What I like the most about being someone that travels are the little stories and little things that pass through our lives that make things memorable. Places have the ability to mark us in ways that nothing else can, they leave their imprint upon our minds and more importantly our very soul.
On our last trip to Paris my wife and I had dinner at the 58 Tour Eiffel restaurant in the Eiffel Tower. Our birthdays are only a day apart so we thought we would celebrate in style and have dinner in one of the most Iconic places in the world. As we were enjoying our dinner my wife noticed a young lady around twenty five years old, sitting alone at a table for two. She was nicely attired in a brightly coloured sun dress. Her hair was nicely done, and the accents for her outfit were well thought out, and complimented her well. In short she was elegantly dressed for a warm April evening in Paris.
Her table was set, with two glasses of Champagne, white linens, shining silverware, and she was surrounded by the hustle and bustle of a very busy restaurant. The atmosphere was nice but somehow she seemed sad, and it was my wife that noticed why that might be.
Propped up on a little stand was her mobile phone and on it could be seen a photo. The photo was of an older man, he was smiling in a pleasant way. He had grey hair and looked like a pleasant fellow. We couldn’t help thinking that this little vignette that was playing out was the result of tragedy. That perhaps there was a plan that had not taken shape, or a promise that could not be kept. Perhaps she was saying goodbye, to a father or grandfather and marking the end of her grief. We could see that she had been crying a little, she held a linen napkin at the ready.
In a way we were eavesdropping on a moment in time, a private time in a very public place. It is a moment that now lives on the minds of others. The moment is now a part of the place, it will live on in the young woman’s mind as the place where she said good bye. Paris was created by moments like this, in one place there is happiness and at the very next table there is sadness. There isn’t a street or a cafe that does not have its own unique story to tell, a story that is sometimes hidden from view. However, all that is required to read the story is to take a closer look.
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.
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…