Thursday, January 1, 2009

Paris 4: The City of Light

Since today all the museums and most of the shops were closed, the plan was to visit buildings and parks.

Hotel des Invalides

Our first stop of the day. Another building commissioned by Louis XIV for disabled war veterans. Louis XIV wanted to look after the soldiers who fought for France. It has a beautiful structure, and he also built a chapel for the veterans. The chapel was later turned into a burial place for French notables. Napoleon Bonaparte is also entombed here, and the dome is called Dome des Invalides. Yes, the French are very clever with the names. Again, I was very impressed by the architecture and the courtyard. Inside the building they also have French artillery and weapons from the 18th century and the two world wars. When we were there in the morning, it was very quiet and ironically enough I found it peaceful, walking through the facility's passages and looking at the canons and tanks, which were used to kill so many.

Jardin du Luxembourg

We took the bus for the first time, in Paris, to get to Jardin du Luxembourg. It is a the largest park in Paris built in the 17th century by Queen Medicis for the royalty's private use. The park was open to the public in the 19th century. There are sculptures of Beethoven, and the French royalty in the park. The French Senate, the Luxembourg Place, is also adjacent to the park. The replica of the Statue of Liberty, which the French sculptor Bartholdi used, in designing the one in New York, is also present here. And in spite of the freezing cold and barren trees the park looked beautiful. There is history everywhere in Paris. We saw Parisians jogging, and playing ping pong, and you can't help yourself from wondering what does it feel like to live in the midst of all this history?


After Luxembourg we decided to walk aimlessly and admire the architecture. But somehow we ended up at Pantheon, which was on our list of places to see in Paris. Pantheon is a burial ground built in the 19th century. The building has Greek columns. It was here Foucault performed his pendulum experiment to show that the earth rotates around its own axis. Much to my sister's delight, the building was closed, so we didn't have to climb the stairs to go in.


Usually when we go to a new city we try to explore it on our own, and avoid the touristy cruises, bus rides or guides. But this time around I had planned to take a cruise along the Seine River. The only other time we took a guide tour was when I went to Oxford with my siblings. My dad wanted us to learn about the history of the colleges. He hoped, it would inspire us to do great things in life :). Taking the cruise in a chilly night was a great idea, it kept us warm. It also gave us an opportunity to learn more about the city's history.

I clearly fell in love with Paris. Prior to taking this trip, I didn't really believe all the jargon you hear about Paris being the most romantic city. But, seeing Paris and going under its ancient bridges could turn even a steel-hearted person, such as yours truly, into a mush. Being with my quasi-engineer sister I have learned to appreciate the skills that are required in constructing bridges. It was amazing to see that they were able to build the bridges with such excessive artistic abilities in the 17th and 18th centuries. I guess, when the British were busy spending their resources on colonization, the French spent the money on improving Paris's architecture.

Whilst waiting in the line to board our cruise ship, I noticed how the Europeans have no sense of personal space. Throughout this trip we have been constantly getting pushed around, and got elbowed to move. During the huge line ups people stand very close to each other. Where in North America we are all about guarding our personal space; you would never see people standing too close to each other, even during the rush hour commute. When a North American gets on the subway he or she wouldn't sit next to an occupied seat, but would instead prefer to stand. We are very aware of our personal spaces and distances. I don't know if it is because Europe is a crowded continent, compared to our measly continent with only three countries, and since people like Palin (oh, how I miss her) usually forget about Mexico's existence, the third one doesn't really matter :).

But, I have to admit my sister has transformed into an European. When they push her, she reciprocates the gesture. I remember last year when we went to Pakistan alone, we were stuck at the immigration, because we were being our Canadian-cordial-selves, and were clearly lacking our Asian/Old World innateness to push and move forward in the line to get our passports stamped. My family had to wait for us outside the Karachi airport for two hours. But, I think if we ever go to Pakistan again, my sister should be okay, because this trip really taught her to use her elbow for the greater good.

P.S. I have attached a picture of one of the 100 sculptures I saw in the park. This dude's female admirer adorned his sculpture with the flowers to show her affection for him. People don't show affection like this anymore. Even the act of burning CDs to express feelings has become so last decade. BAH!


Maria Sondule said...

I'm glad you're having a good time in Paris! I wonder how people would react if you used your elbow skills to the same ends in Canada....

changetheworld360 said...

Ooh, the bateaux mouches! I can't wait to go on that if I ever visit Paris. Btw, thanks for the offer to help on my project. As it turns out, it was easier than I expected. ;)

Zany said...

I got back to Toronto on Monday, so I have been home for almost a week now. Just a week behind with my blogging.

Yes that's the cruise we took. There are others, but this is the oldest and cheapest one. I bet, the assignment was a lot of fun too :).