Showing posts with label Catacombs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Catacombs. Show all posts

16 February 2014

Circum-navigated the globe, now back in the saddle

Back in the Saddle !

I have just returned from traveling right around the globe with my family.

We had a great time: From the tropical beaches to the (almost) frozen north. Our travels took us from the beaches of Thailand to London, Paris, Dublin, to California, Tahiti and home. Tried to soak up as much history as we went, but not always easy if you have 3 female folk who are not particularly enarmoured with military museums and gaming shops.

Had to suffice with the Tower of London, Dark Sphere (see my Fantasy blog and previous post  for details on this), and Hamleys Toy Shop. Struck there again how disadvantaged we antipodeans are by living on a pimple on the backside of the world. Prices are astronomical here, even the humble Airfix kit is overpriced when compared to European and US prices. (Have already had my GW rant on my Fantasy blog)

Did find this ornate gem at the Tower of London:


A cannon right out of the Warhammer world. Apparently commissioned for the Knights of Malta in the defense of the Island of Malta.

Had to pass on the Imperial War Museum (Apparently they are renovating for the Centenary of WW 1 anyhow)  and Bovington (Aaaarrrgh!)

The whole of Europe is so steeped in history that you don't have to look far anyhow. You literally trip over history as you walk the Capitals of Europe ! The obligatory bus-top tour gave the kids a good idea of the lay of the city, and also a brief run-down on British History. Equally fascinating was a visit to Kilkenny Castle in Ireland, where the Butler Family held court for centuries, in all accounts a pretty Anglophile family them !

Night at the real Museum

The trade-off with the youngest of my female offspring was to go to the Natural History Museaum, which is a treat for any Paleontolophile anyhow. The animatronic T. Rex was the obvious favourite here.

Paris saw a lightning visit to the Catacombs for Luc and I. A macabre but very tangible connection to history. We were physically able to touch and see what remains of participants in the historical events of old Paris: Strange to see the actual bones of victims of the guillotine and the uprising that inspired Victor Hugo to pen Les Misrables:

The principal events of Les Misérables took place in 1832. The July Revolution two years earlier had put the Orléanist monarchy on the throne, under the popular “Citizen King” Louis-Philippe.  Popular for awhile, that was.  Despite his unpretentious manners and a character that Les Mis author Victor Hugo commended as “good” and “admirable,” the income gap widened and the conditions of the working class deteriorated.  By the spring of 1832, a deadly cholera epidemic had exacerbated a severe economic crisis in France.

In the early morning hours of June 5, crowds of workers, students, and others gathered in the streets of Paris.  The immediate trigger was the death of General Jean Maximilien Lamarque, who had been a friend to the poor and downtrodden.  The crowd had hoped to accompany Lamarque’s hearse before it took the general home to his native district in the southwest of France.  Those mourning and those with a political agenda merged into a mob that numbered in the tens of thousands – some witnesses claimed it eventually grew to 100,000.

The 30-year-old Victor Hugo was nearby, in the Tuileries Gardens, writing a play.  Then he heard gunfire from the direction of Les Halles.  Instead of going home to safety, he followed the sounds of gunfire through the deserted streets. He was unaware that the mob had taken half of Paris, and the barricades were everywhere in Les Halles.  Wikipedia reports that Hugo headed north up the Rue Montmartre, then turned right onto the Passage du Saumon, finally turning before the Rue du Bout du Monde (if this street still exists, it has a different name now): “Halfway down the alley, the grilles at either end were slammed shut. Hugo was surrounded by barricades and flung himself against a wall, as all the shops and stores had been closed for some time. He found shelter between some columns. For a quarter of an hour, bullets flew both ways.”  Three decades later, he would write about this unforgettable experience in Les Misérables.

The catacombs hold some of the bones of those unfortunate enough not to live to tell the tale. And many others...