Monday, February 16, 2009

10/24/2008 European Vignettes

Our trip to Europe after our 60th wedding Anniversary was part thanksgiving, part sharing our joy with friends, and part nostalgia.

The last time we explored Paris was a 3 day weekend 50 years ago and we had a quick visit in 1964. We lived in London when Jean and I attended a academic quarter at the University of London in the fall of 1968 and then again when we made a quick visit in 1978.

It was an adventuresome break from our somewhat structured home life and a chance to enjoy exotic sights in foreign cities with friends.

A prayer of thanksgiving for a long happy marriage between us and God was on ours minds and in our hearts as we meditated on God’s love for his creatures while in Medjugorje.

The following images are some of the 3,624 pictures we took in the three week period that were squeezed out of the four “official” blogs. They represent bits of our memories of the good times of our likely last fling in Europe. (Of course there were some “bad” times also, but at our age these are easy to forget.) Remember when you click on an image it grows to about 9” for verticals and 12” for horizontals.

(part of the former Yugoslavia)
10/03 – 10/10/2008

Medjugorje village
(St. James Church circled)
from Apparition Hill
The Way to Peace for people and nations.

Cross Mountain

Our group meeting in front of St. James Church

An early morning last look at the twin spires of St. James
from our bus as we are leaving Medjugorje

10/10 – 10/13/2008

Frankfurt was the only place we stayed in a hotel
(though we did stay in a B&B for 2 nights at Kew).

Frankfurt offered a greater variety of food
than we found (or had expected to find)
as pilgrims in Medjugorje.

10/13 – 10/17/2008 & 10/21 – 10/23/2008

Hungerford Footbridge leading to Charing Cross Station
taken from the 2nd floor of the Royal Festival Hall

A pod of the London Eye
(not a London iPod)

St. Marys Church, Guildford

Hampton Court Palace

The Queen’s bed chamber
at Hampton Court Palace

The “City of London”
has an area of one square mile

10/17 – 10/21/2008

Welcome to Mt. Rushmore, Parisian style

The Brasserie

A quiet moment with Roman and Mateo,
children of Emanuel and Dominique Schneider
who organized our Paris experience

Petitte fille en rose

The bridal group
in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower

The Metro Station
the trains seem to have deteriorated since we were last in Paris —
but I think it is mainly the engineers —
some of the trains ran as smooth as silk
while other were uncomfortably jerky

The Colonne de Juillet
in Place de la Bastille

The Champs-Élysées connects the Arc de Triomphe
to the Place de la Concorde and the Louvre

The Louvre edifices
are typical of the classical buildings of Paris

Place de la Concorde

Crêpes etc.

Jean manhandling a crêpe
in front of Notre-Dame Cathedral

An epicurean duck
prepared by…

Our most gracious hosts,
Jacques and Françoise Schneider
super guide and gourmet cook

Paris has this old iron tower—
and you can’t escape from it!

Auf Wiedersehen!… Farewell!… Au Revoir!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

10/17/2008 Highlights of the Paweks’ Visit to Paris

Paris along with London was at the top of our list of places to visit because of nostalgia, filial connections, and artistic opportunities.

In 1959, it was the first “foreign” city we visited at the beginning of our 20 year odyssey in Africa as missionary teachers for the Catholic Church. We had an exciting time in the City photographing round the clock for 3 days. The Metro was amazing to us: how quickly and easily we could get around the city compared to Los Angeles! Ancient buildings in use for hundreds of years! Jean quickly stopped speaking French because of her southern, down-on-the-farm accent (her parents are from the south of France)! And of course, we were young and filled with dreams of exotic peoples and places!

Through her genealogy, Jean has been in contact with some of her cousins who lived in Paris. Emanuel, Dominique, and Jacques Schneider took care of organizing our stay in Paris, while Françoise Schneider took care of our nutrition with grand feasts. You will find my French nomenclature a “sometime thing” (colloquial for “inconsistent”). The French words that are correctly written are Jean's and the miscues are mine.

As in London, we were blessed with a few good hours of blue skies and sunshine.


Leaving from St. Pancras Station, London

Eurostar trains carried over 9 million passengers
in 2008
to Paris and Brussels

The Eurostar trains use the newly built “Chunnel” (Tunnel under the English channel completed in 1994) from England near Dover to near Calais in France. The tunnel is 31 miles long, 250 feet deep, and comprises three bores: two 25 foot diameter rail tunnels, 98 feet apart, with a 16 foot diameter service tunnel between them. Using the tracks are passenger trains (The Eurostars) at nearly 200 mph, flat cars for vehicle transport, and through freight trains. What was it like going under the English Channel? At 200 mph it took just over 9 minutes.

Eurostar compartment

Reservations run from $156 to over $500 depending on arrangements and class. The trip takes just over two hours to Paris or a bit less to Brussels.


Fontaine aux Lions
built about 1870 by sculptor Gabriel Davioud

Our chauffeur and tour guide extraordinaire, Jacques Schneider showed us this very photogenic fountain built in the 1870s. (You won’t find it in your guide books—it is in Place Félix Eboué)

The Schneiders
Dominique, Emmanuel, Roman, Françoise, Matéo, and Jacques

Sunday, after Mass at the church of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal and where St. Catherine Labouré’s incorrupt body is displayed in a crystal casket, Jacques, our tour guide supérieur, showed us more of the sights of Paris.

While I arranged a quick slide show on Emannuel's iMac computer of the Paris we had seen so far, Françoise created a seven course grand feast for the eight of us: (1) rose champagne with snacks, (2) three kinds of paté with a rich white wine, (3) sliced tomato and beet salad with oven-fresh French bread accompanied by a light dry white wine, (4) then the piéce de resistance: roasted lamb with garlic and lima beans with carrots highlighted by a smooth medium red wine, (5) three delicately flavored French cheeses with more fresh bread, (6) a compote of stewed apples and pineapples with cinnamon and a moist pound cake, and finally (7) coffee and 15 year-old Armagnac (brandy). (Were we being spoiled? Yes, and we loved it!)


The Eiffel Tower

Designed and constructed by engineer Gustave Eiffel in 1889 for Exposition Universelle, a world fair marking the centennial celebration of the French Revolution.

More than 200,000,000 people have visited Paris’ number one icon since its construction in 1889, including 6,719,200 in 2006, making it the most visited paid monument in the world. Including a 79 foot antenna, the structure is 1,063 feet high.

Elevators lift people up the sloping (an exponential curve derived to counteract the wind) legs to the restaurants above. The Tower is painted in three shades of the same color (darkest at the bottom) to give an overall uniform appearance. The color is changed from time to time depending on an on-going poll of visitors' choices.

Perhaps the most awesome view of the Tower is from underneath, seeing the fragile-looking spiderweb of iron holding up a thousand foot tower!

Les Invalides — Napoleon’s Tomb

The domed chapel was finished in 1708. Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) who died in exile on the island of St. Helena was finally laid to rest in the chapel in 1861.

A study in Gold (some 550,000 leaves)

A popular tourist site today, Les Invalides is also the burial site for some of Napoleon's family, for several military officers who served under him, and other French military heroes.

Arc de Triomphe

The triumphal arch honors those who fought for France, particularly during the Napoleonic Wars.

The monument stands 162 feet in height, 148 feet wide, and 72 feet deep. It is the second largest triumphal arch in existence. It was commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 after a victory in Austria and finally completed in time for Napoleon's body to pass through it on 15 December 1840 on its way to its second (not final) resting place.

The European Union flag
and the French tri-color
fly together within the arch

The French President happened to be President of the European Union for six months during the time of our visit.

The Observation Deck

I was up there and Jean was down here. After paying $9, visitors can either climb 284 steps to reach the top of the Arc or take the elevator and walk up 46 steps to the level underneath the exterior observation deck. (I took the elevator.) From the top you will find arguably the best panoramic view of Paris, its twelve major avenues leading to the Circle surrounding the arch, and a view straight down the Champs-Élysées to the Place de la Concorde and the Louvre.


It was a perfect day, not hazy as most cities are, but clear as far as one could see with a blue sky, clouds, and their shadows in every direction. I could not have wished for better photographic conditions. This picture shows three of the 12 roads radiating from the arch. As in the movies, you know you are in Paris when you look out and see the Eiffel Tower. Notice the balloon in the center just above the horizon. (Avenue Marceau, Avenue d' Iéna, Avenue Kléber)


Since there are strict restrictions on heights of buildings within the city of Paris, you can tell that the tall buildings on the right side of this scene are outside of the city. (Ave Victor Hugo, Ave Foch, Ave de la Grand Armée)

The Poser


The Sacré-Cœur Basilica is a recognizable landmark in Paris. The basilica is located at the summit of the Butte Montmartre, the highest point in the city. (Ave Hoche, Ave Friedland—Avenue Champs-Élysées is the next road to the right, out of the photo)

(North, not shown, Ave des Carnot, Ave Mac Mahon, Ave Wagram)

Avenue des Champs-Élysées

The Avenue des Champs-Élysées is the most prestigious avenue in Paris. With its cinemas, cafés, and luxury specialty shops, Avenue des Champs-Élysées is one of the most famous streets in the world, and with rents as high as $1.5 million a year for 1000 square feet of space, it remains the most expensive strip of real estate in Europe. The name is French for Elysian Fields, the place in Greek mythology where the blessed rest.

The Avenue des Champs-Élysées is known in France as La plus belle avenue du monde ("The most beautiful avenue in the world"). The arrival of global chain stores in recent years has slightly changed its character, and in a first effort to stem these changes, the Paris City government (which, true to its character, has called this trend "banalisation") banned a Swedish clothing chain 2007 from the avenue. In 2008, however, the American clothing chain Abercrombie & Fitch was given permission to open a shop.

The one and a quarter mile boulevard runs from the Arc de Triomphe on its western end to
the obelisk in Place de la Concorde and the Louvre on its eastern end, with the Tuileries Gardens on the north side (left side).

The Avenue first appeared on maps in the early 1700s along the route from the Tuileries Gardens to Place de l'Étoile (now the location of the Arc de Triomphe); the "Elysian Fields" were open parkland flanking it, soon filled in with trees formally planted along its sides.

L'église Sainte-Marie-Madeleine

In 1777 after several false starts dating from 1757, a church dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene was begun on the site. But by the start of the Revolution, 1789, however, only the foundations and the grand portico had been finished, then work was discontinued while debate simmered as to what purpose the eventual building might serve in Revolutionary France; a library, a public ballroom, or a marketplace were some of the suggestions. In 1806 Napoleon decided to erect a memorial, a Temple to the Glory of the Grand Army.

After various ups and downs of French republics and empires, the building was finally consecrated as a church in 1842.

The Madeleine is built in the Neo-Classical style and was inspired by the Maison Carrée at Nîmes, in southern France which is one of the best preserved temples to be found anywhere in the territory of the former Roman Empire. The Church’s fifty-two Corinthian columns, each 65 feet high, are carried around the entire building. (The Virginia State Capitol was also inspired by that Roman temple.)

At the rear of the church, above the high altar, stands a statue depicting St. Mary Magdalene being carried up to heaven by two angels. The half-dome above the altar is a fresco, entitled "The History of Christianity", showing the key figures in the Christian religion with — a sign of its Second Empire date — Napoleon occupying center stage.

Place de la Concorde

The Place was designed by James Mott in 1755 between the Champs-Élysées and the Tuileries Gardens and filled with statues and fountains.

During the French Revolution the area renamed “Place de la Révolution”. The new revolutionary government erected the guillotine there. The first notable to be executed at the Place de la Révolution was King Louis XVI, on January 21, 1793. Other important people guillotined there, often in front of cheering crowds, including Queen Marie Antoinette, Madame du Barry, Lavoisier, the father of modern Chemistry, and Robespierre.

The guillotine was most active during the "Reign of Terror", in the summer of 1794, when in a single month more than 1,300 people were executed.

The center of the Place is occupied by a giant Egyptian obelisk decorated with hieroglyphics exalting the reign of the pharaoh Ramses II. The red granite column rises 75 feet high, including the base, and weighs over 280 tons.

It is one of two the Egyptian government gave to the French government in the nineteenth century. (The other one has been given back to Egypt.) In 1836, King Louis-Philippe had it placed in the center of Place de la Concorde, where a guillotine used to stand during the Revolution.

Tuileries Gardens

Tuileries is an Italian-style park showing the influence of the Medici family, dating back to 1564. Before that, the area was a tile making center, hence the name.

The Jardin des Tuileries was once the backyard of the royalty living in the Tuileries Palace, which was destroyed by revolutionaries in 1871. The mob nearly destroyed all the historical treasuries of the nearby Louvre as well.

After several cool days, the warm, sunny, Saturday afternoon that we were there brought out crowds of people to enjoy fresh air of the Gardens.

The Louvre

This is but a small portion of a hugh museum extending beyond, to the left, and to the right. The glass pyramid is a precision-built sculpture by I. M. Pei.

The Louvre in Paris, the British Museum in London, and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, are the top museums in the world preserving man’s works and history, each with millions of collections.

Sainte-Chapelle— a gem of Gothic architecture

The church is crowded into the center of the Palais de la Cité, which is now the Palace of Justice; it is impossible to get back far enough to get an undistorted photograph of the exterior from ground level. This island, Ile-de-la-Cité, was the seat of royal power from the 10th to the 14th century. Sainte-Chapelle was completed in 1248 by King Louis IX (the future Saint Louis) to enshrine holy relics of the Passion of Christ.

There are two chapels. The lower one has 12th century frescos along with this simple, but most beautiful chapel of all we had seen on the trip.

The Reliquary

The upper level is truly awesome and monumental. Bathed with many-hued rays of light from 1,113 stained glass panels on all sides, the hall seems ethereal.

The 15 windows tell the story of Mankind from Genesis to Jesus’ Resurrection. The hall further accommodates the chapel where the relics were (many were destroyed during the French revolution and the rest are now kept in Notre-Dame Cathedral). A rose window, many statues, and intricately carved capitals on the side columns complete the decor.

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris

There are many churches of “Notre-Dame” in Paris , but the Notre-Dame is the Cathedral on the Ile-de-la-Cité in the Seine River. The island has been occupied since the 1st century with the son of Clovis, the first French king, building the first cathedral there in the 6th century. Construction of the present church began in 1163, during the reign of Louis VII and was completed in about 1345. [Note: for a view of the front of the Cathedral, see the next blog, “European Vignettes”.]

In 1548, rioting Huguenots damaged features of the cathedral and in 1793, during the French Revolution, the cathedral was rededicated as the atheist Temple of Reason and eventually used as a storage barn. During the early 19th century, city planners contemplated tearing it down. French novelist Victor Hugo, an admirer of the cathedral, wrote his novel “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” which sparked renewed interest in the Cathedral's fate and saved it from the wrecker’s ball.

Notre-Dame Nave

Again the French show their skill with using colorful stained glass windows to create an out-of-this-world scene. The use of colored light from the stained glass window serve the same purpose of providing an "out of body" sensation as the extraordinary use of artificial illumination achieved by our favorite church, The Basilica of Notre-Dame de Montréal (see blog: Sep. 20, 2007, "The Island City of Montréal").

The Rose Window in the South Transept

The main Rose Window in the front wall is partially hidden by the largest organ in France.

Many medieval cathedrals included gargoyles and chimeras. Although most have grotesque features, the term gargoyle (originally a rainspout) has come to include all types of images. Some gargoyles were depicted as combinations of real animals and people, many of which were humorous. Unusual animal mixtures, or chimeras, did not act as rainspouts and are more properly called grotesques. They serve more as ornamentation, but are now synonymous with gargoyles.

In 1959, on our first visit to Paris, I climbed the North Tower to get the view through the weird-looking gargoyles out to the City and surrounding countryside.

Notre-Dame de Paris was among the first buildings in the world to use the flying buttress (arched exterior supports). It is France’s “Point zéro” from which distances in France are measured.


The Paweks are again tempted by French cuisine

We were graciously wined and dined at the Bonillon Chartier Restaurant, an 18th century eatery, by the Schneiders.

Daughter Roman displays
her molluscaphile tendencies by enjoying escargot

The rest of us indulged in a delicious five course meal of more normal entrées (in the anglo sense) such as boeuf bourguignon (which sounds much tastier in French than saying beef stew). For desert, I had a sumptuous profiterole (a small flaky pastry stuffed with rich vanilla ice cream and drizzled with a thick chocolate sauce—something like a cream puff).

The River Seine

The Blue Eiffel Tower

After we were stuffed with all sorts of good things at the restaurant, Jacques drove us to a place he knew at just the right time and date to catch the twinkling blue Eiffel Tower. On certain dates at 9 p.m. the Eiffel Tower is lit up for a few minutes with blue flood lights and flashing white lights.

Blue is the color for now along with the yellow stars because France’s President is the President of the European Union for six months. And the white lights blink on and off to give a twinkling effect. There was a small group of other sightseers in the cool evening crowded onto the bridge over the Seine gesturing and oh-ing and ah-ing over the striking vision.


And so this brings us to the end of our blogs describing our exciting, satisfying, and glad to be home again European holiday. However, there is an epilog entitled “European Vignettes” coming in just a few weeks.