Day Twenty-One/ Napoleon's Tomb & Notre Dame

Trip Start Dec 17, 2011
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19
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Trip End Jan 14, 2012


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Flag of France  , Île-de-France,
Monday, January 9, 2012

Today was a later start, as we had had quite a late night the night before. It was good to relax, and not feel too rushed in the morning.  We cleaned up around the apartment, but it wasn't too messy, as we haven't cooked anything, nor really spread out.
We decided to go to Napoleon's tomb, which was a landmark that we passed on the bus yesterday. The building itself is spectacular, but in Paris, spectacular buildings are a dime a dozen.  It has a large dome, which is fully gold plated.  It almost appears as if just the top of the building is in the sunlight; the way the gold has been painted.
We went in, and directly under this dome is Napoleon's tomb.  He lays cocooned inside 6 coffins, that make a very large container.  It would be far taller than me, though that is not saying too much.
You can walk around it, at the top level, looking down, or the basement level, the same level as the coffin.  Napoleon is still seen as a hero in France today.  He established the education system, and 80% of the laws of the Constitution that remain in place today.
The  tomb was quite impressive, and also contained the coffins of his nephew Joseph-Napoleon I and General Lyautey, a general in WW1.
Attached to Napoleon's tomb is the Hotel Des Invalides, which is a former home for aged and ill soldiers.  Louis XIV commissioned this, after many former soldiers turned to begging on the streets because they could not find work due to their age or injuries.  Still today, it houses a dozen or so of these 'invalides', but it is a far cry from the 6,000 that it used to house.  Nowadays, it is more commonly used as the Musee de l'Armee (Military Museum).  As Hayley appropriately said, it is Dad's Louvre.  He could spend hours there, without even knowing it.  There were many good exhibits of army uniforms, stories of how the first and second world wars began and progressed, videos.  It was very large, and contained a very extensive collection of army memorabilia.
We left early because we planned to meet Jessica, my old host sister.  I visited Jessica and her family back in 2008, so it has now been a long 3 years since I had seen her.
We organised to meet in front of the Notre Dame, and it was not long before we spotted her, and her boyfriend, Alex. It was really special and so exciting to see her after such a long time,  We have kept in contact through letters, Facebook and emails, but it is not the same as face-to-face contact.  We walked through the Notre Dame, which is another beautiful French Church.  After visiting the war museum this morning, I now have a new appreciation for the way that all these old landmarks were left untouched after the war.  This was the Church where Napoleon crowned himself Emperor in 1804.
Dad was very determined to go up on top of the Notre Dame, so we left Nanna sitting in the Church, while we joined another typical long queue to get up there.  We then climbed the 387 steps to get to the top.  The spiral staircase was barely wide enough for me to stand front-on, and so by the time we reached the top, I felt exhausted.
The balcony at the top is also quite narrow, which almost makes you feel a little queasy, being so high up, and so close to the edge, except for the suicide-proof barrier.
We were able to go into the bell tower and see the 13-tonne bell in a fully wooden room, probably which is also where Quasimodo (the Hunchback of Notre Dame) lived.
The view from the top is breathtaking; it is amazing how far you can see. The Eiffel Tower was visible, the Sacre Coeur looked obvious, all by itself on top of a hill, and the Arc de Triomphe was visible, far in the distance.
We stayed up there for a really long time, admiring the Seine, and asking Jessica and Alex many questions about our surroundings.
We started to make out way back down the tower, when a group of people decided to climb up.  As the staircase was only wide enough for one person, this made for some extremely awkward encounters, as we lined up flat against the wall, and they tip-toed past us, basically touching chest to chest as this occurred.  It made us all laugh so hard though, as there was no avoiding anything.  The rest of the way down was easy, though it made me so dizzy to basically walk around in tiny circles, such the way the staircase was designed.
We retrieved Nanna, and went back to our apartment.  We chatted with Alex and Jess, ate pain du chocolat, and showed them videos of when Jessica came to Australia, and when I went to France.
It was so nice catching up.
We then met Jean-Marc, Florence and Colombe.  They are friends of my old French teacher's friend, so the connection is very wide, but Colombe will be staying at our place for 6 weeks in April, so they thought it would be a good idea to meet beforehand.  They live awhile away, but made the special trip to come out and meet us.  They took us out to a very fancy restaurant, not too far from our place, and we took Jess and Alex with us.  We hoped Jessica could give us a good endorsement as a good host family.
Dinner was really nice; nobody stopped talking but to eat. The menu was very difficult to read, as there were some words the French didn't recognise, but we managed, and ended up with good food.  Colombe and Hayley, who are the same age, got along really well, which is good, seeing as Colombe will follow Hayley to all her classes at school.
We said good-bye at the end of the night, pleased with such a good day.
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