Monday, January 21, 2013

Visiting L'Orangerie in Paris

The l'Orangerie was one of several art museums we visited while in Paris. A museum of Impressionist art, it is best known for its two oval rooms that each house 4 large murals of Monet's water lilies or nympheas.
File:Monet Lilies Louvre 2.jpg
Image of Monet's water lilies at l'Oragerie from Wikipedia
 As much as I enjoy Monet, I didn't enjoy these rooms that much. Maybe I was just tired of water lilies! We'd seen them at several museums already... and seen the 'real thing' at Giverny!
After you left the two oval rooms, one of the first displays was this series of two dioramas. This diorama shows a model of the study of Paul & Domenica Guillaume and the museum houses their collection. You can see, on the wall, miniature recreations of some of the paintings in the museum! I recognize at least one Picasso.
I like this one even better. On the wall you can see a couple of Degas' works and several by Cezanne. And, if you look in the mirrored doorway to the left, you see the hands of the photographer... me!
My three favorite works of art at this museum were all by Renoir. This one is titled "Gabrielle et Jean." Gabrielle was the "beloved nanny" of the Renoir children and she was often painted by him. Jean is one of his sons. I just loved the image of them happily playing together.
What I loved most about this image of another of Renoir's sons, Claude, was the story behind it. Evidentally, Claude did not want to wear the tights. His father ended up bribing him to wear them!
And, I love this painting of two young girls at the piano. I have played the piano for over 30 years and used to play and sing with my sister and with my best friend, Jill. It also reminds me of the best piano teacher I ever had - she had a cross-stitch of this painting (actually, there are multiple versions of this subject) hanging over her grand piano. These are fond memories brought back by a painting!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Walk Around Paris

After visiting Normandy for three days, we spent some more time in Paris...

Arc de Triomphe... It was so windy & cold this day that we didn't actually walk across the street circle to visit the memorial. This was as close as we got!
A detail of a freize from the Arc de Triomphe showing General Marceau's funeral.
We spent a little time on the famous Champs-Elysees lined with luxury shops and cafes.
Again, it was so windy & cold that we didn't last long!
The Beautiful National Academy of Music.
It was lined with busts of famous composers, like Betthoven and Mozart!
This is the rotunda roof of Galeries Lafayette, an upscale department store that is about 7 stories tall.
This is one of the views from the roof! There are a few benches up here and a lot of people just lying around enjoying the day. We enjoyed sitting on a bench and enjoying the view.
We walked through the Tuleries Garden which is by the Louvre. From here, we could see down part of the "historical axis of Paris." The obelisk is the Luxor Obelisk and it's Egyptian. Behind it, you can see the Arc de Triomphe.
And, this must be how they keep the grass in the ditches in the Tulleries Garden down.' We saw this goat and were shocked. Then we saw that he was tied up here, and figured out he was the lawn mower! Looks like he needs to get busy!
This is a view of I.M. Pei's glass pyramid at the Louvre - through another triumphal arch.
This one is called the Arc de Triomphe du Carroussel.
Another view of the outside of the Louvre.
And, these are "love locks" on a bridge over the Seine! There were probably thousands of locks!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Visiting Mont St Michel: An Island Abbey

I was not familiar with Mont St Michel when my brother said we should visit it while in
France. But, I got very excited about visiting it after doing a little research!

This was one of our first views of Mont St Michel which has been a pilgrimage site for over a thousand years. Can you imagine walking for weeks, and then watching this gothic silhouette soaring to the sky as you got closer and closer?

Today their is this causeway for visitors to walk across. But, that is a relatively recent addition having been built in 1878. The Abbey used to be an island when the tide was high creating a hermitage of solitude for the monks who lived here.

Here is Alex, ready to enter through the gate into the abbey. Yes, we drove for several
hours instead of walking for days. But, even from the parking lot you walk 20 or 30 minutes.
(On the way back, we caught a bus for part of the trip.)

When you begin the LONG CLIMB up the streets of Mont St Michel, you see a lot of shops....
and people! It is very touristy! But, remember... even in the Middle Ages these streets were lined
 with shops selling food and memorabilia to the pilgrims!

As we climbed higher, we got our first view of today's pilgrims. We were visiting at low tide which is, of course, the only time it is possible to make this trek. It is actually a part of the Mont St Michel experience I was wanting to do, but we didn't work it into our schedule.

Can you see the groups of people as the walk towards the abbey? Again, this takes place at low tide and has to be carefully planned. This is also the way the pilgrims of old made the trip. These 'pilgrims' travel barefoot through the mud. And, they have to watch out for the tide. It is incredibly fast, for a tide, and can become dangerous if people are taken by surprise!

I read while researching for the trip that, as the tide is getting ready to come in, there are voices in many languages over a loud speaker telling the 'pilgrims' to get off of the mud flats:
 "the tide is coming!"

There are even parking places that have to be abandoned before the tide comes back in...
or your car or the buses will be under water! The tide comes in at 12 mph!
(That's a little more than twice as fast as I can RUN!)

When the surf goes 8 MILES in and out! That's a HUGE difference between high and low tides!

Walking up the spiraling streets is quite a long hike. An, the views are amazing.

Then, you reach the abbey! Because wood burned so often, the builders of cathedrals finally found ways to make roofs of stone. Most of the wood roofs have been replaced, so it was neat
to see a real wood roof!

More wood! And the dangling lights.
The abbey part of Mont St Michel is a cathedral - or like a cathedral. I read
that there used to be stained glass in these windows.
Gorgeous stone work!
A door I loved.
This is a cloister - "a rectangular open space surrounded by covered walks or open galleries" according to Wikipedia. We spent some time walking around these 'covered walks' where the monks probably walked in silence.
And, I LOVED this wheel! This is how they used to get supplies (stones for building, food, etc)
up to the abbey. Six men could walk in this wheel like hamsters!

A long rope was looped around the outside of the wheel. The rope had a 'sled' attached to it.
The sled was pulled up by the men walking in the wheel!
A beautiful staircase being lit by windows.
Saying goodbye to Mont St Michel!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Bayeux Tapestry & Bayeux

We made the small town of Bayeux are headquarters for several nights while in Normandy.

This is a view of our cute hotel! There are two rooms per floor, and Alex & I were on the second floor on the right in this photo (our left window is open). It reminds me of the children's book, Madeline... "In an old house in Paris covered in vines..."

There were actually three separate buildings and behind one of them was this gorgeous garden. We sat out here one evening and had drinks - you had to buy off the menu to come out here. We also had very nice buffet breakfasts while staying here. (I'll have to look up the name.)

The Bayeux Cathedral reaching up to the sky!
Another view of the Bayeux Cathedral. We went inside, but I don't feel my photos do it justice!
File:Normans Bayeux.jpg
from Wikipedia

One of the highlights of Bayeux is the famous Bayeux Tapestry. Unfortunately, though I understand why, you are not allowed to take photos of the tapestry. So, these photos are from Wikipedia. This tapestry depicts the Norman Conquest of England by William the Conqueror in 1066.
File:Edward der Bekenner.jpg
from Wikipedia
The "tapestry" is a misnomer and is actually embroidered cloth. It measures about 230 feet long and tells the story in cartoon like images. I wrote a lot more about the tapestry here.
As we walked around Bayeux, we enjoyed the sites - like this waterwheel. Inside the building on the left was a shop where we bought a few souvenirs.

And, we loved this cat sitting on the ledge of a second story window - though we were nervous, too!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Visiting D-Day Sites in Normandy: American Cemetery

Our 3rd stop on our half day tour with Eva was the American Cemetery. When you are on the cemetery grounds, you are standing on American soil!

To get to the cemetery from the parking lot, you walk down a wooded path.

Then you entered "The Garden of the Missing". On these walls are listed "the missing in action who gave their lives in this region." If I remember correctly, they were separated by branch of service.

In cases were remains were later recovered, identified and buried, a bronze rosette is placed beside the name. As you can see, besides the name of the missing, you'll also find their rank, unit, and state from which they served.
Then you enter the memorial. In the center is a statue. On either side is a map - this one is titled "Military Operations in Western Europe: 6 June 1944-8 May 1945."
Walking out of the memorial, you get your first glance at the headstones. Usually, there is a reflecting pond here, but it was drained at this time and a man was working in it.
The cemetery is divided into 10 plots with a central path. The headstones are made of white marble with Latin crosses and Stars of David. Although the families of those Americans killed in this area were given the choice to have their remains moved home, many chose to have their bodies remain here... on the land they fought so hard to free.
This is a grave of an unknown soldier. It says "Here rests in honored glory a comrade in arms known but to God."
There are also women buried in the cemetery. Elizabeth A Richardson served with the American Red Cross and died June 25, 1945.
A Star of David headstone for a Jewish soldier. I first saw the stones placed on these graves at Arlington Cemetery in Washington, D.C.
In a second building, the chapel, there was this mosaic ceiling. According to the American Battle Monument Commission brochure, it depicts "America blessing her sons as they depart by sea and air" on the left and "a grateful France bestowing a laurel wreath upon the American dead" on the right.
From the edge of the cemetery, you can see how it overlooks Omaha Beach. Some of the soldiers who died on D-Day were originally buried at the beach but were later moved to this cemetery.
Lastly, I want to recomend 4 videos that are shown at the cemetery's visitor's center. The first is a two minute video about the cemetery itself titled "Normandy American Cemetery." The second is title "Letters" and you meet some of the soldiers who are buried here through letters, home photos & videos, and learning more about their lives before the war and when they died. This one really had me crying! The third is called "On Their Shoulders" and it tells the specific stories of 3 men who were killed - another very moving video. And, the fourth is "OK, Let's Go" about Eisenhower's decision to launch Operation Overlord on June 6th. Another touching film! You can find all four videos at the American Battle Monuments Commission site.