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:

Our Lady of Paris



Gracing the skies high above Paris, casting its enormous reflection in the ripples of the river Seine, stands the ominously beautiful Notre Dame cathedral. Notre Dame de Paris translates into Our Lady of Paris, and is one of the most magnificent examples of Gothic architecture in the world. With beautiful arched supports and gargoyles dotting the exterior, expertly crafted stained glass filtering in light, a rich history, and playing a starring role in Victor Hugo’s renowned book The Hunchback of Notre Dame, it’s no small wonder the cathedral holds a powerful draw for visitors the world over.

In this edition of This Week In Pictures, we take you inside the Notre Dame cathedral. Enjoy!

The Notre Dame, shown here resting on the river Seine

Rising high above Paris, the Notre Dame certainly demands attention.

Notice the curved support arches that give the Notre Dame an elegantly curved shape

One of the famous Notre Dame gargoyles looking out over the city

Intricate wood carvings tell a story inside the Notre Dame

Stunning and intricate columns and ceilings

Statues of Christian apostles adorning the stone walls of the cathedral

Stained glass featuring the Madonna

Gorgeous and intricate stained glass window

The cathedral looking elegant in the night sky

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

Arc de Triomphe


When in Paris, the Arc de Triomphe is hard to miss. Standing 160ft high and 148ft wide at the end of the Champs-Elysees boulevard, in the middle of the Place Charles de Gaulle, the Arc towers over every other structure nearby.

Upon commission from Napoleon, this beautiful structure was designed in 1806 by Jean Chalgrin, who’s design was inspired by the Roman Arch of Titus. Chalgrin passed in 1811, and all architectural work was taken over by Jean-Nicholas Huyot. Work on the Arc was halted during the Bourbon Restoration, however finally in 1836 the third architect, Hericart de Thury, completed its construction.

The monument honors the soldiers who fought and died for France during the Napoleonic Wars, however the Arc also features the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with an eternal flame kept burning. This addition was added after the first World War on Armistice Day, and is a tribute and remembrance for all unknown soldiers who fought and died for their country. Since the addition of the tomb, it has been customary for all troops to march around the tomb instead of underneath it as a sign of respect for the tomb. Even Hitler ordered his troops to march around the Arc instead of underneath.

The Arc is quite a significant landmark for Parisians and Quite a few notable events have taken place at the Arc de Triomphe since its construction:

  • Napoleon’s body was carried underneath it after his passing, as well as the body of Victor Hugo being displayed there before burial.
  • In 1919, Charles Godefroy actually flew his plane under the Arc.
  • The annual Bastille Day parade takes place using the Arc as a center point
  • Successful troops home from war have rallied here in past years
  • German troops have marched through the Arc

After the Arc de Triomphe was built, 3 more Arc’s were actually built in an attempt to prolong the Avenue des Champs-Elysees: Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile, and the Grand Arche. These monuments all form Paris’s Axe Historique.

Explore the Île de France


The Île de France is a group of cities surrounding France’s capital city, Paris. While stretches of urban city make up a good part of this region, there is no shortage of beautiful countryside, fresh air, green parks, tall forests, and sparkling rivers. While Paris certainly has plenty to see, do, and explore, we recommend venturing out into its neighboring cities and taking a bigger bite of France. Read on to see why you don’t want to miss these metro-Parisian cities on your next trip to France.

Châteaufort

This is a beautiful commune located about 17 miles outside of Paris, and is named after three fortified castles there in the middle ages. Inhabitants here are referred to as Castelfortain.  This is a charming place that features some great restaurants, local campsites, some charming bed and breakfasts, and some relaxation and peace right outside of Paris.

Éragny

Éragny is another gorgeous and peaceful commune about 16.3 miles outside of Paris. It was the home of famous author Bernardin de Saint-Pierre and impressionist painter Camille Pissarro.

Fountainebleau

If  you’re looking for a great French historical town to visit, you need only travel 34.5 miles outside of Paris. Fountainbleau is a favorite getaway spot for Parisians, and is full of great things to do. Among others, Château de Fontainebleau, one of the most beautiful castles in France, is located here. Other activities include seeing sporting events (including a famous horse track), visiting the Sunday morning food market, exploring the forest and climbing its many boulders, shopping at the French fashion boutiques, or eating at one of many fantastic restaurants.

Rueil-Malmaison

This beautiful town is about 7.8 miles outside of Paris and was originally a resort for Merovingian kings. Located here is the house of Malmaison (House of Misfortune) that was at one time purchased by the wife of Napoleon and is now a museum. The church of Rueil is also located here and contains a tomb that houses the empress Josephine (Napoleon’s wife) and her daughter, Queen Hortense.

Marne-la-Vallée

The kids will love this town because it is home to Disneyland Paris.

Nogent-sur-Marne

About 6.6 miles outside of Paris is Nogent-sur-Marne, a gorgeous town on the river Marne. Nogent-sur-Marne is very well known for its restaurants along the river, called guinguettes, which sometimes feature dancing that became popular in the 1960’s. Being as Nogent is mainly a very wealthy residential town, wondering along the river is always worth it to catch a glimpse of some gorgeous houses. You can also visit the Pavillon Baltard, which was originally a market in Paris that was going to be destroyed, but was instead dismantled and rebuilt in Nogent-sur-Marne.

Versailles

Versailles is 10 miles outside of Paris and is a rather amazing city to visit. One of the most beautiful castles in the world is here, the Chateau de Versailles, which was built by King Louis XIV. Not only is the castle an architectural marvel, it was also host to many important events in history such as the signing of the Peace Treaty between Germany and the allies in 1919 in the Hall of Mirrors and the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. There are many other historical buildings here to tour, and if you visit during the months of August and September you may even catch a government show put on some nights that features fireworks, music, and people dressed in period clothing.

 

Attractions Map of Paris


Because Paris has so much to see and do, it’s always nice to get a birds eye view of what’s there and make your touring plan. Below is a map displaying some of Paris’ main attractions and must-see’s that may help. (You can click on the map to see the full image)

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.