The Grand Tour

The Grand Tour 38 – Paris

This post covers a number of the things we did in Paris. Some of these were because the Louvre and the d’Orsay Museums were closed due to the Seine river being five meters above it normal level. A walkway is normally to the left of the box at the front of this picture.



The Sainte-Chapelle or Holy Chapel was built around 1245 to house a collection of relics of Christ purchased by Louis IX. A major feature of this church is the stained glass windows that wrap almost all the walls.



The floors are also pretty spectacular.

We did not see the relics.

Notre Dame

No visit to Paris would be complete without a visit here, although it was a bit strange being allowed in while Mass was being held. The centre part of the church has barriers erected, and tourists are restricted to the outside sections. It was nice to be able to hear what the acoustics sound like though.

I only took one photo inside, as we were leaving, because it seemed disrespectful to do more during a service of worship. As you can see, stained glass also features prominently.

The Basilica of Saint Denis

This little gem is hardly visited by tourists because it is some distance from the centre of Paris – about 15-20 minutes by metro – but it is well worth the trip. Considered to be the first Gothic church, it was completed in 1144. Read on to find out the other reason why this church is important.

The entrance way is very ornate, and deserves its own photo.

There also beautiful stained glass windows.

The other thing that makes this place special is that nearly every French King from the 10th to the 18th centuries was buried here, and many from before that. Their bodies were removed during the French Revolution and placed in a mass grave.

Each casket had an effigy of the person below placed on top.

The detail on many of these is fantastic.


In the crypt of the church are the remains of older sarcophagi, all empty.


The crypt also has small chapels, dedicated to some of the kings. Each has a pair of stained glass windows.


And a beautiful tiled floor.


Saint Denis is also home to a memorial to King Louis XVI and his queen Marie Antoinette. These sculptures were completed in 1830.

Palais Garnier/Paris Opera

This building was built for the Paris Opera and completed in 1875. It was originally called the Salle des Capucines, but soon became known as the Palais Garnier, after its architect Charles Garnier, and because of its sheer opulence.

Once inside we found the word opulent to indeed be an appropriate description.

The mosaic work on the floors is fantastic.

The ceiling of the auditorium features scenes from 14 operas and was painted by Marc Chagall in 1964. It was criticised when installed (on a removable frame over the original) as ‘a false note in Garnier’s carefully orchestrated interior’. I liked it.

There is a small museum running the length of one side of the building which houses art associated with the life and times of the opera, and a collection of scores.

There are also displays of some costumes created for past productions. This fantastic jacket was created for the 1967 production of Joyaux by Igor Stravinsky. MJ could have worn this.

The exit from the building is actually via the entrance lobby, which host four statues of famous composers.


Exit is then via the gift shop, as is the case for many European museums and attractions.


The Panthéon

The front of this building was modelled after the building of the same name in Rome, and was completed in 1790. It is now a secular mausoleum containing the remains of many distinguished French citizens.

To me, the inside of the building looks more like a Roman church than a French one, with the design on the floor referencing the ceiling of the Pantheon in Rome.

The Panthéon is home to Foucault’s pendulum, named after the French physicist Léon Foucault. This simple device was conceived as an experiment to demonstrate the rotation of the Earth.

The crypt is where the remains of prominent French citizens are kept.

There was one that I particularly wanted to visit, that of Marie and Pierre Currie. A fact that is not stated in the note by the coffin is that hers is lined with lead due to her body being radioactive.

Musée de L’Orangerie

Home to Monet’s famous water lilies this was also the home to some of the most inconsiderate selfie takers that we saw anywhere.

First the art. Here is a section from the of the Water Lilies.


The indlivual paintings are huge as you can see below, and were conceived by Monet to exclude the sky and foreground, and to wrap the viewer.


You can see the oval shaped room. I found the painting were best appreciated by standing near the middle and trying to take in as much as possible before looking more closely.


Sadly, this was also the site of the some of the worst-behaved patrons. The person below, for I will not call him a gentleman, and his girlfriend, spend at least 5 minutes taking selfies with this painting. She checked here hair before each shot, took a shot, checked the phone, then hair, shot, phone, rinse, repeat. Likewise, he was not satisfied with the first, second, third, fourth, or fifth shot, repeating the cycle again.


I have no problem with taking a picture of a painting, posing while someone else takes a picture, or even a quick selfie, but this kind of indulgent behaviour is just plain inconsiderate. Myself and about half-a-dozen others were sitting on a bench seat trying to look at the painting, while also exchanging glances encouraging one another to throttle the couple. Monet would have cried.

Musée Marmottan Monet

At this museum there are no pictures allowed, a rule that is strictly enforced. The behaviour of patrons here was in stark contrast to L’Orangerie – people seemed more aware of others around them. I noticed people checking they weren’t walking in front of others who were standing back admiring a painting. People seemed to be taking more time to enjoy the paintings, and more respectful of others. None of the previous saw it, shot it, move on to the next one behaviour. So, it was quite a different experience.

Monet’s work was, and is, amazing, We saw his Impression, Sunrise, one of Caroline’s favourite paintings, and many others. Yes, it’s a bit boring without any pictures…

The museum also has works by other impressionists such as Édouard Manet and Berthe Morisot.

There was also a special exhibition of art featuring children from the 1600s to the modern age. The commentary that went with these was very interesting, outlining how the depiction of children had changed through the ages.

Roue de Paris

After dinner and a little rest we made our way to the Roue de Paris, or Paris Ferris Wheel. At 9pm at night the sun had only just set, and everything was bathed in soft pastel colours.


Someone switch on the Eiffel Tower’s sparkly lights for us.

Looking at this large wheel from a distance doesn’t quite prepare you for the ride up. I have to admit to being pretty nervous.

The view from the top was spectacular, and a perfect way to end our tour of Europe.


So there it is.

We are back in New Zealand, and as I am writing this there is heavy rain, lightning and thunder. It is 12 degrees. Ahhh, home. I hope you have enjoyed reading this series as much as I enjoyed writing it. Over the next few weeks I’ll do a few more posts of things I enjoyed, so stay tuned!


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