There is a "Je ne sais quoi" about my Grand Tour

Like the highborn men of the16th to18th centuries I will be taking an educational rite of passage, a grand tour, around the vast plane in which we call Europe. Most of the time, I will be following the guide of Professor John Savage, but on occasion, I will be following a custom itinerary that deviates away and follows a special, "je ne sais quoi" plan of my own making. This blog will record the traditional experiences on my tour: from my educational pursuits in Classical, Romanesque, Gothic, Neoclassical, Art Nouveau, Revival and modernized architectural styles. But most importantly, this blog will serve as a looking glass into my quirky life experiences in England, Spain, Amsterdam, Italy and my place of permanent study: Paris, France.

Thank god they never tore this structure down. Thats all I have to say.

No wonder Montmartre appealed to the artists during Picasso and Van Gogh’s time. It was like a castle in the sky away from the bustle and distractions of the city. (Today, tourists have ruined a bit of this though)

Sagrada Família:

This building project is like a never ending marathon. But, they just keep trucking along.

And if you aren’t willing to spend 14-18 Euros on getting into Sagrada, go spend it on some delicious seafood near the Mediterranean. 

I don’t know how the spanish would have viewed this building during WWII, it was completed in 1929 by the german architect Mies van der Rohe.

I do know that they must have looked past any negative feelings because they recreated it, in 1986, 50 years after it was demolished. Thats the thing, although political and economic differences divide most countries, art always seems to create a common vernacular between everyone.

This is were iron-work began, the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève. Thank you Henri Labrouste, for defying and reinventing building trends/standards. 

Then as you cross the street, you can see how architecture can be recycled to fit a different purpose for the people that inhabit it: The Pantheon, is a great example of how a culture can take something religious and use it to commemorate the secular.

It’s crazy to think that this archway used to mark the outskirts of the city. Today, with its eight radiating streets that commemorate Frances military and political victories it connects the “old and backward France” with contemporary France, along the Champs-Elysees. So as you walk around the top of this neoclassical monument, you can see an echo of the past, the Louvre (which used to be apart of the palace), mirrored by the monuments of today and tomorrow, The Arc de la Defense. 

Bastille Day was incredible! Make sure you get to the parade early though or you will end up roaming the streets trying to find a spot. Still, seeing anti-war demonstrators and spray-painted dogs was like a parade in itself though.

Also, make sure you bring a nice camera to the fireworks show! I didn’t and I was cursing myself the entire two-hour journey home (yes, with all the traffic and subway shut-downs it took over two hours to get home)

I could spend an entire day in the Napoleonic Apartments at the Louvre Museum. They were arguably more impressive than the palace of Versailles. 

Just some random photographs taken during our excursions in the city

Versailles was absolutely incredible… from the famous Hall of Mirrors to the private apartments of Louis the XIV’s, I was constantly awing over the gilded ceilings and neoclassical elements that spread the same sense of “bread and circus’s” that the Roman Empire had accomplished in the great city of Rome.

Like Louis said, the “First feelings are always the most natural” 

Here are some more highlights from my trip in Florence!

The past weekend my friends and I journeyed 708.4 miles from Orly airport in Pairs to the tiny and quaint airport in Florence, Italy. After waiting for a bus that was not coming, we got a taxi to the hostiles we were staying at. Then, once we put out backpacks down and changed out of our sweaty clothes, we walked to the Palazzo Vecchio for an evening birthday dinner for my friend Kendall. In the background a choir was playing classical ballads and the city was still full of energy, even at such a late hour. Everything was incredible. Yet, although the architecture of the Duomo and the laid back lifestyle gave be entirely new perspective of Italy’s culture, I learned an even greater lesson during my stay. Although I have always been a more conservative person, in terms of fiscal policy, seeing the gypsy’s wonder around barefoot with pictures of their hopeless children showed me some logic in the socialist and saint-simonism movements. This movement was a reaction of a social reformer named Saint Simon, who had molded the use of engineering and science towards a secular faith for the Parisians on the 19th century. I have always had a desire to help people, especially in a career of civil engineering, but I have always associated socialism as an anti-american ideal. Growing up an old-money town near Philadelphia never showed me the extent of the separation between poor and privileged individuals around the world. But as I saw the dilapidated woman beg for money around the streets, my eyes stopped blocking out the truths in front of me. Then this gap became even more apparent when I was going for a walk around this ancient Italian city, for I was confused for a gypsy by an ignorant american couple (they though that my black maxi skirt reflected the image of a gypsy). So before I could even ask the couple for directions their cold and lifeless reaction to me, as if I were not worthily of their presence, was chilling. Then, as soon as they realized I was a tourist, after noticing my canon rebel X and Ray Ban sunglasses, they blushed and apologized for there rude behavior. Still, as I walked away, I cursed myself for not posing as a gypsy after all. Instead of being an equal to them, I should have posed as someone who was “lower” in their eyes and become something even greater than they ever could be. Someone who would grant them kindness even when they could show nothing but disgust to me. So yes, Florence was aesthetically beautiful, but the most beautiful experience was when I realized that I want to help break these social boundaries, ones that should have been done away with decades ago.

The past weekend my friends and I journeyed 708.4 miles from Orly airport in Pairs to the tiny and quaint airport in Florence, Italy. After waiting for a bus that was not coming, we got a taxi to the hostiles we were staying at. Then, once we put out backpacks down and changed out of our sweaty clothes, we walked to the Palazzo Vecchio for an evening birthday dinner for my friend Kendall. In the background a choir was playing classical ballads and the city was still full of energy, even at such a late hour. Everything was incredible. Yet, although the architecture of the Duomo and the laid back lifestyle gave be entirely new perspective of Italy’s culture, I learned an even greater lesson during my stay. Although I have always been a more conservative person, in terms of fiscal policy, seeing the gypsy’s wonder around barefoot with pictures of their hopeless children showed me some logic in the socialist and saint-simonism movements. This movement was a reaction of a social reformer named Saint Simon, who had molded the use of engineering and science towards a secular faith for the Parisians on the 19th century. I have always had a desire to help people, especially in a career of civil engineering, but I have always associated socialism as an anti-american ideal. Growing up an old-money town near Philadelphia never showed me the extent of the separation between poor and privileged individuals around the world. But as I saw the dilapidated woman beg for money around the streets, my eyes stopped blocking out the truths in front of me. Then this gap became even more apparent when I was going for a walk around this ancient Italian city, for I was confused for a gypsy by an ignorant american couple (they though that my black maxi skirt reflected the image of a gypsy). So before I could even ask the couple for directions their cold and lifeless reaction to me, as if I were not worthily of their presence, was chilling. Then, as soon as they realized I was a tourist, after noticing my canon rebel X and Ray Ban sunglasses, they blushed and apologized for there rude behavior. Still, as I walked away, I cursed myself for not posing as a gypsy after all. Instead of being an equal to them, I should have posed as someone who was “lower” in their eyes and become something even greater than they ever could be. Someone who would grant them kindness even when they could show nothing but disgust to me. So yes, Florence was aesthetically beautiful, but the most beautiful experience was when I realized that I want to help break these social boundaries, ones that should have been done away with decades ago.

For our first day in Paris, we crossed over the River Seine to where the ancient Roman city Lutetia would have been. Today, this small isle still acts as a symbolic city center, for at the center stands Notre Dame de Paris. Even though the heat created some discomfort in our group, after touring the Cathedral and walking around the archeological sites, we stopped for some la glace at an iconic restaurant on the bank of the river.