Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Free Self-Guided Driving Route of the Burgundy Region of France

The starting point of this self-guided drive is Beaune and continues to Aloxe-Corton, the Canal de Bourgogne, Vezelay and finally Autun before returning to Beaune. Straight driving this route will take about 4hrs.

Beaune is the center of the Burgundy wine region. The old town center, which is enclosed within ramparts, holds the Hotel- Dieu, Hospices de Beaune where its multi-coloured glazed roof tiles, iron works, and gabled dormers make this more a wealthy mans house then a place for the poor. On the third weekend of November there is Les Trois Glorieuses, an annual festival, culminating in a charity wine auction held at the Hotel-Dieu, which sells the wine of the wineries owned by the hospice. But there are many other sites and squares that fill the city which should not be missed.

Take the D18 north from Beaune towards Permand-Vergelesse. Just before the town turn right/ east on D115D to Aloxe-Corton.

Aloxe-Corton lies in the center of the grands cru of Burgundy. There is a signed drive through some of the best wineries in the Cote du Beaune. The Route Touristique des Grands Crus de Borgogne. Though there are numerous caves and cellars within Aloxe-Corton, which sell these delicious reds.

Return to the D18, the latter part of D18 follows the banks of the Canal de Bourgogne. Stop in the town of Vandenesse en Auxois. Here take a stroll, or cycle, alongside the canal where the countryside offers a lush backdrop. Walking north-west for about 3.5kms there are numerous locks that lead to the beginning of this section of the Canal de Bourgogne. Walking south-east you again have numerous locks but this time against the backdrop of the feudal castle of Chateauneuf.

Continue on the D18 and join up with the autoroute A6. This is a toll road. Head north towards Paris. Take exit 22 towards Avallon and merge onto A646. After the roundabout bear right/ west on D50 and D606. At the roundabout take D957 towards Vezely.

Vezely is a hilltop hamlet that is a medieval time capsule. Believed to be the finial resting place of Mary Magdalene it was once a great pilgrim site of the Christian world. It was here that was the rendezvous point in 1190 for the 3rd Crusade to expel the Sacrens from Jerusalem, drawing such notables as Richard the Lion Hearted and King Philippe of France. The 12th century Romanesque Basilique Sainte-Marie Madeleine is only just smaller then Notre Dame in Paris, and is a wonder of spires, carved figures over doorways and pillars engraved with biblical scenes. The town is closed to all automobile traffic and can only be visited on foot.

Take the D957 back to Avallon and turn right/ south on D606 and D906 in the direction to Saulieu. In Saulieu turn right onto D980 direction to Autun.

Autun was founded at the end of the 1st century BC by the Romans. It was a very important which is shown by the size of it amphitheatre, capacity for 20,000, which was one of the largest anywhere at that time. Before you reach the town, on the right/ west are the remains of the Temple of Janus. Not to be missed is the Cathedrale St Lazare, a Gothic/ Romanesque wonder of carvings and colour. The area around the Cathedrale hold many wonders such as the fountain in the Place du Terreau and the Musee Rolin, a private collection of religious artwork and Gallo-Roman artifacts.

Take the D973 all the way back to Beaune.

Straight driving this route will take about 4hrs

The Burgundy Driving Route in its entirety on Google Maps

View self guided drive in Burgundy in a larger map

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

The Luberon

The Luberon is a mountain range of rugged hills and mountains located in the southern region of France, specifically in the department know as Vaucluse . These hills and mountains of the Luberon, are famous for their stone-housed hilltop villages for which the area of Provence has been made famous by the British author Peter Mayle.

The department of Vaucluse in southern France

The Vaucluse is a department in southern France, more commonly known as “Provence”. In 1790 France was divided into 96 departments for administrative purposes. The central government in Paris is represented by each department, as well as a local government which overseas the department.

Vaucluse is bordered by the Rhône River to the west and the River Durance in the south, Mountains and rugged hills occupy a significant proportion of the eastern half of the department. It is these hills and mountains range called the Luberon, which are famous for their stone-housed hilltop villages, one of the more special attractions of Provence.
Fruit and vegetables are cultivated in great quantities in the lower-lying parts of the department, one of the most fertile plains in southern France. The vineyards of Cote du Rhone and Gigondas lie in the north-east corner of the Vaucluse region and offer some of the top wineries of the world.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Self-Guided Tour of the statues in the main square Piazza della Signoria of Florence, Tuscany, Italy

The Piazza della Signoria is a must see experience in Florence as it holds numerous famous and artistically significant statues. Even though many of the originals have been moved from their original settings in the Piazza della Signoria and replaced with copies the grandeur is still present. However the originals can be viewed in the various museums in Florence.

The most famous statue is located at the entrance, on the left, of the Palazzo Vecchio, is a copy of David. David is a masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture sculpted by Michelangelo from 1501 to 1504. Unlike previous depictions of David, which portray the hero after his victory over Goliath, Michelangelo chose to represent David before the fight contemplating the battle yet to come. It came to symbolize the defense of civil liberties embodied in the Florentine Republic, an independent city state which was threatened on all sides by more powerful rival states and by the hegemony of the Medici themselves. This interpretation was also encouraged by the original setting of the sculpture outside the Palazzo della Signoria, the seat of civic government in Florence. The completed sculpture was unveiled on 8 September 1504. The original is being kept at the Gallery of the Academy of Fine Arts.

"Hercules and Cacus", by Bandinelli (1533), to the right of the entrance to the Palazzo Vecchio, depicts the demi-god, Hercules, who killed the fire-belching monster Cacus during his tenth labor, is the symbol of physical strength, which juxtaposed nicely with David as a symbol of spiritual strength, both symbols desired by the Medici. This marble group shows the basic theme of the victor (the Medici) and the vanquished (the republicans). The pause suggests the leniency of the Medici to those who would concede to their rule, and served as a warning to those who would not, as this pause can be indefinite or simply temporary.

Taking a step back from the Palazzo Vecchio, at the far northern end of the Piazza della Signoria, stands the Equestrian Duke Cosimo I by Giambologna (1594-1598). Designed to resemble the equestrian statue of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, which stands in the Piazza del Campidoglio in Rome, it draws parallels between the power and might of Rome to that of Medician Florence. The three bronze relief’s on the base commemorate the key events of Cosimo’s life in Florence: the Florentine government granting him title of duke in 1537; his entering the conquered city of Siena in triumph in 1555; the bestowing of the title Grand Duke of Tuscany in 1569 by Pope Pius V

The Fountain of Neptune by Bartolomeo Ammannati (1575). This work by Bartolomeo Ammannati (1563–1565) and some assistants, such as Giambologna, was commissioned on the occasion of the wedding of Francesco I de' Medici with grand duchess Johanna of Austria in 1565.
The Neptune figure, whose face resembles that of Cosimo I de' Medici, was meant to be an allusion to the dominion of the Florentines over the sea. The figure stands on a high pedestal in the middle of an octagonal fountain. The pedestal in the middle is decorated with the mythical chained figures of Scylla and Charybdis. The statue of Neptune is a copy made in the nineteenth century, while the original is in the National Museum.

"The Lion", referred to as "il Marzocco" with a copy of the "Florentine Lily". The il Marzocco is the heraldic lion, sculpted by Donatello in 1418–20, and is the symbol of Florence. The lion is seated and with one paw supports the coat-of-arms of Florence; the fleur de lys called il giglio, the lily. Donatello’s original, sculpted in the fine-grained gray sandstone of Tuscany called pietra serena, has been conserved in the Bargello since 1855. The version still exposed to weather, to the right of the fountain, in the Piazza della Signoria is a copy.

"Judith and Holofernes", by Donatello is a bronze sculpture created at the end of his career (1460). A copy stands in the sculpture's original positions between David and “the Lion”, in the Piazza della Signoria, in front of the Palazzo Vecchio. It depicts the assassination of the Assyrian general Holofernes by Judith. Judith is considered the symbol of liberty, virtue and victory of the weak over the strong in a just cause. She stands powerfully with a raised sword, holding the head of Holofernes by his hair. The statue was originally gilded. To facilitate the gilding the bronze was cast in 11 parts and is remarkable for being one of the first Renaissance sculptures to be conceived in the round, with its four distinct faces.
It stood in its place together with David, both depicting tyrant slayers. These two statues are among the earliest freestanding Italian Renaissance statues. The original can be seen in the Hall of Lilies (Sala dei Gigli), in the Palazzo Vecchio

Loggia della Signoria, or the Loggia dei Lanzi as it was where lanced Swiss guards were stationed, is a three arched open space that is filled with some minor and two major sculpted works. The most important works are those that face into the Piazza della Signoria.

In the left arch is the bronze "Perseus with the Head of Medusa", by Cellini (1554) and is Cellini’s attempt to surpass Michelangelo's David and Donatello's Judith and Holofernes. The statue was cast as a single piece and as such caused Cellini much trouble and anxiety because of the size involved. It was said while it was being cast Cellini through every bit of available metal from his house into it, including all the forks, spoons and pewter mugs. The result was the fully complete cast piece, except for three toes, which were added later. As a result it was hailed as a masterpiece as soon as it was completed. Cosimo I, who chose to represent himself and his rule with the figure of Perseus the classic Greek hero who defeated chaos and restored peace, commissioned the statue.

"The Rape of the Sabine Women", in the right arch, by Giambologna, is an episode in the legendary history of Rome in which the first generation of Roman men acquired wives for themselves from the neighboring Sabine families. (In this context, rape means "kidnapping" [raptio] rather than its prevalent modern meaning of sexual violation.)
The sculpture by Giambologna (1579–1583) depicts three figures (a man lifting a woman into the air while a second man crouches) and was carved from a single block of marble. This sculpture is considered Giambolona's masterpiece. Originally intended as nothing more than a demonstration of the artist's ability to create a complex sculptural group, its subject matter, the legendary rape of the Sabines, had to be invented after Francesco I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, decreed that it be put on public display in the Loggia dei Lanzi in Piazza della Signoria, Florence.

Each of these statues is considered a masterpiece of Italian Renaissance art and seeing all of them within one hundred feet of each other is truly a must see experience.

Here are the locations of each statue from Google Maps.  click on each icon to see where each statue is located

View Self-Guided Tour of the Statues of the Piazza della Signoria, Florence Italy in a larger map

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Not to be missed sights of the Vatican in Rome

Since 1929 the Vatican City has been is own sovereign state with the pope at its head. The Vatican City is the world's smallest nation at108.7 acres, and has a population of about 820. Vatican City is separated from Rome itself by ninth-century walls, and has it own post office, bank, currency, judicial system, radio station, shops, a daily newspaper and an army of Swiss Guards.
1. Vatican Museums - the museums are housed in palaces originally built for Renaissance Popes. There are 13 museums and 14 private apartments and spaces of Renaissance Popes including the Sistine Chapel.
2. The Vatican Gardens - open for guided tours, make up a third of the Vatican’s territory.
3. Raphael Rooms – In 1508 Pope Julius II hired the relatively unknown Raphael to fresco his Belvedere palace private apartment. Raphael’s frescos representing Truth, Good and Beauty made him an instant rival to Michelangelo, then painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling.
4. The Sistine Chapel – was built as a private chapel for the popes in 1473. In 1508, Michelangelo started work on the ceiling of the chapel. The work is made up of 9 main panels, which chart the Creation of the World and the Fall of Man. Though the ceiling is the most famous, the walls are not to be overlooked. They were frescoed by some of the most famous artist of the 15th the 16th centuries with the culmination of the great alter wall in 1541 by Michelangelo.
5. Dome of St Peter - Through the use of large proportions the eye is “fooled” into thinking the interior is smaller then it is. Michelangelo’s dome is 448 ft high and the mosaics of the four Evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, who are holding up the “pillars of the church”, are huge with their quills alone over 5.7 m (19 ft) high.
6. Michelangelo’s Pieta – the Pieta was created in 1499 when Michelangelo was only 25. The Virgin Mary embraces her son’s lifeless body carved from immaculate white marble and is the only sculpture to bare his signature. It has been protected by shatterproof glass since 1972 when it was attacked by a man wielding a hammer.
7. Necropolis/ St Peters Tomb – Enter through the Excavations Office on the south side of the basilica. In the necropolis there are Roman graves as well as the likely burial spot of St Peter, a climate-controlled space where visitors as allowed about 30 seconds each. Reserve well ahead at In the grottoes below the main alter is the final resting places of 18 popes including Pope John Paul II
8. the Holy Door – Every quarter century the Pope ritually open the Holy Door to signal a papal Jubilee Year and closes it at years end.
9. Piazza San Pietro – laid out by Bernini between 1656 and 1667 the two sweeping semicircles of four-tiered colonnade show the beginnings of the overwhelming scale on which St Peter’s was built.
10. The Obelisk - taken from Egypt the obelisk was erected in Rome in A.D. 37
11. Via della Conciliazion- the main road into the Vatican City is lined with shops selling “kitsch” holographic images of the Popes, and Saints, religious statuettes with rolling eyes and oversized crosses.
12. Castel Sant’Angelo - The castle began in 139AD as a mausoleum for the Emperor Hadrain. In medieval times it became a citadel and prison. During times of unrest it provided a place of safety for the Popes. A secret corridor links it with the Vatican Palace providing for an escape route and the castle was equipped with comfortable apartments.

A Self-Guided Walk of the Famous Gelaterias of Florence

Some people go to Florence and Tuscany for the art and history, some for the food and wine and others for the shopping. Whatever your reason for visiting, the one thing that you should not miss is the Gelato.
The exact origins of gelato are a bit of a mystery as some credit the ancient Egyptians, Chinese emperors, Alexander the Great or the Romans for being the inventors, but what everyone generally agrees is that the modern gelato, as we know it, began in the 16th century in Sicily when a cook of a noble family added milk to a mixture of ice and flavouring. It was an instant hit and gelato became a culinary rage. Supposedly Catherine de Medici of Florence had the finest collection of recipes in all of Italy and as a result, even today, people look to her city for revolutionary gelato.
How does gelato differ from ice cream? Primarily it is much lower in fat. Cream is never used. Low-fat milk is preferred as it is much less dense in texture. Less air is pumped into the final mixture and it is cooled at a lower temperature so it is less frozen to allow more robust flavours to emerge.
When you enter the gelateria the first thing you do is pay for your order. One, two, three or four scoops are served in a take-away bowl with a spoon; you are also able to get cones, but you are better off with the bowl in order to get as many different flavours as possible. You then hand your receipt to the server behind the counter and let the selections begin!

This self-guided walk will bring you to some of the top gelaterias in Florence and therefore, some would argue, the world. Perche No? (Via dei Tavolini, 19) Bar Vivoli Gelateria (Via Isola delle Stinch, 7) and Carabe Gelateria (via Ricasoli, 60)

Begin at Perche No?, literally translated as “why not?”. This gelateria has been around since the 1940s and has a large selection of different gelatos. It is located in the heart of the walking district of central Florence at Via dei Tavolini, 19-red 50122 Florence. From here, after you have made your selections, we will walk to Bar Vivoli Gelateria.
1. Head east on Via dei Tavolini toward Via de' Cerchi
2. Turn right at Via de' Cerchi
3. Turn left at Via della Condotta
4. Turn left at Piazza di San Firenze
5. Slight right at Via della Vigna Vecchia to Via dell'Isola delle Stinche
The walk from Perche No? to Bar Vivoli Gelateria is about 5 minutes

Bar Vivoli Gelateria is located in the San Croce district at Via dell'Isola delle Stinche, 7, 50122 Firenze, an area of narrow streets, small piazzas and shops, which serve the local community rather then tourists on the whole. Vivoli on the other hand attracts large crowds and its walls are covered with press clippings and photos of the people who have enjoyed its world famous gelato. Again after our selection of gelato we will walk to our last stop Carabe Gelateria
1. Head northeast on Via dell'Isola delle Stinche toward Via Ghibellina
2. Continue onto Via Matteo Palmieri
3. Continue onto Piazza di San Pier Maggiore
4. Continue onto Volta di San Piero
5. Turn left at Via Sant'Egidio
6. Continue onto Piazza di Santa Maria Nuova
7. Continue onto Via Maurizio Bufalini
8. Continue onto Via dei Pucci
9. Turn right at Via Ricasoli
The walk from Bar Vivoli Gelateria to Carabe Gelateria is about 11 minutes

Carabe Gelateria is owned by a Sicilian family who prides their gelatos as been made with authentic techniques and ingredients. Carabe Gelateria is located at Via Ricasoli, 60, 50122 Florence, just south of the Galleria dell’Accademia, which houses David.
This is by all means not the end for your self-guided tour of the gelaterias of Florence. These three gelaterias are just the starting point. Who knows, your favorite gelato could be from the espresso bar just around the corner from any of these gelaterias.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Paris' Vineyard

On the Northern slope of Montmarte, in the 18th arr, is one of Paris’s most secretive gardens; Paris’ only remaining vineyard.

Vineyards came into Paris over 2000 years ago with the Romans. Regarded as a profitable crop there came to be many vineyards throughout the city of Paris, though by the 18th century the quality was very poor as quantity was being favoured over quality.
By the beginning of the 20th century the pressures of urbanization gradually forced the vineyards out of existence, until in the early 1920's, when there was a public outcry began against the urbanization of Montmartre. Led by the artist François Poulbot in an effort to save the garden of singer and comedian Aristide Bruant (best known as the man in the black hat and red scarf in the famous Toulouse-Lautrec poster) from a real estate development plan, the Clos Montmartre was established as public land, and planted with vines in 1933 to honor the history of Montmartre’s vineyards. Today public access is not allowed except for special occasions, such as the "Festival of Gardens", when the grapes are harvested, held each October by the mayor of Paris. The sale of the wine of the Clos Montmartre goes to charity.

The winery is on a small plot of land located between Rue Saint Vincent and Rue Cortot and runs along the Rue des Saules. The best view is from the corner of Rue Saint Vincent and Rue des Saules where you are able to look back up into the terraced field of the vines.

While you are on the Rue des Saules, across from the vineyard, there is an old guinguette, a garden restaurant dating from 1860’s: the Lapin Agile. The restaurant is one of the few remaining meeting places of the Bohemian art world of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Artists who were living in the Montmartre and were relatively unknown at the time, poets such as Verlaine, Max Jacob and Guillaume Apollinaire and painters such as Renoir and Picasso, gathered in this restaurant
The establishment took the name Lapin Agile, or "The Nimble Rabbit", in 1886 when Andre Gill painted a picture of a cheerful-looking rabbit, with a glass of wine in its hand and one foot in a cooking pot it has just escaped.

To discover the Clos Montmartre vineyard and the Lapin Agile, take the #12 Métro to Lamarck-Caulaincourt and follow the signs for the Musée Montmartre, approx 250 m uphill.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Day trips from Paris in the ile de France

Traveling to Paris does not mean that you are limited to the sites that are within the city limits. There are some very easy trips that you can do by bus or train that take a little over an hours travel time.

Louis XIV started Chateau de Versailles in 1668 and in 1682 the Royal Court and Government moved there to become a permanent resident. Court life at Versailles was to develop into the basis on which all European royal courts of the time were to be modeled. The rooms are opulently decorated and culminate in the Hall of Mirrors, a 70 m (233 ft) long hall, looking out over the gardens. The gardens are simply breathtaking. They were designed and built in celebration of the divine authority of Louis XIV and feature over 200 statues amongst the numerous fountains, ornate gardens and two out-palaces, the Grand Trainon and the Petit Trianon.

The town of Chartres, located south west of Paris, was one of the first urban conservation cities in France. As a result there are many 12th to 17th century half-timbered houses buildings and cobble stone roads run throughout the town. The greatest site though, is the Chartres Cathedral. The Cathedral at Chartres has been drawing pilgrims for over eight centuries the view the sacred relic Veil of the Virgin. The current Cathedral was built in only 25 years, when the original cathedral was destroyed by fire in 1194, and has a style and beauty that few others possess. The most notable characteristic of the Cathedral is the stain glass windows. Donated by guilds between 1210 and 1240 there are over 150 windows covering a surface area of over 3000 sq m (26,900 sq ft) and depict biblical stories and daily life of the 13th century. The light and colour the glass creates a sight that is truly inspiring. During both World Wars these windows were dismantled piece by piece for safety purposes and in the 1970’s underwent some restoration work. The result is a Gothic Cathedral of unspeakable glory.

Vimy Ridge is a 100 hectare national park dedicated to the First World War, Located north of Paris it saw constant actions for most of the war. The strategic ground was a ridgeline of14kms (8.5 miles) worth of high ground held by the Germans from the opening of the war until April 1917. It was a vital part of the German defense system along the entire front and its capture was a turning point for the Allied Forces in the First World War.
Much of the site has been left “insitu” with shell holes pock-marking the landscape from the artillery bombardments. On average there were 5 shells per square foot over the 14kms front. Sections of trench have been preserved as well as the numerous underground tunnels, used for bringing up supplies and as protection for the troops, so visitors can picture the enormity of the tasks facing the forces on both sides of the war.

The town of Epernay lies in the Champagne region of France north east of Paris. The production of the champagne blend was begun with Dom Perignon, a Benedictine monk (1638-1715) who wrote the rules for making wine in the region. The Core of his treatise is the blending of grapes before the pressing and the care of the bottles after they have been “corked”. The Ave de Champagne in Epernay is lined with 19th century mansions housing the headquarters and cellars of the prestigious Champagne houses. The most famous of the champagne producing wineries is Moet and Chandon. Established in 1743 they have set the benchmark for the production of champagne. You are able to visit the Champagne houses cellars, dug out of the chalk they stretch over 100km (62 miles) underneath Epernay, but the grapes do not come from a specific patch of ground but from 1600 different wine growers in the region so you cannot see the actual vines of the specific wineries.

Giverny is the small town north west of Paris where the impressionist painter Claude Monet made his home. At his home he created a large and colourful water garden, which became the subject of some of his best known works the Water-lily Pond and the Bridge series, Rose Garden series and of course the Water- Lilies, The gardens fell into some disrepair after his death in 1926, but have been restored to their original glory and his house has been turned into a museum which houses the Nympheas Water Lilies series.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Maintenace of the Eiffel Tower, Paris, France

Every seven years the Eiffel Tower gets re-painted to protect it from rust. Every nut, bolt, beam and crevice is painted by hand. It takes a team of 25 painters requiring 50 kilometers (31 miles) of climbing rope working full time over 18 months to complete the painting of the tower as the painters still work with small, circular brushes, as they did in 1889, instead of modern sprayers or paint-rollers.

When the tower is finished they will have applied an estimated 60 metric tonnes of patented, signature "Eiffel Tower brown," paint.

The complete job will cost an estimated total of 4 million euros (2009).

In order to maintain a uniform appearance to an observer on the ground, three separate colors of paint are used, with the darkest on the top and the lightest at the bottom. On occasion the colour of the paint has changed. The tower has in the past been painted red, orange and yellow, but has maintained its signature brown color, which overseers say best accents the Paris skyline, since 1968.

In the seven years between paintings, they say, about 55 tons of paint erodes.

But the re-painting is not the only maintenance that is preformed on the Eiffel tower. There are 360 spotlights illuminating the tower as well as 20,000 mini-flashbulbs that make the tower “sparkle” every hour on the hour throughout the night.
It takes a specially trained pair of technicians using mountain climbing gear to scale the iron crossbeams. They are fastened by nylon climbing cords to the structure at all times, with their tools strapped to their belts to prevent the tools from accidentally falling or becoming snagged in the tower. It can take upwards of an hour to replace a single bulb.

Currently the one of the original elevators, installed in 1899 ten years after the tower was built by Gustave Eiffel, is undergoing an extensive re-fab. Each piece of equipment on the hydraulic motor is being duplicated. With each original gear, wheel and screw being copied and re-cast in foundries in both France and Germany for a cost of over 28 million euros (2009).

Hours of Operation and Rate 2013

The Eiffel Tower is open every day from 9.30 a.m. to 11.45 p.m. (from 9 a.m. to 12.45 p.m. during the summer months). The last entrance tickets are sold 45 minutes before the monument closes.
The last ascent to the top of the tower departs at 10.30 p.m. (11.00 during the summer), except where the tower is closed early because of large numbers of visitors.
Measures for clearing the floors begin between 30 and 45 minutes before closing.
These times may be changed without prior notice by the management, in particular because of unusual occurrences, unfavourable weather conditions, or a large numbers of visitors.

Elevator entrance tickets
(to second floor)
Adults 8.50 € Youths (12 – 24) 7.00 € Children (4 – 11) +Handicapped 4.00 €
Elevator entrance tickets to top floor
Adults 14.00 € Youths (12 – 24) 12.50 € Children (4 – 11) +Handicapped 9.50 €
Stair entrance tickets(to second floor)
Adults 4.50 € Youths (12 – 24) 3.50 € Children (4 – 11) +Handicapped 3.00 €
Children under 4 are free guests at the Eiffel Tower.
All accompanying persons pay the full adult fee.

A petit histoire of the Eiffel Tower’s checkered past………

In 1925, France had recovered from World War I, and Paris was booming, an excellent environment for a con artist.
One such con, considered one of the greatest cons of all time, was the “sale” of the Eiffel Tower by Victor Lustig.

Victor Lustig was a Czech con artist who had undertaken different scams in various countries but became best known as "the man who sold the Eiffel Tower".

Lustig's master con came to him one spring day when he was reading a newspaper. An article discussed the problems the city was having maintaining the Eiffel Tower. Even keeping it painted was an expensive chore, and the tower was becoming somewhat run down. Lustig saw the possibilities behind this article and developed a remarkable scheme.

Lustig had a forger produce fake government stationery for him and invited six scrap metal dealers to a confidential meeting at the Hotel de Crillon, one of the most prestigious of the old Paris hotels, to discuss a possible business deal. All six attended the meeting. There, Lustig introduced himself as the deputy director-general of the Ministry of Posts and Telegraphs. He explained that they had been selected on the basis of their good reputations as honest businessmen.

Lustig told the group that the upkeep on the Eiffel Tower was so outrageous that the city could not maintain it any longer, and wanted to sell it for scrap. Due to the certain public outcry, he went on, the matter was to be kept secret until all the details were thought out. Lustig said that he had been given the responsibility to select the dealer to carry out the task. The idea was not as implausible in 1925 as it would be today. Ironically when the Eiffel tower was built it was met with much criticism from the public with many calling it an eyesore. Newspapers of the day were filled with angry letters from the arts community of Paris. The Eiffel Tower had been built for the 1889 Paris Exposition, and was not intended to be permanent. It was to have been taken down in 1909 and moved somewhere else. Therefore seen as a temporary eyesore and not fitting with the city's other great monuments like Notre Dame or the Louvre, the Eiffel tower was becoming to be in rather poor condition and thus it was quite believable that the city was interested in selling it as scrap.

Lustig took the men to the tower in a rented limousine for an inspection tour. It gave Lustig the opportunity to gauge which of them was the most enthusiastic and gullible. Lustig asked for bids to be submitted the next day, and reminded them that the matter was a state secret. In reality, Lustig already knew he would accept the bid from one dealer, Andre Poisson. Poisson was insecure, feeling he was not in the inner circles of the Parisian business community, and thought that obtaining the Eiffel Tower deal would put him in the big league.

However, Poisson's wife was suspicious, wondering who this official was, why everything was so secret, and why everything was being done so quickly. To deal with her suspicion, Lustig arranged another meeting, and then "confessed". As a government minister, Lustig said, he did not make enough money to pursue the lifestyle he enjoyed, and needed to find ways to supplement his income. This meant that his dealings needed a certain discretion. Poisson understood immediately. He was dealing with another corrupt government official who wanted a bribe. That put Poisson's mind at rest immediately, since he was familiar with the type and had no problems dealing with such people.

So Lustig not only received the funds for the Eiffel Tower, he also collected a large bribe. Surprisingly when the con was reviled, nothing happened. Poisson was too humiliated to complain to the police. A month later, Lustig returned to Paris, selected six more scrap dealers, and tried to sell the Tower once more. This time, the chosen victim went to the police before Lustig could close the deal, but Lustig managed to evade arrest.

So the tower has gone from being an eyesore and sold as scrap to one of the most iconic symbols of France and is visited upwards of 18,000 people per day.

Hours of Operation and Rates 2013

The Eiffel Tower is open every day from 9.30 a.m. to 11.45 p.m. (from 9 a.m. to 12.45 p.m. during the summer months). The last entrance tickets are sold 45 minutes before the monument closes.
The last ascent to the top of the tower departs at 10.30 p.m. (11.00 during the summer), except where the tower is closed early because of large numbers of visitors.
Measures for clearing the floors begin between 30 and 45 minutes before closing.
These times may be changed without prior notice by the management, in particular because of unusual occurrences, unfavourable weather conditions, or a large numbers of visitors.

Elevator entrance tickets
(to second floor)
Adults 8.50 € Youths (12 – 24) 7.00 € Children (4 – 11) +Handicapped 4.00 €
Elevator entrance tickets to top floor
Adults 14.00 € Youths (12 – 24) 12.50 € Children (4 – 11) +Handicapped 9.50 €
Stair entrance tickets(to second floor)
Adults 4.50 € Youths (12 – 24) 3.50 € Children (4 – 11) +Handicapped 3.00 €
Children under 4 are free guests at the Eiffel Tower.
All accompanying persons pay the full adult fee.

The Eiffel Tower, Paris, France

The Eiffel Tower on the Champ de Mars beside the Seine River in Paris has become a global icon of France. It is one of the most recognizable structures in the world.
Ironically the tower was met with much public criticism when it was built, with many calling it an eyesore. Newspapers of the day, were filled with angry letters from the arts community of Paris. One letter states “And during twenty years [the length of time of the original permit] we shall see, stretching over the entire city, still thrilling with the genius of so many centuries, stretching out like a black blot the odious shadow of the odious column built up of riveted iron plates.” Signers of this letter included Messonier, Gounod, Garnier, Gerome, Bougeureau, and Dumas.
Novelist Guy de Maupassant — who claimed to hate the tower — supposedly ate lunch in the Tower's restaurant every day. When asked why, he answered that it was the one place in Paris where one could not see the structure.

Named after its designer, engineer Gustave Eiffel, the Eiffel Tower is the tallest building in Paris. Including the 24 m (79 ft) antenna, the structure is 324 m (1,063 ft) high, which is equivalent to about 81 levels in a conventional building.

The structure was built between 1887 and 1889 as the entrance arch for the Exposition Universelle, a World's Fair marking the centennial celebration of the French Revolution. Eiffel originally planned to build the tower in Barcelona, for the Universal Exposition of 1888, but those responsible at the Barcelona city hall thought it was a strange and expensive construction, which did not fit into the design of the city. After the refusal of the Consistory of Barcelona, Eiffel submitted his draft to those responsible for the Universal Exhibition in Paris, where he would build his tower a year later, in 1889. The tower was inaugurated on 31 March 1889, and opened on 6 May. In that time three hundred workers joined together 18,038 pieces of iron, using two and a half million rivets.

Eiffel had a permit for the tower to stand for 20 years, meaning it would have had to be dismantled in 1909, when its ownership would revert to the City of Paris. The City had planned to tear it down (part of the original contest rules for designing a tower was that it could be easily demolished) but as the tower proved valuable for communication purposes, it was allowed to remain after the expiration of the permit.

At the time the tower was built many people were shocked by its daring shape. Eiffel was criticized for the design and accused of trying to create something artistic, or inartistic according to the viewer, without regard to engineering. Eiffel and his engineers, understood the importance of wind forces and knew that if they were going to build the tallest structure in the world they had to be certain it would withstand the wind. In an interview reported in the newspaper Le Temps, Eiffel said:
“Now to what phenomenon did I give primary concern in designing the Tower? It was wind resistance. Well then! I hold that the curvature of the monument's four outer edges, which is as mathematical calculation dictated it should be (...) will give a great impression of strength and beauty, for it will reveal to the eyes of the observer the boldness of the design as a whole.”—translated from the French newspaper Le Temps of 14 February 1887

The shape of the tower was therefore determined by mathematical calculation involving wind resistance and as such the tower only sways 6–7 cm (2–3 in) in the wind whereas, depending on the ambient temperature, the top of the tower may shift away from the sun by up to 18 cm (7 in) on hot summer days.

Regardless of how the structure was designed and constructed today the Eiffel Tower is widely considered to be a striking piece of structural art and the iconic symbol of France.

Hours of Operation and Rate 2013

The Eiffel Tower is open every day from 9.30 a.m. to 11.45 p.m. (from 9 a.m. to 12.45 p.m. during the summer months). The last entrance tickets are sold 45 minutes before the monument closes.
The last ascent to the top of the tower departs at 10.30 p.m. (11.00 during the summer), except where the tower is closed early because of large numbers of visitors.
Measures for clearing the floors begin between 30 and 45 minutes before closing.
These times may be changed without prior notice by the management, in particular because of unusual occurrences, unfavourable weather conditions, or a large numbers of visitors.

Elevator entrance tickets
(to second floor)
Adults 8.50 €              Youths (12 – 24) 7.00 €                     Children (4 – 11) +Handicapped 4.00 €
Elevator entrance tickets to top floor
Adults 14.00 €            Youths (12 – 24) 12.50 €                   Children (4 – 11) +Handicapped 9.50 €
Stair entrance tickets(to second floor)
Adults 4.50 €              Youths (12 – 24) 3.50 €                     Children (4 – 11) +Handicapped 3.00 €
Children under 4 are free guests at the Eiffel Tower.
All accompanying persons pay the full adult fee.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Musée du Louvre

The beginnings of this enormous museum were constructed around 1200 as a fortress built by Philippe Auguste to protect Paris from the Anglo-Normans. It was rebuilt in the mid-16th century for use as a royal palace and finally began its career as a public museum in 1793.
As part of Mitterand's grands projets in the 1980s, the Louvre was revamped with the addition of a 21m (67ft) glass pyramid entrance. Initially deemed a failure, the new design has since won over those who regard consistency as inexcusably boring. The history and archaeology of The Louvre can be explored on the lower ground floor of the museum in room 3.

The Louvre’s eight departments cover an extensive array of historical periods and artistic genres, each represented through the museum’s permanent and temporary exhibits. Amongst these exhibits, The Louvre holds Near Eastern and Egyptian antiquities, Greek, Etruscan, and Roman antiquities, Islamic art, sculptures and paintings as well as decorative arts, prints and drawings. There are over 35,000 works from around the globe and throughout history.
There are vast rooms full of paintings, sculptures and antiquities, some of the most famous pieces held by The Louvre include the Jewels of Rameses II, the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo and Winged Victory.

Set over 60,000 square meters, Musee du Louvre can be fairly daunting, but guided tours and audio tours are available in English and French lasting ninety minutes and can be historically themed. Another option is to pick a period or section of the Louvre and pretend that the rest is somewhere across town to be visited at a later time.

Address: The Louvre, Place du Carrousel, 75001 Paris, France

Phone: 01 40 20 57 60

Located in the First Arrondissement on the Right Bank of the River Seine. The main entrance is under the Pyramid.
Metro: Palais-Royal–Musée du Louvre station, lines M1, M7).
Buses 21, 24, 27, 39, 48, 68, 69, 72, 81, 95.

Ticket Information:
Open daily except Tuesdays, 9am-6pm (rooms begin closing at 5:30pm). Open to 10pm Wednesdays and Fridays (rooms begin closing at 9:30pm). Closed 1 January, 1 May and 25 December. Entry costs €10 (inc Musée Eugène Delacroix). From 6pm to 9:45pm, entry costs €6. Entry is free on the 1st Sunday of every month.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Free Self-Guided Walking Tour of the Roman Forum of Ancient Rome

It might seem unbelievable when you’re looking at the Roman Forum that such a small area could be so important, but it was the political, economic and religious center of the ancient city of Rome and thus, by extension, the entire Roman Empire. The Forum stands in a valley between the Capitoline and Palantine Hills. During the early Republican era it became the arena for political rallies, public ceremonies and meetings. The importance of this area declined around the 4th century AD, along with the rest of the Roman Empire; the temples, monuments and buildings, built by a succession of the Roman Elite over 900 years, fell into ruin. Starting in the 18th century the area has been continually and systematically excavated. The Roman Forum, currently, is a large open-air museum.
The main entrance is located half way along the Via dei Forti Imperiali, but for this Self Guided Walk we will use the entrance on Via di San Gregorio, the street just beyond the Arch of Constantine, going south from the Colosseum. The reason for this is that the exit to the park is the beginning of the route that the emperors, consuls and generals followed on their triumphant return to Rome up the Via Sacra. This is the “start” of the Via Sacra and this Self Guided Walk of the Roman Forum.

Upon entering the gates turn right and follow the past alongside the Palatine Hill, until your reach the Forum. On entering the Forum walk straight to the 1) Arch of Titus. Built in 81AD by Domitian to commemorate his brother Titus’ victory during the Jewish War, the Arch is to be viewed walking from the Colosseum, into the forum the way the Triumphal March would have gone. The inscription on the attic states “The Senate and Roman people erected this monument to commemorate Titus.” Representations of “Victory” are in the corners of the arch. Facing the forum, the panel on the right interior depicts the Emperor Titus in his chariot being led by the goddess Roma while Victory crowns his head with a laurel wreath. The left hand relief does not focus on any one aspect but depicts the soldiers marching into Rome carrying the menorah and other sacred object from the Temple of Jerusalem, as well as placards that explain the events of the campaign to the people of Rome.
The arch as a whole is made to make us feel like we were there for Titus’ Triumphal march down the Via Sacra

Behind the arch on the left, facing the Colosseum, is the 2) Temple of Venus and Roma – Built in 135 AD, by the Emperor Hadrian, it was the largest known temple in Ancient Rome. Dedicated to the Goddesses Venus and Roma the chief protectors of the city. The temple was designed in the Greek style, versus the Roman one and is now the exit and the Museum for the Forum

Walking through the arch continuing down the Via Sacra, on the right, is the 3) Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine dating from 308 AD, it was the largest building in the Forum. Created as a public place for civic affairs it was the last great administrative building built in Rome as the next Emperor Constantine shifted his power to “New Rome”, Constantinople. The Basilica still has its roof as well as three of its huge arches and vaults. You are able to see the construction methods of how the ancient Romans were able to build on large scale and quickly.

Continuing down the Via Sacra you will pass by on your right the 4) location of the Temple of Romulus, now part of the Church of Santi Cosma e Damiano.

You will pass a stand of trees, bearing to the left you come to the circular 5) Temple of Vesta. Built in 3rd century BCE the Temple to the Goddess of Fire, the sacred flames were kept burning by the Vestal Virgins. The girls came from noble families and were chosen when they were between the ages of 6 and 10 and would serve for 30 years. They had high status and financial stability but were buried alive if they lost their virginity. The house where they lived is straight ahead, a few paces from the Temple. The 6) House of the Vestal Virgins dates from the 6th century BCE, some walls and the central garden and pool with statues is all that remains.

Re-tracing your steps back straight across the road is 7) Temple of Antonius and Faustina. This is the best surviving building in the Roman Forum. Constructed in 141AD by Emperor Antonius to honor his wife Faustina she was deified and worshiped and upon his death in 161 AD he too was deified. The reason why the temple is so well preserved is that it was turned into the church San Lorenzo Miranda in about 500AD. The columns are all that remains of the original Temple.

Continuing up Via Sacra, take the first left and you will by-pass the 8) Temple of Ceasar. Built in 42 BCE all that is left of the Temple is the location of the altar upon which Caesar’s body was burned at his funeral, you may see flowers left there.

Continuing straight you will see, on your left, the 9) Temple of Castor and Pollux. Built in 495 BCE; the remaining elaborate carved cornice and columns, date from the 6AD when the Temple was re-built. On the right is the 10) Basilica Julia the seat of the civil magistrates court.

At this point you will notice that the forum stands well below the modern day street level. Surprisingly this is because of pollution. The build-up of garbage and everyday waste over the centuries has caused the street level to rise. There is much more ancient Rome underneath modern Rome, but it’s nearly impossible to excavate because of the whole modern city built above them.

Turning right you will walk down the length of the Basilica Julia to the 11) Temple of Saturn. This is the oldest surviving structure in the area, built roughly around 500 BCE it was the location of the state treasury, as well as the Temple to the God of Seeds. All that survives are the 8 columns.

Now we are at the end of the Roman Forum. Turning right you will see a single standing column on the right. This is the 12) Rostra Augusti/ Millarium Areum/Umbilicus Urbis Romae. This column is the location of the building, which was deemed the center of Ancient Rome. The Umbilicus Urbis Romae was the building and the Millarium Areum was a column on the building from which the distances to all points in the Roman Empire were measured.

Continue to the 13) Arch of Septimius Severus. The Arch was dedicated in 203 AD to commemorate Septimus Severus’ victory over the Parthians. The inscription in the attic records that he fought against the Arabs and the Parthians. The reliefs are badly worn but you are still able to get the general effect of the exploits of the Emperor. Representations of Victory carrying trophies on sticks are in the spandrels while small boys, representing the four seasons are just below. The base of the columns are reliefs of captured soldiers. If you look closely on the center archway, at the base of the columns, are a series of score marks and indents at the corners, these were caused by chariot wheels from the Middle Ages when the ground level was much higher.

Passing through the Arch, bearing to the left, is the 14) Curia Julia (Roman Senate) which was built in 44 BCE by Julius Ceasar. You can go up to the door and look at the marble mosaic floor and know that Roman Senators walked on those intricate designs 2,000 years ago and ruled the Empire.

This is the end of your Self Guided Walk of the Roman Forum. It might not look like much now, but these scant few acres hold more history than the entirety of most cities

Forum Visitor Information
Location: Main entrance on the Via dei Fori Imperiali, but for this Self-Guided we are using the one at Via San Gregorio 30.
How to Get There: Colosseo Metro stop, bus lines 60, 75, 85, 87, 95, or 175
Admission Fee: €11 (This is a ticket that covers the Forum, the Colosseum, & Palatine Hill, and it’s good for 48 hours.)
Hours: Daily, 09:00-19:00 (or one hour before dark)

To experience this Free Self Guided Walk of the Roman Forum with a short term apartment or villa rental contact European Home Rentals, specialists in renting weekly short-term vacation rentals apartments, houses, cottages and villas in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, England, Ireland, Scotland and Greece