The Winged Victory of Samothrace

One of the most beautiful pieces of history that you will see on display at the Louvre is The Winged Victory of Samothrace or The Nike of Samothrace.

It was on my first visit to the Louvre that I met her, she is truly a breath-taking sight to behold when you first see her. She meets ever visitor to the Louvre with the same defiant yet elegant stance. This image of triumphant spirit has graced her honored position in the Louvre since 1884 and is a sculpture known the world over.

This wonderful beauty was first discovered by armature french archaeologist  Charles Champoiseau in April of 1863 on the Greek Island of Samothrace, which is located in the northern Aegean Sea. The statue contains a partial inscription on the base that includes the word Rhodios (Rhodes). For those that are into history you will know that at one time, Rhodes  was the strongest naval power in the Aegean sea. The inscription would then date the statue at 288 BC at the earliest.

It is thought that the statue was commissioned to commemorate a naval battle. The most likely one is thought to be the battle of Cos that took place in 255 BC in which Antigonus II Ganatas of Macedonia was victorious over Ptolomy II of Egypt.

Winged Victory of Samothrace

Winged Victory of Samothrace

The statue itself stands about eight feet high and is made of grey and white Thasian and Parian marble and was originally part of a temple complex that was dedicated to Greek Gods on the Island of Samothrace.

As previously mentioned this statue is known the world over and has been the inspiration for other works. She has been copied several times. Likenesses of Nike can be found at the Ohio State University, Connecticut Collage at Syracuse University and The Estrugamou Building in Buenos Aires Argentina, just to name a few. She has also been made the subject of poetry and song and she has been used as a symbol of freedom throughout the ages.

I hope to see her again one day, perhaps next time I am in Paris…

Just a sad short rant about graffiti !

One of the items that I found to be what I would call a crime against all those that love Rome, on many levels, is the amount of unsightly graffiti, that has been plastered all over the city.

I know that with every large city there are many difficulties to over come, poverty, immigration and homelessness just to name a few. I have to ask myself why would anyone want to deface a lovely place such as Rome. I know I am perhaps spitting into the wind with this lament. However it pains me to see things of beauty defaced out of sheer stupidity and selfishness. Before my last trip to Rome, I heard of a man that had carved his initials into the Colosseum, he ended up getting arrested.
However his scrawl will now be part of the monument for ever. He had no right to do that.. Horrible.
To the people that live in Rome, I suppose to them it is just a city and nothing more and that we tourists are nothing more than a seasonal inconvenience.
I know people may lash out with graffiti when things are difficult, but in the end it serves no purpose. There is no added value to the city because of the graffiti so why waist your time in doing it in the first place.

Like I said just a rant and thanks for reading.

Closer to Home

Some times when we travel I think people lose sight of whats important. I Think the spirit of travel can happen any where, it can be found right in your own home town, it can be in the corner coffee shop, it can be any where.
Sometimes I think we need to look closer to home to find those interesting , and different things in life that make you say  “Hmmm I never knew that”.
I think that is something that people need to look at ojprofijt All rights reservedr consider when the say I wish I could travel, or I wish I had enough money to do that. May be that is true that we need to spend some money to travel, but at the end of the day, you need to get yourself into the mindset of traveling and in to the spirit of traveling.
An example that I like to point to is a couple of years ago, Suzanne and I were in Amsterdam, and we were with my sister and her Fiance, and we had made plans to go to the Ann Frank Museum. We asked one of the locals, that in our mind should have known where the museum was. Well we asked him how to get there and to our surprise at the time he didn’t know how to get there, because he had never been there. He explained to us that he had lived there for some time but he had never been to the Museum before, so there for never knew where it was. The point here is that people live all of their lives in places that are already interesting, they just need to seek them out and enjoy them.
If people want to travel and if they wan to do new things, like travel and have some adventures, like they read in books or see on TV, they need to start a little closer to home, and pick those gems out of an other wise mundane life that they lead and try to focus on them and see what comes of their efforts.

Call to Arms: History on a Paris Wall

This is a great piece of history.

Travel Tips in France and Further

No 1 Rue Royale in Paris don’t miss this lonely little historical snippet 

no 1 rue Royale

French and Foreigner alike walk quickly past this little blue “vitrine” glass box which contains the only witness left in Paris to the commencement of one of the worst eras in France’s history 100 years ago.

On 1st August  in 1914, Germany  declared war on Russia. That same day the French government which was in an “Entente Cordiale”  with Russia and had promised to come to its aid if attacked by Germany,  declared its own military order to mobilize over 3 million Frenchmen as soldiers immediately.

Posters calling men to arms were stuck on village walls all over France.

Call to Arms in rue Royale today protected in glass Call to Arms in rue Royale today protected in glass

The very first poster to go up was on 1 August 1914 in rue Royale near Place de la Concorde in Paris.

The remarkable thing is that this poster is still in…

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The Colosseum

One of the highlights for me personally on this visit to Rome was going to the Colosseum. It is definitely an item off my bucket list.  To me places like this are not just old buildings, they are much more than just old dusty real estate that is built for the convenience of tourists.

Just inside the main entrance 

On the day that we ventured out into the beauty of Rome, the sun was out and it was hot. The concierge at our hotel told us that the Colosseum was only a short walk from the hotel, wo my daughter and I took him at his word and set off for the grand old wonder. We walked for about a half an hour, this included a stop to purchase some cigars, and we arrived at our destination.

To say that it was busy would be an understatement. The area around the Colosseum was packed with tourists, tour sellers, trinket sellers and tour operators.  We stopped for a moment and surveyed the scene and noticed that the line up outside the Colosseum was about 3 hours long. this was confirmed when I asked some of the folks standing in line. So Jenna and I had a little conference. I asked her if she wanted to wait in the line, and not surprisingly she said that was not something that she was interested in doing. So we agreed to see if one of the tour operators could get us in faster.

Jenna waiting for the tour to start

I found and operator that looked honest enough as far as possible scammers go and entered into a bit of a discussion to arrange the price. I asked him how fast we would get in if I purchased a tour, he replied about  minutes. To Jenna this was way more acceptable than the 3 hours.

True to his word the tour operator had us inside the old building within 20 minutes. we also passed the hour long line inside the Colosseum that streamed from the ticket window. So altogether it would have been a four hour wait to enter this attraction. In my book it was  euros well spent.

In the foot steps of  Emperors

Upon getting past the lineup and the ticket booth we entered what would have been the main entrance that was used by the emperors of the Roman Empire. For me it was truly an awe inspiring moment to walk in the same places that echoed through time. If you have ever have the good fortune of traveling with me you will find that I need to come into physical contact with the things and place that I see. It makes them more real, and in my mind connects me to history itself, no matter how small a part I play. There are two gift shops on site and wide range of items to purchase from the very cheap to the very expensive.

My daughter and I stood where the ruling elite of the roman empire decided the life and death of literally hundreds of thousands of souls that were caught up this industrialized mechanism of death. When you see the floor of the Colosseum or rather the lack of a floor you can see the rows of pens and cells that housed man and beast. The Colosseum or the Flavian Amphitheater as it is also known was the largest amphitheater of the Roman Empire. Construction was begun in the year 70 AD under the direction of Emperor Vespasian and completed in 80 AD by Emperor Titus. It is estimated that it could hold between 50000 and 80000 spectators and was used for everything from plays to mach sea battles.

This old structur was in use all the way up to the early Middle Ages and later re-purposed as housing, work shops and a fortress just to name a few. In its current form the Colosseum still bares the scares from devastating earthquake, stone robbers and wreck-less tourists that like to carve their graffiti into the ancient stone.
I f you are a lover of history as I am I recommend a visit to this grand old wonder. It is worth the price of admission even on the free days. 

P.s. A small bit of travel intell. The tour operators make more money on the free days than they do on the regular admission days, simply because of the sheer volume of tourists that flock to the most popular attraction in Rome next to the Vatican.

Operation Hotel Part I – the search for the right Accommodation

A very short walk from the hotel

When planing to travel especially when you are on a budget one of the biggest costs is going to be on accommodations. The types of considerations that are made also depend on the circumstances of the traveler. For example if you are a young person or you are the only one traveling, then surly a hostel or other similar accommodation would be perfectly suitable for your trip. However if you are a little older and, shall we say, have a few miles packed on then a more comfortable  accommodation would be the order of the day.
For my family and I we wanted to find a good balance for our money. Another factor for us with this trip was the fact that there were three of us traveling rather than just two. A fact of traveling is the more of you there are, the more expensive it is going to be. So what do you do? You make darn sure that the hotel you’re  going to stay at is exactly what you are looking for.

The search for the right hotel was exhausting, but really worth the effort in the end. If your like me you don’t like to spend money on junk. What we did was we took a hard look at what our travel abilities actually were, especially when we were traveling with a 16 year old girl.
We wanted a hotels that were  close to the sites, but yet not overly touristy sections of the cities we were going to visit. We were looking for places that would accommodate three people in a room, as well as include breakfasts in the cost of the room. We looked at accessibility from transportation hubs in and out of the city, and different forms of transportation that would be most cost effective.

We literally read hundreds of reviews on expedia.ca and tripadvisor.ca. and narrowed our search from there.
We did have some criteria in mind when we started looking. We wanted  to be close to what we wanted to see, so a central location was key for us. Included breakfasts were a must and descent restaurants within walking distance. We wanted WiFi and our own restroom, It is not uncommon to have shared restrooms in some of the hotels in Paris.

In Paris we settled on Hotel Astrid, It was a beautiful little boutique hotel situated right down the street from The Arc de Triomphe in historic part of Paris…then again what part of Paris isn’t historic. The room was small, but well kept, It was really a double room with three single beds. However it suited our purposes, the beds were comfortable and there was a very adequate restroom.
On one of the evenings the street below was a little loud due to the fact that there was Football game being watched in the cafe that was below. However, being a soccer fan, this was not an issue for me. We just got up and closed the window and everything was fine.
The breakfast was well appointed with juice, coffee and  tea. There was all manner of breads croissants, spreads, fruit, cold cuts and cereal…we did not start the day hungry to say the least.

View from Hotel Astrid

Two steps out the door, to the left there was little cafe,  L’ Arc Cafe Paris, This little place had a well rounded menu from pasta to fine french fair, My wife Suzanne found a new  favorite in the Beef Bourguignon, she had it two nights in a row! The hotel was well located by two cafes, a pastry shop and corner store that had a great selection of beer, wine and spirits.

One major thing that can make or break a hotel stay is the staff that works at the hotel. On this occasion for this hotel the staff were absolutely wonderful. From arranging our stay to assisting with taxis, they all went above the call of duty. When were leaving the hotel we had to check out early to catch a flight to Rome. The night clerk prepared some coffee juice and Croissants prior to the normal times that breakfast was served, and he verified our taxi to ensure that it would arrive on time to take us to Orly airport. To top it off they all spoke english very well so it made the stay that much more comfortable.

This is just part one of Operation Hotel, I will be posting the next portion in a little while so please stay tuned.

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Paris the City of Light – A Tour by Night

By Jack Profijt

All Rights Reserved J.Profijt
Arc du Triomphe

One of the high lights of this trip was the Paris tour by night. Most people see Paris in the day light hours and spend the evening in the cafes and restaurants having a grand old time. Many do not take the time to see this wonderful place in all of its brilliance.

My wife, through her tireless research discovered there are only two tour operators that offer night tours for the city of Paris. The first is Le Open Tours and the second is Big Bus Tours. Both companies offer Hop on Hop off tours in the day time and offer bundled discounts for those that wish to combine the tours. However the night tours are an additional fee to the day time price. It should also be noted that the night tour for either operator is not a Hop on Hop off excursion.

In the end we decided to go with the Big Bus Tours because their pick up point was closer to our hotel. The only deciding factor between the two operators was the distance of the pick up point from our hotel.  With Le Open tours we would have had to meet at their office which was farther away and we would have had to make arrangements to get there while the Big Bus stop was two minutes walking distance from the hotel. We booked these tickets before we left on our trip and had the voucher in hand when we arrived at the tour. It made things easy and quick and there was no need to for the exchange of cash with the driver. We rode on the top level of the Double Decker bus and started our tour. The late September evening air was little cool but with a light jacket it was quite comfortable. The tour started with a spin around the Arc du

All Rights Reserved J. Profijt
Eiffel Tower 

Triomphe which is an amazing monument. Most people don’t realize this place is war memorial that commemorates many of the glorious and tragic events in Frances past. It also houses the eternal flame for the unknown soldier and is especially poignant at night time.

Next we were off to the Eiffel tower and the Trocadero, to see the tower with thousands of twinkling lights was breath taking to say the least. There are a number of different angles that this monument can be photographed, so you will want to have your camera ready for those awesome shots.  Seeing this old structure in all of its illuminated glory, one can truly see why it is the ever lasting image of Paris.

The tour made its way around all of the usual sights, the Paris Opera House, The Louvre, Notre Dame de Paris, and of coarse the Moulin Rouge just to name a few. The tour itself took about two hours and we were finished and heading back to our hotel around 11:30.

We saw many of the same sites that were seen during the day time tours and to be honest I was a little concerned that this excursion might be a waste of time. However I must say that I was pleasantly surprised. Anyone can travel to Paris and see the sights and get lost in all of the touristy things that are there, however  this excursion was definitely something I would do again if the the opportunity ever came  up.
for me this tour added something to my love of Paris. The illumination of all of the wonderful buildings and cafes and the places filled with lovers was something that will be remembered. It gives almost a magical quality to the place that you just don’t get during the day time hours.

All Rights Reserved J.Profijt
Hotel du Louvre

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Paris The City of Light – trip to The Louvre

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My bucket list keeps getting shorter. There is one more tick in the box. I can now honestly say that any trip to Paris is not complete until you have been to The Louvre.
The Louvre was originally a fortress built in the 12th century. Over its long and illustrious life it has been a royal residence, an Institute for the Humanities, a Royal Institute for the instruction of Painting and Sculpting, and in its current incarnation a museum.
Prior to our departure for Europe, we decided to pre order our tickets for the museum through an organisation called FNAC . FNAC is an international entertainment retail chain offering cultural and retail electronic  products. We ordered the tickets and arranged to pick them up when we arrived in Paris. There was a pick up location right around the corner from our hotel so it was quite convenient. We collected the tickets from an automated ticket booth and it took all of about 2 minutes and we were done.
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A word of advice, if you are planning to go to the Louvre I strongly recommend that you purchase your tickets ahead of time. When we arrived at the museum there was a very long line of people that were waiting there to purchase tickets. When we arrived with our pre purchased tickets we entered in less than 5 minutes, through the line reserved for those that had pre purchased them.
To say the museum was busy is an understatement, however that was expected. Things became a little easier once we picked up our  map and a guide to the museum that was printed in English. When we entered the main portions of the museum, I can honestly say that I was struck dumb. I was in awe of the utter beauty of the place. I’m sure I must have looked like a child with just taking it all in. Room after room of priceless art and statues, my visual senses were just over whelmed and literally around every corner there was something else to see.
The main attraction at the Louvre is the Mona Lisa painted by Leonardo de Vinci. It was painted some time between 1503 and 1506, and it has been on display since 1797.  The room where this painting is displayed is very busy and patience is the order of the day if you plan on getting a solid photograph of this work of art.
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The museum us broken down into different areas, and to see everything in one visit is quite impossible unless you have an unlimited amount of time. There are around eight different collections or departments with some 35000 items on display. They range from Egyptian Antiquities, Near eastern Antiquities, Islamic Art and Paintings just to name a few.
There are also furnishing and items on display that belonged to King Louis the XVI and Maria Antoinette, Queen of France before they  were both executed in 1792 and 1793 respectively. These items have been preserved and are in incredible condition. 
Photography is allowed in the museum as long as you do not use a flash. There are parts of the museum that are very warm, due to the number of people. There were also times that the patron traffic was very congested so if you are a person that gets claustrophobic, take your time and wait for the crowed to pass.
There is a great gift shop in the main lobby  where all manner of items can be purchased including reproductions of some of the statues  and paintings that are on display at the museum. There are also reproductions of ancient jewellery and wide variety of books, however the books appeared to be mostly in French.
This museum is truly a wondrous place, and I could go on for days trying to explain what I have seen, however I do not believe that anything that I write here will do it justice. This cultural treasure  deserves the recognition that it receives. This place is not just a treasure to France but a treasure to the World, and it is somewhere that should not be missed, when visiting Paris.