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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Europe 08 Paris Day 3

On Thursday i had watched Phil and Bev navigate around Paris using the Metro (underground railway). Today we decided to attempt the feat ourselves and visit a number of landmarks via the metro.

You can follow the route on the partial map of the metro below:


There was a metro station near our hotel - Champs de Mars Tour Eiffel, on the C line. It is located in the bottom left of the map. We made our way there and fairly quickly worked out how to buy tickets from the vending machine. Our first destination was Place de la Concorde. We looked at the signs to determine which platform to use. Within five minutes a train arrived and we traveled two stations to Invalides. There we swapped to line 8, coloured mauve and went one station to Concorde. When we walked up the exit stairs I expected to be in Place de la Concorde and it was gratifying to discover that my navigation had worked and the grand panorama of the square opened up.

The Wikipedia article linked to above states the following about the square:

The Place was designed by Ange-Jacques Gabriel in 1755 as a moat-skirted octagon between the Champs-Élysées to the west and the Tuileries Gardens to the east. Filled with statues and fountains, the area was named Place Louis XV to honor the then king.

During the French Revolution the statue of King Louis was torn down and the area renamed "Place de la Révolution". In a grim reminder to the nobility of a gruesome past, when the "Place de Grève" was a site where the nobility and members of the bourgeoisie were entertained watching convicted criminals being dismembered alive, the new revolutionary government erected the guillotine there. The first notable to be executed at the Place de la Révolution was King Louis XVI, on January 21, 1793. Other important people guillotined there, often in front of cheering crowds, were Queen Marie Antoinette, Madame Élisabeth, Charlotte Corday, Madame du Barry, Danton, Desmoulins, Lavoisier, Robespierre and Louis de Saint-Just.


The Directory, the government that followed Robespierre's, changed the name to the current one as a gesture of reconciliation.

The centre of the square is occupied by a giant Egyptian obelisk decorated with hieroglyphics exalting the reign of the pharaoh Ramses II. The obelisk once marked the entrance to the Luxor Temple. The viceroy of Egypt, Mehemet Ali, offered the 3,300-year-old Luxor Obelisk to France in 1831. The obelisk arrived in Paris on December 21, 1833. The red granite column is 23 metres (75 ft) high, including the base, and weighs over 250 metric tonnes. The original cap is missing, believed stolen in the 6th century BC. the government of France added a gold-leafed pyramid cap to the top of the obelisk in 1998.

It was interesting to walk around this square, taking photographs and thinking about its history.

We walked to the nearby Le Madeleine past many up market jewelery shops including Cartier then returned to the metro. We found line 1 which in this section follows the Champs Elysees and exited at Charles de Gaule Etoile station. As expected as we exited the station the Arc de Triumph towered before us in the middle of its large roundabout. I wanted to return to the Arch to climb to the top. Margaret was happy to sit and watch the frenetic Parisian traffic negotiate the roundabout - there are about a dozen roads entering and leaving it causing the most chaotic traffic we were to see until Istanbul.











I did not want to negotiate the traffic as some crazy teenagers were doing, so I went looking for the underpass. It was fairly difficult to find, but eventually I found myself under the arch. It was necessary to buy tickets to climb to the top and there was a fairly long line so after looking around for a while I returned to find Margaret. When I reached the location where I thought I had left her she was not there! I realised that I should have taken a bearing on the Arch when I left her as most of the intersections looked alike. Eventually I found her after crossing a few more streets.


The last location I wished to visit that day was Musee D'Orsay the gallery of modern art. We returned to Concorde station the way we had come; changed lines to line 8 and traveled to Invalides; changed again to the C line and exited the system at Musee D'Orsay station.

Before we entered the gallery we ate some lunch - that consisted of rolls and fruit that Margaret had "stolen" at breakfast time. In the gallery I saw many familiar works by: Manet, Monet, Pissaro, Cezanne, van Gogh, Renoir, Gauguin and Rodin's sculpture of Balzac.

We then returned to the hotel by way of the C line.

This trip was still something of a reconnaissance for our next trip to Paris. On that visit I want to spend a day at the Louvre, another at Versailles and also travel into the country side to Villers-Bretonneux. The first two are obvious enough as we did not have enough time at the Louvre and have not seen Versailles at all. The reason for Villers-Bretonneux is given in this post.

On the way back to the hotel I noticed that Versailles could be reached via the C line, but that only some trains went there, as the line divides soon after Champs de Mars Tour Eiffel. This is the sort of information that will allow us to plan our own visit to Paris in the future.










That evening we attended another additional excursion to the Paradis Latin Cabaret which is in the Latin Quarter of Paris. I had thought that the Latin Quarter referred to the ethnic mix of the are - i.e. Latins, or southerners lived there, giving it a bohemian character. The tour guide explained that it refers to the language Latin. It is the education quarter - the Sorbonne and other schools are there. The scholarly quarter.
Of cause we didn't expect that Paradis Latin would be an intellectual experience, but it was a lot of fun, with song, dance and a great aerial, trapeze act involving precision and stupendous strength.

It was hardly a surprise that the show was much better than the food.



It was a great way to finish off our visit to Paris.

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