travel: paris – sacre-coeur

The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris is set on the highest point in Montmartre. As I visited it on the last day of our European adventure last year I thought it a beautiful end to a magical time. It’s contrast to the Palais Garnier was refreshing. That – and I just have a thing for being up high. If I were a bird I would definitely be one of those who perch at the highest point to watch the world below.
img_4938Wikipedia says “The inspiration for Sacré Cœur’s design originated on September 4, 1870, the day of the proclamation of the Third Republic, with a speech by Bishop Fournier attributing the defeat of French troops during the Franco-Prussian War to a divine punishment after “a century of moral decline” since the French Revolution, in the wake of the division in French society that arose in the decades following that revolution.” Reading the rest of the history in that article reminds me of how closely tied religions and governments have been in many countries and how much I appreciate religious freedom and tolerance of diversity that are codified in the American constitution. (No matter how badly people and politicians might mangle the practice of the idea.)

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It was quite the hike to just get to the base of the Basilica, but every view and every plateau was a reward.

img_4942“Sacré-Cœur is built of travertine stone quarried in Château-Landon(Seine-et-Marne), France. This stone constantly exudes calcite, which ensures that the basilica remains white even with weathering and pollution.”

img_4939“A mosaic in the apse, entitled Christ in Majesty, created by Luc-Olivier Merson, is among the largest in the world.”

img_4943“Though today the Basilica is asserted[5][when?] to be dedicated in honor of the 58,000 who lost their lives during the war, the decree of the Assemblée nationale, 24 July 1873, responding to a request by the archbishop of Paris by voting its construction, specifies that it is to “expiate the crimes of the Commune“.[6] Montmartre had been the site of the Commune’s first insurrection, and the Communards had executed Georges Darboy, Archbishop of Paris, who became a martyr for the resurgent Catholic Church”

img_4945The climb up to the top is long…

img_4946But there are surprises you would never be able to see from below.

img_4950Beautiful and rewarding glimpses all along the way.

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travel: paris – palais garnier, tapestries

Last one I promise. My favorite part of the Palais Garnier (Paris Grand Opera) was a lobby that had exquisite tapestries on the walls. Busts of famous balerinas and singers and composers were also on display. Maybe I was drawn to the tapestries because they are textiles – but I also love that they had a little bit of empty space in the compositions. They felt a bit Art Nouveau to me.

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paris_grande_opera_33One interesting bit of information. I think I remember listening to the audio tour and it mentioning that ballerinas had to have “patrons”. They were paid so little, regardless of their fame, that they had to find a “sponsor.” As a result of this, they were looked upon as little better than prostitutes because the sponsors were men (of course) that, well, you know… expected certain favors in return for their financial patronage. Of course, the famous men as composers needed patrons too but didn’t have the same reputation. I’m hoping that, at least, has changed in our world. 

travel: paris – palais garnier, opera

They were rehearsing when we visited the Opera so we only had a quick moment to view the auditorium and see the Chagal glass in the dome/skylight. And we couldn’t take pictures. But it was pretty cool to watch the ballet dancer, a guy, dance like a chicken with more and more intensity as driven by the director. I do believe now the Palais Garner is the home of the Paris Ballet and the Opera lives over in a much newer but also large-and-built-to-impress building.paris_grande_opera_34We couldn’t go in, but we did see famous door to box number 5 where the Phantom of the Opera played Mr. Creepy Stalker.

paris_grande_opera_27The library was heaven. I love this place and want it in my home. Those folks are looking in on models of sets from various famous productions.

paris_grande_opera_35If I knew my opera better I’d probably be able to tell you what opera this was.

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Downstairs they had my favorites – costumes!!!paris_grande_opera_17

travel: paris – palais garnier, looking up, looking down

paris_grande_opera_23looking up

paris_grande_opera_25looking down

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paris_grande_opera_30down (now this… I looooooove!)

paris_grande_opera_27UP… love this too. The guard didn’t love the way I took the picture though. 😀

travel: paris – palais garnier

I’m still going through pictures from last year’s trip to Paris and Greece. My daughter and I saw a lot of french architecture that I call Geschmukte. I think I might have made up that word. Baroque. Palaces that were soaring mirrored places for kings and queens and nobility as narcissistic as a certain current political candidate.paris_grande_opera_01

The Grande Opera in Paris was my favorite of the buildings in this category we toured. Perhaps because it was centered around the arts rather than a ruler made it more palatable. Or perhaps I actually found beauty here and there in the details. All together it was a little much (understatement for sure!). It’s like leaving some negative space in your artwork or in your quilting. Someplace for the eye to rest accentuates the details that you want to stand out.

paris_grande_opera_03The entire place is a stage. The grand staircase with balcony after balcony that allowed for society to present and to view itself is a stage. 

paris_grande_opera_06I love taking it in just a piece at a time. It is the same as good design in gardening – my favorite being creating paths for the eyes and rooms to experience. In a place like this that is overwhelming with detail I like to pull in and look at smaller views.

paris_grande_opera_12I love this beautiful statue, the Pythia of Delphi, sculpted by Adele d’Affray under the male pseudonym of Marcello. 

paris_grande_opera_13You can’t look up or down or sideways in this building without being bombarded by decoration. Sometimes a small bit of that decoration can be amazing! I’m glad I’m not in charge of cleaning this place.

paris_grande_opera_10One of the lobbies.

paris_grande_opera_09But if you zero in and look a little closer….. there are delights everywhere you look.

 

travel: paris – doors

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The Association of Parisian Grocers.
At least when the building was constructed, who knows who is there now?Pars_doors_16

This is a gorgeous door and set from the Musee du Orsay.

travels: paris, the louvre – odd bits here and there

Once you start walking through the Louvre you realize how overwhelming such a collection can be. Almost any work here could be a national treasure on it’s own, to be gazed at and appreciated for hours in any smaller museum. But here at the Louvre, when there are hundreds and hundreds of treasures, you start just glancing here and there until something catches your eye. Avia quickly found works that she had recently studied in her art history course.FullSizeRender-29I quickly forgot that this place used to be the palace for the French Royalty. Until I was reminded by a room like this….

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louvre-statue-egyptian-romanHubby and I were talking the other night and I was telling him a little more about the trip. I kind of feel like, “Paris – Check! Greece – honey you’ve GOT to see this!”

That might only be because he loves sun and beaches. Museums – not so much. Because who doesn’t want to travel across the world to see some hellenistic dude dressing up like Pharaoh? Right?

But then we started thinking of all sorts of crazy fun ideas like, “Let’s go spend a season in Paris. You go to Le Cordon Bleu for cooking school, I’ll go see and make art every day.”

louvre-paintingThat idea takes Paris right back into the “when can we go!” category. Sigh. The answer to that question is most likely – after the kids are grown. We have a ways to go there.

Can you imagine being in Paris during the off season, heading off to the Louvre (or any one of the other amazing museums) without the crowds, and tucking yourself in a corner to just really learn from one of your favorites?

louvre-statues4And without the crowds maybe you could laugh out loud when you see these guys contemplating…..

 

It took some hunting but Avia found a piece she had written an essay on last semester. How cool is that!? To see it in real life? In all it’s hugeness? Very cool. 
louvre-avia1Although by the end of the day all you want to do is snap a quick picture to prove you were there and then find somewhere to sit down. It’s all good – a day well spent.

travels: paris, overwhelmed at the Louvre

Once I tore myself away from the stone tablets in the Islamic wing of the Louvre, Avia led the way to one piece she wanted to revisit.FullSizeRender-15

The Winged Victory of Samothrace is, for all it’s incompleteness, is one of the most graceful and beautiful sculptures I’ve ever seen. I wonder if I would have such a visceral reaction to the flowing lines and the feeling of movement and grace if she did have a face?FullSizeRender-13

And I wonder if she is yet another national treasure, spirited away during the Turkish occupation of Greece to a foreign land. Anybody know? She was excavated by the French consul and amateur archaeologist Charles Champoiseau, in 1863 who sent her right away to Paris. Her setting here is certainly magnificent!

I can’t help but think though, if this beauty, and so many of the other magnificent sculptures from ancient Greece were still IN Greece, FullSizeRender-14would there be crowds like this there?

 

The next thing I really remember is turning a corner and gasping for breath thinking – it’s SO beautiful as I looked at a painting/fresco. Then I did the inner gasp thing again, thinking to myself, is this a Botticelli!?FullSizeRender-25

Looked down at the title card and sure enough, there is the name. Coming face to face with favorite works from several college art history classes many many many years ago can be disarming. There truly is no way to capture the essence of a work, especially a large scale work, in the pages of a book. The figures in this fresco were almost life size if I’m remembering correctly.FullSizeRender-25

Then there are works that might make as much of an impact in a book, because they are tiny in real life. And – who wants to fight that crowd to get a glimpse? That was shoulder to shoulder, push your way through. Not my favorite way to see art.IMG_4969 So technically I DID see the Mona Lisa. But no, I didn’t think it was worth it to fight the crowd.

 

travels: paris, the louvre in stone

Everything inside the Louvre is a treasure. The most overlooked artifact there would be a centerpiece of any smaller museum.IMG_4976-1Statues from ancient Greece and Rome..IMG_4975A mosaic on the floor that most people rush by on their way to see that one paintingIMG_4984-1This was Avia’s second time in the Louvre but I think she had mostly spent her time in the Islamic wing. She humored me for a quick trip through where I was inexplicably drawn past exquisite mosaics and tapestries and entranced by stone after stone.IMG_4983

With her French study abroad program she had spent several weeks in Paris studying immigrants in France as well as several weeks in Morocco studying French Colonialism’s effect on North Africa. They had spent weeks analyzing and picking apart cultural biases and interactions.FullSizeRender-5I think it was something of a lightening of spirit to be able to just go and enjoy the beauty of the artifacts.FullSizeRenderHave you ever seen a more beautiful script?FullSizeRenderIf I can find translations somewhere (anyone able to help me search them out?) these might end up as thermofax screens. I wouldn’t want to be disrespectful if they are religious texts. FullSizeRenderI’m hoping for grocery lists or epitaphs. What do you think they are? The pictures are quite heavily digitally edited so that I can see the scripts more clearly. Here is an original for comparison.IMG_4982

travels: paris, entering the louvre

FullSizeRenderIt’s a BIG place. All the exterior pictures I’ve ever seen of the Louvre picture I.M. Pei’s pyramid in the courtyard. I think we might have come in through the back entrance of what was once the Royal Palace. Do you ever wonder what today’s American equivalent of royalty is? We certainly don’t revere our politicians. TV and Movie stars perhaps. Perhaps professional athletes (mostly in Football and Basketball.) I don’t watch TV or sports (no time) so I wouldn’t really know but I get the feeling those people are as spoiled and behave as badly as did the French Royalty. I can imagine what the palace must have been like as one giant stage for the nobles to be seen upon. And don’t ask me how I ended up with a chinese map – is it chinese?Louvre_exterior1I think we must have come in the back door. The big empty dirt yard was a little underwhelming. But the building itself went on forever.Louvre_exterior2In through the first arcade… It was interesting to see all the details, wondering when the lamps were added then thinking, what did they use before lamps and what did that look like?Louvre_exterior3Old and new always butt up against each other. Did they even bother to repair or scrub the buildings before they had cranes? I was thinking that we were in great luck and that the tourists had all decided to stay home that day. Honestly – this place is huge. You can just glimpse I. M. Pei’s glass pyramid through the next arcade. We definitely came in the back door. Every picture I’ve seen of the place showed the pyramid from the other side.Louvre_exterior5I’m not sure if the ugly red box is semi-permanent or not. It might house ticketing booths. I know the other side of that glass holds enormous lines of people from all over the world. Which could be really annoying.Louvre_exterior6Or, if you have the right shoes and the right attitude it could be really fun. The people were honestly as interesting as the art.Louvre_exterior8 Just listening and trying to identify how many languages you can hear at a place like this is an adventure worth taking.Louvre_exterior9With the Paris Museum Pass you can skip the ticket line, but not the security lines. Fortunately those go pretty quickly. Louvre_exterior10And really, it’s worth the wait. Stay tuned for the ART!

travels: paris – on the way to the louvre

Or in this case – on the way to the Louvre. I’ve just decided that I need to print up maps and mark all the places we wandered. I’ve already forgotten a lot of them… or at least where they were on the map. Of course – if you keep your eyes open – many of the most delightful discoveries are on the way to your destination. Or when you are lost.

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paris_pass1paris_pass2I’m not sure if we walked all the way to the Louvre or if we took the Metro. Avia had a pass and we decided that for the time I was there a bundle of 10 tickets was the least expensive option. It was much nicer to just be able to decide on the spur of the moment to hop a train rather than needing to stop and purchase tickets for each part of our last minute journey.

Paris is more than a world class city when it comes to art. It’s paradise! Bring your shoes. And if you go, I recommend the Paris Museum Pass. You can purchase it at varying costs for however many days you will be there. It gave us the freedom and flexibility to pop in and out of some of the smaller places that we would not have wanted to pay for. It also lets you skip a lot of the lines – which is a THING in and of itself.

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But seriously, take your time and look around during the journey instead of focusing entirely on the destination. Everywhere you look there is something really interesting to see. Who built this? What is it? I really want to see what it looks like in there! Don’t you love the asymmetrical awning?
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I wonder if this is a shop or factory? Or is it both? I have never had a desire for name brand stuff and couldn’t spot a Louis Vuitton anything if my life depended on it, but it’s a very lovely building.FullSizeRender-18And this…. I don’t even know what it is or what it says but don’t you wish they made details on buildings like this these days? And finally – we arrive at the Louvre – but are completely distracted by what is across the street. We both love exploring cathedrals. There seems to be one every few blocks in Paris, an embarrassment of architectural riches to be sure. We chose to hit these on our way back – although I don’t remember if we actually ever did.FullSizeRender-23

travel: paris – doors and details

Pars_doors_08How many years does it take for a patina to be created then worn away?

Pars_doors_12This building was somewhere on the way to the Musee’ du Orsay.Pars_doors_013New and old mix everywhere in Paris.
I couldn’t figure out if this was a very exclusive shop or residence.
It’s possible it was both.

Pars_doors_06I tried opening it, but my parseltongue is a bit rusty.

Travels: Paris street art

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travels: paris, the food!

Paris sweets tend to focus their variety on pastries, the cake like specialty cookies that I can’t remember the name of (confiseries – I had to look it up), and of course macarons. All of them are spectacularly beautiful and artistically presented – but I didn’t see a lot of other options either in the tourist areas or the neighborhoods we explored. Every once in a while there was a surprise. See those three chocolate truffles? Served with home made real whipped creme. At the equivalent of a fast food bagel shop!!!! When I ordered it I thought I was just getting one truffle for desert. What a lovely surprise. paris_food15

Then there are the meringues. No pretty ribbed little drops. The meringues are simply big, blobby blobs of sugar, light as air and crispy. They are usually displayed in a bowl on top of the counter. Often they are dusted with cocoa. They were the only sweet that was sweet like Americans like sweet. Which is to say – ridiculously sweet. I saw a couple of them that were the size of a flattened football. They crumble and fall apart when you bite into them so I’m not sure how one would share such a monster.paris_food12This beauty was obviously an exception. Here is Avia in the lovely apartment we rented through AirBnB for the week. (It was wonderful and ideally located by the way!) She had been eyeing this thing for a couple of weeks and neither one of us were quite sure what it was. We knew it was chocolate on the outside so how could one go wrong?paris_food14Other than making a royal mess on the table, the process of discovery was a delight. A meringue coated in a light chocolate whipped cream, dipped in chocolate crackle stuff. Impossible to eat politely and absolutely delicious!

So – I’ve cultivated a love of surprises when it comes to food. I know so many people who only like the same things to eat (one of them lives in my house but I hope he’ll grow out of it.) I suppose if your tummy tends to rebel it would make it hard to like surprises but I think exploring with all my senses is half the adventure of travel! What have been your best (or worst) food surprises when you’ve traveled?

travel: paris – le petit musée du chocolat

When you have your eyes open and aren’t glued to a map, or in a hurry to get somewhere, or if you get lost, you find amazing things. IMG_4718

This is straight down the hill from Sacre Ceaur, a big Basilica on a hill in Paris. Two of my favorite things. Chocolate and a Museum. I had read about this place in a guidebook or on a blog somewhere but it wasn’t high enough on the list to seek out. Running into it in passing was a very delightful accident.

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This is just the shop. Crystal chandeliers (and a guy on a ladder polishing them by hand.) And loads and loads of chocolate. 

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We didn’t go downstairs through the museum. It was our last day on our trip and we were winding down. Didn’t want to pay the fee. And – there was enough amazing stuff upstairs to keep us happy for a quick run through. I have a brother who drives a mini, and builds model ships. Guess who this picture made me think of.

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Just so you can compare and see how amazing the detail on this sculpture really was…

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This, of course, was my very favorite. I don’t like scary (no horror films for me!) but I do love things a little weird sometimes and gargoyles are just… cool. Especially when made of chocolate!

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Yes, we bought chocolate. It was good. We brought some home for family. I am very pleased to say that I live in an area of the country where I can find food, and chocolate, just as good as I found in Paris. Rarely as beautifully presented – but not everyplace can be Paris!

travels: paris, the food – it’s all about the presentation

I think the Parisiens are very keyed into the visual language of beauty. They like to dress beautifully, trim their trees into (ridiculous) rectangles so the beautiful view is unobstructed, and every pastry shop was like an art gallery.
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Honestly – look at that display! Everything is just so …. Beautiful!paris_food05

I wonder if they like to just loooooook at all the beautiful food? To many Americans, desensitized by the presence of sweeteners in practically everything we put into our mouths, the taste doesn’t quite live up to the visual. The pastries just aren’t as sweet as American pastries. That’s probably not a bad thing. Oh, and they don’t skimp on butter – ever. I think that when you aren’t constantly eating sugar, and live in a country where the default is walking rather than hopping in a car to get anywhere – that you can eat butter!paris_food01

This lunch was arranged as beautifully on the plate as the pastries in the shop. And here is another wonderfully interesting thing about Paris. See the chairs in the cafe across the street? They are all facing the street. That was more the norm than were we were sitting. I think the people watching is as much part of the experience as the food. I loved it. Except for the fact that smoking is far more accepted there. During this particular meal a guy sitting nearby kept blowing huge puffs of a super stinky cigar our way. 
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This was a chain store – we saw the same place in several touristy areas of town. But still….paris_food16

Pressed tin ceiling, perfectly stacked cookies (what do you call al little cake biscuit thing?) and everything color coordinated.paris_food17

Even the fish market was artfully arranged. It’s all about beauty. Or at least, they care enough to dress even every day things with beautiful arrangements.paris_food06

travels: paris, notre dame – inside

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It’s really, really, really big in there. (And much, much more crowded these days.)IMG_5751

Every nook along the apse (the aisles on either side of the Nave -which is the long central main space)  has beautiful stained glass and a little sanctuary with statues. Each is unique.IMG_5752

I loved Joan of Arc. Fierce woman if ever there was one.IMG_5763The stained glass windows on every level are beautiful. It is impossible to convey the feel and atmosphere of the place.

IMG_5765-1Is that the shadow of an angel – or the hunchback of…. Notre Dame?IMG_5766-1I wish I could read french. Was this really a great man giving to the poor, or was it a rich guy who commissioned a statue to make people think of him as really generous. I really shouldn’t be so cynical. Really I’m not.  Late at night the snarky thoughts just seem to take over my usual pollyanna view of the world.

travel: paris, Notre Dame – west facade

Edeuard Baldus, 1851-1870

Edeuard Baldus, 1851-1870

The facade of the Notre Dame cathedral is truly impressive. There is a LOT of stuff up there. I suppose if most of your population is illiterate that a facade can be read like a really interesting book. Everything has a meaning and was meant to teach the general populace a lesson. I enjoyed reading through this article  with it’s general information. I haven’t had time yet to read through a statue by statue explanation…. Did I mention that there is a LOT of stuff there.IMG_5757

It was a surprise to read that most of the statues were originally painted all sorts of bright colors. (The same is true of ancient greek statuary and temples.) We are so used to the quiet and worn monochrome of age that the very thought sounds really loud and gaudy to me. What it must have been like…..Paris_doors_22For some reason I am drawn to the grotesques. And all the little pedestals that look like little villages and castles. Who are all those saints looking on… standing on the backs of the sinners?IMG_5758

Were they really saints? Were they really sinners? I don’t have a very Catholic world-view I’m afraid. My current favorite saying is “a saint is a sinner who just keeps trying.”IMG_5760

When I look at the statues I mostly think of the dedication and skill of the craftsmen who worked on this structure for their whole lives. Was it a cushy, secure job? How well were they paid? What kind of politics did they deal with? Did they enjoy their labor? Did they get to see it done?

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Can you even imagine the hours spent at the fire and the anvil, banging out each delicate curl and scroll?Pars_doors_09

Travels: paris, notre dame’s gargoyles

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Painted in Waterlogue

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Painted in Waterlogue

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Painted in Waterlogue

travels: paris, notre dame’s towers

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Climbing towers – being UP – one of my very favorite things ever. Every time I travel my most memorable memories are climbing to the top of things. Or at least the view once I get there.

IMG_5722Waiting in lines – NOT my favorite thing. Hers neither. And this was one LONG line. I suggest either get there first thing in the morning, or wait until a time of day when the line is in the shade.

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The views as you wait are wonderful if you take a moment to look.

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We finally made it to the little red door.IMG_5720And then – up and up and up and up and up and up…..

IMG_5719But the views are SO worth the climb! This is looking North – the hill is Montmartre and Sacre Caeur.

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Another view North of the bell tower.

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The Seine.

Preset Style = Vibrant Format = Medium Format Margin = None Format Border = Straight Drawing = #2 Pencil Drawing Weight = Medium Drawing Detail = Medium Paint = Natural Paint Lightness = Normal Paint Intensity = More Water = Tap Water Water Edges = Medium Water Bleed = Average Brush = Natural Detail Brush Focus = Everything Brush Spacing = Narrow Paper = Watercolor Paper Texture = Medium Paper Shading = Light

I thought I would be spending time with my watercolor sketchbook, sitting at cafes while I was traveling. I didn’t. Too many things to see, and then too exhausted to think. My Waterlogue app did plenty of painting for me.

travels: paris, notre dame

Notre_Dame_01One of the subjects I studied in college was architecture. It took a while to dredge up the names of the parts of a cathedral, but no time at all to realize that seeing and walking through the structure in person cannot compare to looking at pictures in a book. I knew this and wanted more than anything to do a study abroad program in architecture back then. Better late than never!Notre_Dame_08Notre Dame is THE cathedral you study when you learn about Gothic Architecture, which is characterized by pointed arches,Notre_Dame_02ribbed vaults,

IMG_5704 and flying buttresses.

IMG_5706Notre Dame was the first structure to use this innovative support system – out of necessity after the walls, growing ever higher, started to develop stress fractures. It took 185 years to build, finished in 1345. IMG_5705

Notre Dame is also known for the naturalism of it’s sculptures.Notre_Dame_04

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Notre_Dame_03(Somebody in this picture had a rough day.)

Notre_Dame_06I love it for the Gargoyles and Chimeras. 
(Lots more pictures to come – interior, the view from the tower, gargoyles!)

travels: paris, the bird and flower markets

Every Sunday, just east of Notre Dame next to the Isle de la Cite metro stopparis-bird_market10… you will find the Paris Bird and Flower markets.paris-bird_market06The flower markets are a permanent fixture although I’m not sure they are open every day.

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The bird market is a Sunday morning only thing.paris-bird_market04I suppose in a city without Petsmart type big box stores, buying your regular supplies for your pet parakeet requires a bit more planning. paris-bird_market07I didn’t see any more unusual birds than you would find at a pet shop in the US. Except maybe the chickens. (Can you find one?)paris-bird_market12

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I did see some unusual people.paris-bird_market03

I was impressed that she could ride a scooter in heels and a mini skirt – with a bird. I half kill myself on scooters – even with a helmet and sensible shoes.

travel: paris – doors and windows

To be in a place, a building, people have inhabited for decades or centuries….Pars_doors_17It makes you think.
How do they keep the building from falling down (or the Wisteria from tearing it up)?Pars_doors_15I wonder who touched these handles and what were they thinking?Pars_doors_10Who created these works of art?
Pars_doors_11Who walked here?
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travels: paris, deyrolle – a cabinet of curiosities

IMG_3784Please see the previous post if you missed the introduction to this amazing shop in Paris.

Deyrolle is a cabinet of curiosities full of wonder and – when I walked into the entymology section – absolute delight! Underneath these display boxes are row upon row of drawers filled with specimens.

 

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The specimens were not simply displayed as a collection. Each box, each display and framed piece on the wall was a work of art.IMG_5663

Of course I happen to think that the living insect world is full of tiny works of art all by themselves. I could have spent the entire day photographing every specimen they have.IMG_3786

What artist could create jewels as beautiful as these?IMG_3779

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The artist Jean-Luc Maniouloux had several works on the wall that ought my eye. The shattered light bulb (is that a bee or a bullet?) was my favorite.

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I could spend hours on the Deyrolle pinterest page.
Now I need a month or two of completely uninterrupted time in order to create a vast series of works celebrating the beauties of the insect world. Anyone want to come take my place for a while? Sigh. If only….

travels: paris, deroylle – a cabinet of curiosities

IMG_3784My daughter and extremely competent tour guide, Avia, had already been abroad in Morocco and Paris for a few weeks before I arrived. When one of her study-abroad group said “you have to stop by this shop – the best eclairs ever – and oh, by the way, there is a cabinet of curiosities shop nearby” – off we went! IMG_5665Avia just might be the world’s foremost expert on judging the quality of an eclair. She notices and has a reasoned opinion about every part of the pastry. She judged these as very good – but not the best she had tasted in Paris. The curiosity shop, however, was worth a trip to Paris on it’s own merits.

FAIR WARNING: This post contains images of dead and stuffed animals and taxidermy. And skeletons. And maybe bugs and other stuff.

According to their website: “With few exceptions, the stuffed animals in Deyrolle come from zoos, parks or reserves where they died of old age or sickness. The animals were not killed for being naturalized in Deyrolle. All protected species are sold accompanied by a CITES certificate (issued by the Washington Convention), which ensures traceability.”

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Downstairs is a little shop with books and gardening supplies and a few interesting frames with mounted insects on the wall. Upstairs – is a garden of wonder that strikes the visitor full of awe. The employees/artisans worked their magic in an atmosphere of more hushed reverence than any cathedral we visited.
IMG_5659It wasn’t just the lifelike taxidermy, it was the whimsy and artistry of each arrangement. There was something unexpected around every corner. The people who do this aren’t trophy hunters. They are artists who appear to care a great deal for the natural world.

IMG_3795Taurus – with butterflies. Or Papillon if you want to be French.

IMG_3794Creatures in and out of their nice neat shelves.

IMG_3791-1Lobster anyone? The picture doesn’t do this justice. It was the biggest lobster we had ever seen.

IMG_3789Would you believe me if I told you I’d always wanted a bat skeleton – and bird and frog skeletons too. The history of Deyrolle is very interesting. Begun in 1831 by Jean-Baptiste Deyrolle, it has long been an institution devoted to education. They currently provide scientific wall charts to schools in 120 countries teaching everything from human anatomy to etymology.

IMG_3792Surprise! (um… I did warn you.) In 2008 much of the collection was destroyed by a devastating fire. Even then, art emerged. Artists and photographers documented the remains and effects and if I had room in my luggage I might have purchased the amazing book that resulted. A little creepy and beautiful at the same time.

IMG_3796Does anyone else have heart palpitations when they see cabinets with rows upon rows of drawers of all sizes? The dream studio that lives in my imagination is full of them. It is not full of chickens and elephants. But if it were tall enough it would have a little balcony with a wall to wall library and posters just like these.

Tomorrow I’ll share my photos from the etymology room.

The Deyrolle Website
replete with photos, history, mission, education
46, rue du Bac – 75007 Paris

Travels: Paris, the Eiffel tower

Avia and I usually wore ourselves out by early evening and would head in to our apartment to rest and eat a very light dinner of fruit and cheese and of course a baguette. Eiffel_tower0605This night we headed out to find gelato and see the Eiffel twinkle. We (quite literally) ran through Paris and her Metro stations to make it in time for the lighting party. Because it is a party. Be prepared for lots of drunk and obnoxious american college students partying and for a river of men walking by trying to sell you wine.Eiffel_tower0201We made it just in time for the lighting at 10pm with seconds to spare. Avia really wanted to see the tower twinkle but … it just lit up. When it’s barely dusk it doesn’t make a big impact. We waited a bit to see if it would twinkle and decided that it wasn’t going to happen until the next hour.Eiffel_tower0706I decided that if we were going to wait around another 45 minutes we might as well do it in line for the elevator and see the twinkling close up. We did so in the company of another group of mostly drunk but amusing American college students.Eiffel_tower0403I think I wish I were part bird. I simply love being UP. Towers, belfries, hot air balloons. Doesn’t matter as long as I’m way high so I can see everything. Paris is beautiful from the heights.Eiffel_tower0302And – as promised at 11pm the twinkling began.

(You can click here to watch a video!)Eiffel_tower0504Worth it!

 

travels: versailles, petit trianon and hamlet

versailles2Next stop on our Blue Bike Tour of Versailles was the Petit Trianon. First a residence of Madame de Pompadour, a mistress who apparently had some serious privileges – guess kings back then didn’t have to keep such things a secret. Versailles_Petit_TrianonNow it is mostly remembered for the presence of Marie-Antoinette.Marie167It’s just a “little” place to get away from the crowd over in Paris.versailles3

I love to zone in on details and found this doorknob to be one of my favorite things about the place. We weren’t given a long time to explore the place and to be honest, super fancy houses don’t capture my interest so I don’t even remember the rooms.IMG_3422

The gardens might have been lovely but by this time of the day it had gotten quite hot and I didn’t feel like heading out into the open with no shade around. Yup. I’m a wimp sometimes when it comes to the sun – having forgotten sunscreen and having no hat. I ended up with a wicked sunburn anyway.IMG_3414I did love the geometry of this place with diagonally laid floor tiles and a long view through the corridor.IMG_3423Then on to the Hamlet. A little village created to remind Marie-Antoinette of the simple life (which in actuality she never really had lived. Royalty – remember?IMG_3410The vista was charming and the swan seriously added to the feeling of – wow – this place has the exact same feeling as Disneyland! Fantasy done extremely well! but the knowledge that this was fantasy for one person at the expense of the French citizens makes it a little hollow.versailles1This delightful little cottage with truly amazing gardens – I loved the gardens! – was reserved for the queen’s boudoir. Her hairdressing cottage.IMG_3420The mill required humans to turn the wheel as there wasn’t any actual stream on the site. We were informed that she loved to collect eggs – but that she asked her servants to wash the eggs first then place them so she could collect them without getting her hands dirty. A true country girl.IMG_3419Sorry if I sound a little – um – jaded is the only word I can think of. I truly enjoyed Versailles as a day outdoors on a bike with one of my favorite people in the world. The sky was clear and blue and the world was green and beautiful.

And we had a funny story on the way home. In one of the Metro stations on the way home we came down to the platform just as a train was getting ready to leave. We decided to run for it and Avia hopped on – me right behind her. Almost.Metro-metro The door closed with one leg, one arm, and my face in and the rest of me out. I thought I could maybe get the doors back open. Nope. A guy with a somewhat panicked look on his face pried the door open enough that I could get my leg out and Avia shoved the rest of me out as the doors slammed back shut and the train took off. Abesses_entrance_1Nothing better to get your heart pumping than thinking you are going to be dragged down a train tunnel any second. No real worries though. I just hopped the next train and at the next station Avia was waiting and we both hopped back on. The massive (still very colorful 10 days later) bruise on my thigh that I’m sporting is probably from the table corner I clumsily bumped into that evening but I think the train door makes a better story, don’t you?

travels: paris, versailles – Le Chateau

On a bright and beautiful day Avia and I escaped the city, hopped a train and explored Versailles.IMG_3396

According to Versailles’ official website: “The Château de Versailles, which has been on UNESCO’s World Heritage List for 30 years, is one of the most beautiful achievements of 18th-century French art. The site began as Louis XIII’s hunting lodge before his son Louis XIV transformed and expanded it, moving the court and government of France to Versailles in 1682. Each of the three French kings who lived there until the French Revolution added improvements to make it more beautiful.”

 

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More beautiful? Or perhaps just more MORE. This is the absolute antithesis of the “Less is More” modern architecture movement. Even though the French people overthrew the monarchy, I wonder if they still see Versailles as the pinnacle of French art and power. Perhaps as an American I cannot help but see it as a symbol of power taken to extreme excess by humans who thought themselves Gods.

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Every facet of life centered around the sun king including worship at the “chapel” didn’t begin until the monarch arrived. There were public ceremonies surrounding him going to bed at night for heavens sake.

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I must admit that I did enjoy the beautiful flooring …… modern quilt anyone?

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These were people who thought themselves as large as the paintings they commissioned. Napoleon crowned himself and his Queen and then commissioned many, many very large paintings of himself and his exploits. (Many of which we saw in the Louvre – our favorite was one looking like he was falling off his rearing horse.)

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The obligatory Hall of Mirrors photo.

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I was actually intrigued and impressed by some serious napkin folding skills (wonder if those are authentic 1780’s folds and how would they know?) Mostly, I needed to have someplace to look other than the rest of the room. I had an almost physical nauseous reaction to the place.

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adjective: rococo
  1. (of furniture or architecture) of or characterized by an elaborately ornamental late baroque style of decoration prevalent in 18th-century Continental Europe, with asymmetrical patterns involving motifs and scrollwork.
    • extravagantly or excessively ornate, especially (of music or literature) highly ornamented and florid.
       
      In other words – negative space must be obliterated!

Travels: Paris, the cluny museum

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Travels: Paris, St. Eustache

I’m going to have to stop trying to get a whole day in one post. so simply, here is another spectacular cathedral. We stayed and listened to Mass for a while. To hear the organ and the singing fill such a soaring space gives you a truer feel of why these buildings exist. It is a very sonorous form of worship, full of pageantry and beauty.

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Along the Aisles in a cathedral, (what you see in the first picture, outside the columns that surround the Nave which is the main seating area down the middle to the crossing) you will find Niches. Each alcove usually has a statue, a confessional, often frescoes, and other art. This almost-life-sized diorama was definitely out of the ordinary and caught my attention. Titled “March of the Fruits and Vegetables …. something something.”

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Travels: art in Paris, the Orangerie

The Orangerie used to house Orange trees for the nobility, now it houses Monet’s Water Lillies. 

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And other Impressionist art. Sorry, not a fan of Picasso, but love Utrillo. There was one woman, Marie Laurencin, represented and wouldn’t you know it, her bio talked about the passionate affair she had with another artist and just a little about the progression of her artwork. Don’t remember any of the other bios talking about their sex life.

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Chiam Soutine was new to me. All of his work was wavy and distorted, which I liked in this piece (that just begged for a wonky photo) but not in his portraits or still lives of butchered cattle.

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There was also a special temporary exhibit of Adolfo Wildt sculptures and other artwork such as sketches and paintings. I loved most of his work. Look home up. No photos allowed there.

Travels: Paris day 1

It is such magic to find yourself in another country, another continent, another culture. Paris is timeless and ancient but new to me. I met my daughter Avia today at the end of her study abroad program. She was kind enough to meet me at the airport and guide me through the transport system then through the maze of courtyards and doors and up flights and flights of stairs to our lovely little Air BnB apartment for the week.

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We rested and refueled and set of for an adventure in spite of our exhaustion. She had stayed up late saying goodby to her study group and (inspire of a seat upgrade) I hadn’t slept on the flight. No matter. 

First stop top was the grande Notre Dame cathedral. The stained glass windows were enchanting and the architecture soaring. image

A Green Man in a catholic cathedral? Perhaps it is time to look up some history and download some audio tours. Perhaps in a few days we will climb the towers.

As is always the case, my favorite stop of the day was serendipitous. We were wandering and looking for Shakespeare & Co., a book shop Avia wanted to revisit. We found it eventually and it was an hour well spent in this maze/warren of a book lovers dream. My favorite part was the floor with its bits and inlaid pieces from here and there and then and now.

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The magic happened with a wrong turn and a glance and a smile. A shop with delightful toys and ornaments hanging from the ceiling fought our eye and we wandered in. Row upon row of tiny music boxes, the kind with a drum, pins, and crank. We cranked and listened and sand and hummed. Right along with the proprietress who was wonderfully friendly. It was my first chance to hear Avia  speak this beautiful language. 

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Next some more more wandering and a quick stop in a market. A picnic on the (mangy) grass near this tomb/tower/memorial.

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Then off for a very early night. And then of course some middle so the night, jet lagged blogging.

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