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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Hotel des Invalides

After leaving the Eiffel Tower behind, I walk directly east towards the Hotel des Invalides. But first, I must find food! Because I was trying to keep my expenses to a minimum and utilize my time as best I could, I determined that my food consumption was going to be sacrificed. No eating fancy meals, no spending 30-40 min in a restaurant when a deli would do just fine...none of that. I find a small market and pick up pudding and an apple. Both end up being quite tasty, especially the pudding. Mmmmm.

The Hotel des Invalides is only a short walk from the end of the Champs de Mars so it doesn't take awhile to arrive. The golden top dome against the gorgeous blue sky is a wonderful sight to behold.

The Hotel des Invalides is NOT an actual hotel. Instead, it's the site of a VERY large military museum as well as the tomb of Napoleon. A very large tomb as Napoleon is buried in a coffin in a coffin in a coffin in a coffin in a coffin in a those Russian wooden doll things.

As a part of my research of Paris, I learned of the Museum Pass they have which allows access to most of the sights of the city. After totaling up the admission costs of all the places on my MUST list, the pass seemed to be the best choice financially. The Hotel des Invalides was not on my MUST list and I was originally just going to look at the beautiful dome and be on my way. However, since I was getting the museum pass anyway, why not see the tomb and museum and get my money's worth? "Getting my money's worth" was probably the motto of my trip.

Anyway, I enter the building and it's architecture is very interesting. There is a central circular area under the main dome where Napoleon is buried but there are also side domes with circular rooms where other tombs and religious things are. As this was my first building with frescoes and statues I was in awe of it all. My favorite part was the altar made of black marble with accents of gold.

Napoleon outer coffin is wooden and simple with swirls on the edge of the lid. The entire tomb is elevated off the basement floor to which the visitor looks down upon it from the first floor. Very showy. Very Napoleon.

After seeing the tomb and crypt I walk around the building into the military museum section. The courtyard's edges are lined with cannons and there are others all along the side walkways.

The first section, and what I think is the main part, deals with France's involvement in war from the 18th century (I think...) through World War II. There was a LOT of info, most of it translated for English readers, and it was all a LOT to absorb. Pictures, documents, diagrams, old guns, uniforms...plenty of stuff. I liked the old time machine guns the best. And the cross-bows. The other section I walked through was more about the ancient militaries of the world and had things like Chinese daggers. The collection of armor there was tremendous and it was sad to see them made for very young people...boys who were probably no older than 12 or 13.

The museum was certainly interesting and if you have a couple of hours and enjoy warfare stuff, I would recommend visiting. But the museum is huge. And I still had plenty to see before everything began to close, so I opted not to visit the 3rd section of the museum and headed around towards the neighboring Rodin Museum and Gardens. Onward, ho!

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