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Saturday, September 13 2008

The Pope and the Dalai Lama

Yoda This week the Pope is in Paris; last month the Dalai Lama was. One of them was received by the President, not the other one. Any idea of which one was, which one was not, and why ? In this post I'll give you my view on it (and introduce you some good spots in Paris at the same time ;) ).

Last month the Dalai Lama was in France. He basically went there to meet French Buddhists and give some speeches about Buddhism.

Dalai Lama

For those of you who do not know (yet) : the Dalai Lama is not only the head of the Buddhist Church but also a key piece of the political field in Tibet. Let's sum it up quickly : Tibet used to be independent, in the 50's (1950-1951) China invaded it and decided that the Dalai Lama would be the head of it as a province of China. As the Dalai Lama was finally not communist enough rumors about the Chinese army wanting to arrest him spread in 1959 and a huge riot occurred in Tibet. The riot was repressed mercilessly by the Chinese army (unofficial documents relate that about 87000 Tibetans died). Fearing that the Chinese army would kill him the Dalai Lama went to exile in India and asked members of the former government of Tibet to follow him. Since then there is a totally unofficial government of Tibet in India, gathered around the Dalai Lama. Officially the Tibet is still a part of China, and riots are still fiercely repressed (the last one was about 6 months ago).

Knowing this you easily understand that China is not really in love with the Dalai Lama ;) the point that last month, as the Dalai Lama was in France, China officially announced that there might be "big consequences" if the French president was to meet the Dalai Lama...Nice isn't it ? Only a few days before the beginning of the Olympics what a pretty picture of itself China gave. Anyway the French president then said that he would not meet the Dalai Lama during his stay in France and that the Dalai Lama had, very wisely, not asked for such a meeting anyhow. But make no mistake, it's not a complete Chinese victory : the French president added that he would definitely meet the Dalai Lama later, and the French first lady attended a Buddhist ceremony led by the Dalai Lama to inaugurate a big Buddhist temple.

What about the Pope now ?

Benoit XVI

One again let's start about a bit of teaching : In France religion and politics are supposed to be two very very different things (According to google translator the correct word for it is "secularism" ;) ). Politicians, representing the French government, are not supposed to show any obedience to any religion publicly. They must respect every religion but hide as much as possible in public if they believe in one (it's very different than in the US where you hear about "God" every 5mn in every politicians' speeches). It's so true that a little polemic exists now in France because we find that the president shows a little too much that he is catholic (even if catholicism if, by far, the most common religion in France). As an example : although the French president did not meet the Dalai Lama (we explained why earlier) he welcomed the Pope directly at the airport (what he only did before for Nelson Mandela in 2007). Another example : he made the sign of the cross once during an official ceremony (and did not escapology for doing so after...).

Anyway, I think it's a great chance we have, here in France, to have had two great religious leaders teaching peace here in less than two months :) And it's a cool opportunity to have a look at where they've been in Paris, don't you think we could find some good spots within those ;) ?

Let's start with the easiest one : The Pope. He's been to many places, but we'll focus only on two of them : "Notre Dame cathedral", and the "Invalides"". I've already talked a bit about "Notre Dame" cathedral in a post about sightseeing spots you must see if you're in Paris so I won't add to it here. Let's then see what is the "Invalides" ! To be honest, the first thing I think of when talking about the "Invalides" is rollerblading :) ! The Invalides is in fact a nice old military monuments (I believe it was built during the 17th century) which, nowadays, mainly hosts museums. But it's also big lawns and a big place just in front of it, leading you to the nicest bridge in Paris (the bridge "Alexandre III" ). And why do I think "rollerblading" when someone says "Invalides" then ? Simply because the place is quite big and is therefore a great spot to rollerblade on (you'll almost always find people rollerblading there :) ). My advice then : if you have enough time, go and see the Invalides from the outside, and head toward the bridge, it's really a beautiful one (I mean it !) Invalides

Now that's we're briefly done with the Pope, where did the Dalai Lama went ? Well the issue is that he moved a lot :) ! He's been in France for more than twelve days (as far as I know) and moved a lot during his whole journey, so I could not find any exhaustive list of places he's been to. So you know what ? I just won't introduce anymore spots in this post, and I will, instead, add links in this posts when, in the future, I'll talk about places he's been to :) (tip : I think the next one is going to be about the city hall of Paris, which is really worth it...subscribe to the RSS feed, so you won't miss the coming review of good spots in Paris !).

Friday, August 29 2008

Must See

CameraLet's assume you decided to go and visit Paris (good idea :) ), what must you see ? Lucky you, I'm going to answer this question ;) But make no mistake, I'm going on this post only to show you the "must see", all the less known places won't be here (I keep them for later posts ;) )

Eiffel Tower First of all the Eiffel Tower. You really have to see it, and you have to visit it (go on the last floor, the view's really worth it !), but I warn you : you'll have to face a usually very long queue before being able to visit :( By the way you'll notice a lot of guys selling little Eiffel Towers around this place : do not hesitate to negotiate the price, they're selling those illegally about 100 times the price they bought it (well, there's just "tourist hunting", you know the deal :D )

Arc de Triomphe Second one (not that far from the Eiffel Tower) the "Arc de Triomphe" (for the little story during the age of kings when the army came back from war if they had won the walked under the arch, if they had lost the battle they had to bypass it.) It's a must see for two reasons : firstly because it's pretty, secondly because it's a one of the extremity of the "Champs Elysées" (which is supposed to be the most beautifull avenue in the world ;) ). By the way the "Champs Elysées" is a must-see two ! Every luxury brand have to own a shop on this avenue (if not, they're not a luxury brand anymore :D ), it' really worth seeing it.

Notre Dame Fourth must-see "Notre Dame Cathedral". It's a really nice piece of architecture and it's so attached to Paris. There's even a great book called "Notre Dame de Paris" (which became a movie which became a musical :) ). Moreover it's the legal center of Paris :D You can actually see in front of the cathedral a little round piece of metal on the floor (about 40cm wide) with "Point Zéro des routes de France" on it which means "Point zero for every road in France". Don't hesitate to visit this one again, it's just beautiful :)

Latin Quarter Fifth must-see the "Latin Quarter" (lucky you, it's just beside Notre Dame). It's the quarter where students get together, a lot of prestigious universities are here and it kept the atmosphere of the "old Paris". You can't miss this quarter it's always crowded with tourist during day time and double crowded with tourists and Parisian at night ;) (and of courses there are hundreds of café :) )

Well, having seen those you may come back to your home country without being ashamed of missing "something huge", but if I were you I wouldn't just visit those ones, I'll go to the Luxembourg Garden, the area around Chatelet, the Conciergerie, the Opera, the Marais, etc. Don't worry, I'll cover those places in forthcoming posts (such as this one where I talk a bit about the luxembourg garden) !