Monday, July 18, 2011

La France!

The Tomb of Napoleon

            This past weekend saw the completion of a goal I have held since childhood: the visit to the most powerful of cities, Paris, France. Truly, it was one of the best weekends of my life. As I mentioned, the city and its allure has fascinated me from boyhood. First, I became wonderfully obsessed with Joan of Arc. A powerful heroine, the Maid of Orleans saved her country from the oppressive occupation of meddling England and then died at the torturing hands of betrayal - all before turning 18. Joan of Arc's history has filled my head, and I longed to see her idyllic homeland, but another figure fueled my desire to see La France as well.

Joan of Arc
            During my sophomore year of high school, I was tasked to conduct research on a topic that fascinated us. I had seen a book sitting amid a dusty shelf in the classroom. It was about Napoleon, and although I had heard of him and his accomplishments, the particulars of that history were still unknown to me. Thus, I decided to research the man and his government to see if he was the decried authoritarian that many claimed. Rather, I found that he was, at worst, a democratic dictator whose interests were for French success rather than personal empowerment. The research led me to J. David Markham, the President of the International Napoleonic Society. This scholar, one of the most famous in the field, took the time for an interview and then donated a book to our school library and sent a wonderful handwritten note to me. Not surprisingly, I caught his passion for Napoleonic History and have been extensively studying that era for over half a decade now. Additionally, I had taken a year of college French in that hope that I might one day see the city and land of my dreams.

            So, Paris has many layers of significance to me. As such, I was incredibly excited to plan a trip to the city, on Bastille Day no less!
The Eiffel Tower at Night

            For four days, we had bliss. Together, the four of us toured the city and attempted to see everything. I cried at the tomb of Napoleon and museum of the French Army. We stared in wonder at the works of the Louvre. We ate Tiramisu in the rain of a windy night. I gazed around the city's horizon on top of the Arc de Triomphe. We walked under the Eiffel Tower at night. We drank wine and ate cheese on the banks of the Seine River. I attended mass in Notre Dame. We looked through the towering stained glass windows of Sainte Chapelle Cathedral. I practiced my French and could even understand much of the written French placards at museums. We wandered in absolute wonder at the majesty and wasteful opulence of Versailles. We strolled through the gardens of the Tuileries palace.
The Glorious Stained Glass Windows of Sainte Chapelle

            The trip was an absolute joy to me. I am sure that I will return, but the wonder of France was a fitting and wonderful break to my studies in Oslo. In addition, I took many pictures, which can be seen on my Facebook account here:!/media/set/?set=a.10150377103639966.435948.616864965

            Vive L'Empereur!

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