Bound for New Zealand

Stay tuned ...
We will soon be heading to the other hemisphere in order to explore the natural wonders of New Zealand's south island.
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A long Saturday

Louis XIV, the Sun King, Le Roi Soleil on a sunny morning at the Place des Victoires.
In the early morning hours, I walked the streets in our neighbourhood searching (in vain) for an open bakery shop. 
I found, however, this Jesuit church Église Saint-Roch instead, –
– and these old cobbler's and printer's shops built into the church wall.
Every sidewalk gets an effective shower at daybreak.
After an improvised breakfast I travelled to the southeastern suburb Vincennes to visit Château de Vincennes. This is one of the most impressive and largest castles in France, and one that has played an important role in the history of France. It has also been the residence for many Royal families.
The medieval castle was built between 1340-1410.
The 52-m-tall keep is the highest, still standing, stronghold from the Medieval age. From the early 1700s and until 1944 the keep was used as a prison. One of its "lodgers" was Denis Diderot (1713-1784) a famous philosopher, art critic, writer, co-founder of the Éncyclopédie and a frequent guest at Le Procope, the world's oldest café.
In 1749, Diderot was put in solitary confinement at the Château de Vincennes because of this small book of his: Lettre sur les aveugles à l'usage de ceux qui voient [Essay on the blind for the use of those who see]. The subject of the essay is a discussion of the interrelation between Man's reason and the knowledge acquired through perception (the five senses).
Within the perimeter of the castle lies the beautiful church Sainte-Chapelle de Vincennes –
– built between 1380-1480 using a simplified version of the drawings for the Sainte-Chapelle on the île-de-la-Cité.

After an extended siesta we went to visit Musée Quai Branly - Jacques Chirac
The green space with light sticks underneath the museum on stilts.
This fairly new and strangely formed museum, designed by Jean Nouvel, exhibits culture and civilizations from all continents, except Europe and Antarctica.
This mud mask brought back memories about David's experiences amongst the wild mud men in the PNG jungle.
The artwork by the Aboriginals has got some very attractive patterns and colours.
Maxime Noiré, 1900. Le Sahara.
Among the many paintings from France's former colonies this one was my favorite.

By 9 p.m. we left the museum and walked across the Seine to Trocadero. Here we waited a while in the warm spring dusk until somebody switched on the Eiffel Tower's evening light.
Then at 10 p.m. the flickering lights went on for 5 minutes –
– and it looked like this !

A worthy finish of a good day and a long and fine sojourn
in the city of lights.


May 4

Today is a special day for me. Therefore, I wanted to visit the top of the Arc de Triomphe and get a top-down view of life – with a perspective.
The climb to the top was somewhat arduous, but that's how life is.
The reward was magnificent. Paris on a beautiful spring morning with green trees along the avenues and a lot of traffic. Notice the red-white Danish flags? That where the Danish House is on Avenue des Champs-Èlysées.
Directly opposite is the Avenue de la Grande-Armée heading towards the high rise of La Défence.
The entirety of Arc de Triomphe itself is very hard to capture with the camera.
The most important element at ground level is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from WW1 – always with the flame burning and blue-white-red flowers.
Traffic on the roundabout encircling the Arc de Triomphe is intense and noisy.
Parking habits rarely follow the regulations. You just drop your wheels anywhere.
Some motorists drive very exotic automobiles –
– like this old Bugatti Type 37, complete with a dog in the cockpit.
It would be nicer to have more electric cars on the streets. There are quite a few already, but many more are needed, s'il vous plait !
Walking along Boulevard Haussmann towards downtown we encountered a newspaper stand with the latest teaser from the famous magazine Charlie Hebdo. It reads: Soon Peace ! Will North Korea change its clown ? [I'm not quite sure if the clown is meant to be Trump].
We then visited a very plush palais, now Musée Jacquemart-André that has a superb collection of Italian renaissance art.
Paulo Uccello, 1440. Saint George and the Dragon.
Sandro Botticelli, 1505. Fleeing to Egypt. [I really feel sorry for the poor ass]
Just how the artist got away with representing baby Jesus like this (and with a blood sausage in his hand), puzzles me. His mother Mary looks quite modern.
M. Cassatt, 1878. Little Girl in a Blue Armchair.
The main attraction in the museum was, however, an exhibition with works by the American impressionist Mary Cassatt.
After a long walk home to the flat we decided for a small orgie with patisseries, wine and coffee.
The last item on the agenda was "a night at the Opera".
We therefore dressed in our best clothes and entered the opulent and glittering interior of l'Opéra de Paris
– and were duly flabbergasted by the grandeur of its gilded décor.
Not a square centimeter was left un-ornamented.
Once we got seated in the amphi-theatre we were awed by Marc Chagall's masterpiece frescoes on the ceiling.
This huge artwork from 1964 pays homage to 14 major composers of opera and lyrical music, as well as their oeuvres. Chagall was 77 years old when he painted these frescoes. In addition, Chagall apparently got so inspired by the scale of the demanding task and the mark it would leave on the world, that he declined to be paid a salary for the work!
The evening's artistic programme included three fairly brief but very experimental ballets choreographed by Ann-Teresa de Keersmaeker and with music of Bartok, Beethoven and Schönberg.



Today we visited the immense iron asparagus along the Seine:
Gustave Eiffel's 324-m-high tower.
The security perimeter around the tower is being redefined so a lot of construction work on the ground adds to the chaos of tourists converging under the tower. It feels like a badly organized airport.
We headed for the first floor 58 meters above and found the fine restaurant 58-Tour-Eiffel.
Thanks to KIT's sponsorship we ate and enjoyed an absolutely splendid lunch while we also enjoyed this view:
"Our" shadow points towards the Trocadero complex north of the Seine and with La Défence skyscrapers in the far background.
Encouraged by the wine and the haute cuisine we decided to take the stairs all the 342 steps up to the second floor – and the 342 steps down again to the first floor. A welcomed exercise, and we had no intention of reaching the top.
It is, indeed, difficult to get enough of the magnificent views from up here. 
Here is the Quai Branly museum and the Russian orthodox Cathédrale de la Sainte-Trinité, – with the Basilique Sacré-Coeur on Montmartre on the horizon.
Eventually we walked across the Seine and entered the Musée de l'Homme (the left section of the Trocadero complex) to visit an exhibition about our distant ancestors:
The Neanderthalers.
These tough forebears of ours met with modern people many times and interbred to a certain degree.
Therefore, most Europeans nowadays have 1-4% Neanderthal genes in the DNA.
One should be proud to have a little bit of the old folks inside oneself.
Apparently, the Neanderthalers had a useful invention on the drawing board already long, long ago.
The wireless flint pad.
Mamma Néa was in the museum too and wanted to sell us a book about her family.
We sneaked passed her and got a table in the museum café with one of the best views in town.

Et voila! That was that Thursday in Paris.