The next morning the three ladies did not get up to breakfast to make up for the late night.
Yesterday we passed the Eiffel Tower and I then made up my mind to take the first opportunity to get to the top. While the ladies were in bed I started on this excursion alone.
Yesterday our guide had reminded us of the reason for the erection of the tower. It was built as part of the exhibition of 1889 as a masterpiece of the metal industry. It is made of 15,000 different pieces of metal and it took 2½ million rivets to hold those pieces together. It is nearly twice as high as any other tower, steeple or monument and is much more than twice as high as the highest of the Egyptian pyramids. It is now used as a wireless mast and as such it checks the wave length for stations in all countries. It is undoubtedly one of the world’s marvels and consequently I was pleased to see it properly.
There is a staircase from the bottom to the top, but I preferred to go up by the three lifts which are provided for a small sum. The first of these lifts climbs the slanting side of the tower by means of cables and a ratchet. That takes you to the first platform and then another lift is taken to the next station. This lift goes straight up and is connected with the third lift as one helps to operate the other. When you get into the lift on the second stage the other lift is at the top. They meet half way and you have to get out and get into the other one, which goes back to the top.
Seven minutes are allowed at the top for a look round, or if you want to stay longer you can catch the next lift. At the top there is a refreshment room and several small shops, mostly selling curios. It took me 1¼ hours to go to the top and return again. Of course, I was not travelling all the time, but the lifts travel slowly and there is a wait at each stage.
After lunch our guide took us to see some of the historical parts of Paris, principally those dealing with the French revolution.
These were mostly regarding Queen Marie Antoinette, who was guillotined a few minutes after her husband, King Louis 16th, met the same fate. We saw the cell in which she was imprisoned, the picture of which I had already seen in Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities. There were many other relics which had been saved, but the most interesting was the chair in which she sat just before her execution, the crucifix she kissed at the last moment, and the blade of the guillotine by which she was beheaded. We saw the “Queen’s” staircase by which she ascended to the court above where she was tried and condemned to death.
Afterwards we went into the court and heard part of another case which was being tried at the moment. Although it still bears the name of the revolutionary court only county cases are now tried there. Almost everywhere you turn in Paris there is something historical.
We finished the afternoon by going to the wax works to see the figures depicting some of the most important scenes from the life of Napoleon. These were very real and our guide told us that in his opinion they were very much better than Madam Tussaud’s in London. I was completely caught at the entrance to the second door. They have men in uniform checking the tickets as you enter. At this door the man was sitting on his usual little stool, but he was leaning his head against the wall and was fast asleep. Our guide went ahead as usual and offered him the tickets and when he would not take them he touched him on the face to wake him. I was just behind and it was not until he laughed and said, “He has been asleep for a long time” that I realised that the figure was wax. The rest of the figures and scenes were just as lifelike.
In the evening I took Lo to see Paris by night. This is a special tour of the cafes arranged by Cooks for the benefit of visitors to Paris. Lo and I were rather late in making up our minds to go and consequently when we reached the motor bus at Cooks’ office the best seats were taken. I sat beside a lady and Lo had to sit on the opposite seat. After a short time this lady kindly said, “I will take the other seat and let your wife sit with you”. I smiled rather broadly and replied, “Thank you so much, but she is my DAUGHTER, and is quite alright”.
As soon as the lady spoke I knew two things, first that she was from America and secondly that she was a real lady. After this we struck up a conversation and the three of us kept together for the rest of the evening. She came from New York and is travelling through the continent for the next few months. She asked me if I knew anyone in New York and when I replied in the negative she kindly gave me the name and telephone number of her son, who is the sub-editor of a New York paper. I promised to make a call on him when I reached America and I am anxious to know whether the son is as nice as the mother.
Starting at 9.45 we visited the first cafe, which was a small one called Oubliette Rouge – the red, forgotten place. As we were a party of 40 there was scarcely room for all of us to get into this place with the few who were there already. We only stayed for a short time to hear a couple of folk songs sung by men and women in old costumes. We went down narrow stone steps to what was once a dungeon and cellar. There were names and other writings scratched in the stone walls and I noticed one date carved deeply which was 1421.
From this we went to the next place, which was a dancing hall called Boule Noir, or black ball. This was a much larger hall facing and level with the street, but the crowd inside was much greater than the hall should have taken. Here were the working classes, the lads and lasses, having a night out by dancing, drinking wine or beer and generally having a good time. When they danced they shuffled very short steps and hugged their partners as though they never intended to let them go. After the dancing was over they sat down, many of the girls on the knees of the men and smoked and drank again. It was not very elevating, but we only went for education and we did not stay long. There was an Apache Dance put on for our special benefit and it was very well done. This was a fancy dance by a young man dressed as a larrikin and a girl who was dressed in a similar manner but more scantily. How she was able to stand the throwing about which the man gave her without getting hurt is still a puzzle to me.
The next was the Pile au Face, Heads and Tails. This was a similar place, but there was no dancing. Items were being rendered from a well prepared programme and the patrons were seated at little tables as in a cafe with their drinks. We heard a couple of songs which were quite good. Then we saw some living statues in a series of tableaux. Two well made girls were selected for these and they did the job splendidly. Of course they were absolutely stark, but they were arranged in such positions that nothing objectionable was seen.
Our next one was another dancing cafe called The Chantilly. Here a good orchestra was provided and it was a little better class than the last dancing hall we visited. By this time it was midnight and we went to the last, which was quite a high grade place called Bal Tabarin. Here the show was half over, as we were timed to get there for the interval. This hall had balconies as well as the ordinary floor space for tables. During the interval there was dancing for the crowd in the space set aside for the items of he evening. We were placed at a table and supplied with a bottle of champagne. Most of the items were fancy dancing, but there were also some songs and the usual variety show items. Once again we saw the well dressed, scantily dressed and also ALMOST nude girl amongst the fancy dancers.
It was a very good entertainment and the show was over at 2 o’clock. We arrived at the hotel at 2.30 and it was nearly 3 before we got to bed, to be aroused at 8 o’clock the next morning to go to Versailles. After a good bath and breakfast we did not show many signs of our night out.
On the way to Versailles we paid a visit to Malmaison which was the residence of Napoleon Bonaparte where he experienced all the rapture and also the bitterness of fate. Once again my pen cannot describe it satisfactorily, nor can I remember all the story given to us by our guide.
Since I have been in Paris I can well understand the love of the French people for this wonderful man. Although the palace had changed hands several times since Napoleon left it to go into exile it has now been presented to the French nation and is a National museum. Naturally, it contains as much of the belongings of Napoleon and Josephine, his wife, as the people have been able to recover. We saw some of the rooms almost the same as when they were occupied.
The French people certainly loved their Napoleon and he undoubtedly did a lot for them. We saw such things preserved as the handkerchief which Napoleon held in his hand at the moment he died and the shirt he was wearing at the time. We saw his original robes, the sword he used at the battle of Austerlitz, the many medals which he wore, the notebooks written in his own handwriting and many other very interesting articles in connection with this man’s life. After being in Italy so recently and remembering the power which Mussolini seemed to hold over the Italian people the thought crossed my mind – will history ever compare these two men?
After lunch at the Grand Hotel we were taken to the palace of Versailles. Here we saw what was the residence of the kings of France up to the time of the revolution. Louis 16th and his Queen, Marie Antoinette, were the last royal people to live there.
The guide took us through to the first artificial lake and started his talk by showing us a 5 franc note. When he held it up to the party I put my hand in my pocket to see if I was the one who had lost one, but instead of asking for the owner, he simply drew our attention to the statue on the front of it. Sure enough, we were were standing right before it. Then he told us how the gardens had been made and gave us a brief history of the very large and and beautiful building.
I wish I could describe what I saw inside. No wonder there was a revolution when some people were living in such luxury while others were starving. Even now, in its present state of decay, it holds many hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of treasures. One room must be specially mentioned and that is where the treaty of peace was signed on the 28th June, 1919. This room is known as the gallery of mirrors and is 240 feet long and 34 feet wide. Down the full length of one side are mirrors from the top to the bottom. The floor is made of oak parquetry and across that on the side there are huge windows looking out on the gardens with their statuary and many fountains. We saw the table on which the treaty was signed and had the ceremony explained to us. The ceiling of this great hall is covered with oil paintings by the best artists of the period. There is carving and gold in every part between the paintings.
Within the next few weeks the King and Queen of England will be visiting France to unveil the Australian War Memorial and they will hold their reception in this room.
I have read of the extravagance of kings, but I did not realise what it meant until to-day. Some of the most important rooms are kept as they used to be and the remainder of the tremendous building is indeed a museum.
We then drove away to another palace which was used for the favourite ladies of the king. Our guide told us that on one occasion when Queen Victoria was visiting France this palace was completely renovated for her. When she arrived in France she was informed where she was going to be housed and as she knew what the palace had been previously for she flatly refused to go there.
We also went to the Hamlet of Trianon, where the queen had another house as a country residence. It was a day of palaces and we got very tired walking the several miles around the palaces and seeing their treasures.
At night we had to pack for London. After spending so many weeks first on the boat and then crossing the continent we all seemed very pleased that to-morrow night we will be having dinner in a land where we will understand everything that is said to us and where the food will be according to our taste.