Wednesday, 2 November 2011


Paris, the city of lights, romance and a million Eiffel Towers. 

I have been to Paris a number of times and lived there for 6 months in my youth so all the ‘big’ tourist attractions had well and truly been visited.

So this time it was good to visit the places not populated by hordes of tourists. Even since 2003 when we were there last the number of tourists has increased considerably.

We stayed at a small hotel in the Marais which was close to the Metro station St. Paul. This was quite centrally located and was in easy walking distance to most places.

Sainte Chapelle
I was surprised that I had never visited Sainte - Chapelle, which is not far fro Notre Dame. It was built in 1248 by Louis IX the future St. Louis to house the supposed Crown of Thorns and other holy relics. I t has 15 magnificent stained glass windows which are separated by 15metre columns which you follow up to a tar studded ceiling. The magnificent stained glass windows depict scenes from the Old and New Testament.

Close to Sainte-Chapelle is the Conciergie which was a prison in the 1400s. During the Revolution their 4000 prisoners held there, including Marie-Antoinette and Robespierre, before being guillotined. There are very good displays of prisoners’ cells and excellent presentation of its history as a prison and those held there. It still has the Gothic Hall of the Man-at-Arms, where the Royal Guards lived. The building still retains the 11th century torture chamber and 14th century clock tower.

We later visited a small museum of the artist Gustav Moreau a unique and compelling artist. An exhibition of many of his works was a feature at National Gallery of Victoria early this year. His work features Moreau’s obsessions with exotic subject matter, from classical mythology and the ancient world, to some of Christianity’s escapades and the poetic narratives of the Middle Ages. The museum is also his house and the top floor is devoted to his works and thee are a huge number. Much of his work has a Pre- Raphaelite feel to it.

Hotel de Ville
The next day we explored the Marais area taking in the Hotel de Ville, a rather ornate building which is the town hall, the official home of the Lord Mayor of Paris. It is only open by arrangement and for temporary exhibitions.

We then walked to the Place des Vosges which is a beautiful square, at the centre a garden surrounded by elegant buildings. It has been the scene for many historical events, which include a tournament to celebrate the marriage of Louis XIII to Anne of Austria in 1615; it was where literary hostess Mme. De Sévigné was born in 1626 and writer Victor Hugo lived for 16 years. He lived at No.6 where his house is now a museum which is very interesting.

Chateau Vincennes
Chateau Vincennes can be reached on the Metro the last stop on Line 1. It was establishes as a hunting lodge in the forest of Vincennes (long gone) by the Capetian monarchs in the 12 century. At the start of the Hundred Years War work on a keep was stated, then a protective wall with nine towers was built around the keep and manor was completed over decades. In 1380 work on the Holy Chapel was begun. Monarchs took refuge at the chateau during the 16th & 17th century during the troubles. Louis XIV only stayed there sporadically before he finally settled in Versailles in 1682.

The chateau has had some restoration over the years and there is comprehensive information in each area of the complex. It is all very interesting for anyone interested in history.

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