La ville d’amour. Paris. I never thought I’d actually see a city glorified for everything in everything. Film, literature, and art exalt it, and I got to spend nine days moving back in time through history.
In 1163, under Bishop Sully, construction on Notre Dame began. Over the centuries, it was repaired and renovated, but thanks to its stone foundation, it survived the French Revolution and was untouched by the World Wars. The cathedral was featured prominently in Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame and the Disney film. Seeing the bell towers and the gargoyles brought the story to life for me.
What is currently the Musee du Louvre was initially constructed under Philippe Auguste in 1190 as an arsenal; however, under Charles V it was transformed into a chateau. Later Francois I renovated the Louvre, making it a Renaissance palace. 200 years later, the foundation for a museum was laid by the Assemblee Nationale decree that it should “be a national palace … for gathering together all the monuments of the sciences and the arts.” Now its artifacts are unparalleled, and I was privileged to see all those artifacts that the Musee du Louvre has accumulated in its millennium of existence.
Louis XIV established Versailles as the seat of his power and France’s capital from 1678-1789. Walking through the Hall of Mirrors, seeing the opulence, or at least what has been recovered since the French Revolution is still magnificence to the utmost degree. From the murals in every room to the intricately designed furniture, the chateau reflects the grandeur of another age; the age in which it was said, “Let them eat cake.”
The Catacombs of Paris were established at the end of the 18th century to house skeletons from cemeteries throughout Paris. By 1787 it was a museum for curious royalty and other prestigious figures, showing them the dead buried beneath the streets of Paris. I followed in the footsteps of figures like Napoleon III along these paths facing the skeletons of centuries past.
The Tour du Eiffel was constructed in just over two years for the 1889 commemoration of the French Revolution. The only reason it was not torn down was to aid in experiments with telecommunications. At this point, it receives almost 7 million visitors annually – I was one of them.
Although I saw that history, I wish I’d seen more of Paris’ modern contributions. Besides the numerous landmarks where Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Emerson, and Twain frequented and those landmarks featured in modern movies, like the Pont des Arts from Sex and the City, there are also monuments to the victims, survivors, and soldiers of the World Wars. My family focused more on Paris’ ancient history; I would rectify this in a future trip to this grand city.
This city is glorified for among other things its survival. Although it has been invaded and ravaged both from within and by conquerors, it has flourished. Paris has always been home to the arts, culture, and high society. When one speaks fashion, we look to Paris. When one speaks paintings, we look to Paris. When one speaks literature, we look to Paris. One always looks to Paris.
“1682 Versailles, capital of the kingdom.”Chateau de Versailles. N.p., n.d. Web. .
“BUILDING HISTORY.” Cathedrale Notre Dame de Paris. N.p., n.d. Web. .
“HISTORY OF THE CATACOMBS OF PARIS.” Les Catacombes de Paris. N.p., n.d. Web. .
“History of the Louvre:From Château to Museum.” Louvre. N.p., n.d. Web. .
“The Eiffel Tower at a glance.” La Tour Eiffel. N.p., n.d. Web. .