Wednesday, July 15, 2009

France Travelblogue: Monuments Galore in Paris

Paris is home to a number of monuments — with interesting and varying histories — that are incredibly famous throughout the world.

The Eiffel Tower exists thanks to the Exposition Universelle of 1889, the Arc de Triomphe honors those who have fought for the country, and Notre Dame de Paris has origins going back to the 1100s. It's no wonder that these structures have become so iconic and popular to visit for those passing through Paris.

Of course, these are not the only major monuments worth visiting (though they really are magnificent and worth one's time). Here are some of the other places I enjoyed seeing during my trip:

The Pantheon

Funky architecture? Check. Foucault's Pendulum? Check. Religious iconography and famous dead people's tombs? Check. Originally built as a church, the Pantheon is currently the final burial place for many of France's finest minds. Marie Curie, Victor Hugo, Voltaire, and Jean Jacques Rousseau are just among the few buried here.

The building itself is a fascinating place to visit. When you walk in, you'll see a ton of religious imagery in the form of paintings and sculptures. And there's a giant Foucault's Pendulum for everyone to see. The arches and domes are beautifully detailed as well. And then there's the crypt, which happens to be a much quieter, darker area of the Pantheon. It's certainly atmospheric, but not necessarily as unnerving as the Catacombs might be for some people. While it might be sobering for people to walk through a burial place, it's also really neat when you realize exactly whose tombs you just walked by.

Les Invalides

Les Invalides is home to another famous dead person — Napoleon Bonaparte (whose sarcophagus is pictured to the left). He isn't the only person buried in the area — family members like Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon II, and other military figures are in numerous tombs and vaults at Les Invalides.

Les Invalides is an interesting place. While you can visit Napoleon's tomb, which is inside a beautiful domed church, you can also go through France's military museum and museum of contemporary history. Even if war isn't typically your thing, there's a lot to see. I saw cannons going back to the 1400s, as well as a large number of World War I and II tanks. The gift shop is also neat since you can buy everything from Napoleon paraphernalia to postcards of French advertising during both World Wars.

Palais Garnier

This is the beautiful, famous opera house in Paris — the inspiration for The Phantom of the Opera. It's open for visitors to take a tour, though there can be times when the auditorium is closed for rehearsals. (That's what happened when I visited, so maybe I'll try swinging by someday when the auditorium is open). But whether or not you get the chance to see the auditorium, it's still worth one's time to visit this opera house. The Grand Staircase is magnificent in person, and every inch of the opera house oozes with opulence. It's no wonder it took approximately fifteen years to complete the building!

Sacré-Cœur Basilica

Located in the village-like Montmartre district of Paris, the Sacré Cœur is a beautiful white basilica that also happens to be built on top of the highest point in the city. Though it's a relatively young structure compared to some of the city's other houses of worship, it still has the majesty and beauty found in older churches. And while the steps leading up to the basilica are filled with people selling souvenirs and playing music, the building itself is pretty quiet, even with visitors shuffling through. (You're also not supposed to take pictures inside). It's definitely worth stopping by the Sacré Cœur if you're looking for some history and an opportunity to visit a different part of Paris.

1 comment:

ToastyKen said...

You should also visit Sacré-Cœur to see the place where the ending of this was!