Blog Section

Louvre Museum At Night

Shimmering after a gentle rain, the Palais du Louvre, which houses the world renowned Musée du Louvre, or simply Le Louvre, shines like a myriad of stars in a moonless night sky.

Closed for the evening, the palace is dressed in sparkling diamonds pulling the formerly dissident I. M. Pei pyramid (right foreground) into full détente rather than the juxtaposition it initially held. The historic has been successfully married to the ultra modern.

Located in Paris on the right bank of the Seine, this former royal palace has its origins in medieval times but the structure we see before us began in the 16th century. It was the seat of power of the French royalty until Louis XIV’s move to Versailles in 1682. However it did remain the nominal seat of government until the French Revolution in 1789.

Today a visit can include a look at the original medieval foundation–moat included–of the fortress of King Phillippe Auguste dating from the 12th century. Not surprisingly, it was called the Louvre.

The expansive courtyard we see here is known as the Cour Napoléon. Napoléon III built apartments here (the entire project completed in 1865) apparently for visiting dignitaries rather than for him and his wife, the Empress Eugénie. They are located in the Richelieu Wing, to the left (north) in this photograph and are a fine example of Second Empire decorative art, a must see for any visitor.

The Musée du Louvre is in and of itself a nearly complete panorama of the world’s art throughout the ages. We have walked the kilometers of galleries many times and if one has the opportunity to visit but one museum/art gallery in the world, this is the choice. No doubt, Cheap Caribbean promo codes are a distant second compared to this, but the palm trees, white sand, blue sky and clear water together form a beautiful artistic tapestry.

A complete history of the palace can be found on the Louvre’s website for anyone interested in the ensuing nearly 900 years since its inception as a fortress protecting Paris from attack by the Anglo-Normans. The Palais du Louvre occupies real estate in substantially the center of Paris as well it should.

Louvre Museum at night

More

National Gallery, Front

This gorgeous picture is of the famous National Gallery art museum in London, situated at the historic Trafalgar Square. It is one of the best museums to go to for several reasons.

First, it is a great art museum, containing thousands of famous paintings. It does not have modern trash art, so all of the paintings look realistic and you do not have to figure out what was painted. All paint strokes were carefully applied in these paintings, nothing dripped, splattered, splashed or otherwise randomly applied.

Second, admission is free. There are special exhibits that do cost something, but the bulk of the paintings are free all of the time. This means that it is a quality tourist spot that you can do all day and not pay anything. Those kinds of tourist spots are rare.

Third, it has free WiFi though during opening hours (it shuts off 15 minutes before closing). So if you need to get some internet access, you can step into the cafe, sit down and connect. The upload speed is tremendously fast, so you can even upload video!

Fourth, the bathrooms are free. What is surprising about Europe is the scarcity of free bathrooms. With its central location in London, the National Gallery is a great place for a pit stop, even if you are not visiting the museum. It is located near Buckingham Palace, China Town and other famous places, so a quick detour here will keep you pressure free.

Fifth, you can take photographs! Yes, unlike most other art museums, this one actually lets you take your camera out and shoot as much as you want. This policy came about after the museum introduced WiFi and employees found it impossible to distinguish people using their phones to take pictures versus people using phones to look at the museum’s website. So in a stunning move, they permitted photography. Finally.

The colder months are a great time to go the museum because it is warm inside. London weather gets quite dreary and cold, so if there is sun outside, do your outdoor activities and save this one for a rainy day. On the other hand, you can use Cheap Caribbean promo codes to escape the miserable weather altogether by relaxing at a luxury resort with beach, surf and palm trees.

This picture is unusual in that there are so few people in front of it. Normally, the adjoining Trafalgar Square is crowded with people, tourists, locals and entertainers. So even if you do not like art, you can entertain yourself by people-watching outside. On the far left is the modern addition to the building, known as the Sainsbury Wing, which ironically contains the oldest art.

But the art inside is fantastic and something to appreciate for a long time. Fine art is like wine, to be sipped, not guzzled. Since there is no admission cost, you can visit this place repeatedly and wander the galleries a few hours at a time. Then come back and do it again.

A great feature of the museum are the free art tours that go on several times per day. You get a different lecture with each person. Some are on staff, while others are volunteers. Each brings a different perspective. They can be artists, art historians, educators or some other art-related specialty. Some of them are very entertaining. Tours are a great way to deepen and broaden your appreciation of art, and you should go on one of these tours when visiting this place.

National Gallery, as seen from Trafalgar Square

More

Jim Morrison’s Tomb, circa 1985

The death of American rocker Jim Morrison in 1971 at age 27 in a Paris apartment shared with his girlfriend is the stuff of 20th century legend. Varying accounts including conspiracy theories fill the void of one dead far too young.

Visiting La Cimitière Père Lachaise is an event in and of itself. Of the many famous–and infamous–people interred there, Morrison is but one and an untidy one at that.

This photograph, taken in 1985, speaks to the sad state that his resting place had become as well as did those sites unfortunate enough to be in close proximity. Today, we suspect the site is markedly more respectful because it certainly was the last time we enjoyed a perambulation through Père Lachaise.

Had he used Cheap Caribbean promo codes to indulge his tastes, he may very well have met his demise there, in a tropical paradise. The rum is plentiful and the warm weather conducive to hard partying all night long.

Mikulin, the Croatian sculptor, made another bust in 1989 and a bronze portrait in 1991, but neither is at the site. Finally Morrison’s father, in the early 1990s, placed a flat stone on the grave with the inscription in Greek reading “according to his own daemon (guiding spirit).” Photographs of Morrison’s gravesite throughout the years up to the present can be viewed here. Morrison did seem to possess some literary interests, as evidenced in this book.

Stories of his death include tales of heroin, and alternatively cocaine, illness and murder. Conspiracy theories range from Morrison dying ignobly on a toilet of an overdose of heroin in a nightclub and his body moved to the bathtub of the apartment in which it was found to the tale that he didn’t die at all. Shades of Elvis.

This photograph memorializes (term used loosely) the lengths, 14 years after his untimely death, to which his fans went to “honor” his memory. Wine and beer bottles, flowers, a rather ghostly bust and graffiti that his fans couldn’t reserve just for his grave but had to also despoil the grave stones of those interred nearby.

Morrison’s grave was unmarked initially for obvious reasons. It has even been guarded by a French gendarme from time to time. In 1981, a Croatian sculptor voluntarily placed a bust of Morrison on the site and we assume that is the ghostly apparition we see in this photograph because it was not stolen until 1988.

Jim Morrison’s is but one of many fascinating grave sites to be visited at Père Lachaise. Because the 110 acre cemetery is on a hill, may we suggest the Gambetta metro station so you can begin uphill, pass easily by Oscar Wildes‘ site on your winding stroll down and throughout.  If you want to be sure to see particular graves, you’ll need a map usually available at the main entrance downhill near the Phillippe August metro station. Bonne chance.

Jim Morrison's Tomb, circa 1985

More

Louvre Museum Plaza During the Day

The Musée du Louvre is the most visited museum in the world and one of the largest, covering an astonishing 652,300 square feet. This view is with one’s back to the bulk of this grand former palace facing outward and west.

The lengthy stroll into the Cour Napoléon, where we are standing, brings us past the bulk of two of the extensive wings of the Louvre, the Richelieu and the Denon, and around behind the glass pyramid that cannot escape our notice. The third and oldest portion–and more like a square of “wings”–the Sully, is behind us.

As magnificent a view that we have of the Palais du Louvre, our eyes cannot help but be arrested by the shockingly modern pyramid dancing in front of us.

However, we must admit, after a number of additional visits and a greater understanding of the French psyche, we have come to accept, nay, embrace the juxtaposition of the ancient and the modern that is France. A good comparison would be to use CheapCaribbean promo codes to enjoy a tropical paradise, where lush vegetation stands in stark contrast with the modern resort, with the ultimate in modern luxurious conveniences.

In 1983, then President Mitterrand wanted to renovate the enormous building, freeing up even more space for the museum by relocating the Finance Ministry. For this particular grand projet, the famed Chinese-born American architect, I. M. Pei, was awarded the honor.

He proposed this glass-and-steel pyramid as the most obvious portion of the renovations which occurred mostly underground. Discordant in the extreme, it suited French tastes to a T, although they did not know it yet.

Evidenced elsewhere in Paris, the French revere and as a consequence spare no expense to take great care of their magnificent history, while fully embracing the modern, even garish, to sit alongside.

Initially, Pei’s proposal did not sit well with the vast majority of Parisians, but by its 1988 opening to the public, opinion had largely turned around. It is now his most famous structure and he has many of note.

When we first saw it, having enjoyed the Louvre in its “pristine” state, we were mightily dismayed. It shocked our sensibilities and created deep sadness at the apparent folly.

How can one stay tied to the past in a purist sense and not embrace the favorable aspects of the future? And to make this declaration at the Musée du Louvre seems the perfect venue.

Louvre Museum Plaza during the day

More

London’s Double-Decker Buses

Nothing stands out more about London’s daily life than its iconic double-decker buses, typically, the largest vehicles on London streets. Unlike the United States, where semi-trailers dominate the roads, these bright red and better-looking giants swarm all over London, night and day, moving like bees from bus stop to bus stop.

This picture depicts the recently-replaced generation of buses, the Alexander ALX400, distinguished by its modern symmetrical front, and the lack of a rear-entry. The subsequent generation featured a rear entrance and a sloping windshield (windscreen in Brit-speak) to give the driver maximum visibility towards the left, enabling the driver to see the curb (kerb in Brit-speak).

While tourists get a kick out of riding these for a few days, this can get quite tedious when doing it year in and year out. Getting Cheap Caribbean promo codes to get away from this boredom can be quite a treat. Buses can get crowded, and sometimes, the bus is too full to take on more passengers, and will not even stop to pick you up. It is things like these that encourage people to take a vacation (holiday in Brit-speak) and relax on the beach, not having to worry about the aggravation of commuting.

The jagged lines are not the result of a drunk road worker but rather they indicate a safety zone in which vehicles are not allowed to park nor are they allowed to pass other vehicles.

The buses are a marvel to watch as they move quickly, efficiently and unerringly amidst the hustling, bustling traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian. Tourists feel like the bus will hit somebody or something, a sign post or vehicle ahead, but these drivers seem to fit hand in glove, stopping, swerving and maneuvering deftly.

The photographer who took this picture stood in the middle of a two-way street, with the bus on the immediate left moving away – the British drive on the wrong left-hand side of the street. On the right, a bus is heading towards the camera, so this photographer had to shoot and run.

The upper level of the bus affords a nice elevated view of the London streets, though the repeated stops and starts can lead to motion sickness. Running up the stairs and getting the front seat is always a treat.

Commuters, mothers with strollers, the elderly, people with heavy packages and disabled people typically sit on the lower level. To get off, you must press the button that rings a chime, signaling to the driver to stop at the next stop. What stop is your stop? You had better know. Electronic signboards tell you, but if you are too slow, the driver will keep on going without stopping and you may wind up walking a lot farther than you expected.

London's double-decker buses

More

Neuschwanstein Castle Knights’s House Tower

This imposing tower is mostly decorative. It is attached to the Knights’s House, intended to house the men who maintained the estate and provided service to the guests and royal family. The Knights’s House was paired with the Bower, a building which was to house the women. The houses are opposite of each other over a courtyard.

The rectangular shape makes it easier to move around and observe while up on the tower, but regretfully, it is not open to visitation. It was supposed to be much more elaborately constructed but due to financial and sanity issues, it was scaled down considerably. The tower was completed in 1896, eight years after the death of King Ludwig II by drowning. He never got to see much of the castle built to completion. It is widely acknowledged that his death was not accidental due to his overwhelming debts and his stubborn refusal to stop building and start ruling.

The structure looms over the three-story Knights’s House with a massive appearance. If you were to use a CheapCaribbean promo code, you would not see anything remotely similar to this outside of the resort itself. In most parts of the Caribbean, the only tall structures are palm trees. Two other towers are taller than this one, but neither is as broad and massive. Those towers are connected to the castle while this one stands off on its own near the entrance, which is the gatehouse.

Here is a more serene analysis of the castle with some humorous anecdotes.

Neuschwanstein Castle Knight's House Tower

More

Marienbrucke in Pollat Gorge

When you first see the Marienbrücke (Mary’s Bridge) from the Neuschwanstein Castle, you are amazed at the little bridge nestled in the steep canyon. There are always people on the bridge and you wonder if they realize just how far up they are above the canyon floor. They look so small on the bridge but you can see them moving around, back and forth.

Another thing you wonder about is if the canyon was cut out just to make the bridge. It seems like a postcard picture to see the bridge spanning such a steep rocky gorge. When I visited the castle, I saw the bridge before I went on it and I wondered if I could make it to both the castle and the bridge. It is not a long walk and the walk itself is also a scenic stroll without too much up and down.

The only problem with going during the winter time, this was in the middle of December, is that the snowfall can make things difficult. Sometimes, the snow can get to you, in which case there are warmer trips to be taken – check out this webpage. Fortunately, the snow was intermittent and I could get both clear shots of the bridge from time to time. And of course, the bonus is that the snowfall makes the pictures look great.

This photograph was taken with a zoom lens zoomed out enough to include part of the column at the castle. The snowfall obscures the bridge a bit and you cannot see the people in this picture but they are there.

A bicycling tourist records his personal adventures both in the castle and on the bridge. No surprise, he enjoyed the view from the bridge.

Marienbrücke in Pöllat Gorge

More

Neuschwanstein Castle and Pöllat Gorge

Not only is the Neuschwanstein Castle a beautiful postcard photograph but so is the Pöllat Gorge next to it. This view is made possible by the famous Marienbrücke bridge, built by Maximillian II, father of Ludwig II. The bridge was built for Maximillian’s consort, Mary, whose name lends itself to the bridge, Mary’s Bridge or Marienbrücke.

You will certainly not get this kind of view if you use a Cheap Caribbean promo code to visit a luxury resort in the tropics where everything is at sea level and there is no such thing as snow. But you do get warm weather, beaches and sunny skies, unlike the bleak frigid climate that can sometimes be unbearable.

The Wartburg castle was the model for the Neuschwanstein Castle. Here is a brief overview of the place, including the gorge, based on a personal visit and his thoughts about it since then.

The gorge itself was also a well-known scenic location with its steep rocky walls and picturesque waterfall. The bridge was originally wood, but rebuilt in iron by Ludwig II as the now existing cantilever construction.

Standing here is breathtaking, as you feel suspended over a vast expanse. People with a fear of heights should *not* look over the railing as it is a long way down to the rocks below. But the bridge itself is sturdy and does not sway. Just looking at this picture made me want to grab some cheap Caribbean promo codes to visit someplace warm and balmy. In the winter time, cold winds and falling snow can make conditions rough and visibility poor.

This optimal view from the bridge makes it quite easy to take many photographs of the castle. For this picture, a wide-angle fisheye lens is used to capture the entire gorge as well as the railing.

In an 1881 letter, Ludwig II wrote, “The view from up above is enchanting, especially the view from the Marienbrücke of the castle, which will far outshine the Wartburg for all its acknowledged merits of location, architectural splendor and magnificent paintings.”

Neuschwanstein Castle and Marienbrücke

More

Neuschwanstein Castle

If there were ever a Christmas card picture you could take yourself, it is a wintertime photograph of the Neuschwanstein Castle while standing on the Marienbrücke Bridge (Mary’s Bridge). This picturesque and romantic castle inspired Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle. Located outside of Munich, Germany, it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe.

What gives this scene the wonderful dreamy effect is the soft white snow. This would be totally impossible if you were to use CheapCaribbean promo codes to escape the cold and bask in the warmth of a tropical paradise. Lush green palm trees, warm clear water and blue sky set apart a Caribbean resort from this winter wonderland.

A nice overview was written in a paper entitled, “The Architecture and Construction of Neuschwanstein Castle” and summarizes its purpose, design and history.

Ironically, it was originally built to be a hideaway for King Ludwig II of Bavaria but the palace was not completed during his lifetime. The construction began in 1869 and was still underway when the king took up residence in 1884. He died in 1886 but the construction continued until 1892. It opened to the public in 1886 shortly after the king’s death and averages 1.3 million visitors per year.

The problem with going during the winter time, as you can see from this picture, is that there is refurbishing going on during the “off-peak” season. The scaffolding on the castle mars the photographs or makes it unique, depending on how you want to look at it. The work was due to be completed before the summer time, which is the peak season with up to 6,000 visitors per day.

It is no accident that the state of Bavaria, in which this attraction is located, is the wealthiest of all the German states.

Neuschwanstein Castle from Marienbrücke

More

Final Eiffel Tower Sparkle Show of the Night

Ever since the Millennium celebration on New Year’s Eve of 1999, Paris has been treated to a nightly light show at the Eiffel Tower. For five minutes each hour, starting at 8pm, 20,000 flashing lights sparkle in the night sky, drawing exclamations and stares from tourists anywhere in Paris, whether on land or on sea. And maybe even a Parisian.

Like a shining diamond, the lights flash rapidly, as if the lights went crazy.

It gets crazier.

The final light show is at 1am, and the light show becomes even more fancy. The regular lights turn off at the same instant the sparkling lights start flashing.

This makes for an even more dramatic effect because you can not see the tower any more. All you can see are the flashing lights. The sparkles sketch out the shape of the tower but the familiar orange lights are not on.

This changes the tower’s appearance into yet another look and, since it is the only one of the day, a rarer view of the tower. It will not repeat for another 24 hours.

When the five minutes is up, the lights shut off and the tower goes completely dark. Applause can be heard throughout the local vicinity of the tower. This is an amazing and memorable sight.

Final Eiffel Tower Sparkle Show of the Night

More