Austria, Innsbruck: Cinderella Swarovski Crystal Worlds

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Aha, so that’s where the prince had Cinderella’s glass slipper made! (at Swarovksi)

Austria, Innsbruck: Star Crooner’s Crown Swarovski Crystal Worlds

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Elton John’s crown made by Swarovski crystal.

Austria, Innsbruck: Crystal Skull Swarovski Crystal Worlds

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Death becomes her when she’s made out of crystal.

France, Paris: Opera de Paris

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World over it’s known as the Opera de Paris however it does have a real name, the Palais Garnier named for its architect, Charles Garnier, and was built from 1861 to 1875. It became even more famous because of Gaston Leroux’s 1910 novel The Phantom of the Opera and, especially because of the later adaptations in films and the popular 1986 Broadway musical. It is as much a symbol of Paris as Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre, or the Sacré-Cœur Basilica.

France, Paris: Notre-Dame Cathedral

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Notre-Dame Cathedral is a architectural masterpiece and you really need to walk around the outside of it to appreciate it all. It was begun in 1160 and completed by 1260. Just think about how long ago that was and here it still stands so magnificently; What are we building today that will last that long? This medieval Catholic cathedral on the Île de la Cité in Paris is still widely considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture with its innovative use of the rib vault and flying buttress, the gargoyles and the enormous and colorful rose windows.

France, Paris: The Throne in the Palace of the Louvre

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France is celebrating 160th anniversary of diplomatic ties between France and Japan. Japonismes 2018: Les Ames en Resonance, will run through February 2019 involving exhibitions and events promoting Japanese art and design. Visual artist Kohei Nawa’s monumental sculpture “Throne” has one of the most prestigious spots in Paris: the Louvre. “I see the location as a connecting portal of modern lifestyles and the past, says Nawa, the Kyoto-based artist whose 10.4-meter-tall work is installed under I.M. Pei’s 1989 glass pyramid in the Louvre’s main courtyard.

The making of the throne itself involved both the past and the present. It was designed using state-of-the-art 3D modeling software and carved by robotic arms, however its gleaming gold leaf exterior was hand-applied by Japanese traditional craftspeople.

“The maximum capacity the pyramid can hold is 3 tons, so I told the museum I would ship a sculpture weighing exactly 3 tons,” says Nawa about the work’s creation. “I think they were bit worried, but after it went up, the Louvre’s curator, Martin Kiefer, told me the sculpture looks like it’s been at the pyramid all along.”

It’s not Nawa’s first “Throne” and it is different in that in previous iterations there was usually a small child seated within Nawa’s unique abstract shapes and geometric forms. For the Louvre, the seat is strikingly empty.

“Thrones are for kings. Here, the seat is for the authority that will eventually take over the control in the future. I left the seat empty to emphasize the invisibility,” says Nawa.

It sounds ominous, but Nawa goes on to explain that he foresees the type of power we see controlling today’s politics, economy and lifestyles as disappearing in the future, and in its place will be a very different form of authority. It could be artificial intelligence and advanced computer technology that will “take the throne,” he suggests, while we blindly follow, something that history has shown us that humans have had the tendency to do.

To us it is interesting that he chose a throne to be placed in this, the Palace of the Louvre, where French Kings sat on their thrones. Francis I chose this edifice as the residence for French kings and where it remained thus until good old King Louis XIV decided to move to Versailles and this building was then used to store his pretty things.

France, Paris: Liberty Leading the People in the Louvre

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Though foreigners flock to see the Mona Lisa, to the French, the most important painting in the Louvre – the unofficial national painting of France is this one, Liberty Leading the People by Delacroix. The bare-breasted female figure, who is called Marianne became a symbol of Liberty for the French Republic. Though Delacroix painted the July Revolution of 1830, the broken bodies beneath the flag depict the 40 years of civil war, political and social upheavals necessary to conquer the monarchy in order to win a representative government. The huge 8′ by 10′ scale adds to the dramatic patriotism.

France, Paris: NOT THE Arc de Triomphe

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This Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel stands west of the Louvre (you can see it behind the arch) and was built between 1806-1808 (before the famous Arc de Triomphe) to commemorate Napoleon’s military victories of the previous year. The REAL Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile is down the Champs Élysées and though it was designed in the same year (and twice the size) it was not completed until 1836. The quadriga (horses and men) atop the arch is a copy of the so-called Horses of Saint Mark that adorn the top of the main door of the St Mark’s Basilica in Venice.

France, Paris: Is that an Egyptian Obelisk or the Leaning Tower of Paris?

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Place de la Concorde is where, during the French Revolution in 1789 the statue of Louis XV of France was torn down. The area renamed the Place de la Révolution and a guillotine was erected in the square. It was here that King Louis XVI was executed on January 21, 1793. On October 25, 1836, King Louis Philippe placed this tall Egyptian obelisk in the center, a gift from the Khedive of Egypt, Muhammad Ali Pasha. The 3,300-year-old Obelisk once marked the entrance to the Luxor Temple and the hieroglyphics on it herald the reign of the pharaoh Ramesses II.

If you squint and look way down the Champs Elysees behind the Obelisk of Luxor, you can see clear back to the Arc de Triomphe.

France, Paris: Hotel des Invalides

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Les Invalides or Hôtel des Invalides is a vast complex of buildings in Paris including museums and monuments relating to the military history of France. As per its name it was originally built by Louis XIV as a hospital and a retirement home for war veterans. Pictured here is the Dôme des Invalides, a large church, the tallest in Paris which contains the tombs of some of France’s war heroes, most notably Napoleon.

The complex had 15 courtyards for military parades. At the church, attendance was mandatory. Louis XIV also commissioned his architect Mansart to construct a separate royal chapel referred to as the Église du Dôme from its most striking feature (pictured). By combining a royal chapel with a veterans’ chapel, the King and his soldiers could attend mass at the same time while entering the place of worship though different entrances, as prescribed by court etiquette at that time.

I’d like to think the gentleman sitting there (in the wheelchair and on the bench) are two of our veteran heros..