These aren't all of my pictures from the trip--just the ones that tickled me for one reason or another.
Let's get the usual suspects out of the way first. The trip started and ended in Paris, so of course we saw the Arc de Triomphe. When we saw it in the daylight, we actually took the tunnel underneath it and looked out from underneath. It's much bigger that way. Someone
is scared of heights, so we didn't actually see the view from the top.
The Eiffel Tower is huge. In movies, it's probably always painted in, and it doesn't look very impressive. The movies lie, I tell you now. Just the concrete supports on which it rests are enormous. For my fellow DC residents, it's at least as tall as the Washington Monument, and as wide at the base as the Mall.
Although this image is washed out (I take all my pictures on manual mode. It's a learning experience.) I really like the way that it accentuates Notre Dame's architecture. This is another shockingly huge building. Inside, the high-vaulted worship area is ringed by two sets of open hallways, and then alcoves containing alters, displays, or paintings. Outside, statues flank the main doors. I like the second picture because the spikes seem oddly appropriate as a visual motif.
After Paris, we headed to Avignon, but stopped here in Montpellier first. The park was outside the railway terminal, on the way to the public square in the second picture. It's a very pretty town. Montpellier is, according to the guidebook, the gay capital of the country, whatever that means.
Avignon was the temporary site of the anti-pope. Those of you who remember your European history classes from high school know that this is a term dating from the Great Schism of the church. It does not refer to a pope which, brought into contact with the regular pope, self-annhilates. I think they should add that to the audioguides. The castle shown at night was the Palace of the Pope's. Avignon is a very medieval place, and includes a gorgeous set of parks where you can look down on the town walls.
Built, if I remember correctly, during the latter days of the Roman empire, the Pont du Neuf was featured in a French folk song that I've never heard. A wandering saint showed up in town one day and mentioned to the townspeople that God wanted a bridge. The townspeople, rightfully skeptical, replied that if the saint could hurl an enormous rock into the river to start the work, they'd help him finish. Legend says he promptly heaved the boulder into the water. They had to explain sarcasm to him, but the town helped build the bridge anyway. The incident also led to France's disastrous Saint-Deployed Artillery system, precursor to the modern missile defense system.
We took a couple of day trips, apart from our regularly scheduled cities. This fountain in Aix En Provence was just gorgeous.
Likewise, a visit to the seaside town of Ville France-sur-mar provides pictures of beautiful women and some of the most brightly colored buildings I have ever seen.
You might say that we were in the classier parts of Nice. You'd be lying, but I appreciate the effort. Anyone want to guess what Sexy Love, right down the street from our hotel, is selling to its customers? On the other hand, the halal markets and butchers were very friendly and sold delicious rolled pastries. The pigs hanging in a delivery truck struck me as very quintessentially France. Americans don't like to think about where their food comes from--and the pig's not thrilled about the idea either.
Lyon lights up in the evening, but there's a lot of history just across the river. The streets surrounding that church are suppoed to be riddled with hidden passages dating back to the Renaissance. They are very well hidden, to the point that we only found a couple. Also, people still live in them, so a lot of times you can't get in to see them without a paid tour. I've noticed that about other countries--here, we have enough room (and little enough history) that we can often set aside our landmarks and sights from our everyday routine. In places like France, or when I was in China, they live in their history, and it surrounds them all the time. Does that mean anything? I don't know.
CAPTION CONTEST! My entry: "Sir, your hippo is parked in a handicapped spot. I'm going to have to ask you to move."
Surrounded by an ancient Roman construction dating back centuries, Belle puts the hurt on Superstar Saga.