By the time you read this it'll be two weeks since it happened. And what's IT? Being on a train, going somewhere very fast. Better than being at the station looking with stunned dismay as the train pulls out, which I thought might well happen, since we were only an hour early.
To explain: it was a nightmare drive to the train station. We left from Rue Boucicaut to Gare Du NORD, the station you can't say without sounding like a bumpkin. There's no way across Paris. I'd say there's no good way but there's simply just no way. Everyone is trying to get to opposite destinations; there are millions of scooters like minnows among whales. Everyone hates everyone else. All against all. Our Uber driver did not drop us off in front of the station for reasons inconnu, but drove to the drop-off point under the station and took us backward through car rental, before leaving us a security stop that turned out to be the place where you stored your baggage. This gave me contrusions. Unwilling to find the elevator, because that would take TIME, we bumped our suitcases up a flight to the main level, found the right part of the station, and joined the first of many queues. It's not well marked. It's not well-designed. It's miserably hot, too. People sweating in a train shed, holding their papers, waiting for the stamp of authority - why, it's Europe, Classic Style!
But that was this morning. Yesterday was the day of Not Attending the Louvre as Much as I'd Like.
It's a long story. Sister-in-Law proposed taking the girls shopping on the Champs Elysee. Great! Louvre tickets are for 1 PM, I said. (They weren't, but it was a way of setting some sort of structure.) Meet me here at this enormous, pointless Ferris Wheel at 1:15, and we can walk through the Louvre gardens and be there by 1:30 and have four hours to explore everything.
You know how that went, right? Right. But I was still living in hope. They went shopping; I went exploring. Took a look at the details of the Place de la Concorde, which I present for your interest. It's a grand space both inert and frenetic - cars whirl around the center, no one dares cross the lanes. There's a big Ferris Wheel with a dispirited shopping area - cheap trinkets, ice cream, and the best Coke I've had in weeks. Ice cold. I was so very, very grateful for its existence.
Here is the Place. Of the Concord.
During the French Revolution the statue of Louis XV of France was torn down and the area renamed Place de la Révolution. The new revolutionary government erected the guillotine in the square, and it was here that King Louis XVI was executed on 21 January 1793.
If there are any markers, I didn't see them.
Other important figures guillotined on the site, often in front of cheering crowds, were Queen Marie Antoinette, Princess Élisabeth of France, Charlotte Corday, Madame du Barry, Georges Danton, Camille Desmoulins, Antoine Lavoisier, Maximilien Robespierre, Louis de Saint-Just and Olympe de Gouges.
In 1795, under the Directory, the square was renamed Place de la Concorde as a gesture of reconciliation after the turmoil of the French Revolution.
Awfully nice of them. Let's take a look at those nice ladies up on the stone boxes.
She's feeling fine and sassy. Her uptight sis, not so much:
Nante's official website says "Regularly quoted in newspapers as being one of the nicest cities in France." Well, that settles it.
Could stand a lick of paint and some maintenance.
Then I took a narrow corridor of park, completely unpopulated. It's one of Paris' oldest parks, created in 1616 by Queen Marie de Medicis. It's a dump. There's a statue dedicated to King Albert - do not email me and ask if I have any pictures of him in Cannes - and has this nice piece of 30s design.
I liked the 30s style of the monument, even if things related to kings and the 30s have that mad wan smile of death about them. The park was a mess - all weeds and busted benches, spattered with bird crap. At the end, the magnificence of the Pont Alexandre III, spattered with the scrawls of savages.
The bridge is part of a spectacular set of Beaux-Arts / Nouveau structures built at the end of the 19th century for the 1900 Exposition, and it's named for the Tsar. An alliance had been secured a few years before, and it would last until 1917, when the Bolshies ripped up the paperwork. The bridge was blown up after the pact ended, as per the treaty's stipulations, and rebuilt for a Woody Allen movie four years ago.
No, of course not.
The wikipedia entry for the Pont Alexandre II says "the bridge is widely regarded as the most ornate, extravagant bridge in the city," which understates the situation a bit.
Pictures don't do it justice.
The bridge leads to the two palaces, the Grand and the Petit. Nothing I show you will do them justice, either.
Well, perhaps this helps.