The loudspeakers at
Vancouver's International Airport called out "the Thorne party
of two please come to the desk". Air Canada told us the good
news: they were able to change our seats allowing us to sit
together and not be elbow to elbow with strangers on the long full
| Returning to the table where we had started a game of crib,
a lady sitting at a nearby table said she had been called up to the
desk, but her husband was not available to watch their luggage. We
volunteered. Upon her return she explained to us the call wasn't for
them but someone with the same name.
"Is your name common? we
"Thorne," she answered.
"Perhaps we are
related," we said with smiles and explained the call had been
for us ... "we are the other Thornes."
conversation, before being called to board the aircraft, was made up
of short snippets.
"Do you spell it with an 'e'?"
"Yes" "Where is your family from,"
we enquired. "We live in
Surrey and have a son in Langley but originally our branch of the
Thornes come from England (his mother is into genealogy)."
"Have you seen the New York Thorne web site?" we asked.
When they said they hadn't, we gave them directions through our web
site and then had to end the chance meeting to board the
|Our flight took
off at 18:20 - a little later then expected - and we marveled once
more at the awesome beauty surrounding this stunning city of
Vancouver which today gleamed under a sunny sky suitably studded
with a few fluffy white clouds. Our "Spring Fling" to
Europe will give us an opportunity to see some wonderful sights and
scenery but we know that such experiences also serve to enhance our
appreciation of the beauty we have at home. Our flight took us over
Greenland and the Atlantic. Crossing over Northern Ireland,
Liverpool, Birmingham and Coventry we landed at London's Heathrow
airport and were standing in the customs line by 12 noon (London
underground" we made our way to Waterloo Station to catch the
Eurostar. While waiting in the lounge the 24 hour mark passed
for staying awake through preparation and travel time (not counting the
lack of sleep the night before departure due to excitement). As Eurostar whisked
along at speeds up to 130kmph (80mph) through
southern England, we peered out at pleasant pastoral scenes between
long tired blinks ... trying desperately to stay awake until the
time locals would call it a night. The Chunnel portion took
approximately twenty minutes. On the French side of the Chunnel the
train's speed picked up to 330kph (200mph).
was not yet over with the arrival of Eurostar in Paris. We made our
way via the Metro (subway) to the Rue Cler district of Paris,
and checked into the Hotel Royal Phare (which means royal
lighthouse). The room? ... tiny ... about twice the size of its
double bed plus a bathroom in which they managed to fit a pedestal
sink, toilet and shower which is a base and wrap around shower
curtain. The view? ... a rooftop which looks somewhat like the
rounded top of a water-tower surrounded by buildings supporting
century old windows adorned with window boxes.
|The night was finished
in the most Parisian of ways -- sitting at an outdoor
café - Café de Marché [Market Café] - enjoying the ambiance of a
dimming evening sky, the slow illumination of surrounding apartments
fronting onto Rue Cler and the chatter of French conversations as
young couples and friends met over dinner (9pm is when it is at its
busiest) to discuss the days events and perhaps share a bit of
romance. We strolled back the block and a half to the hotel and
snuggled down in our room for a well deserved sleep.
The room is tiny and quaint
... and our Paris home for the next four nights. Tres bon [very
|The day started,
as a Paris day should, with a stroll down Rue Cler watching
merchants build their attractive displays; each shop specializing in
particular products. Fruit and vegetables are neatly stacked in
pyramids, or displayed in single layers in tilted boxes like
colourful jewels. A shop displays its olive oil as fine wine shops
display quality wines. Another shop wipes down a glass fronted case
that holds appetizers that resemble works of art. A fishmonger
adjusts fresh caught sardines and wavy edged oysters upon sparkling
beds of ice as people leave the warm comfort of their morning coffee
at Café de Marché and continue their commute to work dodging the
delivery vehicles that have invaded the pedestrian only street.
|Paris is waking
up and it is wonderful to be a part of it. Purchases included a poire
[pear] from the fruit vendor and a patisserie [pastry] and
baguette from the boulangerie [bakery].
sightseeing stop of the day was at Notre Dame. This seven
hundred year old structure is impressive in so many
approach was at the front -- not the back and side as
seen on most postcards.
Before going into
the church we stopped to appreciate the point in France
from which all distances are measured. It's just a
simple brass circle in the concrete square in front of
the church unseen by most and ignored by the majority of
|The front facade
of Notre Dame [Our Lady] is strong and impressive with two 65 metre
[200 ft] bell towers. Front and centre stands Mary holding baby
Jesus, below her stand the twenty-eight kings of Judah.
saintly statues watch as parishioners and tourist enter the
doors. One saint that is "shoulders above head" of
the others is St. Denis. This statue depicts him holding his
story goes that the Romans, to show their disapproval of
Christianity in Paris, beheaded Denis. Not discouraged,
Denis picked up his head, tucked it under his arm and
headed north, stopping at a fountain to clean up after
the ordeal. He died on the north edge of town where a
church now stands in his name.
Notre Dame the main alter is undergoing restoration and a
simple makeshift alter is currently in service. The buttress
structure provides the inside heaven reaching arches.
Statues of familiar saints included Joan of Arc. Along the
sides the buttress alcoves hold chapels. The one in honour of
St George caught our attention for its paintings.
|It was outside
that we appreciated the beauty of the architecture that took two
centuries to build. On the roof just below the towering spire green
copper apostles look down blessing the people.
the green copper figures near the top, made in the image
of the architect, looks up in admiration of his
and elegance of Notre Dame is certainly awe inspiring but even
more so is the knowledge that this magnificent structure was
not the treasure of some monarch or gifted by a wealthy
merchant but it's existence is due to the blood, sweat,
volunteer labour and earnings of a community in the middle
ages and their supporters during the following two hundred
|Across the street
but not seen until you are right upon it is the Deportation Memorial
in memory of the 200,000 French who fell victim to the Nazi
concentration camps. To reach this nearly hidden space we went down
a long flight of narrow stairs into the earth.
||Ahead is a
glimpse of water through bars, the only sign of freedom is the sky
above ... and out of reach. Surrounded by earth-thick walls we find
one very narrow doorway. It leads to a chamber with a view of yet
another narrow hallway, this one lined with 200,000 lit crystals in
memory of each French citizen who was exterminated. At the far end
one lone crystal glimmers in a black abyss representing hope.
||As we leave this
poignant reminder of things past we read above the door (translated) "Forgive, but never forget."
We ascended to freedom and
saw the roses blooming and looked across the river to the upmarket
neighbourhood of Ile St. Louis which was at one time a simple marsh.
|We took to the
narrow back streets of Paris's Left Bank. Here guided by Rick
Steve's Paris book we sought out and found the oldest living
inhabitant of Paris ... a false acacia tree. Around the 12th century
church which serves as a background to the tree, Rick lead us to a
"half-timbered" home similar to those built in medieval
took us through the Latin Quarter (not "Latin" as in
Latin America - but as in those who speak Latin). Many of the
shops sold "gyro" which is meat cooked on a spit
and, with the spit slowly spinning vertically thin shavings of
meat are sliced into buns (a favourite of Stephen and Angela
on their eastern European trip).
Latin Quarter, Rick's book led us to the "skinniest
house in Paris" so skinny we almost missed it -
only two windows wide from the second floor up and only
slightly larger than a single door width at street
We paused at St.
Michel Square with it's statue of St. Michel slaying a
devil. Here is the site of student uprisings, strike
demonstrations; a gathering place for hippies,
philosophers and wine lubricated orators attempting to
enlighten the masses that have passed through the years.
next to the large police presence around the Palais de
Justice, is another gothic church. This personal
undertaking of King Louis IX was built in a mere six
years (1242-1248) to house the Crown of Thorns. The
Chapelle cost "only" $80,000 (at that time)
whereas Louis IX paid Baudouin II of Constantinople the
outrageous sum of $270,000 for the supposed crown... but
it was an attention getter and brought pilgrims from
around the world into their economy.
chapel with small high windows and, as if to compensate, the
comparatively low 21 ft ceiling, is painted with a starry sky.
Here is where the palace staff would worship.
|Upstairs in the
Haute [upper] Chapel gothic architecture shows itself at its most
sublime: light, colour and space join together in conjunction with
art and religion. The massive buttresses all but disappear, each
masked by clusters of delicate columns reaching the ceiling height
of 67ft. The supposed Crown of Thorns (now kept in the Notre-Dame
Treasury) were kept in the apse on a raised platform above the alter
and were displayed to the faithful on Good Friday (as Notre Dame now
does). During the French Revolution, because it was a symbol of both
the monarchy and religion, Sainte-Chapelle suffered great
destruction. Extensive renovations began in 1846 and it is the 6,458
sq ft of stained-glass windows that visitors now come to see - two
thirds being original. The stunningly detailed windows tell the
biblical story of mankind from creation to Redemption.
||We walked past the
Conciergerie, a former prison who had among its guests
Marie-Antoinette who along with 2,600 of her closest rich and idle
friends lost their heads to the guillotine.
We continued over Pont Neuf
which means "new bridge" ... which is now Paris's oldest
and currently undergoing refurbishing. This is the widest point of
the River Seine.
|The bridge has
semi circle "balconies" along its sides which were once
used by vendors and musicians but are now enjoyed by visitors and by
workers in nearby shops during their hour lunch breaks.
We didn't stop but proceeded
to the Right Bank and The Samaritaine [department store] where we
rode the elevator then took stairs to the 10th floor terrace to have
lunch overlooking Paris. From this lofty position at a corner table
on the terrace, we could see major landmarks as well as look down
to the boat we would cruise on later and the park land at the point
of the island where we planned to have a picnic dinner.
|The story of the
creator of the Samaritaine store reads like a Hollywood success
There was once a boy born
October 1839 in a small French town. His parents named him Ernest
Cognacq. His father, a marine broker showed young Ernest many ships
and talked to him of the places they had sailed and the cargo they
brought to France. Ernest decided he would become a sailor.
Unfortunately at the age of thirteen, just as he was to enter naval
school, his father died leaving his mother heartbroken and
penniless. Ernest realized he must forsake his dreams of sailing the
world and earn a living ... and quickly.
|Ernest set off
for a larger town where he was able to secure employment as a humble
assistant in a ready made clothing shop. As he worked, he also
developed will power and self confidence. He moved to a yet larger
town and then on to Paris. Bad luck seemed to follow him. Often
homeless and penniless, Ernest did not lose heart. He knew he had
learnt a lot and knew he was a good salesman who had a way with
Ernest left Paris and became
a traveling stallkeeper. He took with him merchandise, a cheerful
disposition and courage. In his new line of work he covered many
French provinces. His contact with many different people strengthens
and encourages his inherent qualities. Little by little misfortune
is left behind and Ernest returns once more to Paris. He knows this
time he will succeed.
He sets up a stall on one of
the balconies on Pont Neuf [New Bridge]. For centuries, the handsome
Pont Neuf at the very heart of Paris attracted shoppers and idle
strollers. He arranges his attractive wares, fabrics and fancy goods
under a enormous red umbrella then talks and calls out to customers.
He amuses, entertains, detains and sells then anything and everything
so successfully that he is able to build a nest egg which allows him
to build a more ambitious plan.
Not far from the bridge a
café owner finds he has too much space for the amount of business
he does. Earnest arranges to rent half of the premises for 15 francs
More customers are attracted
and return again and again to purchase their needs from him. Through
will and hard work, things are looking favourably upon Ernest. The
small café became a handsome boutique called "La Samaritaine"
- the name a reminder of the fountain formally situated at the
second arch of the bridge.
1872 marks another turning
point in Ernest's career. He meets and marries Louise Jay. The
Samaritaine's new partner is hardworking, serious and thrifty. Week
after week they pursue their goal. The store and range of goods
expands. Within the store, departments develop and goods are sold
The substantial profits would
have afforded Ernest and his wife time to relax in comfort but
instead they continued to spend the profits soon after achieving
them. Their first investment was a retirement home for their aged
employees. Through the years other institutions were built from the
profits of Samaritaine - a child care facility for employees, a
nursing school and hospital. These establishments became their
legacy and Samaritaine became and remains a landmark in Paris.
|We took the Metro
from Pont Neuf to Place de la Bastille and the Marais neighbourhood
of Paris and took a few minutes to sit in a park where nannies
watched children play in the sand box (boys in pants and the girls
in dresses) while others lounged on the grass soaking in the warmth
of the sun.
Walking further we passed a
man strolling with a goat. It is always a surprise to find what is
behind a tall wall or down an alleyway and Rick Steves travel books
guide his readers to a multitude of such treasures.
continued through the Jewish section with kosher meat markets and
authentic eat-it--its-good-for-you restaurants and food stores.
|| We emerged
at the Pompidou Centre where they boast having Europe's greatest
collection of modern art. The building itself is huge and, in our
On one side is a square with
amphitheater style slanted sides and a myriad of artists displaying
or entertaining which we are sure increases through the
summer months. We walked our way back to Pont Neuf and purchased
supplies for dinner. We crossed over Pont Neuf to the park at the
point of the mid-river island and, with Samaritaine in the
background and plenty of people watching in the foreground we had a
leisurely picnic dinner on a park bench and waited for the sun to
As the sky
darkened, we boarded a tour boat and cruised the Seine
River and admired Paris by night.
to Pont Neuf with the lights of Samaritaine reflecting in the
water, we hopped on the underground and headed back to our
hotel in Rue Cler ... but wait ... there's more ... walking
that is ... the station at Rue Cler is shut down in the late
evenings as they work on refurbishing it ... so onward we went
to another station and walked back. It did not take us long to
climb into bed.
||After buying our
baguette and pastries on Rue Cler, we took the underground and
popped up into sunlight again squinting right at the Arc de Triomphe.
In February 1806 Napoleon I
decreed that a triumphal arch be built to the glory of the Grande
Armee. This majestic monument was to dominate Paris and indulge the
Emperor's taste for Ancient Rome.
Since its inaugural in 1836
the Arc de Triomphe has been the setting for major state occasions:
the return of the ashes of Napoleon I in 1840, the last honours paid
to the mortal remains of Victor Hugo in 1885, a parade of the
victorious French and allied troops of the First World War in 1919
and a parade to celebrate the Liberation of Paris after four years
of German occupation in August 1944.
|We climbed the 284 steps to the
museum gallery, then 45 more steps to the platform roof which gave us a
panoramic view of Paris. Twelve avenues, named after battles, radiate from
the traffic circle that surrounds it. The Arc de Triomph stands on Paris'
main east-west axis, the Avenue des Champs-Elysees.
||The Arc is 50 meters high and 45
meters wide. Its shape is simple, composed of a single east-west arch in
line with the Champ-Elysees; a lower north-south transverse arch opens on
either side. The construction was not without its problems and foundations
over 8 meters deep were required to stabilize the building on the crumbly
On one of the Arc's pillars is a
sculpture of the Spirit of Liberty (also known as Lady Liberty) urging the
people to fight to defend their territory ... or yelling at them to stay
away from the chaotic traffic.
||We climbed back down the 329 stairs
and began our stroll down the Champs-Elysees. Between the late 1600s and
1960s it was an occasion to see and be seen driving, walking or better yet
shopping on this designer fashion street. When the underground was put in
anybody ... just anybody ... could afford to gock and mingle even if they
couldn't afford the premium prices in the exclusive shops.
|| Then slowly the
shops began to reflect the new crowd on the street. Why even McDonald's
managed, after some merchants panicking, to fit in just a few doors down
from a Peugeot showroom. It is certainly the most upscale McDonald's we
have been to but they still sell McCheese burgers and to the delight of
many .... provide clean free washrooms.
After the shops ended we continued
on down the Champs-Elysees heading for the Place de la Concorde, Tuileries
Gardens and the Louvre.
|Between the end of the shops and
the Place de la Concorde were two rows of staggered large (approx 1
metre by 1.5 metres) frames standing at right angles to the walkway atop
pedestals that appeared to have grown out of the otherwise barren tan soil
on each side of the walkway. At first sight we though them advertising and
exclaimed "how hideous!". They weren't advertising but art from
those countries that would be joining the EU (European Union) as of May 1,
2004. They lost their hideous quality and became points of interest along
what may have otherwise been a boring stretch of walking.
|At the end of this double-file
gallery a crowd of reporters armed with microphones and camera men
wielding high tech cameras on their shoulders buzzed around a man like
bees to their queen. Being somewhat intrigued Sherrie joined the moving
mass and snapped her unprofessional Nikon camera at the central figure.
After emerging we asked a policeman who that person was and with French
shock on his face and the raising of shoulders at such a silly question,
he told us it was the Mayor of Paris.
|In the centre of
Place de la
Concorde stands a 2300 year old Obelisk from Luxor Egypt. It stands at the
site where, during the revolution, the guillotine shortened the life span
and the bodies of many of Paris's rich and idle citizens including Louis
XVI and Marie Antoinette.
|We stopped to have lunch at an
outdoor café beside a pond in Tuileries Garden before continuing on to
|The last time we were at the Louvre
we took an English speaking tour. This time we took Rick's book, Mona
Winks, and were pleased with the results. Some of the exhibit placements
had changed - but that's why Rick's new updated Mona Winks is expected
||One of the staff members at the
Louvre told us that if a person looked at each work for 30 seconds,
everyday, 24 hours a day, it would take that person three months to see
everything. We were there for a little over three and a half hours but
were satisfied with seeing such classics as Venus (who looks a great deal
like our Tracey), Winged Victory, paintings by the greats including
Leonardo de Vinci's Mona Lisa and Titian's Marriage at Cana. When we were
last in the Louvre cameras were not allowed -- now they are if you use
no flash (one flash can equal three hours of day light). Mona
Lisa at that time was behind glass for protection, now she was behind
smoke coloured protective glass ... and for good reason ... as we entered
"her room" flash cameras were going off like strobe lights.
|By the time we got back to the
hotel we traded not going to dinner for more sleep.
We bought our baguettes and
proceeded to the underground joining the throngs of Parisians heading to
school and work. The underground took us to the train station from where
we rode the rails to Versailles.
As we approached this grand palace
it was difficult to take it all in with the camera.
| This became the seat
of power during Louis XIV's reign when he forsake his Paris palace - The
Louvre. Versailles started off as a hunting lodge where Louis spent many a
happy day as a young child with his father. The three rounded arches in
the centre building were those of his bedroom facing east and seeing the
sun rise. Louis XIV was known as the "Sun King" and Versailles'
theme is Apollo the sun god who rode his chariot (the sun) across the sky
The palace is impressive and having
a guide, an audio tour or a guide book like Rick's make the experience
| While we were there the Hall of Mirrors was in the middle of
being refurbished and workmen with power equipment took away only some of
the grandeur. In this hall 17 arched mirrors reflect 17 arched windows
with their view of the Gardens. The hall itself causes one to reflect on
history ... not only is this a beautiful room that was once filled with
beautiful people in silk gowns and powdered wigs, but it was also the room
where the Treaty of Versailles was signed bringing World War I to an end.
||To match this grand chateau
[palace] are the gardens. From a garden balcony, we peered down onto
another garden where Louis XIV grew palm and orange trees. This part of
France is much too chilly to do so naturally so he had his gardeners move
them inside each night. Today they still move them in and out ... but with
a bob cat. There are so many it would seem that the bob cat operator would
have to start moving them back in just about the time he finished moving
then all out.
|Straight out from
the view point of the Hall of Mirrors past flower gardens and
statues, down long flights of stairs and a terrace with a large
fountain, along a walk downhill on either side of a central lawn to
an impressive pond with a massive fountain adorned by half submerged
horses and Apollo in his chariot beginning his skyward trek, past
more lawn, begins a man-made 1.5 kilometer long, cross shaped canal
... so large that at one time Louis had a 32 cannon war ship
floating in his back yard.
|| The gardens are also
impressive for the number of water fountains. The fountains were an
engineering feat as they were "enforced" by a diverted river
which was manipulated to pressure the fountains.
| Tucked away in one part
of the garden is a large Roman style colonnade. 32 square columns stand
behind 32 round columns which support arches. Around the circumference are
28 large birdbath shaped fountains. In the centre a statue of three
figures intertwined. Here the French aristocracy could escape the luxuries
of the palace and pretend they were in ancient Rome.
||We had a snack alongside the canal
and then walked out of sight of the palace to the Grand Trianon. Louis XIV
had built the palace at Versailles to escape the hectic pressures of his
Paris palace, the Louvre. He built the Grand Trianon to escape the hub-bub
of the palace at Versailles ... but wait there's more ... the queen
wanting to escape the Grand Trianon had a summer house built.
wanted to spend more time near the gardens so he had the Petit Trianon
built which became the preferred residence of Louis XVI and
Marie-Antoinette ... but ...
Marie-Antoinette wanted to escape palace life
so she had a Hamlet built in the fashion of her native Vienna. Here
she had goats and sheep, and ducks and geese, cows and maids to milk them
and gardens and people to plant, weed and harvest them ... but she did
have pretty peasant style dresses to wear and invited her closest of
friends to share this simple life where they could enjoy dinner (let the
peasants eat cake) served to
them in the elegant dining hall of the thatched roof cottage which was
really two large homes joined together .... but indeed most picturesque
and the place we would prefer to live.