Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Images of a Baltic Sea Fortress

While visiting Finland, we took a ferry tour out to the island sea fortress of Suomenlinna, "fortress of Finland." This fortress was originally built by Sweden starting in 1748. In 1808, the fortress was surrendered to Russia during the "War of Finland." And, after Finland's declaration of independence in 1917, Suomenlinna was officially a part of Finland starting in May 1918.
Part of the island fortress.

A seagull that flew alongside us during our ferry ride.

This is Neck, a Nordic water spirit. According to tradition, he lived in the sea and parents used him to scare children to keep away from the water. He could also attrack people with his magic songs. He is now a 'guide' at a museum on the island fortress.

This poster is showing the channel of Sarkaa during the Crimean War. An underwater obstruction was built here to keep ships from passing through the channel.

The fortress island has museums, shops, boat docks and more!

In this building, they were building a boat!!!

And I loved this paint-splattered floor.

There were LOTS of baby geese! Some of them as big as the mamas & papas!

And, I loved this old building...

And this one, too.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Helsinki & the Lutheran Cathedral (Finland)

We only spent one full day in Finland and most of it was on the fortress
island of Suomenlinna. But, I'll start by blogging about Helsinki itself.

This is what Helsinki, the capital of Finland, looked like as we flew in. The city is on a
peninsula in the Gulf of Finland, which is an arm of the Baltic Sea.

We arrived during the night so this was our first view of Helsinki in the morning.
We walked to our first stop of the day...
Senate Square. Helsinki was founded here in 1640 and, according to a sign, this area has been the 'centre of the city ever since.' Also, according to the sign: Finland was for centuries a part of the Swedish Kingdom. After the war of Finland in 1809, Finland was ceded to Russia as an autonomous Grand Duchy. Helsinki became the capital in 1812. The city centre was rebuilt and gradually assumed its present look. Finland became independent in 1917.

This morning, bands were practicing for a concert this evening. It was
for the "2012 Helsinki: European Athletic Championships."

Looking over Senate Square is the Lutheran Cathedral which was finished in 1852.
It was built as a tribute to the Grand Duke, Nicholas I, the Tsar of Russia.
(The previous photo of the stage was taken from the top steps shown here.)

The cathedral was built in neoclassical style which can be recognized by:
tall columns, symmetrical shapes, triangular pediments, and domed roofs.

The gorgeous organ!!!

That evening... the concert was ON and the crowds were OUT!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Paris: La Defense

Our last hotel in Paris was the Hilton in La Defense, the business district of Paris. It is also at one en of the historical axis ("Axe historique") or the Triumphal Way ("Voie Triomphale").

image from Wikipedia
At the other end is the Louvre. And, in between are places such as the Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysees, and the Luxor Obelisk.

The large monument in La Defense is this large, cube-shaped arch known as the Grand Arche which was completed in 1989. It was built as a monument to humanity and humanitarian ideals. My brother and daughter are climbing the many steps in this picture!

And, here's a picture of the Grand Arche from the distance. On the left side, close to the arch, is a mall called The Four Times (or "Les Quatres Temps"). We shopped and ate here as our hotel is just to the right of this monument.

And here's the view (zoomed in) from the top of the steps of the Grand Arche. You can see down the busy street of Champs-Elysees to the Arch de Triomphe.

On our last morning in France, we split up and I took a photo walk while the others shopped. Here's a better view of Champs-Elysees and the Arche de Triomphe. I really wish we would have went to the top of the Arche and looked back towards La Defense!

A very neat looking water-fall.
An interesting sculpture.
A self-portrait (& I did do a little shopping... for sweets! Ha!)
I played with my camera's settings... a black & white with the colorful fountain in front and the Grand Arche in the back.
Images of buildings in a building (in b&w).
Another self-portrait with another setting...
And the "Carrousel; Jules Verne". This was so amazing with the beautiful artwork!
I tried to read it when I got home, but had trouble sticking with it. I loved these images though!
And, with that, we left Paris... and France...

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A Paris Cruise: Bridges & More

We got caught in the rain on the day we decided to take a cruise down the Seine. In Paris, there are 37 bridges over the Seine. Each is unique and we enjoyed seeing a handful of them.

But, before we get to the bridges, here's a view of the Eiffel Tower on this rainy day.
And this is Pont Alexandre. (Pont is French for 'bridge'.) It was built between 1896 and 1900 for a world's fair. It is named for Tsar Alexander III of Russia and his son, Nicholas II, laid the first stone. It features art nouveau lamps and Nymphs of the Neva with the arms of Imperial Russia (double- headed eagle). On the other side would be Nymphs of the Seine with the arms of France.
The golden winged horse is also part of Pont Alexandre. The building with the glass roof is known as the Grand Palais (which we did not visit). This was also built for the Universal Exposition, or world's fair, of 1900. Today, it often hosts art exhibitions.
This building was also finished in 1900. It was originally a terminis for the Paris-Orleans Railway. It now houses the Musee d'Orsay which we visited on a different day.
A couple on the bridge of "love locks" which we walked across on another day.
I think this image looks so Parisian! Maybe they were putting on their own lock?

This is Pont Neuf, which means "new bridge". However, it is actually the oldest bridge crossing the Seine in Paris! King Henry III laid its first stone in 1578 and it was completed in 1607 under Henry IV! There are almost 400 of these faces on the bridge. Each of them unique! They are called "mascarons" which is Italian for "mask."
More mascarons on Pont Neuf.
This bridge is the Pont Saint Michel which was built by the request of Napoleon III.
A view of Notre Dame from the 'back' showcasing the flying buttresses.
This bridge is the Pont de Bir - Hakeim which has two levels - a lower one for vehicles and pedestrians and an upper one for the Metro. I believe this statue is called "Labor"
by Jules-Felix Coutan.
This is the same bridge with the Eiffel Tower in the background.
And, after we got off the boat, we came across this... the "Flamme de la Liberte"! It is an exact replica of the flame held by the Statue of Liberty which was, of course, a gift to the United States from France!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Musee d'Orsay

Outside of Musee d'Orsay - photo from Wikipedia
We visited several art museums while in Paris, including the Musee d'Orsay. This was one of our favorite art museums, though we didn't have much time here. We saw only a fraction of it - and we'll just have to go back some day!

We started out with lunch at the restaurant. It was gorgeous!
You aren't allowed to take photos in the exhibits, but many people take a photo like this from one of the upper floors. We saw works by Cezanne, Degas, Gaugin, Monet, Renoir, Seurat, and Van Gogh.
Alex and I spent quite a bit of time looking at these 'puppets' from a display about the Chat noir Shadow Theatre. As the name implies, these figures would make shadow figures and stories were told in that way.
And, isn't this a great one?
The museum is built in an old railway station and has several gorgeous clocks - including this one.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Visiting the Gardens of Versaille

I don't remember if we did something else in the morning, but by the time we got to Versailles via train from Paris, we only had a few hours to look around! The line to get inside the palace was very long, so we chose to just walk around the gardens instead. Some day, I will go back and tour the palace!

Our first view of the palace.... so much GOLD!!! And, the cobblestones... OUCH!!!
The first fountain inside the palace gate.
We are very close to the fountain, right behind the palace. I think practically everything you see is Versaille's Gardens! Amazing!
A view back towards the palace and that original fountain.
It was a beautiful day as we walked around. And besides the beautiful fountains, flowers, columns, and landscaping, there are a lot of statues! And, there is beautiful classical music playing over the speakers. I loved this! It really added to the atmosphere.
These are marble columns off to one side of the main pathway. It was my favorite place,
with many small fountains all around a central fountain.
Another view... with Alex.
I was playing with the fish-eye setting on my camera and liked how this turned out. When we first saw this fountain, at the back of the gardens, the water was spounting. But, each fountain is only on during certain times. Beyond this, you can see a 'lake' which is actually more like a city park and not part of Versailles.
Another 'fish-eye' photo taken from the same spot (near the back of the gardens) but looking back towards the palace.
Me in the gardens with the palace behind me. (Basically the same spot.)
A beautiful, tree-lined walk off to one side.
This is beyond the gardens into the 'public' area. You can see people boating and
there were a lot of bicyclists riding by. I wish I could have joined them!
Loved this photo of the fountain with the trees behind them... just wish
I would have waited until there weren't people walking by. Still, gorgeous!
A closer look at the cobblestones... we had to walk a long way on these!
After the gardens, we stayed in the city of Versailles to eat. Alex didn't like the outside cafe that the others chose, so we headed to McDonald's! W had a Croque McDo! We had several croque sand-wiches while in France - basically a grilled ham & cheese but the cheese is usually on the outside.
We also had nuggets with some great sauce!
And, while we waited for the others to finish, Alex used our French phrase book to
translate the name of a nearby restaurant. It was a lovely day!