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)…

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6 thoughts on “Paris – Day 8 – Churches, Arches, and Towers

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