Friday, May 17, 2019

Paris, France

A friend of mine described Paris this way: "Yes, it is big and sprawling and dirty. But there are a lot of great things to do there."

Add it up, and a visit can be a magical experience. Paris is filled with world-class attractions, fascinating history, an overwhelming amount of food choices, and beautiful architecture.

Paris is the capital of France, and the rest of the country no doubt figures that it receives a disproportionate amount of attention - especially in terms of government budgets. On the other hand, it probably deserves such treatment at some level. It's considered one of the most expensive cities in the world in terms of cost of living. We saw a few real estate offices advertising available properties, and gulped.

Most of the major attractions - including the ones you know very well - are centered around the Seine River. By the way, the Left Bank is the one on the left side when you sail toward the ocean. That makes it easy to see much, especially if you use the famous Metro - which has a stop near almost everything.

During the last few years, Paris has seen its share of terrorist attacks. As a result, military personnel are present throughout the city as it stays on high alert. However, we never felt unsafe, and we took home memories of the City of Light that will last a lifetime.

Here's a spectacular overall look at Paris:

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Paris, France: Palais Garnier

I don't think all the buildings in Paris are fabulous. However, a lot of them are. The Palais Garnier - the opera house - fits that description.

It might take a minute to realize the obvious literary connection. Ever heard of the 1910 novel, "Phantom of the Opera?" The one that was turned into one of the most successful musicals in history? Yes, it was set here. No, I didn't see any phantoms.

This used to be the home of the Paris Opera, but it moved in 1989. So it's used for the ballet and other events. Inside, it's said that no space has gone without decoration, and I believe it. This room, perhaps the grandest of them all, is proof of that. The seating area itself is very impressive. However, it was rather dimly lit during our visit so the photos weren't quite up to standards.

There is so much more to see in this building, inside and out. Here's a better way to look around:

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Paris, France: Galeries Lafayette

Paris is the center of fashion for much of the world. It only figures, then, that its best location for shopping be beyond spectacular.

That's the way to describe the Galeries Lafayette store located on Boulevard Haussmann. It's 70,000 square meters of shopping, with a huge eye-popping atrium (see photo) in the middle of it. If you look carefully, you can see a skywalk that extends into the middle of the atrium. If you dare to look down, the floor is made of clear plastic so that you can see the bottom.

The store itself is broken into a variety of areas, often by designer. There is plenty of top-of-the-line items here, but more moderately priced items are also on sale. The top floor has a cafeteria/restaurant and a viewing area to look out over this part of Paris.

The store is located near the Opera House and there are plenty of tourists nearby who apparently have money to spend. I saw a line to get into the Chanel "area" during our visit, which was a first for me. The store has branches in other big cities throughout Europe.

We stumbled on all of this by accident. Now, you know better. If you go, be sure to drop in.

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Thursday, May 16, 2019

Versailles, France: The Palace of Versailles

The best line about Versailles came from my brother-in-law: "You can understand why the peasants revolted."

Indeed, the home for French royalty from 1682 to 1789 is jaw-dropping in its excess. "Over the top" doesn't do the place justice.

It hurts to post one photo here, as someone could take excellent pictures in any room in any direction. Look up, look down, look around. No corners were cut here.

However, the obvious choice to show is the Hall of Mirrors. It used to be something of a patio, but it was turned into part of the house while reflecting the beauty of the gardens and plaza just outside. The mirrors are on the left. This is where the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919 to end World War I, and official state functions are still held here. Come to think of it, it does look like a nice place for my next dinner party.

The lines are long, long, long for this attraction, which trails only the Louvre in the area for attendance. (Yes, more than the Eiffel Tower.)  Get a ticket ahead of time if you can, and allow time to walk down to the lake too.

Our thoughts after a visit that while the Russians (Peter and Catherine) were better at fountains and landscaping among ancient royalty, the French were in a class by themselves for interior decorating.

Let's go to the video, because you definitely want to see more of this.

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Paris, France: Army Museum

For those who like to see a lot of military history at one sitting, the Army Museum or the Musée de l'Armée is definitely the stop to make.

It was created around 1905 when two smaller museums merged. It includes main building and two churches, and is said to contain 500,000 objects.

The history of French warfare is covered in the exhibits, extending from ancient times through World War II. Some of France's greatest military leaders are buried there. There's also a tribute to Charles de Gaulle, leader of the Free French forces in World War II.

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Paris, France: The Thinker

Anyone can take a photo of a famous statue from the front. It takes an artist to take that same photo from the back - while driving by on a bus, no less.

I'm no artist, but this will have to do.

"The Thinker" is one of the most famous sculptures in the world. It was done by French artist Auguste Robin, finishing the job in 1904. The subject is bending over, head on chin, considering the day's possibilities.

The statue has been in its current location since 1922, when a hotel had been turned into the Rodin Museum. Rodin had worked in that hotel, and he donated many items to the facility. The gardens are also said to be nice.

You're on your own when it comes to finding a front view of "The Thinker."

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Paris, France: Les Invalides

Here's a striking building that goes unnoticed by most. Les Invalides is the name of a complex of buildings that mostly connects to military activities. It has an assortment of monuments and museums. But it still serves the original purpose that dates back more than 300 years - hospital and retirement home for veterans.

The photo here is of the former church on the grounds. The top of the dome is the highest in Paris. The building's purpose change when someone knew moved in. Yes - the body of Napoleon is there. It took a while for the French leader to get there. He died in 1821, but his remains arrived in 1840. Napoleon was moved to this location in 1861.

Yes, I wanted to see what it looks like in there too.

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Paris, France: Palais de Chaillot

Location, location, location.

This complex is located right across from the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The views from the plaza in the middle, therefore, are particularly good.

The Palais de Chailot is a relatively new building as these things go. The old building went down in 1937 to make room for new construction for a world's fair of sort. The United Nations General Assembly has met here a few times over the years. There are a few different museums in the complex today.

However, one of the most remembered images of World War II came from here. Adolf Hitler stood on these grounds and was photographed with the Eiffel Tower in the background.

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Paris, France: Flame of Liberty

Turnabout, as they say, is fair play.

You probably know that France gave the United States the Statue of Liberty in 1886. However, an exact replica of the torch from that gift sits in Paris near the river.

The International Herald Tribute thought this was a good way to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its publication in Europe, which came in 1987. It's also something of a good will gesture between the countries, since some French workers helped spruce up Lady Liberty earlier in that decade.

Naturally, there's more to the location than that. If you stand on the spot where the photo above was taken, you can see the entrance to an underground highway. That's where Lady Di was killed in an auto accident in 1997. The torch has become something of an unofficial memorial to her, and tributes are often left at its base. No sign of it here, though.

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Paris, France: Avenue des Champs-Élysées

You can picture the moment. You are about to win the Tour de France bicycle race in June. The homestretch comes in Paris. You and the rest of the group are taking a celebratory ride down the fabulous Champs-Élysées in heading toward the finish line.

Here's what that fabulous avenue looks like in the spring. It's one of the great streets in the world.

In contrast to much of the rest of Paris, the street is nice and wide. The buildings along the way are wonderful. They are filled with restaurants and cafes and stores. It also has parks and gardens and monuments and theaters. 

By the way, the world's most profitable McDonald's is here too.

It's a wonderful place for a walk on a nice afternoon. Here's what it all looks like:

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Paris, France: Arc de Triomphe

As we discovered in the spring of 2019, May Day might not be the best of days to go to the Arc de Triomphe.

Protests rallied were taking place in Paris that day, and the authorities were taking no chances. The military closed off all access to the monument, leaving tourists to take photos of the building from a distance. The military perimeter even expanded during the course of the afternoon.

That's too bad, because this is one of the major attractions in Paris. It salutes those who died in the French Revolution and under Napoleon. Battles and generals are listed, and an unknown soldier from World War I is buried underneath it.

When the French marked the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I in 2018, this is where the ceremony took place. But some of most famous photos and videos of the structure came later in the 20th century. Hitler paraded German forces near it when he occupied France in 1940, and Allies forces did the same during the 1944 liberation.

You can buy a ticket to go to the top and take a look around. Meanwhile, you can get closer to the monument than we did by watching this video:

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Paris, France: Palais Bourbon

Considering that Paris is the capital of France, it's interesting that government buildings don't have much drawing power compared to the other attractions of the city. In Washington, for example, you have to see the White House and Capitol, for starters.

However, the Palais Bourbon is worth noting. It's next to the Musee d'orsay, and it's where the National Assembly (think House of Representatives, American readers) sits.

The building started as a country house in 1726 for the Duchess of Bourbon, and has gone through all sorts of changes over the years. The building features plenty of contemporary art.

You can visit the area, although it helps to make a reservation for a tour. There are some restrictions, such as the need for a passport and respectable clothes, on visitors.

The only short video I could find is in French, but at least this gives you an idea of what's in there:

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Paris, France: Musée d'Orsay

Paris' tourism slogan should be something like "There's too much to see in a few days." Because it's true.

We had heard a lot about how spectacular the Musée d'Orsay is. The museum ranks as one of the best in the world, but might get a little crowded out in discussions about Paris museums because of the Louvre. But it still ranks as world class by any standard.

The Musée d'Orsay sits in a former train station. The facility almost was torn down in 1970, but eventually it was turned into a museum. The building holds the work of all of the great masters of French art between 1848 and 1914 - Monet (86 paintings), Manet, Renoir, Gauguin and Van Gogh. People still love those Impressionists. 

We ran out of time to visit this, because the lines to get in were just too long. Oh, well. Maybe next time. We'll have to be content with watching a video.

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Paris, France: Fontaine Saint-Michel

This only looks like a church. It's actually a fountain.

The leaders of Paris did a little tinkering with the layout of the city in the 1850s, and they had a big space that needed filling. An ornate fountain was suggested, and after going through some plans, the bosses came up with design you see here. Construction ran from 1858 to 1860.

In 1870, when the French were on their way to getting clobbered by Prussia, a mob did some damage to the fountain despite some pleas to save it. Some repairs were made in 1872, and others took place around 1893.

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Paris, France: Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois

If you travel around European cities for more than a few minutes, you'll likely to see a big, beautiful, old church. Yes, here's another one.

Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois is located near the Louvre close to the river in Paris. Apparently, when the Louvre was a palace in the pre-Revolution days, this church was the religious center for some royalty. 

The building has gone through some changes, but most of it was constructed in the 15th century. If you are counting, that's before Columbus set off on a famous road trip. 

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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Paris, France: Le Pere Lachaise

Le Pere Lachaise might be the most interesting cemetery in the world, at least in terms of who is there.You can't walk more than 50 feet, it seems, without bumping into someone famous.

Oscar Wilde. Edith Piaf. Frederic Chopin. Marcel Proust. Maria Callas. Max Ophuls. Gertrude Stein. Rafael Trujillo. Stephan Grappelli. And that doesn't include a bunch of people who are well known in France but not here.

Still, the biggest draw is an American. Jim Morrison, the lead singer of the rock group The Doors, died in his 20s and is buried here. His grave is behind a fence, but people still leave gifts for him as you see in the photo.

It's the largest cemetery in Paris, and the place is just jammed. I'm not sure there's room for many more people, but it looks like someone said the same thing 50 years ago.

One tip - you can buy a map of the place by street vendors for 2.50 Euros. Do it. It is a great investment.

Here's a video version of a tour from Rick Steves:

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Paris, France: Fontaine du Palmier

A tip for photographers out there - try to remember where you are when you take a picture. It will save you a little time later on.

In this case, I knew that this monument was close to Notre Dame, but I wasn't sure where. It took a lot of searching on line to find it, but eventually I discovered it was the Fontaine du Palmier.

This fountain has been around for more than 200 years. Napoleon thought it was a good idea to bring drinking water to the population. And if he could celebrate his military victory in Egypt in the process, so much the better. The Statue of Victory is on top of the column.

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Paris, France; Palais de Justice

One of the best parts of visiting a great city is that the history pops up in unexpected places. Here's another example of it.

I took a photo of this building while walking back from Notre Dame Cathedral; it looked quite striking. Turns out this was the "Palais de Justice." The site has been used for hammering out justice for centuries.

For example, part of the facility was where Marie Antoinette was jailed just before her execution. (By the way, Marie apparently never did say, "Let them eat cake.")

The place received a good remodeling in the 19th century, and it's still beautiful today. Makes you think about becoming a lawyer, just do that you can work there every so often.

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Paris, France: Notre Dame Cathedral

On April 15, 2019, a fire broke out at Notre Dame Cathedral that did considerable damage to the facility. People from around the world were heart-broken over the damage to one of the planet's great places.

It was particularly true that were only a couple of weeks away from a visit to Paris. That would be me.

Notre Dame was built between 1160 and 1260 on an island in Paris. It was famous for its French Gothic architecture, its massive bells and its huge organ. The twin towers have been a landmark for centuries.

The immediate area around Notre Dame is closed to the public, as the work to repair and rebuild the structure goes on. It will be a big job, of course. However, visitors can see Notre Dame from just across the river. The facility was undergoing massive renovations before the fire, and during our visit it actually looked in relatively good shape under the circumstances. It obviously will be a huge task to get it back to its former glory. But a building that checks in as more than 750 years old probably has plenty of patience built in.

As we wait, let's see what it used to look like:

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Paris, France: Allee des Justes

This tribute translates to "Alley of the Righteous Nations," and it's on the edge of the Holocaust Memorial in Paris. As you'd expect, it is quite moving.

"The Wall of the Righteous" salutes 3,800 people who helped save the lives of Jews during World War II while risking their own lives. It's part of an international list compiled by a museum in Jerusalem that numbers 24,000 people. 

This tribute is in a public area and thus always available for viewing.

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Paris, France: Hotel de Sully

Walk off a corner of the Place des Vosges, and you will find yourself in a spectacular courtyard. The buildings are ancient and majestic, while the greenery is striking.

Welcome to the Hotel de Sully. The story goes back more than 400 years, since it was built in the 1620s. However, the area was purchased by Maximilien de Béthune, Duke of Sully, in 1634. The family owned the place through the 1700s. The building bounced around a bit since then, but now it serves as the headquarters for France's agency that in charge of the country's historic buildings and monuments.

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Place des Vosges

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Paris, France: Place des Vosges

This was where the elite came to meet in Paris in the 1600s and 1700s  - those crazy, lazy days before the Revolution.

Place des Vosges was the first planned square in Paris. Henri IV came up with the idea around 1605, and it was finished in 1612. The planning shows up in the buildings that surround the square, which all have the same design. One of them was occupied by one of France's top writers, Victor Hugo. It still looks elegant.

The Revolution turned the place Royal into the Place des Vosges. The nobility doesn't turn up here these days, but the general public is welcome to hang out on the grounds. 

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Paris, France: Opéra Bastille

You have to admit that Paris is a city of culture. One opera house would be enough for most cities. Paris has two.

This, as you might guess, if the newer of the two.

The Opéra Bastille opened in 1989 right by the place where the Bastille stood 200 years earlier. The place seats about 2,700 and is the home of the Paris National Opera. The ballet and concerts are held there as well. 

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Paris, France: Place de la Bastille

Uneducated tourists no doubt come to Paris and ask, "Where is the Bastille that I have heard about for many years?"

No doubt they are disappointed to find out that prison, which served a key role in the French Revolution of 1789, isn't around any more. It was torn down between 1789 and 1790. Apparently the revolutionaries were more interested in getting rid of a powerful symbol of repression than thinking about a tourist attraction a couple of centuries later. By the way, the key to the Bastille can be found in, of all places, Mount Vernon at George Washington's house.

You can go to the spot where the Bastille once sat. It's a square in downtown Paris. The monument shown here is a tribute to the Revolution of 1830. King Charles X lost his job in that little scuffle. Public events are often held on this site.

People can be forgiven for not knowing much about French history. Here's a quick, fun video on what happened back then:

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Giverny, France: Monet's Grave

Seeing how Claude Monet spent 40 years in Giverny, it's appropriate that he was laid to rest there too. His grave is about a 10-minute walk from his house, which takes the visitor from one end of the village to the other.

Monet died of lung cancer in 1926, the last of those in the family plot to pass away. As for the others, there's an interesting story there. Monet's wife Alice is there, as is Alice's first husband - Ernest Hoschedé. Ernest was the first of the group to die, and his children - who were raised by Monet - wanted his grave to be close by.

I find myself wondering what Ernest's reaction to this might have been.

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Giverny, France: World War II Crash Memorial

Sometimes you bump into an interesting story just by walking around. This is one of them.

Ever seen a propeller blade in a cemetery before? This certainly is far enough out of the norm to attract attention.

The blade and memorial are at Saint-Radegonde Church in Giverny. It seems that a Royal Air Force plane crashed here on June 7/8, 1944, and killed all seven of its crew. Notice the date - it was less than 48 hours after the start of D-Day.

The seven men are buried nearby, and their story is well told on the monument. The group grave stands out because of the British flags surrounding the grave.

I can't imagine what it was like to be liberated from German occupation after about four years, and there's another monument nearby that recognizes the sacrifice of local residents who died during the war. It's good to see the village saluting those who paid the ultimate price to make them happen.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Giverny, France: Monet's Garden

Claude Monet was the first and one of the best French impressionists of art. He didn't like the way that art was taught, and chose to break away and take his own, less literal approach. It revolutionized the subject.

Toward the second half of his career, Monet was financially comfortable enough to own some property in Giverny, now an hour outside of Paris. He had a house and a formal garden there, but the pond and surrounding landscape provided the subject matter for some of his most well-known work over 40 years. Monet often painted the same scene many times, showing the subtle differences that take place from year to year. The green bridge shown in the photo was a frequent subject for his work.

Monet's name is enough to bring plenty of visitors to the estate. My best suggestion would be to get there early in the morning, so you'll beat some of the crowds.

You can hear and see more about the facility in this video:

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Paris, France: The Louvre

The Louvre might be the most famous art gallery in the world. It's probably the biggest, too. There are 10 miles of corridors in the place, which takes up three sides of a square near the river in Paris. There are 380,000 objects to see.

The place is preposterous. It holds the best of the best in art, attracting millions to its doors. I only could spend an afternoon there, and "scratched the surface" doesn't begin to describe how I felt when I left.

Take a walk, and you'll see something magnificent again and again. At one point I stumbled around in one room, glanced at something that looked nice, and realized I was staring at something by Michelangelo. Oh, him. I found out later that "Dying Slave" is quite famous as these things go.

You've heard of the Venus de Milo? It's in the Louvre. Enjoy a big painting? A work on Napoleon's coronation checks in at 33 feet by 20 feet, and it's hanging in a hallway. I'm no art expert, but it all looked pretty good to me.

By now you no doubt are asking about the Mona Lisa, perhaps the most famous painting on earth. Yes, it's there too. The problem is that everyone wants to see the work by Leonardi da Vinci. Mona is on the wall in a big room, but the crowds are such that it's very difficult to physically get near it. I didn't even try. You'd think they'd have some sort of rope system to guide people by it for a few seconds, but instead it's just a mob scene. Well, I saw her from a distance, and that will have to do.

Therefore, I chose to highlight the Winged Victory of Samothrace in this blog. The Goddess of Nike was created 190 BC in Greece. It's at the top of a stairway, and it's stunning to see in person.

We didn't have an advance ticket, and it took about 35 minutes to wind through the line and get into the building. The price was a mere 15 Euros, with most children getting in free.

You should see more of the place, and this video provides some help:

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Paris. France: Moliere Fountain

Jean-Baptiste Poquelin was born in Paris in 1622. However, you have to be an expert in French literature to recognize that name. Most people know him by his stage name, Molière. When it comes to dramatic writing, he's about as good as it gets in France.

Moliere wrote all sorts of stories - comedy, drama, farce, etc. The best-known works are "The Misanthrope," "Tartuffe," and "The School for Wives." His work has been performed in all major languages, and it is still popular among audiences today. Some say French is the language of Moliere.

The great writer is said to have died while on stage - while playing a hypochondriac in "The Imaginary Invalid." But his touch lives on; some of the words have remained in the French language.

Naturally, Moliere takes a bow in Paris even today. A statue of him is on the street named after him, right where it intersects with rue Richelieu. It made its debut in 1844.

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Paris, France: Fontaine Louvois

Public parks in great European cities need a little bling to get up to speed. Louvois Square followed that rule as it features Fontaine Louvois.

The square dates back to 1830, as a theater was demolished on the site. The fountain came along less than a decade later.

This is said to be a tribute to four great rivers of France, with four women adding support in the middle and all sorts of ornate features filling out the design. It's a good spot to stop and watch Paris go by.

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Paris, France: Notre-Dame-de-Lorette

Apparently you can never have enough churches named Notre Dame in Paris.

This is another one, located north of the river by several blocks. Notre Dame-de-Lorette was built early in the 18th century as a replacement for a structure that was destroyed during the French Revolution. It took from 1823 to 1836 to build it.

Naturally, there was a fact that I found while researching this that is worth noting. Georges Bizet and Claude Monet were both baptized here in 1840 and 1841 -  a mere 14 months apart.

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Paris, France: Moulin Rouge

You've probably heard of the Moulin Rouge if you've been paying attention. It's one of the most famous cabaret theaters in the world, having been around since 1889. And it translates to red windmill, as you could guess by the photo.

The place is best known as the spot where the can-can dance was invented. That gave the Moulin Rouge some fame, and it led to the development of cabaret as a form for musical entertainment.

Seeing this in person might make me revisit the movie of the same name. It came out in 2001 and starred Ewen McGregor and Nicole Kidman.  The building is located in the Montmartre section of Paris.

Care to go inside and look around? Since I never made it in that morning, I do.


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Paris, France: Moulin de la Galette

Sometimes you get a little lucky while traveling in terms of discoveries. This windmill popped up during a walk in Montmartre section of Paris, and I took this photo from the best angle I could find.

I found out much later that this is a rather famous place. Moulin de la Galette dates back to 1622. It was a mill for a while, but the structure has severed a variety of purposes over the years.

The fun part if that some famous painters took time to put the image on canvas. Renoir's version might be the most acclaimed, but van Gogh and Pissarro did good work with it too.

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Paris, France: Le Passe-Muraille

Here's an interesting bit of art work.

Marcel Ayme wrote a relatively famous novel about a guy, M. Dutilleul, who finds out he can pass through walls. Dutilleul uses his super powers for evil, committing crimes of various types. But justice is served in the end when he gets stuck midway through the wall.

That's the scene that is portrayed here. Tourists often grab a hand to pull him out of the wall, leaving it shiny. However, it doesn't work.  The man isn't going anywhere soon.

Atlas Obscura has this line about its location: "The Place Marcel Ayme is on rue Norvins and rue Girardon in Montmartre and in the shadow of Sacre-Coeur."

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Paris, France: Le Consulat Café

If you are taking a little stroll in the Montmartre district of Paris, be sure to take a look at Le Consulat Cafe - only a few blocks from the basilica.

After all, you never know who might be there.

This restaurant has been open for years and years. It was a popular hangout (even though they wouldn't use that word) for such artists as Picasso, Sisley, Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec and Monet.

In addition, some movies have shot scenes there. One of them is Woody Allen's "Everyone Says I Love You."

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Paris, France: Sacre-Coeur

Say hello to the biggest religious facility in Paris, at least until Notre Dame is rebuilt. Sacre-Couer is located in the highest point of the city limits, and has a great view of Paris.

The history of the place is an odd one and rather complicated. France had its hands full during a military conflict with Prussia in 1870-71, losing a war rather badly and seeing its government overthrown in the process. When the new government in turn was thrown out, religious leaders thought France's problems were due to a lack of religious belief. They wanted a shrine built that overlooked the city as a reminder of the renewed guiding principles of life.

It took a while to build it, but Sacre-Coeur was finished in 1914 - but not dedicated until 1919, as World War I got in the way. It is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The building is located in the Montmartre part of Paris.

You'll be happy to know that you don't have to climb many steps to get there. A funicular rides up the hill, and the views are great. If you like such buildings, you'll enjoy the video tour:

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Paris, France: École Militaire

When you walk to or from the Eiffel Tower by going through a park, you'll see a rather massive complex at the far end. That is the École Militaire, and it has an impressive history.

The War of Austrian Succession has just ended in the middle of the 1700s when a military leader told King Louis XV that a military academy would be a really good idea. The king agreed, and the facility was built. Napoleon was one of the students in 1784. 

However, the facility was open for only seven years the first time around (1780 to 1787) before it closed. It got overrun a couple of years later during the French Revolution. 

However, the place went back into the military training business in 1878, and it still fits that description today. The guy in front on the horse is Joseph Joffre, one of the French military leaders in World War I. He is in Place Joseph Joffre. Since he led the French to victory over the Germans in the First Battle of the Marne, the population must have been rather grateful. 

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Paris, France: The Wall for Peace

It doesn't take long to figure out where the Wall for Peace is. This photo offers a valuable clue.

Yes it is in the Champ du Mars, the park adjacent to the Eiffel Tower. The structure is across the street from the military academy, and soldiers used to practice on that piece of ground way back when.

Peace is written on the walls in 49 languages, and visitors are invited to leave their own message in the facility - that is, when it is open. Some construction was going on during our visit, so we could only look. As the photo shows, though, it is in a mighty good location.

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Paris, France: Monument des Droits de l'Homme

It's rather easy for a monument to be overlooked when it is just down a path from the Eiffel Tower. The
Monument des Droits de l'Homme deserves better.

It translates to Monument to the Rights of Man. The structure was put up in 1989 to celebrate the 200th birthday of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen - a large part of the French Revolution. 

If you are walking in Champ de Mars park on the way to the tower, you might miss this one - and a brief stop probably is in order. 

Paris, France: Eiffel Tower

You have to give the French credit. They really know how to throw a party.

France wanted to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its celebration that took place in 1889. Gustave Eiffel won the contest for creating some sort of landmark. The building didn't have any specific purpose, except that it would tower over the rest of the man-made objects in the world.

It worked. The building checked in at more than 1,000 feet, and was an instant attraction that remains that way to this day. And it remains beautiful. The design is classic, and it is set in a park with plenty of flowers and green space. You go to Paris, you must see the Eiffel Tower (or if you prefer, La Tour Eiffel).

If you do plan on a visit, one good tip is to buy tickets ahead of time. You can pick a time that way and beat the lines; there's a separate entrance for those people. Make your purchase well in advance if you plan to go in prime months.

When you do buy those tickets, be sure to pay the extra money and go to the top. There are three viewing areas in the tower, and you need to see all of them. Head for the highest level first, and then work your way down to the other two spots. The bottom one doesn't offer much for visitors, but a glass floor in one area gives you a straight-down look at the ground from 18 stories up. 

Security is tight. The area around the tower is "walled off" with bulletproof clear material so that you'll need a ticket and must pass a security check to get into the immediate area. The place is famous for its pickpockets, so be careful in that sense.

We went in the afternoon, so we didn't see the tower at night. YouTube came to the rescue:

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