Stereotypically, the French are short-tempered, rude and stink like cheese. As silly as it may sound, Paris was the place I was the least excited to go to on our tour. It is also the place our tour ends in. In a few days I will be going back to London, but for now, I have to withstand its French counter-part; Paris.
Those were my thoughts as we made the 9-hour drive from Lucerne to Paris. As I watch the hour-hand on my watch go to 12 AM, however, I wonder to myself how I could be so ignorant of the true City of Lights; the City of Love; Viva la Paris!
Not only is Paris the home to architectural phenomenon such as the Notre Dame and the Opera Theatre, but it also has beautiful bridges, churches, universities, art galleries, everything anybody would want to see. There was actually so much to see in Paris that I had to put a few things on my "Next Trip to Paris" list -- such as visiting the Catacombs.
Upon entering Paris, I was greeted by massive stone fences on either side of the road. The fences were covered in ivy, but I could still see the graffiti underneath -- which were all names of famous artists! Even the vandals in Paris love art!
The first actual important thing we saw, however, was a stone wall with hundreds of little holes in it. Flip got Muffin to slow the bus as we passed it. She told us that the holes were caused by bullets from the Germans as the rounded up French Jews and shot them. Every hole in that wall is, to me, an innocent person that lost their live to pure hatred and ignorance. That wall was an epic monument of the suffering caused by the people of Paris and France as a whole -- something that I found to be more powerful than the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.
We then got an hour-long tour of the city. We stopped at the Eiffel Tower for about twenty of those sixty minutes, just to see it. Flip told us that the tower was to be taken down in 1898 after the L'Exposition was over, but the people loved it so much that they kept it (and because its replacement was a massive guillotine used during the Reign of Terror). Also, we learned that when Queen Elizabeth II came to visit, the French first tried putting lights on the tower to impress her. It was such a success that they kept doing it to this day.
We then drove to the Arc de Triomphe. I have always wanted to see the Arc and once I finally had, I knew I was going tomorrow and take about four dozen pictures of it. It was remarkable!
We then went up the street to Place de la Concorde and saw the obelisk. I learned that my earlier entry about the obelisk in London was incorrect. I'm sorry. I said there were only two sister obelisks -- one in Paris and one in London. However, there are actually three with the third sister being in Washington, D.C.
From there, we saw the beautiful symmetry of the Paris. To the north and south are two identical buildings, the Église de la Madeleine and the Hôtel de Crillon (the link takes awhile to load). These two buildings have columns in the front of them, and although they are across the Place, a river and a bridge from each other, the columns are completely in line. To the east of the Place is La Pyramid of the Lourve, and to the west is Arc de Triomph with the Grand Arc visible from inside it -- over 3-and-half kilometers way! I'll have to double-check this tomorrow, but that's what we have been told.
When we drove past the Lourve, Flip told us that there are 11 kilometers of hallways and rooms in the building and that if you spent one minute looking at each piece of art, you would be inside the museum for 9 months!
Then we went to our hotel and prepared for the Sein cruise. After supper -- which was a scrumptious cucumber salad, chicken and noodles and a brown in milk for desert, we headed for the cruise.
We had the night to ourselves and decided to take the Metro. I am not, and have never been, a fan of the Metro. While we were waiting for the train, the intercom was constantly squawking and our train never arrived. Finally, after over an hour of waiting for a train, one of the members of our group went and asked the security guard what was going on. He said that there was an accident down the track and that there were severe train delays. Once the train finally did arrive, however, it was so packed full of people that we just decided to take the train going the other way (and all the way around the city) instead of the quick route, which we should have done to begin with.
We got off the Metro and walked out onto the street, under the glow of the Eiffel Tower. It was beautiful! I know I say everything in Europe was beautiful, but the Eiffel Tower was by far the most modernized beautiful thing we had seen on our trip!
It was also here that we caught got on for our cruise on the Seine. We passed by buildings that were destroyed and rebuilt after wars, and even under a bridge that was built from the stone from the Storming of the Bastille!
We got off the cruise and decided to head back home. There were three of us then, because the rest wanted to go to the Eiffel Tower. It was Dia, Maria (a girl from Brazil who spoke about as good English as I do Spanish) and myself. We hopped on the train and immediately began getting talked to by a very drunk Frenchman. We got talking to him and our conversation went on and on because he couldn't understand how a Canadian wasn't able to speak or understand French, and ultimately missed our stop. We got off the train and ended up in some strange city forty-five minutes outside of Paris. After standing around and trying to figure out what we could do with our limited funds (should we take the train back? Was that the last train? Is there a hotel here? How much would a cab cost?) we approached a French couple and asked for help. There was one single train going back to London, but it was leaving in about five minutes. We rushed to the other side of the Metro and realized we didn't have enough money for three train tickets. We cheated and only bought two and I had had Dia walk directly behind me and get past the automated gates to re-enter the Metro. In less than an hour, we were back in our hotel -- with Maria mad at me because I told her I was "watching the stops" earlier.
I hate the Metro. I hate all the subways in every city I go to. Rome was decent, but London and Paris just want to make my life difficult! I plan to walk as much as I can tomorrow and not take the trains. The French couple we met in that strange city were very friendly and I hope that all the others French people I meet are like that too -- and they didn't stink of cheese at all!
My roommate is Dia and he's fast asleep now. I plan to follow suit as well. I want to hit Paris early tomorrow for my last day on the European mainland.
Goodnight from Paris. See you tomorrow!
And, as always, a big thank you to my sweetheart Jessica Nuttall for proof reading a countless number of my articles. I couldn't do any of this without you. I love you.
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Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania shut its doors in 1970. A year later, in 1971, it would briefly reopen and house inmates from Holmesburg Prison after a devastating riot. After the prisoners were returned to Holmesburg, Eastern State would sit empty for over two decades. It would rot, decay and collapse. Trees and shrubs would grow into the structure and a clowder of cats would take residence. These hallowed halls would sit empty, the only noise being the chatter of startled birds and the trotter of feline paws.
The following decades would see various discussions of what to do with the building. Eventually, it was decided to preserve it and turn it into a tourist attraction. Although it officially opened for tours in 1994, attendants would have to sign a waiver and wear hardhats before entering until 2008. They had 10,000 visitors the opening year, a number of tourists not seen in the prison since 1858.
From 1829 to 1970, Eastern State Penitentiary underwent a variety of changes and transformations. This massive, sprawling, 11-acre complex was founded under the belief that solitary confinement was the cure needed to prevent criminals from committing future crimes. It was believed criminals who served in solitary confinement would turn to a higher power to reconcile with themselves for their crimes – hence feeling "penitent". To assist in this process, each cell was equipped with a slit window on the ceiling nicknamed "The Eye of God". It would be the only light source available to the inmate.
Imagine the bustling streets of New York, then times it by ten. Add a dash of Chinese culture, a wallop of nature and half dozen fish balls that don’t actually contain any fish, and you have the beautiful city that is Hong Kong.
At 7.2 million people, Hong Kong is a dynamic city with an incredible history, towering skyscrapers and a unique mix of English and Chinese that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. While Hong Kong has existed for a millennium, it was officially founded in 1842 to solidify a truce between Great Britain and the Qing dynasty of China during the First Opium War. A decade after the British took control of Hong Kong, the Black Death swept into China, killing hundreds of thousands of people. It would remain part of Hong Kong’s life for a century.
During World War II, Hong Kong was captured by the Japanese. For three years and eight months the British-Chinese culture of the city was destroyed, replaced with Japanese text, language and art. The booming city of 1.6 million people was slashed to only 600,000. Japanese occupation was incredibly harsh for the Hongkongese, being the darkest part of their history. Japan ceased occupation on August 6th, 1945, in response to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. For forty-two more years, Hong Kong was controlled by the British, with the reunification between Hong Kong and mainland China finally occurring in 1997.
As I stood in the courtyard of Fort Henry, I heard screams emanating from within. Fort Henry was constructed to protect the Kingston Royal Dockyard from the invading American forces during the War of 1812. The threat was so real that the capital of Canada – which was then Kingston – was moved to Quebec to protect it. The docks are all that stood between the United States and the St. Lawrence River and both countries were all too familiar with how easily it would turn the tides of battle.
As the screams from inside Fort Henry faded, I turned to the man beside me. He had come with his family. We got talking, trying to calm our nerves as bloodied clowns and undead mimes began wandering out from inside the fort.