Sunday, April 7, 2013

Paris - Day 2 - Down the Seine from the Louvre

Yup, still on Day 2. What can I say? It was a busy, busy day...

So, once we finished the greatest hits of the Louvre, we exited to walk down the Place de la Concorde (where nothing historically important ever happened...unless you count that time when Louis XVI lost his head but hey who does?) where we saw an awesome view of the Eiffel Tower behind the Fountain of River Commerce and Navigation (above) and the Obelisk (below).

Located dead centre of the Place, this obelisk is the real, authentic deal; made by Egyptians, engraved with Egyptian, from Egypt, and gifted to France by the Egyptians. Allow me to say that in a way that, you know, actually makes sense. This beauty is giant and engraved from tip to base with hieroglyphics exalting the reign of the pharaoh Ramesses II, a pharaoh whose fame is probably second only to King Tutankhamen (I would say third, after Akenaten as well, but I don't think anyone besides me and the similarly history obsessed, know who he is). In the nineteenth century, Egypt gave it to the French along with its mate, the pair of which once stood outside the entrance of Luxor temple. What happened to its mate, you asked? Well, I did say this all happened in the nineteenth century - the other was too heavy for the technology of the time to relocate so it was left where it was and eventually given back to the Egyptians. In a show of brilliance, the French opted to engrave the base with engravings depicting how exactly they went about the relocation. Guess they figured it was enough not knowing how the pyramids had come to be...

So, we continued walking down the Champs-Élysées, which was one of those streets lined with shops. Do you know what one of those shops was? The Disneystore! When I went to Florence, I got a Mickey and Minnie pair. In London, I got my Retro Mickey and Minnie pair. I couldn't go to Paris and NOT get a Mickey. So I did. I dragged poor Christa and her mom into the Disney store and got myself a Paris Mickey. To be fair, I did warn them about this...

After this little mission was accomplished, we grabbed supper before poor Christa fainted. We found a pretty good franchise called Hippopotamus where I had the steak and got to break out more of my French.

The Champs-Élysées ends with the Arc de Triomphe. The Arc is, quote, "the centre of a dodecagonal configuration of twelve radiating avenues" - which is a fancy way of saying bunches of roads leads there; it's the Rome of Paris. It was commissioned in 1806 after the victory at Austerlitz by Emperor Napoleon at the peak of his fortunes. In other words, long before he had the bright idea to invade Russia. In winter. Laying the foundations alone took two years and, in 1810, when Napoleon entered Paris from the west with his new bride Archduchess Marie-Louise of Austria, he had a wooden mock-up of the completed arch constructed. Construction took so long, the original architect actually died and had to be replaced...and then temporarily stopped during the Bourbon Restoration and finally finished in 1836, just in time for Napoleon's corpse to return home for reburial in 1840, his procession passing under it on its journey to his final resting place at the Invalides. And here's me. In front of the Arc. Ha!

After seeing the arc, my poor, poor companions were dragged on yet another of my missions. A ways down from the Eiffel Tower, in the opposite from the Louvre and Arc and such, the Seine River holds a man-made island called Île aux Cygnes. Now, everyone and their uncle knows that France gave the Statue of Liberty to the USA as a "Hey! You threw off the yolk of a monarchy to gain independence. We did that too.  That makes us like siblings, so here - have a statue!" gesture. What not many people know is that almost three years later the American population of Paris gave the city a smaller replica of Lady Liberty (22m high as oppose to the original's 46m) in honour of the centennial of the French Revolution. At first, the statue was turned east, to face the Eiffel Tower, but in 1937, it was rotated to the west, in the direction of its larger sibling in New York City . Its base carries a commemorative plaque, and the tablet in its left hand bears the inscription IV Juillet 1776 = XIV Juillet 1789, recognizing the American Independence Day and Bastille Day, respectively. Thank you, National Treasure 2.

And, naturally, where else would you end a day in Paris but at the Eiffel Tower? Did you know that at night the Eiffel Tower marks the hour with its lights? It goes all blinky and glittery for a full five minutes - it's quite the sight to see.

1 comment:

  1. WOW!!! What a fun read!! Makes me almost believe I am right there with you, which I wish I had been. You are such an amazing daughter to have!!!