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Monday, 16 July 2012

Paris Memories - Palaces, PInnacles and a Parade

This post is part of the Paris in July 2012 theme hosted by Karen from BookBath and Tamara from Thyme for Tea.

Tricolours outside the Hotel de Ville

Crowds gathering to view the Bastille Day Parade
My first visit to Paris coincided with July 14th Bastille Day.  As a lover of parades, processions, bands and ceremonial, I dragged my husband along to the Champs Elysees  to watch the sights.  We stood for ages watching the troops march by (this was just after the first Gulf War),  and saw the President, but I kept waiting on the bands.  We heard the music but the bands themselves  never seemed to get any closer.  Eventually we decided to walk on and came to a crossroads to discover four large loudspeakers blaring out the music - it was all on tape, and I never saw a band - what a disappointment!

However there was much more to be impressed by.  Paris to me means history, statues, art and architecture and a special kind of light over the Seine. 

We walked in the footsteps of Mary Queen of Scots, who married the Dauphin of France  in Notre Dame Cathedral;  imagined Louis XIV, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette at Versailles; and the revolutionaries and the guillotine in what is now Place de la Concorde - reading "The Scarlet Pimpernel and "Tale of Two Cities" came to mind.

Memories of my father were recalled, as he entered Paris  with the Americans in 1944, saw General de Gaulle's speaking, was billeted at Versailles and had fond memories of the generosity of the French people he met - recounted in my posting  A Normandy Story and a Paris Welcome

Whenever we are in a  city, we like to get up high and we made the torturous climb up Notre Dame to get the views of the city and admire the wonderful gargoyle sculptures.   He looks rather bored here - we certainly were not!

The "Pyramid" at the Louvre came in for a lot of criticism when it opened.  I am not a great fan of modern architecture, but somehow this juxtaposition of the old and new works.  You descend in the glass structure  to a marvellous spacious reception area with impressive visitor facilities.  And what did we spend the most money on when in Paris - postcards and pictures from the Louvre! 

The Pyramid at the Louvre
The next time,  I was in Paris  with my daughter, and there is something special about seeing a place through the eyes of  someone on their first visit.    We took the city train to Versailles, walked out of the station, along an ordinary main  street, turned a corner - and Gillian could not believe her eyes that there, so close  were the magnificent gates of Versailles, a huge courtyard,   vast buildings  and beyond the gardens. 


As a lover of opera, operetta and ballet, a tour of the Paris Opera House was another must for me - once we had negotiated how to cross the road in the heavy traffic, as pedestrian green lights did not seem to guarantee you safety.   

We did all the touristy activities -   went up to Sacre Coeur and wandered around the artists painting in the square - and yes I did buy a small souvenir;  enjoyed coffee and croissants in the cafe at the top of Gallerie de Lafayette with wonderful views across to the Eiffel Tower and Sacre Coeur;  indulged in delicious cakes at a patisserie, took a boat on the Seine, walked under the Eiffel Tower and through the Tuileries Gardens, explored  the Left Bank, splashed out on a lunch outside in the Luxembourg Gardens, and took a train to Chartres to see the famous cathedral - but there was so much more still to see.

Here I am at the Bastille  -  resting my weary feet  at the metro station, admiring the artwork  on the tiled station walls and preparing for more signtseeing in one of my favourite cities.   
Bastille Metro Station
Copyright © 2012 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

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