Homage to Paris
In light of the recent tragic and terrible events in Paris, I have written this blog article as a tribute to the city, illustrated by photos I have taken during several prior visits there. Paris has a very long history, and has survived and prospered despite other tragic events, some more destructive and terrible than those of November 13, 2015. These include the Viking siege of 845 AD, deadly outbreaks of bubonic plague during the 14th and 15th centuries, bombardments and occupation during the Hundred Years War (1338 – 1453), the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre of 1572 and other tragedies of the wars of religion between Catholics and Protestants, the events of 1793 and the Reign of Terror, the defeat of France by Prussia and crushing of the Paris Commune in 1870-71, and conquest and occupation by the Nazis in 1940-44. Yet, despite all of these cataclysms and more, Paris has endured as the ultimate “City of Light,” one of the world’s great centers of art, literature, science, education and culture, a beacon of light to all humanity and a monument to many of humanity’s greatest achievements.
We start with Paris’ most famous avenue, the Champs Élysées, here seen at night during Christmas week in full holiday dress. Visible at the far end of the Champs Élysées is the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile, erected to honor all those who fought and died for France in the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars (click on any image in this blog to see a larger copy):
No photo essay on Paris would be complete without a view of the city’s most famous symbol, the Eiffel Tower, built in 1889 as the entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair. Here are two photos, one taken during the day from a boat on the Seine, the other at night in blue light taken during a light show:
Paris is of course well known for its great museums, particularly art museums. One of my favorites is the Orangerie, located at the western end of the Tuileries adjacent to the Place de la Concorde. The ground floor of the museum contains two large oval rooms, the walls of which are covered with panoramic panels containing paintings of waterlilies by Claude Monet. The ceilings of these rooms have been replaced with glass, in order to honor Monet’s wish that the paintings be seen in natural light. The following is an example of just one of these magnificent panels:
Next to the Orangerie is a wonderful view over the Place de la Concorde, seen in this photo just after sunset:
Here is a view of the Place de la Concorde during the daytime:
Also located in the Place de la Concorde is the Luxor Obelisk. Originally located at the entrance to the Luxor Temple in Egypt, the obelisk was a gift to France from the Khedive of Egypt and was set up in the Place de la Concorde in 1836. It is approximately 75 feet high, is decorated with hieroglyphs exalting the reign of the pharaoh Ramses II and is topped with a gold pyramid cap added in 1998.
Another major Paris sight is the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel. Located at the eastern entrance to the Tuileries, the arch was built between 1806 and 1808 to celebrate Napoleon’s victory at the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805 and other military victories won that year.
Another famous Paris sight is of course the Cathedral of Notre Dame, built in the Gothic style during the 12th century. The cathedral sits on the eastern half of the Île de la Cité, an island in the river Seine which is the oldest part of the city. The cathedral is also the principal location of Victor Hugo’s great novel Notre Dame de Paris (translated into English as The Hunchback of Notre Dame). Here is a photo of the great western façade of the cathedral, as seen from the parvis, or square, that spreads out in front of the façade:
Here is a photo of the eastern side of the cathedral, as seen from a boat on the Seine, showing the spire and the flying buttresses. Notre Dame was one of the first cathedrals to use flying buttresses to support the walls:
Another must see area of Paris is the Place des Vosges, located in the area of the city known as the Marais. Originally known as the Place Royale, the Place des Vosges was constructed from 1606 to 1612, during the reign of King Henry IV, who however was assassinated in 1610 and thus did not live to see its completion. Its past residents include such famous names as Cardinal Richelieu and Victor Hugo.
Here is a view of the Institut de France, located on the left bank of the Seine across from the Louvre. The Institut houses numerous academies, or learned societies in the sciences and humanities, the most famous of which is the Académie française. The Académie française was created by Cardinal Richelieu in 1635, during the reign of King Louis XIII, and tasked with the creation of a standard version of the French language in order to help in unifying the country. At the time, France was home to literally hundreds of dialects many of which differed to such an extent that residents of one part of France could not understand the language spoken in many other parts of the country.
Visitors to Paris should not miss an opportunity to see the city from one of the tourist boats on the Seine, such as the Bateaux Mouches, that ply the river from dawn to dusk. Here is one seen from the Pont Neuf, at the western end of the Île de la Cité, in the light of a late afternoon sun:
Here is a view to the west from the Pont Neuf at sunset, showing the Pont des Arts, the Louvre and surrounding buildings. Originally the principal palace of the kings of France, the Louvre was opened to the public after the French Revolution and converted into one of the greatest art museums of the world:
I had long wanted to photograph Paris at night and had an opportunity a few years ago to do so during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Some of these photos are shown above, and here are some additional examples:
The Rue de Castiglione:
The Place Vendôme:
The Opéra Garnier, located at the northern end of the Rue de l’Opéra, built from 1861 to 1875 to house the Paris Opera:
The Galeries Lafayette department store, located on the Boulevard Haussmann:
The above photos are merely a small sample of the wonders to be seen and experienced in this magnificent city, which has endured and prospered for hundreds of years and will endure and continue to display its wonders for the benefit of all humanity long after those who would attack it have disappeared from the face of the earth.
For other photos of Paris and of other beautiful and interesting parts of France, please visit my photo website at http://www.philhaberphotography.com.
Copyright © 2015 Phil Haber Photography