Saturday, August 30, 2014

Bye for now, Austin

Reporting from lobby of The Driskill Hotel.  I arrived in Austin last night to drive with David to his new home in El Paso today.  Shrewd maneuvering on my part allowed me to hang out at the hotel rather than load his car in the Texas heat.  Or, maybe David maneuvered me into leaving him to load the car without me hovering around with suggestions on how to improve his packing technique.

Mrs. Bridges - former hotel secretary often seen walking from the vault in the middle of the lobby and tending to the flower arrangements.

The Driskill is said to be haunted by the cattle baron who built the place, then lost it in a poker game; a two suicidal brides; and the four year old daughter of a U. S. Senator who fell down the stairs while bouncing a ball, among others.  Besides the named spirits, there are some unidentified spirits that push people out of bed, move things around, leave trails of cigar smoke, tamper with the elevators.

While I was there, a member of the staff gave me a print out about their different ghost sightings.  I just read the sheet of paper and noticed this.:   One of the phenomenon guests and staff report is that spirits mess with the elevators and, in particular, that a Mr. Peter J. Lawless lived in The Driskill from 1886-1916, even during periods in which the hotel was not operating.  He had his own keys and came and went at his leisure.  This is Texas.  Things are done differently.   Mr. Lawless (love the name) is often seen, checking his pocket watch, when the 5th floor elevator doors open.  So, get this...  Saturday morning, I couldn't get the fifth floor elevator doors to open.  I could hear sounds from inside, but the doors wouldn't open.  I finally called the front desk and they sent someone up after a bit.  Mr. Lawless didn't materialize, but there were definitely noises coming from inside the elevator.

Maybe the hotel just scrimps on maintenance and uses ghosts as a cover for a shoddy elevator system.  The haunted hotel angle is probably a profitable marketing tool.  I'd always choose the possibility of ghosts over the alternative.  

the bar area

I listened to this guy in the bar and developed, as Bridget Jones would say, a bit of a crush.  Not really, but I did like his Willie Nelson sounding voice and the way he used the heel of his boot on the wooden floor as an instrument every so often.

After having at least one child there for the better part of ten years, they've both moved on, so we don't have a good reason to go to Austin.  

We've had some good times there...

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Vaux le Vicomte

Several things recommend Paris City Vision Tours.  I signed up for a "small group" tour to Vaux le Vicomte and Fontainebleau, because there are places I want to see, but getting out of Paris is beyond me.  The van picked me up and dropped me off at my hotel.   The other three people (a retired American couple and a retired gentleman from Belgium) were very companionable.  The tour guide talked to us about history en route, then dropped us off and we did our own thing. Liked it.

Lunch and a bottle of wine in our own dining room at Vaux le Vicomte

Visiting Vaux le Vicomte and Fontainebleau is a lovely way to spend the day simply because the crowds flock to Versailles (No kidding, there are hundreds of people in line at Versailles by 10:00 a.m. and the rooms for the general public are packed.) leaving other chateau gems, less glitzy, but still spectacular, practically devoid of people.  That's not to say Versailles isn't the best. The fact that it has the Trianons and the Hameau make it a must, but it's a different kind of experience than the lesser known chateaus.

I've written about Vaux le Vicomte in a previous post, so I won't go into the history of the man who built it nor the family who lived in it subsequently.  If you care to know to what I refer here, read the original post.

This is the ceiling to the ballroom sized entry in which Nicolas Fouquet hosted his extravagant party for Louis XIV.  Shortly thereafter, before the ceiling artist even had time to complete the ceiling work, the King had Fouquet sent to prison for life for having the audacity to build such an impressive home.  That'll teach him.  Well, there was that accusation about embezzling from the royal treasury, but from current French spin, it seems that few people believe that to be true.

This is the Louis XVI room.  I'm not sure why it's named that unless maybe the furniture is Louis XVI style.  The man in the portrait is the duc de Praslin, but not the duc that killed his wife - his father or grandfather, I'd guess.  The literature at the chateau barely even acknowledged the Praslin residents and, even less so, the Praslin murder.  I wanted to know where the governess' and children's quarters were, but no such luck.

I've wanted an alcove bed since I saw one in my cousin Marion's home in Mobile.  I'm a cubby hole kind of person.  Car interiors, small spaces are my comfort zones.

The chateau was used as a hospital during WWI.

Parts of the movie Man in the Iron Mask were filmed at Vaux le Vicomte.  I'd love to learn more of that story.  Will start with the movie.

Kitchen.  I bet you knew that.

Take me home, country road.

There's a shortage of people with what my son would call "life skills" in my family.  Even without knowing how to hammer a nail, I'd buy this house if it weren't already sold.  It is me.

The Beware of Dogs signs in the neighborhood don't bode well.  The house exterior is a little iffy.  It was moved from another location and sits on cinder blocks.  The siding is pretty bad and there's at least one hole in the nice wood floor.  But, it's me and I love it.

Look at those porches.  Adorable.  And, there's a claw foot bathtub.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

It would've been fun to use my Map My Walk app, take a screen shot of the route I wandered and include it on my blog, but my phone betrayed me and refused to work in Paris.


I'd passed this mosaic on previous trips and thought it was simply art.  It used to be a place that sold horse meat.  In fact, it may have been the site of a slaughterhouse.  I cringe to type that.  If Micah reads it, my most loyal reader may desert me.

Bad Boys - Every town's got 'em.

The Plan
Phase One:  My son will be working for the firm whose Paris office is housed in this center building.  The building is on the Place de Concorde and used to be Talleyrand's home.
Phase Two:  Convince son to transfer to Paris office.  

Saber Tooth Chocolate

Joan of Arc

Side building at Notre Dame

Fair in the Tuileries Gardens

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Transgender: It's Not a New Thing

I hope it doesn't seem exploitive for me to post this picture of a transvestite (or transgender?) at Vaux-le-Vicomte.
It wasn't until after taking the shot that I came into contact with these fellow tourists, saw them from a different angle, and was close enough to hear her voice that I realized that the woman was anatomically a man.  They'd caught my eye, because she, with her short, tight, spandex-looking skirt and high-heels, looked way more feminine than I did in my tourist outfit of choice that included clodhopper Clark shoes and comfortable capris and t-shirt.  I watched her struggle with the cobblestones and, with a flash of self-doubt, thought, "Look how nice she looks even though she knew she'd be doing a lot of walking today.  I really need to dress more girly and care less about comfort." Seeing them enjoy their sunny day at Vaux-le-Vicomte made me smile that they could do so being themselves.  Or, perhaps, being who they wanted to be.

Later in the week, I saw the small, roundish room at Versailles known as Le Cabínet des Dépêches, The Cabinet of Dispatches, where Louis XV carried out his clandestine operations, his Secret du Roi,  - where he read secret spy reports that he sent to and received from spies throughout the lands.  The dispatches were unknown to most of his advisors and often ran contrary to stated policy and included plans for actions like invasions against his allies' territories. Plans that would be embarrassing were they made public.

Louis XV

This room made me think of the Chevalier d'Eon, Louis XV's transvestite spy...