The Gardens of Paris

Among the many beauties Paris has to offer are well crafted and gorgeous gardens scattered throughout the city. Take a tour with your significant other through the romantic Luxembourg Gardens, or stroll through the famous royal Versailles park, take a gander at the Tuileries Gardens while on your trip to the Louvre, among others. These gardens offer a breath of fresh air amongst the hustle and bustle of busy Paris.

Right outside the Louvre lies the Tuileries Gardens. Beautiful, well groomed, and bursting with color during spring time.

The Luxembourg Gardens are often crowded, as they are a Parisian favorite, however they are absolutely worth seeing - especially in front of the backdrop of Luxembourg Palace

Versailles Park is a sight to behold. Perhaps one of the most well layed out and extraordinary gardens Paris has to offer.

The stunning roses at the Bois de Boulogne garden are reason enough to visit

The Bois de Vincennes gardens have a wonderful French countryside sort of feel

Paris Catacombs: A Walk Through the Land of the Dead

Located just below the public square in Paris, Place Denfert-Rochereau, lie the remains of about 6 million people. Opened in the late 18th century, the remains are spread through a series of renovated tunnels and caverns that used to be Paris’ stone mines.

Paris’ graveyards and mass graves began overflowing and causing hazardous sanitary conditions, so in 1786 the transfer of all of Paris’ dead to the abandoned stone mines began, ultimately taking 2 years to complete. Initially, the bones were placed into a well in the area, and then were distributed throughout the mines by workers. For years the mines were simply used as a depository for the bones, with no organization or particular placement to them, however in 1810 Louis-Etienne Hericart de Thury began renovations to turn the depository into a mausoleum.

Besides housing long gone Parisian residents, the Catacombs have a history that is deeply intertwined into the history of France. For instance, the dead from the riots at Place de Greve, Hotel de Brienne, and Rue Meslee all found a resting place in the Catacombs. The French Resistance also used the tunnels during World War II and Nazi soldiers used the Catacombs as an underground bunker.

Today, the Catacombs are open to the public where you can wander the caverns and tunnels and bear witness to a history of Paris’ dead. In this week’s featured pictures we take you into the underground burial site beneath Paris.

The unassuming initial entry into the Catacombs

After following a long gravel corridor you reach the offical entry into the Catacombs

Interesting pattern of skulls make up this wall in the Catacombs

There is definitely no shortage of interesting artwork added to the Catacombs over the years. This picture shows a gargoyle carved into the wall by an urban caver, located in the off-limits area. Picture courtesy of Loupiote.Com

Massive amounts of skulls and assorted bones are strategically placed to form walls throughout the tunnels

A single cross surrounded by Paris' dead

Bones piled high on a tunnel floor

A tiny example of the large amount of interesting graffiti within the Catacombs

If you’re interested in seeing some video footage of the Catacombs:

Take a Cruise Down the Seine River



Taking one of the available cruises down the Seine River gives one of the best views of Paris. Depending on which river boat tour you take, the cruise can last anywhere from 1-3 hours and is a really inexpensive way to experience some of Paris’ extensive beauty.

Tours are offered between March and November and are generally pretty inexpensive, with fares for children starting at only$5.20 and adults at only $10. Sun decks, bars, and even restaurants are found on some of these boats. The boats that have the restaurants generally offer dinner tours as well, which can be especially inspiring – viewing Paris at night is spectacular. Be sure and wear your dinner jackets and ties, men, if you take one of the dinner tours

The Seine river, which flows through the center of Paris, used to be a the main form of transportation for the city and provided added protection. The Seine is such a beautiful river that it has long been revered in the art world and has been the subject of many paintings. When you take a cruise down the Seine, you’ll be able to see beautiful old bridges, old homes gracing the river, and get a unique perspective on historical landmarks such as the Notre-Dame Cathedral.

For more information and to schedule your tour, here are 2 of the most notable river cruise company’s:

Bateaux-Mouche Tours

Phone # 01-40-76-99-99

Website: www.bateaux-mouches.fr

 

Paris Canal

Phone # 01-42-40-96-97

Musee Picasso



The Musee Picasso is located in a beautiful 17th century mansion called Hotel Sale. Located on rue de Thorigny in the Marais district, the Hotel Sale is was built between 1656 and 1659 for a “tax farmer” who became wealthy off his collections of taxes on salt, and is considered to be one of the most beautiful buildings in the district. The mansion changed ownership through the years, when it finally settled on hosting the artwork of Pablo Picasso in 1976 and was converted and restored by architect Roland Simounet after he outbid 3 other contractors.

The Musee Picasso houses over 3,500 paintings, drawings, ceramics, wood sculptures, metal sculptures, and sketchbooks.Most of the pieces of art were donated by family members or from Picasso’s personal collection, of which he always said “I am the greatest collector of Picassos in the world.”, however a great number of collection was also either purchased from or donated by miscellaneous collectors. Also included within the museum are artworks by other artists such as Degas, Matisse, and Rousseau, which were in Picasso’s personal art collection.

The set up of the museum follows a chronological sequence for the most part, however there are a few rooms dedicated to certain themes. Also found within the museum is a great collection of photographs, newspaper clippings, manuscripts, and other things all relevant to Picasso. One room of interest also contains the caricatured work of period artists displayed. Special exhibitions are also held from time to time on the museums 2nd floor.

Unfortunately, the museum is currently under renovations and will not re-open until 2013 (you can view their memo here). However, they did organize for a series of pieces to be displayed around the world in the meantime. The show you can still catch this year is:

Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto Canada – April 28 – August 23, 2012

Over 200 works are also on loan to several museums in Paris and surrounding areas. These museums include: National Museum of Modern Art – Centre George Pompidou, Orangerie Museum, and Museum of Modern City Art Paris.

 

 

Paris’ Museum of the History of Medicine

Step right up and see the fantastic world of…medieval and historical medical instruments and artifacts? Absolutely! The Museum of the History of Medicine, or Musée d’Histoire de la Médecine, is creepy – but the fantastic kind of creepy! This museum is nestled on a tiny little street named Rue de l’Ecole de Médecine in the heart of Paris. It’s actually housed upstairs in a giant university building, and can be hard to miss, but just follow the signs pointing the way once inside the university.

Once inside, you’ll be greeted with what seems to be a beautiful little museum – that is until you peer into the glass encasements. Behind the glass you’ll find a wonderfully creepy and weird display of old medicinal and surgical instruments and pieces – some of which seem more like they were used for torture than medicine. Take a look below at some of the pictures below to get an idea, but keep in mind that a picture hardly does them justice:

Medieval Doctor's Mask - This was worn specifically during the Black Plague epidemic and was thought to ward off the Plague and keep the doctor's safe.

Medieval Hand Powered Chain Saw - Ummm, scary?

Medieval Hearing Aid - Okay, not very creepy, but could you imagine using a shell as a hearing aid?

Not pictured here, but there’s even a table made completely out of human tissue, organs, a foot, and ears that was made and given to Napoleon. Yuck! In short, definitely make sure to add the Museum of the History of Medicine to your museum circuit while in Paris. You’ll also be happy to know, it’s only €3.50 a head. Inexpensive fun!

Visit the museum’s website for more information: http://www.parisdescartes.fr/fre/CULTURE/Musees/Musee-d-Histoire-de-la-Medecine

Not into creepy museums? Check out what the Louvre has going on here.

 

 

The Holy Chapel

Sainte-Chapelle, which means Holy Chapel, is a gorgeous gothic-style church located in the heart of Paris on Ile de la Cite. King Louis IX commissioned the church to be built in 1239, and it was completed in 1248 and is the last remaining building of the Capetian Royal Palace. The original intention of its construction was to be a treasury for a collection of holy relics owned by King Louis IX. Included in this collection was the crown of thorns, a piece of the “true cross”, and 30 other odd pieces.

The chapel played an important role during the reign on King Louis, as it was not only used as a place of worship, but also played an important political role by displaying the King’s artistic and architectural abilities, thus contributing to his position as the highest powered monarch in western Christian kingdoms. A large reason that the Sainte-Chapelle was considered such a triumph, and a point King Louis was sure to point out, was its major resemblance to Chalemagne’s temple. Another unique aspect the king enjoyed was the ability to quickly and secretly travel from his palace into the Sainte-Chapelle.

Throughout the years, and especially during the French Revolution, there was significant damage done to the chapel. Some of the relics were also lost or moved elsewhere, such as to the Notre Dame de Paris. Between 1803 and 1855 restorations began, however, and were considered exemplary in their careful execution under the lead of Eugene Viollet-le-Duc.

The Sainte-Chappelle is considered a true masterpiece of its time and is one of the greatest examples of “Rayonnant”, or gothic architectural style, the world has ever witnessed. The stained glass featured in the chapel is regarded as some of the most beautiful in existence. Only about two-thirds of the stained glass you see today is original, but the replacements pieces are expertly crafted.

So remarkable is the chapel, that in 1323 a local scholar Jean de Jandun, paid tribute to the building he considered one of the most beautiful ever built in his writing ”Tractus de laudibus Parisius”. His excerpt about the Sainte-Chapelle is as follows: “That most beautiful of chapels, the chapel of the king, most decently situated within the walls of the king’s house, enjoys a complete and indissoluble structure of the most solid stone. The most excellent colors of the pictures, the precious gilding of the images, the beautiful transparence of the ruddy windows on all sides, the most beautiful cloths of the altars, the wondrous merits of the sanctuary, the figures of the reliquaries externally adorned with dazzling gems, bestow such a hyperbolic beauty on that house of prayer, that, in going into it below, one understandably believes oneself, as if rapt to heaven, to enter one of the best chambers of Paradise.”

Today, you can visit the Sainte-Chapelle, located near the metro station Cite in the heart of Paris. Admission for individuals is about €5.50, and group tours are about €4.50 per person.

Paris Opera

The Paris Opera, founded in 1669 by Louis XIV, is a cornerstone of Paris’s long history of being a giant in the arts and music community. Originally, the idea for the French opera was that of Pierre Perrin’s, whose intention when presenting it to the king was to debunk the common thinking at the time that the French language was “unmusical”. This false idea has certainly been tossed aside over the years, as not only do some of the most beautiful opera’s take place here, but the classical ballet as it is known today rose out of the Paris Opera.

The Palais Garnier (shown above) is mainly used to host the Paris Ballet, and is more widely known than any other opera establishment in the world. Decorated with the best marble, gorgeous columns, chandeliers, and bronze busts of notable composers, the Palais Garnier is the revered in the architectural community. It’s actually the setting for one of the most famous novels of all time – The Phantom of the Opera, which was eventually turned into a musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber. The Paris Opera Library-Museum is also here.

The Opera Bastille, an opera house built in 1989 with a more modern design, is home to the Opera national de Paris currently. Here you can experience classical French opera and concerts performed by only the most talented musicians, singers, and performers .You can view the line-up for this year’s performances here. You’ll find the line-up for this season to be phenomenal, featuring Operas written by classical musician greats such as Richard Strauss, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Richard Wagner, Giuseppe Verdi, Giacomo Puccini, and much more.

The Iron Lady of Paris

The Eiffel Tower, or the Iron Lady as it’s sometimes referred to, is a 1,063 foot tall radio tower that soars in the Paris skyline.  The history of the tower is a big part of what makes it such an important landmark. It was originally built in 1889 as the entranceway to the Worlds Fair, after which it was supposed to be torn down once the permit held by its designer, Gustave Eiffel, wore out. The city saw that it could be of some use as a communication device, though, and thus it remained up and served a significant role during the First Battle of the Marne. What’s interesting here is while the City of Paris saw the tower as an asset, most Parisian citizens saw it as nothing more than an eyesore – especially the arts populace. Local papers even received angry letters criticizing the tower and its continued presence in the beloved city.

Throughout the years, the Eiffel Tower played a significant and interesting role in Parisian history. For instance, during World War II when the Nazi party occupied Paris, the French actually cut the lift cables on the tower in an effort to prevent Adolf Hitler from easily making it to the top. Hitler’s soldiers had to climb all the way to the top to hang the swastika flag, which initially flew off due to the high wind and had to be replaced with a smaller one. Interestingly, Hitler never made it to the top of the tower, which Parisians will recall fondly that Hitler may have conquered France but he couldn’t conquer the Eiffel Tower. After the city of Paris was freed from the grasp of the Nazi party, the lifts to the tower were restored within a matter of hours.

While the Eiffel Tower is probably France’s biggest tourist attraction, it still maintains its role as a radio tower, with two radio stations broadcasting their signals from the top. When visiting the Iron Lady today, there are a number of things you can view that really give you a unique perspective of the tower and its rich history. The top of the tower is host to a small apartment that Gustave Eiffel l used at one time to host parties. The apartment can still be seen today and provides an interesting glimpse into the towers history. You can even catch a meal, or two, on the Eiffel Tower at one of its TWO restaurants – Le 58 tour Eiffel on the first level and Le Jules Verne on the second level. The latter of the two restaurants even has a Michelin Star! Another unique piece of history you can view is the engraved names of the seventy-two people that helped design and contribute to what the Eiffel Tower is today. Included are inscriptions of scientists, engineers, and even Gustave Eiffel himself.

You can also learn about a few very unique events in which the Eiffel Tower starred while you are here. For example, in 1912 an Austrian named Franz Reichelt attempted to jump 60 metres from the first floor using a home designed parachute. Sadly, he failed and fell to his death. Interestingly, this would be the first of many daredevils jumping from the Eiffel Tower. You can also learn of a more recent odd fact – the Eiffel Tower is apparently married? That’s right! In 2007, Erika Eiffel, married (or as much as one can marry a steel tower) the Eiffel Tower.

Visiting this landmark that is truly a Paris, and a global, icon is a definite must see for any Parisian tourist, especially if you want to get a remarkable glimpse into the history and greatness of Paris. Plus, the view from the top, where you can see all of Paris, is just breathtaking. Make it your first stop, or make it your last stop, just as long as you stop by!

Map of Disneyland Paris

Map of Disneyland Paris, Paris France