Sam's Life

Follow Sam Around The World

Amsterdam and Paris on my mind

Sam's reflection in the window of the Thalys high-speed train he took from The Netherlands to France.

Sam’s reflection in the window of the Thalys high-speed train he took from The Netherlands to France.

Always enjoyed seeing the world

As a high school student at Bob Jones Academy and later as a student at Shelton College, I had worked in Europe for four summers with the Evangelical Reformed Church and other Christian groups. So it was at the age of 18 I found myself bagging groceries, waiting tables in restaurants and scrubbing dormitory toilets in what would be an ongoing effort at getting airline tickets to Europe. As a young student of history, at the end of each summer of work I would take off on my own–travelling to see different parts of Europe. I got around by a Eurail Pass for trains or just hitchhiking on the German autobahns.

I have, on occasion through the years, returned to Europe, and it has been interesting to see changes gradually taking place throughout—especially Central and Eastern Europe after the fall of communism.

Now I was invited by a businessman from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to accompany him on a brief 8-day business trip to Amsterdam and Paris, and I got to have some time off in both cities to explore sights I had first seen some 48 years ago!

Amsterdam canal

Sam stands over one of Amsterdam’s many canals. (Click on photos to enlarge.)

A few days in The Netherlands

Amsterdam is considered the “greatest planned city of northern Europe.” It has always been a well-known name in world history and played a central role in the history of the Netherlands. In the 17th century Amsterdam was the center of world economy, and nowadays the city is known for its more tolerant character.

The period 1813-1940 is marked by economic recovery and, from 1870 onwards, by expansion. The increasing wealth brought about a rapid population growth. This development was primarily the result of the Industrial Revolution which triggered off a New Golden Age. The city now ventured into the area beyond the Singelgracht. Large poorly built working-class neighbourhoods were built. The period 1920-1940 was a time of economic recession. Therefore it is all the more remarkable that the so-called Ring 20-40 compares favourably to the 19th century jerry-building. This was also the period of large-scale damage to the historical city centre; canals were filled in and new traffic breakthroughs were realised.

After concluding business in the Netherlands, I boarded the hi-speed Thalys train from The Netherlands to Paris, France. The train ride, at nearly 300 kilometers per hour, would take a mere two-and-a-half hours compared to the 10 hours it used to take to get from Amsterdam to Paris!

Sam stood behind Notre Dame Cathedral some 48 years after he first visited Paris!

Sam stood behind Notre Dame Cathedral some 48 years after he first visited Paris!

Vive la France!

The history of ParisFrance, spans more than 10,000 years! During that time the city grew from a small mesolithic settlement to the France’s largest city and capital. Through the centuries Paris developed into a center of government, art, medicine, science, fashion, tourism, high culture and high finance, becoming one of the world’s most influential global cities.

Today, Paris is one of the major capitals of the world.  While many world capitals feed off the energy of modernity, Paris is loved because it represents an escape from it. So when most people visit the city, their agenda involves visiting monuments like the Louvre, the Hôtel de Ville and Notre Dame Cathedral. The “baby” of this grand group  is the Eiffel Tower, built in 1887.

Certainly, no visit to the “City of Lights” can be completed without visiting the Eiffel Tower time and time again. It was constructed as the focal point of the 1889 Paris Exhibition which highlighted the science and engineering achievements of the 19th century. Soaring 300m / 984 ft. (320.75m / 1,052 ft. including antenna) and weighing 7000 tons, the structure consists of two visibly distinct parts: a base composed of a platform resting on four separate supports (called pylons or bents) and, above this, a slender tower created by the latticework tapering upward.

It was almost torn down in 1909 at the expiration of its 20-year lease, but was saved because of its antenna — used for telegraphy at that time. Beginning in 1910 it became part of the International Time Service. French radio (since 1918), and French television (since 1957) have also made use of its stature. In the 1960s, it was the subject of a wonderful study by semiologist Roland Barthes. This unprecedented work, the tallest structure in the world until the Empire State Building was built about 40 years later.  It has earned its right as a major symbol of Paris. (For a tour of the Eiffel Tower watch the video at the end of this post.)

Around its Grande Arche and esplanade ("le Parvis"), La Défense contains many of the Paris urban area's tallest high-rises.

Around its Grande Arche and esplanade (“le Parvis”), La Défense contains many of the Paris urban area’s tallest high-rises.

Contemporary Paris

Paris might very well be one of the most well-preserved cities in the world – but it still has a lot of contemporary ‘features’ to offer. This comes in the form of hip and modern buildings, museums and other architectural wonders which will give you an idea about what contemporary Paris is all about.

The prime example of contemporary Prisian architecture is La Défense.  It is actually considered as an urban project for the 20th century which is made up of 30 high-rise towers standing in a vast square.  If you’re in the mood to seeing a film at one an IMAX theater which has one of the biggest screens in the world, this is definitely the place for you.,

Among the more notable modern buildings of La Défense is the famed square, hollow Grande Arche. La Defense is also home to Pompidou Center’s Piano and Rogers Building, considered one of the emblematic buildings of the 20th Century. Sometimes compared by critics to an oil refinery, the building which houses modern art was the subject of huge controversy throughout the 1970s, but now has won the hearts of Parisians.

I am grateful to have had this opportunity to visit these nations once again. Enjoy this video history and tour of Paris’s famous Eiffel Tower.

Sources: Paris by Day, A Short History of Paris, wikipedia.com, simplyparis.org, centrepompidou.fr

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June 23, 2014 - Posted by | Geography, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 Comments »

  1. Haven’t heard from you for awhile. Hope you are doing well. Did you ever go on the student trip you had been planning We are finished the translation part and working on references and foot notes. Going well, but slow. Best, David and Heide David Hungerford 13304 Beaver Dam Rd. Cockeysville, Md. 21030 daveheide1@verizon.net

    Comment by David Hungerford | June 23, 2014 | Reply

    • David, good to hear from you. All is well. Yes, I enjoyed this short trip to Amsterdam and Paris. I was grateful to have a couple of days off to explore the two cities, in Paris returning to sights I had first seen 48 years ago. I appreciate your dedication to the translation work. Safi told me you have been “under the weather” a bit. I hope you conditions have improved.

      Comment by Sam Shropshire | June 23, 2014 | Reply

  2. Sam, I really enjoy your comments and travelogue about your life. You combine the history and the contemporary world in an insightful way. Your writing is good. I hope your family enjoys your writings. WHat’s happening with the group of students you were planning to bring to the US this summer? LIght, Life and Love to you. Mardy

    Comment by Mardy Burgess | June 23, 2014 | Reply


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