The Louvre

Winged Victory of Samothrace

Lastly, we visited the amazing Musée du Louvre. The museum is housed in the Palais du Louvre, which has been a used primarily to display France’s art collections since 1682, when Louis XIV chose the Palace of Versailles for his household. The Louvre is home to some of the most famous works of art in the world, including the Mona Lisa, the Venus De Milo, Psyche and Cupid, the Code of Hammurabi, the Winged Victory of Samothrace, La Grand Odalisque, and more. However, equally impressive is the palace, which is itself a work of art. You could spend days there, but I had to content myself with a morning, because that afternoon I returned to Oxford and St. Annes.

The Louvre Museum

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Arc de Triomphe & Tour de France

Arc de Triomphe

No tour of Paris’s famous monuments would be complete without a visit to the Arc de Triomphe. The arch, which can be seen as you walk up Champs-Élysées, was designed in 1806 in commemoration of Napoleon’s Victories abroad. Inspired by the Roman Arch of Titus, it is the second largest triumphal arch in the world.

Our experience of the arch was further enriched by the amazing coincidence that the Tour de France came through Paris while we were there! The cyclists loop around several times towards the end of the race.Inflatable Water Game

Tour de France (from the internet)

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Tomb of Napoleon & Musée de l’Armée

Napoleon Bonaparte's Tomb

The list of places we visited in Paris included the Napoleon I’s tomb (his body was returned to France, posthumously, in 1860 from Saint Helena where he died in exile). The tomb was appropriately impressive both inside and out. This building, also referred to as Les Invalides, is right next to the Musée de l’Armée, which we also got to visit for the admission price. In fact, the buildings stand so closely togehter that you can see the golden dome of Les Invalides over the top of the museum. The army museum is a huge building entirely dedicated to the history of warfare (with particular emphasis on the 18th and 19th Centuries, or so it seemed to me). I admit that we did make our way through Musée de l’Armée rather faster than the Louvre or Musée d’Orsay, but it was still most definitely worth seeing.

Musée de l'Armée

 

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Notre Dame Cathedral

Inside Notre Dame

Possibly my favorite part of the trip was visiting Notre Dame Cathedral. We visited Sunday and got to experience the church during a mass, which set an appropriate mood for our silent exploration. So much of Notre Dame has become iconic almost every inch of the building was instantly recognizable from popular culture.double tube slide for sale

Since Carolyn and I decided not to wait online to go up to the top of the Eiffel Tower, we instead chose to climb up to the bell towers of the Cathedral. The views from the top were spectacular and I loved the grotesques, all of which are different, with their own personalities and artistic merit. This one I think of as the inspiration for the Wizard of Oz flying monkeys (though I don’t know if there’s actually any connection.)

view from the top of Notre Dame

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Luxembourg Gardens & the Pantheon

Luxembourg Gardens, Paris

On our first day in Paris we took the l’Open Tour bus around the city, which allowed us to cover a lot of ground while enabling a closer look at certain places that particularly interested us. A stroll through the Luxembourg Gardens was a must on my tour of Paris and it did not disappoint! The palace that stands there now was commissioned in 1611 by Marie de Medicis and the grounds are the second largest public park in
bouncy castles

Fontaine des Quatre Parties du Monde

Paris. I particularly enjoyed the the Fontaine des Quatre-Parties-du-Monde, which was added in 1867.

After the gardens we walked up the street to the Pantheon, a Classical church-turned-monument

Pantheon in Paris

where Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Émile Zola, and many others. We were able to visit the crypt and see these famous graves along with the amazing architectural elements inside the building.

Inside the Pantheon (from the internet)

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Weekend in Paris! or ‘Parlez-vous anglais?’

The Eiffel Tower at night

This past weekend marked the halfway point in our program. Summer is flying by, but I’m trying to make the very most of it. Thus, for our four day weekend I planned a trip to Paris with fellow Sweet Briar student Carolyn Hicks. As you might have guessed from the title of this post I do not speak any French (and neither does Carolyn) which spiced things up a bit. Before we left, I did make sure to learn some key phrases and since many Parisians have at least a bit of English we got on very well.

As I’m sure you can imagine, Paris was a truly incredible experience. I had never been before, so I stuck to some pretty basic and touristy stuff. Our Paris agenda included the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower, the Luxembourg Gardens, the Pantheon, Notre Dame, Musee d’Orsay, and the Louvre. In fact, we saw so much I  think it deserves more than one post!

Pont Alexandre III

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Ashmolean Museum

Part of the Ashmolean Museum

In addition the the University, Oxford is home to many museums, perhaps the most famous of which is the Ashmolean. Since museums in England are free to the public, my friends and I have been making good use of them as a source of entertainment (and culture/learning of course). Like almost all of Oxford, the Ashmoelan is both old and historic; it began as a modest collection of “curiosities” displayed in a single room in the 1620s. Since then the Ashmoelan collections have grown in both size and prestige. Perhaps my favorite part of the collection was their rather impressive display of Greek antiquities.

A room full of ancient Greek statues at the Ashmolean

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Oxford Castle

Malmaison Hotel, a converted jail

Last Sunday, Julie Kane (Sweet Briar’s amazing Head of Technical Services at the library) who also happens to be in Oxford this summer, met me for a day out! It was wonderful to see her, and she and I explored creepy Oxford Castle together. Oxford Castle is a composite building, the oldest part of which is St George’s Tower, which was built in 1071. The Castle was used as Charles I’s headquarters during the English Civil War, but by that time it was already quite dilapidated and used mainly as the royalist prison. In fact, the Castle’s use as a prison was the more lasting tradition with parts of the building all the way up until 1996. In fact, the guides have had some former inmates join them on the tours! That means that the castle has over 1000 years of history, much of it impressively dark and creepy, which Julie and I greatly enjoyed; we saw the cells and the crypts as well as the modern prison that was converted into a rather high end hotel. On the less macabre side, we also enjoyed the sweeping views of the city from the top of the old Anglo-Saxon Tower.

Julie and I at the top of St. George's Tower

Oxford Castle/Prison

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Bath, England

Roman Baths with Bath Abbey in the background.

Last weekend, Oneill, Carol, Kathleen and I visited the Roman Baths. We toured the Baths, themselves and the museum associated with it, as well as Bath Abbey. The city was first established as a spa with the Latin name, Aquae Sulis by the Romans in AD 43, and they built baths and a temple on the around the thermal energy hot springs on the site. Bath has been a tourist town for hundreds of years and was particularly popular in the 18th and 19th centuries which left its mark on the city via the stunning Georgian architecture of the Royal Crescent. O’neill, Carol, and Kathleen went to the Jane Austen Center (her novel Northanger Abbey is set in Bath) and I walked up to the Circus and the Royal Crescent. Overall it was a lovely day, and we managed to mostly avoid the occasional rainfallDora The Explorer Moonwalk.

The Royal Crescent (photo from the internet).

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Concert at the Sheldonian Theatere

Sheldonian Theatere

Friday evening I went with a group of friends to the Sheldonain Theatere to hear the Oxford Philomusica (Oxford’s professional symphony orchestra). We listened to Baroque music including Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 in F major and Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons – Autumn. The evening was relaxing and the music was beautiful and, as a bonus, we got to enjoy the architectural beauty of the theater as well.

 

Inside the Sheldonian

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