Jun 22

Au revoir, Paris

This was written for a Sunday, two weeks ago in fact. It is part of the effort to document and re-live our most recent, amazing adventure. So, if you’d be so kind as to cast your mind back two weeks …

On Sunday morning The Yankee had two presentations to deliver to the International Communication Association.

In a word, both presentations were brilliant.

Afterward we visited the Garden of the Great Explorers Marco-Polo and Cavelier-de-la-Salle and the Luxembourg Gardens. The garden was created in 1867, and this fountain, was installed in 1875.

That’s the Quatre-Parties-du-Monde fountain, or the Fountain of the Four Parts of the World. The theme is related to the nearby Paris Observatory, and the four women who support the celestial sphere, was created by a 19th century master, Jean-Baptiste_Carpeaux. (In the U.S. you can see his works at the Art Institute in Chicago, the New York Metropolitan Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Legion of Honor in San Francisco and the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. The smaller pieces, the turtles and fish and sea horses, were designed by a man named Emmanuel Frémiet, who was famed for his lifelike animals. And if you get closer to it all, you can see the craft of all of the artisans involved. There’s a lot of implied movement in this fountain.

A quick glance at the classic Haussmanian style of buildings that so typify central Paris.

And here we are in front of the Luxembourg Palace, home of the French Senate. And these are the Jardin du Luxembourg.

We sat on a bench in the garden, and enjoyed watching the sun dance through the leaves below the afternoon sky.

She was reviewing her mental notes for the next stage of our trip, which we’ll start talking about here tomorrow.

But, first, we stopped for dinner. We found a little casual Italian place that was on the way between here and there, and that was quiet and charming, until a very large family, fresh from Disneyland Paris showed up. After that, it was loud and charming.

We met some friends for a dessert crepe. Normally I’m not a crepe guy, but our friend had a long history with the place we wound up. She’d eaten here a lot once upon a time when she studied in France. It’s run by an older woman who suffers no fools and, apparently, likes her young employees. She was feisty.

And they made great crepes. There was chocolate in mine. That was the right choice. After dessert crepes, we all ventured over to the Eiffel Tower for pictures.

Yes, there are four pictures of the Eiffel Tower here. I didn’t want to choose between the slightly different versions. They’re all beautiful, and you can patiently enjoy each of them.

And that is where we said our goodbyes to our friends. We’ll see them again in a few months, for a big party, but hugs below the shiny, glittery tower seem a cosmopolitan way to say until then.

And while they had to head back to the United States the next day, we did not catch a plane.

We took a train.

Where do you suppose we went?

Jun 22

Notre Dame, the Pantheon, the Sainte-Chappelle chapel

This was written for a Saturday, two weeks ago, as we continue to document and re-live our amazing travels. So, if you’d be so kind as to cast your mind back two weeks …

I broke two style standards of the site in this post. It’s terrifying and liberating, all at the same time. Also, this is a photo-heavy post. There are 23 images below, so let’s dive in.

We visited Notre-Dame de Paris, the medieval Catholic cathedral is considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture. You might have seen it on fire in April of 2019. We had a tour of the cathedral, exterior of course. So it turned into a mini tour of the Île de la Cité, which is the island in the Siene that is heart of Paris. We saw the flying buttresses, but not the rose windows or the sculptures the giant bells (not especially old, but bell ringing goes back to at least the end of the 12th century there) or three pipe organs (similarly, there’s a long history of organs at the cathedral, but what was in the cathedral before the fire wasn’t an ancient instrument — apparently the organs did well in the fire).

Reconstruction is well underway, and the French hopes the reconstruction can be completed in time for the opening of the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. Presently, April 15th is the big projected day. It seems a tall order, but viva France!

We left the 4th arrondissement for the much, much less crowded 5th arrondissement. Specifically, the Latin Quarter, to visit the Pantheon. We saw the one in Rome, we figured, we should see the one here. This started as a church that King Louis XV had dedicated to Saint Genevieve after he recovered from a bad illness. The revolution was underway when it was completed, and the governing body at that time decided it should be a mausoleum modeled on the ancient building in Rome. Twice this Pantheon was re-converted to a church. Today, the neoclassical beauty is at turns liturgical, a burial place and a civic showpiece. Among the notable people interred there: philosophers, politicians, soldiers, scientists, the writer Victor Hugo, Nobel Prize winners the Curries and Rene Cassin, the entertainer and spy Josephine Baker and many more.

All those changes to the purpose of the building meant the pediment changed a few times, and unfortunately I didn’t have a giant ladder for a good photo. But if you know who you’re looking at here, you’ll find key figures of country and liberty. The statesmen and scholars are represented on the left, soldiers on the right.

But let’s go inside, shall we?

There are four great pieces in the pillars below the dome. This first one is Laurent Marqueste’s sculptural homage to “the creators and publicists of the restoration.”

The paintings on the four pendentives, one of which you see above, are by François Gerard, one of the most prominent, and wealthiest, painters of his generation. Primarily he’s remembered for his portraits, but his archway paintings depict glory, the nation, justice and, above, death. These are all recurring themes in this place.

Anyway, the sculptor Marquest was an absolute master in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This is probably one of his lesser known works, but he left many grand pieces to be admired.

The obelisk shows the figure of Victory holding a torch above the coat of arms of France, surmounted by the royal crown. Below is Pierre de Serre, the soldier and lawyer, Casimir Perier, the banker, mine owner and statesman, Armand Carrel who was an early 18th century journalist, General Maximilien Foy who was one of Napoleon Bonaparte’s artillery generals, Jacques-Antoine Manuel a solider turned lawyer, and Viscount Francous-Rene de Chateaubriand, who saw himself as the greatest lover, the greatest writer, and the greatest philosopher of his age. Pretty humble, really. He could have said any age.

This is Albert Bartholome’s monument to Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Bartholome was a painter of serious renown, before deciding to put away his brushes and becoming a globally recognized sculptor. He did that after he made the stunning marker for his wife’s grave. The three women seated here are allegories for philosophy, nature and truth. To the left is a representation of music, and on the right, glory.

The medallion in the low foreground is meant to be Jean-Jacques Rousseau who was a philosopher that influenced the Enlightenment and some elements of the French Revolution. You basically don’t have modern thought without Discourse on Inequality and The Social Contract. (He’s also interred at the Pantheon.)

Here’s the thing about sculptors. You spend the time and skill and resources required to make this piece. It’s perfect. And then you make it again. That’s discipline. There’s a copy of this on display at Musée d’Orsay, as well.

Opposite that installation is Paul Gasq’s “To the Glory of Generals of the Revolution.”

On the obelisk is a figure representing the French Republic. Bonaparte is on horseback alongside four of his generals. Gasq was the son of a railroad man, and won two of the biggest prizes in his field. He was also a prominent museum curator. And if you’ve ever been to Paris, the odds are pretty good you’ve seen some of his work without realizing it.

Which brings us to Alphonse Camille Terroir, who was born in 1875 France and died in 1955, becoming, of course, a sculptor, but also a professor along the way. If there was ever a stranger time to be an artisan in France, aside from the Revolution, I can’t think of it.

This piece is devoted to Denis Diderot, an 18th century writer, philosopher and encyclopedist. If it had words, he wrote it. The two standing figures are above a rather important inscription which I clumsily left out of the shot. It says the encyclopedia prepares the revolution, which is a powerful bit of carving when you unpack it. The other figures represent truth and the force. Yes, Luke Skywalker carved this with his lightsaber.

Diderot’s was the first encyclopedia of its kind, discussing topics in a secular tone. The book, banned by the Catholic Church, featured articles that were skeptical about Biblical miracles. The revolutionaries were highly influenced by the Encyclopedie.

This dominates one end of the Pantheon.

That’s Marianne, the symbol of France, surrounded by deputies, their arms raised toward the constitution, taking the oath, and soldiers on the right, symbolizing the army of the French Republic. The inscription is Vivre libre ou mourir, “Live free or die.”

Above it …

The title of that mosaic is “Christ Showing the Angel of France the Destiny of Her People.” by Antoine-Auguste-Ernest Hébert

I’m not telling you anything new here, but whenever you find yourself in a building with a dome, you need to make it a habit to look up.

Yes, I cropped the sides, and it is that rarest of things, a circular photograph, but, also, it is larger than most of the pictures I put here. I told you. (We’re breaking all sorts of style standards around here today!)

Downstairs, before you make it to the crypt, you’ll see this shadow. And it’s a certainty that some portion of the people that this will be the first impression they ever make of François-Marie Arouet, and that’s a shame.

That shadow belongs to a sculpture of Voltaire, who told you, in Candide, “L’il faut cultiver notre jardin.”

But, then, everything in Candide stands like a wise quote on it’s own. Voltaire made fun of that in the story, as well.

If you haven’t read Voltaire, you should. If you haven’t in a while, it’s probably time again. I know it is for me.

This is an almost-tucked away memorial on the main floor. Flanked by two dominant columns and backed by impressive paintings, it would be easy to overlook Louis-Henri Bouchard’s work. The inscription reads “Aux heros inconnus aux martyrs ignores morts pour la France,” or “To the unknown heroes, to the ignored martyrs who died for France.

It is a World War I memorial. After World War II, the French viewed him as a German collaborator, but you can still see his work. His Paris studio is now a museum.

Look up. Up there is “The Apotheosis of Saint Genevieve,” by Antoine-Jean Gros. It apparently took several decades to get just right. Gros was a portraitist and a historical painter. Bonaparte was his patron.

This is a painting depicting St. Genevieve — for whom this place was originally commissioned, remember — calming Parisians as Atilla the Hun approached.

It was 451. Attila, calling himself the Scourge of God, was wiping out every settlement and village he crossed. The story goes that he drew within miles of Paris, the news of his vengeance coming on the frightened lips of people who were desperate to escape the deadly menace rushing toward them from central Asia and Eastern Europe. The people of Paris wanted to run, too. Genevieve was joined by many of the women of Paris for days of pious prayer. The men wanted to scatter to the winds, but she said, in the name of God, that the cities where they headed would be destroyed and Paris would be spared. Attila continued marching on, until he learned that the Romans and the Visigoths and some of the Franks were headed to confront him, so he turned toward Orleans, where he was routed. Paris was, in fact, saved from his wrath.

I don’t know what was going on with my phone and eye this day, but here’s a much better image of that painting, which was produced by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, who became known in his lifetime as “the painter for France.”

Back outside the Pantheon, and a slightly better look at that pediment which, again, has been changed seemingly each time the purpose of the building itself has changed.

And, after a quick subway ride, back over to Notre Dame. We walked around part of the property again to read about the restoration and reconstruction work.

This is a crowded area, so we read the interesting parts and then headed to Sainte-Chappelle. And if you’re still here 17 photos and 1,700 words into this, stick with me through the last little bit.

The Sainte-Chapelle is a royal chapel. King Louis IX had the Gothic style church built in the mid-13th century. Consecrated in 1248, it is an incredible important architectural achievement of its period, highlighting spatial unity, larger and more windows, including a large rose window and a lot of light. It was part of an altogether new moment in architecture, and it housed Louis’ collection of Passion relics, which he paid handsomely for. Included in that collection are what were believed to be part of the cross, and the crown of thorns. (The crown had been housed at nearby Notre-Dame cathedral, and survived the fire.)

Even in a darkened, large clerestory, you can see the attention to details in the decor and the windows and light that helped define the Rayonnant architectural style they were helping to spearhead. Indeed, because of other political realities, Louis IX had a big claim to making Paris the spirital center of Christendom, which is part of the reason for this place, and for his acquisition of the Passion artifacts.

This all takes place on the palace grounds, and over the next 800 years various restoration and repurposing was done. Additional buildings were built right next to Sainte-Chappelle, used, razed and rebuilt again, which impacts the light flowing through these windows. It, too, was impacted by the French revolution.

A decades-long restoration was undertaken in the 19th century. Not all of what you see here is original — some went on the marketplace, some were lost to time, others are on display in museums — the scholars and archeologists and restorers got serious about former glory.

And, indeed, they should. Because, as you gaze in awe and wonder at the royal chapel, a clerestory without peer …

It’s a relatively small room, 108 by 35 feet, highlighted by four traverses, an apse and seven bays of windows. The glass, 7,200 square feet of it, are supported in ingenious ways that you can read about, but never notice in your viewing. And there’s a six-foot shift in size of the glass from one end of the other, making the chapel feel larger. Here is were the King and Queen worshipped.

The thousands of glass pieces seem to shift as the day changes, blues and reds alter their intensity. Experts have noticed three different styles on display, but the artists are unknown, even as the story they were telling is the best known story. Three windows illustrate the New Testament, featuring scenes of The Passion, with the Infancy of Christ and the Life of John the Evangelist. The nave is filled with images representing the Old Testament. You can start at one window and see (restored) illustrations of the Book of Genesis and go, in order, to the final window, to see scenes showing the rediscovery of Christ’s relics, the miracles they performed, and their relocation to Paris in the hands of King Louis.

You can’t see it all in one photo. I’ve seen better photos than mine try, and fail, to express the impressive character of the room. Sainte-Chappelle’s is one of the most extensive 13th-century stained glass collections in the world. It’s something you need to see in person.

Which brings us, finally, to the rose window.

It is over 29-feet in diameter, its 89 separate panels representing scenes of the Apocalypse. It uses a new technique, being 15th-century craftmanship, which allowed the artists to paint on the glass with enamel paints, using fire to fuse the paint onto the glass. That allows for finer details in the finished product. It was restored and cleaned recently, just in time to mark, in 2015, the 800th anniversary of the birth of King Louis IX.

Which makes for a massive, and impressive, weekend post. One more for tomorrow, when we do conference things, and a few casual Parisian things to say goodbye to France.

Jun 22

Point du Hoc, Omaha Beach, Normandy American Cemetery

This was written for a Friday, two weeks ago. That’s the way of it around here for a bit as we go over our amazing travels. So, if you’d be so kind as to cast your mind back two weeks (and also 78 years ago) …

Like many panoramas, this one lives at the intersection between beautiful and enlightening and distorting. Like all panoramas on this site, if you click it, you can see the larger version. We were there two weeks ago.

We caught a morning train out of Paris to head west to Bayeux.

And in Bayeux we rented e-bikes to ride all over the beautiful countryside of Normandy. It is beautiful. We rode all over the countryside. And not all of it on roads. The Yankee suggested Normandy, and I said I wanted to go here, if we could, and after a lot of pedaling, this was our first stop for the day. (Note that upright stone just on the left margin.

If you stood at that stone and look left, you would see Utah Beach just beyond that point.

And if you stood at that sone and looked to your right, beyond the other point, you would see Omaha Beach.

And if you stood at that stone memorial, you’d be wear Ronald Reagan delivered one of the truly great speeches of his presidency.

Peggy Noonan had found his voice by then, and it didn’t hurt that the topic was such a dramatic moment, and the audience included some of the heroes he was talking about.

I remember reading about this anniversary, the 40th, in the second grade, before any of this made any sense to me. I remember a quote from one of the Rangers who was at that event. They’d taken them to the shore line and they looked up the cliff face in wonder. How in the world did we do that? That quote is now 38 years old, and as much as anything, I owe my awe to the moment to that awe of the men who did it.

The guns were located so that they could cover both Utah and Omaha. They could do terrible damage to the troops coming ashore, or to the vessels waiting off the coast. So they sent in the Army Rangers.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower and his staff planning Operation OVERLORD assigned the Rangers of the 2d and 5th Ranger Battalions, under the direction of Lieutenant Colonel James E. Rudder and organized into the Provisional Ranger Group, the mission of destroying the enemy positions on the cliff top. Unbeknownst to Allied planners, the Germans failed to believe that U.S. military command would consider the cliff top accessible by sea. The Americans, however, considered it an accessible assault point and reasoned that with a well-trained force, soldiers could land on the narrow beaches below at low tide and ascend the cliffs with the assistance of ropes and ladders. When Lieutenant General Omar N. Bradley told Rudder of the assignment, the Ranger officer could not believe what he had heard, but he understood the importance of the mission at hand. In his memoir, A Soldier’s Story, Bradley wrote, “No soldier in my command has ever been wished a more difficult task than that which befell the thirty-four-year-old Commander of this Provisional Ranger Force.”

The original ornate plans were ruined by rough seas, which put the entire Pointe du Hoc timetable well behind schedule. They were forced to improvise.

The delay gave the Germans enough time to recuperate, reposition their defenses, and lay heavy gunfire on the incoming Rangers from companies D, E, and F. The Rangers, no longer able to follow Rudder’s original plan, were now instructed to land all companies to the east of Pointe du Hoc on a strip of beach about 500 yards long and thirty yards wide. They came under heavy fire from the Germans while coming ashore. As the soldiers at the front exited the landing craft, the Rangers toward the rear laid down covering fire as their comrades ran to shore and took shelter in a small cave at the base of the cliff or in craters along the narrow beach.


The Rangers experienced much difficulty climbing up the cliffs that day. Many of the ropes that caught hold of the cliffs that morning were completely covered by enemy fire, making the number available for climbing severely limited. The wet ropes were slippery and soldiers were weighed down by damp uniforms and mud clinging to their clothes, boots and equipment. German bullets and “potato masher” grenades rained down from above. Nevertheless, the Rangers climbed to the top of Pointe du Hoc while under enemy fire. Several German soldiers were killed and others driven off from the cliff edges when Rangers opened fire on them with Browning Automatic Rifles (BARs).

The guns they were sent to capture, their primary objective, weren’t there. The Germans had moved them back from what they’d thought was an impregnable position. A two-man Ranger patrol later found five of the six pieces of heavy artillery and they were subsequently.

After scaling the 110-foot cliff face against brutal German fire, gaining the top and then fighting the enemy for two dys fewer than 75 of the original 225 who came ashore at Pointe du Hoc on D-Day were fit for duty. It’s a testament to bravery and grit, and courage and honor. We were fortunate to have been able to visit it for a brief time.

From there we rode our rental bikes to the Normandy American Cemetery. We weaved through traffic, passing gobs of cars (it was oh so satisfying) stuck in traffic in time to see the evening’s flag lowering.

The World War II cemetery in Colleville-sur-Met, Normandy, France covers 172.5 acres and contains 9,388 burials. In the gardens are the engraved names of 1,557 servicemen declared missing in action in Normandy.

In that building you’ll see massive maps describing the planning and the D-Day assault itself, and also the push all the way to the Elbe River.

None of this was a certainty when D-Day began. And it took about two months of hard, deadly fighting, before the Allies could claim Normandy as under their control. Great losses were absorbed and delivered to get off that beachhead.

On the cemetery’s chapel there is a carving in the marble of part of John 10:28, “I give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish.”

The cemetery looks over a bluff onto Omaha Beach. There are 304 unknown soldiers at rest in the grounds of the cemetery.

It also contains the graves of 45 pairs of brothers (30 are side-by-side), a father and son, an uncle and nephew, two pairs of cousins, four chaplains, four civilians, three generals and three Medal of Honor recipients.

We were about 30 miles into our lovely afternoon bike ride, and we were starting to eye the clock. The bike shop we rented from closed at 7, and our train was coming at about 8:30. So we had to race back. (Nice bikes, would rent again. Would check to make sure my back brake worked before I set out next time, though. I had to feather off the front brake for the entire day!) We made it just in time, which was the shocking theme for the whole day. Just caught the morning train. Arrived with our bikes ready, got lost twice and still made it to the cemetery just in time to see the flags lowered. Lingered around that hallowed place a while, giving us just enough time to get back to the bike shop, which left us enough time to get a bite to eat at a place next to the train station. Which put us safely on the train.

It was an important day in important places. I’m glad we did it, and that it all worked out as it did, which was to say, perfectly.

She planned another great trip, and we’re just getting started.

We still have two days in Paris, where our adventures will continue.

Jun 22

A place about love, and light

This was written for a Thursday, but it is about the Thursday from two weeks ago. That’s the way of it around here for a bit as we go over our amazing travels. So cast your mind back two weeks …

Here’s one more hint about where we were. If you’re still trying to work it out, stay on this picture while your mind wanders over the globe. Soon below this photo it will be pretty apparent where we were.

So you’re ready, then?


Got your answer?

We’re here.

Paris, that is. France, not the one in Tennessee or Texas. (Though Paris, Tennessee is lovely this time of year…)

This is objectively better, however. And, no, I was in no danger on Pl. Charles de Gaulle taking the emptiest photograph possible.

The Avenue de la Grand Armee is in the background, and the Avenue des Champs-Elysees is behind me, and that’s probably as empty as I’ll ever see the road surrounding the Arc. More than our last visit, in 2015, when we spent a day in Paris. I wrote about that in three parts, and you can see those photos here. ( Part One, Part Two and Part Three.)

We’d taken students on an international trip to London and points beyond that year, and one of the points was Paris for the better part of a day. In doing that we walked 10 miles that day. We only covered 6.6 miles by foot on the day we’re talking about here, and that’s because we did more of the subway and the hop-on/hop-off tour bus, which is a grand way to get a basic understanding of any big city. And since it was a shorter walk this time, this day will just get one post instead of three. But there’s still a lot more here, so allez, allez, allez.

Let’s look at the primary sculptures on the Arc. It’s just a beautiful monument all the way around, and I feel like you could stare at it for days and constantly learn new things from it.

This is Le Triomphe de 1810, by the neoclassical sculptor Jean-Pierre Cortot. This sculpture features Napoleon Bonaparte, crowned by the goddess of Victory and celebrates the Treaty of Schönbrunn.

The Arc de Triomphe was intended to honor the victory of Bonaparte’s army at Austerlitz, before becoming a monument to all of his achievements and, today, I can show you a nice shot of two more of the main hauts-reliefs from the four pillars. One was obscured by some construction and rehab work. (All of Paris is perpetually being worked on, you see.)

Above these hauts-reliefs are six bas-reliefs recalling the battle of Austerlitz, the funeral of Marceau, the taking of Alexandria, the battle of Jemmapes, the passage of the pont d’Arcole and the battle of Aboukir.

This next one is Le Départ de 1792 (or La Marseillaise) by François Rude, and this is his most notable work, but if you hunt around Paris, you’ll find many of his other efforts. This famous work, though, celebrates the cause of the French First Republic during the uprising. Above the volunteers is the winged personification of Liberty. This imagery is a big rallying cry for the proud French. It has been a recruitment tool and a part of their military fund raising during World War I.

And this is La Paix de 1815, commemorating the Treaty of Paris of 1815, or the Second Treaty of Paris. See, once he escaped exile and returned to power, Bonaparte did his thing for a while again, until he had to abdicate again, and that ultimately brought about this treaty. And … well, look at some maps, and it is clear that Bonaparte is at the heart of things we see before us even now.

France lost the territorial gains of the Revolutionary armies in 1790–92, and was essentially reduced to little more than its 1790 boundaries, ordered to pay 700 million francs, and pay for an occupation army of 150,000 for five years. This got knocked down to three years. Also, it solidified Switzerland’s neutrality and excellent cough drop industry. So, while not exactly one of Bonaparte’s triumphs, he’s at the center of that, and so many other things. Antoine Étex created the peace sculpture. Opposite is another Étex piece, La Résistance de 1814, but we can’t see it here.

Also on the Arc you’ll find the names of the old French victories and generals. Beneath it is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.

Napoleon died in the South Atlantic, on British soil, having never seen this amazing monument. But when the French finally got his remains back almost 20 years later, and part of the state funeral he received on that cold December Tuesday in 1841 involved a horse-drawn hearse moving the body from the Arc de Triomphe to Les Invalides.

See? You learn all sorts of things on those hop-on/hop-off buses. The English narration was recorded by a young guy using the name Jean Claude. His English was very good. He taught us a lot.

From Jean Claude I learned that this is The Petit Palais, an art museum. It was built for the 1900 Exposition Universelle, and today it is home to the City of Paris Museum of Fine Arts.

A few paragraphs ago I mentioned Les Invalides. Here it is, ordered up by Louis XIV in 1670 as a hospital and home for old and disabled soldiers. It was completed in 1676.

I mentioned Bonaparte being laid to rest there, dozens of other prominent historical figures are there, as well. And The Invalides has seen a lot of other French history, including, in 1879, when Parisian rioters went inside and took control of cannons and muskets stored in the cellars. They turned them on the Bastille during the revolution.

It continued on as a retirement home and hospital for military veterans (invalides) until the early 20th century.

Today the sprawling complex is home to the Musée de l’Armée, the military museum of the Army of France, the Musée des Plans-Reliefs, a museum of military models, and the Musée d’Histoire Contemporaine, a 20th century research museum. The former hospital chapel is now national cathedral of the French military. The Royal Chapel is now known as the Dôme des Invalides. This is the tallest church building in Paris at 351 feet.

All that gold on the dome and on the sculptures leading up to it? That’s just under 30 pounds, Jean Claude told us. It was applied in 1989 or so and was worth something like $3.5 million dollars when the narration was recorded, which took place some time before Notre Dame burned.

I know that, because nothing of the April 2019 fire was on the recording, even though the bus goes right by it.

We’ll get a bit closer to Notre Dame this weekend, but first, enjoy the Académie Royale de Musique. The Paris Opera.

Prior to Covid, The Paris Opera was presenting about 380 performances of opera, ballet and other concerts, to a total audience of about 800,000 people a year. Given the foot traffic we saw, those numbers have surely bounced right back. Paris is once again a bustling city. Il n’y a pas de pandémie ici!

Which brings us back to that big stick pointing to the sky.

Did you know that it was an expo piece? Perhaps you’ve learned that it was supposed to have a limited lifespan? The locals weren’t especially fond of it in the early days, did you know that? Costly, ugly, potentially dangerous. (But what did they know?) The explosion of popularity around radio saved the Eiffel Tower. Score one for mass media.

I’m more and more Parisian by the day, I guess. Aside from when we were deliberately around the Eiffel Tower I didn’t even notice the Eiffel Tower.

Sorta like a good photobomb.

We went inside and up onto the Eiffel Tower. This is a steel mill.

Right now, the Eiffel Tower is undergoing a huge renovation. (All of Paris is perpetually being worked on, you see.) This, the signage says, is their most significant renovation in 40 years. The biggest part of the process includes repainting the tower. This is the 20th paint job in the tower’s history.

They scrape away the old paint, and literally slap on the new, same as any other project. (It isn’t as neat as paint jobs you’ve done around your house though. They’re painting by hand, but not for those staring from up close. They’re painting for speed. It’ll take six months.) We saw signs of all of this on our walk. We went up to the second level. These are the first steps.

That’s 704 steps, which didn’t seem like a lot before, or a lot after, but it was a fair amount during the actual walk.

It affords you lovely views, though. The photos I just showed you of the Eiffel Tower were from right over hhere.

We did not get to go to the top. It was closed. There were too many people.

It would have been fun to go up there.

The following photo is from the second floor. You can see the paint of 1961 coming through.

How do I know the year of that color? There’s a nice little graphic on the ground that shares the history of Eiffel Tower paints.

Turns out that, before they started painting it this time they asked the people of Paris what color they’d like to see on the Eiffel Tower. The answer was overwhelmingly “Pink.”

The people that do the actual deciding said “How about yellow brown, instead?”

And that’s what you’ll see, if you visit Paris, at least for the next seven years. And, then, the painters will be back to do it all again.

Tomorrow, I’ll be back, but from a different part of France. It’ll be amazing, so do stop by.

Jul 15

Remembering Paris

We watched the last stage of the Tour de France tonight, which concludes after three weeks of racing across the country finishes on the famed Avenue des Champs-Élysée. They do several laps, a downtown criterium winding down the world’s toughest endurance race, and they turn around at the Arc de Triomphe.

Over and over we saw the place where we stood just last month:

You can see more of our day in Paris here, here (including the Arc) and here.

And, with that, this blog is going to take two weeks off. Expect a ton of fun stuff when you come back on August 8th. Be safe, have fun until then.

Catch you on the flip side.