1779, the park contained a miniature Egyptian pyramid, a Roman colonnade, antique statues, a pond of water lilies, a tatar tent, a farmhouse, a Dutch windmill, a temple of Mars, a minaret, an Italian vineyard, an enchanted grotto, and “a gothic building serving as a chemistry laboratory,” as described by Carmontelle.”

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It was absolutely beautiful…and anything but ordinary…

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After leaving the garden, we found that previously mentioned destination…

Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile (Triumphal Arch of the Star)

The Arc de Triomphe was commissioned in 1806 after the victory at Austerlitz by Emperor Napoleon at the peak of his fortunes, but it would not be completed until the reign of King Louis-Philippe, between 1833 and 1836. On 15 December 1840, brought back to France from Saint Helena, Napoleon’s remains passed under it on their way to the Emperor’s final resting place at the Invalides.  Prior to burial in the Panthéon, the body of Victor Hugo was displayed under the Arc during the night of 22 May 1885.  (Wikipedia)

The arch from Avenue Hoche…

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

Pictures cannot do this arch justice.  It is, quite simply, massive.  You can get a bit of perspective from the above and below photos by looking at the size of the people near the base of the arch.  “The monument stands 164 ft in height, 148 ft wide, and 72 ft deep.  Its design was inspired by the Roman Arch of Titus (which we saw). The Arc de Triomphe is built on such a large scale that, three weeks after the Paris victory parade in 1919 (marking the end of hostilities in World War I), Charles Godefroy flew his biplane through it.”

The arch from Avenue Foch…

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It was pretty spectacular just to stand and look at it…

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The inner ceiling of the arch is decorated with 21 elaborately sculpted roses…

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A detailed shot of one rose…

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“The four sculptural groups at the base of the Arc are The Triumph of 1810 (Cortot), Resistance and Peace (both by Antoine Étex) and the most renowned of them all, Departure of the Volunteers of 1792 commonly called La Marseillaise (François Rude).”

La Paix de 1815 (Peace of 1815)…commemorates the Treaty of Paris, concluded in that year.

“It shows a man putting his sword back into his scabbard, under the protection of Minerva, the Roman warrior goddess. Behind the man, visitors can see the peasants going back to their ordinary daily work. Since the fall of Napoleon in 1815, this sculpture has been interpreted as a celebration of the peace that followed his defeat.”

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La Résistance de 1814 (Resistance of 1814)…commemorates the French resistance to the Allied armies during the War of the Sixth Coalition.

“This sculpture shows a naked soldier defending his family, urged on by the Roman goddess of future, Antevorte.”

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Le Triomphe de 1810 (The Triumph)…celebrates the Treaty of Schönbrunn. This group features Napoleon, crowned by the goddess of Victory.

“In the middle stands a statue of Napoleon, as he just conquered another town who surrendered at his feet. “The Triumph” also features the Roman goddess of victory, Victoria, crowning Napoleon with a crown of wreath. In the back stands a historian, inscribing Napoleons new conquering into a stone tablet.”

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Le Départ de 1792 (or La Marseillaise {La Marseillaise is the French National Anthem) (Departure of the Volunteers of 1792)…celebrates the cause of the French First Republic during the August 10 uprising. Above the volunteers is the winged personification of Liberty. This group served as a recruitment tool in the early months of World War I and encouraged the French to invest in war loans in 1915–16.

“The most famous one “La Marseillaise”. This sculpture was made by François Rude and depicts the French people rallying against enemies from abroad. The citizens, who you can see is it both nude and in classical armor, are united under the Roman goddess of war, Bellona.” (All statue quotes from Wikipedia and WorldSiteGuides.com)

A detailed look at this sculpture shows why it is the most famous…

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Fear or perhaps hesitancy shown in the faces…

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Terror or pain…

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Even a few items in the background that can’t quite be made out…

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But the main energy comes from the goddess’s face…so intense…

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And a final shot before we left…

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Again, we really enjoyed the minute details that went into making this city special…like this other Metro sign…(even though, as you can see in the photo, dark clouds are starting to roll in again)

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We could see the top of the Eiffel Tower from the Arc de Triomphe, and having quite a bit of my father in my blood, I suggested we walk to the tower since it couldn’t be very far if we could see it from where we were (even though it looked like it was about to start pouring down any moment).  Mistake 4.

So we walked, and walked, and walked…but we did (eventually) make it to the tower without getting rained on.

Tour Eiffel (Eiffel Tower)

So the Eiffel Tower is a landmark, right?  But why?  It’s just iron and rivets…well, yes…but it’s also creativity…imagination…inspiration…beauty.

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“The tower is named after the engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower.  Constructed in 1889 as the entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair, it was initially criticized by some of France’s leading artists and intellectuals for its design, but it has become a global cultural icon of France and one of the most recognizable structures in the world.  The Eiffel Tower is the most-visited paid monument in the world.”  (Wikipedia)

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And we were there…

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Yep, still there…

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A detailed view from the underside of the tower, showing the first floor (which contains a restaurant and areas with glass floors…still nope)…

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At this point the rain finally caught up with us again, and we had to take shelter in a shop at the base of one of the tower’s feet.  A heavy rain fell for about 20 minutes, but after that it cleared for the rest of the afternoon and evening.

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We even got a rainbow to go along with our tower pictures…

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There are several tourist spots in Paris (Eiffel Tower, Louvre, and Sacré-Cœur to name a few) where junk vendors will ask you to buy their goods over and over and over again.  And the rain didn’t keep these guys away for long.  They sell all sorts of goods; everything from Eiffel Tower keychains to large Eiffel Tower statues, umbrellas to glowing toys, hats to roses, bottles of beer to bottles of champagne.  Some of the deals even seem like a bargain, for instance, you can get 5 Eiffel Tower keychains for €1…not bad.  But I’m not real sure about the quality (or legality) of the items.  I say this because of what happened after the rain stopped at the tower.  The vendors approach every few seconds, offering a “free” rose, or trying to explain their deal, and you can hear them coming because they keep all of the hundred or so Eiffel Tower keychains on one giant ring.  So as Brittany and I were crossing the road (with heavy traffic) trying to find a dry(ish) spot to sit and admire the tower, we hear a chorus of jangling sounds coming towards us from behind.  Even before we could turn to see where the sound was coming from, individual vendors began darting past us, running across the street without bothering to look out for traffic.  It was like being in the middle of a herd of gazelles that were being chased by a lion.  We did finally look around to see what was going on, but we saw no sign of impending predator (lion or otherwise).  And, I swear this to you, by the time we turned back around to cross the street…there were no vendors anywhere to be found.  It was like they had disappeared in the few seconds it took us to turn our heads.  We crossed the street and finally managed to see the “lions.”  Two police officers crossed not far behind us.  They casually walked past and headed down a set of steps that led to a river-walk of the Seine River.  Curiosity got the best of us (even though we all know what it did to the cat), and we walked to the edge of the bridge where we could see the river-walk.  In one giant huddled mass was all of the vendors that had fled so frantically only moments before…and now they were just standing there while the police officers talked to them.  Why had they all stopped running?  Did they think that going down to the river-walk would somehow make them magically invisible to the officers?  We would never find out.  After watching for a short time, one of the vendors (apparently their designated leader) stepped out of the group and started talking to the officers.  Not being able to fluently speak French, we had no idea what they were discussing, but the vendor was frantically explaining something.  As I’m writing this, a week or so after the occurrence, we still have no idea why the vendors did what they did.  Is selling random goods illegal?  Were they pickpocketing tourists while pretending to sell them something?  Where the goods stolen?  No idea, but it was rather funny to watch.  Similar incidents happened a few times during our stay in Paris, and we started noticing that all the vendors displayed their merchandise on mats with handles that could be easily picked up for a speedy departure.

Sorry about the side story, but it’s something I want to remember.

Anyway…we found a few benches drying in the warm sunlight and stopped to admire the Eiffel Tower.  “The tower is 1,063 ft tall, about the same height as an 81-story building, and the tallest structure in Paris.”  As detailed previously, the first level has a restaurant.  There’s one on the second level as well.  Both of those levels can be accessed either by stairs or by elevators.  The top level, which can usually only be accessed by elevators, is an observation deck.

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With the sun now shining bright, we headed back under the tower to get a few more detail pictures.  Like this one, which shows part of the pulley system used to operate the elevators…

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And this one, which shows a system of stairs on the first level…

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You were warned…we’re tourists…and tourists take lots of photos of the Eiffel Tower…

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As told by Wikipedia, the tower was built for the World’s Fair in 1889, but it only had a 20 year permit.  The permit stated that it was to be dismantled in 1909, when its ownership would revert to the City of Paris. The City had planned to tear it down (part of the original contest rules for designing a tower was that it should be easy to dismantle) but as the tower proved to be valuable for communication purposes, it was allowed to remain after the expiry of the permit.  I’m pretty sure the city is glad it wasn’t dismantled in 1909.

A view of the tower from the Champ de Mars (the large park area on the south-eastern side of the tower).  Take note of the precise square trimming of the trees in front of the tower…

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After taking a few photos from the Champ de Mars side, we headed back over to the other side (known as the Jardins du Trocadéro {Gardens of Trocadero}) where we could get on a Metro to go home.

But you can’t pass up photo opportunities.  Like Brittany being the good little tourist…(FYI…it only took about 20 tries to get this photo of Brittany and her beard…)

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Or taking a photo of the tower with some beautiful flowers…

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Or the tower with the Fountain of Warsaw…

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Or some artistic (or artistically-challenged depending on your view) shots as L’Homme (the man) sits and daydreams about the tower…

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And Flora, goddess of flowers and Spring…

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We decided to find a nice, local bottle of wine and then a grocery store, where we could get cheese, crackers, and deli meat to have a simple meal at home on our first night.  However, the combination of not being able to find a grocery store (thanks map app) and the desire to see the Eiffel Tower at night meant that we ended up finding a nice spot at the Jardins du Trocadéro to sit and wait for the sun to go down.

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It was about 7:20PM at the time, so Mistake 5 was thinking that we would only have to wait 30-45 minutes for it to get dark.  When 8:45 rolled around, and it was still light enough to clearly see everything around us, we began to wonder if Paris, the City of Lights, was named so because it never got dark.

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By 9PM it was finally dark, which is good, because that’s when they made the tower sparkle.  Thousands of lights twinkle around the tower for a span of five minutes.  And for those five minutes, you really and truly understand why Paris is special…

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Adding a bit of a time delay to the camera allows for a better idea of just how many twinkles we’re actually talking about here…

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Since we use the free version of WordPress, I can’t actually upload a video of the tower at night; however, we uploaded a clip on youtube that can be seen at Eiffel Tower Twinkling.


So yes, day 1 in Paris was full of “mistakes,” but it also made it quite clear to us why the city is considered one of the most beautiful and romantic places to visit.

See you in Day 2 of Paris (Day 8 of our overall journey of London and Paris)…

London – Day 7 – The Final Day

For days 1-6 of our London excursion, see the page London and Paris.

Bus tours, a river tour, and some good old fashioned walking have led us to many of the most famous parts of London, so on Day 7 we wanted to just kind of take it easy (yeah right).


Day 7 – London – 4/6/2016

What better way to start the day than picking up on our river-walk down the Victoria Embankment.  This is the day that will probably be remembered by Brittany and I as the day that was warm…then it rained and got warmer…then it rained and got colder…then got warm…then cold…and so on and so forth…

We started the day off by seeing a mounted trooper of the Household Cavalry on duty at Horse Guards (the formal entrance to St. Jame’s Palace – a palace built by Henry VIII near the future location of Buckingham Palace).

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And then we just strolled around for a while.  The next photo is included because it shows off the very unique (and distinct) architecture found throughout much of London.  Large, ornate building…small, ornate building…plain building…small, ornate…and so on…

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And once again back on the Victoria Embankment walk, we entered the City of London (facing the dragon means entering the city).

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We eventually made it (through rain, rain, sun, and more rain) to a spot our tour bus guide had pointed out…the City of London School.  Established in 1843 (though its roots go back as far as 1444), it was moved to its current location in 1986.  The school has produced many exceptional people like writer Jonathan Keates and actor Daniel Radcliffe.  There are four statues on the front of the building emphasizing the schools literary and scientific traditions.

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William Shakespeare, of course…English poet and playwright…

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John Milton…English poet, polemicist (nicely…someone who likes to debate), and man of letters…

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Sir Isaac Newton…English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist, and theologian…

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And BACON!!!  I mean…Sir Francis Bacon…English philosopher and statesman…

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Apparently Sir Thomas More…English lawyer, social philosopher, author, statesman and noted Renaissance humanist…is all alone on the other side of the building, but we didn’t see him…

And with their powers combined they can summon Captain Planet! (Maybe a little G.I. Joe reference would have been better here since “Now I now!” about these guys, “And knowing is half the battle!”….oh, and since “Knowledge is power” is actually a Francis Bacon quote…well, now you know, and knowing is half the battle…G.I. Joe…okay, I’m done…)


Well after all that…whatever that was…we kept going following the Thames until it led us to The Black Friar pub.  According to their website, “Our historic Art Nouveau masterpiece of a pub was built in 1905 on the site of a Dominican friary. The building was designed by architect H. Fuller-Clark and artist Henry Poole, both committed to the free-thinking of the Arts and Crafts Movement. Jolly friars appear everywhere in the pub in sculptures, mosaics and reliefs.”

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And just one of the jolly friars previously mentioned…

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With a few more on the inside…

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And a couple of pints to go with them…

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After our drinks, we stepped into the blistery wind and tried to figure out what to do next.  Why didn’t we do that from inside the pub you ask?  No idea…no idea.  Anyway, we decided to head to another museum that was in the area.

Right outside of The Black Friar, I saw this sign…no significance…just thought it was funny and wanted to share…

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Our journey took us back near St. Paul’s Cathedral…this time near the south façade.

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Museum of London

And our destination…the Museum of London…

The Museum of London is a history museum located on the London Wall.  (The London Wall was the defensive wall first built by the Romans around Londinium {London}.  There are now just a few remains of the wall around the city.)  The museum documents the history of London from prehistoric to modern times. (Wikipedia)

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The museum was FULL of students who all seemed to be either diligently working on assignments or just hanging out…both of which involved clumping in large groups in narrow hallways.  It was rather difficult to navigate through the bottlenecks this created.

The museum did have a few really interesting items, though.  This next photo overlooks the London Wall, but it is situated in a floor made to look like Victorian London…very fun to walk through.

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The placard with this book lists it as “The Works of Goffray (Geoffrey) Chaucer newlye printed by Richard Grafton in 1542.”

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And this is a Peter Pan costume from 1911. The placard reads “This costume was worn by Pauline Chase who played the lead role in Peter Pan in 1911.  The play was first performed in 1904.  It was an immediate hit, returning to the West End every Christmas season.”

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Beatles dress, 1964  “Worn by Pauline Richey when selling programs at the premiere of the Beatles’ film A Hard Day’s Night at the London Pavilion in 1964.”

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The Lord Mayor’s State Coach.  Built in 1757 for the Lord Mayor’s procession, and it has been used ever since.

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And finally, a special exhibit dedicated to the 2012 London Olympics.  This piece is called the Cauldron and was the centerpiece of the London Games.

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The cauldron room was pretty dark so we had some fun with the camera…

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…and more fun taking pictures of the cauldron on different settings…

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Outside of the museum, it was hard to pass up such an interesting insignia of the city…

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And here we have the previously mentioned remains of the London Wall…

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For Brittany and I, having just come from Italy (and Rome itself), seeing remnants of just how far Roman rule spread was astounding…we were able to see this same kind of thing in Paris as well, but we’ll get to that.


Leaving the museum, we were once again burdened with the fact that we had no more plan.  However, there was something we had both talked about making sure to see.  So we found the Leadenhall Market on our map app and stated that way…(aka…we wandered around lost…which is cool…(because Elijah doesn’t like to follow my directions))

We randomly stumbled upon this sculpture called The City Wing.  We didn’t really stop too long to admire it, but I thought it was really amazing.  According to Waymarking.com, the sculpture “stands at the eastern entrance to Threadneedle Walk at its junction with Old Broad Street.”  The 33 foot tall statue “represents the wing of a bird.”

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Leadenhall Market “is one of the oldest markets in London, dating from the 14th century, and is located on what was the center of Roman London.  The ornate roof structure and cobbled floors of the current structure, designed in 1881 by Sir Horace Jones, make Leadenhall Market a tourist attraction.” (Wikipedia)

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Now, the market is extremely beautiful…

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…and quite ornate…

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…it even has a few dragons hanging about…

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…But the real reason we wanted to see Leadenhall Market?  It was used as The Leaky Cauldron and Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter films.

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A shop now used by an optometrist just outside of the market served as the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron.

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I gave it two thumbs up…

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And then we were off again.  This time we headed to the infamous Pudding Lane.  Why Pudding Lane?  Well, according to our tour guide, the Great Fire of London in 1666 started in a bakery, Thomas Farriner’s, on Pudding Lane.  The Great Fire of London “consumed 13,200 houses, 87 parish churches, St Paul’s Cathedral and most of the buildings of the City authorities. It is estimated to have destroyed the homes of 70,000 of the City’s 80,000 inhabitants.” (Wikipedia)

Monument to the Great Fire of London (or more commonly called the Monument)

Constructed between 1671 and 1677, the Monument is a 202 foot tall column commemorating the fire.  It was designed by Sir Christopher Wren, and stands 202 feet from where the fire originally started.  It is topped with a gilded urn of fire.

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Our path started developing in our wanderings, mainly one that would lead us near an Underground station to get home later in the night.

We walked by St. Magnus the Martyr, which is a church near the Monument.  The original church was destroyed by the fire of 1666, but (surprise) Sir Christoper Wren built its replacement.  Our bus tour guide said that this was the most haunted church in London.

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Our walk also led us to All Hallows-by-the-Tower.  “Founded in 675, it is one of the oldest churches in London, and contains inside a 7th-century Anglo-Saxon arch with recycled Roman tiles, the oldest surviving piece of church fabric in the city.  John Quincy Adams, sixth president of the United States, was married in this church (it is the only marriage of a U.S. President that occurred on foreign soil).” (Wikipedia)

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And though I’m planning a post dedicated to nothing but the gargoyles and interesting statues seen on this trip, I couldn’t resist showing a few from All Hallows-by-the-Tower…

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Brittany standing by All Hallows-by-the-Tower looking…cool…and as she puts it “like a Spice Girl”…

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Near the Tower of London we found a shop that sold stamps.  So we let our postcards fly…

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Note: As of April 21st, the day I’m actually writing this post, which is 15 days after this photo was taken…only one postcard has been received…sigh…

And since I’m taking a break to talk about the actual date…Happy 90th Birthday to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II!!!


We stopped at the Starbucks (as seen in the postcard photo) to warm up and take a bathroom break…I was not amused…

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And by the time we were finished, the sun was down allowing us to get some pictures of Tower Bridge and the Tower of London at night.

Tower Bridge…

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Tower of London (with the Shard in the background on the left and the Cheese Grater in the background on the right)…

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Tower of London with the Tower Bridge…

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We took the Underground from Tower Hill to Embankment so that we could get one last good look at the city.

London at night from the Golden Jubilee bridge looking east…

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The London Eye with a nearby carousel…

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Well, that completes our seven days in London.  While we didn’t get to see everything (Cardiff, Liverpool, Greenwich, Stratford-upon-Avon, just to name a few), we saw enough to wet our appetites.  London is a beautiful city with plenty of things to keep a person busy.  It’s simultaneously antique and modern in a way that is somehow seamlessly blended.  Hopefully, one day, we’ll get the opportunity to return.

Thanks for going on part 1 of this adventure with us.  We hope to see you in part 2, which is the Paris portion of the trip.  We’ll delve into landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, Sacré-Coeur, Notre Dame, the Catacombs of Paris, Versailles, and plenty more…

For more information about our trip, please see the page London and Paris.

London – Day 6 – A Big Hullabaloo

The London portion of our adventure is finally nearing an end.  So far we have The Whole of London (Day 1), East London (2), Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens (3), Taking a Ride on a Big Red Bus (4), and Doctors and Museums (5).  As promised in Doctors and Museums, this post will take us back to the National Gallery, but there’s this other big hullabaloo we wanted to see first…


Day 6 – London – 4/5/2016

Our big plans for the day?  See the Changing of the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace and finish walking around the National Gallery.

Those plans start and end at the same location…Trafalgar Square.  So we headed to the square, got a cup of coffee and biscuit…(and a couple of quick pictures with the lions of Nelson’s Column)…

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…and then headed down The Mall toward Buckingham Palace.

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Changing of the Guard Ceremony

Our Big Red Bus tour guide had informed us that if we wanted to see the ceremony we needed to get there at least an hour early for prime seats.  The ceremony begins at 11:30AM, and we actually got there before 10:30, but as you can see in the photo below…there were already a lot of people there…

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Without much trouble we managed to get a good standing spot (about the third person deep) near the fence, and we stood there waiting for a little over an hour.  We didn’t have any problems until right at 11:30…then everyone started trying to rush and push there way to the front.  I really, really hate that too.  I’m tall, so I naturally make an effort to stand near the back (or around a pole or something…something that’s already blocking the view), but when people wait until the last minute and force their way…not happy memories.

The ceremony itself was…okay.  There were so many people pushing and shoving, trying to get a good view of the Queen’s Guard who were…standing there…

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There were a few times when the guard would march their way into the palace (or ride in on horses), but when this happened, all those latecomers who forced their way to the front forced their way to the street side of the event…

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And then there was more standing…

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…and then more standing…

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…followed by marching a few steps…to stand some more.  Things were being said, and certain guard members were constantly moving, but I couldn’t really tell what was going on.

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Until the marching band came in.  They were fun to watch for a song or two…

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After waiting over an hour and seeing about 30 minutes of the ceremony, Brittany and I had decided that we had been pushed and shoved entirely too much and decided it was time to go before everyone else decided it was time to go.  Overall, I’d say if you do want to see the ceremony, get there early enough to sit on the steps of the fountain or stand pretty far back.  We watched a bit more of it from way back, and had a much more pleasant experience…

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It also gave us time to get a better picture of the Victoria Memorial in front of the palace.  This is Winged Victory with Constancy and Courage.

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And another view of the mass amount of people at the ceremony…

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Walking back down The Mall, we stopped to get a photo of the statues of the Queen Mother (Queen Elizabeth II’s mother).  “Standing next to the bronze statue of her husband, King George VI, this national memorial to The Queen Mother, who died in 2002 aged 101, was unveiled by Her Majesty The Queen in February 2009.” (Royalparks.org.uk)

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And King George VI .  “This bronze memorial features a statue of the king dressed in naval uniform, standing on a plinth of Portland stone. It was unveiled by Her Majesty the Queen in 1955.”  (Royalparks.org.uk)

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Trafalgar Square and National Gallery

The Mall led us back to Trafalgar Square for our reentrance to the National Gallery.  I don’t think I mentioned this in my previous post about the museum, but it’s free to get in, which is very nice since most other things in London are relatively expensive.

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A close up of one of the fountains, which were added in 1845. The mermaids, dolphins, and tritons (the male figures with tails like fish) were installed later.  (London.gov.uk)

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And a better shot of the Fourth Plinth.  The sculpture on this plinth is changed periodically by a city commission.  The current statue, Gift Horse, has been on display since March 5, 2015, but will be changed later on this year.

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A view of Nelson’s Column and the two fountains of Trafalgar Square from the National Gallery entrance…

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Back inside the National Gallery, we continue with some of our favorite pieces.  The wings missed on the previous day turned out to contain much more modern artists…


Title:  Princess Pauline de Metternich

Artist:  Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas

Date:  about 1865

Info:  Oil on canvas.  From the painting’s placard, “Degas based this portrait of the princess, a fashionable figure of the day, on a photograph of 1860 showing the sitter and her husband.  Literally translating the effects of photography into painting, Degas slightly smeared the princess’s face to suggest a lack of optical focus.”

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Title:  Portrait of Greta Moll

Artist:  Henri Matisse

Date:  1908

Info:  Oil on canvas.  “Margareta (Greta) Moll (1884-1977) was a sculptor and painter.  She and her husband, Oskar, were students at Matisse’s Academy and eventually acquired an important group of his works.  Greta posed over a period of ten days although Matisse reworked the picture after seeing a portrait by Veronese in the Louvre.”

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Title:  After the Bath, Woman drying herself

Artist:  Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas

Date:  about 1890-5

Info:  Pastel on wove paper laid on millboard.  “Aided by photography, Degas was able to capture the female body in awkward contortions.  In the late 1880s and 1890s he produced many such nudes.  Here he has exploited the flexibility of the pastel medium, creating sumptuous textures and blurred contours that emphasize the movement of the figure.”

This piece is one of my favorites, but it also holds a special place in my heart because a copy of it hangs on my wall when in the States.  The copy is not a Degas copy, but rather one that my mother, Connie, did in class.  It’s really interesting to see famous pieces of art in museums when so many of those same pieces hung on my walls growing up…replicated with extreme precision.  It also really makes me appreciate just how talented of an artist my mother really is.

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A close up to emphasize the use of pastels…

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Title:  Emile Bernard

Artist:  Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Date:  1886

Info:  Oil on canvas.  Toulouse-Lautrec’s fellow art student Emile Bernard sat 20 times for this portrait.  It was common for students to sit for each other.  Bernard also drew a sketch of Lautrec.  This portrait, which was subsequently give to the sitter, was probably painted in 1886 when Lautrec moved into his studio in Montmartre, Paris.”  We found this piece interesting because it’s so different from the Toulouse-Lautrec pieces you normally see.  Also, it’s funny that a classroom sketch ends up hanging on a museum wall.

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Title:  Long Grass with Butterflies

Artist:  Vincent van Gogh

Date:  1890

Info:  Oil on canvas.  Van Gogh painted this in the gardens of the asylum at St-Rémy near Arles where, he noted, ‘the grass grows tall and unkempt.’  Single black strokes on top of patches of bright green highlight the most untidy areas of vegetation.  The unusual vista is framed by a white path and a line of trees, which are abruptly cut off from view at the top of the canvas.”

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Title:  Sunflowers

Artist:  Vincent van Gogh

Date:  1888

Info:  Oil on canvas.  “Van Gogh associated the color yellow with hope and friendship.  He suggested that his four Sunflowers canvases, painted to decorate his house in Arles, express an ‘idea symbolizing gratitude.’  He seems to have been especially pleased with this picture, which he hung in the guest bedroom in anticipation of the arrival of his friend, the artist Paul Gauguin.”  It really is spectacular to see some of these paintings up close, especially the works by Van Gogh.  This piece is bright, vibrant, full of life, and amazing to look at…

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A close up of his signature…

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An extreme close up for brush stroke detail…

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Title:  Farm near Auvers

Artist:  Vincent van Gogh

Date:  1890

Info:  Oil on canvas.  “Van Gogh loved the ‘mossy thatched roofs’ which he saw near his last home at Auvers, close to Paris.  A row of dilapidated farm buildings dominates this picture, made a month before the artist’s death.  Their shapes are mimicked by the fields and hills behind.  The hasty brushwork and blank sky suggest that the painting is unfinished.”

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Title:  Music in the Tuileries Gardens

Artist:  Edouard Manet

Date:  1862

Info:  Oil on canvas.  “Manet’s first major painting of modern life depicts a fashionable Parisian crowd.  It includes Manet himself on the far left and such friends as the poet Charles Baudelaire and the painter Henri Fantin-Latour, gathered in the Tuileries, apparently for a concert.  Several figures engage with our gaze, as if we too are part of the social throng.”

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Title:  The Gare St-Lazare

Artist:  Claude Monet

Date:  1877

Info:  Oil on canvas.  “This is one of 12 pictures of the train station in Paris that Monet painted on the spot.  The view is from inside the station, looking west.   Two locomotives make steam as passengers disembark.  A third train disappears under the bridge on the left.”

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Title:  The Beach at Trouville

Artist:  Claude Monet

Date:  1870

Info:  Oil on canvas.  “Money painted this sketch of his wife, on the left, and a friend while on honeymoon in the summer of 1870.  He worked in the open air.  Grains of sand and shell from the beach are still embedded in the paint surface.”

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Title:  Bathers at Asnières

Artist:  Georges Seurat

Date:  1884

Info:  Oil on canvas.  “Asnières is a suburb of Paris.  On the right is the island of the Grande Jatte and in the distance, the factories of Clichy.  Seurat reworked parts of the picture, such as the hat of the boy on the right, probably in 1886 after he had invented the technique of using dots of contrasting color to create a vibrant, luminous effect.  The work is based on numerous preparatory drawings and oil sketches.”  I have included several close ups of this image to emphasize the technique described in the placard.

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Title:  Bathers at La Grenouillère

Artist:  Claude Monet

Date:  1869

Info:  Oil on canvas. “Monet and Renoir spent the summer of 1869 working at this popular café and bathing place on the Seine near Bougival.  Monet probably set up his easel on a platform in front of the café.  In the center of the picture, figures stand on a narrow wooden walkway.  In the background, bathers crowd into a swimming area.”

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Title:  The Water-Lily Pond

Artist:  Claude Monet

Date:  1899

Info:  Oil on canvas.  “Monet’s water garden included an arched bridge in the Japanese style over a pond created ‘for the purpose of cultivating aquatic plants.’  In 1899, once the garden had matured, the painter undertook 17 views of the motif under differing light conditions.  Surrounded by luxuriant foliage, the bridge is seen here from the pond itself, among an artful arrangement of reeds and willow leaves.”

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A wall of Monet pieces with The Water-Lily Pond in view…

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Title:  At the Theatre (La Première Sortie)

Artist:  Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Date:  1876-7

Info:  Oil on canvas.  “A young girl and her chaperone are seated in a theatre box.  They, not the stage, are the subject of the artist’s and the audience’s attention.  The bright gold of the box emphasizes their separation from the audience.  It also makes a deliberate contrast with their blue dresses.”  Sorry…didn’t notice the blue glare while taking the photo.

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Title:  The Virgin on the Rocks

Artist:  Leonardo da Vinci

Date:  about 1491-1508

Info:  Oil on wood.  “The Virgin holds out her hand above the Christ Child.  Supported by an angel, Christ blesses his cousin, the infant Saint John the Baptist, who can be identified by his cross and scroll.  The rocky setting may refer to the world at the dawn on time, or to the desert in which Christ lived after his flight into Egypt, or both.  In 1483, Leonardo and two Milanese painters were asked to gild and paint an altarpiece for the chapel of the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception in San Francesco, Milan, and to provide its main panel.  Financial disputes with the confraternity caused Leonardo’s first version of the composition (now in the Louvre, Paris) to be sold elsewhere and significantly delayed completion of this second version.  Still unfinished in places, it was finally installed and paid for in 1508.”  We actually missed this on our first trip to the National Gallery and went back to see it, hence the discrepancy in time.  Also, I don’t get a chance to read all of the placards (that’s why I take a picture of them) so it was really confusing to see this piece at the National Gallery and the Louvre.

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We left the National Gallery again and decided to walk to a comic book store, Forbidden Planet.  As usual, the trek offered us some interesting sights.

Like another view of floating Yoda…

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A shot of the National Gallery and a bit of Trafalgar Square full of people…

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The Agatha Christie Memorial by St. Martin’s Cross…

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The Palace Theatre

Opened in 1891 by Richard D’Oyly Carte, producer of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas, as a home of English grand opera, but quickly became a variety house.  The Marx Brothers performed at the theatre in 1922.  The Sound of MusicJesus Christ SuperstarLes Misérables, and Monty Python’s Spamalot have all played there.  Andrew Lloyd Webber bought the theatre in 1983 and by 1991 had refurbished it.  The next production houses at the Palace Theatre – JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

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We decided to head back to the Buckingham Palace area so that we could walk the palace’s outer wall.  At the entrance to the Royal Mews (combined stables, carriage house, and garage) we found some nice statues.  “The Lion and the Unicorn are symbols of the United Kingdom. They are, properly speaking, heraldic supporters appearing in the full Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom. The lion stands for England and the unicorn for Scotland. The combination therefore dates back to the 1603 accession of James I of England who was already James VI of Scotland.”  (Wikipedia)

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While in the area, we decided to head over to a pub we had seen while on the bus tour.

The Shakespeare

A classic London pub opposite Victoria train station, the pub was originally named after William Shakespeare’s father…

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…but it really didn’t matter to us…because it was closed for renovation the whole week…

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With that destination utterly crushed, we headed back to the Thames to find yet another sight we had seen on our bus tour.  We headed back to the Palace of Westminster to get our bearings.

I just felt like we should have at least one picture of the Underground sign.  This one is from the Westminster Station…

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And of course, you can’t pass up a chance to snap a picture of Big Ben while you’re there…

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We started our river walk down the Thames on the Victoria Embankment (part of the north bank that runs from the Palace of Westminster to Blackfriars Bridge) and quickly ran into our fist item of interest…The Royal Air Force Memorial.  The memorial was officially unveiled on July 16, 1923, and is “dedicated to the memory of the casualties of the Royal Air Force in World War I (and, by extension, all subsequent conflicts).”  The stone pylon is “topped by zodiacal globe bearing a gilded eagle, taken from the RAF’s badge, with raised wings, facing east towards the River Thames and nominally towards France.” (Wikipedia)

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Both sides of the river embankments (Victoria Embankment and Albert Embankment) are lined with these lions.  According to SecretLondon.co.uk they are called the Thames Lions, “These lion heads line both sides of the Embankment, staring out over the River Thames. Their mouths hold mooring rings and it is said that if the lions drink, London will flood. They were sculpted by Timothy Butler for Bazalgette’s great sewage works in 1868-70.”

Kylriverthames adds, a rhyme helps to remember how to keep watch on the lions – “When the lions drink, London will sink. When it’s up to their manes, we’ll go down the drains.”

As you can see, the water line is well below lions while we were there…

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I’m also working on a blog post that contains as many of the statues and gargoyles found on our trip that I can fit onto a page.  As you can imagine, there will be lots of lions.

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Eventually we reached our destination, Cleopatra’s Needle

The obelisk is “made of red granite, stands about 69 ft high, weighs about 224 tons and is inscribed with Egyptian hieroglyphs. It was originally erected in the Egyptian city of Heliopolis on the orders of Thutmose III, around 1450 BC. The inscriptions were added about 200 years later by Ramesses II to commemorate his military victories.”  (Wikipedia)

“Cleopatra’s Needle is the popular name for each of three Ancient Egyptian obelisks re-erected in London, Paris, and New York City during the nineteenth century.  The obelisks in London and New York are a pair, and the one in Paris is also part of a pair originally from a different site in Luxor, where its twin remains. Although all three needles are genuine Ancient Egyptian obelisks, their shared nickname is a misnomer, as they have no connection with Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt, and were already over a thousand years old in her lifetime.” (Wikipedia)

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On erection of the obelisk in 1878, a time capsule was concealed in the front part of the pedestal containing: a set of 12 photographs of the best-looking English women of the day, a box of hairpins, a box of cigars, several tobacco pipes, a set of imperial weights, a baby’s bottle, some children’s toys, a shilling razor, a hydraulic jack and some samples of the cable used in the erection, a 3′ bronze model of the monument, a complete set of contemporary British coins, a rupee, a portrait of Queen Victoria, a written history of the transport of the monument, plans on vellum, a translation of the inscriptions, copies of the Bible in several languages, a copy of John 3:16 in 215 languages, a copy of Whitaker’s Almanack, a Bradshaw Railway Guide, a map of London and copies of 10 daily newspapers.” (Wikipedia)

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“Cleopatra’s Needle is flanked by two faux-Egyptian sphinxes.  These sphinxes appear to be looking at the Needle rather than guarding it, due to the sphinxes’ improper or backwards installation.” (Wikipedia)

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This plaque also gives some interesting information…

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The shrapnel damage seen in the photo below (on the pedestal of the obelisk) can also be seen at the bottom right in the first photo of Cleopatra’s Needle.

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The close up shrapnel damage on the right-hand of the sphinx can also be seen in the above full photo of the sphinx.

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With no further destination in mind, we set out looking for food, but before we could find any, the bard himself stepped forward and led us to the Shakespeare’s Head pub.

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“The Shakespeare’s Head was built in 1735. It was originally owned by Thomas and John Shakespeare, distant relatives of the poet William Shakespeare. The pub overlooks Carnaby street, once the site of an 18th century street market and now one of the world’s most famous shopping precincts. Dominating its northern end is the pub’s inn sign which is a reproduction of Martin Droeshout’s portrait of Shakespeare when the poet was at the pinnacle of his genius. On another part of the building is Shakespeare’s life-size bust which appears to be gazing down on the busy street below.” (Taylor-Walker.co.uk

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Where we were able to get a pint of London Glory, as well as some very interesting (and awkward) conversation from an older drunk going from table to table asking for 1) money to buy a pint or 2) a sip from your pint.  He was quite the story-weaver and told us all about how Brittany reminded him of his sister…he also serenaded us a bit…he was actually quite good.

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Also according to the aforementioned Taylor Walker website, “Close examination of the bust will show one of the poet’s hands is missing. This was lost during World War 1 when a bomb was dropped nearby!”

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After our pint we did manage to find food.  We ate at a place on Villiers Street.  Apparently Rudyard Kipling (author of The Jungle Book) lived just down the street from where we were.


And because Brittany and I apparently never know when enough is enough, and because our London experience was drawing to a close, we went back to Piccadilly Circus…

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And since I got a floating Yoda picture for Taylor, I thought I’d get something for Josh too.  So, Josh, enjoy the Yellow M&M as Chewbacca (sorry it’s dark, but…it was dark…because it was night…)

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And the only decent picture we got of the statue of the Greek god Anteros (the statue is often mistakenly called Eros) which is part of the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain in Piccadilly Circus.  It seemed like every time I tried to get a picture of this guy a giant bus would drive by, or the Piccadilly screen lights would glare too much, or something else would keep it from turning out…

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Well Day 6 is done…now on to our last day in London…Day 7.

London – Day 5 – Doctors and Museums

Okay, up to this point we’ve done an overall visit of the Have-To’s of London (Palace of Westminster, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace) on Day 1, the East side of London (Shakespeare’s Globe, Tower Bridge, Tower of London) on Day 2, a nice tour of some parks (Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens) on Day 3, and a Double-Decker bus tour on Day 4.  What else could there possibly be???


Day 5 – London – 4/4/2016

Day 5 in London took us to West Ham.  We didn’t actually walk around the area much (really all we saw was the West Ham United football stadium), but walking around the area wasn’t the primary purpose of our visit.  We were there to see…

The Who Shop

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If you know us then you’ll understand why this was an important destination.  We considered heading over to Cardiff for a day (where Doctor Who films quite often and a Doctor Who museum is located) but the train ticket was rather expensive.

The Who Shop was pretty interesting even though it was fairly small.  It was established in 1984 and had a floor to ceiling array of Doctor Who merchandise both old and new.  The most intriguing portion of the shop though…step through the doors of the TARDIS…

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…and you’ll find that it’s bigger on the inside.  And what’s inside?  A fun museum with costumes, props, Daleks, and even a Weeping Angel…

Brittany with a group of Daleks…

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And me with a very R2-D2 looking Dalek…

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Don’t blink…

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Captain Jack Harkness’s costume (and a swoon)…

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We took several more pictures inside of The Who Shop museum.  They will be posted soon in our blog dedicated to Brittany’s search of all things Who in Europe.


National Gallery

We left the shop, had some lunch, and headed back to Trafalgar Square so that we could go to the National Gallery museum.  (As with all of our photos, clicking on the image will open a new page with a larger version of the image available.)

When we go to museums, if picture taking is allowed, we try not to get in everyone’s way and only try to snap pictures of pieces we find really interesting or pieces that we would like to study later in further detail.  The nice thing about being able to take a picture of a piece of art is that you can focus in on a detail you like and then research it later.  So these next few images are just a few of pieces that we found interesting.


Now that previous paragraph is all well and good to say, but this first image is just one that we found fun…

Title: An Old Woman (The Ugly Duchess)

Artist:  Quinten Massys

Date: about 1513

Info:  Oil on oak.  Its placard reads, “This picture was probably intended to satirize old women who try inappropriately to recreate their youth.” It further states, “Leonardo da Vinci seems to have been inspired by Massys’s painting.”

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Title:  The Manchester Madonna

Artist:  Michelangelo

Date: about 1497

Info:  Tempera on wood.  “In this unfinished painting, the Christ Child indicates a passage in the book held by the Virgin, which one pair of angels contemplates.  The other angels study a scroll, perhaps given to them by the young John the Baptist.  Book and scroll may carry prophecies of Christ’s future sacrifice.  The draperies and the rock plinth are very close to Michelangelo’s earliest sculptures.”

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Title:  The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and Saint John the Baptist

Artist:  Leonardo da Vinci

Date:  about 1499-1500

Info:  Charcoal and white chalk on paper, perhaps with a brown wash, mounted on canvas.  “This large drawing is a cartoon, that is, a full-size preparatory study for a painting.  Usually, in order to transfer a design onto a panel, the outlines of cartoons were pricked or incised.  This example is intact.  It must have been preserved in its own right as a finished drawing, although some areas have deliberately been left inconclusive or in rough outline.”  This is probably one of my favorite pieces that we have seen thus far, and we almost missed it.  The piece is in its own tiny, very dark room, and the room is labeled something like Leonardo Cartoon.  Having taken the word ‘cartoon’ to mean its more common meaning, I almost didn’t go in.

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Title:  The Virgin and Child

Artist:  Masaccio

Date:  1426

Info:  Egg tempera on wood.  “The cast shadows and linear perspective reveal a new interest in naturalism.  The influence of sculpture on the solidity of the forms is strong.”  I liked this piece because it had some of the most unique faces of anything we’d seen, and, as the placard stated, this uniqueness came from a different approach than some of the other things we’d seen from this period.

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Title:  Two Tax-Gatherers

Artist:  Workshop of Marinus van Reymerswale

Date:  probably 1540s

Info:  Oil on oak.  “The figure on the left is writing out a list of taxes on items such as wine, beer, and fish.  Such tax officials were commonly allowed to retain a percentage of the money they collected, and were criticized for their greed.  The picture is probably intended as a warning against avarice.”  Again, some things in the museum are breathtaking – just stunning to view, other things are just fun to admire…

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Title:  Portrait of Hendrickje Stoffels

Artist:  Rembrandt

Date:  probably 1654-6

Info:  Oil on canvas.  “Hendrickje Stoffels had entered Rembrandt’s household as a nurse to his young son Titus by 1649.  She later became the artist’s mistress.  There is no documented portrait of Hendrickje.  The identification is based on the informality and the affection with which she is represented.”

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Title:  Two Followers of Cadmus devoured by a Dragon

Artist:  Cornelis van Haarlem

Date:  1588

Info:  Oil on canvas stuck on oak.  “The Delphic oracle told Cadmus to follow a cow and build a town where it fell from exhaustion (Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book 3).  When the cow dies, Cadmus, intending to sacrifice it, sent men to get water.  They were slain by a dragon which Cadmus then killed.  He was told to sow its teeth in the ground from which armed men sprang up who fought one another until only five were left.  They became the founders of Thebes.”  Okay, some pieces are stunning to look at, some are fun, and some are just terrifyingly beautiful and disturbing at the same time.  This falls into the latter category.

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Title:  Self Portrait at the Age of 34

Artist:  Rembrandt

Date:  1640

Info:  Oil on canvas.  “Rembrandt presents himself as wealthy, successful, and confident, in keeping with his position as one of Amsterdam’s leading painters.  His pose is taken from Titian’s Man with a Quilted Sleeve, which was then thought to depict the Italian poet Ludovico Ariosto.  Copying this famous pose was a bold statement that painters were the equals of poets.”

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As I said, these are just a few of the wonderful pieces within the National Gallery, and we didn’t even get through the whole thing!  The museum closed at 6PM, and we still had a few wings remaining..so we went back the following day.  That left us with a bit more exploring to do.

We made another decision before exploring too much further…it was time to buy gel insoles for the salvation of our feet.  We’d pretty much been walking the concrete sidewalks of London from about 9 or 10 in the morning to around 11 or 12 at night, and our feet were screaming.  With another week to go on our vacation, we thought it best to get some help from Dr. Scholls…good decision.

Sitting down to put the gel into our shoes gave me an opportunity to get a photo of the floating Yoda set up in Trafalgar Square (you’re welcome, Taylor).

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New feet…check.  Floating Yoda…check.  Dinner…hmmm…luckily we had spotted a little Mexican placed called Tortilla near the square.  They even have frozen margaritas!

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The burrito was Brittany approved…

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With no real plans, we headed back to Westminster Abbey to try and get a few night photos.  The main gate was closed, but the western entrance (the Great West Door) was still accessible.

Western Façade of Westminster Abbey and the Westminster Column

The towers of the western façade…

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In 1998, above the Great West Door, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen, unveiled the 20th Century Martyrs.  According to the placard at the door, “The ten statues are of individual martyrs; but they are intended to represent all those others who have died (and continue to die) in similar circumstances of oppression and persecution.”  From left to right the ten statues represent: St. Maximilian Kolbe, Manche Masemola, Janani Luwum, St. Grand Duchess Elizabeth of Russia, Martin Luther King, Jr., Óscar Romero, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Esther John, Lucian Taped, and Wang Zhiming.  Below these statues, two on either side of the door are: Truth, Justice, Mercy, and Peace.

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A view of the western façade and the Westminster Column…

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The Westminster Column “is a marble and stone column, erected in 1861 and designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, which remembers former pupils of Westminster School who died in the Crimean War 1854-56 and the Indian Mutiny 1857-58. At the top is a figure of St George slaying the dragon.” (Westminster-Abbey.org)

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Four lions flank the base of the column.

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At the corner of Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster is Parliament Square.  This green, grass square contains statues of British, Commonwealth, and foreign statesmen.  Among the notables: Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Winston Churchill (who is seen looking toward the Elizabeth Tower in the photo).

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Here’s a snapshot of Brittany and I in Parliament Square.  If you look close, you can see the green fence…renovation was going on…everywhere…

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Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben), Palace of Westminster, and Victoria Tower

Of course, while we were in the area at night we snapped a few photos of the ‘must-sees.’

Elizabeth Tower…

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The eastern portion of the Palace of Westminster with Elizabeth Tower…

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Victoria Tower, Palace of Westminster, and Elizabeth Tower from across the Thames River (with the towers of the western façade of Westminster Abbey just right of center). Some of the palace looks distorted…that’s because there’s scaffolding covering those portions.

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London Eye

And we can’t forget the London Eye, which is ever so beautiful at night…

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Remember, this thing is 443 feet tall…

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I made Brittany stop and take this picture with me.  It was actually really, really cold so we headed directly home from here.

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Didn’t get enough of the National Gallery on Day 5…well neither did we.  Come back with us on Day 6.