Saturday, September 22, 2012

Tom Karlo

Today is our city bus tour day. We had a short wait for the buffet breakfast but while waiting we met Tom’s mother, Helen. The buffet itself was good, but not exceptional. The best choice for me was the salmon fume.

On the bus, since we were together for the first time, Tom introduced not so much himself but his mother Helen, his sister Valerie, and his wife Julie. It is clear we are going to have a good time with Tom on this trip. We were also reminded that KPBS is the number 1 Radio Drive station in all formats, beating the next station by over 2 to 1. Tom gave us an assignment, and that was to keep track of the 10 stupidest things that happened on the tour. We will review them at the Farewell Dinner. We met Kaden our bus driver, and our guide for the day, Marie, who has been in the business 25 years.  She was really good, clear, and delivered her explanations with such intensity.

We headed out. We immediately saw the Gallerie Lafayette which Marie said consisted of many small shops. She also told us about the wine shop Bordeauxtheque which was named after a discotheque. We next passed the Paris Opera House which took 15 years to build and in the process uncovered a lake which is under the opera house today. It’s the basis for part of the story of the Phantom of the Opera.  The lake, which is now water in a large tank, is not on the public tour these days, but some day I’m going to try and get down there to see it. The architects was Charles Garnier, and was commissioned by Napoleon III who, interestingly enough, was the son of Napoleon I.

Historic Cafe de la Paix

Rue de la Paix is the most expensive street in Paris partly because of the fashions but mainly because of the jewelry. It’s the most expensive property in in the French Monopoly game. Approaching Place Vendome, we saw many balconies with the sun symbol. They were made in honor of Louis XIV, the “Sun King”.

Ministry of Justice on the left, Ritz Hotel on the right.

We saw the hotel Ritz with its white awnings joined to the Ministry of Justice. To me, it seemed like a real contrast. We came to the Tuileries garden with the Louvre Museum to the left but we turned right and headed for the Place de la Concorde, a huge open space with many statues and notably an Egyptian obelisk which symbolizes a ray of the sun. There were two of these obelisks made to honor Rameses II, but the French said they could not afford to ship the second so it has stayed in Egypt to this day.  It reminded me of Cleopatra’s needle in Central Park, New York, which I loved as a kid, and which has a match in London.

We passed through Revolution Square which was the site of the beheadings during the French Revolution. On the Champs Elysees we we saw the glass and iron top of the Grande Palace which was built for an exposition a number of years ago. We passed through the film industry center on the Champs Élysées where people are preparing for the Cannes film Festival. Fouquettes, with its red canopy is the place where film people go to see and be seen.

We had another photo stop at the Arc de Triomphe which contains the tomb of the unknown soldier and the eternal flame. It also contains sculptures commemorating various battles. Marie pointed out the only battles noted on the ones in which France was victorious. There is no sculpture for Waterloo.

We then headed for the Eiffel Tower which was built 300 m tall but with the TV towers added the height is now 324 m. The Eiffel Tower was built starting in 1889 for an exposition and took only two years, two months, two weeks, and five days to build. We saw the Café Trocadero and the Montparnasse Tower.

We saw the golden dome of Les Invalides which at one point was a military hospital but is now the burial place for Napoleon and his two brothers Jerome and Josef, and other notables.

[Today is not over. More to come!]

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