Paris (France) to Stuttgart (Germany) via TGV

The high-speed TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse) train

The high-speed TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse) train

At Gare de l’Est  Train Station, Grace, Manny, Jandy, Cheska, Kyle and I boarded the 7:50 AM high-speed TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse or “high-speed train) train bound for Stuttgart (Germany). One of the fastest high-speed trains in Europe and the pride of the French rail system (it is operated by SNCF – the French  national rail network), the iconic TGV serves around 150 destinations across France, as well as a number of international destinations.  Our 629.5-km. long journey to Stuttgart was to take about 3 hours and 40 mins., with stopovers  at Strasbourg in France, and Karlsruhe, Ulm and Munich, all in Germany.

The First Class, second level cabin

The First Class, second level cabin

Much of the TGV service, recently redecorated (the interiors were said to have been designed by French fashion designer Christian Lacroix) and rejuvenated to provide comfortable and clean interiors. The service offers a range of train types plus three classes of travel available to passengers – Standard Class, First Class and TGV Pro (Business Class).

Stairs leading to the second level

Stairs leading to the second level

The gangway between carriages

The gangway between carriages

In First Class, passengers can choose to have Solo seats, which are single seats, which each facing the back of the one in front. Duo seats are available to all classes (two seats next to each other, facing the backs of the ones in front). Pairs of seats facing each other across a table are available in all classes, whilst first class also offers single seats facing each other. TGV Pro customers get the extra legroom as well as a welcome service on some services, as well as access to business lounges, dedicated carriages and travel packs.

Electrical socket for portable device charging

Electrical socket for portable device charging

TV monitors indicate time and train speed

TV monitors indicate time and train speed

We all rode First Class on a dual-level, TGX Duplex train, Grace, Cheska and Kyle in one coach (Coach 11) while Manny, Jandy and I stayed at the adjoining Coach 12. The TGX Duplex was first built in 1994 to increase TGV capacity without increasing train length or the number of trains. They weigh 380 ton and are 200 m. (660 ft.) long, 2.9 m. (9.5 ft.) wide and is made up of two power cars and eight carriages. They have a maximum speed of 320 kms./hr. (200 m./hr.).

Jandy

Jandy

The author pensively looking out the window

The author pensively looking out the window

Our carriage had two levels, with access doors at the lower level that took advantage of the low French platforms.  All of us stayed on the upper level where the gangway between carriages is located. A staircase gave us access to the upper level.  We were allowed to bring two bags or suitcases on board (unlimited weight), as well as one piece of hand luggage.  Beat that low cost airlines!

Our meal

Our meal

Our carriage, with 512 seats (it also has a wheelchair accessible compartment), was very spacious and comfortable. We chose pairs of power-assisted seats facing each other across a table, with plenty of legroom, plus drop-down tables and access to electrical sockets for portable device charging. First Class and TGV Pro Class customers may choose to have their meal served at their seats, if travelling between Monday and Friday.

The French countryside

The French countryside

The German countryside

The German countryside

Since we travelled on a Monday, our meals were served at our seat.  Our meal (croissant, omelet, jam, butter, coffee, Tropicana orange juice, yoghurt, etc.), which showcase local cuisine, was tasty and balanced.  Everyone also has access to a buffet car which serves hot and cold food, as well as drinks. There are also vending machines for snack purchases.

Karlruhe Hauptbahnhof (HBF)

Karlruhe Hauptbahnhof (HBF)

Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof

Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof

If there is one word to describe the TGV, it is “Fast!”  The TGV train is a world speed record holder.  It zips from city to city at up to 322 kms./hr. (201 mph), sweeping you from Paris to Saarbrücken in under 2 hours, to Mannheim in 3 hours 15 minutes, and to Frankfurt in under 4 hours.

Kyle, Grace, Cheska and Manny

Kyle, Grace, Cheska and Manny at Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof

This high-speed French  network, with Paris as its hub, offers passengers the chance to travel anywhere within the country in a matter of hours, making it an attractive alternative to the plane. The service was fast, efficient, comfortable, reliable and cheap (Paris to Stuttgart or Munich fares start from €25 single if booked in advance, closer to the day of travel, this rises to more like €80 each way).

Gare de Paris Est Train Station (Paris, France)

Gare de l'Est Train Station

Gare de l’Est Train Station

It was our last day in Paris and, after breakfast at the hotel, we all  walked, with our luggage in tow, to the nearby Gare de Paris Est Train Station, one of six large SNCF (Société nationale des chemins de fer français or “National society of French railways” or “French National Railway Company”) termini in Paris. Here, we were to take  the train to Munich (Germany), the first leg of our trip to Salzburg (Austria).

Gare de l'Est  Train Station (1)

One of the largest and the oldest railway stations in Paris, it is the western terminus of the Paris–Strasbourg railway and the Paris–Mulhouse railway. It provides train transportation to major cities in Central Europe such as Zurich, Switzerland; Munich, Germany and Vienna, Austria.

Hall Alsace which gives access to the yellow train platforms, lanes numbered 2 to 12

Hall Alsace which gives access to the yellow train platforms, lanes numbered 2 to 12

Opened in 1849 by the Compagnie du Chemin de Fer de Paris à Strasbourg (the Paris-Strasbourg Railway Company) under the name “Strasbourg platform” (corresponds today with the hall for main-line trains), it was designed by architect François Duquesnay and was renamed the “Gare de l’Est” in 1854, after the expansion of service to Mulhouse.

Gare de l'Est Train Station (7)

The Paris East Train Station (Gare de Paris-Est) represents the Belle Epoque generation of railway buildings. The west wing is the original building built in 1847 and, in 1854, due to increased rail traffic, the east wing was built.

Gare de l'Est Train Station (1)

Central train platform

In 1885 and 1900, the Gare de l’Est station was renovated and, in 1931 it was doubled in size, with the new part of the station built symmetrically with the old part, thus significantly changing the surrounding neighborhood.

Gare de l'Est Train Station (5)

At the top of the west façade is a statue by the sculptor Philippe Joseph Henri Lemaire, representing the city of Strasbourg, while the east end of the station is crowned by a statue personifying Verdun, by Varenne.  Strasbourg and Verdun are important destinations serviced by Gare de l’Est.

Gare de l'Est Train Station (6)

On October 4, 1883, the Gare de l’Est Station saw the first departure, for Istanbul, of the Orient Express . As a terminus of a strategic railway network extending towards the eastern part of France, the Gare de l’Est saw large mobilizations,  at the beginning of World War I, of French troops, most notably in 1914. In the main-line train hall, a monumental painting by Albert Herter, dating from 1926, illustrates the departure of these soldiers for the Western front.

Gare de l'Est Train Station (4)Paris Est Train Station: Place du 11 Novembre 1918, Rue du 8 Mai 1945, 75010 Paris, France. Open daily, 5:30 AM – 1 AM.

Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris (Paris, France)

Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris

Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris

From the Eiffel Tower, we again walked to the Champ de Mars Metro Station where we took the Metro to Anvers, the nearest Metro station to our next destination – the imposing Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, known for its many artists that have been omnipresent since 1880.  From Anvers, we walked for 2 to 3 mins., up the Rue Steinkerque, to the hill at the foot of Sacre-Couer.

The Montmartre Funicular

The Montmartre Funicular

Upon arrival, we all rode the Montmartre Funicular (a.k.a. Funiculaire de Montmartr) which runs from Place Suzanne-Valadon to Place Willette below Sacre-Couer.  Other tourists climbed the staircase alongside the tracks.  It was cold, windy and overcast during our visit.

Statue of Jesus Christ at the facade

Statue of Jesus Christ at the facade

This minor basilica, in the 18th arrondissement, to the west of the Gare de Nord and north of the Opéra Garnier, is commonly known as Sacré-Cœur Basilica or simply Sacré-Cœur (FrenchBasilique du Sacré-Cœur). This popular and iconic landmark, located at the summit of the Butte Montmartre (said to be derived from either Mount of Martyrs or from Mount of Mars), the highest point in the city, is a double (political and cultural) monument.

Statue of Joan of Arc

Statue of Joan of Arc

Sacré-Cœur is both a national penance for the secular uprising of the Socialist Paris Commune of 1871 (Montmartre had been the site of the Commune’s first insurrection) and the subsequent defeat of France in the 1871 Franco-Prussian War and is publicly dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, an increasingly popular vision of a loving and sympathetic Christ.

Statue of King St. Louis IX

Statue of King St. Louis IX

Designed by Architect  Paul Abadie (who won  over 77 other architects in a competition), its foundation stone was laid on June 16, 1875.  Abadie died in 1884 and 5 architects continued with the work: Honoré Daumet (1884–1886), Jean-Charles Laisné (1886–1891), Henri-Pierre-Marie Rauline (1891–1904), Lucien Magne (1904–1916, who added an 83 m./272-ft. high clock tower), and Jean-Louis Hulot (1916–1924)

The cathedral's interior

The cathedral’s interior

It was not completed until 1914, when war intervened, and was formally consecrated on October 16, 1919, after the end of World War I when its national symbolism had shifted.  The structure’s overall style, showing a free interpretation of RomanByzantine features, is a conscious reaction against the Neo-Baroque excesses of the Palais Garnier, which was cited in the competition, and has many design elements that symbolize nationalist themes.

The basilica's dome

The basilica’s dome

Built with travertine quarried in Château-Landon (Seine-et-Marne), its stone, when it rains, reacts to the water and exudes calcite which acts like a bleacher, ensuring that the basilica remains white even with weathering and pollution. Its portico, with three arches, is adorned by two bronze equestrian statues of French national saints Joan of Arc (1927) and King Saint Louis IX, both done (by Hippolyte Lefebvre.  The 19 ton Savoyarde bell, one of the world’s heaviest, was cast in 1895 in Annecy.  It alludes to the annexation of Savoy in 1860.  The Savoyarde clock, at the clock tower, is one of the world’s largest.

Christ in Majesty

Christ in Majesty

A 480 sq. m. mosaic in the apse ceiling, entitled Christ in Majesty and created by Luc-Olivier Merson, is the largest in France and among the largest in the world. On display in a monstrance above the high altar is the Blessed Sacrament (a consecrated host which, according to Church teaching, has become by the consecration of the priest Christ’s Body and Blood during Mass), continually on display there since 1885.

The cathedral's high altar

The cathedral’s high altar

The basilica also has a large and very fine pipe organ, built by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll and installed in Paris in 1905 by Charles Mutin Cavaillé-Coll’s successor and son-in-law), is composed of 109 ranks and 78 speaking stops spread across four 61-note manuals and the 32-note pedalboard (unusual before the start of the 20th century; the standard of the day was 56 and 30), spread across three expressive divisions (also unusual for the time, even in large organs).  The organ was ahead of its time, containing multiple expressive divisions and giving the performer considerable advantages over other even larger instruments of the day.

The parvis

The parvis

The basilica complex includes a garden for meditation, with a fountain. From its parvis, we had one of those perfect Paris postcard views. The top of the dome (the second-highest point in Paris after the Eiffel Tower), open to tourists, affords a spectacular panoramic 360°view (up to 30 kms. on a clear day) of the city of Paris, which is mostly to the south of the basilica.

View of Paris from the parvis

View of Paris from the parvis

The entrance to the dome and the chapel-lined crypt is located on the left side of the basilica. Buy a ticket, then climb a steep 234-step spiral staircase to the base of the dome. The crypt can also be visited for an additional €2.

Cheska, Jandy and Grace

Cheska, Jandy and Grace

Sacre Couer de Montmartre Basilica: 35 Rue du Chevalier de la Barre, 75018 Paris, France. Tel: +33 1 53 41 89 00. Website: www.sacre-coeur-montmartre.com.  Open day, 6 AM to 10:30 PM. Admission is free. The dome is accessible from 9 AM to 7 PM in the summer and 6 PM in the winter. When visiting the basilica, tourists and others are asked to dress appropriately and to observe silence as much as possible, so as not to disturb persons who have come from around the world to pray in this place of pilgrimage. The use of cameras and video recorders is forbidden inside the Basilica. 

How to Get There: The basilica is accessible by buses 30, 31, 80, and 85 which can be taken to the bottom of the hill of the Basilica. Line 12 of the Metro can be taken to Jules Joffrin station and visitors can then change to the Montmartrobus and disembark at Place du Tertre. Line 2 or 12 of the Metro can be taken to Pigalle station where visitors can change to the Montmartrobus and disembark at Norvins, or to Anvers station which gives easy access to the steps or the funicular car that leads directly to the Basilica. The Montmartrobus operates on a circular route from Place Pigalle (near the Pigalle Métro stop) to the top of the Butte, where you can get off for the short walk to Sacré-Coeur. Or you can stay on the bus until it goes down and around the other side of the hill, then passes Sacré-Coeur on its way back to Pigalle.

Arc de Triomphe (Paris, France)

Any visit to Paris is never complete without visiting the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile (Triumphal Arch of the Star), one of the city’s most famous monuments and the linchpin of the Axe historique (historic axis) – a sequence of monuments and grand thoroughfares on a route which runs from the courtyard of the Louvre to the Grande Arche de la Défense (built in 1982). Prior to our visit, we had seen its twice smaller cousin, the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, which stands west of the Louvre.

Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe

Standing at the center of the Place Charles de Gaulle (originally named Place de l’Étoile), at the western end of the Champs-Élysées, the Arc de Triomphe is located on the right bank of the Seine at the centre of a dodecagonal configuration of twelve radiating avenues.  It honors those who fought and died for France during the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars.

The monument, designed by Jean Chalgrin in the astylar design, was started in 1806, after the victory at Austerlitz by Emperor Napoleon, halted during the Bourbon Restoration, and completed, between 1833 and 1836, during  the reign of King Louis-Philippe.

L-R: Grace, Jandy and Manny

L-R: Grace, Jandy and Manny

This  Neo-Classical version of the ancient Roman triumphal  Arch of Titus, sets the tone for public monuments with triumphant patriotic messages, its iconographic program pits heroically nude French youths against bearded Germanic warriors in chain mail. Here are also some interesting trivia regarding the Arc de Triomphe

  • Before the Arc, a three-level, elephant-shaped building , designed by French architect Charles Ribart, was proposed on this spot. The building would be entered via a spiral staircase that led up into the elephant’s underbelly. It was to have a form of air conditioning, the furniture would fold into the walls and there would be a drainage system in the elephant’s trunk. Ribart was all set to start building, but the French government ended up denying his request.
  • Sadly, Napoleon never got to see the finished product as the Arc was completed 15 years after his death.
  • Though designed by Jean Chalgrin, he died  in 1811 and the work was taken over by Jean-Nicolas Huyot.
  • The Arc de Triomphe is located at the center of 12 avenues which radiate outward.
  • Although Napoleon never got to see the completed monument, he had a wooden model of the completed arch built so that, in 1810, he was able to enter Paris from the west with his new bride Archduchess Marie-Louise of Austria.
  • The monument, built on such a large scale, stands 50 m. (164 ft.) high, 45 m. (148 ft.) wide and 22 m. (72 ft.) deep. The large vault is 29.19 m. (95.8 ft.) high and 14.62 m. (48.0 ft.) wide. The small vault is 18.68 m. (61.3 ft.) high and 8.44 m. (27.7 ft.) wide.
  • Beneath its vault, in the chapel on the first floor, lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I, interred on November 10, 1920, Armistice Day . Its  eternal flame burning (non-stop since November 11, 1923) in memory of the dead who were never identified (now in both world wars), was the first  lit in Western and Eastern Europe since the Vestal Virgins‘ fire was extinguished in the fourth century.
  • The Arc de Triomphe costed 9.3 millions French francs, a gigantic amount of money at that time.
  • The Arc de Triomphe was the tallest triumphal arch in existence until the completion of the 67 m. (220 ft.) high Monumento a la Revolución in Mexico City in 1938. The slightly taller, 60 m. (197 ft.) high Arch of Triumph in Pyongyang (North Korea), completed in 1982, is modeled on the Arc de Triomphe.
  • Following its construction, the Arc de Triomphe became the rallying point of French troops parading after successful military campaigns and for the annual Bastille Day Military Parade.
  • After the interment of the Unknown Soldier, all military parades (including the French under Marshal Ferdinand Foch after the victory in 1919) have avoided marching through the actual arch. The route taken is up to the arch and then around its side, out of respect for the tomb and its symbolism. Both Germans  (under Hitler) in 1940 and the French (under de Gaulle) and Allies in 1944 and 1945 observed this custom.
  • A United States postage stamp of 1945 shows the Arc de Triomphe in the background as victorious American troops march down the Champs-Élysées and U.S. airplanes fly overhead on August 29, 1944.
Shields engraved with the names of major French victories in the French Revolution and Napoleonic wars

Shields engraved with the names of major French victories in the French Revolution and Napoleonic wars

Richly sculptured frieze of soldiers

Richly sculptured frieze of soldiers

Battle of Aboukir ((July 25, 1799)

Battle of Aboukir (July 25, 1799)

Funeral of Gen. Marceau (September 20, 1796)

Funeral of Gen. Marceau (September 20, 1796)

  • The shorter sides of the four supporting columns are inscribed with the names of the major French victories in the Napoleonic Wars.
  • Two unsuccessful assassination attempts took place at the Arc de Triomphe – against Charles De Gaulle on August 22, 1962 and Jacques Chirac on July 14, 2002. Both men survived.
  • Although the Arc de Triomphe is a symbol of France’s victories, German armies have marched underneath or around it on two occasions – on February 17, 1871 (after the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War), and the Nazis on June 14,1940 during the German Occupation in World War II.
  • The last time the Arc de Triomphe had a full-scale cleaning, through bleaching, was from 1965 to 1966.
  • The annual Tour de France bike race finishes here.

The four main sculptural groups on each of the pillars at the base of the Arc are:

Le Départ de 1792 (or La Marseillaise) by François Rude

Le Départ de 1792 (or La Marseillaise) by François Rude

Le Triomphe de 1810 byJean-Pierre Cortot

Le Triomphe de 1810 byJean-Pierre Cortot

The main sculptures are not integral friezes.  Rather, they are treated as independent trophies applied to the vast ashlar masonry masses. Inside the monument is a permanent exhibition, opened in February 2007, conceived by the artist Maurice Benayoun and the architect Christophe Girault.

Cheska and Kyle

Cheska and Kyle

Here are some historical trivia regarding the Arc de Triomphe:

  • On December 15, 1840, Napoleon’s remains, brought back to France from Saint Helena, passed under it on their way to the Emperor’s final resting place at the Invalides.
  • During the night of May 22, 1885, prior to burial in the Panthéon, the body of Victor Hugo was exposed under the Arc.
  • It is said that on the day that the Battle of Verdun began in 1916, the sword carried by the Republic in the Marseillaise relief broke off. To conceal the accident and avoid any undesired ominous interpretations, the relief was immediately hidden by tarpaulins .
  • On August 7, 1919,Charles Godefroy, the replacement of Jean Navarre  the pilot who originally was tasked to make the flight (he died on July 10, 1919 when he crashed near Villacoublay while training for the flight), successfully flew his Nieuport biplane under the Arc in tribute to the airmen killed in the war.
  • On May 31, 1961, U.S. President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, accompanied by French President Charles de Gaulle, paid their respects by laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
  • On August 17, 1995, as part of a campaign of bombings, the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria exploded a bomb near the Arc de Triomphe, wounding 17 people.
The author

The author (at left)

Arc de Triomphe: Place Charles de Gaulle, 75008 Paris, France.  Tel:+33 1 55 37 73 77. Website: www.arcdetriompheparis.com. You can climb the 284 steps to the rooftop (9.50€)..

Eiffel Tower (Paris, France)

The Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower has become both a global cultural icon of France and one of the most recognizable structures in the world. This iron lattice tower, located along the Champ de Mars, was named after the French engineer Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower in 1889. Erected as the entrance arch to the 1889 World’s Fair (which celebrates the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution), it was started on  January 26, 1887, completed on March 15, 1889 and opened on March 31.

L-R: the author, Jandy, Grace, Kyle an Cheska

L-R: the author, Jandy, Grace, Kyle and Cheska

It was initially criticized by some of France’s leading artists and intellectuals for its design (saying it had too much engineering and not enough art to be considered good architecture) but now is widely considered now to be a striking piece of structural art, often featured in films and literature. Here are also some interesting trivia regarding the Eiffel Tower:

  • Gustave Eiffel did not design the Eiffel Tower – senior engineer Maurice Koechlin did.
  • The design for the tower was decided by a contest. Contestants had to submit their designs for consideration. Eiffel’s design won.
  • It took 3 years of lobbying to approve the Eiffel Tower in 1887.
  • Public funds only covered a quarter o the cost of the Eiffel Tower.
  • On February 14, 1887, all the big names of the world of arts and literature, including Charles Garnier (who built the famed Opera house), Guy de Maupassant, Alexandre Dumas Jr., Leconte de Lisle, and Sully Prudhomme, united to stop its construction in what is known as the ‘Artists Protests.”
  • Eiffel’s firm produced 5,329 drawings (1,700 generals an 3,629 detailed) of the Eiffel Tower
  • Only one person died in the construction of the Eiffel Tower
  • The French name for the Eiffel Tower is La Tour Eiffel. It also has the nickname La dame de fer which means “the iron lady,” the same nickname as Margaret Thatcher’s.
  • Famed novelist Guy de Maupassant hated the tower but ate lunch there every day. When he was asked why, Maupassant answered that the only place in Paris where he couldn’t see the Eiffel Tower was the Eiffel Tower itself.
  • It is the most-visited paid monument in the world.
  • The tower, the tallest structure in Paris and the  second tallest structure in France (not including broadcast aerials), after the Millau Viaduct (completed in 2004, the world’s tallest bridge is  taller, at 343 m.). It was the tallest until the construction of a military transmitter in the town of Saissac in 1973.
  • During its construction, the Eiffel Tower surpassed the 555-ft. high Washington Monument to assume the title of the tallest man-made structure in the world, a title it held for 41 years, until the Chrysler Building in New York City was built in 1930. In 1957, after the addition of the aerial, the Eiffel Tower it is now taller than the Chrysler Building by 5.2 m. (17 ft.).
  • Famous visitors to the tower during its opening included The Prince of WalesSarah Bernhardt“Buffalo Bill” Cody (his Wild West show was an attraction at the Exposition) and Thomas Edison.
  • Eiffel had a private apartment for entertaining friends at the third floor of the tower. He  made use of his apartment at the top level of the tower to carry out meteorological observations, and also made use of the tower to perform experiments on the action of air resistance on falling bodies.
  • Gustave Eiffel was also behind the design of the Garabit Viaduct (1884), the Pest Railway Station in Hungary, the dome of the Nice Observatory and the interior elements for the Statue of Liberty‘s spine. He was also involved in a disastrous attempt by the French to build a canal in Panama, and his reputation was badly damaged by the failure of the venture. He died while listening to Beethoven‘s 5th symphony.
  • The Eiffel Tower was originally intended for Barcelona, Spain, but the project was rejected.
  • It served as a military radio post in 1903, transmitted the first public radio program in 1925, and then broadcast television and digital TV.
  • Sir John Bickerstaffe, Mayor of Blackpool and an attendee at the 1889 World’s Fair, was so impressed with the Eiffel Tower that, in 1891, he had a similar structure (Blackpool Tower) designed and built on the English seafront to surpass the Eiffel Tower in height.  However, it was unsteady, never completed and demolished in 1907.
  • Eiffel’s permit for the tower allowed it to stand for only 20 years (it was to be dismantled in 1909, when its ownership would revert to the City of Paris). As part of the original contest rules for designing a tower was that it should be easy to demolish, the city had planned to tear it down. However, the tower was proved valuable for communication purposes (it was repurposed as a giant radio antenna) so it was allowed to remain even after the expiry of the permit.
  • In 1905, local newspaper L’Equipe organized a stair climbing championship at the tower. A M. Forestier won a bike, taking three minutes and 12 seconds to reach the second level.
  • On February 4, 1912, French tailor Franz Reichelt attempted to fly from the first floor with a spring-loaded parachute suit of his own design. However, he crashed 187 ft. to the ground instead.
  • During World War I, using the Eiffel Tower’s wireless station to intercept enemy messages from Berlin, the French military, in 1917, intercepted a coded message between Germany and Spain that included information about ‘Operative H-21’ otherwise known as the Dutch-born exotic dancer Margaretha Geertruida Zelle  MacLeod (stage name: Mata Hari) who was spying for the Germans. Based on this message, the French were able to arrest, convict and execute Mata Hari for espionage.
  • At the First Battle of the Marne, in 1914, the tower played a part in the Allied victory when one of its transmitters jammed German radio communications, hindering their advance.
  • By 1918, after Guillaume Apollinaire made a nationalist poem in the shape of the tower (a calligram) to express his feelings about the war against Germany, it became a symbol for Paris and for France
  • In 1923, Pierre Labric cycled down the stairs of the tower, winning a bet but was arrested by local police.
  • On February 28, 1926, 23 year old French aviator Leon Collot attempted to fly his plane under the tower but was killed when he was blinded by the sun and became entangled in the aerial from the wireless station, crashing in a ball of flame.
  • On 2 separate occasions in 1925, con artist Victor Lustig, pretending that he was the deputy director-general of the Ministry of Posts and Telegraphs, “sold” the Eiffel Tower to a scrap metal dealer.
  • Between 1925 and 1934, French car manufacturer Citroen used the tower as a giant billboard (recorded as the world’s biggest advertisement by the Guinness Book of Records), the company name was emblazoned on the tower using a quarter of a million light bulbs.
  • During the German Occupation in World War II, when Adolf Hitler visited Paris, the French cut the lift cables on the Eiffel Tower so that he would have to climb the steps if he wanted to reach the top. Nazi soldiers also attempted to attach a swastika to the top, but it was so large it blew away and had to be replaced with a smaller one.
  • In 1944, as the Allies approached Paris, Hitler ordered Gen. Dietrich von Choltitz, the military governor of Paris, to demolish the tower, along with other parts of the city. The general refused.
  • In 1960, Charles de Gaulle proposed temporarily dismantling the tower and sending it to Montreal for Expo 67. The plan was rejected.
  • In the Beatles song I Am the Walrus, Semolina Pilchard climbs the Eiffel Tower.
  • For its 75th anniversary, there was a televised broadcast of mountaineers climbing up the tower.
  • The tower appears in the 1985 Bond film A View to a Kill. There is a scene in the Jules Verne Restaurant, and a fight in the stairway.
  • In 2007, a woman with an objects fetish named Erika La Tour Eiffel “married” the Eiffel Tower, changing her name to Erika La Tour Eiffel in honor of her “partner.”
  • According to the Societe de la Tour Eiffel, since the tower first opened in 1889, there have only been 349 successful suicides. Some were jumpers, while others were people hanging themselves from the beam. Those who did attempt to jump from the first level don’t always die.
  • At night, it is illegal (you can be fined) to take a photograph of the tower because the light display is considered artwork and therefore protected under copyright law.
  • Zoning restrictions in Paris limit the height of most buildings to 7 storeys high. Thus, only a small number of taller buildings have a clear view of the tower.
  • The Eiffel Tower being so popular, its design has been recreated around the world, with over 30 replicas including the half scale replica at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel in Nevada, USA, the full scale Tokyo Tower in Japan and one at the Window of the World theme park in Shenzhen, China.
  • To counteract atmospheric perspective, multiple types of colors are used to paint the Eiffel Tower. Darker shades are used at the top and, gradually, lighter hues are painted toward the bottom.
Names of 70 scientists and engineers inscribed in surrounding panels

Names of 70 scientists and engineers inscribed in surrounding panels

  • The names of 72 engineers, scientists and mathematicians are engraved on the side of the tower, each of whom contributed to its construction.
  • To mark the 125th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower’s completion, the British Virgin Islands has launched a special tower-shaped $10 coin.
  • In the computer game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, the tower is toppled by an airstrike.
  • Lego set number 10181, containing 3,428 bricks, are for those who wanted to build your own Eiffel Tower.
  • To keep the operations up and running 365 days a year, the site requires a large staff of 280 people.
  • To validate admission, cashiers sell 2 tons of tickets every year and the cleaning crew uses 25,000 garbage bags annually.
  • More than just a tourist attraction, the tower also houses gourmet restaurants, art exhibitions, concerts, a newspaper office, a post office, scientific laboratories, and the first level becomes an ice rink every year.
  • In 1984, two Britons parachuted from the tower without permission.
  • The Eiffel Tower Light Display, dating back to 1985, was invented by Pierre Bideau, an electrician and lighting engineer. Consisting of projectors equipped with high-pressure, yellow-orange sodium lamps, when illuminated, they give the impression that the Eiffel Tower is sparkling with gold. In under 10 mins., the projectors are turned on and activated by sensors. In 2004, they were replaced with energy-efficient projectors, resulting in 40% energy savings.
  • For the landmark’s centennial, tightrope walker Philippe Petit walked the 2,296 ft. between the Palais de Chaillot and the Eiffel Tower.
  • In 2002, Hugues Richard climbed the tower on his mountain bike , breaking his own 1998 record.

Here are some amazing facts about the tower:

  • The Eiffel Tower is 324 m. (1,063 ft. including antenna) tall (about the same height as an 81-storey building) and its base is square, 125 m. (410 ft.) on a side.
  • 98 million people ascended it in 2011 and the tower received its 250 millionth visitor in 2010. In 2012, there were 6,180,000 visitors (75% foreign) and an average of 25,000 people ascend the tower every day. The majority of visitors are French (10.4%), followed by Italy and Spain (8.1% each), USA (7.9%), Britain (7.4%), Germany (5.8%) and Brazil (5.5%).
Bottom of first level platform

Bottom of first level platform

  • The tower has three levels for visitors, with restaurants (including the internationally renowned Jules Verne Restauranton the first and second. The third level observatory’s upper platform, the highest accessible to the public in the European Union, is 276 m. (906 ft.) above the ground,
  • 1,665 steps are needed to climb all the way to the top of the Eiffel Tower. The climb from ground level to the first level (187 ft.) is over 300 steps, as is the walk from the first to the second level.   The height of the third level is 905 ft.
  • There are 336 floodlights and 20,000 (5,000 per side) special light bulbs that twinkle (for 5 mins. on the hour, every hour, from nightfall to 1 AM) on the Eiffel Tower. Its light beam can be seen 50 miles away. 25 mountain climbers were required for the 5-month lighting installation. 50 miles of electrical cable and 60 tons of metallic parts cover the tower. Total cost was over $5 million
  • Its 6 elevators make 100 climbs per day. Every year, elevator trips total 103,000 kms. (64,000 mi.), enough to go around the globe 2.5 times.
  • Annually, it consumes 7,500,000 KWH of electricity, the same amount of electricity used by a small village annually.
  • Every 7 years, around 50 to 60 tons (49 to 59 long tons; 55 to 66 short tons)of paint, weighing as much as 10 elephants, are needed to paint the 2,690,750 sq. ft. surface of the Eiffel Tower to protect it from rust.
  • It cost 7,799,401 gold francs to build. If the Eiffel Tower was built today, it would cost about US$35 million.
  • It took a total of 2 years, 2 months and 5 days to build 180 years fewer than Paris’s other great attraction, Notre Dame Cathedral.
  • Despite its height, the Eiffel Tower was designed to be wind resistant, swaying only a few inches in the wind.
  • Depending on the ambient temperature, the top of the tower may shift away from the sun by up to 18 cm. (7.1 in.) because of thermal expansion of the metal on the side facing the sun.
  • The Eiffel Tower weighs 11,133 tons, around 7,300 of which represents the metallic structure..
  • The height of the Eiffel Tower varies by 15 cm. (5.9 in.) due to temperature.
  • 300 workers, 18,038 pieces of wrought iron and 2.5 million rivets were needed to build the Eiffel Tower.
  • The puddled iron (wrought iron) structure of the Eiffel Tower weighs 7,300 tons, while the entire structure, including non-metal components, is approximately 10,000 tons. If the 7,300 tons of the metal structure were melted down it would fill the 125-m. square base to a depth of only 6.25 cm. (2.5 in.), assuming the density of the metal to be 7.8 tons per cu. m.
  • A cubic box surrounding the tower (324 m. x  125 m.  x  ) would contain 6,200 tons of air, almost as much as the iron itself.
One of the main pillars

One of the main pillars

Eiffel Tower: Champ de Mars, 5 Avenue Anatole France, 75007 Paris, France. Tel: +33 892 70 12 39.  Tickets can be purchased to ascend by stairs or lift (elevator) to the first and second levels. To avoid long queues, tickets can also be purchased online. Although there are stairs to the third and highest level, these are usually closed to the public and it is generally only accessible by lift (€15).

Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel (Paris, France)

After our all morning tour of the Louvre and lunch at an outdoor café, we made our way, by foot, to the Bateaux Parisiens boat docking station, near the Eiffel Tower, where we were to embark on a Seine River Cruise.  We passed a number of Paris landmarks along the way.  The first was the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, a triumphal arch  derivative of the triumphal arches of the Roman Empire; in particular that of Septimius Severus in Rome.

Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel

Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel

Located in the Place du Carrousel, it was designed by Charles Percier and Pierre François Léonard Fontaine and was built between 1806 and 1808, on the model of the Arch of Constantine (312 AD) in Rome, by Emperor Napoleon I as an entrance of honor of the Tuileries Palace, the Imperial residence, and to commemorate his diplomatic and military victories of the previous year. The more famous Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile, across from the Champs Élysées and designed in the same year, is about twice as massive but was not completed until 1836.

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The Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel is located at the eastern end of Paris Axe historique (“historic axis”), a 9-km. long linear route which dominates much of the northwestern quadrant of the city. It is, in effect, the backbone of the Right Bank.  Looking west, the arch is perfectly aligned with the obelisk in the Place de la Concorde, the centerline of the grand boulevard Champs-Élysées, the Arc de Triomphe at the Place de l’Étoile, and, although it is not directly visible from the Place du Carrousel, the Grande Arche de la Défense. Thus, the axis begins and ends with an arch.

Bas-relief of The Battle of Austerlitz

Bas-relief of The Battle of Austerlitz

When the Arc du Carrousel was built, however, an observer in the Place du Carrousel was impeded from any view westward as the central part of the Palais des Tuileries intervened to block the line of sight to the west. When the Tuileries was burned down during the Paris Commune in 1871, and its ruins were swept away, the great axis, as it presently exists, an unobstructed view west was opened all the way to the Place du Carrousel, the Louvre and the more famous Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile. Also, with the disappearance of the palace, the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel also became the dominant feature of the Place du Carrousel.

The Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel seen from the Louvre

The Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel seen from the Louvre

This monument is 19 m. (63 ft.) high, 23 m. (75 ft.) wide and 7.5 m. (24 ft.) deep.  Its 6.4 m. (21 ft.) high central arch is flanked by two smaller ones, 4.3 m. (14 ft.) high, and 2.7 m. (9 ft.) wide. An example of Corinthian style of architecture, around its exterior are 8 marble Corinthian columns topped by an entablature whose upper frieze has sculptures of 8 soldiers of the Empire: Auguste Marie Taunay‘s cuirassier, Charles-Louis Corbet‘s dragoonJoseph Chinard‘s horse grenadier and Jacques-Edme Dumont‘s sapper.

Statue of a dragoon

Statue of a dragoon

On the pediment, between the soldiers, are bas-reliefs, executed in rose marble, whose subjects are devoted to the battles of Napoleon and were selected by Vivant Denon, the director of the Napoleon Museum  (located at the time in the Louvre), and designed by Charles Meynier. They depict:

It was originally surmounted by the so-called Horses of Saint Mark that adorned the top of the main door of the St Mark’s Basilica in Venice, which had been captured in 1798 by Napoleon. In 1815, following the Battle of Waterloo and the Bourbon restoration, France ceded the quadriga  to the Austrian empire which had annexed Venice under the terms of the Congress of Vienna. The Austrians immediately returned the statuary to Venice.

Quadriga of the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel - Copy

Quadriga of the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel

The horses of Saint Mark were replaced in 1828 by a quadriga, atop the entablature, sculpted by Baron François Joseph Bosio, depicting Peace riding in a triumphal chariot led by gilded Victories on both sides. The composition commemorates the Restoration of the Bourbons following Napoleon’s downfall.  The Arc du Carrousel inspired the design of Marble Arch, constructed in London between 1826 and 1833.

Louvre Museum – Egyptian Antiquities Department (Paris, France)

Egyptian Antiquities Department

Egyptian Antiquities Department

After viewing the paintings of Italian and French masters at the Denon Wing, Jandy and I proceeded to the underground level of the Sully Wing to visit the Egyptian Antiquities Department, passing the Winged Victory of Samothrace (190 BC) statue and the excavated and preserved remains of the medieval fortress and moat of the Louvre.

Guardian Lion at the Entrance to a Chapel of the Serapeum of Saqqara

Guardian Lion at the Entrance to a Chapel of the Serapeum of Saqqara

A numbers of visitors to the Louvre come with the sole aim of visiting this department and it would be a real pity if we did not to spend at least one hour here.

Set for protection of the mummy

Set for protection of the mummy

The Egyptian Antiquities collection of the Louvre, the second biggest in the world after the Cairo Museum, comprises over 50,000 pieces, includes artifacts from the Nile civilizations which date from 4,000 BC to the 4th century AD. The collection overviews Egyptian life spanning Ancient Egypt, the Middle Kingdom, the New KingdomCoptic art, and the RomanPtolemaic, and Byzantine periods. 

Funerary servants

Funerary servants

The department’s origins lie in the royal collection, but it was augmented by Napoleon’s 1798 expeditionary trip with Dominique Vivant, the future director of the Louvre. After Jean-François Champollion translated the Rosetta StoneCharles X decreed that an Egyptian Antiquities department be created.

Fragment of Statue of Ramses II

Fragment of Statue of Ramses II

Champollion advised the purchase of 7,000 works from the three its continued via acquisitions by Auguste Mariette, founder of the Egyptian Museum  in Cairo. Mariette, after excavations at Memphis, sent back crates of archaeological finds including The Seated Scribe.

Magic protection, amulets, steles of Horus

Magic protection, amulets, steles of Horus

In 1997, during the Grand Louvre renovation project, this huge collection was distributed on two different floors in what is now called the Sully Wing at the east end of the Louvre.

Sphinx guarding entrance

Sphinx guarding entrance

Guarded by the Large Sphinx (c. 2000 BC), this department now fills 30 large rooms. Holdings include art, papyrus scrolls, mummies, tools, clothing, jewelry, games, musical instruments and weapons.  

Canopes (Vases)

Canopes (Vases)

The 19 rooms on the ground floor include two in the basement for particularly heavy exhibits (another reason they are at ground level is that there are pedestrian entrances to the courtyard). As the heaviest objects had to remain on the ground floor, it was impossible to arrange the works by period.

Sarcophagi Room (Room 14)

Sarcophagi Room (Room 14)

Instead, they are organized into a “thematic circuit” centered on the major aspects of Egyptian civilization (i.e. the daily life in Ancient Egypt), using authentic relics and artworks to illustrate and explain the topics of agriculture, hunting, fishing, animal husbandry, writing, arts and crafts, domestic life, temples, funeral rites and gods in ancient Egypt. The ground floor includes the Temple Room (Room 12) and the Sarcophagi Room (Room 14).

Room 3

Room 3

Room 3 has models, found in graves, that show people rowing on the Nile River or poling through shallow water. The models were perhaps intended to provide transportation in the afterlife for the person who had died.

Model of a funeral boat

Model of a funeral boat

Room 11 contains a row of six of the sphinxes which were set up, in the 4th or 3rd century BC, along the allée leading to the temple Sérapéum de Saqqara in Egypt. In 1851, these were discovered and excavated out of the sand by workers under the direction of Auguste Mariette.

A row of 6 sphinxes in Room 11

A row of 6 sphinxes in Room 11

Later, in 1869, Mariette was asked to suggest a plot for an opera about ancient Egypt, and his idea was accepted as the basis for the opera Aida by Giuseppe Verdi.  The large Temple Room (Room 12), divided into 4 sections, shows the remains of sanctuaries from various sites and all epochs of ancient Egyptian history.  It gives us an idea of the structure and function of a temple and the ceremonies that took place there.

The large Temple Room (Room 12)

The large Temple Room (Room 12)

After visiting the 12 densely packed rooms of the thematic tour of ancient Egypt, we went down a long staircase (there’s also an elevator for people with restricted mobility) that lead down to the basement.

Room 13

Room 13

Here, Room 13 displays the huge, extremely heavy red granite royal tomb of pharaoh Ramses III, who ruled from 1186–1155 BC. This room is also identified as the crypt of the god Osiris.

The red granite tomb of pharaoh Ramses III at Room 13

The pink granite cartouche-shaped tomb, at Room 13, once contained the nest of coffins of Pharaoh Ramesses III.

Rooms 18 and 19 have an alphabetical guide to the ancient Egyptian gods, including their appearance, their attributes, their roles, all illustrated with authentic figurines made of metal, ceramics or stone. There is also an exhibit of mummified animals.

Statue of Bes, god of matrimony, as a dwarf

Statue of Bes, god of matrimony, as a misshapen nude dwarf with overly long arms, bowed legs, and a face combining leonine and human features

Rooms 20 to 30, on the first floor, on the other hand, is organized into a “chronological circuit” showing outstanding examples of Egyptian art, from the earliest to the latest periods of ancient Egypt. present a chronological approach, highlighting the different historical periods and the development of Egyptian art from 4000 BC to 400 AD.

Stele of LadyTaperet

The small wooden stele features an image of Lady Taperet praying to different aspects of the sun: Ra, the sun at its zenith, on one side; and Atum, the setting sun, on the other

Pieces from the ancient period include the Gebel el-Arak Knife from 3400 BC, the Head of King Djedefre and The Seated Scribe, its most famous artifact. Probably the most famous statue in the Egyptian collection of the Louvre, “The Seated Scribe” (c. 2620-2500 BC), in room 22 on the 1st floor, always impresses visitors.  Its inlaid eyes are the most striking aspect of this sculpture.  Nothing is known about the person portrayed

Well Painted Coffin of the Lady of Madjadiscovered in a cemetery in West Thebes overlooking the valley of Deir el-Medina, behind the hill of Qurnet Mourai

The highly decorated coffin of the Lady of Madja discovered in a cemetery in West Thebes overlooking the valley of Deir el-Medina, behind the hill of Qurnet Mourai

The Middle Kingdom art, known for its gold work and statues, moves from realism to idealization.  This is exemplified by the schist statue of Amenemhatankh and the wooden Offering Bearer. The New Kingdom and Coptic Egyptian sections are deep, but the statue of the goddess Nephthys and the limestone depiction of the goddess Hathor demonstrate New Kingdom sentiment and wealth.

Troop of funerary servant figures

Troop of funerary servant figures

In Room 28, the exhibits are about Egyptian Princes and courtiers in the period from 1295–1069 BC.  However, its ceiling painting, by Horace Vernet (1789-1863), shows something completely different -Pope Julius II ordering Bramante, Michelangelo, and Raphael to build the Vatican and Saint Peter’s in Rome.  In Room 29 the exhibits are about the Third Middle Period of ancient Egypt, from about 1069–404 BC. Here the ceiling painting, L’Egypte sauvée par Joseph (Egypt saved by Joseph) by Alexandre-Denis Abel de Pujol (1785-1861), has to do with Egypt.

Fragment of a Statue of a Nubian

Fragment of a Statue of a Nubian

Louvre Museum: 75001 Paris, France.  Tel: +33 1 40 20 50 50. Open daily, except Tuesdays and holidays, 9 AM- 6 PM (until 10 PM on Wednesday and Friday evenings).

The Louvre has three entrances: the main entrance at the pyramid, an entrance from the Carrousel du Louvre underground shopping mall, and an entrance at the Porte des Lions (near the western end of the Denon wing).

Admission is free, from October to March, on the first Sunday of every month. Still and video photography is permitted for private, noncommercial use only in the galleries housing the permanent collection.The use of flash or other means of artificial lighting is prohibited. Photography and filming are not permitted in the temporary exhibition galleries.

How To Get There: the Louvre can be reached via Metro lines 1 and 7, station Palais Royal – Musée du Louvre Métro or the Louvre-Rivoli stations. By bus, take No. 21, 24, 27, 39, 48, 68, 69, 72, 81, 95 as well as the touristic Paris l’Open Tour. By car, there is an underground parking reachable by Avenue du Général Lemonier, every day from 7 AM – 11 PM.

Louvre Museum – Painting Collection (Paris, France)

Denon Wing

Denon Wing

Our first stop, upon the museum’s opening, was the Painting Collection which has more than 7,500 works, from the 13th century to 1848.  Nearly two-thirds are by French artists while more than 1,200 are Northern European. The French and Northern European works are in the Richelieu Wing and Cour Carrée while the Spanish and Italian paintings are on the first floor of the Denon Wing.

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The Italian paintings compose most of the remnants of Francis I and Louis XIV’s collections, others are unreturned artwork from the Napoleonic Era, and some were bought. The collection began with Francis I, who acquired works from Italian masters such as RaphaelMichelangelo and several works of Giambattista Pittoni .

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Exemplifying the French School are the early Avignon Pietà of Enguerr and Quarton; the anonymous painting of King Jean le Bon (c.1360), possibly the oldest independent portrait in Western painting to survive from the post Classical era; Hyacinthe Rigaud‘s Louis XIV; Jacques-Louis David‘s The Coronation of Napoleon; and Eugène Delacroix‘s Liberty Leading the People.

Portrait of Madame Recamier (Jacques Louis-David)

Portrait of Madame Recamier (Jacques Louis-David)

The notable Italian holdings, particularly the Renaissance collection,  include works by Andrea Mantegna and Giovanni Bellini‘s Calvarys, which reflect realism and detail “meant to depict the significant events of a greater spiritual world.” The High Renaissance collection includes works of Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio and, from 16th century Venice, Titian‘s Le Concert ChampetreThe Entombment and The Crowning with Thorns.

Mars and Venus (Andrea Mantegna)

Mars and Venus (Andrea Mantegna)

Some of the best known paintings of the museum have been digitized by the French Center for Research and Restoration of the Museums of France.

  • Mona Lisa (or in French La Joconde, or in Italian La Gioconda), by Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci, was on permanent display here since 1797. The painting, in oil on a white Lombardy poplar panel, is thought to be a portrait of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo, is believed to have been painted between 1503 and 1506. The painting is now on display at the Denon wing which has two rooms, one dedicated to French artists and one to Italian ones (where you will find the Mona Lisa). The painting, covered by a glass window, is not very big, 30” x 21”, and it takes an entire wall in the Louvre. If you enter Le Louvre by the Pyramide you will have to follow a long and slow way to reach the Mona Lisa in the 1st floor, Room 6, Denon Wing because the stairs passing by the Samothrace Victory statue is usually crowded with visitors.

Mona Lisa (Leonardo da Vinci) (8)

  • Grande Odalisque (also known asUne Odalisque or La Grande Odalisque), an oil painting  by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, was commissioned by Napoleon‘s sister, Queen Caroline Murat of Naples, and finished in 1814.  It depicts a reclining figure of an odalisque, or concubine, in languid pose as seen from behind with distorted proportions. When it was first shown, it attracted wide criticism for the elongated proportions and lack of anatomical realism.
Liberty Leading the People (Eugene Delacroix)

Liberty Leading the People (Eugene Delacroi x)

Death of the Virgin (Caravaggio)

Death of the Virgin (Caravaggio)

  • Death of the Virgin, a painting completed by Italian Baroque master Caravaggio in 1606, was commissioned by papal lawyer Laerzio Cherubini for his chapel in the Carmelite church of Santa Maria della Scala in TrastevereRome . The figures are nearly life-sized. The Virgin Mary, the painting’s central theme, lies reclined, clad in a simple red dress. Caravaggio completely abandons the iconography traditionally used to indicate the holiness of the Virgin.  Her cast-off body, with lolling head, hanging arm and swollen, spread feet, depict a raw and realistic view of the Virgin’s mortal remains, with nothing of the respectful representation found in devotional paintings.
La Belle Jardinière (Raphael)

La Belle Jardinière (Raphael)

  • La Belle Jardinière, also known as Madonna and Child with Saint John the Baptist, painted by the Italian High Renaissance artist Raphael during his stay in Florence between 1507 and 1508, was commissioned by the Sienese patrician Fabrizio Sergardi and shows MaryChrist and the young John the Baptist.  Raphael’s use of contrasting light and dark, and the relaxed, informal pose of the Madonna illustrates Leonardo da Vinci’s influence. Because of the harmony and balance of the picture together with the high quality of elements present, this 48 in × 31.5 in (122 cm × 80 cm) paintings is one of Raphael’s famous works.
Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione (Raphael)

Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione (Raphael)

  • Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione, another oil painting attributed to Raphael (1514–1515), is considered one of the great portraits of the Renaissance and has an enduring influence. It depicts the diplomat and humanist Baldassare Castiglione, Raphael’s friend, who is considered a quintessential example of the High Renaissance gentleman.  The painting was acquired by Louis XIV in 1661 from the heirs of Cardinal Mazarin.
Oath of the Horatii (Jacques Louis-David)

Oath of the Horatii (Jacques Louis-David)

  • Oath of the Horatii, a large painting by the French artist Jacques-Louis David painted in 1784, immediately became a huge success with critics and the public, and remains one of the best known paintings in the Neoclassical style of art. It depicts a scene from a Roman legend about a dispute between two warring cities, Rome and Alba Longa. The painting increased David’s fame, allowing him to take on his own students.
The Coronation of Napoleon (Jacques Louis-David)

The Coronation of Napoleon (Jacques Louis-David)

The Battle of San Romano (Paolo Uccello)

The Battle of San Romano (Paolo Uccello)

The Intervention of the Sabine Women (Jacques Louis-David)

The Intervention of the Sabine Women (Jacques Louis-David)

  • The Intervention of the Sabine Women, a 1799 painting by the French painter Jacques-Louis David, shows a legendary episode following the abduction of the Sabine women by the founding generation of Rome. The painting depicts Hersilia, Romulus’s wife and the daughter of Titus Tatius, leader of the Sabines.  She is seen rushing between her husband and her father and placing her babies between them. A vigorous Romulus prepares to strike a half-retreating Tatius with his spear, but hesitates.
The Fortune Teller (Caravaggio)

The Fortune Teller (Caravaggio)

  • The Fortune Teller, a painting by Italian Baroque artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, exists in two versions.  The first, from 1594, is now in the Musei Capitolini in Rome. The second, from 1595, in the Louvre museum, was painted by Caravaggio for Cardinal Francesco Maria Del Monte.  Copied from the original 1594 version, it had certain changes. The undifferentiated background becomes a real wall broken by the shadows of a half-drawn curtain and a window sash, and the figures more completely fill the space and defining it in three dimensions. The light is more radiant, and the cloth of the foppishly-dressed boy’s (model is believed to be Caravaggio’s companion, the Sicilian painter Mario Minniti) doublet and the gypsy girl’s sleeves more finely textured. The dupe becomes more childlike and more innocently vulnerable, the girl less wary-looking, leaning in towards him, more in command of the situation. Close inspection of the painting reveals what the young man has failed to notice – the girl is removing his ring as she gently strokes his hand while reading his palm.
The Pastoral Concert (Titian)

The Pastoral Concert (Titian)

  • The Pastoral Concert, a 105 cm. × 137 cm. (41 in. × 54 in.) oil painting ( 1509) attributed to either of the Italian Renaissance masters, Titian (more usually today) or Giorgione,  portrays three young people (a naked woman and two men are dressed in contemporary costumes) on a lawn, playing with each other.  Next to them is a naked standing woman pouring water from a marble basin. In the wide background is a shepherd and, among the vegetation, a far landscape.
The Virgin of the Rocks (Leonardo da Vinci)

The Virgin of the Rocks (Leonardo da Vinci)

  • The Virgin of the Rocks (sometimes called the Madonna of the Rocks), a  painting by Leonardo da Vinci, shows the Madonna and Child Jesus with the infant John the Baptist and an angel, in a rocky setting which gives the painting its name. This painting is regarded as a perfect example of Leonardo’s “sfumato” technique.
The Wedding at Cana (Paolo Veronese) (5)

The Wedding at Cana (Paolo Veronese)

Coronation of the Virgin (Fra Angelico)

Coronation of the Virgin (Fra Angelico)

  • The Coronation of the Virgin, a 213 cm × 211 cm (84 in × 83 in) painting by the Italian early Renaissance master Fra Angelico, was executed around 1434-1435. The composition is based on the pyramidal structure of the steps and the figures of the Virgin and Christ.
Supper at Emmaus (Paolo Veronese)

Supper at Emmaus (Paolo Veronese)

  • The Supper at Emmaus, a 242 cm, x 416 cm. oil painting by Italian Renaissance painter Paolo Veronese dated c. 1559, is the artist’s first large religious work.
Venus and Cupid with a Satyr (Antonio da Correggio)

Venus and Cupid with a Satyr (Antonio da Correggio)

  • Venus and Cupid with a Satyr (c. 1528), a 5 cm. × 125.5 cm. (74.2 in. × 49.4 in.) painting by the Italian late Renaissance artist Antonio Allegri da Correggio, depicts Venus sleeping with her son Eros. Behind them, a satyr is caught while discovering the goddess.
Oedipus and the Sphinx (Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres)

Oedipus and the Sphinx (Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres)

  • Oedipus Explaining the Enigma of the Sphinx, an oil painting by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1808), was initially a figure study that made up one of Ingres’s “dispatches from Rome.” Then, almost twenty years later, Ingres enlarged it to make a history painting and in so doing toned down the archaism of the earlier canvas.
The Crucifixion (Andrea Mantegna) (4)

The Crucifixion (Andrea Mantegna)

Louvre Museum: 75001 Paris, France.  Tel: +33 1 40 20 50 50. Open daily, except Tuesdays and holidays, 9 AM- 6 PM (until 10 PM on Wednesday and Friday evenings).

The Louvre has three entrances: the main entrance at the pyramid, an entrance from the Carrousel du Louvre underground shopping mall, and an entrance at the Porte des Lions (near the western end of the Denon wing).

Admission is free, from October to March, on the first Sunday of every month. Still and video photography is permitted for private, noncommercial use only in the galleries housing the permanent collection.The use of flash or other means of artificial lighting is prohibited. Photography and filming are not permitted in the temporary exhibition galleries.

How To Get There: the Louvre can be reached via Metro lines 1 and 7, station Palais Royal – Musée du Louvre Métro or the Louvre-Rivoli stations. By bus, take No. 21, 24, 27, 39, 48, 68, 69, 72, 81, 95 as well as the touristic Paris l’Open Tour. By car, there is an underground parking reachable by Avenue du Général Lemonier, every day from 7 AM – 11 PM.

Louvre Museum (Paris, France)

Louvre Museum

Louvre Museum

Come morning of our second day in Paris, after breakfast at our hotel, we walked towards the Gare de l’Est Metro entrance  where we took the Metro to the Louvre Museum (or simply the Louvre), one of the world’s largest museums and a central landmark and historic monument of the city.  It was already raining  when we arrived at the Louvre.   Located on the Right Bank of the Seine River, in the 1st arrondissement (ward), we arrived early in the main courtyard (Cour Napoléon).

Louvre Pyramid

Louvre Pyramid

L-R: Jandy, Grace, Kyle, Cheska and Manny

L-R: Jandy, Grace, Kyle, Cheska and Manny

However, lines were already starting to form near the 21.6 m. (71-ft.) high Louvre Pyramid (Pyramide du Louvre), a large  pyramid of glass  and metal  designed by the late Chinese architect Ieoh .Ming (I.M.) Pei.  Its square base has sides of 35 m. (115 ft) and consists of 603 rhombus-shaped and 70 triangular glass segments. Completed in 1989, it is surrounded by three smaller pyramids. The large pyramid serves as the main entrance.

The main courtyard (Cour Napoléon)

The main courtyard (Cour Napoléon)

The museum is housed in the Louvre Palace, originally built as a fortress in the late 12th century under Philip II. Remnants of the fortress are still visible in the crypt in the basement of the museum. Whether that spot was the first building is not known.  It is possible that Philip modified an existing tower.  The remains of the medieval fortress and moat have been excavated and preserved, and can be seen today on the underground level of the Sully Wing, on the way to the department of Egyptian antiquities.

Remnants of the late 12th century fortress

Remnants of the late 12th century fortress

The building was altered frequently throughout the Middle Ages and was extended many times to form the present Louvre Palace. In the 14th century, Charles V converted the building into a residence and, in 1546, Francis I renovated the site in French Renaissance style and acquired what would become the nucleus of the Louvre’s holdings (his acquisitions including Leonardo da Vinci‘s Mona Lisa).

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In 1682, Louis XIV chose the Palace of Versailles as his residence and constructions slowed.  However, the move permitted the Louvre to be used primarily as a place to display the royal collection, including, from 1692, a collection of ancient Greek and Roman sculpture. It was also used as a residence for artists.

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In 1692, the building was occupied by the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres and the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture which, in 1699, held the first of a series of salons. The Académie remained at the Louvre for 100 years. During the French Revolution, the National Assembly decreed that the Louvre should be used as a public museum to display the nation’s masterpieces and, on August 10, 1793 (the first anniversary of the monarchy’s demise), opened with an exhibition of 537 paintings and 184 objects of art, three quarters of which were derived from the royal collections, and the remainder from confiscated émigrés and Church property (biens nationaux).

Statue of Louis IV

Statue of Louis IV

On May 1796, the museum was closed due to structural deficiencies but was reopened on July 14, 1801, arranged chronologically and with new lighting and columns. Under Napoleon I, the collection was increased with many Spanish, Austrian, Dutch, Vatican (including Laocoön and His Sons and the Apollo Belvedere)and Italian (including the Horses of Saint Mark) works seized by his armies (returned to their original owners after Napoleon’s abdication) and the museum  was renamed the Musée Napoléon in 1803. During the reigns of Louis XVIII and Charles X, the collection was further increased and, during the Second French Empire, the museum gained 20,000 pieces.

The lobby underneath the pyramid

The lobby underneath the pyramid

With an area of over 60,600 sq. m. (652,300 sq. ft.), the Louvre exhibits a collection of nearly 35,000 objects, from prehistory to the 21st century, divided among 8 curatorial departments – Egyptian AntiquitiesNear Eastern Antiquities; Greek, Etruscan, and Roman AntiquitiesIslamic ArtSculpture; Decorative Arts; Paintings; Prints and Drawings.  You can’t possibly see them all, so you have to navigate to see what you want to see in the world’s most visited museum (the Louvre received over 9.7 million visitors in 2012).  Since the Third Republic, its holdings have grown steadily through donations and bequests.

Jandy and Grace at the main courtyard

Jandy and Grace at the main courtyard

Louvre Museum: 75001 Paris, France.  Tel: +33 1 40 20 50 50. Open daily, except Tuesdays and holidays, 9 AM- 6 PM (until 10 PM on Wednesday and Friday evenings).

The Louvre has three entrances: the main entrance at the pyramid, an entrance from the Carrousel du Louvre underground shopping mall, and an entrance at the Porte des Lions (near the western end of the Denon wing).

Admission is free, from October to March, on the first Sunday of every month. Still and video photography is permitted for private, noncommercial use only in the galleries housing the permanent collection.The use of flash or other means of artificial lighting is prohibited. Photography and filming are not permitted in the temporary exhibition galleries.

How To Get There: the Louvre can be reached via Metro lines 1 and 7, station Palais Royal – Musée du Louvre Métro or the Louvre-Rivoli stations. By bus, take No. 21, 24, 27, 39, 48, 68, 69, 72, 81, 95 as well as the touristic Paris l’Open Tour. By car, there is an underground parking reachable by Avenue du Général Lemonier, every day from 7 AM – 11 PM.

Seine River Cruise (Paris, France)

Seine River Sightseeing Cruise via Bateaux Parisiens

After our morning tour of the Eiffel Tower, we made our way, by foot, to the boat docking station at Port de la Bourdonnais where we hopped aboard a popular and modern Bateaux Parisiens glass-topped trimaran  to embark on a quintessential, scenic and leisurely cruise along the Seine riverbanks.

Port de la Bourdonnai

Bateaux Parisiens trimaran

All aboard …..

Bateaux Parisiens has a fleet of four trimarans, three named after legendary French actresses (Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Adjani and Jeanne Moreau) and another after a French businessman (Pierre Bellon). They each hold up to 600 passengers.

The author

Our trimaran, with terrace and exterior passageways, was well equipped, clean and well maintained, with plenty of outdoor seating at the upper deck.

Jandy and Grace

The company also has nine smaller boats, some of which are used for dinner cruises and private events.  They offer high priced lunch and dinner, to the sound of the resident band, with a choice of four different a la carte menus, on separate restaurant boats.  All boats follow the same 12-km. long route.

Notre Dame Cathedral

Eiffel Tower

Louvre Museum

Grand Palais

A fantastic introduction to the highlights and magic of Paris, we soaked up the passing sights of iconic, world-famous monuments and landmarks as we cruised up and down  the Seine River.

Musee d’Orsay

National Museum of the Legion of Honor and Orders of Chivalry

National Assembly

Registry of the Paris Commercial Court

On the left bank are the Notre Dame Cathedral, the National Museum of the Legion of Honor and Orders of Chivalry, Conciergerie, National Assembly, Les Invalides, the Institut de France, and the Musée d’Orsay.

Paris City Hall

Institut de France

Hotel Dieu

 

Paris Conceiregerie

On the right bank, during the return trip, are the Louvre,  the Grand Palais, the Obelisk at the Place de la Concorde, Tuileries Garden, the Paris City Hall, and the Eiffel Tower.

Pont Neuf

Pont Alexandre III

Pont au Double

Pont de la Tournelle

We also glided beneath beautiful historic bridges (more than 30 bridges span the river), including the famous Pont Neuf. Even the Seine riverbanks, collectively designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1991, are a sight to behold.

Pont de Sully

Pont de l’Archevêché

Pont des Invalides

Pont d’Iéna

Pont Marie

Pont Saint Louis

After half an hour, our boat turned around and cruised back up along the opposite bank. Our 1-hour cruise ends back at the original departure point near the Eiffel Tower.

Passerelle Debilly

Passerelle Léopold Sédar Senghor

Bateaux Parisiens: Pontoon 3, Port de la Bourdonnais, 75007 Paris, France. Tel: +33 825 01 01 01 and +33 1 76 64 14 66.  Open 9:30 AM – 10 PM. Website: www.bateauxparisiens.com. Admission: adults (€15), children under 12 yrs. (€7), free for children under 3 years old. Ticket will be valid for one year at any given time. Departures: April to September (from 10:15 AM -10:30 PM, every 30 mins., no departures at 1:30 PM and 7:30 PM), October to March (from 11 AM -8:30 PM, at least every hour). Book online in advance to avoid queues. The boat also departs from Notre Dame Cathedral. Audio guide commentary with musical accompaniment, from a handset, available in 13 languages (English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, American, Russian, Dutch, Polish, Chinese, Japanese and Korean). Smoking is not allowed on the boat and animals are not permitted on board.

How to Get There: Champ de Mars Tour Eiffel (RER C) 5 . Nearest metro: Trocadero or Bir Hakeim