CLOSING OUT PARIS

As we walked back to our hotel, we came across this monument which I have had a tough time puzzling out. It says ‘memorial national de la guerre d’algerie’ which I assume is a monument to the Algerian War which is worth reading about here. A few tidbits:

The Algerian War remains a contentious event today. According to historian Benjamin Stora, doctor in history and sociology and teacher at Paris VII, and one of the leading historians of the Algerian war, memories concerning the war remain fragmented, with no common ground to speak of:

"There is no such thing as a History of the Algerian War, there is just a multitude of histories and personal paths through it. Everyone involved considers that they lived through it in their own way, and any attempt to take in the Algerian War globally is immediately thrown out by the protagonists."[41]

Stora further points out that "The phase of memorial reconciliation between the two sides of the sea is still a long way off."[41] This was recently illustrated by the UMP‘s vote of the February 23, 2005 law on colonialism, which asserted that colonialism had globally been "positive." Thus, a teacher in one of the elite’s high school of Paris can declare:

"Yes, colonisation has had positive effects. After all, we did give to Algeria modern infrastructures, a system of education, libraries, social centers… There were only 10% Algerian students in 1962? This is not much, of course, but it is not nothing either!"[42]

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As we walked back to the hotel, we stopped at the Ferris wheel in the Place de la Concorde. The sun was going down and it was a great way to end the trip.

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So much still to see. Wonderful city.

MORE PARIS

After the Louvre we headed to the Eiffel Tower (of course). We did not feel like fighting the crowds and were unable to get a reservation in the tower restaurant (despite an amazing effort from the Concierge). Exiting the metro at Trocadero (Paris has an amazing subway system), we enjoyed the view across the river.

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As you exit the metro, you come across a WWI monument to the people who fought the war.

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As we looked  down on the Eiffel tower from the Trocadero, we did not realize the importance of the location:

For the Exposition Internationale of 1937, the old Palais du Trocadéro was demolished and replaced by the Palais de Chaillot which now tops the hill. It was designed in classicizing "moderne" style by architects Louis-Hippolyte Boileau, Jacques Carlu and Léon Azéma. Like the old palais, the palais de Chaillot features two wings shaped to form a wide arc: indeed, these wings were built on the foundations of those of the former building. However, unlike the old palais, the wings are independent buildings and there is no central element to connect them: instead, a wide esplanade leaves an open view from the place du Trocadéro to the Eiffel Tower and beyond.

The buildings are decorated with quotations by Paul Valéry, and they now house a number of museums:

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    I never knew who Foch was. Interesting quote from him:

    He advocated peace terms that would make Germany unable to ever pose a threat to France again. His words after the Treaty of Versailles, "This is not a peace. It is an armistice for 20 years" would prove prophetic.

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    Enjoying a baguette, in the sun on a brisk December day in front of the Eiffel tower was a magical experience. We then headed down to the river and enjoyed a boat ride – a Paris must do. A few sights captured below.

    Alexander III bridge:

    Pont Alexandre III is an arch bridge that spans the Seine, connecting the Champs-Élysées quarter and the Invalides and Eiffel Tower quarter, widely regarded as the most ornate, extravagant bridge in Paris[1] [2].

    The bridge, with its exuberant Art Nouveau lamps, cherubs, nymphs and winged horses at either end, was built between 1896 and 1900. It is named after Tsar Alexander III, who had concluded the Franco-Russian Alliance in 1892. His son Nicholas II laid the foundation stone in October 1896. The style of the bridge reflects that of the Grand Palais, to which it leads on the right bank.

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    Not the kind of detail you would ever see on a Canadian bridge.

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    Another Egyptian obelisk liberated, the Obelisk of Luxor in the Place de la Concorde:

    The center of the Place is occupied by a giant Egyptian obelisk decorated with hieroglyphics exalting the reign of the pharaoh Ramses II. It is one of two the Egyptian government gave to the French in the nineteenth century. The other one stayed in Egypt, too difficult and heavy to move to France with the technology at that time. In the 1990s, President François Mitterrand gave the second obelisk back to the Egyptians.

    The obelisk once marked the entrance to the Luxor Temple. The viceroy of Egypt, Mehemet Ali, offered the 3,300-year-old Luxor Obelisk to France in 1831. The obelisk arrived in Paris on December 21, 1833. Three years later, on October 25, 1836, King Louis-Philippe had it placed in the center of Place de la Concorde, where a guillotine used to stand during the Revolution.

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    The Louvre.

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    The architecture of old European cities is breathtaking.

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    Notre Dame. We did not take the time to visit, the boys are all ‘churched’ out.

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    And it was finally time to start walking back to the hotel.

    TRAVELLING TO PARIS – DAY 1

    Over the Christmas break our family elected to spend it in Paris. Our first decision was an easy one, spend time in the airport during the holidays or drive to Paris. We quickly settled on the drive (with a few reservations as it is much longer than our Brugee journey) via the Eurotunnel.

    Again, it was surprisingly easy. Approximately 6 hours door to door with roughly 1 hour waiting on the train (to board). The tunnel itself is an engineering wonder and sitting inside the train with a couple hundred other cars is surprisingly relaxing. Correction, relaxing once I had asked the people in front of us to roll up their windows as I was growing weary of listening to High School Musical 3 blaring from their DVD player.

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    Driving into Paris around 4 p.m. (We are not into the whole ‘get on the road early’ thing), we headed directly to our first tourist destination: The Pompidou Center:

    Centre Georges Pompidou (constructed 1971–1977 and known as the Pompidou Centre in English) is a complex in the Beaubourg area of the 4th arrondissement of Paris, near Les Halles and the Marais. It was designed in the style of high-tech architecture.

    It houses the Bibliothèque publique d’information, a vast public library, the Musée National d’Art Moderne, and IRCAM, a centre for music and acoustic research. Because of its location, the Centre is known locally as Beaubourg. It is named after Georges Pompidou, who was President of France from 1969 to 1974, and was officially opened on 31 January 1977 by the then-French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing.

    An interesting building, designed with the ‘guts’ of the building on the outside.

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    The center is dedicated to a French President who loved the arts, with a library and a few museums. We went straight to the top to catch the sunset from the restaurant Georges. It was a spectacular view of the city which you enjoy from here via their live webcams or here for a 360 degree view..

    The view needed to be great, because the food was average, expensive and the service was VERY poor. It was very clear to me that they picked their staff based on their looks and whether or not they would complement the ‘modern art, trendy location’ ambiance versus aptitude (they would rival the British for bad service). But like I said, we were there for the view:

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    Frustrated, but still enthusiastic, we headed down to the very cool Junior Pompidou interactive gallery, filled with interactive light and music displays. The boys particularly enjoyed posing for the light wall.

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    It was then off for a quick tour of the modern art museum, which has digitized much of the collection here. Of course, this is where the pragmatic small town boy in me comes out. I see art in many of the pieces, but am really challenged by others.

    For example, I get this piece of art: This is a protest piece. This is an artist who has something to say and is expressing his point of view. Of course, this is why it is not surprise to me that during the same year that he made this piece, he was also busy signing manifestos with his fellow art buddies:

    October 27
    Signs a manifesto with Klein, Raysse, Hains, Tinguely Spoerri and Villeglé, thus founding the “Nouveau Realisme” with the Critic/Art Historian Pierre Restany. New Realism= new perceptive approaches of reality.

    This fellow is deep. Apologies for the picture, no filters on hand. Click the link above for one without reflections.

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    Now, here is where I struggle. To me, this piece, in British terms, is ‘taking the piss’. I know, the art elite are in shock. How can I not see it? Have I no vision?

    To me, this artist is laughing all the way to the bank. Seriously, am I the only one? And to make it even funnier, it is a prominent location near the entrance.

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    The title of this magnificent piece? Dark Blue Panel by Ellsworth Kelly. When commenting on his style:

    William Rubin noted that “Kelly’s development had been resolutely inner-directed: neither a reaction to Abstract Expressionism nor the outcome of a dialogue with his contemporaries.”[7] Many of his paintings consist of a single (usually bright) color, with some canvases being of irregular shape, sometimes called “shaped canvases.” The quality of line seen in his paintings and in the form of his shaped canvases is very subtle, and implies perfection. This is demonstrated in his piece Block Island Study 1959.

    I love reading art reviews. Said one art critic to the other over a glass of white wine ‘Magnificent. Look at the way he has taken this 12’ by 12’ canvas and only covered it in the darkest black, and only black. Minimalist mastery. It is like I am looking into the tortured soul of the artist. I must have this, it is a bargain at $6,000’.

    To add to the humour of the situation, Ellsworth is an American artist. I wonder when the French will finally realize that this is simply an American getting the last laugh? And not just an American … A New Yorker …

    So ends day one, with a laugh. Thanks Ellsworth.