Day 56: Monday, October 30
Canadian Tourist in Shorts;
The Sun Comes Out For Our Last Day in Paris
last day in Paris we awoke to a cool sunny day. We again
had a big breakfast at the hotel and hopped on the Metro for the
Eiffel Tower. Ken was wearing shorts for the first time in
Paris and he got some strange looks from the locals on the
on their way to work - most were wearing thick coats and
scarves. Kenny had the last laugh later in the day when it
was really hot atop the Tower.
We arrived at the Eiffel Tower at 9:40 am and their were
a couple of hundred people in line for the elevator. You
can walk up for free but this was not going to happen with Ken's
knees. We boarded the first elevator which takes you to
the second level at 10:30 am - a 50-minute wait. We
immediately got in line for the next elevator which takes you to
the third level at the top. Ken has a
Kathryn and Ken
at the Eiffel Tower
of a balance problem with his inner ear at heights and got a
little woozy on the quick flight up.
A little about the Tower:
Once the tallest structure in the world, the Eiffel Tower is
probably Europe's best known landmark and Paris's most famous
symbol. You couldn't possibly visit Paris without seeing the
Eiffel Tower. It rises 300 meters tall. The Eiffel
Tower was built for the World Exhibition in 1889, held in
celebration of the French Revolution in 1789. The construction
was only meant to last for the duration of the Exposition, but
it still stands today, despite all protests from contemporary
artists who feared the construction would be the advent of
structures without 'individuality' and despite the many people
who feared that this huge 'object' would not fit into the
architecture of Paris. Today, there is no such aversion anymore
among the Parisians, and one could not imagine Paris without the
Eiffel Tower, in fact it has become the symbol of the City of
Light. The man behind the Eiffel Tower was Gustave
Eiffel, known from his revolutionary bridge building
techniques. These techniques would form the basis for the
construction of the Eiffel Tower. He was also known from the
construction of the Statue of Liberty's iron framework.
The structure took more than two years to complete. Each one of
the about 12,000 iron pieces were designed separately to give
them exactly the shape needed. All pieces were prefabricated and
fit together using approximately 7 million nails.
course the view from the top was spectacular and we took lots of
photos. It was very hazy when we first went up - especially
looking east into the sun - but by the time we caught the
elevator back down to the second level, it had cleared
considerably and we took several more photos. The photo at
right is of the
Trocadéro and its gardens.
I was standing on the open raised esplanade between the two
wings in this photo when last night's photo was
Place de Trocadéro
taken facing the opposite
direction. The rest of the photos are in the slide show below.
By the time we got back down to
the ground, the line-ups were immense and there were signs
saying the elevator to the third level was closed. We then
walked along the Champs de Mars, a large public
green-space between the Eiffel Tower to the northwest and the
École Militaire to the southeast. The park is named after the
Campus Martius of Rome. In English Champs de Mars means "Field
of Mars", from Mars the Roman god of war, from its original use
for military training. We stopped part way and had another
couple take the photo of us with the Eiffel Tower in the
background that you see at the top of this page. It's too
bad he cut off the very top of the Tower.
came to the
École Militaire (Military School), a vast complex of
buildings housing various military teaching facilities .
Young Napoleon Bonaparte graduated from this school in only one
year instead of the two years n 1784.
We walked a short distance to the northeast is the complex known
as the Hôtel des Invalides was founded in 1671 by Louis
XIV, the Sun King. He wanted to provide accommodation for
disabled and impoverished war veterans. The front facade
facing the Seine river is 196 meter long. The whole
courtyards, the largest being the cour d'honneur (court of
honor). This courtyard was used for military parades. The
building was completed in 1676 and housed up to 4,000 war
veterans. Starting in 1676 on request of the Sun King's
war minister, the church Saint-Louis was built as an annex to
The church is connected directly with the Royal chapel, better
known as the Dôme des Invalides. This church, with a 107
meter high dome was for exclusive use of the royal family.
Construction of the dome was completed in 1708. Plans to bury
the remains of the Royal Family were set aside after the death
of king Louis XIV, and in 1840 Louis-Philippe repatriated the
remains of the Emperor Napoleon from St. Helena, where he
was buried after his death 19 years
complex features 15
The Hôtel des Invalides is now
home to several museums.
We then caught the
to Place Charles de Gaulle.
In the middle of the Place Charles de Gaulle stands one
of the greatest arches in history: the Arc de Triomphe.
The arch was commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 to commemorate his
victories, but he was ousted before the arch was completed. In
fact, it wasn't completed until 1836 during the reign of
Louis-Philippe. The Arc de Triomphe is engraved with names of
generals who commanded French troops during Napoleon's regime.
The design of the arch is based on the Arch of Titus in Rome.
The Arc de Triomphe is much higher (50m versus 15m), but it has
exactly the same proportions. The triumphal arch is adorned with
many reliefs, most of them commemorating the emperor's battles.
At the top of the
Arc de Triomphe
arch are 30 shields, each of them bears the
name of one of Napoleon's successful battles. The arch also
includes the Grave of the Unknown Soldiers from the first World
War. The arch is located at the end of the Champs-Elysées, in
the middle of the Place Charles de Gaulle, a large circular
square from which no less than 12 Streets emanate. The streets
are named after French military leaders. The arch features
an observatory from where you have great views of La Defense,
the Champs-Elysées and the Sacré-Coeur. You need take one of the
underpasses to the arch, it is too dangerous to try and cross
the street. There is no elevator in the arch and you have to
walk up 234 steps to get to the observatory.
Just as we arrived the observatory
was closed down for a couple of hours for some unknown reason.
So we decided to walk down the Champs-Elysée. The
Avenue des Champs-Elysées (Elysian Fields) is probably the
most famous avenue in the world. This impressive promenade
stretches from the Place the la Concorde to the Place Charles de
Gaulle, the site of the Arc de Triomphe. At its western end the
Champs-Elysées is bordered by cinemas, theaters, cafés and
luxury shops. Near the Place de la Concorde, the street
is bordered by
the Jardins des Champs-Elysées,
beautifully arranged gardens with fountains and some grand
buildings including the Grand and Petit Palais at
the southern side and the Elysée at its northern side. The
latter has been the residence of the French Presidents since
1873. The Champs-Elysées is used for all the major
celebrations. This is where Parisians celebrate New Year's Eve
and where the military parades are held on the 14th of July.
Historic national events, like the Liberation at the end of the
second World War or the victory in the World Cup football were
also celebrated on this wide avenue. Its current form took shape
in 1838 when Hittorf, who was redesigning the Place de la
Concorde, created the Jardins des Champs-Elysées. He also
installed sidewalks, gas lamps and fountains. The Champs-Elysées
started to attract more and more restaurants and hotels,
especially after 1900 when the Paris métro line # 1 reached the
When we were leaving the hotel this morning, Ken noticed he did
not have his prescription sunglasses. Because of the
cloudy and rainy weather, he had not worn them since we arrived
in Paris. We went back but there were nowhere to be found
at the hotel. He must have left them in the car when we
returned it on Friday. Having had no success trying to
book theatre tickets over the phone, we figured it was useless
to try and phone Hertz and went off to the Eiffel Tower.
Now that we had a couple of hours to kill, we took the
métro back to Hertz at the Gare
Lyon railway station. Miracle of miracles they had Ken's
We rode the métro back and got off at Notre Dame and walked
about four blocks to the Centre Georges Pompidou. In 1969
French President Georges Pompidou launched the idea of creating
a new cultural institution in Paris dedicated to modern art. The
winning project broke with architectural conventions by moving
functional elements such as escalators, water pipes and air
conditioning to the outside of the building, freeing interior
space for the display of art works. The pipes and ducts are all
color-coded: blue for air, green for water, red for elevators,
yellow for electricity, gray for corridors and white for the
building itself. The construction of the glass and metal
building in the centrally located Beaubourg neighborhood ran
into a lot of opposition from people who disliked the idea of an
'oil refinery' in a historic district. But when the
|Ken in front of
Centre Georges Pompidou
museum opened in
December 1977, it became an instant success: originally designed
to accommodate some 5,000 visitors per day, the Centre Pompidou
has been welcoming over 25,000 visitors per day making it one of
the most visited attractions in Paris. The Centre Pompidou
is home to one of the world's most important museums of modern
art, the MNAM, but it also contains a very popular library, a
bookshop, a movie theater and a panoramic terrace.
The square in front of the Centre
Pompidou, the 'Place Georges Pompidou' or 'Place
Beaubourg', is very popular. The large crowds are animated
by mimes, street portraitists and entertainers. There were huge
line-ups to go inside, so we decided to pass. We wandered
around, Kathryn had her last gelato (almost as good as Italy she
said), and we saw some modern art without going into the museum,
at the place Igor Stravinsky where you'll find the first modern
fountain in Paris. The fountain has several kinetic sculptures,
designed by Niki de Saint Phalle and Jean Tinguely.
walked back downhill to Notre Dame and caught the
métro back to the Arc de Triomphe. We discovered their was
a handicapped elevator and, with Ken exaggerating his limp, we
rode to the top. We took a few photos and then the camera
died - it had not been plugged in properly the previous night.
Champs-Elysée changes names on the
west side of the Arch to Avenue de la Grand Armée. The
photo at right shows it heading to
the prime high-rise office
district of Paris. Many of Paris's tallest buildings can be
found here. At the end of the first World War, plans were made
to develop the axis from the Arc de Triomphe at the Etoile to La
Defense. None of these plans were realized, mainly due to the
Great Depression in the 1930s. In 1931 though, the
authorities organized a new competition, but the intent was to
limit the height of the buildings along the Triumphal Way. Only
at the end of the
Looking west at
from atop the Arc de Triomphe
long avenue, at the Défense, were towers allowed. This was
recommended by the authorities as towers close to the center
would obstruct the view on the Etoile. The name défense
originates from the monument 'La Défense de Paris', which was
erected at this site in 1883 to commemorate the war of 1870.
In 1951, the Défense site was chosen as an office center.
he result is a mix of mostly cheap
towers of different heights. The tallest of them, the GAN tower,
measured 200 meters. The height of several towers, and in
particular the GAN tower caused a public outcry as the 'forest
of towers' disturbs the view on the Arc de Triomphe as seen from
Partly in response to this criticism a new monument
was built at the entrance of the Défense as a counterweight for
the Arc de Triomphe: The Tête Défense , also known as the
Grande Arche de la Défense. The project to build the 'Grande
Arche' was initiated by the French president Mitterand. He
wanted a XXth century Arc de Triomphe. The design of the Danish
architect Otto van Spreckelsen looks more like a cube-shaped
building than a triumphal arch. It is a 106 meters white
building with the middle part left open. The sides of the cube
contain offices. You can see it at the end of the Avenue
in the photo above.
back to the hotel on the
métro to plug in the camera. We walked down to Breakfast
in America for a very late lunch. Ken had sausages and
eggs. We came back to the hotel and got the camera and
then went down to
Ile de la Cité, past Notre Dame, across pont d'Arcole to the
Hôtel de Ville, Paris's city hall and the center of
political Paris. From 1310 on, the Place de Grève
was the square were most of the executions in Paris took place.
Here people were beheaded, quartered, cooked up or burned at the
stake. In 1792, a guillotine was installed. It would prove
itself useful during the French Revolution. The last
Hôtel de Ville
execution took place in 1830,
after which the square was renamed Place de l'Hôtel de Ville.
In 1982 the large square became a pedestrian zone.
sun was setting, we walked along the Right Bank (Rive
Droite) of the Seine and saw a different view of the Palais de
Justice and the Conciergerie. We strolled along the Seine
to the Pont Neuf.
Paradoxically, the Pont Neuf (French for 'New Bridge') is the
oldest bridge in Paris.
At the middle of the 16th century, only two bridges crossed the
Seine river. Since they were in a bad state and constantly
overcrowded, King Henry III decided in 1578 to construct a new
bridge. It wasn't until 1607 before the bridge was officially
opened by King Henry IV, who named the bridge 'Pont Neuf'.
The Pont Neuf actually consists of two different bridge spans,
one on each side of the Ile de la Cité, where the
Kathryn on the
Right Bank with the Pont Neuf and Eiffel Tower in the
connects the two spans.
We crossed the bridge and came
back along the Left Bank and back to our Boulanger Patissier
in Place Maubert Market where we
bought more of the best lemon tarts and other pastries. We
strolled back to the hotel, showered, packed our bags and ate
lemon tarts. We shut off the lights and went to sleep on
our last night in Paris. Cue the violins.
Click here for a slide
show of Day 56 photos.