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…

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