Through His Words: Day Fourteen

11 Apr

Reflections From and About My Grandfather
Alexander Capraro, Architect

Day Fourteen
Hotel Regina, Paris

July 30th, 1938

Dear Toots,

Well, I made the grade today and dragged myself to Notre Dame Cathedral, situated on the banks of the Seine River, with a large front courtyard, and hundreds of old and imposing statues in stone on the entrance and the facade. (Christopher Kramer)

The exterior is immense, treasures of the church given it by and for the French kings and Napoleon Bonaparte.

One section is set-aside for the keeping of countless treasures in gold, precious gems, etc., which are encrusted on crowns, crucifixes, scepters, vestments, etc. There is one chalice about 2’6″ high, the sun bursts of which are entirely made up of diamonds, each bigger then Doc Vitullo’s pop bottle. On a wall in one of the rooms, there are figures of 228 past popes, each done in cameos with the exact likeness of their faces. These cameos are mounted on a gold frame and pinned on a black velvet background. So much for that. 

Next was the Louvre and Tuileries, immense buildings with beautiful formal gardens. The Louvre is about two blocks in width and about as long as Jackson to Washington Boulevard (just a little hut!)



Then on to the Place de Concorde, a large Piazza with beautiful fountains, marble and bronze statuary, and again formal gardens, and then to the Champs Elysees. This is the finest stretch of boulevard in the world, about 2 miles long, lined with double rows of great big old trees, great wide sidewalks, and the smartest shops, restaurants, and cafés on the first story of each building.

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

 All of the buildings are six stories in height with balconies and mansard roofs, all stone. Nearly all the main buildings in Paris are about the same height, but naturally vary in design.

A picture I took from the Louvre of Paris shows the symmetrical heights in Paris.

A picture I took of Paris from inside the Louvre shows the symmetrical heights he described.

 All the streets are at an angle, the main ones coming to a point at the Arc de Triomphe. This is one place I can’t get to learn, even with the study of the map. Every few blocks there are circles like you saw in Washington, only larger and each one is properly landscaped with fountains and statues. There is no imitation about anything here as far as the buildings are concerned–marble, mahogany, walnut, bronze wrought iron fences and balconies, are all the real thing. The Arc de Triomphe, you may have seen in pictures, is on a high spot and from the top can be seen all of Paris on a bright sunny day. I hope my pictures come out so you can see, at least in pictures, what I am trying so inadequately to describe in words. 

Benjamin Stäudinger

Arc at Night: Benjamin Stäudinger

This is the real international city of the world. Peoples from every known country seem to be here. There is no particular class or racial distinction. It is not uncommon to see a Negro or Sengalese, as they call them here, walking the street with a white French wife and a couple of children. There is no ban against them in theaters, restaurants or cafés. 

I also went to the street market section today. It is clean and well kept and run by all native Frenchmen. Everything is shown outside on neat carts or bulkheads, but they all yell out their wares the same way. Even the butchers have their meat and chops and fish outside, sliced and ready to be sold. Horsemeat is a common thing here, and out of curiosity, I had a steak from the fillet of horse tonight for dinner. If I didn’t know it was horse me, I would never have known the difference. 

Well, tomorrow I shall make an inside tour of the Louvre and then pack up and get ready to go. Next stop is Interlaken and Lucerne, Switzerland, but I will never forget this city of cities. If for no other reason, it was worth making this trip just to see Paris. 

Here are two incredible pieces of art Alex would have seen at the Louvre (from our 2009 family trip to Paris).


Winged Victory (in entrance To Louvre)


Winged Victory (in entrance To Louvre)


da Vinci’s Mona Lisa

By the way, you ought to be getting my letters starting tomorrow or the next day and I soon hope to get yours. I was dreaming about you last night, and that helped keep me from getting too lonesome. Hope I’ll dream of you every night. Feeling okay, so don’t worry. 

Loads of love, Al

Such a romantic!




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