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  • De captivants à banals, les articles et photographies de “The Baguette” sont une tentative de publier un journal de ma vie dans la Manche et de proposer un forum de discussion pour tout ce qui touche à la Normandie.
  • De captivants à banals, les articles et photographies de “The Baguette” sont une tentative de publier un journal de ma vie dans la Manche et de proposer un forum de discussion pour tout ce qui touche à la Normandie.

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February 15 2011 3 15 /02 /February /2011 13:20

L'ABBAYE UNE CITE IDEALE Dominique DEME

(Aquarelle : composition libre de François Callu, inspirée de l’architecture de différentes abbayes normandes.)

1 – La porterie (Gatekeeper’s Lodge)

2 – L’église abbatiale (Abbey Church)

3 – Le cloître (Cloisters)

4 – Le jardin du cloître et le puits (The Cloister Garden and Well)

5 – La sale capitulaire ou sale du chapitre (The Chapter Room)

6 – Le réfectoire et la cuisine (The Refectory and the Kitchen)

7 – Le scriptorium ou la bibliothèque (Scriptorium or Library)

8 – Le doritoir des moines. L’escalier (The Monk’s Dormitory. The Staircase)

9 – Le chauffoir. L’infirmerie (The Warming Room. The Infirmary)

10 – Le quartier des convers (The Lay Quarters)

11 – Le logis abbatial (The Abbey Dwelling)

12 – Les bâtiments agricoles (The Farm Buildings)

13 – Le colombier (The Dovecote)

14 – Le potager ou jardin (The Vegetable Garden)

15 – Le mouiln et babitation du Meunier (The Mill and the Miller’s House)

16 – Le four à pain (The Bread Oven)

17 – L’hôtellerie (The Inn)

 

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Published by The Baguette - in Architecture
February 9 2011 4 09 /02 /February /2011 14:20

The next day I drove my brother to the Calvados Department where the temperatures were almost freezing!  The strong winds did not make things any better and so we had to bundle up like Eskimo babies just to keep warm.  182 Arromanches-les-BainsOur first stop was Arromanches-les-Bains, a modest seaside resort which owes its fame to the gigantic landing operation which took place in June 1944.  In the roadstead of the little port are the remains of a Mulberry harbor, the most extraordinary industrial and maritime achievement of the war.  170 Arromanches-les-Bains176 Arromanches-les-BainsArromanches harbor was chosen as the landing point for Mulberry B for British troops, while Mulberry A for the Americans was taken to Omaha Beach.  More about Arromanches can be read here at my posting from 21 NOVEMBER 2009170b Arromanches-les-BainsThe establishment of these artificial ports meant the laying of 146 Phoenix caissons, representing 500,000 tons of concrete (each one was 7 meters long, 20 meters high and 15 meters wide; 33 jetties and 16km of floating “roads”.  172 Arromanches-les-BainsMulberry B at Arromanches, later known as Port Winston, enabled 9,000 tons of material to be landed each day.  Several Phoenix caissons are still there today.  181a Arromanches-les-Bains183a Arromanches-les-Bains184a Arromanches-les-Bains185 Arromanches-les-BainsNearby is the Musée du Débarquement.  It contains a collection of models, photographs, dioramas, arms and equipment of the Allied forces.  Sadly, it was closed when we arrived because it was still so early in the morning.  227 Notre-Dame Cathedral, BayeuxOur next stop took us directly to Bayeux, the first French town to be liberated (7 June 1944) and was fortunate not to have been damaged during the war.  194a BayeuxAlong the Quai de l’Aure one has a fine view of the river, the water mill in what was once the tanning district.  The arched bridge, the old fish market and the towers of the cathedral in the background.  Notre-Dame Cathedral still keeps watch over this charming, old-fashioned town and the Bayeux Tapestry presents its unique record of the events of 1066 to the visitor.  196 Bayeux Tapestry198 Centre Guillaume-le-Conquérant, BayeuxThe Bayeux Tapestry is displayed in the Centre Guillaume le Conquerant in an impressive 18th century building, which was a seminary until 1970.  It is displayed under glass around the walls of the specially designed Harold Room.  222 Bayeux TapestryThe origins of the tapestry are unknown.  It was probably commissioned in England soon after the conquest from a group of Saxon embroiderers by Odo of Conteville, Count of Kent and Bishop of Bayeux, to adorn the cathedral he had just had built.  It appears in the cathedral’s Treasury Inventory for 1476.  In the 18th century it was wrongly attributed to Queen Matilda.  The embroidery is in colored wool on a piece of linen 50cm high by 70 meters long.  Click HERE to see the tapestry in its entirety.  The work is the most accurate and lively document to survive from the Middle Ages and provides detailed information on the clothes, ships, arms and general lifestyle of the period.  The illustrations give a very realistic account of the events of 1066.  From the initial rivalry between Harold and William to the conquest and final Norman victory the story is told in 58 detailed scenes.  The English are distinguished by their moustaches and long hair, the Normans by their short hairstyles, the clergy by their tonsures and the women (three in all) by their flowing garments and veiled heads.  Here are several photos I took with scene descriptions.

200 Bayeux Tapestry--Where Harold, Duke of the English, and his soldiers ride to Bosham.

201 Bayeux Tapestry--Here Guy brings Harold to William, Duke of the Normans.

202 Bayeux Tapestry--In the lower border we see a little naked couple, one of the erotic motifs that appear here and there in the margins of the Tapestry.

204 Bayeux Tapestry--Here Duke William and his army come to Mont-Saint-Michel and cross the river Couesnon.  Duke Harold gives proof of his courage and strength by rescuing two Normans from some quicksand; he carries one on his back and drags the other to safety with his right hand.

205 Bayeux Tapestry--Here Duke William’s soldiers do battle with the men of Dinan.  Two soldiers with torches are trying to set fire to the fortress.  Above right is Conan; on the tip of his lance hang the keys to the city, which William receives on the tip of his own weapon.

206 Bayeux Tapestry--Here William comes to Bayeux, where Harold swears a sacred oath to Duke William by placing his hands on Holy relics.

207 Bayeux Tapestry--The appearance of Halley’s Comet (in the upper border) causes great consternation among all who see it.  It was visible in England from February 1066 onwards, reaching its maximum brightness at the end of April.  This comet was regarded as an ill omen and it inspired terror.  The presentation of Harold to his people is thus directly followed by the suggestion that his coronation took place beneath an ‘evil star’.  The new King is clearly also perturbed by the comet.  Harold sits listening, head to one side, as a man addresses him.  The Tapestry seems to imply that they are talking about the impending invasion by a Norman fleet, for beneath the King’s feet we see ghostly ships in skeletal outline.

209 Bayeux Tapestry--These men carry arms to the ships of Duke William.

210 Bayeux Tapestry--Here Duke William crosses the sea in a great ship and arrives in Pevensey.  After a delay of two weeks, the ships crossed the Channel on the night of 27/28 September.  The bulk of the army was Norman, though Bretons, Flemings, Frenchmen and Italians also took part.  The ‘great ship’ is the Norman flagship, the Mora, with a wooden human figure mounted on her sternpost.

211 Bayeux Tapestry--And here troops have hurried to Hastings to seize food.  The meat is cooked, and here the servants serve it on spits which they carry to the table. 

212 Bayeux Tapestry--A feast is held and Bishop Odo, seated at the semicircular table laden with dishes, imparts his blessing on the food and drink.

214 Bayeux Tapestry--Here the troops set out from Hastings and advance to do battle against King Harold.  Duke William asks Vital whether he has seen Harold’s army.

215 Bayeux Tapestry--In the midst of the Norman cavalry a party of archers advances and Duke William exhorts his troops to prepare themselves manfully and wisely for the battle against the army of the English.

216 Bayeux Tapestry--The Tapestry shows the Anglo-Saxons forming a shield-wall and repulsing a cavalry attack on two sides.  We thus see Harold’s troops for the first time; they are armed and armored in the same way as their opponents, but they fight only on foot.  The lower border now fills with casualties.

217 Bayeux Tapestry--Here, at the same time, both English and French fall in battle.  There are casualties on both sides.  Horses plunge and somersault in the mêlée.

218 Bayeux Tapestry--Duke William tips back his helmet to show his face.  The man riding ahead of the Duke is possibly Count Eustace of Boulogne.  A long line of archers in the lower margin accompanies the renewed cavalry charge.

219 Bayeux Tapestry--The cavalry charge leads to a final, bloody, hand-to-hand combat, in which Normans kill Anglo-Saxons.

220 Bayeux Tapestry--Here King Harold is slain with an arrow piercing his head; the English flee.

230 Notre-Dame Cathedral, BayeuxNotre-Dame Cathedral is a fine Norman Gothic building.  Only the towers and the crypt remain from the original church, which was completed in 1077 by Odo of Conteville, King William’s turbulent companion in arms whom he eventually had to restrain.  231b Portal of St-Thomas Beckett, Notre-Dame Cathedral, BayThe portal of the south transept is pure in style; the tympanum over the door shows the story of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, who was assassinated in his cathedral on the orders of Henry II.  232 Notre-Dame Cathedral, Bayeux245b Notre-Dame Cathedral, Bayeux244a Notre-Dame Cathedral, Bayeux232d Notre-Dame Cathedral, Bayeux232e Notre-Dame Cathedral, Bayeux234 Bishops and Saints of Bayeux window, South Transept, No241 North Transept window, Notre-Dame Cathedral, Bayeux246 Notre-Dame Cathedral, Bayeux239 Eye of God, Notre-Dame Cathedral, BayeuxThe well-lit nave is a blend of Romanesque and Gothic dating from the 13th century.  233 Litany of the Virgin Altarpiece, St-Pierre Chapel, Notr248 Notre-Dame Cathedral, BayeuxThe St-Pierre chapel in the north side contains this beautiful altarpiece called a retable depicting the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary240 Fresco, Notre-Dame Cathedral, Bayeux242 Murals on the chapel of the South Transept, Notre-DameThere are some chapels along the south side of the cathedral that still contain 15th century frescoes.  234a Crypt entrance, Notre-Dame Cathedral, BayeuxBeneath the chancel is the 11th century crypt, which is divided into three small chambers, each of which contains six bays of groined vaulting.  235 Crypt, Notre-Dame Cathedral, BayeuxAbove the decorated foliage of the capitals are 15th century frescoes (restored) of angel musicians.  231 Notre-Dame Cathedral, Bayeux231d Western facade, Notre-Dame Cathedral, BayeuxJust outside the cathedral is the rue Bienvenu with a beautiful timber-framed house decorated with wooden carvings inspired by religion and legend.  251a Rue Bienvenu, BayeuxAcross the street we decided to have a typical Normandy lunch at the Au Louis d'Or Crêperie.  252 Au Louis d'Or Crêperie for lunch, Bayeux253 Au Louis d'Or Crêperie for lunch, Bayeux254 Au Louis d'Or Crêperie for lunch, Bayeux255 Au Louis d'Or Crêperie for lunch, Bayeux256 Au Louis d'Or Crêperie for lunch, Bayeux258 Au Louis d'Or Crêperie for lunch, BayeuxEach of us chose something different and which we then shared while downing bowls of apple cider.  Unfortunately we did not have time to wander the streets of Old Bayeux because we were in a hurry to get to the American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer.  260b American Cemetery at Omaha Beach, Colleville-sur-Mer260a American Cemetery at Omaha Beach, Colleville-sur-Mer262 American Cemetery at Omaha Beach, Colleville-sur-Mer263 American Cemetery at Omaha Beach, Colleville-sur-Mer265 American Cemetery at Omaha Beach, Colleville-sur-Mer264 American Cemetery at Omaha Beach, Colleville-sur-Mer268 American Cemetery at Omaha Beach, Colleville-sur-Mer270 American Cemetery at Omaha Beach, Colleville-sur-MerAfter visiting the brand new Visitor’s Center and Museum, we walked down to Omaha Beach along a small path, which winds down the cliffside.  270a American Cemetery at Omaha Beach, Colleville-sur-Mer272 American Cemetery at Omaha Beach, Colleville-sur-Mer274 American Cemetery at Omaha Beach, Colleville-sur-Mer276 American Cemetery at Omaha Beach, Colleville-sur-Mer277 American Cemetery at Omaha Beach, Colleville-sur-Mer278 American Cemetery at Omaha Beach, Colleville-sur-Mer280 American Cemetery at Omaha Beach, Colleville-sur-Mer279 American Cemetery at Omaha Beach, Colleville-sur-Mer281 American Cemetery at Omaha Beach, Colleville-sur-Mer283 American Cemetery at Omaha Beach, Colleville-sur-Mer284 American Cemetery at Omaha Beach, Colleville-sur-Mer285 American Cemetery at Omaha Beach, Colleville-sur-Mer288b American Cemetery at Omaha Beach, Colleville-sur-Mer286 American Cemetery at Omaha Beach, Colleville-sur-Mer288 American Cemetery at Omaha Beach, Colleville-sur-Mer291 American Cemetery at Omaha Beach, Colleville-sur-Mer292 American Cemetery at Omaha Beach, Colleville-sur-Mer294 American Cemetery at Omaha Beach, Colleville-sur-MerAfter making it back to the top again we explored the vast cemetery with its 9,385 Carrara marble crosses.  I’ve written about this place before in blog postings from 18 JAN 2010 to 22 MAY 2010297 American Cemetery at Omaha Beach, Colleville-sur-MerCheck them out for more photos and a better understanding of what can be found in the cemetery.  300b American Cemetery at Omaha Beach, Colleville-sur-Mer302a Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves, Americ306a Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves, Americ307 Wall of the Missing, American Cemetery at Omaha Beach,308a American Cemetery at Omaha Beach, Colleville-sur-MerThe American Battle Monuments Commission has a great site with even more information.  309 1st U.S. Infantry Division Memorial, American CemeteryThis final picture is of the monument erected just outside of the cemetery to the US 1st Infantry Division.  319 La pointe du HocRunning out of daylight, we hurried on to La pointe du Hoc.  The Jurassic limestone plateau ends in a tall cliff (over 30 meters) dominating the lower rocky shoreline at Grandcamp.  321 La pointe du Hoc322 La pointe du HocThe Germans heavily defended la pointe du Hoc; their observation post covered all that sector of the sea where the American invasion fleet appeared on the morning of 6 June 1944.  325 La pointe du HocAs the troops landing on Omaha Beach would have been particularly vulnerable to attack from this battery the American commander ordered a naval bombardment in which the Texas fired 600 salvoes of 14-inch shells.  323 La pointe du Hoc324 La pointe du HocThe 2nd Battalion of specially trained Rangers captured the position by assault at dawn on 6 June scaling the cliffs with ropes and extendable ladders but not without heavy losses – 135 Rangers out of 225.  It took the full force of the commandos of the 116th Regiment of the US infantry, assisted by tanks, to subdue the German defences.  You can read more at my blog posting from 3 JANUARY 2010328 La pointe du Hoc334 La pointe du Hoc335 La pointe du Hoc332 La pointe du HocThe gaping craters and battered blockhouses give some idea of the intensity of the fighting.  A slim granite column on the edge of the cliff commemorates the battle.  337 La pointe du Hoc339 La pointe du Hoc342 La pointe du Hoc344 La pointe du Hoc348 La pointe du Hoc350 La pointe du HocOur last stop for the day was in La Cambe.  This is the final resting place for over 21,500 German soldiers who fell in the fighting of 1944.  You can read more about it on my previous posting from 22 MAY 2010351 Visitor's Center, German Military Cemetery, La Cambe352 German Military Cemetery, La Cambe354 German Military Cemetery, La Cambe355 German Military Cemetery, La Cambe356 German Military Cemetery, La Cambe357a German Military Cemetery, La Cambe357 German Military Cemetery, La Cambe358 German Military Cemetery, La Cambe361 German Military Cemetery, La Cambe365 German Military Cemetery, La Cambe366 German Military Cemetery, La CambeThe only photo I took on my brother’s final day was this one in my living room.  That morning I had to get up very early to take him to Caen to catch a Brittany Ferry for Portsmouth.  368 Last Day PhotoWe had a fantastic time together and I can’t wait for him to visit again. 

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Published by The Baguette - in Happy Things
February 7 2011 2 07 /02 /February /2011 14:38

My brother and I arrived by train at the Gare de Cherbourg in the evening.  After breakfast the next day, I thought we would be able to see many sights but I underestimated the amount of time it would take driving from place to place.  Still, I think he got a nice look at my neck of the woods.  On the first day in Querqueville, I drove him around many places in La Hague.  077 Church of Our Lady of the Assumption and Chapel of St-GI was glad that he got to see where I go to church on Sundays: Notre-Dame de l’Assomption (18th century) and beside it, the Chapelle St-Germain (10th century), the oldest religious building of the Cotentin area and perhaps of Western France.  They stand at the top of the hill overlooking the village.  083 War Memorial, QuerquevilleHere you can see a picture of us in front of the Querqueville War Memorial.  We jumped back in the car and headed past Urville-Nacqueville to the lookout from Landemer.  084 Landemer Coast, La HagueAll along our beach are remains of the German Atlantic Wall.  In some areas, old concrete batteries have fallen into the sea.  After Landemer, the road rises in the Habilland Ravine and soon a beautiful perspective opens up from the Cap Lévi lighthouse to the Pointe Jardeheu.  086 Landemer Coast, La HagueSadly, visibility was poor and we were only able to grab some photos of the cliffs and footpaths among the bracken.  These coastal cliffs have marked paths for anyone wishing to hike around the peninsula.  We ventured onward toward Gréville-Hague.  088 Gréville-Hague Church088a Gréville-Hague ChurchHere, the small squat church served as a model for the painter Jean-François Millet in his works of Norman landscapes.  087 Jean-François Millet (painter), Gréville-HagueThe artist’s statue can bee seen at the crossroads of the town and the house where he was born in Gruchy is open to the public in the summer.  Taking the chance that the Manoir du Tourp might be open this time of year, we parked the car and walked to the gate.  Sadly, it too was closed.  089 Le manoir du Tourp, La HagueThe Manoir du Tourp, an 16th century manor house and farm typical of those in La Hague, serves as a focal point for tourists wishing to explore the rich cultural heritage of this region.  090 Le manoir du Tourp, La HagueIt has spaces for temporary exhibitions, a restaurant, library and media center.  The road rising toward St-Germain-des-Vaux affords views of the tiny hamlet of Port-Racine, thought to be one of France’s smallest ports, 094 Port Racine, Saint-Germain-des-Vauxnamed after Captain Racine, who set up his naval base there under Napoleon I.  Further on, past the small village of Auderville, the view to the Goury lighthouse opens up in the distance.  100 Goury LighthouseIt sits at “World’s End” along the Raz Blanchard, which takes its name from the whiteness of the waves and strong currents caused by shoals between the Cap de la Hague and Alderney.  These currents can reach speeds of 10 knots and make navigation very difficult.  098 Goury Lighthouse and Le Vendémiaire MemorialIn 1823 alone, 27 ships were sunk in the vicinity.  The small harbor is a refuge for boats caught in a storm.  There is even an octagonal rescue station that houses the lifeboat “Mona Rigolet”, which swivels around a 103 Rescue Staion Boat, Gouryrevolving turntable that enables it to be launched from two slipways—either towards the port at high tide or towards the open sea at low tide.  102 Rescue Station, GouryThe lighthouse was built between 1834 and 1837 of granite and is 48 meters high with a lantern with a range of 25 km.  Along the western coast 107 Baie d'Écalgrain109 Baie d'Écalgrain111 Fields above Baie d'Écalgrainof La Hague lies the Baie d’Écalgrain, a desolate beach of smooth stones backed by heath land.  It is one of the area’s wild but imposing beauty spots.  Further south lies the Nez de Jobourg.  The long, rocky and barren promontory, surrounded by reefs, is the most impressive cape of the wild La Hague coast.  114 Le Nez de Jobourg, La Hague118 Le Nez de Jobourg, La Hague Nuclear Reprocessing Facili122 Fields above Le Nez de Jobourg, La HagueAll around are spectacular views of farmland and hedgerows.  If you look closely, you can see AREVA, the nuclear reprocessing center which provides many jobs to people in this area.  On clear days, one can see as far as the Channel Islands, Alderney being the nearest, Sark, Guernsey and Jersey.  A moment of luck came our way when a patch of sunlight peeked out from some clouds in the distance lighting up the sea.  123a Biville Church, BivilleOur last stop before heading into Cherbourg for lunch was the small town of Biville.  The village is set on a plateau overlooking the desolate shoreline of Vauville Bay.  Locals make pilgrimages to the church, where the glass coffin of the Blessed Thomas Hélye (1187 – 1257), a native of Biville, who was a priest and missionary in the diocese of Coutances, is enclosed in a marble sarcophagus in the 13th century chancel, adorned with small 15th century low-relief sculptures.  124 Reliquary of Blessed Father Thomas Hélye, Biville ChurOn the left of this photo stands the carved marble slab, which covered the original tomb.  123b Window to the Allies, Biville Church, BivilleThe arrival of the Allies and the liberation of the region are commemorated in a stained glass window by artist Louis Barillet (1944).  By now we were very hungry and headed into Cherbourg for lunch.  130a Le Point du Jour Restaurant in Cherbourg129 Dry Dock, CherbourgWe had a pleasant meal at La Pointe du Jour just in front of the Caligny dry-docks.  I forced my brother to have his photo taken in front of the actual façade used in “Les Parapluies de Cherbourg” a famous French film by Jacques Demy, which helped make the town famous for its umbrellas.  130 Famous facade to Les parapluies de Cherbourg (UmbrellasI would like my mother to loan my brother and his wife a copy of the film so that when my brother visits again, he will have a better appreciation.  Another landmark in Cherbourg is the bronze statue of the emperor Napoleon I by Armand Le Veel.  134 Napoleon Boneparte Statue, CherbourgNapoleon’s right hand points toward England (the enemy).  Across the street is the Basilica of the Holy Trinity, a Flamboyant Gothic church built between the 15th century and early 19th century.  132 Basilica of the Holy Trinity, Cherbourg133 High altar, Basilica of the Holy Trinity, CherbourgThe high altar features Christ’s baptism by John and the descent of the Holy Spirit.  136 Le Cap Lévi near Cherbourg140 Cap Lévi Lighthouse near CherbourgThe rest of the day was spent driving along the Val de Saire toward the Cap Levi lighthouse that was built in 1947 and stands 36 meters tall.  Father on is a more interesting lighthouse built between 1828 and 1835 in the small village of Gatteville.  146 Gatteville Lighthouse and sémaphore, Gatteville-le-PhaIt is the second largest lighthouse in Europe standing 74.85 meters tall with a staircase of 365 steps lit by 52 windows.  Behind the lighthouse is the old sémaphore.  156 Vauban Tower near Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue156b Vauban Tower near Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue151 German Battery, Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue155 Vauban Tower near Saint-Vaast-la-HougueThe last part of the day we drove past Barfleur to Saint-Vaast-la-Houge and stopped to take pictures of the Vauban tower (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and fort which retains some of the German blockhouses built during World War II.  158 Camembert Cheese after dinner159 Galette des Rois and Apple Cider for dessert160 Galette des Rois and Apple Cider for dessertI had a treat in store for my brother at dinnertime.  I made cassoulet and we ate a traditional Galette de Rois of frangipane along with a healthy glass of Normandy cider for dessert.  162 Galette des Rois and Apple Cider for dessert (Steve got161 Galette des Rois and Apple Cider for dessert (Steve isMy brother found the fève and was crowned King for the rest of the evening.  The next day I was hoping we could go to Mont-St-Michel but the weather was biting cold and we were still exhausted from our travels the day before.  I think we made the right decison to stay indoors and do nothing but watch television and get caught up with one another.  For dinner that night I made Magret de Canard (duck steaks) and potatoes.  For dessert we had the leftover Galette des Rois.166 Duck steaks and potatoes for dinner163 Duck steaks for dinner

167 Duck steaks and potatoes for dinner

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Published by The Baguette - in Happy Things
February 6 2011 1 06 /02 /February /2011 12:44

237 The Great Courtyard of VersaillesGetting to Château de Versailles is not difficult but you MUST know which RER train to take.  Since we were staying at the Hôtel de Reims, we took Metro line 14 to Bibliothèque-François Mitterrand and then took RER commuter train C5 directly to Versailles-Rive Gauche.  A round­-trip ticket only costs 6,10 Euro and the entire trip lasts about 30 minutes.  If you don’t watch the monitors at the RER station for which train is going to Versailles-Rive Gauche, you may end up very far from the Château entrance.  235 Louis XIV, VersaillesAfter exiting the train station, take a right on Avenue du Général de Gaulle until you come to Avenue de Paris.  Make a left and voila!  You’re there!  Be wise and book your ticket in advance online at the Versailles website.  This way you can avoid unnecessary lines and begin your tour immediately.  238a The Royal Courtyard of Versailles238 The Royal Courtyard of VersaillesMy brother and I arrived just before the gates opened and had an opportunity to take photos of the façade moving ever closer from the Great Courtyard toward the Royal Courtyard and finally, the Marble Courtyard.  239 The Marble Courtyard of VersaillesAfter entering, we began our tour by visiting the Royal Galleries.  Louis-Philippe, King of the French from 1830 to 1848, transformed Versailles into a museum dedicated to the glories of France.  Through his desire to reconcile the different regimes, the Citizen King succeeded in creating the first museum of the history of France.  He transformed the apartments of the princes and courtiers into vast galleries, in which the ancient paintings and sculptures were brought together in evocative retrospectives.  The galleries devoted to the 17th century are a good introduction to the tour of the royal apartments located on the first floor of the central body of the château.  I found the images of Versailles in the 17th and 18th centuries the 239a Schloss-Versaillesmost interesting, particularly this work of Pierre-Denis Martin called “Le Château de Versailles en 1722”.  246 The Royal Chapel Drawing Room, VersaillesThe first stop after the Galleries is the Chapel Drawing Room.  To attend Mass the King had to cross this room, which links the Royal Gallery to the State Apartment.  Its decoration is therefore related to that of the Chapel.  It is here one receives an audio guide which allows you to explore the château at your own pace.  240 The Royal Chapel, VersaillesFollowing the tradition of the Palatine chapels, the Royal Chapel has two storeys.  The galleries were reserved for the King, the royal family and important members of the Court, while the rest of the congregation occupied the ground floor.  244a The Royal Chapel, VersaillesConsecrated in 1710, and dedicated to Saint-Louis, ancestor and patron saint of the royal family, the chapel was the last building to be constructed at Versailles under the reign of Louis XIV.  The decoration of the ceiling depicts the continuity between Old and New Testaments.   247a North Wing Statue, VersaillesUpon entering the State Apartment one passes by several statues located in the North wing.  Of course, one day is not enough to see everything at Versailles.  There are many rooms within the palace we did not get to see.  Of the ones we did see, I can only tell you about some of them.  One of the first rooms on our tour was the Diana Drawing Room.  249 Diana Drawing Room, Versailles248 Louis XIV bust by Bernini, Diana Drawing Room, VersaillLouis XIV, who was an excellent billiard-player, had a large table set up here, covered when not in use with a crimson velvet cloth, its edges fringed with gold.  The ladies followed the game from benches set up on platforms, which gave them a good view and allowed them to applaud the King’s successes.  The whole of the decoration of this room refers to the legend of the goddess Diana.  Above the fireplace is Charles de Lafosse’s “Sacrifice of Iphigenia,” and opposite is “Diana Watching Over the Sleeping Endymion” (1672) by Gabriel Blanchard.  The bust of Louis XIV is the work of Bernini.  251 Apollo Drawing Room, VersaillesAnother room was called the Apollo Drawing Room, which was used for formal audiences since Versailles was the first royal château to have a throne room.  The silver throne, standing as high as eight foot, was melted down in 1689 and was replaced much later, under Louis XV, by a gilt wood throne.  On the ceiling is painted the image of Apollo in his Sun Chariot surrounded in the corners by allegoric representations of four continents.  250 Apollo Drawing Room, VersaillesThe famous portrait of Louis XIV by Hyacinthe Rigaud hung in this room until the Revolution (this one is a copy while the original hangs in the Louvre).  253 Hall of Mirrors, VersaillesThe War Drawing Room, the Hall of Mirrors and the Peace Drawing Room form an ensemble whose décor is devoted to the military victories and political successes of Louis XIV.  In 1678, architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart presented the King with plans for the construction of the present Hall of Mirrors.  255a Hall of Mirrors, Versailles255 Hall of Mirrors, VersaillesWork began immediately, and was completed in 1686.  It served as passageway giving access to the King’s Apartment.  Here gathered the courtiers who hoped to see the monarch on his way to the Royal Chapel.  Grand celebrations were also held here, such as full-dress balls, or the masked ball given on the occasion of princely marriages.  255b Hall of Mirrors, VersaillesIn the 19th century, at the conclusion of the Franco-Prussian War, the Prussian king, Bismarck and the victorious German princes and lords declared William I, German emperor—thus establishing the Second German Empire—on 18 January 1871 in the Hall of Mirrors.  256 Hall of Mirrors, Versailles260 Hall of Mirrors, Versailles261 Hall of Mirrors, VersaillesThis was seen as a victory with heavy symbolism for the Germans and a stinging insult for the defeated French.  French Prime Minister Clemenceau chose the Hall of Mirrors to sign the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I on 28 June 1919.  257 Hall of Mirrors, VersaillesIn 2007, three years of restorations to the hall were completed, including the replacement of 48 of the 357 antique mercury mirrors by Vincent Guerre.  One exits the Hall of Mirrors into the Peace Drawing Room.  263 Peace Drawing Room, VersaillesAs its name suggests, the decoration of this drawing room is dedicated to peace.  Above the fireplace is a painting by Francois Lemoine (1729), showing “Louis XV Offering Europe an Olive Branch”.  This room was also connected to the Queen’s Apartment, to be used as the Games Room.  Here every Sunday, under the reign of Louis XV, the Queen Maria Leczinska gave concerts of sacred and secular music, which played an important role in the musical life of Versailles.  266a King's Bedchamber, VersaillesAfter the death of Queen Maria-Theresa, the King’s Bedchamber was attached to the Kings Apartment and became generally known as “the room in which the King dresses.”  At that time it was called the State Drawing Room.  In 1701, Louis XIV decided to turn the room into his bedchamber.  It was here that the Sun King would die on September 1, 1715.  After him, both Louis XV and Louis XVI would continue to use it for the ceremonies of the “lever” and the “coucher”.  It was on the balcony, on October 6, 1789, that Louis XVI, the Queen and the Dauphin appeared before the crowd as the royal family was forced to leave Versailles for Paris.  The former State Cabinet of Louis XIV and the King’s Wig Cabinet were joined together in 1755 to form the present Council Chamber where one can observe in the 268 King's Bedchamber, Versaillespanelling medallions evoking the work of the King.  The Council of State met here on Sundays and Wednesdays, and occasionally on Mondays, while the Council of Finances met on Tuesdays and Saturdays.  Once or twice a month there would be Extraordinary Councils, such as the Council of Dispatches.  269 Council Chamber, VersaillesThe King would be seated in an armchair and the ministers on folding chairs.  Also during the reign of Louis XIV and his successors, the King would summon his family here for certain ceremonies such as the signing of the registers during princely marriages.  It was also here that, in 1700, Louis XIV accepted the Spanish crown for his grandson the Duc d’Anjou from whom Juan Carlos, the current King of Spain, descends.  270 Queen's Bedchamber, VersaillesIt was in this room, the Queen’s Bedchamber, that the Queen gave birth to the heirs to the throne to a public audience.  In her Memoirs, Madame Campan, who was Marie Antoinette’s First Woman of the Bedchamber, described what such a birth could be like: “the moment that Vermond the accoucheur announced ‘The Queen is about to give birth’, the crowds of spectators who rushed into her room were so numerous and disorderly that one thought the Queen would perish….  Two Savoyards got up on the furniture the more easily to see the Queen, who was facing the fireplace on a bed got ready for her labour.”  272 Salon des Nobles, VersaillesIn the Salon des Nobles, the Queen of France held official audiences, and the ladies newly admitted to Court were presented to her.  Certain elements of the décor, the ceiling in particular which portrays an allegory of Mercury, recall the fact that originally the Queen’s Apartment was symmetrical with the King’s.  The furniture and green damask walls of fabric were designed specially for Marie-Antoinette in 1785.  273 Antechamber of the Grand Couvert, VersaillesIn Queen Maria-Theresa’s day, the Antechamber of the Grand Couvert was known as the Room of the Queen’s Guard, hence the ceiling decorated with warlike themes.  Visitors who had obtained an audience with the Queen would have to wait here before entering the Salon des Nobles or the Bedchamber.  This room was also used for concerts and theatrical performances.  The name Grand Couvert comes from that of the ceremonial requiring that the King and Queen eat certain meals in public.  One of the most noteworthy was the meal that Louis XV and Maria Leczinska took here in the company of the young Mozart on January 1, 1764.  273a Antechamber of the Grand Couvert, VersaillesOut of the paintings hung in the Grand Couvert, the most famous is the large painting by Élisabeth Virgée-Lebrun exhibited in the 1787 Drawing Room.  This State Portrait of Marie Antoinette and her children Marie Therese, Louis Charles (on her lap), and Louis Joseph, was meant to help her reputation by depicting her as a mother in simple, yet stately attire.  The Dauphin, Louis Charles, points to an empty cradle, which should have held Madame Sophie, who died at a very young age before the painting was completed.  276 Coronation of Napoleon I, Salle du Sucre, VersaillesThe Salle du Sacre was originally the site of the château’s third chapel.  When in 1682 the Court and Government were officially established at Versailles, it served as the common guardroom of the King’s and Queen’s guards.  Permanently cluttered with the sedan chairs of the ladies of the Court, benches, screens and arms racks, and hung with painted canvas, courtiers nicknamed this room the “magasin” or storeroom.  Here, every Holy Thursday, the King would wash the feet of thirteen poor children.  Its present appearance and name date from the reign of Louis-Philippe who installed the painting by Jacques-Louis David, depicting the coronation of Napoleon I on December 2, 1804.  278 Prince's Staircase, Versailles280 Hall of Battles, VersaillesSituated in the South Wing (or Princes’ Wing), covering the first floor and the attic on the park side, the Hall of Battles took the place of the apartments reserved for the members of the royal family.  281 Hall of Battles, VersaillesThe architects Nepveu and Fontaine designed the hall of Battles as a setting for the vast paintings dedicated to the great French victories, from Tolbiac, won by Clovis in 497, to Wagram, a victory for Napoleon in 1809.  282 François I King of France (1494 – 1547), VersaillesIt was Louis-Philippe’s express desire for the busts of the great officers and princes of royal blood who died for France to be exhibeted in the Hall of Battles, along with the commemorative plaques bearing their names and dates.  A complement to the Hall of Mirrors, it leads to the 1830 room created to honor Louis-Philippe’s accession to the throne and the new constitutional monarchy born out of the 1830 Revolution.  283a West Wing, VersaillesBefore heading to the Versailles Gardens, be sure to stop at the souvenir shop and prepare to be completely OVERWHELMED with books and keepsakes of your visit.  I ended up purchasing a large book for my brother’s wife as well as a small tapestry and some magnets for their regrigerator magnet collection.  283b Gardens, The Grand Perspective, VersaillesOutside, beyond the château to the west stretch the gardens and the park, laid out around a main east-west axis, perpendicular to the chateau, and a secondary axis from north to south running along the façades.  284 The South Parterre, VersaillesAt the foot of the buildings, landscape artist André Le Nôtre created the parterres, designed to be viewed from the terraces.  They were also intended to set off the château’s architecture.  The two perfeclty horizontal ponds of the Water Parterre, mirrors reflecting the façades, which were dug considerably later (towards 1685), demonstrate this concept pushed to the extreme.  283 West Wing, VersaillesStatues of stone, marble, lead and bronze populate the gardens with people and animals, often derived from mythology or allegories.  Le Nôtre made sure that the sculptures emphasised rather than interfered with the lines of the garden.  287 Fountains of VersaillesOpenness and scope characterise the work of Le Nôtre.  Before him, the gardens were closed and relatively modest in size.  They now open onto the surrounding countryside and have changed scale.  Le Nôtre also gives greater importance to the central axis, around which all of the other parts of the garden have been arranged.  286 Gardens of VersaillesStarting from the terrace of the château, the Grand Perspective draws the eye to the horizon.  As it moves further away, it crosses the parterres, descends through groves, follows the canal between the forests of the park, gently rising through the countryside towards the sky.  The Grand Canal is 1,650 meters in length!  290 Fountain of Apollo, VersaillesThe Fountain of Apollo owes its décor, which deals with the major theme of the mythological, symbolical and political concepts developed throughout the gardens, to its prime position.  291 Fountain of Apollo, VersaillesJust as Louis XIV is identified with the sun god, Phœbus Apollo, similarly, Apollo rising above the waves denotes the rising of the sun and the dawning of a promising reign.  The weather was nice but cold.  It was made worse by the strong winds.  Before reaching the Grand Trianon, we stopped at La Petite Venise Restaurant within the park to eat lunch.  The Italian fare was delicious and I highly recommend it to anyone visiting the gardens to spend some quality time here when they need a rest or when they are hungry.  You won’t be disappointed.  After eating our fill of ravioli and fettuccine we headed out again to the Grand Trianon.  294 Grand Trianon, VersaillesIn 1668, Louis XIV bought a village named Trianon, which he joined to the Versailles estate and demolished.  A pavilion decorated with blue and white tiles, which became known as the Porcelain Trianon, was built here in 1670.  298 Grand Trianon, VersaillesIn 1687, the King decided to replace it with a larger building, the work of Jules Hardouin-Mansart, which became known as the Marble Trianon from the way in which it was decorated.  299 Grand Trianon, VersaillesFrom then on until the fall of the Second Empire in 1870, the Trianon was constantly inhabited, apart from during the Revolution.  However, it is mainly the installations commissioned by Napoleon I and Louis-Philippe that still remain in this dwelling, fully restored in 1965 by order of General de Gaulle.  302a Petit Trianon, VersaillesIn 1761, Ange-Jacques Gabriel, by the order of Louis XV, designed the Petit Trianon for Madame de Pompadour.  It was constructed between 1762 and 1768 but four years before its completion Madame de Pompadour died.  309a Petit Trianon, Versailles309 Petit Trianon, VersaillesIt was then occupied by her successor, Madame du Barry.  When Louis XVI ascended the throne in 1774, he gave the château to Marie Antoinette for her exclusive enjoyment.  303 The French Pavillion, Petit Trianon, Versailles305 The French Pavillion, Petit Trianon, Versailles307 The French Garden, Petit Trianon, VersaillesOf note are the beautiful French Pavilion and French Garden.  Later, the queen had the garden transformed and asked the architect Richard Mique and the painter Hubert Robert to design an English Garden in its place: hence the appearance of small brooks, picturesque views and lawns.  309b The English Gardens and The Belvedere, VersaillesNearby is the Belvedere Pavilion which dominates the landscape of the English Garden.  This small, classical pavilion is not open to visitors and its facades, roofing and interior are scheduled for restoration by the World Monuments Fund.  314 English Gardens and Temple of Love, VersaillesVisible from the Queen’s bedroom is the Temple de l’Amour, the setting for many of Marie-Antoinette’s fêtes.  Completed in 1778, this classic dome is often used in films.  During our visit, there was a film crew on site with actors dressed in 18th century garb.  322 The Queen's Hamlet, VersaillesMarie-Antoinette disliked Versailles and spent much of her time at the Petit Trianon, as far away from Court intrigue as she could get.  She enjoyed playing the role of a peasant milk maid or shepherdess and had her architect Richard Mique design what is known as The Queen’s Hamlet.315 The Queen's Hamlet, Versailles  316 The Queen's Hamlet, Versailles320 The Queen's Hamlet, VersaillesThe houses were modelled on the style of Normandy cottages yet were, in fact, quite elegant inside.  Between 1783 and 1785, Mique built twelve houses, of which ten still stand, among them the Queen’s Cottage, the 321 The Queen's Hamlet, Versailles323 The Queen's Hamlet, Versailles325 The Queen's Hamlet, VersaillesBilliard Room, the Mill, the Boudoir and the Pigeon Loft.  Our day at Versailles came an end around 14h00, just in time to make it back to our hotel, pick up our luggage and get to Gare Saint-Lazare for our train to Cherbourg.  For those of you who read the previous articles, my brother and I DID make it back to the banks of the Seine when we briefly stopped at Metro Station St-Michel – Notre-Dame in order to buy those three prints for five Euros.  What a deal !

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February 3 2011 5 03 /02 /February /2011 13:59

087 Hôtel de Reims, ParisAfter a good night’s sleep, we woke early the next morning and went downstairs to breakfast in the hotel.  Perhaps I was over ambitious but we took on the trip to the Cathedral Basilica of Saint-Denis, a place of pilgrimage and the burial place of French kings and queens.  088 Saint Denis Basilica089 Town Hall and Saint Denis Basilica, St-DenisNearly every king from the 10th to 18th centuries is buried here as well as many from the previous centuries.  It was founded in the 7th century by Dagobert I on the burial place of Saint-Denis, a patron saint of France.  The Basilica is often referred to as the “royal necropolis of France” and 109 Ancient Crypt, Saint Denis Basilica, St-Deniscontains some fine examples of cadaver tombs with the effigies of many of the kings and queens.  For me this is a very special place.  As someone who enjoys religious architecture, Saint­-Denis draws from a number of sources its structural and decorative features that make it the first truly Gothic building.  103a Saint Denis Basilica, St-DenisIt provided an architectural model for cathedrals and abbeys of northern France, England and other countries.  Most of the interments that can be found here include 46 kings, 36 queens, 63 princes and princesses and countless other members of French nobility.  105 Marie-Antoinette, Crypt, Saint Denis Basilica, St-DenisMarie-Antoinette (1793AD) 106 Louis XVI, Crypt, Saint Denis Basilica, St-DenisLouis XVI (1774-93AD) 112 Tomb of Louis, Duke of Orleans (1407AD), his duchess, VTomb of Louis, Duke of Orleans (1407AD), his duchess, Valentine Visconte (1408AD), their sons, Charles the Poet (1465AD) and Philip (1420AD) 125 Clovis I (511AD) and Childebert I (558AD), Saint DenisClovis I (511AD) and Childebert I (558AD) 129 Tombs of Philip V le Long (1316-22AD), Jeanne d'EvreuxPhilip V le Long (1316-22AD), Jeanne d'Evreux (1371AD), Charles IV le Bel (1322-28AD) 134 Tomb of Louis XII (1498-1515AD) and Anne de Bretagne (1Louis XII (1498-1515AD) and Anne de Bretagne (1514AD)138a Saint Denis Basilica, St-Denis 094 Saint Denis Basilica, St-DenisThe central portal of the basilica is quite striking with its tympanum of Christ in Majesty surrounded by the instruments of the Passion.  097 Saint Denis Basilica, St-DenisElements of Christ’s Passion can also be found on the huge bronze doors flanked by statues in niches of the wise and foolish virgins.  096 Saint Denis Basilica, St-DenisThe other portals are decorated with intricate relief sculptures.  102 Saint Denis Basilica, St-Denis102a Saint Denis Basilica, St-DenisThe basilica retains stained glass windows from many different periods including several 12th century medieval originals.  144 Paris Metro Station143b Fountain St-Michel, ParisThe best way around Paris is to take the Metro or RER trains.  In just minutes, one can be in front of the Fontaine St-Michel built between 1855-1860 and minutes later at the foot of another famous Parisian landmark, Sacré-Cœur Basilica located at the summit of the butte Montmartre, the highest point in the city.   149 Sacré-Cœur Basilica, Montmartre, ParisIt was built between 1875 and 1914 and is dedicated to the 58,000 who lost their lives during the Franco-Prussian War and the ensuing uprising of the Paris Commune of 1870-71.  154 Sacré-Cœur Basilica, Montmartre, ParisSome interesting facts about the basilica: it is built entirely out of travertine stone quarried from the Seine-et-Marne Department.  This stone constantly exudes calcite, which ensures that the basilica remains white even with weathering and pollution.  152 Sacré-Cœur Basilica, Montmartre, ParisThe foundations of the basilica are deeper than the Egyptian pyramids.  The mosaic in the apse, entitled “Christ in Majesty”, is among the largest in the world.  153 Sacré-Cœur Basilica, Montmartre, ParisSince 1885 (before construction had been completed), the Blessed Sacrament (a consecrated host which has been turned into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ during Mass) has been continually on display in a monstrance above the high altar.  Perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament has continued uninterrupted in the Basilica since 1885.  Some say the basilica looks like a huge, white cake but whatever your taste, it has one of the best views of Paris.  155 Sacré-Cœur Basilica, Montmartre, ParisIf you don’t want to take the 500 plus stairs to the top, hop aboard the funicular at the bottom of the hill using an ordinary Metro ticket.  We took the stairs down after our visit but we had to be careful to dodge those pesky street peddlers trying to make friendship bracelets for us.  They tell you it’s free but once the string is on your wrist, be ready to cough up 5 to 10 Euros!  These guys can be quite aggressive.  We were very hungry by the time lunch rolled around and we were fortunate enough to find an excellent street café at the foot of the basilica where we ate sandwiches and watched the people go by.  157a Restaurant below Sacré-Cœur Basilica, Montmartre, PaI grabbed this shot from Google Maps.  After eating, we headed for the Metro again and exited at the Place de la Concorde.  It was here during the French Revolution that the statue of Louis XV of France was torn down and the area renamed “Place de la Revolution”.  161 Place de la Concorde, Paris159 Place de la Concorde, ParisThe new revolutionary government erected the guillotine in the square, and it was here that King Louis XVI was executed on January 21, 1793.  Other important figures guillotined on the site, often in front of cheering crowds, were Queen Marie Antoinette, Princess Elisabeth of France, Madame du Barry, Georges Danton, Maximilien Robespierre and Charlotte Corday.  Today, at the center of the Place is a giant Egyptian obelisk decorated with hieroglyphics exalting the reign of the pharaoh Ramses II.  It once marked the entrance to the Luxor Temple but was given to the French in 1829 by Ottoman viceroy of Egypt, Mehmet Ali.  It arrived in Paris on December 21, 1833 and three years later was placed in the center where the guillotine stood during the Revolution.  163 Jardin de Tuileries, ParisFrom here, my brother and I chose to do some walking.  From Place de la Concorde we entered the Jardin des Tuileries, a public garden created by Catherine de Medicis as the garden of the Tuileries Palace in 1564.  It was first opened to the public in 1667.  Trees, flowerbeds, fountains and sculptures decorate the long pathways which lead directly to the Louvre Museum.  165 L'arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, Louvre, Paris166a L'arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, Louvre, ParisOne first has to pass by the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel built between 1806 and 1808 to serve as an entrance of honor at the Tuileries and to commemorate Napoleon’s military victories.  166c Le palais du Louvre, ParisIt literally takes days to see everything inside the Louvre so we opted to save its treasures for another day and spent our time admiring the façade and the large glass and metal pyramid (designed by the architect I.M. Pei), surrounded by three smaller pyramids, in the main courtyard (Cour Napoléon).  174 Le palais du Louvre, Paris172 Le palais du Louvre, ParisThe large pyramid serves as the main entrance to the Louvre Museum.  It was completed in 1989 and has become a landmark of the city.  176 Le palais du Louvre, Paris178a Church of Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois, ParisWe left the wonders of the Louvre behind us as we exited from the Cour Carée and followed the Seine onward passing the Church of Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois and stopping again to view the Pont-Neuf.  Despite its name, it is the oldest standing bridge across the Seine in Paris.  180 Pont Neuf, ParisThe bridge is composed of two separate spans, one of five arches joining the left bank to the Île de la Cité, another seven joining the island to the right bank.  Its first stone was laid by King Henry III in 1578 and was completed in 1607.  A major restoration of the Pont-Neuf was begun in 1994 and was completed in 2007, the year of its 400th anniversary.  In 1991, along with actors Juliette Binoche and Denis Lavant, the bridge was featured in the Leos Carax film “Les Amants du Pont-Neuf”.  Go out now and rent it.  181 Sainte-Chapelle, ParisOne of the most beautiful places in Paris is La Sainte-Chapelle, a Gothic chapel built sometime between 1239 and completed in 1248.  It was built to house precious relics: Christ’s crown of thorns, the Image of Edessa and thirty other relics of Christ that had been in the possession of Louis IX.  191 Sainte-Chapelle, Paris192 Sainte-Chapelle, ParisWhat stands out the most to everyone who visits are the tall stained glass windows of the upper chapel, nearly two-thirds are authentic and date as far back as the 12th century.  195 Sainte-Chapelle, Paris186 Sainte-Chapelle, Paris186b Sainte-Chapelle, Paris185 Sainte-Chapelle, ParisA statue to Saint-Louis can be found in the beautifully painted lower chapel dedicated to the Virgin.  In the upper chapel, the rose window represents the Apocalypse while the other stained glass windows represent stories 197 Sainte-Chapelle, Paris196 Sainte-Chapelle, Parisfrom the Old and New Testaments.  Just like the Basilica of Saint-Denis, it is a masterpiece of Gothic design.  As part of our ticket price we had entry to La Conciergerie, a formal royal palace and prison.  200a La Conciergerie, ParisIt is part of the larger complex known as the Palais de Justice.  It was here that hundreds of prisoners during the French Revolution were kept before taken to be executed on the guillotine at a number of locations around Paris.  Built as a palace in the 13th and 14th century it eventually became a prison in 1391.  201 La Conciergerie, ParisThe Hall of the Guards is one of the largest surviving medieval parts of the Conciergerie and often plays the role of exhibition center.  During our visit, there was a special exhibit about French Monuments in Film.  205 Prison Cells, La Conciergerie, Paris204 Marie-Antoinette Cell, La Conciergerie, ParisSome of the more eerie parts of the Conciergerie can still be visited such as the prison cells and the Marie Antoinette room.  206 The Women's Court, La Conciergerie, Paris207 Bell, The Women's Court, La Conciergerie, ParisIn the courtyard, one can still see the bell which tolled her final hours before being loaded into a tumbrel and led to Place de la Concorde to be guillotined.  211 Cathédrale Notre-Dame de ParisWhat visit would be complete without a visit to the famous Notre-Dame Cathedral.  Featured heavily in Victor Hugo’s novel “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame”, it is widely considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture in France and in Europe.  234 Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris226 Cathédrale Notre-Dame de ParisIts construction spanned the entire Gothic period with groundbreaking in 1163 and its completion in 1345.  It was among the first buildings in the world to use the flying buttress.  215 Gallery of Kings, Cathédrale Notre-Dame de ParisThe transept portals are richly embellished with sculpture; the south portal features scenes from the lives of Saint-Stephen and of various local saints, while the north portal features the infancy of Christ and the story of Theophilus in the tympanum.  214 Cathédrale Notre-Dame de ParisThe western façade has three portals, the portal of the Virgin, the portal of the Last Judgement and the portal of Ste-Anne.  After being completely looted during the Revolution, in 1845 it underwent a 25-year restoration under the guidance of Eugène Viollet-le-Duc.  216c Cathédrale Notre-Dame de ParisIn 1991, a major program of maintenance and restoration was initiated, which was intended to last ten years, but is still in progress, the cleaning and restoration of old sculptures and gargoyles being an exceedingly delicate matter.  224 Joan of Arc, Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris216e South Rose Window, Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris225 Tree of Jesse Window, Cathédrale Notre-Dame de ParisSadly, we were unable to fit in any more sights as the sun began to set.  My brother found a person selling souvenir prints at three for 5 Euros but we promised ourselves we would return the next day and buy them.  What a nightmare that decision turned out to be as you will read in my next article.  All in all, it was a fantastic way to end an afternoon of sightseeing.  We had our dinner at an Italian restaurant along rue de Charenton near the hotel and went to bed.  We had to get our sleep since we had to get up early the next day in order to get to the Palace of Versailles.

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February 2 2011 4 02 /02 /February /2011 11:36

046 La Tour Eiffel, ParisParis is so much nicer when you visit with a family member !  Last week, my brother visited me from the United States and I took him to see some of my favorite places in and around Île de la Cité.  Of course, a three-day vacation in Paris is difficult to do especially when there is so much to see.  Perhaps when he comes again with his wife, we will have the chance to visit many of the extraordinary sights that we missed like the Catacombs, Père-Lachaise, Le Grand Palais, Musée d’Orsay and perhaps make it to the top of the Eiffel Tower.  Can you believe it ?  In all of my visits to the city of lights, I’ve never been to the top !  001 Opéra Garnier, ParisAfter meeting up with him at Charles de Gaulle Airport, we took the Roissy Bus to Opéra Garnier and then the RER and Metro to our hotel L’Hôtel de Reims in the 12th Arrondissement near the Gare de Lyon.  077 Gare de Lyon, ParisIt is a cozy, handsome, newly renovated retreat along the quiet Rue Hector Malot, not far from Metro Station 14.  084b Promenade next to our hotelAn added bonus included the incredible shopping and restaurants featured underneath the Arches du viaduc des Arts (a quiet promenade) that follows the nearby Avenue Daumesnil.  084a Promenade next to our hotel084 Promenade next to our hotelSadly, I did not take any photos of this wonderful place but I grabbed some screen shots from Google Maps.  The day before my brother arrived, I spent over an hour walking along the promenade, planted with gardens of all types and sizes.  003 Muséum national d'Histoire, Jardin des Plantes, ParisOur first destination was a leisurely stroll through the Jardin des Plantes that radiates outward toward the Seine from the Muséum national d’Histoire.  From there we passed by the church of Saint-Étienne-du-Mont and Lycée Henri-IV before reaching our intended objective, Le Panthéon, an enormous national monument that functions as a secular mausoleum containing the remains of distinguished French citizens.  018 Panthéon, Paris006 Panthéon, ParisSome of the tombs include those of Victor Hugo, Louis Braille, Marie and Pierre Curie, Voltaire, Rousseau, Émile Zola, Alexandre Dumas and the heart of Léon Gambetta.  007c Panthéon, Paris011 Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Panthéon, Paris014 Voltaire, Panthéon, Paris015 Heart of Léon Gambetta, Panthéon, Paris017 Foucault pendulum, Panthéon, ParisUnderneath the central dome is a 67-meter pendulum initially installed by Léon Foucalt in 1851 to demonstrate the rotation of the Earth.  019 Place de la Sorbonne, ParisAfter a short walk to the Metro, passing by the prestigious Sorbonne University, we emerged at Place Charles de Gaulle at the western extreme of the Avenue des Champs-Élysées to visit l’Arc de Triomphe.  021a Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile, Paris021 Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile, ParisThis monument to was commissioned in 1806 by Emperor Napoleon after the victory at Austerlitz and honors those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.025 Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile, Paris022 Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile, Paris031 Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile, Paris032 Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile, Paris028 Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile, Paris026 Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile, ParisBeneath its vault lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.  Panoramic views from the top are spectacular as one can see all of Paris and the grand avenues that radiate from it.  037 La Tour Eiffel fromTrocadéro, site of the Palais de ChOur next stop was the great icon of France, the Eiffel Tower, built in 1889 for l’Exposition universelle de Paris by engineer Gustave Eiffel.  The best way to view the city’s most popular monument is to arrive by Metro at the Palais du Trocadéro, walk down the stairs toward the base of the tower and 042 La Tour Eiffel, Parisfinally have a casual stroll through the Champ-de-Mars gardens.  If you are interested in military history or wish to visit the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte, make your way to l’Hotel national des Invalides.  048 Les Invalides, Paris050 Les Invalides, Paris053 Les Invalides, ParisThis impressive structure initiated by Louis XIV in 1670 houses the Musée de l’Armee, Musée des Plans-Reliefs, Musée d’Histoire Contemporaine and is crowned by the gold-gilt Église du Dôme.075 Les Invalides, Paris058b Les Invalides, ParisUnderneath this magnificent dome is the final resting place for some of France’s war heroes, notably Napoleon Bonaparte.  His remains were placed here in 1861.  No expense was spared for the tomb and his body lies within six separate coffins.  056c Tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte, Les Invalides, Paris071 Les Invalides, ParisThey are made of iron, mahogany, two of lead, ebony and the outer one is red porphyry.  The tomb sits on a green granite pedestal surrounded by 12 pillars of victory.  074 Les Invalides, ParisIn my opinion, there is no better way to unwind after a long day of sightseeing than to take in the show at the Bal du Moulin Rouge located in the Pigalle district.  083 Le Bal du Moulin Rouge, Pigalle, ParisThe cabaret built in 1889 by Joseph Oller is famous for being the spiritual birthplace of the modern can-can.  Artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec contributed to its popularity by painting numerous scenes and posters of nightlife at the Moulin Rouge.  081 Le Bal du Moulin Rouge, Pigalle, ParisThe current revue is named “Féerie”.  It contains four main scenes with a total of 69 songs.  Multiple acts are performed by a total of 100 artists including Doriss girls (showing their breasts), dancers, acrobats, magicians and clowns.  Traditionally each revue runs for 10 to 12 years and costs 7 to 9 million Euros to create.  We made our booking in advance and had the “Belle Époque” dinner before the show began.  I can’t say anything more about this experience than WOW!!!  It is definitely worth the 180 Euros per person and shouldn’t be missed.  I first saw “Féerie” in 2001 and I am still enchanted !

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January 21 2011 6 21 /01 /January /2011 08:29

PICT0114Loyal readers, I will be in Paris tomorrow until Wednesday.  I am very excited because my brother from the United States will be visiting me.  We will go to the Moulin Rouge on Sunday and Versailles on Tuesday.  The rest of the time we plan on walking the streets and taking the metro to see all of the sights.  I hope he doesn’t mind if I make a stop at Cimetière du Père Lachaise.  I want to have my photo taken beside the grave of Henri Salvador.  Here are a few of my favorite photos from when I visited the last time.  Enjoy.928Cimetière du Père Lachaise906James Douglas Morrison 1943 - 1971

883Frédéric François Chopin 1810 - 1849900Édith Giovanna Gassion (Edith La Môme Piaf) 1915 - 196895Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde 1854 - 1900

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January 12 2011 4 12 /01 /January /2011 08:20

307 Cité de la Mer, Cherbourg avant 1944 a307 Cité de la Mer, Cherbourg avant 1944This is what the Transatlantic Station in Cherbourg used to look like before World War II.  Those damn Nazis destroyed much of what once used to be beautiful.  Cherbourg 1944-Gare Maritime-2307 Cité de la Mer, Cherbourg 1944aFortunately, the building has been restored although I guess none of us will ever get to see it with its original tower.  The current building is now the Cité de la Mer dedicated to maritime history.  307 Cité de la Mer, CherbourgIt also has a huge aquarium featuring many kinds of fish.  Large ships like the Cunard Queen Mary II and the Queen Elizabeth still dock here with tourists every year.304 Cité de la Mer, Cherbourg 

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January 2 2011 1 02 /01 /January /2011 12:18

001 Ephahanie

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December 27 2010 2 27 /12 /December /2010 13:09

028I hope that everyone had a nice Christmas.  I know that I certainly did !  I drove to the south of France to stay with friends in the Lot Department with whom I have spent the holidays with for the last ten years.  The drive from Cherbourg went well enough although I had some fog between Caen and Tours.  After that, there was plenty of rain.  This made the total drive 9 hours and 5 minutes.  004It’s always my job to put out the Christmas ornaments and decorate the tree when I arrive.  At my church in Querqueville, I purchased some adorable felt ornaments from the organization Secours Catholique during their national campaign for Catholic Relief Services.  Photos of the ornaments can be found at the bottom of the page here.  Of course, we always put out the Nativity that I made several years ago from some old wood and moss found in the forest behind my friend’s house.  005007006007aDuring the night of the 23rd it snowed and the temperatures dropped drastically.  It was certainly a white Christmas for us.  008-copy-1My friend’s father was able to put his new wood-burning stove to good use.  It creates a lot of heat from small wood pellets.  The snow never melted and everything was just as it should be at Christmas.  042For Christmas Eve, we had our traditional feast at the table elaborately decorated using some fresh greens, pinecones and some old ornaments.  052First on the menu were the aperitifs of various French liqueurs.  Then we were on to the six-dozen oysters that I bought earlier in the day at the market.033054After that we had foie gras and verrine de saumon before moving on to the main course­—a goose, potatoes with wild mushrooms, haricots verts and grilled chestnuts.  035After a short break we sipped a variety of wines and nibbled on our plate of cheese which included Leerdammer, Cantal and Rocamadour cabécou.  057For dessert we ate homemade carrot cake and two bûche de Noël.  The meal ended at midnight when the baby Jesus was placed in the crèche and we all drank a glass of champagne.  I was exhausted and went to bed right away while others sat downstairs talking until the wee hours of the morning.  081062069Christmas day was kind to me and I received many wonderful gifts including shirts, a bathrobe and some Tintin books and DVDs.  I also received a painting of my favorite bande dessinée character done by my friend’s neice.  The trip back to Querqueville was uneventful and took only 8 hours and 30 minutes.  087102There were a few places that were still covered in snow just after driving past the Civaux Nuclear Power Plant.  104109113It’s good to be home and I wish everyone a very Happy New Year !

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