Historic Sites and Buildings, Stately Homes and Castles, Churches and Cathedrals, Gardens, and Living Heritage Sites
Aug/30/2012: Fort Victoria and Victoria Settlement, Smoky Lake, Alberta, Canada:
  • Fort Victoria, AlbertaProvincial Historic Site. Fur trade fort on the north bank of the North Saskatchewan River, established in 1864.
Sep/16/2008: Luxembourg Gardens, Paris, France:
  • Beautiful gardens, sprinkled with artworks, including busts of Chopin and Beethoven, the small Statue of Liberty, and a memorial to Delacroix.
Sep/16/2008: Saint-Sulpice, Paris, France:
  • The church was in the midst of renovations. Contains three commissioned paintings by Delacroix, including St Michael wrestling with the angel. The church is obviously rather ambivalent about the fame brought to it by the Da Vinci Code, as shown by the various notices around the church telling visitors that things in the book weren't true.
Sep/16/2008: Café Procope, Paris, France:
  • Situated on the Rue de l'Ancienne Comédie, this bills itself as the oldest coffee shop in the world, founded in 1686. Very sumptuous and upmarket interior. The place where Voltaire hung out.
Sep/16/2008: Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, France:
  • Obtained a map of the cemetery and walked around looking for specific grave sites. Visited 19 specifically, mostly those of musicians, composers, and authors. These included, of course, Jim Morrison, but also Molière, Lafontaine, Chopin, Bellini, Wallace (the man who built the water fountains in Paris), Maria Callas, Rossini, Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, Lebrun, Georges Cuvier, Seurat, Murat, Delacroix, Géricault, Ingres, Balzac, and Bizet. Finished the tour with Proust which seemed appropriate after such a long ramble! The cemetery was busy with many other people wandering around, but despite that it was quite peaceful, with lots of shade trees.
Sep/15/2008: Sainte Chapelle, Paris, France:
  • This site was truly spectacular. The public areas consisted of two chambers. The lower chamber, where the public entered, was heavily painted, mainly in blue with gold fleurs de lys and some stained glass. This was the place where the underlings and servants worshipped.
  • The upper chamber was stunning. A huge soaring room surrounded by windows, all filled with stained glass, all in sumptuous colours, mainly deep blues and reds. Many fleurs de lys in evidence in the window panes; the king leaving no doubt as to who was in charge. The windows told versions of biblical stories and also commemorated relics (including the supposed crown of thorns) that the shrine was built to house. This chamber was the place where the king and his family worshipped. But it was also a demonstration and a reminder of royal wealth and privilege. It was amazing that the glass had survived so many centuries (and wars) unscathed. One end of the chamber featured a huge rose window, which depicted the apocalypse. The chamber was not large but the ceiling was disproportionately high, giving the chamber a soaring elongate feel. The church is now used for concerts - it must be a terrific place to hear music.
Sep/14/2008: Arèes de Lutèce, Paris, France:
  • A Roman amphitheatre. This was in fine shape and was being used by children to play - many games of soccer were in progress despite all the signs saying "Ball Games Forbidden"!
Sep/14/2008: Jardin des Plantes, Paris, France:
  • Statue of LamarkImmediately inside the front entrance is the statue of Lamark, looking suitably thoughtful and imperious. Outside the Galerie de paléontologie et d'anatomie comparée was a Wollemi Pine (Wollemia nobilis), and nearby were some palaeontological statues, of a Stegosaurus, a Mammoth, and a primitive mammal. At the far end of the gardens, in front of the Grande Galerie de l'évolution was a statue of Buffon. The gardens were magnificent, with many plants, especially dahlias, in full bloom. Plants are usually labelled, which is helpful. Found the red flower that is also planted in the Tuileries Gardens, the Castor Oil plant (Ricinus communis), a member of the Euphorbiaceae, and many types of Morning Glory (Ipomea).
  • Along the trees on the south side of the garden, were signs providing a "walk through time", showing the age of the earth in millions of years. One sign for each 10 million years, an explanatory sign said that every meter represented 6 million years. The marker signs had information about significant events in the life of the earth. This was a neat idea, but I am not sure how effective this was; most people seemed to be walking right past the signs and ignoring them.
Sep/14/2008: Eiffel Tower, Paris, France:
  • One of the things that every tourist must do once! Long line-ups (for bag-check, for security check, to buy tickets, for lift). First lift goes as far as second floor, then transfer to smaller lift for ride to the top. Very misty morning - could barely see the towers of Notre Dame through the mist. Could feel the Tower trembling in the chill morning breeze.
  • On the second stage, there was an exhibit on lighthouses - large photos of lighthouses around France and Ireland - the link being that the Eiffel Tower is also a lighthouse. Walked down the 340 stairs (we counted) to level one, and then another 340 steps to the ground.
Sep/13/2008: Sewer Tour, Paris, France:
  • Probably one of the most unusual tours to take in Paris. A self-guided tour, which turned out to be surprisingly interesting. Lots of signs describing how the water supply and sewer system were developed and the various machines used to keep the tunnels and conduits free from grit and debris. It was smelly in places but not as bad as I'd expected!
Sep/13/2008: Auteuil district, Paris, France:
  • Walking tour of Art Nouveau buildings including:
    • Castell Béranger, a flamboyantly ornate apartment building designed by Hector Guimard in 1894. The cast-iron sea-horses climbing the corners of the building were especially striking.
Sep/11/2008: Basilica of Mary Magdalena, Vézelay, France:
  • Vezelay interiorIn a spectacular setting on top of a steep hill, this Romanesque basilica was most impressive. The interior, with its curved arches and warm-coloured stone, was peaceful, despite the crowds. The tympanum in the narthex was very impressive with detailed and ornate carvings representing Christ in the centre, surrounded by the Apostles, with St John the Baptist beneath, and then surrounded by an arch of small figures representing all the people of the world, some rather imaginary, such as men with dog's heads. Inside the nave of the church, the carved capitals (of the support pillars) are varied and consist of 99 small figures in total, and only 8 are duplicates. These tell biblical stories of takes of a moral and improving nature, including Lazarus and Dives, and the conversion of St Paul, and there is a transition between stories related to the Old (Moses) and New (Paul) Testaments. The crypt is supposed to house the relics of Mary Magdalena in a glass reliquary with an ornate metallic surround. A small shrine at the side of the crypt is tended by nuns of the Order of Jerusalem. Behind the church, the hill drops away steeply, and the views across the surrounding hilly countryside are magnificent. Vézelay is an important site in history. It was a starting point for pilgrims to Santiago de Campostela in Spain. It also plays a role in English history, being the place where Bernard of Clairvaux preached the Second Crusade in 1146. Louis VII of France, accompanied by Eleanor of Aquitaine, went on the Crusade. The conflict between them led to divorce (very unusual at the time), and she went on to marry Henry II of England, the first Plantagenet king.
Sep/11/2008: Caveau Laroche, Chablis, France:
  • Wine press in ChablisThe caveau is the wine cellar of the Domaine Laroche. Wine-making here was started by monks in the 11th century who founded a monastery to protect (temporarily) the relics of St Martin of Tours. The cellar was originally part of the crypt of the monastery's church and we were shown an alcove where we were told the relics had been hidden. The caveau can hold 200 barrels of wine. We walked across the courtyard to a large barn-like room housing a huge wine-press. We were told it is the oldest operational press still in existence and is designated a national treasure. Every year, the vineyard staff have permission to operate the press for one day and they have a celebration of the harvest. The pressed grape juice is drunk in celebration, not used for wine. The press has two massive oak beams which can exert a pressure of 10 tons on the grapes below. The press is made entirely of oak. I was impressed by the size of the beams because there are no trees of that size that we saw growing in that area now.
Sep/10/2008: Flame of Liberty, Pont d'Alma, Paris, France:
  • Flame of LibertyOn the north bank of the Seine, by the Bateau Mouche dock. A large golden sculpture that looks like the flame of a torch, a replica of the torch on the Statue of Liberty. It looks like nothing so much as a big misshapen clove of garlic! It is close to the tunnel where Princess Diana died in 1997 and has become an informal shrine to her. There were many pictures and messages taped to the sculpture and flower offerings laid around it. Appears to be almost a place of pilgrimage ten years after her death.
Sep/10/2008: American Cathedral, Avenue George V, Paris, France:
  • Another 19th century church built in Gothic revival style. High Anglican. Had all the US States flags hanging banner-style along the nave. A peaceful-looking garden - the Dean's Garden - by the entrance.
Sep/10/2008: Arc du Triomphe, Paris, France:
  • Climbed all 284 steps to the top of the Arc which gave a spectacular view of Paris on a clear hot and sunny day.
Sep/10/2008: Église Saint-Jean-de-Montmartre, Rue des Abbesses, Paris, France:
  • Church entranceBuilt in the late 19th century in Art Nouveau style. Mainly brick frontage but decorated with mosaics and small blue medallions, light blue almost turquoise in colour. The blue mosaics and designs are reminiscent of Middle Eastern decorative traditions. Very unusual and eye-catching. Stylistically, the church stands out as very different to the other buildings in Montmartre, having an almost industrial appearance. It is squeezed in between other buildings and, at first glance, it is easy to miss that it is a church.
Sep/10/2008: Saint-Pierre de Montmartre, Paris, France:
  • On the top of the hill of Montmartre, immediately behind the Sacré Coeur Basilica. Apparently one of the oldest churches in Paris
Sep/10/2008: Basilica of Sacré Coeur, Paris, France:
  • On the top of the hill of Montmartre. Very ornate and busy, gearing up for a visit by the Pope. Church was crowded and the side chapels were filled with people lighting candles. Close by the church was the set of stairs photographed most famously by Brassai.
Sep/09/2008: Opera Garnier, Paris, France:
  • Palais Garnier site guide coverThe interior was incredibly ornate and richly decorated, very roccoco and over the top. Lots of different kinds of marble and crushed red velvet. The auditorium is surprisingly small and intimate, with far fewer seats than I had expected. Went into one of the boxes in the dress circle. Again, lots of crushed red velvet, giving it a fevered but opulent appearance. Looks like a luxurious if somewhat cramped place to hear fine music. An informative and well-illustrated site guide was available.
Jun/15/2007: Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France:
  • Examining the outside of the cathedral. Walked around the building taking pictures of flying buttresses and gargoyles along the edge of the roof, which were spouting water after a heavy rainstorm. Heard the clock strike 6 pm and the bells ring, summoning people to service. Inside the cathedral, the evening light shone through the great rose window. The service was in progress, with the choir and organ music.
Aug/24/2006: Victoria Settlement, near Smoky Lake, Alberta:
  • Fort Victoria, AlbertaProvincial Historic Site. Took guided tour of buildings by costumed interpreter. A wonderful location, on the north side (south facing) of the North Saskatchewan River valley, with a broad plain and a rising slope to the north. Still a relatively undeveloped area, mainly farmland surrounding the site, and bush along the valley close to the river, giving the location a very evocative feel.
Oct/15/1995: Alberta Railway Museum, Edmonton, Alberta
  • Mainly features rolling stock, including railway carriages, various kinds of transport cars, and steam engines. Outdoor displays. Open day on which the Museum fired up two of its working steam locomotives. Only about half a mile of track, which was barely enough to get the trains rolling.
Oct/07/1995: Much Wenlock Priory, Shropshire, England:
  • Walked around the ruins, with an audio-guide.
Sep/28/1995: Powys Castle, Shropshire, England:
  • Walked around the grounds. Autumn flowers in full bloom and shrubs' leaves in full fall colours.
Jun/25/1995: Fort George and Buckingham House, near Elk Point, Alberta:
  • Provincial Historic Site - grounds and interpretive centre.
Aug/11/1994: Heritage Park, Calgary, Alberta:
  • Living history - buildings, homes, shops and businesses.
Sep/15/1993: Benthall Hall, Broseley, Shropshire, England:
  • Toured around the inside of the house, a National Trust property.
Sep/08/1993: Attingham House, Shropshire, England:
  • Toured around the inside of the house, a National Trust property.
This presentation has been compiled and is © 1998-2012 by
Alwynne B. Beaudoin (bluebulrush@gmail.com)
Last updated November 24, 2012
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