Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The green trees of Paris

Cities need trees.  They add colour, texture, and welcome shade in summer.  On benches nearby are parents with kids, teenagers, students, workers grabbing lunch, older people, chatting, eating sandwiches, or just sitting and watching the world.

Paris has lots of trees, along the streets, 
Sunday morning market - Boulevard Richard Lenoir
along the banks of the Seine,
 in hidden courtyards, and small squares 
Place du Marché Sainte Catherine in the Marais
- and especially in its public parks – the Jardin des Tuileries, with its formal gardens, its pools and clipped trees,
The Tuileries
  the gardens below the Sacré-Cœur in Montmartre, 
the Place des Vosges, 
the oasis of the Jardins du Palais Royal 
Palais Royal
and the delights of the Jardin du Luxembourg beyond the Boul’Mich.  
Fontaine Medicis, Jardin du Luxembourg

Gathering for a concert in the Luxembourg
In one or two places there is greenery going up the walls:-
Hotel de Sully
not far from the Pompidou centre

Paris and art

We went to the Louvre, the Orangerie, the Pinacothèque and  Galerie w in rue Lepic.  For a lengthier appreciation you can't do better than read Harry's Café blog entry.

Here are a few extras -

Venus en armes - I was quite taken by the little one trying on the helmet.

Lion - "I'm just a pussycat"
El greco - St Louis

Madame Récamier - Jean Louis David

Paris and Helen - Jean Louis David - the faces are very delicate and fine
From the Orangerie - Chaim Soutine - Arbre Couché

and the occasional facetiousness, such as my seeing Karl Marx's portrait in the Nymphéas,  takes nothing away from the sheer brilliance and beauty.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Tour Eiffel - at last

 14 June 2013

Too touristy, la Tour? Eiffel that is not de France, and any experts will realize the gender’s quite different.  Female, in spite of its phallic form.

 But enough of this clever-arse-ness. 

This time we did it. Up to the top of the Eiffel Tower. You can get your tickets in advance and avoid the queues. They run a tight admission times schedule, though, so there’s no point arriving an hour early.

We walked from the Orangerie, along the left bank of the river – as you approach the tower plays hide and seek, among the buildings, but is easy to find. 

It’s possible to walk to floors 1 and 2 –  but the summit is only accessible by lift.

The views are fantastic, the engineering remarkable, - if you get the chance, do it. 
from the first floor
from the top

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Versailles - jardin sous la pluie

We have our sandwiches in a recess looking out at the gardens - brollies much in evidence and not a lot of flânerie going on. By the look of that cloud,  the rain's settled in for the afternoon.
glistening cherubs
I have a sun hat and a waterproof - a spot of rain never put an Englishwoman off, did it?
There's a hidden café with parasol/umbrellas among the trees - "deux express" seem like a good idea.  Then onward to the Petit Trianon.
The way into the Petit Trianon

We all went into the house, for to get out of the rain.  This smaller palace feels far more human - wouldn't mind living there myself, though I'd need a couple of cleaners and a cook.
It was used for private meetings between Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour, then became strongly associated with Marie-Antoinette's understandable urge to escape from the big house.

Autofocus concentrates on the rainy window
Marie Antoinette's grotto in the English-style gardens
The Belvedere - unfortunately we can't go inside to shelter!

We walk around,  hoping that we're on our way to the Queen's Hamlet - the paper plan has gone soggy, and signs on the ground are thin. 
We end up walking past the Orangery to the Grand Trianon.  This smaller palace was built for Louis XIV and is where he spent time with his mistress Madame de Maintenon.  It was used as a residence for various members of the royal family, and also by Napoleon Bonaparte's family. It's an attractive one-storey building with lovely gardens.

We still hadn't found the hamlet, so we walked along to the Porte St Antoine and found our way in from there.
Note the irises growing on the roof
The animals are rather damp too.

A quote about Versailles estate, from Giuseppe Penone, an Italian sculptor whose works were exhibited around the house and garden - I didn't take much time to look at them.  I plead the weather in mitigation.

Laid out to exalt the power of one man, it underlines the force and power of nature which minimises man’s action, requiring unceasing maintenance work to preserve it.

Versailles - the house

The building was a huge expansion of what was once a royal hunting lodge, so that Louis XIV could show his power, absolute, received directly from God. It housed uppity aristocrats where the king could keep them under close watch.  He was a patron of the arts - painting, theatre and music.  It employed thousands in its building and running.  It is now one of the jewels in the crown of the French Republic.

I'm not a big fan of treks round stately homes, but it has to be done - and shouldn't be missed.

the golden gates stay shut
we are shunted in round the sides
our queuing lines can breathe again
we expand to a loose rabble

cross the courtyard
past the audio guide counter
“Follow the arrows, 
this way please,
no straying,
this is the direction of the visit"

We drift through endless glorious rooms
of paintings, carpets, luscious chairs and beds
sublime ceilings
splendid, awe-inspiring, powerful,
dazzling with wealth and colours,
light and comfort
beyond the merely human
I have no audio
to halt me and point out what I should see

then the highpoint

Galerie des Glaces, Hall of Mirrors
reflecting daylight, or the glow of chandeliers
back and forth the silver softened light
grey skies outside and lights within