Most of the stories that I post will not be in any kind of chronological order. They will just be excerpts from my travel journals.
June 23, 2010
Day three of our visit to Paris. We began the day at the Army Museum at Les Invalides located near the Eiffel Tower. Les Invalides is an army hospital and convalescence home that is still being used today by the French military. Louis XIV, the Sun King, began construction on the hospital in 1670, and France has kept it well stocked with wounded soldiers ever since.
Inside Les Invalides is the impressive Musée de l’Armée, where we saw an interesting exhibit on the Charles de Gaulle Call for Resistance in World War II. After Paris fell to the Nazis in the early stages of the war, the Vichy regime was established to make peace with Germany. Marshall Philippe Pétain, the French World War I hero of the Battle of Verdun, was named as the Prime Minister. By contrast, Free France, the government in exile and the one recognized by the allied powers was led by General Charles de Gaulle who refused to recognize the armistice with Germany. In 1940, while in England, de Gaulle recorded via BBC his famous speech known as the “Appeal of 18 June” which encouraged the French people to resist German occupation, launching what is now known as the French Resistance movement.
The next exhibit we saw was one of the most impressive displays of Medieval and Renaissance-era armor I have ever seen. An entire room was reserved for the suits of armor worn by the kings of France. Elsewhere in the museum were displays of uniforms, weapons and other miscellaneous wartime paraphernalia spanning the stone age to the end of World War II. Tombs of many of France’s military heroes, including Napoleon, can also be found here.
The section dedicated to the Napoleonic Era was a particular favorite. Before our trip, I read several books on the French Revolution and the subsequent Napoleonic Wars. It was here that we stumbled upon the famous portrait of Napoleon as Emperor. While Karen was snapping a picture of me beside the painting, I noticed a glass display box which housed the huge necklace that Napoleon is wearing in the portrait. I pointed to the necklace in the display case, then back to the portrait to show Karen what I had discovered. Evidently, when I pointed at Napoleon’s neck my finger came too close to the painting and an earsplitting alarm began screaming in our ears. Immediately four armed soldiers ran into the small room that was occupied by only Karen and me, noticed our confused looks, and escorted our red faces out of the exhibit.
If you are ever in Paris and have any interest in military history, please take an afternoon to visit the Musée de l’Armée. Just keep your hands in your pockets.
Until next time…ramble on.