Paris or London…What Say You? (Part 4)

(See Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 for infographic and backstory.)

The Tower of London vs. Les Invalides

The Tower of London and Les Invalides, Paris

The Tower of London and Les Invalides, Paris

  • Palace, fortress, prison…tourist attraction.  The Tower of London, with its rich and bloody history, is one of the most intriguing landmarks in London.  Dating back to William the Conqueror and built in 1078, the Tower has figured largely in the city’s history.  Probably best known as the site where Anne Boleyn parted company with her head, it was also the temporary “home” of Queen (then Princess) Elizabeth I when she was imprisoned by her sister, Queen Mary I.  The list of names of those imprisoned in the Tower at one time or another is lengthy indeed—dating to as recently as World War II.  It is one of the most popular tourist spots in London and houses the crown jewels.  It is operated by an independent charity called Historic Royal Palaces and is not funded by the Government or the Royal Family.  Tours are given by Yeoman Warders—better known as “Beefeaters”—who live onsite with their families. These tours are informative as well as entertaining.  The Tower is a huge facility, so it is best to arrive early in the day and beat the crowd; there is much to see.  The crown jewels are housed in the Waterloo Barracks and the line tends to be very long, so either plan to arrive when the Tower opens and see the jewels before embarking on a Beefeater tour, or brace yourself and get ready to wait awhile.   888,246 ceramic red poppies have been installed in the moat to commemorate the centennial of the beginning of World War I.  The memorial is entitled, “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red,” with each flower representing a British or Colonial serviceman who was killed in the War.  It is a striking sight and quite impactful. We had a couple of hours to spend at the Tower, which was barely enough time to scratch the surface.  I hope to go back and explore the site more thoroughly in the near future.
  • Hospital and retirement home for war veterans, museum of weaponry and military history, final resting place of Napoleon Bonaparte.  Les Invalides is a sprawling complex in the 7th arrondissement of Paris that faces Esplande des Invalides and the gilded Pont Alexandre III (Bridge of Golden Statues).  It is an imposing, beautifully symmetrical structure that was commissioned by Louis XIV in 1670.  Everything about Les Invalides is impressive—from Bruant’s arched pediment on the north side of the building to Mansart’s gilded dome on the south side.  Its military museums contain artifacts dating from the Middle Ages through the Second World War—uniforms, maps, flags, scale models, weapons, armor, and such.  By far the most interesting thing to me was the Royal Chapel (Eglise duDôme des Invalides) where Napoleon is entombed.  His mammoth sarcophagus contains a nest of six coffins and stands directly under a dome emblazoned with De La Fosse’s allegories.  I was interested to learn that Napoleon actually visited wounded soldiers at Les Invalides during his time in Paris.  Outside the domed chapel is a lovely sculptured garden (Jardin de l’Intendant) with a fountain, flowers, and neatly trimmed hedges. Anyone interested in carefully perusing the Army Museum should allow several hours for a visit; we saw everything of interest to us in about an hour and a half.  Incidentally, we used our Museum Pass and walked right into Les Invalides for a self-guided tour.

My pick:  The Tower of London (Quite possibly my top pick for London, overall!)

Soooo… Paris-2, London-2.  As you can see, it is no easy task to choose a favorite between these two cities.  Each has its own unique personality and much to offer.  Personally, I love them both and hope to have more time to devote to each!

Feel free to share any thoughts you have about Paris, London, a comparison of the two, attractions/landmarks worth seeing—or not.  I always look forward to hearing the opinions and experiences of fellow travelers!  Thanks for tagging along on this four day “Paris vs. London” journey!  Happy Trails to you…

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