Saturday, September 26, 2015

European Tour
Paris Pt 3
Bridges, A Lunch Cruise and Wine Tasting
The Palace of Versailles and Giverny
Where Our Party Learns to Pace Itself

 OK, this has been a hectic pace. For the next couple of days there is  a little less walking and a little more...taking things in.

Day 4 starts with a walk along the Sienne to the base of the Eiffel Tower. Our lunch cruise takes off from a nearby pier. Along the way we get to take in some of the many bridges that link the right bank to the left bank via the two islands. Others connect the two sides without traversing the islands. Every one of them has a story. I'm going to diverge to share a few.

Let us start with the worst. Very close to the Cathredal of Notre Dame is this small bridge linking the tip of Ile De La Citie with the Left Bank, Pont de l'Archeveche...covered in the scourge that is an internet meme, love locks. They try to take these down but there's always someone with a master key selling locks.

Pont Au Change became our favourite. Mostly because it lead to a street named Sebastapol and from there we could get back to our apartment without maps or getting lost.

Many versions of this bridge have been built since the 12th c.The current bridge was opened in 1860, during the reign of Napoleon III, and bears his imperial insignia. From the right bank it puts you onto the main island with Notre Dame to your left, the Concergerie to your right and Saint Chappelle straight ahead. And yes that stairway is just calling out....take me to the river, put me in the water.

My sentimental favourite was Pont Neuf...the oldest bridge in Paris. It too puts you on the Ile De La Citie,  at one end leaving you to walk the whole island.

Some detail on this shot. The bridge is festooned with grotesque caricatures of dentists and barbers and priests and other ghouls.

On the island a statue of King Henry IV. This man established the absolute monarchy that the late Louis' came to represent. Victor in the war of religions he had only one stumbling block to consolidating his power base. He was Protestant. Upon viewing Paris he was said to have remarked: "Paris is well worth a mass." His conversion lead to many of the great parks and monuments we have already seen. His vision for France gave us the rest.

Unfortunately he got caught in a traffic jam right here on the 14th of May, 1610 and was assassinated by a crazed Catholic. You're right, that might be redundant.

This led to Marie De Medici's regency until 1617 when Louis XIII took over the reigns.

A builder, with his chief financier Sully...of places and a nation.

All Kings that followed stood on his shoulders.

Speaking of Sully, we came across these jazz artists on his eponymous bridge.

You might have to click through on that one or cut and paste into your's on youtube somewhere.

The most glorious bridge, if not downright ostentatious, is the Pont Alexandre III, named after a regressive Russian Czar, who nonetheless was a better friend to France than Bismark. The first stone for this was laid by Czar Nicholas II in October of 1896 when the cousins that ruled Europe were still getting along.

Here are a couple of shots that show the perspective this bridge has. One towards the Tower.

And one towards the gold dome of Les Invalides, Napoleon's hospital for his army and his final resting place.
Everywhere you turn in this city, you see something else.

Not many pictures from the cruise itself. We're having a lovely lunch with a couple bottles of wine and passing landmark after landmark. The river float is to recharge the spirit, not to fill the SD card. We've booked the front of the boat so our view is unobstructed on both trips, outgoing and returning.

Here's a picture of a familiar friend.
This is where the boat turns back, a little artificial island, the unknown 3rd, just for this lady. And once again, in the background, this city is all about perspective.

I mean how many copies of that thing did they make?

Somewhat satiated but still on the hunt for truth through wine we disembark, head to the Eiffel Tower take this pic...

...and grab a cab into the Latin Quarter for our wine tasting.

Way too many tourists at that huge bucket of bolts.

The street our wine tasting is on was built during the last Ice Age...and no one thought to level the glacial mound we have to climb.

 So we take the long way around to find a less steep incline to the entrance.
We are at 14 Rue Des Boulangers and our host has welcomed us to a 'virtual' wine tour of France.

We had a full house, people from California and Georgia, our group from Canada and three from Ireland. We all did a little introduction prior to the presentation. I told them I started out on burgundy but soon hit the harder stuff...

The tour was informative, breaking down the appellations by the four major growing regions. We scooped up a half dozen bottles for each couple.

Recommended to all teachers, nurses and other lovers of wine.

On the way home we stumble across Place De La Bastille. Like many locations in Paris you go to see things that are no longer there. The fortress, cum prison, cum sanitarium for the eccentric, was torn down in 1789...and no one thought to rebuild it. The Pont De La Concorde was built using stone from the demolished building. Ironically the Colone de Juillet that stands in it's place commemorates the three days of revolt in 1830 that led to the abdication of Charles X.

Day 5 has us looking for out for our private car to Versailles as our street is blocked with construction. Cece and I have been through Paris twice and have not yet knocked this one off our list of things to do. This time we're going  First Class and making a full day of it by adding an hour and a half ride out to Monet's quaint little homestead in Giverny.

Nothing much more to be said about Versailles. Louis XIV set up court here to keep away from the rabble in Paris. When they marched Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette back to Paris in 1789...the world changed. Flash forward to 1919 when the victors of The Great War split the globe and laid seed to many of the turbulent issues we face today.

 Let's take a spin around the courtyard.

It's pretty ornate. Housed over 6,000 members of the court under the Sun King.

Dig the pipe organ at the back. I've got a boombox.
There are more Louis' than you can count.

And all sorts of stuff with gold plating. Dig the fleur de lis.

If there is one thing wrong with all the major monuments in Paris it's that they are so packed nobody goes there anymore. (Tip of the hat to Yogi Berra)

This is the Hall of Mirrors. You should be able to reflect here in solemn wonder. When you stand facing the mirrors the courtyard outside the window is reflected. 'Course, even KimYea or KonYa, or whatever they are called, couldn't book this joint for their wedding.

It occurs to me, as we enter the next room....

My life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue,
An everlasting vision of the ever-changing view
A wondrous woven magic in bits of blue and gold
A tapestry to feel and see, impossible to hold

If there's an original thought out there I could use it right about now.
So I pushed this door open and almost got booted from the Palace. I'm told the side I opened hasn't been touched since Louis XVII slid out the back. Did get this pic though.

 And the gardens.

 I make light but I loved this place. If you're depending on me to convince you to go then perhaps it's not for you.

Back into our shocking pink carriage and off to the less opulent, but no less inspiring, grounds of Giverny. The most restful part of this day has been not deciding what direction we are going in.

Claude Monet lived on these grounds, cultivated the gardens and ponds, painted more water lillies than you can shake a stick at, for over 40 years. The bridges, foliage and lily pads will be familiar to most.

We have a private tour, our host meeting us at the entrance and commencing the trek through the gardens which now sit on the opposite side of the road from the main house. Again I would guess that spring would be the best time to be here but such care was given to the development of these grounds there are blooms well into the fall.

Let's start with perspective.

This garden was built to simulate a rolling river leading up to the house through the arches. Our guide made the mistake of saying Monet was trying to provide perspective.

That lead me into a 20 minute monologue about Baron Hausmann and Napoleon III. She cut me off saying, "Hausmann, he did not invent perspective but he made good use of it."


And here's the Monet shot....water lillies.

These ones are better still.
And you might recognize this bridge from a painting or two, minus the people.

 But Monet was about more than just the water stuff. He planted these bamboo, not indigenous to the area, on an island.

 And other flowers.

 Some gardens are even thematic, with the blooms in sequence to the colours of the rainbow. I don't have a pic of that.

Inside the house...he self decorated with family portraits.

 If Monet was on Instagram he would have posted this at lunchtime. "I am having fruite et du vin, peut etre du l'eau, je sais pas."

I'm going to add a trip to L'Orangerie, which occurs on another day, to this segment so we can get all the Monet in one bag.

This museum opened in the early 1920's, hosts works by Cézanne, Matisse,  Modigliani, Picasso, Renoir, Henri Rousseau, Alfred Sisley, Chaim Soutine, and Maurice Utrillo, among others.

But everyone me the Monet!

In 1927 special circular rooms were built to host 8 murals of water lillies, collectively  known as the Nymphéas.

It's a pretty special display. The lighting is Monet wanted it.

 If you see enough of his paintings, against others from his time, you will come to know why this was his preference. He must have had an allergy to light or brightness.

Let us take a spin around the room.

In other parts of the museum you will find Renoir's Peaches

Another Monet

And so much more.

I'm going to drop a few pics from the Musee D'Orsay on this post as the next one is looking rather lengthy. Entering the museum you're greeted by Satan playing with a serpent. That has to be a good omen.

They almost tore this building down in the 60's before deciding to refurbish and rededicate it. Used to be a railway station and now it houses the biggest collection of impressionist and post-impressionistic art. I was impressed. I'm guessing we're gonna see Monet again.
Whoa! There it is, a familiar bridge.

Now this was a pleasant surprise, a painting by Henri Fantin-Latour...ya, I don't know him either. It's called Coin De Table  but I DO know a couple characters at the bottom left corner.

"By the Table" is a group portrait as much as a testimony to the literary history of the 19th century, and the Parnassus poetry group in particular. A group of men are gathered around the far end of a table after a meal. Three are standing, from left to right: Elzéar Bonnier, Emile Blémont and Jean Aicard. Five are seated: Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud, Léon Valade, Ernest d'Hervilly and Camille Pelletan. They are all dressed in black except one, Camille Pelletan, who is not a poet like the others but a politician. The central place is occupied by Emile Blémont, who bought the painting and gave it to the Louvre in 1910.
At least two figures are missing: Charles Baudelaire, to whom the painting was initially to have been a tribute, who died in 1867 and Albert Mérat who did not want to be painted in the company of the diabolic poets Verlaine and Rimbaud and was reputedly replaced by a bunch of flowers. 

Henri made a career out of taking selfies before the subject could be in the photo. He left us with a few pieces of historical significance.

A Studio at Les Batignolles, Un atelier aux Batignolles, parody, "Worshipping Manet", 1870

From left to right, we can recognise Otto Schölderer, a German painter who had come to France to get to know Courbet's followers, a sharp-faced Manet, sitting at his easel; Auguste Renoir, wearing a hat; Zacharie Astruc, a sculptor and journalist; Emile Zola, the spokesman of the new style of painting; Edmond Maître, a civil servant at the Town Hall; Frédéric Bazille, who was killed a few months later during the 1870 war, at the age of twenty-six; and lastly, Claude Monet.  There's our buddy at the far right, looking a little out of sorts.

Here's what Cezanne had for lunch.

A statue by Rodin. We missed his museum, though we did pull up out front in the pouring rain...decided to pass on The Thinker. I'd heard the famous statue was in the courtyard of the museum. I thought that meant open to the public...but c'mon. They might have been born at night, but it wasn't last night.

More perspective. Looking through the clock towards the Louvre.

Where Did Vincent Van Gough? We haven't seen much of this guy but if you have to see just one...

And a non-self portrait by Vincent.

And where you find Vincent, Gaugin can't be far behind.

The interior main hall littered with artifacts and people...but a moderate crowd.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Stained glass.

And the mother of us all. Isis.
That's all she wrote for this installment.

Next up; The Louvre, Arc De Triomphe and the Saddest Spot in Paris.

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