S: Europe April 2011 Part II
1: Paris | Versailles | Loire Valley
2: Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Ile-de-France region. Paris is ranked among the three most important and influential cities in the world and among the top ten cities in the world in which to live. An important settlement for more than two millennia, Paris is today one of the world's leading business and cultural centers, and its influences in politics, education, entertainment, media, fashion, science, and the arts all contribute to its status as one of the world's major global cities. According to estimates, the Paris agglomeration is Europe's biggest city economy and the fifth largest in the world. Paris and its region are the most popular tourist destination in the world, with 45 million tourists annually, 27 million of whom are foreign visitors. The city and region contain numerous iconic landmarks — particularly the Eiffel Tower — as well as world-famous institutions and popular parks.
5: The Eiffel Tower was built in 1889 as the entrance arch to that year's World's Fair. The tower is the tallest building in Paris and the most-visited paid monument in the world; millions of people ascend it every year. The tower is about the same height as an 81-story building. Upon its completion, it surpassed the Washington Monument to assume the title of tallest man-made structure in the world, a title it held for 41 years, until the Chrysler Building in New York City was built in 1930; however, due to the addition in 1957 of the antenna, the tower is now taller than the Chrysler Building. It was originally to stand only for 20 years and to be dismantled in 1909. Paris had planned to tear it down but as the tower proved valuable for communication purposes, it was allowed to remain after the expiry of the permit.
6: Notre Dame de Paris (French for Our Lady of Paris), also known as Notre Dame Cathedral, is a Gothic, Catholic cathedral in Paris. The cathedral treasury houses a reliquary with the purported Crown of Thorns. Construction began in 1163 and was completed in 1345. During the French Revolution, the Notre Dame de Paris cathedral was turned into a "Cult of Reason" and for a time "Lady Liberty" replaced the Virgin Mary on several altars.
10: The Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Élysées at sunset as seen from the Place de la Concorde | The Avenue des Champs-Élysées is considered the most beautiful street in the world and is one of the most expensive strips of real estate in Europe. | Two fountains sit on opposite ends of the Place de la Concorde, one represents the Rhone and the Rhine rivers, the other represents the Atlantic and the Mediterranean | The Arc de Triomphe honors those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars, with the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces. Beneath its vault lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.
11: The Place de la Concorde is located at the eastern end of the Champs-Élysées. During the French Revolution the revolutionary government erected the guillotine in the square, and it was here that King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette were executed. | The center of the square is occupied by a giant Egyptian obelisk decorated with hieroglyphics exalting the reign of the pharaoh Ramses II. The obelisk once marked the entrance to the Luxor Temple. The Ottoman viceroy of Egypt, Mehmet Ali, offered the 3,300-year-old Luxor Obelisk to France in 1829 and King Louis Philippe had it placed in the center of Place de la Concorde, where a guillotine used to stand during the Revolution.
12: Les Invalides is a complex of buildings containing museums and monuments, all relating to the military history of France, as well as a hospital and a retirement home for war veterans. The buildings house the Musée de l'Armée, the military museum of the Army of France, the Musée des Plans-Reliefs, and the Musée d'Histoire Contemporaine, as well as the burial site for some of France's war heroes, notably Napoleon Bonaparte. | The Place de la Bastille is a square in Paris, where the Bastille prison stood until the 'Storming of the Bastille' and its subsequent physical destruction during the French Revolution; no vestige of it remains. The July Column which commemorates the events of the July Revolution (1830) stands at the center of the square.
13: Pont Alexandre III is an arch bridge that spans the Seine, connecting the Champs-Élysées quarter and the Invalides and Eiffel Tower. Built between 1896 and 1900, the foundation stone was laid by future Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. | The Grand Palais des Champs-Elysées was constructed with an iron, steel and glass barrel-vaulted roof, making it the last of the large transparent structures that were necessary for large gatherings of people before the age of electricity.
14: Saint-Etienne-du-Mont | King Louis XV vowed in 1744 that if he recovered from an illness he would replace the ruined church of the Abbey of St Genevieve with an edifice worthy of the patron saint of Paris. He did recover and construction on the Pantheon began in 1757. | The Paris Métro is noted for its density within the city limits and its uniform architecture influenced by Art Nouveau. The network's sixteen lines are mostly underground and run to 214 km (133 mi) in length. There are 300 stations
15: La Conciergerie is a former royal palace and prison located near the Cathedral of Notre-Dame. It is part of the larger complex known as the Palais de Justice, which is still used for judicial purposes. It began as a Merovingian palace; and from the 10th to the 14th centuries was the seat of the medieval Kings of France. Charles V abandoned the palace in 1358, moving across the river to the Louvre. In 1391 the building was converted for use as a prison. The Conciergerie had a reputation for being the toughest of all prisons. During the Revolution its cells accommodated several hundred prisoners kept in terribly unhealthy and crowded conditions. Suspects were kept together with common law prisoners. During this time known as the Reign of Terror anyone presumed to be an enemy of the revolution would be arrested. Hundreds of prisoners were taken from the Conciergerie to be executed on the guillotine.
16: Marie Antoinette's cell was reconstituted on part of the actual site of her dungeon. She was permanently guarded by two gendarmes. | Marie Antoinette's Chapel was built in 1815 on the exact spot where her prison cell stood.
17: The Women’s Courtyard surrounded by two floors of prisoners’ cells, still has the fountain where they washed their clothes and one of the stone tables at which they ate, and the “Corner of the Twelve” or “of last goodbyes”. This is where condemned prisoners waited in groups of 12 for the cart that would carry them off to the scaffold. | The Grooming Room, where condemned prisoners were stripped of their personal belongings before being executed.
18: The Sainte-Chapelle or 'Holy Chapel', in the courtyard of the royal palace (now part of a later administrative complex known as La Conciergerie), was built to house Louis IX's collection of precious relics of Christ, which included fragments of the Holy Cross and the Crown of Thorns. The date when building work started is unknown (some time between 1239 and 1243) but the chapel was largely complete at the time of its consecration on the 26th of April 1248. The 15 stained glass windows tell the story of the Bible from Genesis to Christ's resurrection through 1,113 scenes.
23: The Tuileries Garden is a public garden located between the Louvre Museum and the Place de la Concorde. created by Catherine de Medicis as the garden of the Tuileries Palace in 1564, it was first opened to the public in 1667, and became a public park after the French Revolution.
25: Moulin Rouge is a cabaret built in 1889 and best known as the spiritual birthplace of the modern form of the can-can dance. Originally introduced as a seductive dance by the courtesans who operated from the site, the can-can dance revue evolved into a form of entertainment of its own and led to the introduction of cabarets across Europe. | Montmartre is a district, in the north of Paris primarily known for the white-domed Basilica of the Sacré Coeur on its summit and as a nightclub district. Since Montmartre was outside the city limits in the 1800s, free of Paris taxes and no doubt also due to the fact that the local nuns made wine, the hill quickly became a popular drinking area. The area developed into a center of free-wheeling and decadent entertainment at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries. In the popular cabaret the Moulin Rouge, and at Le Chat Noir, artists, singers and performers regularly appeared. Many artists had studios or worked around the community of Montmartre such as Salvador Dalí, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh.
26: Sacré-Coeur Basilica is located at the summit of the butte Montmartre, the highest point in the city. The foundation stone was laid in 1875, but the church was not completed until 1914. The design originated in the wake of the division in French society that arose in the decades following French Revolution, between devout Catholics and royalists on one side, and democrats, secularists, socialists and radicals on the other.
28: The Palais Garnier was designed as part of the great reconstruction of Paris during the Second Empire initiated by Emperor Napoleon III, to build a second theater for the world-renowned Parisian Opera and Ballet companies. The project was the subject of architectural design competition during 1861. The start of construction during 1862 and finished in 1865. During 1896, the falling of one of the counterweights for the grand chandelier resulted in the death of one person. This incident, as well as the underground lake and cellars, along with the other elements of the Opera House even the building itself were the inspirations of Gaston Leroux for his classic 1910 Gothic novel, The Phantom of the Opera.
35: View from Montparnasse Tower
36: The Basilica of Saint Denis was completed in 1144 and was the first major structure of which a substantial part was designed and built in the Gothic style. The abbey is where the kings of France and their families were buried for centuries and is therefore often referred to as the "royal necropolis of France". All but three of the monarchs of France from the 10th century until 1789 have their remains here.
41: The Musée du Louvre is one of the world's largest museums, the most visited art museum in the world and a historic monument. Nearly 35,000 objects from prehistory to the 19th century are exhibited over an area of 652,300 square feet. The museum is housed in the Louvre Palace which began as a fortress built in the late 12th century under Philip II. Remnants of the fortress are still visible. The building was extended many times to form the present Louvre Palace. In 1682, Louis XIV chose the Palace of Versailles for his household, leaving the Louvre primarily as a place to display the royal collection. 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 August 10, 1793 with an exhibition of 537 paintings, the majority of the works being royal and confiscated church property.
45: The Catacombs of Paris are an underground ossuary that holds the remains of about 6 million people and fills a renovated section of caverns and tunnels that are the remains of Paris' stone mines. The use of the depleted quarries for the storage of bones was established in 1786. At the time, the Les Halles district in the middle of the city of Paris was suffering from disease, which was due to contamination caused by improper burials and mass graves in church graveyards, especially in the large Saints Innocents Cemetery. So it was decided to remove the bones discreetly and place them in the abandoned quarries.
48: L'Ardoise | Foie gras de canard cuit au torchon | Filet de boeuf de Salers, jus au vin rouge, pomme anna | Planche de fromages | Croquettes de crabe et puree d'avocat pimentee | Risotto de saint jacques | Patisseries aux fraises
50: The court of Versailles was the center of political power in France beginning in 1682, when Louis XIV moved from Paris. Originally a royal hunting lodge it was expanded into one of the largest palaces in the world. In 1789, the Women's March on Versailles besieged the palace and in a dramatic and violent confrontation they successfully pressed their demands upon King Louis XVI. The next day, the crowd compelled the king, his family including Queen Marie Antoinette, and the entire French Assembly to return with them to Paris.
54: On evening soirees, the Abundance Salon was the place of refreshments, where a buffet served coffee, wine and liqueurs. It was also the antechamber of the Cabinet of Curiosities or the Rarities of Louis XIV.
55: The choice of this military theme which inspired all the decoration of the Mars Drawing Room can be explained by the fact that this large room was originally meant to serve as the guard room for the parade apartment. It was later reserved, at evening soirees, for music and dancing, so that it was commonly known as the "ballroom".
56: The Salon of Hercules was originally a chapel, but converted to a ballroom by Louis XV after the completion of the Royal Chapel. The process of painting the ceiling was so exhausting the artist committed suicide shortly after the completion. | The Royal Chapel was completed in 1710 and was only used by Louis XIV for five years before his death. Wars delayed construction and even the architect did not live to see it complete
57: The paintings adorning the Salon of War exalt the victories of France over the European powers united against her: The Holy Roman Empire, Spain and Holland.
59: The principal feature of the Hall of Mirrors is the seventeen mirror-clad arches that reflect the seventeen arcaded windows that overlook the gardens. Each arch contains twenty-one mirrors. During it's construction from 1678 - 1684, mirrors were one of the most expensive items to possess.
60: The Queen's bedchamber was the main bedroom of three queens of France. There is a 'hidden door' in the corner through which Marie Antoinette escaped when the Paris mob stormed Versailles.
62: The Salon of War and the Salon of Peace are at opposite ends of the Hall of Mirrors. In perfect symmetry with each other, they are decorated exactly the same - the only difference being the panels and ceiling are painted to reflect the benefits of peace on one and military victories on the other.
63: The Salon des Nobles is where the queen held formal audiences. Marie Antoinette had this room completely changed, keeping only the ceiling paintings. | Public meals were served in the Queen's antechamber. Only the royal family were allowed to take their seats at the table. In front of them were people privileged enough to to sit on stools. The others had to stand. Louis XIV attended this almost every night.
64: The Battles Gallery was built by King Louis-Phillipe as a sign of national reconciliation after the French Revolution and the reign of Napoleon I. | The coronation room was completely remodeled when King Louis Phillipe turned Versailles into a museum.
65: The apartments of the Dauphin and Dauphine were directly connected to those of the queen and were always reserved for leading members of the royal family, most notably the children of the King. | The bedroom of one of Louis XV's sister - Madame Victoire. Two of his sisters - Victoire and Adalaide - lived at Versailles until the revolution.
73: The Grand Trianon was built as a retreat for Louis XIV and his mistress of the time and as a place where the King and invited guests could take light meals away from the strict etiquette of the Court. Peter the Great of Russia resided here shortly. After the French Revolution, Napoleon lived here with his second wife.
75: The Malachite Room contains the malachite gifts from Tsar Alexander I of Russia to Napoleon.
77: The Petit Trianon was built by Louis XV for his long-term mistress, Madame de Pompadour. She died four years before its completion, and it was subsequently occupied by her successor, Madame du Barry. Upon his accession to the throne in 1774, the 20-year-old Louis XVI gave the chateau and its surrounding park to his 19-year-old Queen Marie Antoinette for her exclusive use and enjoyment.
81: Marie Antoinette's Hamlet | Marie Antoinette, seeking to flee the Court of Versailles, ordered the construction of her hamlet in 1783. There, she regularly found the charms of country life, surrounded by her lady's companions. It became a veritable farm, directed by a farmer, whose products supplied the kitchens of the Palace.
84: The Loire Valley is located in the middle stretch of the Loire River in central France. It is referred to as the Cradle of the French Language, and the Garden of France due to the abundance of vineyards, fruit orchards, artichoke, asparagus and cherry fields which line the banks of the river. Notable for its historic towns, architecture and wines, the valley has been inhabited since the Middle Palaeolithic period.
86: The royal Chateau de Chambord is one of the most recognizable chateaux in the world. The building, which was never completed, was constructed by King Franois I in part to be near to his mistress, whose home was adjacent. Chambord is the largest chateau in the Loire Valley. In 1939, shortly before the outbreak of World War II, the art collections of the Louvre and Compiegne museums (including the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo) were stored at the Chateau de Chambord.
93: The Chateau d'Amboise was built on a promontory overlooking the Loire River to control a strategic ford that was replaced in the Middle Ages by a bridge and the chateau began its life in the eleventh century, when the notorious Count of Anjou, rebuilt the stronghold in stone. Expanded and improved over time, in 1434 it was seized by Charles VII of France, after its owner was convicted of plotting against Louis XI. Once in royal hands, the chateau became a favorite of French kings. As a guest of the King, Leonardo da Vinci came to Chateau Amboise in 1515 and lived and worked in the nearby Clos Lucé, connected to the chateau by an underground passage. Tourists are told that he is buried in the chapel adjoining the chateau. Henry II and his wife, Catherine de' Medici, raised their children here along with Mary Stuart, the child Queen of Scotland
94: Chateau Chenonceau was built between 1515 and 1521 and later confiscated by King Francis I for unpaid debts. After Francis' death in 1547, Henry II offered the chateau as a gift to his mistress, Diane de Poitiers, who became fervently attached to it. She would have the arched bridge constructed, joining the chateau to its opposite bank. She then oversaw the planting of extensive flower and vegetable gardens along with a variety of fruit trees. After King Henry II died in 1559, his strong-willed widow and regent Catherine de Medici had Diane expelled. Because the estate no longer belonged to the crown, she could not seize it outright, but forced Diane to exchange it for another property. Queen Catherine then made Chenonceau her own favorite residence, adding a new series of gardens.