Normandy Cruise – 2009

Paris and Visit to Napoleon’s Magnificent Tomb 

November 7 – 15, 2009

 

 Part I:  Memphis to Paris, Viking Ship Seine

Part 5: Conflans and Tour of Market

Part 2: D-Day Beaches on Normandy

Part 6: Paris and Visit to Napoleon’s Tomb

Part 3: Scenic Coastal Town of Honfleur

Part 7: Flights to Cincinnati and Memphis

Part 4: Rouen and Les Andelys

Link to Travelogue about 2001 France Cruise

 -  Updated Thursday, Jan. 7, 2010

 

About 35 trip photos mainly taken by Betty Nolan are posted at www.ritzpix.com in an album entitled “2009 – France” under member name of Lewis “Buzz” Nolan’s email address. Email lewis_nolan@yahoo.com for instructions on how to access. Note: captions were being added to photos in late 2009.

By LEWIS NOLAN

Nov. 14, 2009, Saturday – In Paris, France

 

We slept in a bit due to the relatively late time of our departure flight for home the next day and also to give me a little more rest following my intestinal distress yesterday from eating too much unpasteurized cheese.

 

Lewis Nolan by Napoleonic War Canons on Display at Invalides Courtyard in Paris

 

 

 I ate only lightly at breakfast, with just a small scoop of the ship’s dining room scrambled eggs on the buffet line, two slices of ham, a banana and a glass of tomato juice. Betty had snagged a snack in the early risers buffet served separately.

 

At lunch, we both ate lightly again, limiting ourselves to green salads. I added to my salad a bit of ham on sliced French bread.

 

Skies were cloudy and rain was forecast. We both wore our thigh-length, cloud-blue Gore-Tex parkas, which identify us as an American couple on foreign soil.

 

We walked down the Seine River waterfront – where Viking actually owns its docking space within sight of the Eiffel Tower - for about a half mile. We admired docked vessels including some live-aboard cargo boats. We happened to ask a very nice French lady – she was fashionably dressed for her morning walk - for directions. She like many Parisians was fluent in English. She was kind enough to walk up several banks of stairs climbing the bluff to the busy street above and point out the short walk to the nearby RER subway station.

 

After some fiddling around that probably exasperated several commuters who seemed to be in a hurry, we finally figured out how to insert enough French coins in a ticket machine to get our 1.6-pound tickets to the RER station near the Invalides. The military museum complex was two stops down the tracks. From the station we walked perhaps a mile down a busy, broad boulevard and around a track to the historic Invalides Army Museum and its magnificent memorial to Napoleon. The self-made Emperor of France became one of the great shakers of the world. He very much remains France’s national hero a century and a half after his death – certainly the equivalent to America’s George Washington, England’s William the Conqueror and Italy’s Julius Caesar.

 

The Tomb of Napoleon was built as “The Royal Chapel” from 1677 to 1706. Its purpose was to showcase the glory of Louis XIV, the French monarchy and its armies. It was called “The Temple of Mars” during the French Revolution. It later became a pantheon under Napoleon’s rule, with the tombs of his generals Turenne and Vauban inside.

 

Later, the body of Napoleon himself was encrypted there. The remains of his two brothers, Joseph and Jerome, Generals Bertrand and Duroc and two illustrious marshals – Foch and Lyautey – are also installed in the shrine to Napoleon’s glory. All are likewise entombed in ornate sarcophagi.

 

In 1989, the golden dome over the stadium-sized Tomb was re-gilded with 12-karat gold; elaborate paintings on the inside of the stone building were restored. In 2009, admission to the celebratory structure was 18 Euros each – about $27 for Betty and me – and well worth it.

 

In 1840, the government of France ordered that Napoleon’s body be returned from the remote island of Saint Helena in the South Pacific Ocean where he died of mysterious circumstances after being sent there. He was deported to the extremely isolated island after his ultimate defeat at Waterloo by British General Wellington.

 

The Eglise du Dome was redesigned and rebuilt by the French government to accommodate Napoleon’s internment there in 1861. His body rests in five successive coffins, made of tin, mahogany, lead, lead again and ebony within a monumental sarcophagus made from red quartzite. The massive burial chamber rests on a green granite base and is the focal point of the structure.

 

Sculptures surrounding Napoleon’s last resting place represent his many military victories. The eight most famous ones are inscribed in the polychrome marble floor.

 

His civil achievements in reshaping the government of France are represented on additional sculptures. All in all, the tomb that celebrates the life’s work of a very great man is a breathtaking monument. It still annually  attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors including French who venerate the memory of Napoleon’s countless contributions to the country and its way of life. Seeing the magnificence of the country’s homage to the man made me reflect on how often British historians to this day write books that denigrate the achievements of their country’s sworn enemy.

 

The “musee de l’Armee” in what is known as the “Hotel National des Invalides also displays dozens of classic canons mounted in neat rows in an outside courtyard. We didn’t visit them on this trip, but various rooms in the complex also display artifacts of other wars fought by France, including World Wars I and II. A separate gallery is devoted to the country’s hero of the 20th Century, Charles De Gaulle.

 

We did stop at the Invalides complex souvenir shop, but found it was mainly devoted to history and picture books in French and other languages.

 

With rain threatening to start falling any minute, we got directions from a policeman to a nearby taxi stand. We rode through a heavy drizzle in a late-model Mercedes Benz driven by a Frenchman with little knowledge of English. But with our smattering of a few words of French and gestures, we finally got him to drive us to the boat dock for eight Euros. That fare was less than what a boat employee had estimated in advance. Maybe the driver was an America lover.

 

Back in the boat, we noticed that the rain had let up at last even though it had interrupted our outing. We repaired to the lounge and had several handfuls of complimentary dry-roasted peanuts while I enjoyed two bottles of low-alcohol Beck’s beer.

 

We struck up a conversation with an affable, large working man from Australia who went by the nickname of “Tiny.” He had surprised his girlfriend at dinner last night with engagement ring and suitable hoopla by ship’s staff. Others in the dining room were offered drinks of his Aussie rum he had bought locally. Betty and I offered him some tips on several great sights in London, where Tiny and his fiancée were heading in a few days. Then I returned to our cabin for a much-needed nap.

 

Betty stayed in the lounge to visit with some of our fellow passengers who were just returning from an all-day bus tour of Paris. We had passed on the provided excursion because of previous trips that included most of the scheduled sights.

 

Later, we hooked up with fellow passengers Paul Grannet and Gloria Solomon as well as Walter and Marie Whimpenny, all of New Jersey. We all were joined at our dinner table by Greg and Patty Zillka of Avon Lake, Ohio, where he is a retired teacher and serves as town mayor.

 

We had a big enough table for our party of eight because Betty had scooted out of the Captain’s Farewell Party - where we enjoyed complimentary champagne - to stake out a large table in the dining room. Dinner was again superb, with Betty having Beef Wellington while I went for fresh broiled halibut served with a fancy scallop.

 

Most of the boat’s passenger contact staff paraded through the lounge to music and the appreciative applause of the passengers. Our table all agreed that the food and crew service on this boat was excellent. It was the best Betty and I had ever experienced, even though our accommodations on the retiring ship on its last cruise before a major refit fell below expectations.

 

Betty and I retired at 9 p.m. to pack and make ready for a 4:45 a.m. wakeup call. That was our time to get moving early enough so we could make the 6:30 a.m. taxi ride to the Paris Airport.

 

(Continue with Part 7, Flights to Memphis  /  Return to Nolan Travels Home Page)