Tuesday, October 6, 2015


Eiffel tower seen from the Seine

     Hello everybody!  I am so very sorry for missing last week. I had every intention of posting an update while in Paris but the internet in our hotel proved itself to be less than reliable.  Also I found myself exhausted every night, seriously I don't think I ever stayed up past 10pm.

     Anywho, I have SO much to share with you.  This will probably just be the quick and dirty tour of what I did.  I might have to find a way to share all the photos taken, perhaps make a Flickr account (if you are interested in me doing this comment below).  Also just to give you a heads up for what I have planned for the rest of October, I do have a few Halloween posts to share with you, an October Favorites, and a review of a concert I went to this past Friday.  Also it's starting to get into holiday sets for cosmetics and I do plan on having at least one review of a palette I am purchasing.

     But I digress, this is about Paris, the city of lights. The only way I can remember everything I did is to go in chronological order so here we go:

Day 1: Pere Lachaise Cemetery

Tree-lined walkway in Pere Lachaise

     Something you may not know about me.  I love cemeteries.  When I first say that to people most of the time I get a really odd look and most of them slowly start backing away. But please hear me out.  First off,  most modern cemeteries rival parks in manner of landscape and walking trails.  They are generally very well maintained and unlike the local city park where you may or may not have to deal with some angsty teenagers acting out their Tony Hawk fantasies, a cemetery is usually pretty peaceful.

Caillat family tombstone designed by Hector Guimard

    Also it has some amazing displays of artistic craftsmanship. For example take this tombstone, it was designed by the French architect Hector Guimard, who is very well known for his Art Nouveau designs (you may recognize his work from almost every Metro entrance in Paris).  In a cemetery you don't just get to see amazing pieces of design, you get to be alone with them, get up close to them, touch them, and see how they have aged. Best yet, your visit is FREE -you just don't get that in a museum. 
Just one of the many sculptures adorning graves 

   Needless to say I spent a good 6 hours walking around Pere Lachaise.  The cemetery is MASSIVE, it covers over 100 acres and the official number of people buried is 1 million, not including the additional million remains that are entombed in the Aux Morts ossuary.  The most common type of monument is a mausoleum type structure dedicated to a family and they are packed in tight.  It was very easy to get lost or turned around while looking for some of the well known grave sites (I never actually found Jim Morrison's as it was extremely well hidden).

Aux Morts ossuary located in Pere Lachaise

Day 2: Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame's flying butresses supporting the nave and choir
    I have been sitting here for approximately 20 minutes trying to find the words that adequately describe my experience at Notre Dame.  The only word that even comes close is overwhelming.

Gargoyles watching over Paris from Notre Dame
   Paris is filled with well-known buildings, any of which one would easily recognize from the pages of a history text book.  You simply can not walk the streets without stumbling upon a building that at some point in your life you have seen on TV, in a book, or read about in a class.  Not a single one of those buildings holds a candle to Notre Dame.

Rose Window, one of many stained glass masterpieces

   Entrance into the main cathedral is free, if you want to climb the towers there is an additional charge of 11 Euros and ability to feel your legs (there are 400 stairs and no elevator).  Being generally cheap and lazy I decided against climbing the towers, however I did pay the additional 5 Euros it cost to visit the treasury which displayed some of the jeweled chalices, crosses, and the reliquary that houses the crown of thorns.

The Crown of Thorns reliquary is in the center case

Day 3: Versailles 

The front of Versailles from just outside the main courtyard
     A fun fact that I learned while on my trip to Versailles - King Louis XIV got weary of living in the Louvre (yes that Louvre), and thought to himself  "MTV Cribs: Palace Edition is never going to come check out my place unless I step up my extravagance factor."  (For the official record, yes I know this is not the real reason for him leaving the Louvre. Besides everyone knows a true monarch watches VH1) The result was the opulent monstrosity that is Versailles.

The Royal Chapel from the second floor
    Not that Versailles is particularly ugly or an eyesore, rather is too beautiful.  I can only compare it to an extremely decadent desert that upon a second bite makes your teeth hurt and gives you an instant case of diabetes.  It's just too much.  I can only imagine what the workers building that place would say when they went home to their families. Probably something along the lines of "Babe you will NOT believe what the king had me put in his 'chateau' today" (read that in Samuel L. Jackson's voice and it's more funny).

The Hall of Mirrors (more aptly selfie stick hell)
   Also I was not prepared for the sheer size of the estate.  Yes, the building itself is extremely large but the land is what is really impressive.  Garden, upon garden, upon lake. Then some fountains and a few more gardens until you reach the private residence of Marie Antoinette.

Side garden view from the second floor of the chateau 
   Being from Iowa, we know people who have large farm acreages. So the size of the land in itself is not unusual.  The land being nothing but pristine manicured gardens - that is what made my jaw drop.  It certainly gave me pause to wonder if the French Revolution started solely on people just getting tired of mowing the king's lawn.

Royal Gardens as seen from the second floor of the chateau
To add reference of the size of what you are looking at above, this is located in the wooded area between the platform off the chateau and the large lake you see in the distance

Day 4: Catacombs and Champs Elysees 

The quarry tunnels are tight, Akim had to duck in many places, even I worried about hitting my head
   This was probably one of the top sights I was excited for.  If you have ever watched one of those "Worlds Scariest Places" episodes on the Travel Channel, chances are that they featured a segment on the Catacombs.

Along the tour you see sculptures like this left by a quarry worker
   Unlike the catacombs in Rome which are actual underground burial locations, the catacombs in Paris are actually an ossuary, a final resting places for bones that have been removed from their initial burial locations.  In the 1780s Paris had a huge problem with overpopulated cemeteries.  With no room for new burials, they were becoming source points for spreading infection.

Cracks are monitored to ensure they don't grow too fast, a sign of possible tunnel collapse
    After many complaints, the council of state decided it best to remove the remains from local cemeteries and place them in tunnels and chambers remnant from the city's quarries.  The tunnels from the quarries are extensive and run for miles under Paris.  Many remain uncharted and closed off as conditions for exploration are too dangerous.

Bones are piled from floor to ceiling, most of what can be seen compose of skulls, legs and arm bones
   During the visit to the Catacombs we covered 2km (approximately 1.24 miles), you descend 20 metres below ground (roughly 5 stories), and you see the remains of roughly 6 million people who have been relocated here.  The decent is not bad, the climb back up (83 steep stairs) is rough and in the form of a tight circular stairway.  My husband compared it to a ladder, with no room for people to pass.

In many areas the bones are arranged to create ornate patterns surrounding plaques that relay where the bones originated
   After recovering from what we were certain was imminent death from climbing stairs - we decided to do some shopping on the Champs Elysees.  Our visit coincided with Paris's "A day without cars" in which 30% of the city was off limit to motor vehicles.  The crowds were immense, but being able to walk down the middle of what is usually one of Paris's most busy streets lent itself to some amazing photos.

Arc de Triomphe view from the center of the Champs Elysees
   Some fun facts I found in an article about the "day without cars":  back in March, Paris spiked to the #1 most polluted city in the world.  The area affected by the car ban was 30% of the city, however Nitrogen Dioxide levels dropped by almost 40%.  Noise pollution was reported to be reduced by 50%. The original article can be found here http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/oct/03/pariss-first-attempt-at-car-free-day-brings-big-drop-in-air-and-noise-pollution)  

View of the crowd down Champs Elysees toward the Louvre

Day 5: Louvre 

Glass Pyramid in the courtyard of the Louvre
  We saved the most intense tour for the last day, and I have mixed feelings about it.  I'm sad that I didn't get to spend more time in the Louve, as we probably only saw maybe a quarter of what was on display there (and I felt we raced through what we did see).  However, if we had spent more than one day there we would have had to skip one of the other attractions.  Choosing what to see, and what to skip over was no joke and while I don't regret my choices, I do wish that I could have seen more. 

The Venus de Milo, Mona Lisa, and Winged Victory 

   Our Louvre tour consisted mostly of seeing the big highlights (Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, Winged Victory), touring the Egyptian antiquity wing, and the Renaissance wing. My favorite part was probably seeing the Boticelli frescoes, although the Egyptian antiquities were pretty awesome too.   In addition we saw the medieval part of the Louve remaining underground.  A interesting fact about that, the plank way that you walk on is where the moat would have been.  

A fresco by Sandro Botticelli, way more interesting than the Mona Lisa in my opinion

Original foundation of the Louvre dates back to the Medieval period

That is pretty much it.  As I mentioned before I have a ton of photographs I can share on a Flickr account, just let me know if that is something you would like to see.  See you next week!


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