Paris, the city of cities

Birgit and I have been to Paris twice - so far - because we are convinced, that we shall return several times. Paris is so big and so filled with culture, art, museums, monuments, cafees and restaurants, that you will never get enough. The first time we travelled by train together with Edith and Kurt (a cousin to Birgit). Edith had lived in Paris for some time, and they had both been in Paris several times. A couple of years later we went to Paris together with our friends, Lise and Bent. This time we went by car (1200 km. from Århus). To avoid parking problems in the center we left the car in a public parking house approx. 25 km outside Paris, and went to the appartment by the metro. The first time we stayed in a hotel not far from the Arc de Triomphe. The second time we lived in a flat in the Latin quartiers, close to Notre Dame. From our windows we could study the outdoor life on the many ethnic restaurants. When we climbed a ladder we could see the Eiffel Tower in the distance from the roof top.

The Metro
The first thing you have to learn in Paris is using the Metro. Don't buy single tickets. Buy a carnet with 10 tickets. It is much cheaper. And you are going to use a lot of tickets, because Paris is so vast. The little "METRO" sign is everywhere. You just take the stairs underground when you see it. Some stations are above the ground.

This is an older Metro entrance. You soon learn always to carry a Metro map in your backpocket. The metro lines are named by their terminal station, ie. Porte d'Orleans. In fact there is another train system, also running underground. It is called RER, and they drive a lot faster and have fewer stops than the Metro trains. Inside Paris you can use the same tickets for both systems. Many people seemed to ride without a ticket. It is always an experience to ride the Metro all times of the day and night. The homeless go underground for warmth, gypsies get their children to beg, and people sell things out of their suitcase.

Notre Dame
One of the many things you have to see in Paris is Notre Dame (Our Lady). You could call it the centre of France, since all distances to other cities are measured from here. It is situated on Ile de la Cite (the heart of the city) in the Seine. More than 2000 years ago there was a small temple on the spot, built by Asterix' forefathers. The Romans tore it down and built a temple for Jupiter. Later on 3 small churches was built in the area. Notre Dame was built 1163 - 1345 (almost as old as the cathedral in Århus). During this long building period, where many clever craftsmen from all over Europe came to Paris, a cathedral school grew up. This was the start of the famous Sorbonne University. I'm not sure that I like the look of the church, but it certainly is impressive because of its size (130 times 50 meters with more than 35 chapels inside, which give place for more than 9000 people). You can almost see Charles Laughton as the hunch-back of Notre Dame Quasimodo, as you enter the dark half lit cathedral with its giant vaulted ceilings. If you climb the staircase in the south tower (380 steps) you will end above the 15 ton bell, which only rings on great feast days and for national ceremonies. It was from here that Quasimodo protected Esmeralda by pouring melted lead through the gargoyles. Victor Hugo criticiced the state of the church, when he published his famous novel. And when Napoleon crowned himself as emperor the church was miserable. After the restauration had taken place the humble architect placed a statue of himself among the apostles. The most beautiful things from the church are the colored windows, showing more than 80 christian motives. In the church museum is Jesus' crown of thorns and a splinter from his cross. On Good Friday these relics are carried through the church in a procession.

Champs-Elysees is the "main street" of Paris with its fashionable shopping centers, and is disgraced only by a McDonald's! Champs Elysees has many elegant and expensive "galeries" boutiques. It stretches from Place de la Concorde to Arc de Triomphe. It was not so impressive as expected. But for a Dane the Danish House is of interest. There are some boutiques with Danish specialities, ie. a baker, who is making Danish. Besides that exhibitions take place in the house. Next to the Danish House is the Danish Church, where Claus (our son) used to study the papers, during his stay in Paris. For some time it has been discussed, whether the Danish Foreign Ministry should sell the house. Hopefully they will not. Instead the state should make some investments in the facilities, so the building could become an impressive 'window' for major Danish companies and their products.

Here you see Bjarne Riis, Denmark, on Champs-Elysees - winner of Tour de France 1996. A race of some 4000 km in mountain areas in France and Spain.

Arc de Triomphe
The Champs-Elysees leads to that great icon of Paris the Arc de Triomphe. It was ordered in 1806 by Napoleon in honour of the French army. So massive, so tall (more than 50 meters), and so Paris! After world war I parades were given at the Arc de Triomphe. In front of the Arc is the tomb of The Unknown Soldier of The first World War. A fire is lit every day at 18:30, and every year on Armistice Day (11 of November) a ceremony is taking place. When we visited the Arc we saw a lot of soldiers, dressed in uniforms. The reliefs and the statues show the French army's victories and the heroes of the Revolution. Somehow they have forgotten to mention Waterloo. The most famous of all the reliefs is that representing "the departure of the armies in 1792" - better known as "The Marseillaise". You may enter the upper platform and have a wonderful view of the city. The Arc is in better condition than the prototypes we saw on Forum Romanum in Rome last year.

France is for the French, Paris belongs to the whole world. Montesquieu.