You cannot escape how important this city is when you are here. Everywhere you look, you find statues and plaques depicting what happened on that site. I am going to show you some things that I was looking for and some things I was not that just popped up. This might be a long one – so settle back.
First, one of the first statues I came across was this one:
That’s right. Thomas Jefferson. I do not think there is any coincidence that both the American Revolution and the French Revolution have ties to this man. His words of “We hold these truths to be self-evident…” continue to inspire people all over the world even to this day. Jefferson was Ambassador to France as well and if you have read his stuff, he loved it here. There is still the truth that we must confront about his owning of slaves, but more on slavery later.
There was also this guy all around the city as well:
That’s right – Charles De Gualle. The leader of the Free French during WWII and after founding the Fifth French Republic, was its first President until 1969. The airport here is named after him and almost everywhere you go to in this town, you can somehow connect it to De Gaulle.
There were a lot of historical museums too, but most of them simply had like weapons and things. Here is a sampling – horse armor:
I don’t think this guy made it:
Louis’ XIV’s armor:
These guys would scare me:
Then there was a museum about WWI and WWII. This is a taxi the French Army used to get to the REAL battle of France at the start of WWI. You see, they thought the German invasion through Belgium was a fake attack, so the French Army went the other way – straight into Germany. When they realized that the real attack was further North, they used things like this taxi to move troops to the front. It was called the Battle of the Marne and set up the stalemate and trench warfare that would last four years:
As a side note, the Gardens here at Versailles were amazing:
The crowds inside were not:
I met a couple from Honk Kong here. The husband was from Holland, the wife from Hong Kong and they had both sets of parents with them. They helped me get on the right train to get out to Versailles and we had a good talk, but I didn’t envy them for trying to keep the parents together in these crowds.
While walking through the Gardens, I know that Jefferson walked these same steps. That made me stop in my tracks. The history comes alive for you almost every where you go in Paris and makes it much more real. It becomes more than a book or a story – but it is more real, emotional, and impactful with every step.
One of the historical people that had a big impact on the history of France was Napoleon. I am not sure if they should give him as much attention as they do (because he did do some horrible things – or at least let them happen). I promise a little more on him a bit further down, but here is his tomb:
Writers Proust and Wilde:
This is a beautiful place to walk around. I bought a map of it for 2 Euro and then gave it to some girls just coming in as I was leaving. That’s what you do in Paris. Here’s what the place looked like:
As you can see, it was a cloudy and gloomy day. A perfect time to be here.
And each one of the pegs on the wall represent a certain number of Jews killed:
This was quite a moving memorial that I liked very much. For those of you who know Paris and don’t know about this one, it is on the southeast point of the same island of Notre Dame. Catch it next time you are there.
Most of you know Alexander Dumas the writer (the General’s son). His books include “The Count of Monte Cristo” and “The Three Musketeers.” Much his stories are based on the real life of his father. I read a book called “The Black Count” by Thomas Reiss during the trip and got to know the General very well. This book won a Pulitzer and I highly highly recommend it.
General Dumas was born to a nobleman in the Caribbean and one of the nobleman’s slaves. Dumas was black in color but because of his character and ambition, fit into the French culture after being taken there by his Father to be educated. Dumas quickly rose in rank and by age 31 was commanding the French Army of the Alps. Before Colin Powell, this was the highest ranking black military leader in the Western World. The stories of his strength (it was when sitting on horseback, he could ride into a barn, grab a beam, squeeze his legs around his horse, and lift it up off the ground) and his bravery (he once held off an entire Italien force single handedly at a bridge in northern Italy) were the source of many of his son’s stories and books.
General Dumas was a pure republican through and through (small R) and believed in Democracy and Freedom without fault. His story is amazing and he was an amazing man – one of my heroes now. Unfortunately there is not much left of his memory in Paris. He did go with Napoleon to Egypt but was kind of left there. It is said Napoleon was jealous of Dumas and wanted to hold him down. Finally, after getting out of Egypt, Dumas was captured and held prisoner for months in Naples. He was never the same after that. He died in 1806.
I left the book “The Black Count” in a hotel in Rome I think. Otherwise I would let you borrow it. But if you looking for a good biography to read – this one will not let you down. However, it would’ve been nice to see a few more statues of General Dumas around Paris. Maybe next time I will find one.