Kathryn and Ken's European Vacation

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Day 56: Paris, France
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Day 50: Arromanches, France
Day 51: Caen, France
Day 52: Plasir, France
Day 53: Paris, France
Day 54: Paris, France
Day 55: Paris, France
Day 56: Paris, France
Day 57: Flying Home



Hotel Moderne St. Germain


Mostly sunny with a high of 20°C


Day 56: Monday, October 30    Paris, France

Crazy Canadian Tourist in Shorts;
The Sun Comes Out For Our Last Day in Paris

On our 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 métro 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

bit 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.

Of 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

The 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.


We 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

Dôme des Invalides

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 complex.  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 earlier.  The Hôtel des Invalides is now home to several museums.

We then caught the
métro 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

Avenue des Champs-Elysées

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 Etoile station.

A Flashback: 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 $200 sunglasses. 

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.

We 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.  The 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 La Défense, 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 La Défense 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 the Etoile.

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.

It was 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.

As the 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 background.

Vert-Galant square 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.

Boulanger Patissier

Click here for a slide show of Day 56 photos.

Day 57

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