Friday, September 25, 2015

Big Bus Ride.

Crossing Pont Alexandre III, approaching Grand Palais.

T

 ypically, I don't do hop on, hop off tours of any city but a Big Bus ticket was included in our Paris City Pass so of course, we had to make use of it. In hindsight, the experience wasn't as bad as I had somehow feared it would be.  Our plan, which worked out perfectly, was take the Big Bus Red Route to the main Big Bus stop near the Opera House and from there, hop off and switch to the Blue Route which would take us to Montmartre and from wherever we were dropped off, we would walk the rest of the way to Sacré-Cœur Basilica.  In hindsight, I would recommend taking the Big Bus tour before doing any sightseeing as the bus goes around the main landmarks and will give you a good idea of what the city has to offer.  You can then adjust your sightseeing plan accordingly.

Big Bus Paris Map
Big Bus Paris Map. Use the scroll bars to pan to see the entire map.

We hopped on the bus at the stop at Notre-Dame Cathedral.  We literally arrived as the bus was ready to leave.  In fact, the attendant pretty much pushed us on board.

Notre-Dame Cathedral.  A stop for the Big Bus Paris.
Z and I headed up to the upper deck and found a seat near the back of the bus.  Z plugged his earphones so he could listen to the audioguide.  I just opted to take in the scenery.


Fontaine Saint Michel which we had walked on our very first afternoon in Paris.

Palais de l'Institue de France. This building is the official seat of the institute which is comprised of a group of academies including the Academy of Humanities, the Academy of Sciences, the Academy of Fine Arts, the Academy of Painting and Sculpture, the Academy of Music, and the Academy of Architecture.

Along Quai Voltaire.

The Musée d'Orsay.

On the left, the entrance to the Musée d'Orsay.

The Palais Bourbon whichis the seat of the French National Assembly, the lower legislative chamber of the French government. The grand Roman portico was added in 1806-08, by Bernard Poyet, the building's architect.

On the Pont de la Concorde, crossing the Seine and heading towards Place de la Concorde.

Place de la Concorde is one of the major squares in Paris; it is the largest in the city.

There are two fountains in Place de la Concorde.  This one is known as the "Fountain of River Commerce and Navigation".   The title doesn't befit the splendor of this fountain.

One of the most recognizable landmarks in Place de la Concorde is the giant Egyptian obelisk decorated with hieroglyphics exalting the reign of the pharaoh Rameses II. It is one of two the Egyptian government gave to the French in 1829. It was erected in Place de la Concorde in 1836 by orders from, King Louis Philippe.



The obelisk, a yellow granite column, stands 23 meters (75 ft) high, including the base, and weighs over 250 metric tons (280 short tons). Given the technical limitations of the day, transporting it was no easy feat — on the pedestal are drawn diagrams explaining the machinery that was used for the transportation. The obelisk is flanked on both sides by the two fountains

Missing its original cap, believed stolen in the 6th century BC, the government of France added a gold-leafed pyramid cap to the top of the obelisk in 1998.  The last time I saw the obelisk was in 1996 but I can't recall how it was topped back then.  Not sure I like the gold cap.


We made our way around Place de la Concorde.

In the distance, far right, you can see the National Assembly and behind that, Les Invalides.

I had to take a picture of the street lamp in Place de la Concorde.  I've never seen a prettier street lamp!

Grand Palais, a historic site,  museum and entertainment complex.  I have yet to visit this place :-(

A monumental bronze quadriga by Georges Récipon tops each wing of the main facade. This one which is on the Champs-Élysées side depicts Immortality prevailing over Time, the other one on the Seine side depicts Harmony triumphing over Discord.

Our ride took us up the Champs-Élysées to a very familiar sight.


When we started our Big Bus tour, I was thinking it was a waste of time.  By the time we reached the Arc de Triomphe, I had changed my mind.  I realized that sitting on the top the bus gave me a vantage point .  that allowed me to see parts of the historic landmarks that I could either not see at all or not see very well when walking.

Today, a French flag was fluttering under the arch.

You can see all the people up at the very top.


The attic is decorated with 30 shields, each of which is inscribed with the names French Revolutionary and Napoleonic War victories.

The traffic around the Arc is insane.  No wonder you have to take an underground passage to cross over!

Our bus ride took us all the way around the monument so we could see it from all sides.

A richly sculpted frieze depicting soldiers.

This relief is titled, "Les funérailles du général Marceau, 20 September 1796".

"Departure of the Volunteers of 1792" by François Rude.  I only saw a plaster
model of the head of Liberty the other day when we visited the Arc de Triomphe.  Today, I got to see the full statue!!

Above each arch are carvings by James Pradier in 1836.  Titled, "Les Renommées", they depict
allegorical Roman figures.

Two of those people were us when we were here....doing the same thing - taking a photo with the iconic landmark in the background.

Sculpture on the right is "Departure of the Volunteers of 1792" by François Rude and the sculpture on the left is "Le Triomphe de 1810" by Jean-Pierre Cortot. The sculpture features Napoleon, crowned by the goddess of Victory.

A slightly better view of "Le Triomphe de 1810" by Jean-Pierre Cortot.

Our bus ride headed back down the Champs-Élysées.

We passed Petit Palais which is situated right across the street from Grand Palais which is an art museum.  In all my visits to Paris, I've not been here either.  I guess I need to come back! :-)



We then crossed Pont Alexandre III which is marked by the columns topped with the golden statues.   I wish the bus had stopped so we could have a better look at them.  I really do have to remember to come back to this bridge on my next visit to Paris!


As we crossed over the Seine, Les Invalides was directly in front of us.  I've never been here either!

Then it was off across Pont Alma to the Trocadéro, site of the Palais de Chaillot which currently houses a number of museums. Compared to the other historic landmarks in Paris, this palace is pretty ho-hum architecture wise.

The Palais de Chaillot.

The Palais de Chaillot sits atop a hill from which there is a wonderful view of the Eiffel Tower.  Too bad there was some sort of temporary structure obscuring the lower part of the view.

View of the Eiffel Tower from Trocadero.




Les Invalides

Back across Pont Alexandre III.


Pont Alexandre III gives Place de la Concorde a run for the money when it comes to the
award for most beautiful street lamps!

This is the second of the two monumental bronze quadriga by Georges Récipon that top each wing of the main facade of Grand Palais. This one which is on the Seine side depicts Harmony triumphing over Discord while the one on the Champs-Élysées side depicts Immortality prevailing over Time.


It was back to Place de la Concorde.  We drove by Place Vendome but the entire place was under renovation so we couldn't see anything.  Even the entire facade of the Hôtel Ritz, where Princess Diana spent her last night before she was tragically killed in a car accident, was completely hidden from view by construction barriers.  

From Place Vendome, the bus headed up Rue Royal.  Another familiar sight was ahead of us - L'église de la Madeleine or as I simply refer to as many also French do - La Madeleine. La Madeleine is a Roman Catholic church that was designed in its present form as a temple to the glory of Napoleon's army. 



I've only seen the church from outside, I've never been inside.  One day.  I don't know when the practice started but there are always planters of flowers on the south steps.  Even plain ole boring stone church steps getting gussied up with flowers.  Only in Paris.


I knew the first leg of our bus ride would soon come to an end when the Opera House came into view.  You can see the architectural details so much better from the top level of a double decker bus!

Opera House.

At the very top is a bronze sculpture of Apollo, Poetry, and Music, by Aimé Millet (between 1860–1869).

Several gilded bronze busts of famous composers decorate the exterior facade.  This one is of Augustin Eugène Scribe (1791-1861),  French librettist.  There are also one of Beethoven and Mozart.


La Poésie (Poetry), one of the two gilded figural groups by Charles Gumery that crown the
apexes of the principal facade's left and right avant-corps.. The other figure is
L'Harmonie (Harmony). Both figural groups are made of gilt copper electrotype.


Bust of Ferdinand Hérold.

After the Opera House, our Big Bus pulled up at stop #4 which was the connecting stop for the Blue Route.  Z and I hopped off the Red bus and immediately hopped on the Blue Bus which was pretty much ready to leave.  We were on our way to Montmartre!