Saturday, April 30, 2011

In Recollection

Two weeks ago today my sister Marilyn and I took the train out to Versailles.

Photo was taken at the back of the Palace as we were headed out to the gardens.

I believe I have already told you my impressions of that site but there was one thing there that caught our eye that we needed to google up.

Well, I came home and went to my bookshelf instead and found this flower...

and a closer look...

We have here Fritillaria Imperialis or more commonly known as Crown Imperial.

That flower appears in fabric design, paintings and china of that era and now I am definitely off to find some for my garden.  There was one 'high' moment after another as we toured the place.

It was a totally awesome day.  For me, part of the charm of Versailles is because of its era and last residents.  I am just on the final pages of the book, Georgiana, The Duchess of Devonshire, who was a contemporary and friend of Marie Antoinette.  This is the second time in 15 years that I have read this book (you can tell it is a favourite) and had it with me on the trip.  It seemed that as I toured many sites in Paris I could imagine the 18th century people who had lived there.

Stay tuned for a book review and a page from my art journal...

In Celebration

The Royal Wedding in Photos

Wedding Poem For Schele and Phil (William and Catherine)
by Bill Holm

A marriage is a risky business these days
Says some old and prudent voice inside.
We don't need children anymore
To keep the family line alive,
Or gather up the hay before the rain.
No law demands respectability
Love can arrive without certificate or cash.
History and experience both make clear
That men and women do not hear
The music of the world in the same key,
Rather rolling dissonances doomed to clash.

So what is left to justify a marriage?
Maybe only the hunch that half the world 
Will ever be present in any room
With just a single pair of eyes to see it.
Whatever is invisible to one
Is to the other an enormous golden lion
Calm and sleeping in the easy chair.
After many years, if things go right
Both lion and emptiness are always there;
The one never true without the other.

But the dark secret of the ones long married,
A pleasure never mentioned to the young,
Is the sweet heat made from two bodies in a bed
Curled together on a winter night
The smell of the other always in the quilt,
The hand set quietly on the other's flank
That carries news from another world
Light years away from the one inside
That you always thought you inhabited alone.
The heat in that hand could melt a stone.

Just this past week as I was in the air over Greenland I was thinking of my husband, home, our life together and thought of the word 'comfort'.  Not in the old-slipper-sense but in the warmth of the above poem.  Of course, the happenings of April 29, 2011 with William marrying Catherine brought this all together in my head.

Some years ago, our girl, Sherilee, said that one should not go to a wedding where you wouldn't want to shed some tears.  These could be tears of joy or sadness, whatever; it seems to me that this wedding was such an occasion.  What we saw at Westminster Abbey was tasteful and elegant.

Let us be happy and wish them well.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Pere Lachaise

When Marilyn was here with me last week we wanted to go out to Pere Lachaise Cemetery but ran out of time.  Our every day was full to the brim but we needed at least 36 hours every day, not 24.

This week Gail and I used the metro tickets and went out there.  We had a few tombstones in particular that we wanted to see but the place is enormous with at least 1000 people buried there... oh, I think way more than 1000.  There are 118.6 acres of cemetery in that one spot.  After reading the list of the famous people buried there I could have spent much more time there.  My little map did not do a good job of guiding you through the maze of tombs.

Just looked on Wikipedia and there are those who believe that Abelard and Heloise are buried there though some say he is and she isn't, some say neither are, only a monument to their great love.  If you don't know the story of those two lovers, look it up in Google.  If I would have known that there is a monument to them in that cemetery I would have gone to great lengths to find their spot.

There were two that were familiar to us that we found after much searching.  We hunted down the gravesite of Jim Morrison and after a couple hours wandering and asking other tourists...It is sad to see this spot set aside for this young man.  So much potential lost.  Remember, even though we may question his choices in lifestyle, he had a mother who loved her boy.

I cannot tell you what the French sentence is below his name.

And Frederic Chopin.

The story is that Chopin died two doors down from the present site of The Ritz Hotel on Place de Vendome and when he died they removed his heart and it was buried in Warsaw.  This is a very romantic town, full of romantic stories.  I think that story appropriate.

Those who know me know that I love to wander through cemeteries, pay my respects and wonder about the stories behind these monuments.  It was a sobering morning.

Good night to all...

Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday, April 22. 2011

Here we are at the end of another week.  This has been a full week with lots of miles and many sites taken in.

We started our day a little internet available so we were off as soon as we had our breakfast here at the hotel.  We took some different streets than our usual hurried route up Rue de Seine and came upon the Institute of France from another angle.

There is something to catch the eye everywhere you look.  Vespas are popular here and we have seen and photographed pink, blue, white, and yellow bikes.

We wandered along the Seine heading east towards Notre Dame and the river view captured our attention.

I never tire of walking around this church...haven't been inside at all this trip because of the excessively long lines of people wanting the inside view but I am happy with the outside.

As I passed the cathedral this time I photographed the church doors more closely.

There is so much detail there.  Extraordinary work.

We passed Notre Dame and walked through Ile de la Cite where I was delighted to catch this darling little car.  I have always loved these Ugly Ducklings and here was my chance to give it some time.

It was pretty old but still had great details.

The little sun roof was open so I just held my camera pointed down and got a pretty good shot of the interior.

Isn't that just the sweetest little car you ever saw?

We headed back west now and tried to see Saint Chappelle but the line was just too long to be of any interest to either of us.  We poked about but could find no other approach to the church so let that go off the list.

I did get a photo of the impressive gates to the back entrance to the Court of Justice.

A great number of police vans were lined up outside the police station next door...

We then headed north to Rue Saint Honore heading west on our mission for the day.  We came upon the back side of a church that is not on the map but we were impressed with the roof line.

Time to have lunch so we stopped at the Cafe de la Comedie where we had a simple lunch of a chicken panini with salad.

And a sweet waiter...

Next church to encounter...have I mentioned the numbers of churches in this town?  Well, the next church was St. Roch.  Nice, sturdy, ordinary in fact, type of church and when we went inside there were two or three worshipers there with the story of Christ's death being delivered over the it was pre-recorded.

At last, after some serious window licking (I have been told on good authority that is what the French call window shopping), on Rue Saint Honore, we came to Place de Vendome, our destination for today.

We wandered around the square for some time taking in the sites and of course we had to take a picture of the Ritz Hotel.  After talking with Shelby and Kim yesterday on Skype I had to see this famous
Hotel.   It is all very lovely and chic.

We wandered down Rue de Castiglione taking in all the lovely shops and items of interest.

Thinking we would find a cool spot to sit under the trees in the Tuileries Gardens we were somewhat disappointed to find the place very crowded (surprise, surprise).

Finally we found a chair by the boat pond.  I got the chair and Gail sat on the edge of the pond.

We sat and watched the children float their boats for a while...

The Tuileries Gardens are at the west end of The Louvre so got my Louvre architecture fix, yet again.

We crossed Pont Royal and were back on the Left Bank.  There was evidence that painters were about by the tools and paints sitting out along the bridge.

As we came down Rue de Seine buying our supper at the patisserie and grocery store on the way to the hotel we wanted you to see one example of close parking in this city.  How they get out I do not know.

And they are that tight at each end too!!!  If you followed our wanderings today on a map you will see that we put in nearly 5 miles, yet again.  The walking is easy here...

As it is Good Friday the streets are overflowing with people anxious to have a holiday.  We will have to shut our windows tonight if we are going to get to sleep.  On Friday and Saturday nights the street noise goes long into the night.

Wishing you all a Happy Easter and a blessed Sabbath rest.  I am most thankful for you all and for internet that works...I have tried to send blogs all week but when I go to upload photos things go kakootska!!!  So I am happy to send this to you now...the photos are unedited and unpolished but they come with Love!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Day 12, Monday, April 18

The day dawned bright and clear with not a cloud.  We rose by 8 am and after a hearty breakfast downstairs we were off and running.  Gail was game to do the metro with me.  Marilyn and I had bought 5 day passes and had still 3 days to use up.

First of all we went down the wrong 'rabbit hole' and had to climb out again and after a second look at our map we found our way down Saint Germain to the right metro stop.

It is interesting to ride the metro...the people are a mixed bag and all sorts of workers use this facility.  I was amazed to see this young man come on with a ladder and then a few stops down the way he got off with his ladder and bucket and was on his way.

We were headed to The Flea Market to end all, so we were told.

The Flea Market was somewhat of a disappointment for the most part.  It consisted of knock-offs and acres of rather poor quality.  At the very far end we came upon some stores from Morocco where I tried to find my son some new slippers...none the right size, Shelby.  But I did find a cool Moroccan scarf for myself. 

These prayer rugs have a little compass on them to show you where Mecca is, I believe.  Interesting shops...beautiful fabrics and lots of colour.

If you feel a need for some new scarves, this is the town of your dreams.  Every which way you turn there are scarves for sale.

As we turned around to come back to the metro we found the part that this market is famous for and that is the antique furniture, glass, silver, bric-a-brac and what-nots.  It was fabulous.  Gail picked up one little ivory lady, maybe 3-4 inches high, well done, exquisitely carved in fact, and asked the price.  Only 600 Euros so we knew we were in the wrong store...

It was fun to look though and soon we were back where we started and off on another metro ride.  This time we decided to make a switch and head over to Sacre Coeur.  When we got off the metro where we thought the right exit would be for easy walking to the basilica, we were surprised at the stairs we had to climb to get into daylight.  Unbelievable!  And then we started off in the wrong direction.  Upon further perusal of the map we decided that we better backtrack.  The steps in the metro were only the start of one 'stepping day'.

When we thought we were at the top, there were more...

Gail and I were ready for lunch by now so on our way we found a delightful patiserrie where we bought a baguette each and a pastry for each of us...doesn't my dessert look wonderful?  It was...

We thought we would find a park bench where we could quietly eat our lunch and catch our breathe but we did have one more set of stairs to climb to get to a level where we could get to our destination.

As we got close we noticed the 'hordes'.  Sherilee, the following photo is for your enjoyment.  I do believe that Easter means everyone in France has come to Paris besides a lot of N. Americans and other Europeans.  There are sooooo many people, everywhere.

Everywhere you turned there were people...and cafes...and art shops and touristy trap stores...

This church is one of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen.

It is not an ornate interior but very awesome in its simplicity. When we got to the door the guard would not let me carry my camera in.  There is a 'no camera' rule for the basilica and they are strict about it.  We sat quietly inside for some time just absorbing the atmosphere.  There was an organ playing...

It is an excursion well worth the time and energy.

Going down the stairs we continued to look back ...

Then we headed down the hill to find the metro to take us to the hotel we call home right now.

It was a full day, gloriously warmed by French sunshine!!!

I am posting this a day late and I do apologize for my scratchy reporting...there are so many photos and so many memories...just need a longer day.

Love to all.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Day ?, Saturday, April 16...

Forget which day this is in the scheme of this trip...have to get more sleep.  Aha, it is Day 10

Marilyn left this morning, Sunday, but I am about to tell you the story of our visit to Versailles.  For some reason I had the notion that Versailles was way over the top and unbelievably glitzy.  It does have some gold and gilded bronze here and there but it is a beautiful place.

We decided to take a new route from our hotel to the RER station and found lots of lovely things to look at on the way.

Isn't that lovely bark?

The flower stalls were already up and running...

Aren't these flowers just so lovely...they smelt as good as they look too.

Eggs and bunnies are very prolific here right many chocolate shops...

We left from the Musee d'Orsay stop and on the train out of Paris, we met some Californians who are in the computer world of the Bay Area and the trip went by quickly.  In the group of Californians there was a young son who said he could help me with my camera problems.  He gave me a couple quick tips and I do think it improved my shots.

We got off at the town of Versailles, walked a few blocks, turned a corner and voila!  There it was...

As we went through the day, though, I had the strange feeling that we were out of place.  It seemed that if I were to blink I would see ladies with long, lovely gowns and men in fancy pants and tight hose.  There should be soft string music playing and soft chatter of the court gossips and ministers of government.  It just seemed that we were interlopers, in the wrong place, and in the wrong time.

I did have a pre-conceived notion that Versailles was way-over-the-top but it really isn't.  This place is quite lovely.

Well, maybe that is a little heavy for Mayne Island but it is so exquisite you cannot help but admire.

Thought I would just throw that in to show the crowds we had to plough through.  We tried to stay ahead of or get around large groups.  Marilyn was ahead of me in this room, motioning for me so I moved ahead so I could hear the lady talk...Marilyn whispered, no, don't join them...let's get ahead of was a bit of a squeeze in most rooms.

The famous Hall of Mirrors was a surprise to me.  From all the photos I have seen I thought the room would be huge.  But it was not an overly large room...just very glamourous, very chi chi.

Caught a glimpse of the gardens through an open window of the palace.

By now you all know I have a major weakness for these floors...

The flower gardens are somewhat formal for me but very nice.  Before the day was over they had turned on all the water fountains.  You could see why the water landscapes were considered such a marvel back in the 18th century.

The gardens cover so many acres that we rented a golf cart and made our way around and out to Petit Trianon and Grand Trianon.  Petit Trianon was a smallish house Marie Antoinette had for her own pleasure where she could get away from all the court.

Photo above is Petit Trianon...a perfect get-away.

And next door Louis had the Grand Trianon to house his mistress, Madam Popidor (sp?).  By this time we were tired and in need of food so we opted for a snack over visiting the Grand Trianon.  We were a little miffed at Louis for stashing his mistress so close to Marie...I mean, really!!!

Take a look at our snack.  It is a baked potato with creme fraiche...oh, so good!

And we bought a drink that tasted very much like that drink, Sherwin, that we used to love at PUC.  So it was a perfect snack and made us more mellow to Louis!

It was another day of hundreds of photos taken (494) and I will only harass you with a few...just to give you a glimpse.  It is well worth the hordes of people.

The gardens are huge...

The fountains are magnificent!

This is looking back from the Palace level down into the gardens...

And so ended my lovely week with my sister.  Marilyn was sorry to leave this morning but will be home in Calgary about 6:30 Mountain Standard Time.  She was great company and a major help.  We took turns encouraging each other...when one got the droops the other lifted up!  Her French is superior to mine but I asked for the room key in French today without her so I may make it.  I promise, Marilyn, I won't be too friendly to the natives or the strangers.  She was very good to me.  It is lovely when, as adults, you find that you and your sister have the same tastes in many areas of life...Thank you, Marilyn.

Highlight of today, Sunday, was I got to chat to Sherwin and Lorne on Skype for 45 minutes before it cut out.  It was Sherwin's and my first face to face chat since we left Calgary.  Haven't been able to get ichat to work with our Apples but dear old Skype made the day.

Now I will say good night as I wait for Gail Booth to arrive.  She should have landed by now and will be wending her way here.  So I get another exciting week in this beautiful city.  This is so good!!!

Love to all and to all a good day.