Stream in the Somme (Picardie, France)

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Shot taken near Bergicourt (Somme, Picardie, France).


 

Somme is a department of France, located in the north of the country and named after the Somme river. It is part of the Picardy region of France.

The north central area of the Somme was the site of a series of battles during World War I. Particularly significant was the 1916 Battle of the Somme. As a result of this and other battles fought in the area the department is home to many military cemeteries and several major monuments commemorating the many soldiers from various countries who died on its battlefields. The famed Battle of Cressy also took place in this department.

Picardy is one of the 27 regions of France. It is located in the northern part of France.


 

History

The historical province of Picardy stretched from north of Noyon to Calais, via the whole of the Somme department and the north of the Aisne department. The province of Artois (Arras area) separated Picardy from French Flanders.

Middle Ages

From the 5th century the area was part of the Frankish Empire, and in the feudal period it encompassed the six countships of Boulogne, Montreuil, Ponthieu, Amiénois, Vermandois, and Laonnois.[2] According to the 843 Treaty of Verdun the region became part of West Francia, the later Kingdom of France.

The name “Picardy” (which may have referred to a Frankish tribe of picards or pike-bearers) was not used until the 12th or 13th century. During this time, the name applied to all lands where the Picard language was spoken, which included all the territories from Paris to the Netherlands.[3] In the Latin Quarter of Paris, people identified a “Picard Nation” (Nation Picarde) of students at Sorbonne University, most of whom actually came from Flanders.[4] During the Hundred Years’ War, Picardy was the centre of the Jacquerie peasant revolt in 1358.

From 1419 onwards, the Picardy counties (Boulogne, Ponthieu, Amiens, Vermandois) were gradually acquired by the Burgundian duke Philip the Good, confirmed by King Charles VII of France at the 1435 Congress of Arras. They were again seized by King Louis XI of France after the Burgundian Wars and the death of Duke Charles the Bold in 1477.

Modern era

In the 16th century, the government (military region) of Picardy was created. This became a new administrative region of France, separate from what was historically defined as Picardy. The new Picardy included the Somme département, the northern half of the Aisne département, and a small fringe in the north of the Oise département.

In the 17th century, an infectious disease similar to English sweat originated from the region and spread across France. It was called Suette des picards or Picardy sweat.[5]

Sugar beet was introduced by Napoleon I during the Napoleonic Wars in the 19th century, in order to counter the United Kingdom, which had seized the sugar islands possessed by France in the Caribbean. The sugar industry has continued to play a prominent role in the economy of the region.[6]

One of the most significant historical events to occur in Picardy was the series of battles fought along the Somme during World War I. From September 1914 to August 1918, four major battles, including the Battle of the Somme, were fought by British, French, and German forces in the fields of Northern Picardy.[7]

Picardy today

This painting by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes recalls the “Golden Age” in the history of the province of Picardy.[8] The Walters Art Museum.

In 2009, the Regional Committee for local government reform proposed to reduce the number of French regions and cancel additions of new regions in the near future. Picardy would have disappeared, and each department would have joined a nearby region. The Oise would have been incorporated in the Île-de-France, the Somme would have been incorporated in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Aisne would have been incorporated in the Champagne-Ardenne. The vast majority of Picards were opposed to this proposal, and it was scrapped in 2010 (see newspaper: “Courrier Picard”).

Today, the modern region of Picardy no longer includes the coastline from Berck to Calais, via Boulogne (Boulonais), that is now in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region, but does incorporate the pays of Beauvaisis, Valois, Noyonnais, Laonnois, Soissonnais, Omois, among other departments of France. The older definition of Picardy survives in the name of the Picard language, which applies not only to the dialects of Picardy proper, but also to the Romance dialects spoken in the Nord-Pas de Calais région, north of Picardy proper, and parts of the Belgian province of Hainaut.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Once upon a time

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Shot taken in a small village of the Somme, Picardie (France)


Somme is a department of France, located in the north of the country and named after the Somme river. It is part of the Picardy region of France.

The north central area of the Somme was the site of a series of battles during World War I. Particularly significant was the 1916 Battle of the Somme. As a result of this and other battles fought in the area the department is home to many military cemeteries and several major monuments commemorating the many soldiers from various countries who died on its battlefields. The famed Battle of Cressy also took place in this department.

Picardy is one of the 27 regions of France. It is located in the northern part of France.


 

History

The historical province of Picardy stretched from north of Noyon to Calais, via the whole of the Somme department and the north of the Aisne department. The province of Artois (Arras area) separated Picardy from French Flanders.

Middle Ages

From the 5th century the area was part of the Frankish Empire, and in the feudal period it encompassed the six countships of Boulogne, Montreuil, Ponthieu, Amiénois, Vermandois, and Laonnois.[2] According to the 843 Treaty of Verdun the region became part of West Francia, the later Kingdom of France.

The name “Picardy” (which may have referred to a Frankish tribe of picards or pike-bearers) was not used until the 12th or 13th century. During this time, the name applied to all lands where the Picard language was spoken, which included all the territories from Paris to the Netherlands.[3] In the Latin Quarter of Paris, people identified a “Picard Nation” (Nation Picarde) of students at Sorbonne University, most of whom actually came from Flanders.[4] During the Hundred Years’ War, Picardy was the centre of the Jacquerie peasant revolt in 1358.

From 1419 onwards, the Picardy counties (Boulogne, Ponthieu, Amiens, Vermandois) were gradually acquired by the Burgundian duke Philip the Good, confirmed by King Charles VII of France at the 1435 Congress of Arras. They were again seized by King Louis XI of France after the Burgundian Wars and the death of Duke Charles the Bold in 1477.

Modern era

In the 16th century, the government (military region) of Picardy was created. This became a new administrative region of France, separate from what was historically defined as Picardy. The new Picardy included the Somme département, the northern half of the Aisne département, and a small fringe in the north of the Oise département.

In the 17th century, an infectious disease similar to English sweat originated from the region and spread across France. It was called Suette des picards or Picardy sweat.[5]

Sugar beet was introduced by Napoleon I during the Napoleonic Wars in the 19th century, in order to counter the United Kingdom, which had seized the sugar islands possessed by France in the Caribbean. The sugar industry has continued to play a prominent role in the economy of the region.[6]

One of the most significant historical events to occur in Picardy was the series of battles fought along the Somme during World War I. From September 1914 to August 1918, four major battles, including the Battle of the Somme, were fought by British, French, and German forces in the fields of Northern Picardy.[7]

Picardy today

This painting by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes recalls the “Golden Age” in the history of the province of Picardy.[8] The Walters Art Museum.

In 2009, the Regional Committee for local government reform proposed to reduce the number of French regions and cancel additions of new regions in the near future. Picardy would have disappeared, and each department would have joined a nearby region. The Oise would have been incorporated in the Île-de-France, the Somme would have been incorporated in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Aisne would have been incorporated in the Champagne-Ardenne. The vast majority of Picards were opposed to this proposal, and it was scrapped in 2010 (see newspaper: “Courrier Picard”).

Today, the modern region of Picardy no longer includes the coastline from Berck to Calais, via Boulogne (Boulonais), that is now in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region, but does incorporate the pays of Beauvaisis, Valois, Noyonnais, Laonnois, Soissonnais, Omois, among other departments of France. The older definition of Picardy survives in the name of the Picard language, which applies not only to the dialects of Picardy proper, but also to the Romance dialects spoken in the Nord-Pas de Calais région, north of Picardy proper, and parts of the Belgian province of Hainaut.

(Source: Wikipedia)

 

 

The Picardian stream

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Shot taken near Bergicourt (Somme, Picardie, France).


 

Somme is a department of France, located in the north of the country and named after the Somme river. It is part of the Picardy region of France.

The north central area of the Somme was the site of a series of battles during World War I. Particularly significant was the 1916 Battle of the Somme. As a result of this and other battles fought in the area the department is home to many military cemeteries and several major monuments commemorating the many soldiers from various countries who died on its battlefields. The famed Battle of Cressy also took place in this department.

Picardy is one of the 27 regions of France. It is located in the northern part of France.


 

History

The historical province of Picardy stretched from north of Noyon to Calais, via the whole of the Somme department and the north of the Aisne department. The province of Artois (Arras area) separated Picardy from French Flanders.

Middle Ages

From the 5th century the area was part of the Frankish Empire, and in the feudal period it encompassed the six countships of Boulogne, Montreuil, Ponthieu, Amiénois, Vermandois, and Laonnois.[2] According to the 843 Treaty of Verdun the region became part of West Francia, the later Kingdom of France.

The name “Picardy” (which may have referred to a Frankish tribe of picards or pike-bearers) was not used until the 12th or 13th century. During this time, the name applied to all lands where the Picard language was spoken, which included all the territories from Paris to the Netherlands.[3] In the Latin Quarter of Paris, people identified a “Picard Nation” (Nation Picarde) of students at Sorbonne University, most of whom actually came from Flanders.[4] During the Hundred Years’ War, Picardy was the centre of the Jacquerie peasant revolt in 1358.

From 1419 onwards, the Picardy counties (Boulogne, Ponthieu, Amiens, Vermandois) were gradually acquired by the Burgundian duke Philip the Good, confirmed by King Charles VII of France at the 1435 Congress of Arras. They were again seized by King Louis XI of France after the Burgundian Wars and the death of Duke Charles the Bold in 1477.

Modern era

In the 16th century, the government (military region) of Picardy was created. This became a new administrative region of France, separate from what was historically defined as Picardy. The new Picardy included the Somme département, the northern half of the Aisne département, and a small fringe in the north of the Oise département.

In the 17th century, an infectious disease similar to English sweat originated from the region and spread across France. It was called Suette des picards or Picardy sweat.[5]

Sugar beet was introduced by Napoleon I during the Napoleonic Wars in the 19th century, in order to counter the United Kingdom, which had seized the sugar islands possessed by France in the Caribbean. The sugar industry has continued to play a prominent role in the economy of the region.[6]

One of the most significant historical events to occur in Picardy was the series of battles fought along the Somme during World War I. From September 1914 to August 1918, four major battles, including the Battle of the Somme, were fought by British, French, and German forces in the fields of Northern Picardy.[7]

Picardy today

This painting by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes recalls the “Golden Age” in the history of the province of Picardy.[8] The Walters Art Museum.

In 2009, the Regional Committee for local government reform proposed to reduce the number of French regions and cancel additions of new regions in the near future. Picardy would have disappeared, and each department would have joined a nearby region. The Oise would have been incorporated in the Île-de-France, the Somme would have been incorporated in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Aisne would have been incorporated in the Champagne-Ardenne. The vast majority of Picards were opposed to this proposal, and it was scrapped in 2010 (see newspaper: “Courrier Picard”).

Today, the modern region of Picardy no longer includes the coastline from Berck to Calais, via Boulogne (Boulonais), that is now in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region, but does incorporate the pays of Beauvaisis, Valois, Noyonnais, Laonnois, Soissonnais, Omois, among other departments of France. The older definition of Picardy survives in the name of the Picard language, which applies not only to the dialects of Picardy proper, but also to the Romance dialects spoken in the Nord-Pas de Calais région, north of Picardy proper, and parts of the Belgian province of Hainaut.

(Source: Wikipedia)

 

 

Paris is sleeping

Paris at night

The Eiffel Tower is an iron lattice tower located on the Champ de Mars in Paris. It was named after the engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower. Erected in 1889 as the entrance arch to the 1889 World’s Fair, it was initially criticised by some of France’s leading artists and intellectuals for its design, but has become both a global cultural icon of France and one of the most recognizable structures in the world. The tower is the tallest structure in Paris and the most-visited paid monument in the world; 6.98 million people ascended it in 2011.[2] The tower received its 250 millionth visitor in 2010.

The tower is 324 metres (1,063 ft) tall, about the same height as an 81-storey building. During its construction, the Eiffel Tower surpassed the Washington Monument to assume the title of the tallest man-made structure in the world, a title it held for 41 years, until the Chrysler Building in New York City was built in 1930. Because of the addition of the aerial atop the Eiffel Tower in 1957, it is now taller than the Chrysler Building by 5.2 metres (17 ft). Not including broadcast aerials, it is the second-tallest structure in France, after the Millau Viaduct.

The tower has three levels for visitors, with restaurants on the first and second. The third level observatory’s upper platform is 276 m (906 ft) above the ground,[2] the highest accessible to the public in the European Union. Tickets can be purchased to ascend by stairs or lift (elevator) to the first and second levels. The climb from ground level to the first level is over 300 steps, as is the walk from the first to the second level. Although there are stairs to the third and highest level, these are usually closed to the public and it is generally only accessible by lift.

The design of the Eiffel Tower was originated by Maurice Koechlin and Émile Nouguier, two senior engineers who worked for the Compagnie des Établissements Eiffel, after discussion about a suitable centrepiece for the proposed 1889 Exposition Universelle, a World’s Fair which would celebrate the centennial of the French Revolution. In May 1884 Koechlin, working at home, made an outline drawing of their scheme, described by him as “a great pylon, consisting of four lattice girders standing apart at the base and coming together at the top, joined together by metal trusses at regular intervals”.[3] Initially Eiffel himself showed little enthusiasm, but he did sanction further study of the project, and the two engineers then asked Stephen Sauvestre, the head of company’s architectural department, to contribute to the design. Sauvestre added decorative arches to the base, a glass pavilion to the first level, and other embellishments. This enhanced version gained Eiffel’s support: he bought the rights to the patent on the design which Koechlin, Nougier, and Sauvestre had taken out, and the design was exhibited at the Exhibition of Decorative Arts in the autumn of 1884 under the company name. On 30 March 1885 Eiffel presented a paper on the project to the Société des Ingiénieurs Civils; after discussing the technical problems and emphasising the practical uses of the tower, he finished his talk by saying that the tower would symbolise

“not only the art of the modern engineer, but also the century of Industry and Science in which we are living, and for which the way was prepared by the great scientific movement of the eighteenth century and by the Revolution of 1789, to which this monument will be built as an expression of France’s gratitude.”

Little happened until the beginning of 1886, when Jules Grévy was re-elected as President and Édouard Lockroy was appointed as Minister for Trade. A budget for the Exposition was passed and on 1 May Lockroy announced an alteration to the terms of the open competition which was being held for a centerpiece for the exposition, which effectively made the choice of Eiffel’s design a foregone conclusion: all entries had to include a study for a 300 m (980 ft) four-sided metal tower on the Champ de Mars.[4] On 12 May a commission was set up to examine Eiffel’s scheme and its rivals and on 12 June it presented its decision, which was that all the proposals except Eiffel’s were either impractical or insufficiently worked out. After some debate about the exact site for the tower, a contract was finally signed on 8 January 1887. This was signed by Eiffel acting in his own capacity rather than as the representative of his company, and granted him 1.5 million francs toward the construction costs: less than a quarter of the estimated 6.5 million francs. Eiffel was to receive all income from the commercial exploitation of the tower during the exhibition and for the following twenty years. Eiffel later established a separate company to manage the tower, putting up half the necessary capital himself.[5]

A second Statue of Liberty in Paris is near the Grenelle Bridge on the Île aux Cygnes, a man-made island in the Seine , 11.50 metres (37 feet 9 inches) high. Inaugurated on July 4, 1889, it looks southwest, downriver along the Seine. Its tablet bears two dates: “IV JUILLET 1776″ (July 4, 1776: the United States Declaration of Independence) like the New York statue, and “XIV JUILLET 1789″ (July 14, 1789: the storming of the Bastille). This statue is shown in the movie National Treasure: Book of Secrets as one of the historic locations.

(Source: Wikipedia)

 

The roofs of Paris – Palais Garnier

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The Palais Garnier is a 1,979-seat opera house, which was built from 1861 to 1875 for the Paris Opera. It was originally called the Salle des Capucines because of its location on the Boulevard des Capucines in the 9th arrondissement of Paris, but soon became known as the Palais Garnier in recognition of its opulence and its architect, Charles Garnier. The theatre is also often referred to as the Opéra Garnier, and historically was known as the Opéra de Paris or simply the Opéra, as it was the primary home of the Paris Opera and its associated Paris Opera Ballet until 1989, when the Opéra Bastille opened at the Place de la Bastille. The Paris Opera now mainly uses the Palais Garnier for ballet.

The Palais Garnier is “probably the most famous opera house in the world, a symbol of Paris like Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre, or the Sacré Coeur Basilica.” This is at least partly due to its use as the setting for Gaston Leroux’s 1910 novel The Phantom of the Opera and, especially, the novel’s subsequent adaptations in films and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s popular 1986 musical. Another contributing factor is that among the buildings constructed in Paris during the Second Empire, besides being the most expensive, it has been described as the only one that is “unquestionably a masterpiece of the first rank.” This opinion is far from unanimous however: the 20th-century French architect Le Corbusier once described it as “a lying art” and contended that the “Garnier movement is a décor of the grave”.

The Palais Garnier also houses the Bibliothèque-Musée de l’Opéra de Paris (Paris Opera Library-Museum). Although the Library-Museum is no longer managed by the Opera and is part of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the museum is included in unaccompanied tours of the Palais Garnier.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Grand Palais, Alexandre III bridge – Paris

Grand Palais, Alexandre III bridge - Paris

The Grand Palais des Champs-Élysées, commonly known as the Grand Palais (English: Great Palace), is a large historic site, exhibition hall and museum complex located at the Champs-Élysées in the 8th arrondissement of Paris, France. Construction of the Grand Palais began in 1897 following the demolition of the Palais de l’Industrie (Palace of Industry) as part of the preparation works for the Universal Exposition of 1900, which also included the creation of the adjacent Petit Palais and Pont Alexandre III.

The structure was built in the style of Beaux-Arts architecture as taught by the École des Beaux-Arts of Paris. The building reflects the movement’s taste for ornate decoration through its stone facades, the formality of its floor planning and the use of techniques that were innovative at the time, such as its glass vault, its structure made of iron and light steel framing, and its use of reinforced concrete.

History

One of its pediments calls it a “monument dedicated by the Republic to the glory of French art”, reflecting its original purpose, that of housing the great artistic events of the city of Paris. The competition to choose the architect was fierce and controversial, and ultimately resulted in the contract being awarded to a group of four architects, Henri Deglane, Albert Louvet, Albert Thomas and Charles Girault, each with a separate area of responsibility.

The main space, almost 240 metres long, was constructed with an iron, steel and glass barrel-vaulted roof, making it the last of the large transparent structures inspired by London’s Crystal Palace that were necessary for large gatherings of people before the age of electricity. The main space was originally connected to the other parts of the palace along an east-west axis by a grand staircase in a style combining Classical and Art Nouveau, but the interior layout has since been somewhat modified.

The exterior of this massive palace combines an imposing Classical stone façade with a riot of Art Nouveau ironwork, and a number of allegorical statue groups including work by sculptors Paul Gasq, Camille Lefèvre, Alfred Boucher, Alphonse-Amédée Cordonnier and Raoul Verlet. A monumental bronze quadriga by Georges Récipon tops each wing of the main façade. The one on the Champs-Élysées side depicts Immortality prevailing over Time, the one on the Seine side Harmony triumphing over Discord.

The grand inauguration took place 1 May 1900, and from the very beginning the palace was the site of different kinds of shows in addition to the intended art exhibitions. These included a riding competition that took place annually from 1901 to 1957, but were mainly dedicated to innovation and modernity: the automobile, aviation, household appliances, and so on. The golden age of the art exhibitions as such lasted for some thirty years, while the last took place in 1947. The first major Henri Matisse retrospective after his death was held at the Grand Palais The structure itself, however, had problems that started even before it was completed, mainly as a result of subsidence caused by a drop in the water table. The builders attempted to compensate for this subsidence, and for a tendency of the ground to shift, by sinking supporting posts down to firmer soil, since construction could not be delayed. These measures were, however, only partially successful.

Further damage occurred once the building was in use. Excessive force applied to structural members during the installation of certain exhibitions such as the Exposition Internationale de la Locomotion Aérienne caused damage, as did acid runoff from the horse shows.

Additional problems due to the construction of the building itself revealed themselves over the course of time. Differential rates of expansion and contraction between cast iron and steel members, for example, allowed for water to enter, leading to corrosion and further weakening. When finally one of the glass ceiling panels fell in 1993, the main space had to be closed for restoration work, and was not fully reopened to the public until 2007.

(Source: Wikipedia)

 

Alexandre III bridge, Paris

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The Pont Alexandre III is a deck arch bridge that spans the Seine in Paris. It connects the Champs-Élysées quarter with those of the Invalides and Eiffel Tower. The bridge is widely regarded as the most ornate, extravagant bridge in the city. It is classified as a French Monument historique.

History

The Beaux-Arts style bridge, with its exuberant Art Nouveau lamps, cherubs, nymphs and winged horses at either end, was built between 1896 and 1900. It is named after Tsar Alexander III, who had concluded the Franco-Russian Alliance in 1892. His son Nicholas II laid the foundation stone in October 1896. The style of the bridge reflects that of the Grand Palais, to which it leads on the right bank.

The construction of the bridge is a marvel of 19th century engineering, consisting of a 6 metres (20 ft) high single span steel arch. The design, by the architects Joseph Cassien-Bernard and Gaston Cousin, was subject to strict controls that prevented the bridge from obscuring the view of the Champs-Élysées or the Invalides.

The bridge was built by the engineers Jean Résal and Amédée d’Alby. It was inaugurated in 1900 for the Exposition Universelle (universal exhibition) World’s Fair, as were the nearby Grand Palais and Petit Palais.

Sculptures

Numerous sculptors provided the sculptures that feature prominently on the bridge.

Four gilt-bronze statues of Fames watch over the bridge, supported on massive 17 metres (56 ft) masonry socles, that provide stabilizing counterweight for the arch, without interfering with monumental views. The socles are crowned by Fames restraining Pegasus.

On the Right Bank, Renommée des Sciences (“Fame of the Sciences”) and the Renommée des Arts (“Fame of the Arts”) both by Emmanuel Frémiet; at their bases, La France Contemporaine (“Contemporary France”) by Gustave Michel and France de Charlemagne (“France of Charlemagne”) by Alfred Lenoir. The lions groups are by Georges Gardet.
On the Left Bank, the Renommée du Commerce (“Fame of Commerce”) by Pierre Granet and the Renommée de l’Industrie (“Fame of Industry”) by Clément Steiner; at their bases France de la Renaissance (“France of the Renaissance”) by Jules Coutan and La France de Louis XIV (“France of Louis XIV”) by Laurent Marqueste. The lions groups are by Jules Dalou.

Nymphs of the Seine relief.
The Nymph reliefs are at the centres of the arches over the Seine, memorials to the Franco-Russian Alliance. The “Nymphs of the Seine” has a relief of the arms of France, and faces the “Nymphs of the Neva” with the arms of Imperial Russia. They are both are executed in hammered copper over forms by Georges Récipon.
In the same political spirit, the Trinity Bridge in Saint Petersburg was conceived as a memorial to the Franco-Russian Alliance. It was designed by Gustave Eiffel, and the first stone laid in August 1897 by French president Félix Faure.

(Source: Wikipedia)

The Queen

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The Eiffel Tower is an iron lattice tower located on the Champ de Mars in Paris. It was named after the engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower. Erected in 1889 as the entrance arch to the 1889 World’s Fair, it was initially criticised by some of France’s leading artists and intellectuals for its design, but has become both a global cultural icon of France and one of the most recognizable structures in the world. The tower is the tallest structure in Paris and the most-visited paid monument in the world; 6.98 million people ascended it in 2011.[2] The tower received its 250 millionth visitor in 2010.

The tower is 324 metres (1,063 ft) tall, about the same height as an 81-storey building. During its construction, the Eiffel Tower surpassed the Washington Monument to assume the title of the tallest man-made structure in the world, a title it held for 41 years, until the Chrysler Building in New York City was built in 1930. Because of the addition of the aerial atop the Eiffel Tower in 1957, it is now taller than the Chrysler Building by 5.2 metres (17 ft). Not including broadcast aerials, it is the second-tallest structure in France, after the Millau Viaduct.

The tower has three levels for visitors, with restaurants on the first and second. The third level observatory’s upper platform is 276 m (906 ft) above the ground,[2] the highest accessible to the public in the European Union. Tickets can be purchased to ascend by stairs or lift (elevator) to the first and second levels. The climb from ground level to the first level is over 300 steps, as is the walk from the first to the second level. Although there are stairs to the third and highest level, these are usually closed to the public and it is generally only accessible by lift.

The design of the Eiffel Tower was originated by Maurice Koechlin and Émile Nouguier, two senior engineers who worked for the Compagnie des Établissements Eiffel, after discussion about a suitable centrepiece for the proposed 1889 Exposition Universelle, a World’s Fair which would celebrate the centennial of the French Revolution. In May 1884 Koechlin, working at home, made an outline drawing of their scheme, described by him as “a great pylon, consisting of four lattice girders standing apart at the base and coming together at the top, joined together by metal trusses at regular intervals”.[3] Initially Eiffel himself showed little enthusiasm, but he did sanction further study of the project, and the two engineers then asked Stephen Sauvestre, the head of company’s architectural department, to contribute to the design. Sauvestre added decorative arches to the base, a glass pavilion to the first level, and other embellishments. This enhanced version gained Eiffel’s support: he bought the rights to the patent on the design which Koechlin, Nougier, and Sauvestre had taken out, and the design was exhibited at the Exhibition of Decorative Arts in the autumn of 1884 under the company name. On 30 March 1885 Eiffel presented a paper on the project to the Société des Ingiénieurs Civils; after discussing the technical problems and emphasising the practical uses of the tower, he finished his talk by saying that the tower would symbolise

“not only the art of the modern engineer, but also the century of Industry and Science in which we are living, and for which the way was prepared by the great scientific movement of the eighteenth century and by the Revolution of 1789, to which this monument will be built as an expression of France’s gratitude.”

Little happened until the beginning of 1886, when Jules Grévy was re-elected as President and Édouard Lockroy was appointed as Minister for Trade. A budget for the Exposition was passed and on 1 May Lockroy announced an alteration to the terms of the open competition which was being held for a centerpiece for the exposition, which effectively made the choice of Eiffel’s design a foregone conclusion: all entries had to include a study for a 300 m (980 ft) four-sided metal tower on the Champ de Mars.[4] On 12 May a commission was set up to examine Eiffel’s scheme and its rivals and on 12 June it presented its decision, which was that all the proposals except Eiffel’s were either impractical or insufficiently worked out. After some debate about the exact site for the tower, a contract was finally signed on 8 January 1887. This was signed by Eiffel acting in his own capacity rather than as the representative of his company, and granted him 1.5 million francs toward the construction costs: less than a quarter of the estimated 6.5 million francs. Eiffel was to receive all income from the commercial exploitation of the tower during the exhibition and for the following twenty years. Eiffel later established a separate company to manage the tower, putting up half the necessary capital himself.[5]

A second Statue of Liberty in Paris is near the Grenelle Bridge on the Île aux Cygnes, a man-made island in the Seine , 11.50 metres (37 feet 9 inches) high. Inaugurated on July 4, 1889, it looks southwest, downriver along the Seine. Its tablet bears two dates: “IV JUILLET 1776″ (July 4, 1776: the United States Declaration of Independence) like the New York statue, and “XIV JUILLET 1789″ (July 14, 1789: the storming of the Bastille). This statue is shown in the movie National Treasure: Book of Secrets as one of the historic locations.

(Source: Wikipedia)

The Pont Neuf, Paris

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The Pont Neuf is the oldest standing bridge across the river Seine in Paris, France. Its name, which was given to distinguish it from older bridges that were lined on both sides with houses, has remained. It stands by the western point of the Île de la Cité, the island in the middle of the river that was the heart of medieval Paris.

The bridge is composed of two separate spans, one of five arches joining the left bank to the Île de la Cité, another of seven joining the island to the right bank. Old engraved maps of Paris show how, when the bridge was built, it just grazed the downstream tip of the Île de la Cité; since then, the natural sandbar building of a mid-river island, aided by stone-faced embankments called quais, has extended the island. Today the tip of the island is the location of the Square du Vert-Galant, a park named in honour of Henry IV, nicknamed the “Green Gallant”.

As early as 1550, Henry II was asked to build a bridge here because the existing Pont Notre-Dame was overloaded, but the expense was too much at the time.

In 1577, the decision to build the bridge was made by King Henry III who laid its first stone in 1578, during which year the foundations of four piers and one abutment were completed.[1] A major design change was made in 1579 requiring the widening of the bridge to allow houses to be built (though they never were); the piers on the long arm were made longer to accommodate this change. These piers were built over the next nine years.[1] After a long delay beginning in 1588, due in part to the Wars of Religion, construction was resumed in 1599.[1] The bridge was completed under the reign of Henry IV, who inaugurated it in 1607.
The Île de la Cité looking upstream from the West, with the Pont Neuf spanning the Seine

The bastions give the Pont Neuf its fortified air
Like most bridges of its time, The Pont Neuf is constructed as a series of many short arch bridges, following Roman precedents. It was the first stone bridge in Paris not to support houses in addition to a thoroughfare, and was also fitted with pavements protecting pedestrians from mud and horses; pedestrians could also step aside into its bastions to let a bulky carriage pass. The decision not to include houses on the bridge can be traced back directly to Henry IV, who decided against their inclusion on the grounds that houses would impede a clear view of the Louvre, which he extended substantially during his reign.[3]

The bridge had heavy traffic from the beginning;[1] it was for a long time the widest bridge in Paris. The bridge has undergone much repair and renovation work, including rebuilding of seven spans in the long arm and lowering of the roadway by changing the arches from an almost semi-circular to elliptical form (1848–1855), lowering of sidewalks and faces of the piers, spandrels, cornices and replacing crumbled corbels as closely to the originals as possible.[1] In 1885, one of the piers of the short arm was undermined, removing the two adjacent arches, requiring them to be rebuilt and all the foundations strengthened.[1]

A major restoration of the Pont Neuf was begun in 1994 and was completed in 2007, the year of its 400th anniversary.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Conciergerie, Paris

Paris at night

The Conciergerie is a former prison in Paris, France, located on the west of the Île de la Cité (literally “Island of the City”). It was part of the former royal palace, the Palais de la Cité, which consisted of the Conciergerie, Palais de Justice and the Sainte-Chapelle. Hundreds of prisoners during the French Revolution were taken from the Conciergerie to be executed on the guillotine at a number of locations around Paris.

The west part of the island was originally the site of a Merovingian palace, and was initially known as the Palais de la Cité. From the 10th to the 14th centuries it was the seat of the medieval Kings of France. Under Louis IX (Saint Louis) (1214–1270) and Philip IV (Philip the Fair) (1284–1314) the Merovingian palace was extended and more heavily fortified.

The Middle Ages

Louis IX added the Sainte-Chapelle and associated galleries, while Philippe IV created the towered facade on the river side and a large hall. Both are excellent examples of French religious and secular architecture of the period. The Sainte-Chapelle, built in the French royal style, was erected to house the crown of thorns brought back from the crusades, and to serve as a royal chapel. The “Grand Salle” (Great Hall) was one of the largest in Europe, and its lower story, known as “La Salle des Gens d’Armes” (The Hall of the Soldiers) survives: 64m long, 27.5m wide and 8.5m high. It was used as a dining-room for the 2,000 staff members who worked in the palace. It was heated with four large fireplaces and lit by many windows, now blocked up. It was also used for royal banquets and judicial proceedings. The neighboring Salle des Gardes was used as an antechamber to the Great Hall immediately above, where the king held his lit de justice (a session of parliament in the king’s presence).

The early Valois kings continued to improve the palace in the 14th century, but Charles V abandoned the palace in 1358, moving across the river to the Louvre. The palace continued to serve an administrative function, and still included the chancellery and French Parliament. In the king’s absence, he appointed a concierge to hold command of the palace. This was a very high ranking office, and could be considered the housekeeper for the king. In 1391 part of the building was converted for use as a prison, and took its name from the ruling office. Its prisoners were a mixture of common criminals and political prisoners. In common with other prisons of the time, the treatment of prisoners was very dependent on their wealth, status and connections. The very wealthy or influential usually got their own cells with a bed, desk and materials for reading and writing. Less well-off prisoners could afford to pay for simply furnished cells called pistoles, which would be equipped with a rough bed and perhaps a table. The poorest, known as the pailleux from the hay (paille) that they slept on, would be confined to dark, damp, vermin-infested cells called oubliettes (literally “forgotten places”). In keeping with the name, they were left to die in conditions that were ideal for the plague and other infectious diseases which were rife in the unsanitary conditions of the prison.

Three towers survive from the medieval Conciergerie: the Caesar Tower, named in honor of the Roman Emperors; the Silver Tower, so named for its (alleged) use as the store for the royal treasure; and the Bonbec (“good beak”) Tower, which obtained its name from the torture chamber that it housed, in which victims were encouraged to “sing”. The building was extended under later kings with France’s first public clock being installed around 1370. The current clock dates from 1535. The concierge or keeper of the royal palace, gave the place its eventual name.

Post-Revolution and present

After the Restoration of the Bourbons in the 19th century, the Conciergerie continued to be used as a prison for high-value prisoners, most notably the future Napoleon III. Marie Antoinette’s cell was converted into a chapel dedicated to her memory. The Conciergerie and Palais de Justice underwent major rebuilding in the mid-19th century, totally altering their external appearance. While the building looks like a brooding medieval fortress, this appearance actually only dates from about 1858. A description from 1825 gives an impression of the structure before the rebuilding:

The buildings which form this prison still retain the hideous character of feudal times. The préau presents a kind of area or court, one hundred and eighty feet in length by sixty in breadth, round which is a gallery leading to the cells, and communicating by stairs to the upper storeys. It was partly constructed in the thirteenth century, and partly rebuilt in modern times, and is ten or twelve feet below the level of the adjacent streets; it serves as a promenade for the prisoners. The dungeons, which have not been used for the last thirty years, are twenty-three feet in length by eleven and a half in height.[2]

The Conciergerie was decommissioned in 1914 and was opened to the public as a national historical monument. It is today a popular tourist attraction, although only a relatively small part of the building is open to public access; much of it is still used for the Paris law courts.

(Source: Wikipedia)

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