I lived in Europe in 1970 for a few months. During that time, I visited Paris for an extended stay, and as a student, loved it. I was so looking forward to going back an visiting, with an adult perspective, and maybe seeing some of my old haunts along the Seine River.
Since then, I have also discovered that one of my ancestors was born in Paris as well – Jacques “dit Beaumont” de Bonnevie. You’ll meet him in a future article. I was connected to Paris ancestrally and couldn’t wait to revisit with that in mind. I had been looking forward to this port since we first booked the trip.
The day finally arrived and began before sunrise in the quaint Port of LeHavre, above, the closest port location to Paris for big ships like the Carnival Legend.
Hmmm, not really sure what this is. A warning to invaders maybe?
Some areas were extremely foggy, creating some very interesting early-morning effects. Perhaps something like this is what my ancestors saw in the French countryside. Difficult to photograph from a moving bus though.
The ride to Paris was a long one, several hours, so I decided I was going to enjoy the beautiful French countryside. Except, it wasn’t remarkable. It looked much like the Midwest in the US – just kind of nondescript. We didn’t pass through any villages because we were of course on the major road that bypassed villages. Eventually, I fell asleep, looking forward to arriving in Paris. And in fact, when I woke up, we were greeted with a view of the iconic Eiffel Tower. How’s that for a wake-up call!
Our first stop was not at the Eiffel Tower, per se, but at a location where you could get a photo of the tower. The tower is so large that you can’t take a photo of the tower at the tower. Unfortunately, we only had 15 minutes and no opportunity to visit the tower itself. Disappointing.
From there we went on a driving tour of Paris.
Having visited Paris for some time in 1970, many of the places looked familiar, but a lot has been updated as well.
One thing unique to Paris is the marquis type of structures on the streets. Movies, plays and sometimes just local or neighborhood events or signs are posted here. In 1970 – lost dog, need a guitar player on Friday night for a pickup band and beer on sale from 4-7 in the local beer gardens. On a good day, in 1970, the band and the beers on sale were in the same place and some handsome young man was flirting….but I digress. Ah, I loved Paris in 1970. For that matter, I loved all of Europe in 1970, but that’s a story for another time. And, in case you’re wondering, I was STUDYING there. Yes, studying. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
Here’s a more contemporary marquis.
Photos were difficult due to the glass and glare in the bus windows. The good news is that we did have sun, not rain, but the down side is that it created glare.
The Arc de Triomphe celebrates French victories and honors those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars, with the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces. Beneath its vault lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.
The Fountain of River Commerce in La Place de la Concorde, a plaza rich with French history, and the Obelisk of Luxor in the distance.
The Louvre, with its contemporary pyramid, which wasn’t built yet in 1970. I understand that the entry line for the palace is hours long. It is a fantastic art museum and I would highly recommend a visit if at all possible.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to stop at any of these locations.
And the traffic, did I mention the traffic??
The Eiffel Tower is ever-present in Paris. The city’s tallest structure, you can orient yourself if you can find this structure on the skyline. We did that a lot in 1970. Paris’s streets are not laid out in a grid, and it’s easy to get lost.
For example, here is a satellite view of the streets radiating from the Arc de Triomphe.
Erected in 1889 as the entrance arch to the 1889 World’s Fair, the Eiffel Tower was initially criticized by some of France’s leading artists and intellectuals for its design, but has become both a global cultural icon of France and one of the most recognizable structures in the world.
We were told the story of one Parisian man who disliked the tower, felt that it was not warm and charming but cold and ugly. He went and had coffee underneath the tower every day. When asked why he did that, since he hated the tower, he replied that when sitting under it, you can’t see it, but everyplace else in Paris, it’s on the horizon someplace.
One of the things I didn’t get to do as a student in 1970 was to take one of the Seine River boat rides. It was just out of my financial reach at that time. But this tour included a river cruise and lunch. You can see one of the cruise boats plying the waters of the Seine below. This photo is just so quintessentially Paris – the river which is the heartbeat of Paris, bridges and church spires in the distance.
We boarded the boat and we were fortunate enough to actually get a seat for the lunch where we had access to a window. Unfortunately, this boat wasn’t one that you could go upstairs where there was no glass between you and the sights. I couldn’t escape glare on the glass.
When I was in Paris before, I loved Notre Dame – just loved it. May of the students hung out on the rather bohemian left bank, La Rive Gauche, with its artists, cafes and booksellers, just across from Notre Dame. The cathedral was open all the time and welcoming of visitors, Catholic and non-Catholic alike. I suspect it still is, but seeing it again was like seeing an old friend. I so longed to walk over the bridge to the cathedral and visit again. But time ashore wasn’t included in the day’s itinerary.
Above, Notre Dame from the river just below the cathedral. It’s quite in imposing structure and considering that it was built beginning in 1163, amazing indeed.
One thing of note is that the French were extremely, exceedingly rude. We had been warned about this, but I hadn’t experienced it in 1970 and I figured it was probably exaggerated. It wasn’t exaggerated and it was very pronounced. I was very surprised. This is not something we have experienced on our side trips before and I suspect Carnival strives to avoid anything like that. But on the boat, the waiters couldn’t be described as anything else.
So basically, we ignored them and had fun anyway. We were fortunate enough to have a lunch partner couple who were also camera bugs and he took a good photo of Jim and I. Jim enjoyed the wine. I didn’t so he sacrificed and drank mine for me!
Paris is a city known for her bridges. It’s a city bisected by the Seine river so bridges every few blocks are a must.
Each bridge is unique and beautiful, and a good photo catches a nesting effect of 3 or 4 on down the river.
Art is everyplace, even beneath contemporary bridges. Paris is an incredibly interesting eclectic mixture of old and new with exciting morsels hidden in the most unlikely places – all yours for being observant.
This bridge is quite interesting. Look at the railings.
Some of the bridges in Paris have mesh type railings and they have become iconic locations for lovers to visit and then add a padlock as a type of “forever” symbol of their love. You can see the couples above. The lock is often inscribed with their initials and the key thrown away, symbolizing unbreakable love. The river bottom is probably lined with lock keys.
Here’s a closeup of the Pont des Arts bridge, above, compliments of Wiki.
Unfortunately, the combined weight of these locks on a structure that wasn’t intended to support it has caused the collapse of part of the structure in some places.
The Seine in Paris has a very social element. There are walkways and stairs all along, and they are regularly used. In 1970, we sat, drank coffee and tea, talked and read by the river. We strolled and chatted, visiting merchant shops and stalls. Sometimes we walked alone and people-watched. Paris is and was extremely cosmopolitan. It looks like people are doing much the same things today.
You just never know who you’re going to see riding by…maybe an ancestor…
The perspective from the river is certainly different than anyplace on land. This is much more authentic to what our ancestors would have seen – minus the cars and hubbub that the walls block.
As we return down the Seine, we see Notre Dame in the distance again.
In the center of Paris is an island, Île de la Cité, the heart and origin of Paris. You can see the islands on the right and the location of the Eiffel Tower, at left, as well.
A this point, the river splits and flows on either side of the island. Of course, Notre Dame is on the left.
I have no idea about the orange building…but it was very interesting and creative, and you can’t miss it. No question about directions either – “go to the orange building and turn left.”
Coming full circle now.
Back to the Eiffel tower.
France is culturally different than any of the other countries in Europe. It feels different. The people are different. One aspect that stands out, other than their obvious dislike of tourists, are their laws about DNA testing.
Any paternity testing without a court order is banned, due to the official desire to “preserve the peace” within French families, with the French government citing psychologists who state that fatherhood is determined by society rather than biology. French men apparently don’t agree and often circumvent these laws by sending samples of DNA to foreign laboratories, but risk prosecution if caught. The maximum penalty for carrying out secret paternity testing is a whopping one year in prison and a €15,000 fine.
This argument for preserving the peace is in direct conflict with why people undertake paternity testing elsewhere. And not to be undone by the law, there has been a boom in DNA testing on kits from France in adjacent countries.
Of course, DNA testing for genealogy (as does medical testing) certainly has the potential to indicate, quickly and easily, if a father and son are not related, both utilizing the Y tests and the autosomal tests – even if that’s not the intended purpose. Therefore today, in genetic genealogy, we rely on those who have moved away from France or are the descendants of a group like the Acadians to represent French families. For people having French heritage, this is a very frustrating situation.
So if your matches map at Family Tree DNA has a big blank spot with no or few balloons in France – don’t presume that there’s a message about your ancestors. The message could well be a modern one having to do with French laws and not ancestral migrations.
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Thank you for this nice article.
As a French living in Paris, I really think you made a nice visit, your photos are beautiful and I expect you are not too much disapointed by the “rude” welcome.
I enjoyed the boat ride very much. I loved Paris when I was there in the 1970s. I hope that the rude people were only having a bad day – or that Carnival makes other arrangements for the boat cruises – because Paris is far to special to miss!
Roberta, thanks for the insight into French DNA law.
(I am used to DNA legal tips from another respected source!)
Paris is a great place, but requires homework before leaving because 1)There is so much to see. 2)Places can be shut.
The second point was brought home to me by a great-great uncle’s experience. He went to Paris around 1857 to show a machine he had built. After extreme customs hassles he found the water mill he had rented to power his machine was on a branch of the Seine that had been drained for maintenance!
More recently but before the Internet, my wife went on a bus trip across Europe that ended up with a tour Tshirt with “Closed” in every European language due to frequent disappointment.
Australia (home to Speedos manufacture from 1914 to the 1990s)
You know, DNA testing is humbling. It’s what I mentioned once before as discovering our inner diversity, that we are cousins to the world, destroying prejudices we may have had regarding groups we now find ourselves belonging to.
Living in South Florida, my experiences with a certain nationality were well, less than appealing. And I was not alone in my opinions; they were shared by many of us native to the area, and so reinforced. Than I discovered that my patrilineal heritage included that nationality. Amazingly, I then began seeing them in a different light, and now can relate to them in a way I had never been able to do before, as cousins. I think I’m a better person now for it, and appreciate what DNA testing can do to bring us all closer together. But I still won’t wear speedos at the beach.
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