Paris then and now

This post is a little different from my normal, somewhat formulaic, posts with photos of where I’ve been or what I’ve been doing. Hopefully this is a good thing, but you can be the judge…

Back when I was but a young lad living in the English countryside on the grounds of a 15th century castle, in 2003, I made my first trip to Paris. And what a trip it was, full of crazy adventures that only kids can really have, without even a drop of liquid encouragement.

Last weekend I returned to Paris for the fourth time, and as such I’ve decided to put up photos and stories of that first trip alongside those I took more recently. Even if you don’t like them, I myself was highly amused to revisit those old memories from my first 1.3 megapixel digital camera which cost me over $300 and had a 32 MB memory card. I even found the text of a post from my old blog, from a post about that first trip to Paris. You’ll see some text in quotes below, which is original text from that post. Here we go:

The first thing most people picture when thinking of Paris is of course… the Eiffel Tower. Last week it looked like this:

In February 2003, it looked like this:

When Sarina and I went for a walk along the Seine, we passed by Les Invalides.

Five years ago, this is how I saw it while gallivanting around town. If you look at the green light to the left, that’s precisely where I was standing while taking the previous photo.

When I saw this statue last week, I had to take a photo. Why? Because she’s holding a holy hand grenade of course! Another holy hand grenade can be found in Dunedin, New Zealand (click here for that photo or click here for the blog post containing that photo).

A pretty bridge, pic taken last week:

Parisian view, last week:

This is the Colonne de Juillet 1830, a monument to the revolution that brought Louis-Philipe to power in France, as I saw it almost a year ago in 2007:

And here we have Alvin and I during our nighttime Parisian adventures, at the very same spot, in 2003 (yes, my hair is blue in this photo; it was like that for one whole year, and yes I had a lip piercing at the time).

Last week Sarina and I made a quick trip to the Louvre when it was free to get in, and spent about an hour in one of the wings we hadn’t been in before. I found this amusing: he’s got a star stabbing him in the head. Even more interesting? Unbeknownst to me until googling it just now, this is in fact a second copy of the golden statue that stands atop the July 1830 column in the previous two photos! Click here for that info.

The most exciting thing at the Louvre this time around was the protest going on outside, with 4 gendarmerie vans and a police bus parked nearby.

The protest was organised by a group called the “Cercle de silence Paris” which means Paris Circle of Silence. The protest method? Stand in a circle and don’t say anything, just hold signs and stay there. By the time we left the museum, there were even more people taking part in a number of concentric circles within the bigger circle. The protest was in support of rights for the sans-papiers, what we call illegal immigrants in Canada, and what are more correctly called irregular immigrants in many other countries.

This time around we didn’t bother with the Mona Lisa, since it’s a rather boring painting and you can see it on any coffee mug in a tourist shop, but in 2003 I did see it just for the sake of it:

It’s always more interesting to see how the crowds jostle with each other to take photos, including using flash, when you’re not allowed. And the security lady just watches and doesn’t care.

Back in 2003, we made a point of visiting la Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, and I personally really enjoyed it. Some people think it’s overrated, but I quite liked it.

Dennis could perhaps manage a job as a gargoyle if his other prospects don’t pan out…

And of course, how could I not bite the bell… Why did I bite the bell? I have NO IDEA. Don’t even ask, although I remember several of us doing so. Dumb kids I guess.

Now onto more art, since Paris is home to so many artists. Original caption from my ancient blog: “Bronze statue of man relieving himself, Musée d’Orsay

More original captions:

“Some royals with something burning on their carpet” (turns out this is ‘The Excommunication of Robert the Pious’ by Jean-Paul Laurens).

“A close-up reveals the first subtle Marlboro King Size cigarette ad”

Being young and in need of adventure back then, rather than take the stairs we jumped out our hotel window onto the lower roof and re-entered via a friend’s window.

We then set out on the town at night, on foot. As you can see, we made it to the Place Charles de Gaulle roundabout, often called the biggest or busiest roundabout in the world. While there are several examples of larger roundabouts, they don’t fit my definition of a roundabout because of the function they serve. So, in my books, this one is the biggest.

L’Arc de Triomphe… surrounded by the largest roundabout in the world, fed by 12 roads. Alvin and I ran across said roundabout like the fools we are, and luckily survived the 15 lanes of traffic. We shoulda used the underpass.”

We then climbed a very long and narrow spiral staircase to get to the roof the arch and take photos like this one:

Back to the present, last week Sarina and I went to the Chateau de Versailles with two of her Canadian friends. It’s way more touristed-out than it used to be, costs more, has actual solid line-ups, and very little breathing space once you’re inside. Advice: don’t bother. I took two photos worth sharing:

The first time I’ve seen razor wire on scaffolding:

Neat section of a painting:

Back in 2003, we spent most of our short visit to Versailles outside in the gardens, despite the lack of blooming flowers:

“Q, Alvin, Dennis, and me by a fountain at the Palais de Versailles.”

“English: Don’t walk on grass”

“Who are those stupid Canadians, breaking yet another rule?”

That’s it for ancient stuff, but there are a few pics left from 2007 and last week.

Sarina, Jamie, and I decided to go to the Catacombs on Saturday since none of us had ever been. Unfortunately, we followed the sign with the arrow and thus could not find the entrance which was in the opposite direction, and only found it some time later. Either way, we would have been too late to get in anyway as it closes every day at 4pm. So we returned the next day, just in time to get in line and barely make it in before 4pm.

At the surface-level entrance/ticket booth (only costs 3.50 euro!) this sign made us laugh:

Down about 15 metres below ground we saw this neat hand carved wall piece, before we reached the actual catacombs themselves.

This is the inscription above the entrance to the catacombs: “Stop! Here is the Empire of Death.”

The bones of 6 million Parisians were placed underground during the 18th and 19th centuries to deal with health problems associated with serious overcrowding in the city centre, and allow for expansion of the city.

There were many interesting inscriptions in French and sometimes Latin, all of which said, in different words, that nobody can avoid death. This one is funny because it seems to be a play on tenses or time: “Where is Death? Always future or past. Barely is she present, but already, she is no longer.” In order, it seems to refer to the verb tenses: future, passé, présent, plus-que-parfait. But maybe I’m imagining that. Strangely, there is no accent on the first word, so it actually says “Or is Death?” but the accents are missing on “présente” and “déjà” as well; the engraver also didn’t capitalise “Toujours,” failed to put a period/full-stop after “passée,” and omitted the space in “A peine,” so I reckon the engraver probably simply didn’t know how to spell correctly. Still, the message comes across quite well.

This one has no spelling errors though I personally would add a couple extra commas for clarity of reading… hehe. It says (my translation, so please don’t take it as authoritative) “Come, people of the world, come into these quiet homes and your soul, calm for now, shall be struck by the voice that rises from inside them: ‘It is here that the biggest of masters, the Grave, holds his school of truth.'” I just googled this, and strangely there seems to be nothing about it online, except a transcript of the inscription in a book from 1815, which interestingly has inserted the commas I mentioned at the start of this paragraph. Hm. Free download in PDF format if you want it.

When we emerged from underground, around 1.7 km away from where we entered, we decided to walk home. But first, we had to stop in a little store to get some supplies for sandwich-making. On the shelves out front of the store was the BIGGEST potato I have EVER SEEN! It may not look massive in this photo, but remember that my hand is almost 8″ (20cm) long and this potato is actually much longer than my hand (strange camera angle). We even saw other pedestrians stop to stare at it!

And lastly, going back to May 2007, a picture from Paris that shows that perhaps my statement about ‘crazy adventures only kids can have’ was not 100% correct… this is Scary Mike ‘drinking’ sugar from a box. Why? Because it’s Daddy Sugar. Or, Sugar Daddy. Ha. Ha. Ha.

And that’s why I love Paris, in a rather large and unwieldy nutshell.