Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Weekend in Paris

This weekend we were in Paris visiting my younger son Will and his girlfriend who are working their gap year as au pairs, teaching the children English whilst honing their skills with French.

It was also my wife's, birthday and so we spent plenty of time visiting the sights and dining out. On our wanderings I was able to pick up where I left off in the summer by grabbing some pictures of the monuments and sites of interest to the Napoleonic enthusiast.

The first site spotted whilst stepping out from the Paris Metro on our way to Notre Dame was this interesting little column, the Fontaine du Palmier, erected by Napoleon in 1808 to celebrate his victories and was one of fifteen drinking fountains placed around the city. It's a pity that an idiot called "Kamil" thought he could improve it by adding his own pathetic scrawl and a shame that the city authorities hadn't got around to cleaning it off.

Fontaine du Palmier

We were not planning to visit the Arc de Triomphe but, not having been before, I was so pleased we did. It really is a fantastic monument to the courage and triumph of French arms, and having seen the arches in Rome, earlier this year, it was easy to follow the influence these ancient monuments had had on this more recent construction.

Wills 18th birthday goes on tour to Rome

It was a pleasure to scan the lists of General Officers and battles recorded on this tribute, although I was a little surprised at some of the honours.

I assume La Corogne is Corunna in English, not a classic victory in any sense of the word, although I suppose the field of honour was left in French control once the British army had marched away. I rather think it might be one battle Soult would have glossed over and illustrated Wellington's point that Soult knew how to get an army to a battle, but just wasn't sure what to do with it once he got it there.

The inclusion of Toulouse might be stretching a point,
Battle of Toulouse (1814)
another affair that Soult would probably have forgotten and the inclusion of Fuentes certainly is. It was such a classic victory that Massena got the sack straight after it.

My "jousting at windmills" still can't take away the majesty of the arch and the view from the top out over Paris was breathtaking. Speaking of Windmills, our trip picked up where I left off in the summer following the discovery of a certain monument in the Place de Clichy.

Francois Rude's sculpture "La Marseillaise"
When we visited the city in the summer I came across a monument in the Place de Clichy commemorating the Battle of Paris in 1814.
Paris Summer Trip 2014

I was really interested in studying the area where the fighting occurred, primarily around Montmatre. The contemporary map below  shows the extent of the old city and the deployment of the troops.


The locals make reference to the fact that before the church, dedicated to the martyrs of the Paris Commune, was constructed, the hill was dotted with windmills.

Montmatre as seen from the top of the Arc de Triomph
The view below is from Montmatre looking towards St Denis with the Stad de France in the centre background. This is the ground that Blucher and Langeron's Prussian and Russian troops would have crossed as they assaulted the hill. The steep gradient of the hill is clearly appreciated in this picture and would have afforded the French gunners a perfect view as the allied columns approached.

The picture below gives a better impression of the ground in 1814 with what looks like the hill of Montmatre in the left background.

The battle at the Clichy Gate - see the map above for its location
The following contemporary views of the hill dotted with windmills. This would make an excellent centre piece on the table for any re-fight of the battle.

Entrenchments line the slopes of Montmatre as the Allied infantry make their assault on the hill

Russian Grenadiers storm the heights

The Allied victory parade on entering Paris in 1814
I hope you've enjoyed my little Napoleonic tour of Paris. The Battle for the city is an interesting scenario and I am sure I will get some figures together to recreate it at some time. We had a great time touring the city, eating in some lovely restaurants and getting the train from home and back using the Eurostar train which was so relaxing, I can recommend it.
Next up, more Romans, book review and some KGL Hussars.


  1. Fantastic photo journal of your Paris trip. What a great city. The view from the top of the Arc is awesome, isn't it? It has been far too long since I last visited and your adventures make me long for a return to the City of Lights.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Cheers Jon. We had a great time, although we were shattered when we got home. There is just so much to see with a lot of traveling on the Metro.

      There is nothing like walking the ground of an historic battle area. Once you stand on Montmatre and view it from the Arc you really get a sense of the terrain in 1814