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Italy, Venice: Doge’s Palace, Venice

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The Doge’s Palace, Palazzo Ducale, was the residence of the Doge of Venice, the supreme authority of the former Venetian Republic. The Venetian Gothic construction started around 1340 and was modified many times over the centuries due to fires and governmental needs.

France, Paris: Bateau Mouche

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On a bateau mouche ride on the Seine you get a duck’s eye view of the city going under all those famous bridges, like this one, the Pont St-Michel. FYI there are 37 of them.

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France, Paris: Close up and personal with Tsar Alexandre III

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The beauty of taking a Bateau Mouche ride on the Seine is the joy of going under so many famous bridges – and learning the history effortlessly as you go. This one is the Pont Alexandre III built between 1896 and 1900, the most ornate one and a Paris historical site. Four gilt-bronze statues of Fames watch over the Beaux-Arts style bridge. The exuberant Art Nouveau lamps, cherubs, nymphs and winged horses celebrate the Franco-Russian alliance enacted in 1892 by Tsar Alexander III. His son Nicholas II laid the foundation stone in October 1896. In the same political spirit, the Trinity Bridge in Saint Petersburg was designed by Gustave Eiffel, and the first stone was laid in August 1897 by French president Félix Faure .

Great Britain, London: Ravens Guarding the Tower of London

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When you visit the Tower of London, you learn the superstition about why there always are ravens guarding it. Look for the raven master near the line to go in to the Crown Jewels. He’s happy to chat with you.

 

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Great Britain, London: Victorian Dancing

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Here you can imagine dancing at a ball in a palace in Queen Victoria’s days. Her gown appears at the end of the video.
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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: 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..

France, Paris: The Unnerving Raft of the Medusa at the Louvre

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If you think life is tough, think of all the sailors that went out into the unknown seas. The shipwrecked Madusa, was left with 115 out of the original 400 sailors on board. There was very little food and water but lots of wine which led to heavy drinking, murder, mutiny and cannibalism. When rescued, only 15 were left alive. This work by Theodore Gericault’s was a seismic shift in art from the stiff neo-classicism of the past to the dramatic and emotional Romanticism in art. It is more of the most macabre painting in the Louvre.

Great Britain, London: Re-enactment in the Tower of London

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How delightful to walk into living history at the Tower of London. It’s so much more fun when you learn the stories of the people who “lived” or were imprisoned there. Did they lose their heads?