Tuesday, February 28, 2017


Der Teufelhof Hotel

We took the short hour and half train ride to Basel this morning.  On first glance the area, although close in proximity to Strasbourg, is distant in language, cuisine and weather.  It's much colder and humid here.  Despite being on the French border, German seems to be the dominant if not exclusive language.  As usual, though, most understand and speak English.  The food seems less heavy than the Strasbourg dishes which were large, meat and potato filled casseroles.  As in Strasbourg, public transportation is by electric tram and pedestrians rule the streets.  The trams stop everywhere making it easy to get around.  The city is on the Rhine River and is renowned for museums and humanism.

Our hotel is known as the Art Hotel.  If you look closely at the picture above, you can see the man on the high wire.  Each room on the older side of the hotel has been decorated by an artist.  Our room is more like an art happening and not to my taste.  You'll need to see the video  to understand.  Friday is carnival in Basel.  Practically every shop has an array of masks in the window.  They are striking.  A few years ago we were in Venice for carnival.  It was such an eye-popping experience that I'm sorry to miss Basel's.

Video of the hotel room is on YouTube.   A few are at flickr.

If you care to read more about the hotel, I have included below a review from The Travel Online Magazine. 

The Teufelhof, in what was once a very large, turn-of-the-century middle-class house and stable located on the ancient circle of walls that once surrounded the city, is listed in Michelin as a restaurant mit Zim (with rooms). Though running a one-star Michelin restaurant is serious stuff, Der Teufelhof's owners have taken a more lighthearted approach to the hotel part of their business. The eight simple guestrooms with hardwood floors, white walls and simple furnishings are viewed as "empty canvases" and periodically eight different artists are commissioned to decorate them. The results are fascinating, but rather spare and hardly luxurious. The effect is in a range from avant garde to slightly bizarre. There are murals, mobiles, sculptures, paintings and high-tech lighting, but no couches or comfortable chairs. Each bathroom is equipped with a heated towel rack and hairdryer. We liked Numbers seven and eight, cozy, garret-like top floor rooms with exposed beams, dormer windows and slanting ceilings. One drawback for all rooms is that there is no lift and one must negotiate at least two flights of steep stairs. The Teufelhof is also known for the small (120 seats) but busy theater located within the walls of its rambling structure. The whole package, main dining room, Weinstube, theater and the eight guestrooms have been meticulously and imaginatively restored and the pieces of art carefully chosen. Note, for example, the clever pitchfork (Der Teufelhof means "the devil's house") wall sculptures incorporating images of famous people. For the flexible traveler who appreciates new ideas, even if they are a little quirky, Der Teufelhof will be fun.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Cave Historic

Wayne in the Cave Historique

Yesterday's visit to wine country put us in the mood to find out more about local wines at the Cave Historique Hospices Strasbourg.  This wine cave is in the medieval basements of the city hospital in Petite France.  The caves date from 1395 when poor patients would pay for hospital services with wine.  In return wealthy patients would receive the wine as part of their therapeutic treatment. Today there are more than 40 ancient barrels in the museum cave, one of which is filled with wine from 1472, one of the oldest in the world.   Some of  the barrels are beautifully carved with interesting histories.  One barrel was owned by King Louis XV, another was a wedding gift that never was used.  Today selected Alsatian wines are given permission to mature in the cave's barrels, bottled on the spot and sold.  All profits from the sales go toward the hospital's operating expenses.  

Writing about the hospital in Petite France reminded me of a fact we learned on the Batorama tour.  The name Petite France came about when French soldiers with syphilis were sent to the "hospice of the syphilitic" on the island. The local Germans called it the "French Disease"  to stop the local girls from sleeping with the soldiers.  Thus, the area of the hospice became known as Little France, more out of derision than patriotism.  The name stuck and today is one of the most expensive areas of the city.

Tomorrow we leave beautiful Strasbourg for Switzerland.  Stay tuned.  Pictures of the day at flickr.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Exploring Alsace

Wayne at his Meme's Home, Belfort

We picked up our rental car this morning and drove to Belfort where Wayne's grandmother was born. The drive there is through beautiful Alsatian wine country where acre upon acre of grape vines are waiting for spring to bring forth the grape.

As we drove into Colmar a smaller replica of The Statue of Liberty stood at the entrance to the town, birthplace of Frederick Bartholdi. We stopped in Colmar to view the Isenheim Altarpiece by Mathias Grunewald.  I have wanted to see this piece for as long as I can remember.  What a fortunate occasion to find that it was on route to Belfort.  The altarpiece has influenced many other artists from Jasper Johns to Picasso.  The original construction of two sets wings in three configurations has been broken apart so that visitors can see all the components.  It is displayed in the Unterlinden Museum, a former 13th-century Dominican religious sisters' convent.

Belfort was not at all as I expected, a quaint, medieval village with geese running through the streets and children in berets flying their kites.  Instead it was large and heavy with industry.  Wayne's Meme's house appeared to be abandoned.  Our calculations figure she was in the house around 1890.  The old historic district is pretty and the citadel is amazing with huge earthworks. At the citadel sits the Lion of Belfort a monumental sculpture by Bartholdi that stood for the people's resistance during the Franco-Prussian siege.  

Alsacian Plain with Swiss Alps in the Distance

On our return to Strasbourg we drove into the wine country and up above the plain of Alsace to the Haut-Kroningsbourg Castle.  The original castle was burnt in 1462 and rebuilt twice by 1867.  We knew this late in the day the Castle would be closed but wanted to see the view.  It was worth the drive to see the Plain and the Black Forest and a glimpse of the Swiss Alps.  Additional pictures at flickr.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

A Good Day for a Long Walk

We did a lot of walking today just exploring little side streets, admiring the architecture and discovering some new areas beyond the Grand Ill.  I'm really sold on the life style here of a walking city with multiple open spaces and plenty of markets for your bread, cheese, wine and meats.  I know man does not live by bread alone, but a good baguette does make for a nice time. We started the day by stepping into St Thomas Lutheran Church which is across the plaza from our apartment.  Mozart once played the organ there.  Further along our route, we walked through the Barrage Vauban lapidarium where statues from the Palais Rohan and the Cathedral are exhibited.  We had intended to walk on top of the Barrage, but it was closed.  Saturday brought the people out.  The streets were crowded with jolly folk, at least two bands playing in the places, and the restaurants were serving on their sidewalk tables. A few pictures at flickr.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Strasbourg, From the Ancient to the Contemporary

Wayne in the Notre Dame Museum

The Notre Dame Cathedral Museum contains 7 centuries of Strasbourg and upper Rhine art and artifacts as well as the original plans for the Cathedral.  Sculptures from the Notre Dame and other church facades have been recovered and saved here from the Restoration, the Revolution and other natural occurrences.  They have been replaced at the Cathedrals with reproductions.  It is very neat to see these sculptures up close and to discover the significance of each one.  The Museum is in a building that spans from Gothic to Renaissance periods.  In itself it is museum piece.  The room pictured above, for example, is the room where the masons worked.  

We had lunch across the Place Notre Dame at Maison Kammerzell, a medieval civic building that is now a restaurant and hotel.  The walls on every floor are covered with frescoes by Leo Schnug and date from the late 1800s.  

Maison Kammerzell

With one day remaining on our museum pass, we headed for the Museum of Modern Art.  It's a small museum with significant works from the Impressionist period through today.  My favorite room was the Gustav Dore, but I really liked the wit and humor in many of the modern pieces.  
The Barrage Vauban

The museum is south of the Grande Ill and across from the Barrage Vauban.  Thus, as we walked back to the apartment, we had a wonderful sunset to bid us bonne nuit.
Lots of art pictures at flickr.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

A River Runs Through It

Pont Covert

Today was so sunny and warm that we decided to take the Batorama, or boat tour.  The hour tour encircles the Grand Ill and ventures into the European quarter.  There are two locks on either side of the Ill that carry the boat up and down river.  While in the lock, the boat attracts onlookers who are fascinated by the technology.  People bring the crew coffee and chat while the boat elevates/descends.  On the western end of the Ill are the three Pont Coverts and four towers.  The bridges are no longer covered but maintain the name.  Built in the third century as a defense fortress, the coverings offered protection for the guards.  Close by and upstream is the Barrage Vauban, or dam, built by Louis XV which has 13 arched openings with locks in each.  During war the locks were lowered flooding lands south of the city and making them impassable to the enemy.  Woe to those who lived south of the city.  

The European Quarter is very modern and quite a contrast to the Grand Ill.  The Parliamentary building was named for Louise Weiss, Alsacian journalist, writer, feminist and politician.  Glass is the predominant material for the European Court and the Parliament.  

Following the Batorama Tour, we spent time in the Archeology Museum at Palais Rohan where the boat docks.   The history of the area is dense with tracings from the Neolithic period to stories of the Nazi occupation. 

We ended the day with a Gyro that had been on Wayne's mind for days since passing the restaurant.  

Apologies for the pictures on flickr that are effected by the glare of the boat.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Strasbourg, City of Art and Architecture

Wayne at the Gare de Strasbourg

The Strasbourg train station has a huge glass bubble completely covering the facade of the old building.  It was added when the high speed train line came in.  It seems to provide cover as one leaves the historic building and enters the underground tram station.  As we walked there today to rent a car, it appeared at the far end of a road between the medieval buildings.  It looked somewhat like an Anish Kapoor sculpture.  Our car rental is for Sunday when we plan to visit Belfort, Wayne's ancestral grounds.

Today our visit was with the Beaux Arts Museum.  It and 2 other museums are housed in the Palais Rohan, which is adjacent to the Notre Dame Cathedral.  Most notable and impressive for us was Triptych of Earthly and Devine Salvation by Hans Memling.  One panel has a female nude about which the audio guide pointedly described the sandals she was wearing omitting any further description.

We walked to the Petite France area for dinner at the Les Haras Brasserie.  The building was once the horse stable of King Louis XV.  The transformation is beautiful; the ambience, service and hospitality exceptional.  We dined on the first floor.  A sweeping, winding, open staircase led to an exposed second floor some 50' above where others dined beneath a conical beamed ceiling. As I mentioned yesterday, wine plays an important role in the culture.  To our left the diners discussed the terroir, aging, suitability of each wine.  On our right the diners examined label on the wine carefully, asked a question and then accepted the bottle.  We have sampled Gewurtztraminer, Pinot Gris and Risling.  Risling is still the favorite. I had a taste of my first taste flambee and give it a thumbs up.  
Pictures at flickr.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Strasbourg Explorations

Notre Dame Cathedral
Strasbourg is a much more significant city than I realized.  It is not only the capital city of the region, but is also the formal seat of the European Parliament and Union.  The culture, language and architecture is a blend of both French and German influences.  The Grande Ile where we are staying is a World Heritage site.  The University of Strasbourg is the second largest in France and accounts for the very young population we've encountered.  Their Cathedral is the sixth tallest church in the world and tallest extant church.   Johannes Gutenberg created the first European movable type printing press here.  Thus the first modern newspaper was published here.  

Wine is an important component of the region and practically revered by the population.  Tonight at dinner the diners at the table to our left described each wine by its terroir, how it was aged, whether it accompanied the dish appropriately.  We've tried a few and like the Risling the best.  

Earlier in the day we visited the Notre Dame Cathedral.  Although described as high Gothic, it lacked that soaring feeling one usually gets.  It was rather wide and built with dark sandstone.  The apse actually looked Byzantium to me.  It has a somewhat noted astronomical clock whose animated characters move at different hours.  We caught a small show at the quarter hour.  One must make an appointment to see the entire show at noon. 

We ended the day with a little shopping.  Macarons, yum.
Pictures at flickr

Monday, February 20, 2017

Back in France, Strasbourg

Wayne by the River Ill

Despite the rail service disruption, we had an easy transport to Strasbourg this morning.  It is only a short 1 1/2 hour ride.  Once here, we directly boarded the tram service. Quiet, clean and efficient, it is an electric system that runs street level (much like Prague).  The tram dropped us in the Grand Ill, an island in the historic center of the city formed by the splitting of the River Ill, which is a tributary of the Rhine.  It reminds me of the way Isle de Cite and Isle de St Louis are formed in Paris. After settling in to our apartment, we explored the area, of which the majority is pedestrian streets and plazas.  Hungry, we wandered until we chose a restaurant based on our usual criteria:  number of people inside, charm, menu. The la Corde a Linge's  specialty is spaetzle, which I had.  (We met 2 traveling American sisters when they inquired what I was eating.) Spaetzle looks like a fat, short noodle and is made of egg and flour.  It was very tasty.  
Our apartment is lovely and more livable with it's open floor plan than the Paris apartment.  It appears to be a new apartment constructed in a former bank building.  As usual, pics at flickr.  

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Sunday in Luxembourg

National Museum of History and Art
The National Museum of History and Art is adjacent to our hotel.  During our visit the most impressive piece for me was the large, completely intact Roman mosaic from the nearby village of Vichten.  It dates from around 240 AD.  The depiction is of the nine Muses and Homer. I'm confounded by both the original skill to lay the piece so perfectly without modern technology, and the modern ability to dismantle and reassemble it.  I'm guessing it is about 45' x 20'.  Each little tile is 1/4" square. Here are better pictures from flickr. 
There was no party scene beneath our window tonight.  However, at 7am the city workers showed up to continue excavating the area.  A few pics of paintings and the city workers at flickr.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Travels, Tours and Travails

Farmers' Market, Luxembourg

Last Tuesday there was a serious train accident in South Luxembourg.  The route between Thionville, France and Luxembourg City is still inaccessible.  Monday we will need to take a bus to Thionville and then pick up the train to Strasbourg reversing the process that brought us here.  Yesterday there was another rail accident in Brussels.  My confidence is waning.  

This morning we walked down to the center and found a large farmers' market.  The people were bustling around carrying large woven baskets filled with produce.  I like this life style of shopping and supporting local produce.  They try it in our area but not to the extent of here.  And we only have open markets during the short New England growing season.  

Our 3 hour walking tour today was with Diane, who had extensive historic knowledge.  She explained the physical construct of the city with its casements and walls as well as the social and political aspects of myriad rulers and countries that have invaded, occupied and melded into what is today Luxembourg.  It was interesting to find out about the strategic fortress advantage against invaders: the Belgians, the Prussians, the French and the Spanish.  We didn't visit the area known as the European area.  It's modern skyscrapers seen across the eastern valley are where the European Union has institutions.  Diane also touched on the culture, explaining that due to all the various invaders and occupying countries, Luxembourians are adept at accepting all nationalities and races.  Their government is very liberal and open.  Children learn Luxembourgish (their language) which is closer to German than French.  They also learn German, French and English in school.  Our day ended at dusk outside the Notre Dame Cathedral. 

Now to the Travails.  When we booked our hotel we noticed that reviews warned of high street noise levels that interfered with peace and sleep.  We assumed since it would be February, street activity would be minimal.  You know the adage, 'to assume makes an ass of you and me?".  We are sleepless in Luxembourg.  There are 2 bars across the 10' wide street from our room.  By the dozens people gather outside these bars and have a rollicking good time until 4am.  I feel for the hotel whose management has appealed to the city for help to no avail.  Pictures are available at flickr.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Luxembourg City

Wayne in Luxembourg historic center

Our Hotel Parc Beaux Arts is located in the historic district of the city, which means pedestrian streets, plazas and good restaurants. There are those beautiful narrow European cobblestone streets that wind and climb between tall stone buildings.  We spent a leisurely day walking along the le Chemin de la  Corniche, a pedestrian promenade that runs along the ramparts and overlooks the old city, Grund.  It is referred to as Europe's most beautiful balcony.  We stopped by the visitor's center to get a city map and decided to take a walking tour tomorrow that will focus on Grund.  Pictures of our walk are at flickr.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Au Revoir, Paris

This morning our Parisian taxi driver to Gare de l'Est told us that spring was beginning.  On our ride to Luxembourg I saw the evidence. Fields have been turned, and some are already green with vegetation.  The willows are budding.  Fog hugs the land as the warm air butts against the cool earth. The TGV train could not take us all the way into Luxembourg as there has been an accident on the rails earlier in the week.  We needed a bus to complete our trip.  But all was very efficient with the bus waiting at the train station.

On a quest to visit the smallest countries in the world, we can now include Luxembourg along with Monaco, Vatican City, and Andorra.  It is a lovely city.  We discovered that the stable population is about 100,000. But during the day the occupants swell to 600,000 with workers that live in Belgium and France where housing is more affordable.  The language is mostly French but with some German.  At dinner tonight the waiter asked if we needed a menu in Dutch.

Our hotel is in the old part of the city where there are lovely large city squares surrounded by restaurants and shops.  It overlooks the Grand Ducal Palace and is larger than the Paris apartment.  It is filled with original paintings. Wayne's favorite is the painting with the bend-over naked ladies. A few pictures are at flickr.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Final Paris Adventure

Sacre Ceour

Paris provided us with an absolutely perfect last day. Skies were bright blue; temperature was 60*. When we arrived at Sacre Ceour people were enjoying the weather, sitting on the steps, singing, eating, gazing at distant Paris. We climbed to the top and sat briefly in the Basilica. Then we headed to the Place Du Tertre to check out all the artists and have onion soup at La Mere Catherine. By headed I mean we mistakenly walked to the bottom of the Mont, realized our misdirection and walked back to the top. Ooo la la. It was a perfect ending to our stay. We are sad to be leaving but looking forward to Luxembourg. Stay tuned. Pictures at flickr.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Road Trip

Versailles Gardens

Versailles is about a 40 minutes train ride from Paris.  Back in the Sun King's day he liked it that way.  "I no longer want to be the King of Paris.  I will be the King of France."  So he moved from the Louvre to his hunting lodge and began a transformation that created the world's largest royal domain.  And what an excessive display of wealth and power he built to become the most powerful King in Europe.  And, still the people continue to swarm to his Versailles to ooohhh and aaahhh over the gold, the tapestries, the ceilings, the gardens. The line for the tickets was a 30 minute wait.  That allowed us to enter the line for security that was at least 200 yards long and another 30 minutes.  I can appreciate the accomplishment of the poor people who had to build the place under terrible conditions, the artists who decorated it, and the architects who envisioned it.  But I'm always a bit turned off  in these places that were built by idea of one class of people dominating others.  Louis the XIV ruled 72 years, and led France to be the most powerful and influential country in Europe.  
We walked part of the gardens and then hopped on the train home.  Pictures at flickr.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Notre Dame

Notre Dame Apse

What a perfectly beautiful day.  With only 3 days remaining in Paris, and such a bright sunny day, we decided we decided standing in line for Notre Dame was bareable.  Our Paris Museum Pass gains us entry into the crypt and the tower.  BUT we had to stand in the same line as those purchasing tickets.  My assessment of this line and the limited entry number per every 10 minutes told us it would be over an hour's wait.  Once again, "Been there.  Done that. Let's just go into the Cathedral."  It was a very speedy entry into the Cathedral.  We picked up the neatest head set.  One is given a small paper map with numbered dots.  The listening device is about the size and shape of an instant thermometer.  One simple presses the tip of the device against the dot on the map.  Voila!  I never tire of sitting in a Gothic church.  The complexity of the structure could occupy my mind forever.  

Latin Quarter, Paris

We had an early afternoon and a late light dinner of crepes in the Latin Quarter.  The small, cobble stoned streets are filled with light and restaurants.  Charm, charm, charm.  Pictures at flickr.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Another Look at the Louvre

Approaching the Pont des Beaux Arts from the Louvre

Our second run by Notre Dame (or was it the third?) failed to convince us to stand in the long line.  The misty weather also encouraged us to seek indoor activity.  We returned to the Louvre for this.  This time we focused on the Greek Antiquities and French painting.  Of the Greeks, the Venus de Milo is best known.  There are also 2 Michelangelo's slaves in this area.  But the French paintings from the Neoclassical period were the best.  From David's to Ingres to Delacroix they were massive in scale, representative of classical history and influential.  

Just a note on the museum goers I've observed.  The great majority seem not to know how to look at art or simply have no interest other than to prove they've been there, done that.  Practically everyone of them walks quickly up to a piece of art, focuses their camera, and just as quickly walks away.  They only see the work through the screen of their device.  I want to say, "you can get a much better picture online.  Meanwhile, appreciate the real thing."  
Patrick Roger Chocolate Sculpture

The left bank is noted for its chocolate shops.  Two of them are near our apartment on St. Germain.  We stopped at Patrick Roger's simply because the sculpture in the window was so delightful.  The chocolate boots at almost 3 feet are not for sale.  But we bought the two types the Condé Nast suggested (thank you very much Kathy Lima) and headed home.  

On my continued observations of Parisians, I would praise them for their love of the printed book.  There are libraries everywhere filled with patrons.  There are sidewalk booths with used and antique books, huge stores with the latest publications, little specialty shops.  On the Metro every other person is reading a paper novel.  Only once have I seen a Kindle.  Pictures of books and other things at flickr.  

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Picasso Museum

Hotel Sale, Picasso Museum

The Picasso Museum is housed in the Hotel Sale in the Marais district.  The mansion was build in the mid 1600s for a salt tax collector.  Sale means salted and hotel is a townhouse.  At one point it was a school in which Balzac studied.  Then in 1964 the City of Paris acquired it and granted it historical monument status.  It is a beautiful building that deserves as much attention as the Picasso collection.  The collection came about when Picasso's heirs decided to make a dation which is a means of paying inheritance taxes through gifting of agreed upon art works.  The Musee has over 5000 pieces in all techniques and from all periods.  There were very, very few of those 5000 on view.  There were some especially rare sculptures and some bars reliefs of felt that I wasn't aware of.  If one only has a few days in Paris, choose another way of seeing Picasso's.  

Le Muerto del Torero

A few pictures at flickr.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Centre Pompidou

Wayne at the Centre Pompidou 

The Centre Pompidou is a straight 30 minute walk from our apartment.  It's a pretty easy building to notice among all the stone and mortar of Paris.  I call it the inside out building. I discovered Renzo Piano was one of the architects. The building is looking very tired.  The windows in the escalator tubes are very discolored and hard to see out. According to Wikipedia, 

     It houses the Bibliothèque publique d'information (Public Information Library),
     a vast public library, the Musée National d'Art Moderne, which is the largest 
    museum for modern art in Europe, and IRCAM, a centre for music and acoustic 

We were there for the National Museum of Modern Art.  There collection is so large that they must circulate the displays.  I enjoyed the Fauvism area most.  

Paris observations:  Parisians smoke a lot.  A lot of Parisians smoke.  They walk when they smoke.  They hang out in doorways and smoke.  Young people smoke a lot.  A lot of young people smoke.  But thank god they can no longer smoke in restaurants.  And they all toss their butts on the street.  

Pictures of our short day at flickr.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

A Little Night Music

The. Praying statues of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette

We used the Paris Metro for the first time today when we went to St. Denis and the St. Denis Basilica. There are differences between the London Tube and the Paris Metro.  For one, on the Tube a beautiful, soft, melodious woman's voice keeps one informed at all times of stops and dangers.  "Tower Hill next.  Mind the gap."  On the rare occasion there is a broadcast on the Metro, they use French.  Who can understand that?  Seriously, for the most part upcoming stations are not announced.  However, all trains do have an electronic panel over every door that lights the next station.  Secondly, there is absolutely no maximum capacity on the Metro.  Just when you think not one more person can fit, 3 more get on at the next stop.  The Tube just rolls right past a stop if it is full.  In some of the Metro stops there are plexiglass walls with automatic doors that act as a barrier between the platform and the train.  

St Denis is a bit of a gritty area.  The buildings near the Metro and the Basilica look almost Bauhaus. There was an open market in progress and most other stores reminded me of Dollar Stores. The streets are busy with people of all ages.   The Basilica has suffered over the years most significantly from the revolutionaries of 1793.  The north tower is gone costing it the beautiful symmetry.  There is a campaign afoot to replace it.  St Denis is the official burial place of all France's kings and queens.  But most significantly its choir shows the first use of all the Gothic elements.  The tombs are the most magnificent I've seen.  They are lit beautifully with both artificial and natural light.  Two of the tombs have nude effigies of the king and queen.  I had never seen this before.  It was to indicate that man is mortal, even kings.  

Orchestra De Paris

This evening we attended the Paris Philharmonic to hear Janacek, Chopin and R. Strauss.  The facility is very modern, completed in 2015 and seats 2400.  The multiple levels and sweeping design disguise the capacity.  The Chopin piece was chilling.  I am a fan of piano concertos and the soloist Seong-Jin Cho did not disappoint.  

I'll end with a little French lesson.  If you see andouilette on a French menu, do not be mistaken like me and think it is a small andouille sausage.  When my dish arrived I thought, that is the largest small sausage I have ever seen.  The first few bites were charred, smoky and good.  I thought I was actually eating a pork loin.  But it was comprised of thin rolled layers.  I asked the waiter what it was, "Tripe", he said.  The subsequent bites were less succulent.  

More pics at Flickr

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Chapel, the Crows and the Conservatory

Ste. Chapelle
We at last visited Ste. Chapelle.  There was no waiting in line and very few people inside.  What surprised me is that the chapel is about 30 feet above the ground.  We climbed one of those narrow, stone winding staircases.  The royals must have entered from an adjacent palace room.  It wasn't a particularly sunny day that would make the most of the glass and reflected light.  It was still a beautiful example of innovation, industriousness and beauty.  It incorporates one of the most extensive stained glass collection anywhere in the world.  
Musee l'Orangerie, Monet's Waterlilies

We walked through the Tuileries in order to reach the Musee l'Orangerie.  There are crows all over Paris.  The Tuileries seem to be their favorite hang out.  I'm guessing its the generosity of the people sharing bread that attracts them.  They don't mind people, but seem unsure of the pigeons. 

The l'Orangerie was originally the conservatory for the Tuileries' orange trees.  During the transformation to a museum, Claude Monet requested to donate decorative panels to the French government as celebratory pieces to commemorate the end of WWI.  It was in the redesigned rooms of l'Orangerie that they found a home.  I think these works are what attract most people.  The scale is most impressive.  I really like the Picasso pieces which are displayed opposite the Matisse works.  Two men who worked in the same period, saw each other at the Stein gatherings and completely transformed art.  Pictures of crows and other scenes at flickr.

More crows, etc at flickr.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Gare d'Orsay Redux

Beaux Arts

Again, today we had two visits planned and ended with only one.  Notre Dame is just a few blocks from our apartment.  As such, our plan was to swing by there, zip in, ooh and ahh, perhaps visit the crypt, maybe the tower and then return to the d'Orsay.  To our surprise (naïveté has taken charge) the line to the Grand Dame was extensive.  Even the ticketed line held way more people that our limited patience could tolerate.  "Hey.  We've been here twice. Let's go."  So off to revisit the Gare d'Orsay and see missed magnificence chief of which is the Manet room with Olympia and Luncheon on the Grass.

It seems that every inch of real estate is occupied by a magnificent structure.  I hardly even say, "look!  What is that?" Any longer.  But I did stop and check on the building pictured above.  We've passed it numerous times and the big dome is visible from all over.  Turns out the place is home to the Academie des Beaux Arts.  Home to all those famous artists i.e. Ingres, Seurat, Rodin, Renoir whose bio reads ...attended the Beaux Arts.
Wayne with Manet's Luncheon on the Grass

At the d'Orsay we completed our tour with the Manet collection.  I'm quite fond of Manet.  His blacks are unrivaled and he has this ability to use strong line to delineate areas yet maintain form there.  He was also quite the painting rebel choosing to depict the nude in a realistic manner rather than idealized.  We also looked at the Frederic Bazille show, a special exhibit.  More pictures are at flickr.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Just the Louvre

Winged Victory from Samothrace
We initially planned to visit two places today (one must make the most of the Paris Museum Pass). But when we arrived at St. Chapelle it was closed for the next 30 minutes.  Not a pair to waste time standing in a line, we headed for our second destination, the Louvre.  How does one approach the Louvre collection?  By following the crowds, of course.  We used the crowds and The Winged Victory as our kick off point.  She, being Greek, pointed us directly toward the Romans...er Italians.  I love Italian art. From the Medieval early Gothic to the late Renaissance, it simply speaks to me.  I can visualize the little monks working away on all those Annunciations, Caravaggio posing prostitutes, and Botticelli making the sweetest faces.  We spent the entire afternoon in that long Italian gallery.  When we tried to exit we found ourselves trapped in an underground area of very upscale shops.  It seems that exit through the gift shop has evolved at the Louvre into exit through the mall.  

We've been taking different routes home to explore the area.  What we've noticed are small shop after shop of every variety of clothing, antiques, art.  They are always empty.  How do they survive?  Our street, St. Germain, is very busy and also filled with restaurants, patisseries, boulangeries.  But we find the better of these choices are on the side streets.  

Our apartment owner has notified us that he is selling the apartment.  Paris is cracking down on VRBO rentals.  He cannot conform and cannot afford to maintain the apartment otherwise.  
Pictures at flickr.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Pantheon and The Gates of Hell

Up the hill to the Pantheon
The Pantheon is so visible from our apartment that it seems to fill the window.  Today we walked the short uphill trek to visit it.  Originally a church dedicated to St. Genevieve and containing her relics, today it acts as a mausoleum for the remains of many distinguished French citizens.  The building is a beautiful example of neoclassicism.  The facade is modeled on the Pantheon in Rome.  The designer had the idea to use Gothic windows combined with classical principals to create a light and bright interior.  However, the mausoleum required the Gothic windows be blocked.  Nevertheless, the space is spectacular with paintings of St. Genevieve's life filling the aisles and sculptures scattered throughout.  Interred in the crypt are Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Emile Zola and on and on.  Marie Curie is the first woman buried there due to her own merit.  History was at our fingertips.

Musee Rodin Grounds with Gates of Hell

I've been to the Rodin Museum twice but either missed the grounds or have lost my memory.  Even in the dead of winter, they are impressive.  Of course, the sculptures do their part to enhance things.  The altar to the gardens is The Gates of Hell, which were commissioned as the entrance to the Decorative Arts Museum.  The Museum was never built, but Rodin continued to work on the piece for 37 years, until his death.  Somehow I find it amusing that the entrance to a decorative arts museum were the gates of hell. I've felt at times when caught in museum rooms dedicated to decorative arts, particularly French decorative arts, that this must be what hell is like.   Rodin based his door sculptures on characters from Dante's Inferno.  Particulars of the door were also sculpted as stand alone pieces such as The Thinker, The Three Shades, The Kiss.  The museum also contains many of Rodin's drawings and paintings, his collection that include Van Gogh and Renoir, and a room of Camille Claudel's works.  Claudel was a lover of Rodin but also a great sculptor in her own right.  Her life took a tragic turn and she was committed to an insane asylum for 30 years until her death.  Much as been written about her that describes her as a victim of her time and gender as well as her brother and mother.  

Our walk home took us past a pedestrian bridge that a friend had said was a great place to hang out.  Our hanging out usually is a 5 minute respite.  We managed as much and also made friends with the bridge musician.  More pics at flickr.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Unicorns and Magic Flutes

The Lady and the Unicorn, Musee Cluny
We made a return visit to the Musee Cluny today in order to rent a head set.  We needed more in depth information than the French labels offered.  Also, we missed the Lady and the Unicorn Tapestries the first visit.  Found this time, they are alone in a room off the main corridors.  The six panels represent the senses of touch, taste, smell, sight, hearing and a 6th whose meaning is obscure.
The Musee sits in what was once a Gallo Roman district and was constructed upon the vintages of the  Roman baths here.  This area was demolished when the barbarians invaded.  The locals, known as Lutitians used the stones from the demolition to build the rampart now around the Ile de la Cite.
The chapel in the Musee is an example of the pure Flamboyant style gothic architecture.  It is small but breath taking.
Notre Dame
This evening we attended the Opera Bastille to hear Mozart's Magic Flute.  This is Wayne's favorite opera.  I can see why and also appreciated the humor and musicianship.  Our walk there and back was along the Seine, past Notre Dame whose bells were ringing and with a beautiful view of the moon over the Pantheon.  Pictures of our day at flickr.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Musees Cluny and d'Orsay

Musee Cluny
The Musee Cluny, now officially the Musee National du Moyer Age, is just a few blocks from our apartment.  It would be a return visit from our 2009 trip to see The Lady and the Unicorn, a set of 6 tapestries considered one of the greatest European works of art of the Middle Ages.  For those who like historical fiction, Tracy Chevalier's The Lady and the Unicorn depicts the tapestries. Somehow we exited the museum without seeing the unicorn tapestries.  We will probably return and rent a head set since the musee could care less for the English language. We hardly knew what we were viewing. And we will need to find those tapestries.  

Tapestries (not Unicorn) in the Musee Cluny

Our next stop was at the Musee d'Orsay, a museum that holds the most extensive collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces in the world.  We spent the remainder of our day here and only saw the symbolists. This former train station has been transformed into a place of beauty and tranquility.  The main salon which extends the length of the building is filled with sculpture, and today many artists drawing the sculptures, photographers clicking away and admirers roaming throughout.  We ate lunch on the 5th floor betneath the huge station clock, saw a bit more amazing art and headed home.  

Musee d'Orsay
Pictures of the day at flickr.

More pics at flickr.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

That Tourist Thing, The Tower

Can you see the Weimaraner?

To inaugurate our visit to Paris we chose the Eiffel Tower.  There are certain tourist activities that just can't be denied.  And there is nothing kitsch about the Eiffel Tower.  We seemed to have approached from the back yard where Parisians were walking their dogs.  The Weimaraner with the most beautiful blue eyes escorted us down the long barren open space. We were alone other than the few dog walkers, and had an unobstructed view of this amazing feat of architecture and labor. Once we were standing beneath the four pillars, I felt almost dizzy.  We elected to go full Monty and rode to the top level.  From there we could see our neighborhood with the Pantheon, Sacre Coure, Notre Dame and the Arch de Triomphe.  
View of Paris from the Eiffel Tower

I began the day with a much needed haircut. I look much better, don't you think? So Parisienne.  I believe every woman should have their hair cut when in Paris.  After, I managed to buy a baguette and two croissants for a late breakfast with Wayne.  All of this without more than merci, bon jour and s'il vous plait in my vocabulary.  Hand gestures and coins work wonders.  

We walked 8 miles today and were happy to make it home.  We picked up some jambon croissants at our local Patisserie, crawled into our coffin sized elevator for a ride to the 6th floor and collapsed happy and delighted to be in gai Paris. More pictures on flickr.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

London is a riddle, Paris is an explanation. GK Chesterson

One might ask when in London, what is life all about? What is the meaning of my existence? Why am I so happy?  Then one arrives in Paris, and all becomes clear.  There are dozens of people queueing up to buy their daily baguette, the bells of Notre Dame are peeling, a bottle of red is sitting on the table and out your window is the Eiffel Tower.

We took the Eurostar train from London to Paris, a 3.5 hour trip in a very pleasant car.  The train beats flying any day.  In Paris it was a bit confusing finding our local train.  But with lots of help from friendly Parisians (yes, friendly) we we got on the correct train and walked out of the underground to be face to face with Notre Dame.  We are on Boulevard St Germaine in the Latin Quarter only a block from the hotel where we stayed in 1999.  We were met by a representative of the apartment who took us up the 6 floors and explained how to get along in our Parisian neighborhood.  And what a fabulous neighborhood it is. Out our front window we can see the Eiffel Tower and the Pantheon; out the back we see Notre Dame. We are surrounded by patisseries, boulangeries, charcuteries.  The metro is steps from our door.  I think I'm in heaven.  Pictures of the neighborhood can be seen on flickr.