Monday, Sept 22,14 – Day Eleven – Our Lady of Chartres Cathedral

Today, I went on a day trip to the town of Chartres to see the world famous Cathedral there. Jeff was still very ill, so he stayed at the hotel. I had a wonderful driver and guide. I enjoyed lively conversation on the hour and half trip, being shown many things about the French country side as we traveled.

I was very surprised to see it did not look much different from a lot of Manitoba. There where many tress and corn fields and small towns. Only the roads themselves were different, the highways are in tiptop shape, upkeep paid for by toll gates.

Chartres is famous for it’s blue stained glass, the relic of the Virgin Mary’s tunic, it’s labyrinth and many of the architectural features of the building. Henry IV also had his coronation at this Cathedral when the clergy of Notre Dame of Paris refused to allow a coronation of a protestant king.

I was very fortunate that the Cathedral is in the middle of a €50 million renovation. I was able to see the amazing difference of stone and glass that was so dark and dirty before being restored and the bright beautifully restored areas.

Sadly, when I got back to the hotel, my camera SD card failed and I was unable to transfer my photos of this wonderful trip that was one of the highlights of my time in France. I hope I will be able to recover them in Winnipeg if I take them to a specialist in media recovery. I bought many postcards and an information book on all the details of the church, but nothing can replace ones own photos. The town was lovely, but most shops were closed on Mondays in this rural area. It have a very beautiful old carousel and a wrought iron covered town market.

I am providing some web links for anyone who is interested in this amazing place and hopefully in the future I will have my own photos to add.

The Chartres Labyrinth

Inside Chartres Cathedral

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Sunday, Sept 21, 14 – Day Eleven – St. Sulpice and Tour Montparnasse

I had a plan to go to Sunday Mass at St Sulpice and stay for the organ concert, then go up to the organ loft to meet the organist and take photos of the 6500 plus pipes in this world famous pipe organ. Then Jeff and I planned to go to Sacre Coeur in the afternoon and have a picnic on the Cathedral Steps and watch the sunset over Paris. Jeff woke up with a very sore throat and upper respiratory infection and the weather looked very dodgy for a picnic as it was threatening rain. So we scarpped the plan for Sacre Coeur and Jeff decided to stay in bed and rest. I struck out for St. Sulpice on the metro alone! I even switched lines and I got off at the right Metro stop. I was pretty impressed with myself. Then I spent an hour trying to find St. Sulpice, even though it is only a block and half from the St Germaine des Pres metro stop where I got off. The Latin Quarter of Paris is a warren of curving little lanes and streets going up and down hill, so it is very easy to get lost every time you leave a main road. After consulting my map for the fourth time, I finally realized it was one block from a main street called Rue Bonaparte and found my way there. I did see while I was on Rue Bonaparte, in the distance Tour Montparnasse, Paris’s one true skyscraper. You can go to the top and see the whole city. I decided I could do that in the afternoon if the rain held off.

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St. Sulpice, like so many buildings in Paris is truly huge. It is a rather somber looking baroque period building. However, inside it seemed warm and inviting despite the overwhelming size.

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There are chapels that run along both the north and south walls and continue around behind the altar on the east wall. The French mass was very beautiful, with a great entrance procession. There was an officiating priest, two assistant priests, a deacon, two altar servers and a music director. The music director led the choir and cantored the service. There was a lot of incense, many readings and of course the organ music. I am not really a fan of pipe organ music, but it was truly something to hear this organ, especially the high delicate notes it is able to emit. When the mass was over, the pipe organ concert began. I opted to wander the chapels while the concert was going on.

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This church is blessed to have two Delicroix murals in one of the chapels. A few of the chapels are not in the best of repair, with peeling paint and damaged plaster. And I noticed while mass was going on, a few pigeons flying around and walking the high ledges close to the ceiling. I could see some of the windows have small holes. This prompted me to donate to their building fund. I cannot even imagine how much money it takes to maintain a building of this size.

In the end I opted not to climb to the organ loft and meet the organist and take pictures of the pipes. My knees were sore from the the many stairs in the metro and my long walk looking for the church before mass. I took some pictures of the inside of The building and then headed back to Rue Bonaparte to catch a bus.

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I arrived at the Monparnasse tower after only a few bus stops. I paid my €14.5 and waited in the elevator line. The elevator has a timer in it and it takes a mere 43 seconds to go from the ground to the 55th where the enclosed observation area is. The 360 degree view truly took my breath away. I was there for a couple of minutes when it started to pour rain, almost totally obscuring the view of the city. Not one to give up easily, I went to the gift shop and took my time buying postcards, a miniature Tour Eiffel, a tin set of Paris stickers for my art journaling and a lovely souvenir Paris tin, filled with cookies. I will use that tin to hold my mini stamp pads for my art journal travel kit, once I enjoy the cookies. Then I went to the cafe for a chicken baguette and coca light. By the time I finished lunch the weather cleared. I climbed the 6 flights of stairs to the outside observation deck and was able to enjoy seeing the whole city and take some photos.

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I was able to get some really great shoots of the Tour Eiffel. We have not been there yet, so this was pretty cool.

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I was able to take pictures of some important landmarks, from top left, righ, lower left and right – the Pantheon which is only two blocks form our hotel. The dome is covered with a cloth with peoples faces on it, as they are restoring it at this time, the Grand Palace, Sacre Coeur, and Invalades.

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Some various buildings around the city.

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More city scapes.

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Pere Lachaise Cemetery, where many famous people are buried; Oscar Wilde, Sarah Bernhardt, Chopin, Delacroix, Heloise, Proust, Gertrude Stein and of course the Doors Jim Morrison. I was amazed to see the acres and acres of tombstones and realized I would not be able to walk to various burial sites there as I originally had planned.

I returned to the hotel by 3 metros and was very tired. i had a long nap and then did some watercolour sketching. Jeff and I went for a late dinner to La Contrescarpe, just up the street from our hotel.

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Sat, Sept 20, 14 – Day Ten – Versailles, Opulent Decadence

Today we went to Versailles. It was an interesting and not totally pleasant experience. The bus times were messed up and then it did not leave on the new time, so there was over an hour of standing around waiting, something that is not easy for us, especially Jeff with his cane. We did have tea for part of the time at a small new cafe, called Rotin’s Home. Nicest toliet I have seen in Paris except for Le Deux Magots. Modern and marble and clean, it even had mauve quilted toilet paper!

The drive to Vesailles was pleasant as the bus was very comfortable. There were 3 guides on board and I think 2 of them got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. When we got there we were broken into different groups, some folks were staying all day. Our guide was quite lovely, luckily we did not get one of the two grouchy ones. We still had to wait in a que to get in the groups entrance as there were 1000’s of people everywhere.

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We finally got in the building and then the crush began. And I mean crush! I have never been with so many people. It was hard to hear our guide, even with the audio sets we were provided with. It really was a totally unenjoyable experience, so hot, crushed, people pushing and shoving and it was hard to take photos.

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Then there is the totally over the top decadent opulence of the place. All the gold and over indulgence while children and families starved and died from poverty conditions in Paris. It is hard to imagine the inhumanity of it all.

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We saw some public rooms, filled with a lot of busts and paintings of the Sun King, Louis XIV. He must of been the king of the selfie as well!

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Next we saw the King’s public apartments. He was required to be undressed and go to bed and wake up and be dressed in public. The guide said he had a smaller private bed chamber where he actually slept.

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After the King’s apartments we went to the hall of mirrors. It is quite something to see. It is very beautiful, if again, decently opulent.

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A few more public rooms and then it was the Queen’s public apartments. It was the same deal as with the King. Even the children were born in public in the Queen’s bedchamber.

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That concluded the tour inside. When we got outside we had 40 minutes till the bus left. We would have to go and stand in a really long line to buy a ticket to get into the garden and the fountain. There just was not time to do that and walk in the gardens. Very disappointing. I should of been much more diligent in asking what the trip included. I did not know there would be different options. We were able to see the garden from a fenced off area and take pictures. Better that nothing.

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Then it was back to the bus to wait to come back to Paris. I got some beautiful pictures and I did enjoy all the history the guide shard with us. However, I really wish I would of taken a day trip to Giverny to see Monet’s home and water gardens instead. I know it would of been much more appealing to both of us.

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Day Nine – Down Day and Laundry/Descartes

Today was a day of rest and laundry. Rest in that we did not venture off to see any of the sights. In the morning we headed over to the market on Rue Monge and picked up bread, cheese, ham, salami, apples, grapes, Gin and limonade. We ate a long and lesuirely lunch of homemade sandwichs in the hotel garden and enjoyed a gin and limonade and I worked in my journal. We needed to do laundry, so in the afternoon, we took advantage of the laundry just up the street beside de Descartes, our favourite neighbourhood bar and cafe. We loaded up by big suitcase with the laundry, I took my journal, and away we went. We sat in Descartes and had a couple of drinks, while I ran back and forth to change loads of laundry next door.

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After the afternoon of laundry we went back to the hotel and sat in the garden for the evening. We finished our bread, salami, ham etc for dinner. I worked on an art journal spread with some new paper and decorative tape I bought in an art store on St. Germaine yesterday. We went to bed early because tomorrow morning we are going to see the Sun King’s Palace at Versailles.

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Day Eight – Medieval Relics, Handwriting, and Moulin Rouge.

After our lost day yesterday, today was for me very full and very rewarding.  Jeff stayed in bed late, but I left by 8:30 am to walk to the Musee Cluny to see the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries.  I stopped at a deserted, little hole in the wall cafe, called Le Bistro Perigord for a light breakfast of croissant and tea.  A delightful gentleman served me there. I love Paris and I think the number one reason is the wonderful friendly people I have encountered here.  As long as you try to say hello and thank you in French, Parisians make their best effort to treat you well. I took a few photos on the way, the most interesting of the university.

University Building

University Building

I got to Cluny just as it was opening.  There were only about 10 other people going in.  The least amount of people I have seen going into any attraction here.

Cluny Museum, home of the Lady and Unicorn Tapistries

Cluny Museum, home of the Lady and Unicorn Tapistries

There are many historical items to view here. Pieces of facade that were once on Notre Dame as it was changing over the centuries, many religious icons and artifacts, beautiful stained glass, old decorative dishes and of course tapestries. The museum houses many tapestries besides The Lady and the Unicorn set. I was keenly reminded while here, how I had once considered taking a university degree in mediviel literature or art history. You were allowed to take non flash photos, but I opted to just enjoy it and not worry about camera angles and lighting and such. I left going to the room with The Lady and The Unicorn tapestries for last. I spent a good hour enjoying this room with it’s six recently restored treasures. They are very beautiful. I am thinking I will go back just to take some photos. I did purchase some cards, a calendar and book with the tapestries images.

I went to a little park behind the Museum to organize my purchases and have a drink before heading on to St. Germaine. Blvd. The park had some very beautiful apartments across from it.

Beautiful Apartments around the park across from the Cluny Museum

Beautiful Apartments around the park across from the Cluny Museum

My plan had been to take a bus to the Documents and Manuscripts museum which was a long ways up St. Germaine Blvd. The joke was on me, as it is a one way street going the wrong way! So I started to walk. What a lucky circumstance. I came to the part of St. Germaine where Les Deux Magots, Cafe de Flora and Brassiere Lipp are. I stopped to take photos and after looking at les Deus Magots menu, (restaurant and cafe menus are all posted outside in Paris) I realized I could afford to have lunch here.

Lunching at Les Deux Magots

Lunching at Les Deux Magots

Lunch was amazing, especially the beautiful berry and violet macaroon I had for dessert. I took out my purse journal and wrote while I was here. How could I not write sitting in a place where Hemmingway, Picasso and other acquaintances hung out?

St. Germaine Blvd., Cafe da Flora and Brasserie Lipp

St. Germaine Blvd., Cafe de Flora and Brasserie Lipp

I took my time and enjoyed the beautiful buildings and shops along St. Germaine Blvd during my long walk to the Documents and Manuscripts Museum. Once there, I enjoyed perusing the handwritten letters, lists, manuscripts and music of hundreds of historically important and famous persons, including artists, musicians, scientists, writers, politicians, generals, Kings, Queens and even Zars. I found some interesting writing utensils in the gift shop and a gift for my hamster sitting BFF back at home.

I took the bus back and managed to transfer off the St. Germaine line onto a bus that got me within a block of the hotel. A very friendly Parisian lady took the time to befriend and talk to me on the bus.

Back at the hotel I rested for a couple of hours and then got ready for Moulin Rouge. We braved the metro yet again to get there. We went early so we could go have dinner first. We went to an Irish Pub that we ended up leaving. It really smelled bad and we were being ignored. We found a lovely Italian restaurant we we had a simple cheese pizza and cokes. Then it was to the most famous cabaret in the world.

Documents and Manuscripts Museum and Moulin Rouge

Documents and Manuscripts Museum and Moulin Rouge

Moulin Rouge was entertaining beyond our expectations. Not only did it showcase its famous can can dancers in huge musical production numbers, but many other vaudeville type high quality acts; a comedic skit by acrobatics, a daring roller skating dance couple that had our hearts in our mouths, a naked lady in a water tank full of snakes, and an amazingly talented and comedic ventriloquist. To see inside this beautiful nightclub was itself an experience. It is huge, opulent and was very crowded. We found the seating uncomfortable, but the staff attentive. After the show we took the last metro back to the latin quarter and went to our favourite cafe, Le Descartes, where I enjoyed the best French onion soup ever and a baguette and we chatted at length with the staff whom we know quite well after our many visits there.

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Day Six – Musee d’Orsay and Night Dinner cruise on the Seine

It was a very long and wonderful day. I spent the morning in the hotel garden, having my breakfast there and working on a watercolour sketch of the lovely fuchsia and violet bleeding hearts found there. In the afternoon we braved the metro to travel to Musee d’Orsay. The metro is very fast. It is also very hot, smelly and noisy, not to mention I get claustrophobia in dark enclosed spaces. There are also numerous stairs to hike, down 2 sets, up on e set, down one set, on the train, off the train, down one set, up two sets, etc. etc. I managed not to throw up on anybody, but I was a happy girl to get the hell of the dungeons and back to sunshine and air that did not reek of railway tie preservative.

d’Orsay, what can one say about the beautiful opulence of this restored train station? It is truly magnificent, both outside with it’s two clocks and lovely facade and inside with it’s huge gold clock and curved ceiling. So sad no one is allowed to take photos inside, but I got an awesome one of the outside of it. The restored building is itself a work of art. And then to see so many of Van Gogh’s, Monet’s, Degas’s, Gauguin’s Manet’s, Delacroix’s and Toulouse-Lauters works, was overwhelming. Jeff and I were both emotional seeing the Van Gogh’s. Seeing pictures of his art when I was young, was what inspired me to first pick up a paint brush.

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We ate lunch on the 5th level Cafe Campana and I had the most delicious Torte Poulet ( chicken pie). From the cafe you can then go out on the roof. We got our first good look at the Louve which is just across the river and we could see La Basilique du Sacre-Coeur and the Grande Palais in the distance. On the top of the d’Orsay building there are giant sculptures of chess pieces.

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After d’Orsay we walked across the closest bridge to the Louvre side of the Seine river and through the Jardin des Tulleries outside the Louvre. There is no way to describe how absolutely huge the Louvre is, you just have to see it with your own eyes. The Tulleries gardens are very pretty with many chestnut trees, a lovely pond and flowers and statues when you get closer to the museum. Across the street from the Louvre we checked in for our cruise tour and found we had a couple of hours to kill.

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We found a small hole in the wall Spanish bar and had a couple of drinks and were highly entertained by the lively bar tender. We still had a little time to kill so we did some banking and then to my great delight stopped for tea at La Rotonde Des Toileries. I was finally sitting outdoors at a cafe that was frequented by Hemmingway and other authors of the lost generation. I admired the view of apartments with lovely scrolling wrought iron work and iron lamp posts and took some reference photos so I can draw them at a later time.

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Finally it was time to head out for our cruise. We had a lovely driver and guide named Claude from Paris CityVision who told us about the buildings as we drove back to the other side of the Seine and to a docking area right in front of the d’Orsay. (See the photo of the d’Orsay above, it is where all those steps lead down to the river). It was now dark out and there are very little lights at the docking area and the steps had many groups of people picnicking on them, so it was rather tricky getting safely down to the boat. Thank you Claude for helping us. Soon we were on board and off down the river. The cruise and food were out of this world. We dined on a selection of appetizers, scallop on a bed of fresh tomato and basil crumble, shrimp with quinoa and confrit vegetables, duck foie gras with red fruit chutney and little chou pastries with fresh goat’s cheese and a balsamic vinegar coulis. I had chicken leg with thyme juice, sweet potato and baby vegetables and Jeff had a slab of beef with a rosette of of potatoes with a truflle sauce. We had a bottle of Rose and then dessert and cafe Americana. Dessert, mummmm… Light toffee cream with a fizzy chocolate marble, a glass of strawberry tartare and fromage blanc, lemon meringue shortbread with apricot coulis ( my favourite) and chocolate mousse with a crispy crepe and pistachio chips. While we were feasting on all of this amazing food we were cruising by the Institut de France, Notre Dame, the Biliotheque Nationale de France, La Conciergerie, Le Louvre, Docks on Seine, Place de la Concorde, Grande Palais, the Trocadero and Statue of Liberty to finally the Eiffel Tower (our first view of it) all beautifully light. I got very emotional again when we passed Notre Dame, it’s towering spires awash in golden light and bells ringing, it took my breath away.

As the boat turned and we went past the Eiffel tower again, we were treated to the hourly light show and the boat played rousing French music and had flashing lights to match. Then the party was on, as the dance floor opened until we got back to the dock. Claude was waiting for us and so began another little adventure. His van had broken down, so we waited for a Paris CityVision tour bus to come and get us. They had to take another couple to their hotel on the other side of the river, so we got another little tour, driving over the Pont Alexandre, which is the most opulent bridge I have ever seen, by the Grande Pallis and Obelisk and past the Opera Garnier, Claude all the while explaining the sights to us. After the other couple got dropped. We came back across the river through the grounds by the Louvre. It became quite the mission to get that big tour bus througt the narrow warren of streets in the Latin Quarter to somewhere near our hotel. Amazingly the driver got us to Rue Clovis, just half a block away.

Paris is the most beautiful place I have ever seen. We were very tired, but this was one of the best days of my life.

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Day Five – The Pantheon and Shakespeare’s

A very busy day. I went for breakfast at Le Descartes and then took a walk around to find a supermarket, we needed bags for our laundry. I found another lovely wrought iron staircase bedecked with flowers and a store that sells and makes miniatures for table top gaming. Later, Jeff and I both went back to Le Descartes for morning tea and then we were off to the Pantheon.

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The square that the Pantheon is in, has two other majestic buildings and we caught our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. It is hard to convey in words or pictures just how mammoth these buildings are. The Pantheon’s dome is covered because of repairs. The square in front of the Pantheon was filled with students from surrounding schools enjoying the sun with their lunch.

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The columns at the front of the Pantheon are magnificent.

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The inside of the Pantheon is as magnificent as the outside. It is filled with amazing sculptures and paintings that highlight it’s history as first a church dedicated to Paris’s patron saint, St. Genevieve and then as a national monument.

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Probably the most interesting part of the building to so many visitors are the crypts below the building where many famous people are entombed; including Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Emile Zola, Alexandre Dumas, Marechal Lannes, Jean Moulin, Andre Malraux, Jean Monnet, Rene Cassin and Pierre and Marie Currie. The crypts are a warren of curving tunnels and chambers holding the tombs and there are still many empty chambers with room to entomb many more persons.

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Back at the hotel Jeff had a rest and I sat in the hotel gardens and attempted to make a watercolour sketch of the Pantheon. I so love these gardens, so peaceful and full of life. Many birds live in them, including a rook who thinks he is the boss of the place and a pair of very loud mourning doves.

Later in the afternoon, I headed back to the river to check out Shakespeare’s Book Store. I ended up buying a history of the store, a tote bag, a Gertrude Stein book, a collectors copy of Othello and an art book on how to doodle in Paris. I could take picture after picture of the buildings in Paris. It is a very pretty city.

Later for diner we headed to Place de la Contrescarpe, a square only a block from our hotel that has many cafes, a bakery and a gelato shop. We did not find a cafe we liked the menu for, so we went to Le Descartes again where we dined on steak and duck and had chocolate mousse and custard and apricot pie. The perfect end to a perfect day.

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