Found the French Breakfast to be rolls with strong coffee, hot tea, or hot milk to drink – Really very good bread – one roll quite plain the other with a slightly sweet glaze
Our day of Sightseeing began with our T.W.A. Tour of the City so we boarded the bus in a slight rain & were glad for its shelter –
The trip took us through the “Europe Section” where the various countries have their Embassy’s – A beautiful section of the city – On North, still on the Right Bank to Montmartre Hill and beautiful Church of Sacre Coeur – This is one of the 5 natural hills of Paris and from here you can see 1/3 of the city. There is no bus or metro service to this section but many many steps – Some quite plain but others very ornate & beautiful – The top of the hill is equal in elevation to the second level of the Eiffel Tower – (there is one small incline serving the area we later discovered) It is 328 feet above the level of the Seine.
The Basilica Sacre Coeur is itself a beautiful structure built in 1870 by the Catholics & dedicated to Peace – the Sacret heart of Jesus is the symbol used – It cost over 40,000,000 francs & the cost was subscribed entirely by the faithful – Beautiful mosaics – & statues of Joan of Arc – Christ and the woman of Sumaria & one of Mary Magdalene – The bell in the tower weighs 19 tons & is one of the largest in the world – [Editor’s Note: worth taking a minute to click on the link if you’ve not seen pictures of it!]
In a quick change of pace we walked just around the corner to see the famous square where all the artists were painting outdoors –
Then on the way back to the bus had a quick look at the outside of the Church of St. Pierre – The building was begun in 1134 – The stations of the cross here were suggested by Cardinal Richelieu – Still hold very simple services here & quite a contrast to those held in the Basilica that was build 8 centuries later –
We drove through the artist colony where many famous artists have lived through the years – Today it is more of a night life center than an artists colony – There are over 100 night clubs in this area of which Moulin Rouge is just one –
We saw the Montmartre Vineyards – There is quite a celebration when the grapes are harvested – a greate ceremony follows – the wine is sold for the benefit of poor children in the area – Our guide told us the wine is famous for its name not its flavor!
We drove past Trinity church, and the Opera House through the Business District – Galerie Lafayette and Au Printemps, two leading Department Stores
Then down the Rue de la Paix & a quick gaze at the famous “Cartiers” on to the Place de Vendôme – This is a beautiful square – The ground floor building are ornamented With arches – Pilasters rise over two floors & the roofs have dormer Windows. It was constructed in the time of Louis XIV (The Sun King) and its buildings were to house the Academies, the Library, the Mint & the Palace for Ambassadors Extraordinary – There was a statue of Louis XIV in the square at one time – but during Napoleon’s time it was pulled down & a column honoring the victory at Austerlitz was build – Encircling the 144 foot stone column a spiral band of bronze made from 1200 cannons captured in that battle. The buildings in the square are decorated with elaborate grill work designs of the emblem of the “Sun King” –
Up the Rue St. Honoré where the royal and the elegant of Paris have shopped for centuries – Passed within “looking” range of the Ritz Hotel.
Our tour took us past the Tuileries Gardens – Catherine de Medici was the first to use this property as a garden (In 1525 Francis I used it as a Stable area ) She wanted a castle near the Louvre Place – It is, still today, the most perfect example of a French Garden.
Then into Place de la Concorde In the center stands an Obelisk (a gift of Mohammed Ali [Mehemet Ali] to Charles X in 1829) it is 33 centuries old – Its hieroglyphics commemorate the deeds of Ramses II It is 75′ high and weighs over 220 tons. In this Square Louis XVI was beheaded in 1792 – Later the guillotine was again set up & its victims number 1343 among Marie Antoinette & Mm. Du Barry – Eight statues representing the 8 major cities of France stand in the square – The Embassy of the U.S.A. faces on the Square which is the largest in Europe –
Out on the Champs Élysées & as we looked up the 1 1/4 miles to the Arc de Triomphe we could see the beautiful French and African Flags – Noting the visit of an African Dignitary A soft rain was falling but it was of little concern to us as we enjoyed the shelter of the Bus –
The Arc itself is a beautiful copy of the Arch of Constantine that is in Rome – It was completed after Napoleon’s death & measures 164′ and height & 148′ in width to make it the world’s largest – (Its pattern in Rome is a mere 80′ high & 69′ wide) Beneath the arc lies the Unknown Soldier of France – A flame burns here and each evening it is revived with a ceremony A drive up Avenue Foch (known as Millionaire’s Avenue) that is the widest street in Paris. Wealthy people from the world over maintain apartments here.
Of Interest to me:
Paris is a city of 2,800,000 persons & is divided into 20 distinct sections each having its own character, trade and activities. The River Seine divides it into two sections. The Left Bank – often has the calm of a country town it is the intellectual haunt The Right Bank is the Noisy City & contains the commercial & financial centre.
The heart of Paris lies in the Middle of the Seine where two small islands “Cite” and “St Louis” have kept some of the charm of the old & middle age Paris
Our tour bus made a stp at Palais de Chaillot from where we had a beautiful view across the Seine of the Tour Eiffel – It was built in 1889 is 1,000 feet high and weights 7,000 tons –
A light rain was falling still but as we looked North East the beautiful Basicilica Sacre Coeur high on its hill was in bright Sunshine –
We crossed the Seine & found ourselves near the Hotel des Invalides and the Chapel of the Dome – it being near the end of our T.W.A. Guided tour the 8 of us bade our hostelss “good-bye” (more properly Au revoir) & as the sun came out we struck off on our own – The sun told us it was past “high noon” we stopped at Le Vaubon, a delightful sidewalk cafe & had a red raspberry tart with whipped cream & a cup of hot chocolate – I don’t think any of us will ever forget that Raspberry Tart!
In the immediate vicinity is the Hotel des Invalides – built in 1670 to board disabled soldiers – and the Chapel of the Dome built in 1679 & today is the resting place of Napoleon – The Church of the St. Louis is connected to the Chapel & we peeked in to see what apparead to be a wedding of high fashion in progress – The Military School was established on these grounds by Madame Pompadour & its most famous student was Napoleon Bonaparte.
From here we began a walk that our men said would be about a “20 minute one” – This short walk took us down to Pont Alexandre !!! through the Place des Invalides & such such a view!
We turned & walked down the Left Bank passing the Palais Bourbon (the seat of the French National Assembly) and the Palais de La Légion D’Honneur (The Legion of Honoure the highest French decoration was created by Napoleon)
We walked by the Paris-Orleans Station (R.R.) and enjoyed the Book Stalls – selling old & new books – maps – and new & old prints both traditional & way out types.
At this point, our 20 minute walk had taken a little over one hour and thirty minutes but our reward was great as it brought us to the Palais of Justice –
located on the “Ile de La Cite”- It stands on the site of the Palace of the Roman Prefects & the first French Kings. In the 13th century Saint Louis added to the structure and added the exquisite Saint-Chapelle –
Jim and Earl located an English speaking lawyer and he was most gracious in showing them around inside court rooms – He had worked with American soldiers in the French underground during World War II & had been in this country as a guest of the American Bar Association since the endof that war – It was mid-Saturday afternoon yet the halls were full of busy & serious French lawyers in their distinctive gowns going about their jobs –
The Saint-Chapelle was built in less than 33 months & was consecrated in 1248 – It was built to house the Sacred Crown of Thorns obtained from the Emperor of Constantinople – From the exeterior one sees a simple yet bold building with a spire that rises 247 feet above the ground – The lower chapel was used by the Palace sevants – Two winding staircases lead to the upper chapel – There the single nave consists almost entirely of stained glass windows – you know immediately why this spot is called “one of the jewels of Paris” – The 1,134 small scenes in the large window form a real picture Bible – a real masterpiece of the 13th Century –
The Rose Window is only a little less impressive – it was replaced in the 15th Century & the colors are somewhat less vivid –
Just around the corner we visited the Conciergerie – It was one of the most important prisons in the World – No building in France is more closely associated with the Revolution during which the building housed some 1200 inmates, Some of its famous prisoners were: Marie Antoinette & Mme. du Barry (Louis XV’s mistress) as well as Danton and Robespierre.
We followed the Boulevard du Paris – then turned right & passed the beautiful flower market “Le Marche aux Fleurs”
It was getting late so we headed for the Hotel – Dressed – ate at a Self Service Place – (off the street, up the stairs & to the back of the building – but still not well enough hidden)
and found ouselves being seated at the Theatre National de L’Opera Comique where the feature was “Mireillle” an opera in 3 acts & 7 tableauxs
I’m afraid much of this “culture” was lost on this crowd – We all felt the Heroine took an awfully long time to die – and when the last “Bravo” was heard, we’d really had more than enough – It seemed much later than the 11:30 p.m. our watches indicated –
We did stop for a pastry and cocoa on our way back to the Hotel –
Editor’s Note: I applaud everyone who made it through this long day in Paris! I’m thinking now that Mom loved Paris. And you know what I remember best? The heroine crawling across the stage in the throes of death, and as we waited anxiously to jump up and clap heartily, she suddenly stands again and sings another aria. I swear it happened three times. Or maybe that’s a tale that grew taller.
Volume labeled “The Pennsylvania Lawyer’s Diary 1971”, used as travel journal by Elizabeth W. Ruffner, for a trip taken in March-April 1971; held by Malissa Ruffner, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE], Baltimore, MD; 2011.
For background information on this series of posts, see Spring Break, 1971.