Nom de Plumage

February 27, 2012

So Much to See and So Little Time – Paris in a Day

After yesterday’s ‘lazy-day'(?), I decided to step up my pace and pack as much as I can into my day. With the weather cold and overcast (summer is now officially over), I knew that at some stage it would rain. Not allowing this to deter me, my first site to visit is Pont Alma, forever associated with the tragic death of Princess Diana. I remember that day so vividly and spent hours glued to the TV, not wanting to miss anything. The infamous tunnel is now before me and I could only look into it with a sense of surrealism. Nearby are two former palaces which are now both museums. The stunning Grand Palais with it’s stone columns and intricate stonemasonry has been converted into an art gallery. The entrance is situated at the rear and when I finally found it, I stopped in horror. There was a massive queue of tourists all vying patiently to see Van Gogh and other artists from the impression era. I opted to continue my day and walked back to the Petite Palais. Brace yourself, this museum was free and although the actual museum housed beautiful pieces, it was the building itself that is stunning.
The bridge Pont Alexandre 3rd, is the most beautiful of all bridges crossing over the Seine. It leads to The Invalides , or army museum. As you enter the main gate and walk into the quadrangle, you are greeted by a huge statue of the man himself Napoleon, looking down upon you. The entrance to his tomb is at the back and as I entered, I was stunned by the incredible grandeur of his shrine. Hero or not (?), this small man’s mortal remains are housed in a massive polished wooden crypt, surrounded by stone carvings of his achievements and statues of the man himself.
The Ile de Cite may be a small island, but is houses some wonderful monuments and attractions. I waited in a queue to see Saint Chapelle that a friend had highly recommended. At this point reality kicked in and I realised how terrorism has changed all our lives. Even though I had a ‘Paris Pass’ with the intent to by-pass ‘the queues’, it meant nothing because everyone had to line up and go through security checks. So there is no avoiding the dreaded queue. Once I got past the security check, I was greeted by scaffolding. Renovations are much needed on this old cathedral and although I was disappointed, I had to respect the reason behind it. So with the exterior partly obscured, the interior is beautiful and well worth the wait. I continue my walk along the Seine and across the famous Pont Neuf bridge to the Concierge. No, nothing to do with hotels, but this medieval building played a huge part in the revolution by housing many famous political prisoners and none more so famous then the last queen of France – Marie Antoinette. Most of the Concierge is an empty building of vaulted ceilings and stone walls, but at the back is the prison cells, beautifully restored and well documenting the events of that fateful era. One almost hopes to see the ghost of the Marie Antoinette walking upon the stone floor?
By this time, the weather had turned for the worst and I was lashed by cold wind and rain. Next stop is the district of Marais to view the place where the Bastille once stood. All that remains is a magnificent statute in the centre of a major intersection. But if you look down onto the pavement, you can still see the outline of the infamous prison. Place Vosges is a beautiful red stone building, square shaped with a park in the centre. Housing very wealthy inhabitants, it is also famous for the Victor Hugo Museum. A highlight for me and to any lover of French literature, his masterpiece ‘Le Miserable’ is my favourite book. So I felt honoured to walk within his home and touch things that his fingers held.
The day was getting late but I had one last place to call into. The place that I knew so little about, but one that no-one should miss and one that stunned me the most. The Pantheon, a replica of the Greek marvel, with it’s stone columns and impressive facade, pales in comparison to the interior. Unbelievable beauty in terms of architecture, statues and frescoes that line the walls. Underneath this impressive building, is a huge vault, the ‘piece de resistance’, with the tombs of famous French men and many who I aspire to – Voltaire, Rousseau, Dumas and Hugo. For me, this was a dream and to actually be near these men, albeit stone and bones, it was still an honour and one that I will treasure.

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