This portion of the web doesn't cover current events. The four characters (N.E.W.S.) represents the compass points: North, East, West and South. Here you will find information about various world-wide destinations. This page is updated with facts and images on a number of destinations. Previous themes and topics have been moved to the ARCHIVE section of the web.
“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home.” - James Michener
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If You Go:
Paris — Europes Favorite City
Known as the "city of love" and the "city of lights," Paris ranks as one of the worlds most visited cities in the world. And those of us who have been fortunate to have been there a time or two, knows why. Paris and a few other cities of the world, like London, Sydney, San Francisco and several others, are different than most. They are the fortunate few that have the characteristics that give them a pulse. These are cities with a life of their own. These are the cities with a soul.
A leisure walk along the banks of the Seine, a stop at Place du Tertre, Montmartre (just a few blocks from the Sacré Coeur) to have your portrait sketched by one of the many wandering artist, a night at the opera or Pigalle, or simply enjoying a glass of wine or cup of coffee at one of the many cafes along the Champs Elyse on a warm spring day and watch the world go by is often enough to endear the city to just about anyone. While there is much more to do and see in this city than can be told on this page, an attempt at providing a taste of this destination is presented here. This month we'll briefly look at six of the many sights Paris offers the visitors in chronological order, from the oldest to the newest.
The Notre-Dame Cathedral
The most famous cathedral in the world is the Notre-Dame de Paris ("Our Lady of Paris"). Construction of this Parisian icon began with the groundbreaking in 1163 under the supervision of the Bishop of Paris, Maurice de Sully and work at the site lasted for more than 180 years. On several occasions in its history the church has been vandalized; first in 1548 by rioting Huguenots, then again in 1786 when statues, tombs, and stained glass windows were destroyed. During the French Revolution, many of its
treasures were either destroyed or plundered. More damage was caused during the Second World War, but a number of restoration programs (the first started in 1845) have brought the cathedral to its current state.
Not to be missed when visiting the Notre Dame is its massive pipe organ (7,952 pipes), the stained glass north rose (the huge window between the towers), the gargoyles (you must climb to the upper level to a really good view of them), and its bells, which ring out the hours of the day and which are tolled for various occasions and services. The cathedrals ten bells were each given a name. The two largest, Emmanuel and Marie, hang in the south tower. On the night of August 24, 1944, as French and Allied troops drove the Nazis from Paris, it was the tolling of Emmanuel that announced to the Parisian citizenry that the liberation of the city was under way.
The Louvre art museum.
Originally built as a fortress in the late 12th century, the building was converted into the main residence of the French Kings in 1546. In 1682 when King Louis XIV chose the Palace of Versailles for his household, the Louvre became a place to store the royal collections. In 1692 it was taken over by the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture. During the French Revolution the Academy decreed the Louvre should be used as a museum to display the nation's treasures. It opened with an exhibition of 537 paintings and 183 objects of art in August of 1793.
Today, the Louvre houses over 380,000 objects and displays 35,000 works. A visit to and appreciate the exhibits in this, the worlds most visited museum (15,000 visitors per day), requires several days. Its most famous painting, Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, is only one of more than 7,500 works in the museum's collection. Additional works include Egyptian and Near Eastern antiquities, Greek and roman pieces, Islamic art, and Sculptures including the famous Venus de Milo and a replica of Michelangelo's David (the original is in Florence, Italy).
The Arc de Triomphe
The broad avenue of the Champs Elysees connects the Louvre to the Arc de Triomphe. The Arc was commissioned in 1806 following Napoleons victory at Austerlitz, which resulted in the collapse of the Holy Roman Empire. Laying the foundation alone took two years, and a wooden mockup of the completed arch was constructed for Napoleon's entrance to Paris in 1810. The Arc was finally completed in 1836.
The Arc stands 164 feet tall, is 148 feet wide and 22 feet deep and was inspired by the Roman Arch of Titus. Twelve avenues spill into the traffic roundabout that surrounds the Arc. Pedestrian access to the arch is possible from two underground passageways at its northern and southern sides. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I was interred beneath the Arc on November 11, 1920 - Armistice Day. In 1921 the tomb was lit by an eternal flame that burns in memory of the dead who were never identified (now from both world wars).
The Sacré Coeur
Another popular religious landmark of Paris is the Sacré Coeur Basilica (the Basilica of the Sacred Heart), located on the highest point of the city. Easily recognized by its six domed spires, its grandeur is magnified by its white stone exterior. The basilica grounds also have a garden complete with fountain for meditation.
Construction of the basilica began in 1875 and was finished in 1914. However because of the conflict of World War I, it was not consecrated until 1919, after the war ended. The basilica also has a fine pipe organ that - in its design - was considered ahead of its time. Its construction gave the organist considerable advantages over even larger instruments of the day.
The Paris Opera House
Although it is referred to as the Paris Opera House, it should more correctly be called the "Palais Garnier," after its architect, Charles Garnier. Historically it was known as the Opera de Paris and, until 1989, was home to the Paris Opera and the Paris Opera Ballet. (The Paris Opera now performs at the newly built Opera Bastille; only ballet is performed at this location.) In his book Architecture of France (2006), David A. Hanser said that the opera house is "probably the most famous opera house in the world, a symbol of Paris like Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre, or the Sacré Coeur Basilica."
Much of the Opera's fame is due in part to the 1910 novel The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux. While the work is fiction, it is partially based in fact. The Opera House has a seven ton bronze and crystal chandelier suspended from the auditorium ceiling. On May 20, 1896 — during a performance of the Opera Helle' — counterweights from the chandelier broke from their supports and crashed through the auditorium ceiling, killing one person and injuring many others. The incident inspired one of the famous scenes of the novel, as well as the 1986 Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Phantom of the Opera.
The Eiffel Tower
The most iconic Parisian site, and the one every traveler makes a point to visit, is the Eiffel Tower. Constructed from 1887-1889 for the 1989 World's Fair, the tower, considered an eye-sore by many at that time, was not supposed to be a permanent structure. Had it not been repurposed as a radio tower in 1909, it would surely have been demolished. Many visitors are unaware that Gustave Eiffel had a small apartment at the top of the tower. (It has recently been open to visitors for viewing).
At the time of its completion the Eiffel Tower was the tallest structure in the world; a record it would hold until 1929 when New York City's Chrysler building was completed. During World War I the French military used the tower as a wireless station, where it not only transmitted but also received secret messages from as far away as Berlin. One of the messages alerted the French military of the activities of the exotic dancer and the femme fatal spy Margaretha Geertruida "Margreet" MacLeod, better known as Marta Hari.
These are just a few of the many sights and attractions Paris has to offer. If your travel plans include Paris, give yourself plenty of time to enjoy these cultural icons. Become familiar with their history to make your journey more memorable. Some places, like the Louvre Art Museum, take several days to really appreciate. Others require several visits, one during the day and one at night where many of the sights take on completely different looks. Be aware of dress codes, entrance fees, visiting hours, and whether or not photography and/or videography is permitted. (It is not permitted inside the Sacré Coeur.)
In a city like Paris, which has so much to see, be prepared to do a lot of walking, so buy a comfortable pair of walking shoes and break them in before your trip. Also, try to familiarize yourself with the Paris subway system. It is the most economical way of getting around and is an experience in and of itself. Finally, take some time to relax as well. Lose the stress that often comes with world travel. Have a glass of wine or cup of coffee at one of the quaint street-front cafes that can be found throughout the city. Learn to relax and enjoy life just a little. The French seem to have learned to do so.
The Eiffel Tower became the symbol of France. During the Nazi occupation of World War II, the French cut the elevator cables of the top of the tower, preventing Hitler from ascending this symbol of France. Today, with over 30 replicas around the world including a half sized recreation in Las Vegas, the Eiffel Tower is the most visited paid monument in the world.