• France

  • (mainly Paris)

Best to hold phone horizontally!

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Paris, France 2007

In 2007 I was invited to carry out an engineering contract in Paris for a few months. It was a welcome request, received when I was plodding through deep snow in the Rockies, on a contract near Grande Prairie. Paris sounded like more fun.

The work in Paris left me free on weekends, so I was able to take full advantage of being there. It was winter, and that meant that there was less to see in the gardens, but it also meant that there were not many tourists. The lack of tourists was a huge advantage.

Unfortunately Rosemary had committed to a new semester at art school before I got my invitation to work in Paris. So she could not accompany me, but she was able to join me for a short period, and her knowledge of art history greatly enhanced our understanding of what we saw in the museums and galleries.

Paris, France

Paris is of course a very large city, and a very old one. But rebuilding wartime destruction and deliberate urban reconstructions created a much more modern city than Paris's age would suggest. Except in one restricted area (La Defense) it isn't a ciy of skyscrapers, and even today most buildings are restricted to a maximum of 12 stories.

Eiffel Tower

It is of course the symbol of Paris. One cannot escape it. And as an engineer I am fascinated by it. As I was there in winter time it wasn't too hard to visit, and I visited more than once.


As you might expect, there is no shortage of art in Paris. Statues everywhere, even supporting the underside of bridges. Antiquities in the Louvre, Paintings and modern sculptures and mobiles in the Pompidou. Even the structure of the Pompidou museum is an artwork - to a structural engineer anyway! Even the graveyards are tourist destinations because of the artwork within. Not to mention the very international nature of the famous people buried there.


There is even more art in the gardens of Paris. Statues abound, particularly in the grand precincts of the Tuilleries. Napoleon left his mark there too, with the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel.

But then there are gardens like the Luxembourg Garden, which is much more a Paris playground. Even on a chilly morning in Spring, hundreds of Parisians are sitting on the grass listening to a young guitarist, or playing boules, riding ponies or eating candy floss.

Mind you, even one of the statues appears to be clutching his cell phone - although I don't think that is quite what the sculptor intended.


Paris has colourful and practical markets. I don't know how prices compare but there certainly is plenty of good food and colourful flowers for sale, and for at least part of the time they become art markets too.


Versailles is overwhelming. The opulence, the art work - particularly the ceiling art, is staggering. But I'd love to visit again, to take more in.

Notre Dame Cathedral

We were fortunate to visit in 2007, well before the disastrous fire of April 2019. Now, in 2024, reconstruction is expected to be complete in December.

It was, and no doubt will be again, a magnificent cathedral which was originally begun in the 12th century. According to the Wikipedia account of the fire, many artworks and relics were saved, but some of the exterior artwork was damaged or destroyed.

I am glad to have seen it as it was.

The Conciergerie and Sainte Chapelle

The Conciergerie is a creepy place. After all, during the revolution it was the main way station where victims were gathered before being despatched on the guillotine. It includes a diorama purporting to show a grieving Queen Marie Antoinette, but it is not in fact the cell where she was imprisoned as that was demolished.

Sainte Chapelle, right next door is a magnificent gothic Royal Chapel. The stained glass windows are enormous and almost continuous around the building, with only slender columns between them. Many churches and cathedrals have stained glass windows, but nothing like these ones.

Arc de Triomphe

Napoleon has left his imprint in many places, but the Arc de Triomphe epitomizes his hubris and self promotion. He was good at it, and this monument shows it.

La Defense

La Defense is a very different part of Paris.