Driving out of Paris, with a necessary stop in Cognac, we made our way to the Cordouan Lighthouse at the mouth of the Gironde Estuary off the west coast of France. The last seven kilometers proved the most challenging. Traversing the rocky estuary, which historically claimed to be the graveyard of sailors, and racing the rising tide, caused the image of the distant lighthouse to appear that much more breathtaking. Cordouan is the most beautiful construction of its type since the Pharos of Alexandria, which was both model and inspiration for this Renaissance structure. The final building served as chapel, lighthouse, and royal residence. Started in 1584, with a commission from Henry lll granted to architect, Louis de Foix, the royal project took 25 years to complete. Louis XlV, so enamored of the building and the extravagance of his ancestors, had his initials and those of his queen, Marie-Therese, blazoned all through the structure. Rising 67.5 meters above sea level, this still active lighthouse protects all seafaring vessels navigating the hazardous waters where the Gironde Estuary meets the Atlantic, while bearing witness to the perfection and balance of Renaissance architecture.