A Gaggle of Gargoyles and the Leaning Tower of Paris


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Europe » France » Île-de-France » Paris
May 27th 2009
Published: July 3rd 2009
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The weather wasn't much improved this morning but at least it wasn't raining. We breakfasted downstairs then headed off to the Eiffel Tower, taking the metro all the way to Bir Hakim again. The only problem with Paris is the sheer sprawling size of the city. Even the main tourist sights are miles from each other. Fortunately after a few stops we were able to get seats on the metro. We even got entertainment as two guys playing clarinets came onto the train and proceeded to busk right there in the carriage.
We followed the signs to the Eiffel Tower which isn't exactly hard to miss anyway. It seems no matter where we go in paris we can usually catch a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. When we reached the base of the tower we had a choice of entrance points and joined the nearest queue. We again had to go through security checks which were half hearted to say the least. The security guard gave a cursory glance at my bag, enough to see the top of a water bottle and my fetching rain poncho shoved in around it... what could have been hidden underneath the poncho apparently didn't concern him and he waved me through.
We queued for around 1/2 an hour, paid our 6 Euro student fee and joined the queue for the lift. Since the opening of the Eiffel Tower for the Universal Exhibition of 1889, visitors have been able to visit the different floors of the monument via lifts. A formidable technical feat for the period as never before had engineers tackled such constraints of height and elevator loads. Although today we take these lifts for granted, back then they were considered a great technical achievement. Some of the early lifts are still in place although more recent ones are now used to transport tourists up and down the tower.
We were soon all shoved into the lift and in no time at all were joining the crowds on the second level of the tower at a height of 115 metres. I was hugely unimpressed to begin with. The press of people obscured the view and we were all literally taking turns to get photos at the rim. Eventually we moved away and found the press of bodies lessened considerably as we circled round the tower. Despite the cloud the view was clear and the city looked quite beautiful from above. We walked around the tower then attempted to go up to the next level only to find the queue was ridiculously long, not to mention it went round in a circle and everytime we tried to join what we thought was the end people frownded at us and pointed further back. Since we would have to pay for a second ticket anyway to get higher up we decided to spend more time on our current level.
We enjoyed the views a while longer then took the lift down to the first level where we walked around and looked at the information boards and models of the tower.
The Eiffel Tower was begun in 1887 and completed two years later. The engineer, Gustave Eiffel, was born in Dijon in December 1832. He graduated from the prestigious Ecole Centrale de Paris and his extraordinary career was marked in 1876 by the construction of the Maria Pia bridge over the River Douro in
Portugal, then by that of the Garabit Viaduct in central France in 1884 and Budapest station in Hungary. He was responsible for the metal structures of the Bon Marché department store and the Crédit Lyonnais bank in Paris, the cupola of the Nice observatory, and, above all, the very impressive internal structure of the Statue of Liberty. The construction of the Eiffel Tower in 1889 was his crowning achievement. His career as an entrepreneur would come to an end with the failure of the Panama Canal project. From then on, he devoted his time to operating the Tower and to various experiments in air resistance, the observation of meteorology and especially the installation of a giant antenna for the earliest radio broadcasts. Indeed, it is because of these experiments that the Eiffel Tower is still standing, since it was initially built to last 20 years!
The only other work by Eiffel I have personally seen is the metal bridge in Girona built just before the construction of the Eiffel Tower and placed at the intersection where four rivers meet. It is considerably smaller and less impressive than the structure I was visiting today!
The Eiffel Tower is 312 metres high (324 including the antennas) while its deepest foundations lie 15m underground. The iron structure itself weighs 7,300 tonnes while the total weight of the whole tower is an incredible 10,100 tonnes. It is completely repainted once every seven years, 60 tonnes of paint being used for every repainting campaign.
We walked down the last part of the tower and once back on the ground found oursleves caught in a rain shower and hurried away from the tower to get a photo of the whole thing before the rain worsened. Fortunately luck was on our side this time and the rain stopped as we drew a reasonable distence away from the tower and set about the near impossible task of getting someone to take a photo of us with the Eiffel Tower in the background. There seem to be an unbelieveable number of truly appalling photographers lurking around the Eiffel Tower. I handed my camera over to five different groups of tourists before we managed to get a passable picture. Previous offers had the Eiffel Tower at interesting angles and only partially in the picture. Someone opted to chop the top of the tower off in favour of keeping our feet in the frame, while someone else managed incredibly, to only capture the bottom right hand quarter of the tower and had it leaning at an almost 45 degree angle!
As it was still cold and gloomy I suggested instead of eating our picnic out in Paris we simply go back to the hotel (my ulterior motive was that all my warmer tops were back in the hotel room and of course the kettle and tea bags too). We took the metro homeward and spent an enjoyable lunchbreak curled up on the bed watching TV and warming up with a cup of tea.
After lunch we set off for Notre Dame which I was really keen to see. I wasn't disapointed as the gothic cathedral was just as impressive as I'd hoped... and was free entry which is always an added bonus! We admired the carvings on the outside and then walked into the dim interior.
The cathedral is built on a site that has been used as a religious place for over 2,000 years. In Roman times a temple to Jupiter stood here, in the 4th century CE a christian church, St. Etienne, was built on the site and later joined by a second church dedicated to the Virgin. Norman raids left both badly damaged and in the 12th century Bishop Maurice de Sully decided that a cethedral be built to replace them.
The main part of Notre Dame begun in 1163, took 167 years to complete, tranistioning from Romanesque arcitecture to Gothic. The original arcitect is unknown but Pierre de Montreuil was responsible for much of the 13th century work while Eugene Viollet-le-Duc restored the cathedral during 1845- 1863 after the ravages of the 18th century and is responsible for the current appearence of the cathedral.
The cathedral has borne witness to many events in history, including in 1239 the procession of Louis IX, during which the pious king walked barefoot, carrying a holy treasure believed to be the crown of thorns worn by Christ. In 1594 Henri IV made his politically motivated conversion to Catholicism here in order to re-enforce his hold on the French throne. Napoleon crowned himself emporer at Notre-Dame, upstaging the Pope, who had come to Paris expecting to do it.
The interior houses a large central rose window depicting the Redemption after the Fall and two similar windows face each other on each side of the cathedral, the northern most one still containing most of the original 13th century glass.
After walking a complete circuit around the interior and pausing to admire the many altars, carvings and beautiful stained glass windows I went to ask about climbing the tower. We were directed to go outside and joined a fairly short queue to the right. The rain began again so we stood under our umbrella waiting to gain entrance. The staff at Notre Dame seem to have a very effective system running in order to keep people visiting the tower without having to wait too long. Small groups of tourists are let in and staggered throughout the tower. One group will be visiting the shop, while the next group progesses up to the first level of the tower, and a third group reaches the very top of the cathedral. We waited barely 10 minutes before being allowed inside. As we climbed the first few steps we saw a poor young pigeon take a nasty tumble after failing to fly properly and had to be rescued by a member of staff who lifted the bird up to a better take off point. We were left in the shop for some time which at least had a few hitory and art books which were interesting to look at until we were able to continue to climb the stairs. We followed the spiral steps upwards eventually emerging behind a gargoyle and finding ourselves looking out across the city.
I think I can definitely say this was the best thing we did in Paris. It was amazing to walk along the ledges of the cathedral and have a gargoyle's eye view of the city. I absolutely love the gargoyles! They are all so quirky and strange, a horde of grotesque demons, animals, birds and people balancing along the ledges and rooftops of the cathedral. Actually I believe most of them are chimeras. Gargoyles are grotesque stone statues designed with a water spout that carries water off the rooftop whereas chimeras do not have water spouts and are only for decoration. According to medievael tradition gargoyles are meant to ward off evil and protect the buildings they are carved on.
We walked along the ledge, poking our cameras through the metal fencing, which spoiled the view a little. We saw the great bell Emmanuel Louis Therese. We walked into the tiny room and climbed the wooden staircase. Inside a recording of the bells was playing while the great bell itself hung silent. All the religious bells are baptised. The first name is the one the bell is usually referred to as. In this case Emmanuel was the forename of a grandson of Louis XIV, as well as that of a chaplain of Notre-Dame who was responsible for the casting of the bell. The name Louis is from Louis XIV, a sponsor and patron. Therese comes from Maria Theresa of Austria, infanta of Spain and Queen of France.
We continued our walk with the gargoyles until we reached the end of the ledge and climbed another set of stairs up to the top of the cathedral. It was a little windy at the top but the views were stunning. Unlike the Eiffel Tower there were only a few of us up there and we had an unhindered 360 degree view of the city. We walked around in a circle and then attempted to come down only to find we'd spent too long up there and weren't allowed down until the next timed descent! Well the system seems very effective so we didn't argue and it was nice to walk around again enjoying the views of the Sacre-Couer and Les Invalides and the Eiffel Tower of course.
We returned to the ground and exchanged greetings with the many pigeons demanding attention and food (which we didn't have) and then stopped to browse through the very tacky tourist shops.
We took the metro to the Louvre as although there was no time to go in I wanted to at least see it in case we don't get to it tomorrow before leaving.
We got off at the underground metro stop and followed the signs to the Louvre and found ourselves looking up through the glass pyramid. The glass pyramids were built by I.M.Pei after being commissioned by the French president François Mitterand in the late 1980s. At the new entrance of the Louvre museum Pei built a 70-foot glass pyramid capable, in theory, of ingesting 15,000 visitors an hour. He based its proportions on the classic Egyptian pyramid at Giza and surrounded it with a trio of baby "pyramidons" and three triangular reflecting pools with fountains. An inverted pyramid acts as an impressive skylight for the large subterrean shopping centre below and it was this pyramid we found ourselves looking up at. We paused for photos and then went in search of the way out. We arrived above ground and walked over to see the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel. The Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel was commissioned in 1806 to commemorate Napoleon's military victories of the previous year. The more famous, and nearby, Arc de Triomphe was designed in the same year, but took 30 years longer to build and is about twice as big. The monument is about 19 m high, 23 m wide, and 7.3 m deep while the 6.4 m high central arch is flanked by two smaller ones, of 4.3 m high.
We approached the courtyard of the Louvre and admired the impressive architecture enclosing the modern glass pyramids. The Louvre is the most visited mueum in the world and contains nearly 35,000 objects from the 6th century BC to the 19th century in an area of 60,600 square metres. The Louvre Palace began as a fortress built in the late 12th century under Philip II. In 1672, Louis XIV chose the Palace of Versailles for his household, leaving the Louvre primarily as a place to display the royal collection. In 1692, the building was occupied by the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres and the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture, which in 1699 held the first of a series of salons. The Académie remained at the Louvre for 100 years. During the French Revolution, the National Assembly decreed that the Louvre should be used as a museum, to display the nation's masterpieces. The museum opened on 10 August 1793 with an exhibition of 537 paintings, the majority of the works being confiscated church and royal property. Because of structural problems with the building, the museum was closed in 1796 until 1801. The size of the collection increased under Napoleon when the museum was renamed the Musée Napoléon. After his defeat at Waterloo, many works seized by Napoleon's armies were returned to their original owners. The collection was further increased during the reigns of Louis XVIII and Charles X, and during the Second Empire the museum gained 20,000 pieces. The museum has continued to increase its collection through gifts and donations since the Third Republic.
I was disappointed that we had no time to view the interior and in all likelyhood will not have time tomorrow either. Since it was not yet too dark for sightseeing we opted to walk through the Tuileries Gardens and up to the Arc de Triomph. It was a long walk! My feet were in agnony by the time we drew close to the monument. After a whole day of walking around, jumping on and off the metro and climbing stairs along uphill walk was probably not the ideal way to round of our sightseeing. We did have a nice surprise on our arrival as underneath the arch a military band was playing and soldiers were parading. Unfortunately I have no idea what it was all about but it made the long walk seem worth it!
We returned to our hotel and made a picnic tea to eat in bed with our feet up! That's definitely a good way to round off a sightseeing trip!


Additional photos below
Photos: 20, Displayed: 20


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9th October 2010
Arc de Triomphe

paris ultimate place
pics are really good .. attack on paris pics was something which was ultimate pose thanks for sharing
9th November 2010
Gargoyle at Notre Dame

photo
I have never seen a better frame of paris as captured by you
10th November 2010

Wow! Thanks!
4th May 2011
Attack on the Eiffel Tower

A wonderfully creative photo.
22nd December 2011

I just took the same photo!
Getting on the blog today I thought I saw my photo and then realized it was another blogger! Excellent photo--I love it!
29th December 2011

Hehe - well great minds think alike... or all tourists point their cameras at the same things! :)

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