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Published: October 13th 2010
Kid smoking a fag
A statue commemorating the Revolution. Good to see the old rebellious spirit is still alive and well!
There is something frustrating about Paris, like the fact that every Irish pub or English pub I come across is shut, like the fact that they closed the stairway up the Eiffel Tower just as I was about to make the climb, like the fact the Conciergerie with its Reign of Terror prisons still intact is shut for three weeks for refurbishment, like the fact the transport strike means I probably won't get to see Versailles or the Asterix theme park and like the fact that the weather is weirder than England's. Yesterday morning was so cold and windy that my ears hurt, yesterday afternoon was so hot and sunny that I got a tan!
But gripes aside, another fine day was had by moi. The Eiffel Tower is so much bigger and more impressive close up. It's a shame they still haven't taken the scaffolding down so we can see what the tower actually looks like, but even so, it's a titanic piece of scaffolding. There were soldiers hanging about who all looked about twelve years old and carried big assault rifles and the animal lovers among you may want to shoot me if you read the next paragraph
Due to a pigeon strike over pay and conditions, crows have been called in to take up their scavenging duties.
so I suggest you skip it.
Stopped for lunch in a lovely cafe and had foie gras. I've never had it before. It came with lots of toast and crusty French bread as well as lardons of goose fat and salt crystals. It's definitely the best pate I have ever tasted, and it better be for the price and the suffering it causes the goose. As I've never had it before and it's very French I put my morals aside and tucked in. Delicious as it is, it's also very rich and by the end of it I felt like I'd eaten an entire box of chocolates!
I understand there were a load of demos yesterday but I didn't see any, even though I walked past the National Assembly building and the Hotel de Ville, the magnificent town hall which kicks City Hall into touch, probably with a back heel. Boris Johnson must be green with envy. Hotel de Ville is also where the revolutionaries set up their government back in the 18th century, although it was since burnt down and been rebuilt.
I went to the Il de la Cite, an island in the Seine where
A horse about to be maimed
As I don't read French I've no idea why.
Paris was started by the Parisii tribe in 300bc. It was later the stronghold of the Merovingian dynasty, descended from Christ or a sea monster, depending which mythology you prefer. After that the Franks took it (interestingly Frank, from which we get the word France, is from the Latin for 'ferocious'! Explains a lot...) Later it was the place where Marie Antoinette and co were imprisoned before going chop-chop. It is the site where the Knights Templar were burnt at the stake, which, together with the murder of hundreds of Jews at the same time robbed Paris of its two greatest financial instituions and plunged them into economic disaster. It was the site of the killing of dozens of Algerian immigrants by police in the 'Secret Massacre' of 1961. So much has happened on this tiny island. It's also the site of the criminal court. You've never seen so many batons and guns in one place!
The island's most famous building though is Notre Dame cathedral. Henry VI of England crowned himself King of France here, the wag, Napoleon crowned himself Emperor and St Louis came for a bit of an old pray. I could never figure out why
One of the bottles is Brut Cider, champagne so good that they made a cider out of it!
Louis X was made a saint. As far as I knew he had led a couple of failed crusades against Egypt, been captured by the Muslims and ransomed back to France. But now I know. It's coz he bought some holy relics back to Notre Dame from the East, namely bits of the cross and part of the crown of thorns. And it really is them, honest guv, not some just some bits of rotten old wood and a few dried twigs, no siree Bob!
The interior of Notre Dame was rather disappointing I thought, but the exterior is very impressive, including the famous gargoyles and other supernatural miscreants and some nice spiky work around the roof. My favourite bit was the relief over the main door showing judgement day with a number of sinners being led off by devils to Hell. Among the sinners were several bishops. Nice to see architects having a giggle!
Beyond the island was another island full of those sorts of shops you get in Islington where you can buy a crummy corkscrew for £100. Half the shops were shut or empty and the other half had lots of posh people with too
Famous for letting the Pope crown him the first Holy Roman Emperor, thus starting over a thousand years of monarchy vs religion wars. Bless him.
much money in them nodding appreciatively at a rusty chair.
Stopped at a Trappist monks' bar on the way back to the hotel and was disappointed to note there were no Trappist monks in there. I had a Trappist beer nonetheless and at 8.5% abv, that did me for the day.
Having done the National Army Museum last week I'm off to the French Army Museum to see the other side of the 'we rule the world, no we do!' story tomorrow. Assuming it's not shut for refurbishment...
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