Sunday, June 25, 2017

Old Paris Cemeteries Exude Unique Artistry

A dazzling and dizzying variety of grave markers are daily on public display to those who care to visit places of death.
This image is a microcosm of how there are so many different ways people can be honored and remembered with cemetery art.
On the left is a life size figure of someone who must have been very important during his life in Paris or elsewhere in France.
And on the right is an ancient gowned woman in a mourning pose with a lyre behind her.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Notre Dame Cathedral Amazes on Many Levels

The great Cathedrale Notre-Dame du Paris has so many design features on its exterior that many satisfying hours could be spent studying those without ever going inside the sacred church.

Paris Security Protects the Public

This post is a tribute to the Paris security forces we saw on the streets throughout our visit.

Like this woman, I appreciated their presence in this time of terrorism.
There is so much to see in Paris and so many people out and about, especially this time of year as school is out and people and families are taking vacations.


There is clearly a heightened security presence on the streets of Paris, especially at the popular tourist attractions such as Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower.
We also saw armed forces Sunday outside some Paris churches.
In a few minutes, the service at this Latin Quarter church ended, and the ministers and congregants came out.

Three or four soldiers stood watch outside.
Later in the day, outside another Paris church, we would see heavily armed city police on watch.
This soldier was on patrol near Notre Dame.
Yesterday I visited the Museum of the Army at Invalides, which is also home to Napolean Bonaparte's tomb.

Several soldiers were at the entry to the grounds.
The need for such security is obvious, the threat today is 24/7.

In the few days since our arrival in Paris, there was a terror attack near the Champs-Elysees in which the suspect was killed.

And in Brussels, Belgium a terror suspect was killed by security forces after igniting a small bomb in a train hub.

I feel better and safer seeing these dedicated troops and other law enforcement personnel on the alert around Paris.
Thank you for your vigilance!

Paris Pantheon Offers Unexpected Views

The gray-blue dome of Paris' Pantheon is visible out our hotel window.  On Sunday, we set out to get a closer look at this neo-classical structure that was completed in 1790.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Productive in Paris- Day One

Our long-anticipated trip to Paris is finally here, and Alesia and I wasted little time to start visiting some of the City of Light's most popular sites.

We arrived at Charles de Gaulle Airport at around 7 a.m. local time and were at our Marriott hotel by 9.  Our room would not be ready for a few hours. Though tired, we started to explore by foot the nearby area.
It was a pleasant morning to start our exploration of this ancient city.  This is my first time to Paris. Alesia has been here a time or two before on business.

That is the case this trip (Alesia here on business) and I'm glad to be able to tag along. Our two sons will be joining us in the days ahead, so what a special time we will have together in such a beautiful, historic and exotic place!

Soon enough, I was seeing grand statues and distinctive French architecture.
I am struck by the details and human emotions conveyed on the faces of these figures. This work is located near the Catacombs of Paris.
The Catacombs of Paris is a very popular attraction.  Alesia convinced me that this was a great time for us to see it.

It doesn't open until 10 a.m. When we happened by it was around 9:30. The line was already forming and would get longer by the minute.  We took our spot and waited.  And waited.  And waited.

It's not easy to be so patient when just off a very long flight and having been awake nearly 24 hours at this point.

But wait we did (two plus hours) and finally we got in, paid the admission fee, and started descending stairs talking us deep underground.
We would learn the story of how 5-6 million Parisians, dating the Black Plague and Medieval times, would be disinterred from the city's many cemeteries and church graveyards and deposited here.
We would learn a new word for what this depository of human remains is called: an ossuary.

According to Wikipedia, Paris has the world's largest ossuary, in both size (some 3 acres) and number (up to 6 million human remains).
The gritty work began in the late 1700s and would continue for decades, as Paris tried to deal with public health, disease and sanitary issues caused by having so many bodies in the ground of a growing population center.

Markers indicate where particular groups of bones came from and when they were put here, deep in the dark catacombs.
A staff member pointed out this skull to us. A bullet hole in the head made pretty clear how this person died.  Why is another story, one not known, apparently.
The skeletal remains are so neatly arranged and packed in this subterranean setting that it first struck me as being fake.

But the Catacombes De Paris are real. The stark efficiency of this process is a bit unnerving.  But in the 18th and 19th centuries, this was how the public officials of Paris chose to deal with a growing problem and concern.
It's an amazing and unusual thing to see so up close and personal.

Long wait to get in, but worth it, in my view because this is not something one will see in too many places.
Good to get in the catacombs-- even better to safely get out!
After emerging from the catacombs, we walked back to our hotel, hoping our room was ready.

Taking in the atmosphere of Paris was enjoyable.  I really liked this streetscape with the trees lined up as they are, with some apartment buildings in the background.
Paris street scene on a Saturday morning.
Rue D'Alesia- Alesia's unique spelling of her name is identical to a long thoroughfare in this part of Paris.
Our room was ready back at the Marriott Paris Rive Gauche.

So we slept for a bit, unpacked some and were back on the street.

Destination:  Eiffel Tower
The hotel is right across from a train stop (Glaciere). We took the metro to the Eiffel Tower stop.  The fare was 1.90 euro each way.
Train stations and stops are great places for people watching!
My first look at the great Eiffel Tower, which stood as the world's tallest building from its completion in the late 1887 until the Chrysler Building in New York took that lofty spot in 1930.
The Eiffel Tower is made of wrought iron. It is 1,063 feet tall. It was built as the entrance to the 1889 World's Fair.
This photo was taken on a bridge over the Seine River.

The tower is named for Gustave Eiffel, an engineer whose company designed and built it.
Seeing the Eiffel Tower was a great way to start our Paris visit.  It is such an international icon and is also very accessible.

It can be greatly enjoyed without going into it and up to the top of it.

We had enough of long lines on this day.  So just seeing the tower and walking around the area on such a pleasant sunny day was perfect.
The spot on the bridge where the photo of us was taken featured this fierce statue.
The statue reminded me of the image on the old U.S. Mercury dime.  I need to research that some more.
Nice symmetry in this setting under the train tracks.
The Seine River in this vicinity stays busy with tour boats of different shapes and sizes.
Dinner time! Our first dinner in Paris was at Ribe Cafe, located near the Eiffel Tower.

A very kind woman volunteered to take this photo of us, as she watched me setting up a selfie.  Those are her two children in the background.
I enjoyed a dinner of sausage and finely mashed potatoes. Alesia had a grilled cheese sandwich with bacon and other ingredients inside it.
The meal was fairly light, so there was room for dessert, which was this delicious creme brulee.
This was a fine end to a busy first day in Paris!

More posts to come!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Retreating with Robert E. Lee to Appomattox

Appomattox Court House Museum 
I guess for me it had become a "bucket list" item:  to see first hand the route on which Robert E. Lee lead his Army of Northern Virginia in those final desperate days that ended with Lee's surrender to Union Gen. Ulysses Grant at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.

My interest was sparked a few years ago while reading Bill O'Reilly's "Killing Lincoln." In it, O'Reilly and co-author Martin Dugard cover the final days of the Confederacy, as well as, of course, the final days of President Lincoln (and his assassin, John Wilkes Booth).

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Remembering Richmond, Va.

Our Virginia vacation moved from the state's Northern Neck to the state capital.

It is always fun for me to stop by my alma mater, Virginia Commonwealth University, when in Richmond.  I earned my degree in mass communications, with an emphasis on broadcast journalism.

That program is now part of VCU's Robertson School of Media and Culture.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Chesapeake Bay Sunrise, Cloudscapes, Boats and More!

It's always worth getting up extra early when there's a chance to capture a sunrise!

At 5:30 a.m. on May 28 I was outside on my parents' back porch, which overlooks the Chesapeake Bay near Wicomico Church, Va.

I had my camera, actually three cameras: my Canon SX50, iPad and iPhone 7. "Just because" is the only reason for this camera over kill, I suppose.

A cup of hot instant coffee helped clear the early morning cobwebs.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Memorable Memorial Day Birds in Virginia

Alesia and I drove up to Virginia to visit with family during the Memorial Day weekend.  We enjoyed our time with my parents at their beautiful house on the Chesapeake Bay, with Alesia's cousins and family who were also in the area, and with her brother who lives near Richmond.

This will be the first of what may be several themed blog posts. I took more than 600 photographs during the several days we spent in Virginia.  The trip culminated in our two day trek along "Lee's Retreat" from Petersburg to Appomattox.  So look for that post in the days or weeks ahead.

My first post, surprise, will focus on birds I photographed up there. But let's start with this critter encounter: a fox seen in my parents neighborhood, which is near Wicomico Church, Va.

What a surprise to see this beautiful, healthy looking fox in daylight.

Glad I had my camera with me!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Parris Island- The Core of the Corps



The mission of the U.S. Marine Corps Recruit Depot on Parris Island, S.C. can be concisely summed up in three words seen prominently on this sign over a main road and a water tower in a central part of the base.