Monday, July 4, 2016

Bus Tour of Paris I (7/4/2016)

Monday, July 4, 2016 (continued)
I tell myself not to take photos from a bus, but always do it anyway...
The Viking River Cruises excursion for today was a tour of Paris, by bus; excusez moi, by motor coach! The Viking passengers were divided into groups denoted by letter, and boarded one of the five buses with the same letter. Each bus had a driver (yes!) and a guide.
We left Le Pecq by crossing the River Seine and traveled through the wealthy western Paris suburb of Le Vésinet with its mansions and fancy gas station with a thatched roof. Josephine Baker lived here (circa the 1930s) with her pet cheetah.
Next through Chatou, crossing the Seine again with an island where Auguste Renoir painted Déjeuner des canotiers/Luncheon of the Boating Party (1880-1881). After passing through Nanterre, we were in the business district called La Défense, where they have built modern skyscrapers.
La Défense skyscrapers; Left: [Connected] Tours/Towers Pascal A and B (1983);
 Right: Tour Voltaire (1988), both by architect Henri la Fonta
La Défense skyscrapers; Left: Tour/Tower Majunga (2011-2014)
by architect Jean-Paul Viguier; Right: [Rounded top] Tour D2
(2011-2014) by Anthony Béchu and Tom Sheehan
We crossed the serpentine Seine one more time into affluent Neuilly-sur-Seine, at the western edge of Paris, home to countless famous people. Once we went over the highway of Boulevard Périphérique, which was built over the site of the city wall, we were in Paris proper. Driving along the Avenue de la Grande Armée, we had La Grande Arche de la Défense behind us and l'Arc de Triomphe in front of us.
La Grande Arche (1989) designed by the Danish architect
Johann Otto von Spreckelsen and engineer Erik Reitzel
The Grand Arch is meant to be a modern Arch of Triumph, erected for the glory of the triumph of humanity, and it lies on the west end of La Voie Triomphal/The Triumphant Way, on a line with l'Arc de Triomphe, and l'Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel near Le Louvre. This is also considered a historical axis starting with Le Louvre representing divine-right rule, the Place de la Concorde for the people's revolution, the Arch of Triumph for nationalism, and the Grand Arch for the future (or where business is more important than nations?!).
The Grand Arch is also on a line with the Eiffel Tower and the Montparnesse Tower, the first skyscraper in Paris built 1969-1973, which led to a ban on buildings more than seven stories high in the city center.
Our bus circled l'Arc de Triomphe one-and-a-half times (on purpose; I can see that some drivers could get stuck in the whirlpool of traffic! There are no lane markings and you could have 6-7 cars abreast circling the arch).
Arc de Triomphe/Arch of Triumph (1806-1836),
designed by Jean Chalgri, on commission from
Napoléon Bonaparte to commemorate his
1805 victory in Battle of Austerlitz, in Neoclassical style
inspired by the Arch of Titus in Rome, but twice as big
Triumph of Napoléon by J P Cortot shows Paris
kneeling at the feet of a Caesar-like Napoléon
The wooden mock-up of the arch was built for Napoléon's wedding to Marie-Louise in 1810. It was completed in time for his 19-year old remains to travel through on their way from St Helena to their final resting place at Hôtel des Invalides. A WWI Tomb of the Unknown Soldier rests under the center of the arch.
Now the bus drove down Avenue des Champs-Élysées/Elysian Fields Avenue, the "most beautiful avenue in the world." The south side of the street is more chic than the north, which in itself is pretty chic.
McDonald's at #140, now the largest McDonald's in the world
Champs-Élysées ends at Place de la Concorde
Maxim's on Rue Royale, the most glamorous bistro in
Paris from about 1900-1970, with carved wood exterior
Maxim's has Minim's next door
La Madeleine (1794-1845), a church redesigned by Pierre Vignon
for Napoléon as Temple de la Gloire de la Grande Armée
Military presence in Paris
Printemps, a major department store,
on Boulevard Haussmann
La Palais Garnier/L'Opéra National de Paris (1861-1875) designed
by Charles Garnier in 2nd Empire Beaux-Arts style for Napoléon III;
famous as the setting for The Phantom of the Opera
Figure groups: Left: Dance by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux
(criticized as indecent) and Right: Lyric Drama by Jean-Joseph Perraud
Galeries Lafayette, another major department store
on Boulevard Haussmann
Bourse de Paris/Paris Stock Exchange (1808-1813),
designed by architect Alexandre-Théodore Brongniart;
emphasizing the fact that the section of Paris north of the Seine
was all about money (and shopping)
We got off the bus near City Hall for a walking portion of the tour.
Removable stanchions
Hôtel de Ville/City Hall (19C reconstruction of 1533-1628 building
after an 1871 fire, in neo-Renaissance style);
the Gay Pride parade was yesterday (KSS)
River Seine where the floodwaters of early June 2016
reached the level of the horizontal red hose on the
embankment wall to the right in the photo (KSS)
Rental bicycles (KSS)
Architecture typical of the Second Empire style,
under Napoléon III with Baron Haussmann
Charlemagne et ses Leudes/Charlemagne and his guards
(1878 or 1882) by brothers Louis and Charles Rochet;
Charlemagne's reign marked the birth of France
Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris (1163-1345)
Le Portail de la Vierge/Portal of the Virgin
St Denis, Bishop of Paris, was martyred in 250 CE,
it is said that after being decapitated,
he picked up his head and walked 10 km/6 miles
while his head continued to preach, before dying;
he is a patron saint of Paris
West rose window with a statue of Mary and two angels
On the balcony of the north tower, a gargoyle props on his elbows
Le Portail du Jugement/Portal of the Last Judgment,
with the devil tipping the scales below the figure of Christ
The chapels in the right aisle have become
glass-enclosed confessionals; talk about transparency!
Statue of Jeanne d'Arc/Joan of Arc in armor
Painting of St Thomas Aquinas with students drinking at the fountain
of knowledge; he studied and taught at the University of Paris
North rose window, the only window with
original medieval stained glass
Virgin and Child (14C) transferred from
La Chapelle St-Aignan in 1855; considered
THE Notre Dame of Paris
Carved choir screen (south) by Jean Ravy (KSS)
Reliquary of Ste-Geneviève (c. 1850) by goldsmith
Placide Poussielgue-Rusand, which is apparently a second
reliquary after one that is housed in the church of St-Étienne du Mont
St Geneviève is another patron saint of Paris, who twice saved the city from invaders. When the Huns under Attila were approaching Paris in 451, she convinced the inhabitants not to flee, but to pray. The Huns ended up going to Orléans instead. In 464 when the city was besieged by Childeric of the Franks, she led 11 boats out by the river at night, going village to village to beg for food, and returned with the boats full of grain. Although Childeric did conquer Paris, he was impressed by Geneviève, and released prisoners on her request.
Reliquary of Ste-Geneviève detail (KSS)
Pietà (17c), by Nicolas Coustou, on gilded base by François Girardon,
flanked by kneeling statues of Louis XIII and Louis XIV,
the latter by Antoine Coysevox (KSS)
Notre Dame spire, covered with the "flames"
of the Holy Spirit, and a gargoyle
Notre Dame spire (1860), added during the renovation
inspired by the Victor Hugo 1831 novel
The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which saved the
cathedral from being demolished
Statue of Le Pape Jean-Paul II/
Pope John Paul II (2011) by
Russian-Georgian sculptor Zurab Tsereteli,
dedicated in 2014 (KSS)
Jean-Paul II in front of the south
rose window of Notre Dame (KSS)
Flying buttresses of Notre Dame with a bust of Carlo Goldoni (1907),
an Italian playwright, by Eduardo Fortini (KSS)
Pigeon posing on a gargoyle 
Notre Dame gargoyle
What is a gargoyle, exactly? Do they represent souls caught between heaven and earth? Are they guards, or meant to frighten off evil spirits? A gargoyle is actually a spout designed to carry water away from the side of a building, in order to minimize the amount of rainwater running down the masonry and eroding the mortar. Because of their length, they are often carved or formed into fantastic animals. If such a carved grotesque is not a waterspout, it is correctly called a chimera.
Fountain of the Virgin (1845) sculpted by
Louis-Parfait Merlieux, from a design of
architect Alphonse Vigoureux,
on the site of the Archbishop's Palace (17C)
Spinning playground equipment
Tourist boat on the Seine (KSS)
Looking back at Notre Dame (KSS)
Statues of apostles and evangelists stand at the
base of the spire of Notre Dame, with the 1860
architect Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc
depicted as looking up; he dedicated his career
to the renovation of Notre Dame when inspired
by the novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame
We were now on our own for 90 minutes.
Continue with Bus Tour of Paris II.

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