Saturday, June 23, 2012

Party at the Conciergerie!!!

Exciting news!  News to me anyway. The Conciergerie is available to rent for personal events.   It wouldn't be my choice for a wedding, but perfect for a family reunion dinner or, better yet, a group reading with a medium.  I can picture sitting around (on the edge of our seats, no doubt) with the Long Island Medium and a bunch of girlfriends, wine glasses in hand, drinking in messages from those who have passed over.  Good stuff.

In the meantime...   Michele and I were treated to an unexpected display of art in the cavernous Conciergerie in March.  It was interesting, but not really my taste.  The tiny library made of black feathers (Crow?  Raven?  Let's go with Raven.  It did look as if it could've been Poe inspired.) was kind of cozy, but I had to wonder if there might be some bird feather smell that would distract me from my reading.  Michele wasn't a fan either, but more because she thought the exhibit was dark and weird.  I guess it wasn't dark and weird enough for me, because I was anxious to move on to the regular prison.

This post's stab at humor doesn't reflect how I really feel about the Conciergerie.  That place is serious business and profoundly serious to me.   More on that later.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Picture Me With You

Michele and I did a lot of laughing walking along this road from the (Fountainebleau) chateau to the stables.  We laughed and ate our way through the whole trip!  (Picture Me With You is the name of the title song of an album by The States, for those of you who remember Tricia and Mary (Hunter's) husbands' band.  Just a little trivia in case any of my family reads this.  If my scanner were working, I'd scan the album cover for old times' sake.)

Fontainebleau stables in the background

I was bummed not to be able to go into the stables which now houses the French military cavalry.  I didn't learn the history of the stables, so I don't know if they're the same ones in which Louis XVI's horses were housed.  Nor do I remember how many horses the court had, but the number shocked me even though I know that horses were used for ceremony, military, hunting (especially popular in the forest surrounding Fontainebleau,) agriculture, not to mention travel.   Just writing about horses makes me want to post another picture of Liberty's foal.

Chateau de Fontainebleau

As viewed from our cafe across the street...

Doesn't this dessert look delicious?

...  Probably was, but Michele got the last one, so I don't know for sure.  :)

Michele in Marie Antoinette's Boudoir at Fontainebleau

It hasn't been covered in my Rosetta Stone lessons (eight months and I know almost nothing), but, according to, "boudoir" means, in French, literally, "room for sulking in" from the verb "bouder" - to sulk.  In reality, it's the woman's bedroom or her personal space in which to relax, and, often, to dress - or in Marie Antoinette's case, to be dressed.

La Toilette

I could almost feel envious of this pampering if I didn't know the strings (albeit in the form of yards of pastel ribbons) attached.

"Léonard is an impertinent scamp." - Madame L. upon witnessing the debut of the Pouf at the Opera

Ever wonder how the invention of the pouf came about?  Here's the scoop, straight from the pen of the master himself.  

Setting the scene:  Planning to meet the prince royal of Sweden and his brother at the opera Pyrame et Thisbé, Marie Antoinette sends a groom to the home of her hairdresser, Léonard, where he is drinking with his companion, Frémont.  

The groom announces, "Madame la Dauphine requests the presence of M. Léonard at once.  Her Royal Highness goes to the opera this evening."  

Later, Léonard writes, in his entertaining, but probably not reliable, memoirs:  

"A thunderbolt falling between Frémont and me could not have caused me a fright, a stupefaction, comparable to the one I experienced on receiving an unexpected order from the Dauphine.   A state head-dress, an opera box head-dress, in the condition in which I was… it was enough to upset the strongest Gascon fearlessness.  I was what is termed tipsy, that is to say beyond that beginning of inebriation which, far from hindering the faculties, develops and lends them something like poetical inspiration…"  After gulping three cups of coffee, he was "able to see the objects about me in their natural forms…", he rushed to this "perilous adventure".  "I entered the Dauphine's apartment with assurance:  a tipsy man never lacks that."    For the occasion, Marie Antoinette tells him, or so he claims,  " You must draw on all the faculties of your imagination today.  You must undertake a transcendental head-dress;  I'm to wear a state gown."   Marie Antoinette is thrilled with his "delightfully bold" creation of curls, white plumes, pink ribbon, a large rosette formed of hair and a pink bow with a large ruby in the middle and he assures her that the women of Versailles and Paris will clamor to have even taller arrangements the next night.  As he expected, people trampled each other at the opera, with "three arms dislocated, two ribs fractured, three feet sprained" in the process, competing to get a glimpse of his "audacious masterpiece."   Heady (seems like an apt choice of words) with the sensation created by his wine-induced ingenuity, he rushed home to Frémont the next day and told him that the 72 inch pyramidal head-dress will make them millionaires within two years:  "Run to your post Frémont;  do not lose a moment;  fortune calls you;  answer:  'Here I am!"  

Léonard's memoirs are gossipy and usually he places himself in the middle of scenes from which etiquette would've surely prevented his entry.  He comes across as the flighty, high-strung, dramatic hairdresser stereotyped in this century. Charming in his way.  Either he was fundamentally trustworthy or Marie Antoinette was especially devoted to her hairdresser, because it was he who carried her jewels in the attempted flight from Paris that ended in Varennes.  I really think he was included, because she, at that point in their trials, was still concerned enough with her regal image that she wanted her hair done perfectly when the hoped-for escape succeeded. .  There are questions about the whereabouts of the jewels he carried.  At least a portion ended up in the hands of the Austrians, but some may have disappeared and there are those that believe Léonard's creativity may have extended to finding ways to make off with a bauble or two.  Just an impression I've gathered from books I've read, but I haven't really focused on figuring out what happened or, rather, what historians believe happened.  I don't mean to start a rumor about Léonard!  That rumor stuff can spread like wildfire, you know!

Enlightened Fashion

Defying the laws of gravity through the use of a sextant.

Notre Dame

No visit would be complete without a slightly nervous contemplation of The Confessional

From a previous trip...

I took this picture when Micah and I visited Notre Dame, but I'll throw it in here anyway, 'cause I like it.

Of course, I lit a candle for my mom

It's kind of a shame that the standard for "church clothes," as my mother would've called them, has fallen along with the size of the congregation.

From an American Patriot's perspective

A Catholic upbringing is one of the many things Michele and I have in common which made it especially cozy when we went to Mass at Notre Dame the first morning of our visit.  It was good to experience that with someone who shared my background.  The expression "If walls could talk..."  takes on a new dimension when one tries to imagine being able to imagine what it would be like to imagine all that these walls have seen and heard.

Our sixth President recorded his impressions as a witness to the Te Deum sung at Notre Dame in thanks for the birth of the Duc de Normandie (Marie Antoinette's and Louis XVI's third born child, Louis-Charles) in his journal. Young John Quincy Adams, was present with his parents, John and Abigail, his sister, Nabby, and Thomas Jefferson, and described the crowds in the streets with these words:   "There was but just space sufficient for the carriages to pass along, and had there not been guards placed on both sides at a distance not greater than ten yards from one another, there would have been no passage at all for the coaches.  For as it was, the troops had the utmost difficulty to retrain the mob."  Impressed by the spectacle, Jefferson speculated to Nabby that there were as many people in the streets as in all of Massachusetts.  Once in the cathedral, the group watched the ceremony from a gallery overlooking the choir, "as good a place as any in the church", thanks to Madame Lafayette whose husband had played such an important role in the successful American Revolution.    John Quincy Adams' description, as written in his journal: "...Parliament lined up on the right side of the choir, robed in scarlet and black, the Chambres de Comptes on the left, in robes of black and white;  the bishops arriving two by two, "a purple kind of mantle over their shoulders," the Archbishop of Paris, "a mitre upon his head," and finally the arrival of the King: "…and as soon as his Majesty had got to his place and fallen upon his knees, they began to sing the Te Deum, which lasted half an hour, and in which we heard some exceeding fine music….  What a charming sight:  an absolute king of one of the most powerful empires on earth, and perhaps a thousand personages of that empire, adoring the divinity who created them and acknowledging that He can in a moment reduce them to the dust from which they spring."  The Adams' family (not to be confused with the Adams' Family) must've looked down upon these magnificent chandeliers or, rather, something similar, yet candlelit.