Thursday, May 26, 2011

Hotel Claude Bernard

My wonderful friend, Barbara, and I went to Paris in March.  My husband suggested it as my Christmas present probably hoping to get me to stop talking about it. It just made me realize I need to go every year.  Barbara and I were perfect traveling partners and I loved every single second of our trip.  Our room was top floor, right on the corner. The best room in the place! You can just make out the little cafe table on the balcony.  Just looking at this picture makes me want to start scheming a way to go back.
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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The view from our room

Yes, those are the towers of Notre Dame. Danielle recommended the hotel. It was perfect - tiny, occasionally unreliable elevator and all. We loved it!
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Shakespeare and Company seems like it might fit in Diagon Alley. Founded by an American after World War II, it prides itself on welcoming one and all, (Be Not Inhospitable to Strangers Lest They Be Angels in Disguise, as their website says). They even allow struggling writers to sleep there. Some fifty thousand of them have taken them up on the offer. Barbara and I went twice and I was happy to find a book by an obscure author about whom my son, David, had written his thesis. Nice little souvenir.  The first night we were in Paris, we were at the bookstore when it was evacuated, because of the strange behavior of a mentally ill young man.  The drama ended up with his injuring himself in front of a poetry reading group that hadn't left the store quickly enough then being taken away in an ambulance.
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The Obelisk

This 230 ton Egyptian granite obelisk (on which Ramses II is praised via hieroglyphics) in the Place de Concorde, at what was the site of the guillotine.  It was 3200 years old at the time it was gifted to Louis Philippe in 1836.  During the Revolution, the tumbrels, filled with the condemned, traveled from the Conciergerie via Rue Saint-Honore and turned left at Rue Royale, at the Church of the Madeleine (slightly to the left of the obelisk in this photograph), to the guillotine.

Ah, the irony of it all...

*  Among those guillotined at this site was Maximilien Robespierre, who had to ride the tumbrel past the home in which he lived.  The great Revolutionary orator's jaw was shattered as a result of either a self-inflicted bullet or a failed murder attempt.  He'd been instrumental in the deaths of 1300 people in a month during the Reign of Terror.

*  I don't know, for sure, if Philippe Egalite's (AKA duc d'Orleans, the King's cousin, who was one of the instigators of the Revolution) execution took place at Place de Revolution, but it seems likely, because he was buried (as were Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI) at the conveniently located Church of the Madeleine.  If he was executed at Place de Revolution, he, too, had to pass his home, the Palais Royale.

*  Philippe Egalite's son, Louis-Philippe, defected during the Revolution and, at one point, lived in America.  He's believed to have lived above what is now Boston's oldest restaurant, the Union Oyster House. I'm going  to go there when I visit Micah next month.  In 1809, Louis Philippe married Princess Maria Amelia, the daughter of Marie Antoinette's favorite sister and, in 1830, became the last King of the French.  The son of the King's cousin (who had voted for the King's death) and the niece of Marie Antoinette lived at Versailles.

On a lighter note, a gay rights group recently staged a midnight raid on the Place de Concorde and placed a giant condom on the Obelisk.   This comes under the category of Humorous, and Ironic, too, thanks to the Ramses connection.

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The very spot

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The execution of Louis XVI

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Louis XV hand

The statue of Louis XV (in what was Place de Louis XV, became Place de Revolution, and is now Place de Concorde) that was toppled during the French Revolution, must've been imposing, judging by the size of this piece exhibited in the Carnavalet Museum.
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My mother,  late 1950's, on bridge spanning the Seine.


Posted by PicasaSlightly different angle.  A little bit desolate now.
The view from Marie Antoinette's Versailles bedroom...
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In the window of Marie Antoinette's bedroom at Versailles. There may be something seriously wrong with me.
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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Within a month, I was able to see two of my cousins,  sisters, Nathalie and Audrey. Barbara and I visited Nathalie in Versailles (see post below) and, a few weeks later, my brother, Michael and I met Audrey in Dallas. I hadn't seen her since 1975, when a friend and I visited her family in Florida, right after I graduated from high school. Audrey walked into the hotel lobby where Mike and I were staying, we hugged, got into the elevator, went to our room started talking and didn't stop until the next day. Probably millions more words than we'd exchanged in the first 50 years of our relationship. And, we went to the Fine Arts Museum, right across the street, at almost midnight, and they had a wonderful exhibit that included works by Vigee Le Brun and other 18th Century artists. So much fun!
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Longhorns at the Tuileries Gardens

They're everywhere.
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My brother, Don, is a talented artist, but a humble man, and will be horrified to read that I wrote this, but I think the bust he sculpted in college is better than this one of Rodin's. I like it more anyway.  I even dreamed, after I visited the Rodin Museum, that I'd found a picture of the bust Don did and would be able to put it on my blog. It was only the dream. I don't even know where the bust is - at Dad's house, I hope, because that's where I last saw it - but, I've thought of it many times in the 35 plus years since I first saw it. I'm not the only person that is impressed with my brother. I've been meaning to post a tribute  to him that his class put on YouTube. It's listed among the links at the bottom right side of the blog.

Meanwhile, back at home - watching for squirrels

Only someone with a heart of gold will offer to keep their friend's dogs while she's in Paris. Thank you, Danielle, for allowing me to leave the country without worrying about Jessi and Keeper.
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Pere Lachaise Cemetary

Naturally, our first stop in Paris was a cemetary. This is my favorite statue. And, yes, we visited Jim Morrison. What's more, it was in a restricted area, and I had to abandon my rule-following self and step over the rope to find his grave.
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If I were he, I'd cringe.

The great artist, Jacques-Louis David's, final resting place in Le Pere Lachaise Cemetary.  Really, it's only the resting place of his heart - the rest of him is buried in Brussels.
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One of the items on the throne exhibit

Again, I ask, what did the French, especially the Revolutionaries that then became fans of Napoleon, think of the opulence of his reign after they'd been so offended by the opulence of royalty and aristocrats? Like Jacques-Louis David? He jumped right in there and started painting. I'm still bitter about him voting for Louis' death. And, for the sketch of MA en route to the guillotine.
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This table setting in the Versailles wasn't there when Micah and I visited last summer, so it was a nice surprise to come upon it this time. Truthfully, it's not quite as grand as I'd expected, when I'd imagined royalty eating dinner, on display, viewed by any members of the public dressed appropriately enough to enter the chateau. Well, it wasn't so much that it was plain, but the room wasn't the large gallery that I'd imagined. I think the sign said that's where they'd eaten, though. It's been a couple of months. I'll have to check with Barbara.
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Sunday, May 8, 2011

Not your average department store

Posted by PicasaStill, the familiar remained...  We bought a few gifts from the lingerie and china departments... then, came home and discovered that the china gifts were available at Macy's online. 

Of course, we had to go to the Conciergerie

The view from the Corner of Twelve, in the Women's Courtyard, where the condemned waited, a dozen at at time, to be loaded into the tumbrel. Whenever I think of it, I shake my head in bewilderment. What the heck were they thinking? "They" being the people doing the condemning. It's somewhat easier to imagine what "they", behind the wrought iron fence, were thinking - probably a range of thoughts, from panic to shock - induced stupor. I owe it to them to care.
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African Embassy?

We walked past this building on our first day. I thought I saw a sign that said it was the African Embassy but, today, wanting to be more specific, I tried to find it online and couldn't. So, like much of my knowledge, I THINK this is the African Embassy. The entire building is covered with a verticle garden. Meaning that the exterior walls are completely covered with a garden. Earth covered with moss and other short, compact plants. Innovative architecture, even for Paris.
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Michelle and me

Michelle's grace and welcome made our first and last days special. I left France feeling that she's not only a family member, but a dear friend.
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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Madame Adelaide

Posted by PicasaLouis XVI's aunts were raised in a convent and joined the Court at Versailles only as young adults.  They were pretty much neglected by their father, Louis XV.  According to Madame Campan's (Marie Antoinette's First Lady of the Bedchamber) memoirs, Madame Louise (who later joined a convent, permanently) was "not the mistress of  the whole alphabet at age twelve and never learnt to read fluently until after her return to Versailles."  Madame Campan also wrote that Madame Adelaide was graced for a short time with a charming figure;  but never did beauty so quickly vanish."

Madame Sophie

Posted by PicasaAccording to Madame Campan, Madame Sophie was "remarkably ugly;  never did I behold a person with so unprepossessing an appearance;  she walked with the greatest rapidity;  and in order to recognize the people who placed themselves along her path without looking at  them, she acquired the habit of leering  on one side, like a hare.  The Princess was so diffident that a person might be with her daily for years together without hearing her utter a single word."  Madame Sophie is beautiful in the painting.  Evidently, she didn't age well.

Madame Victoire

Posted by Picasa"Madame Victoire was handsome and very graceful;  her address, mien, and smile were in perfect accordance with the goodness of her heart.", so says Madame Campan.