Sunday, June 19, 2011

Paris, Ahh Paris; 2

The French have a number of public holidays for religious feast days, so Pentecost Sunday requires a holiday on the Monday. This means that most stores are closed and Monday is not a good museum day either. So perhaps Chateau Vincennes?? Oui!
We purchased our Navigo Decouverte transport card for the week (E23.75 including the E5 cost of the card). This means we need to make about 22 trips on public transport to better the cost of buying a carnet of tickets at E1.10 each. We shall see.
The chateau is quite a fortress with a tall donjon and encircling walls, a pretty chapel and some renaissance wings that were not open to visit. E8.00 to see the donjon and chapel with a small printed leaflet included. Nothing is furnished but there are explanatory signs in many of the rooms about their past uses, including as both castle and prison.

The donjon and walls
The rose and tracery
The soaring chapel based on Sainte Chapelle in Paris
The vaulting and boss, beautifully restored

The chapel is empty. It has six nave windows that were destroyed by a storm and they have just been replaced with a formal patterned stained glass. The magnificent apse windows are of the Apocalypse and will be restored shortly. The stonework and vaulting inside has also been restored and is plain except around the peak of the vaulting where the bosses are elaborated with painting. Very lovely indeed.
The donjon was a challenge as the stairs spiral up and up and up, but we took it slowly and visited all the rooms. The room the king used as his study was quite tiny and plain, just a fireplace and a niche for his books and some treasure. He was a learned man and had books copied, reading each day and taking counsel from experts as required.
Back into town and we visited the Palais Royal again. I had not seen the pretty gardens which were very restful with their arcades of trees, fountain and gardens for sitting in, plus a nice cafe on the edges  that looked very Parisienne. I suggested lunch at Angelinas, famed for its chocolate, but when we got there (further than I thought) the queues were long. We grabbed a bite nearby but returned later just to buy something, both choosing a rather decadent chocolate sweet.

Courtyard, Palais Royal
The beautiful colonnade
A very Parisienne cafe in the garden
Goodies at Angelinas
We revisited Place de la Concorde which has always had scaffolding and seating for parades when we were there  last and enjoyed the fountains, the view down the Champs Elysees, the obelisk with its gold descriptions about how it came to Paris, and the rather mysterious Paris meridian line which runs up to it, about which I can find almost nothing and the tiny plaque was too small for me to read. I think it may have something to do with the Arago markers which commemorate the original calculator of the line, at one time a rival to Greenwich as meridian zero.
One of the fountains at Concorde

Grand vista down the Champs Elysees
The Luxor obelisk and instructions on how to transport an obelisk should you need
meridian line
The Paris Meridian and the marker at the obelisk
The following day we were to have a meeting and walk with our Paris Greeter, a volunteer who would show us her part of the city. We met up with Catherine who was born in the 15th, and spent a delightful time looking at some of the sights, the art deco architecture and the wonderful markets of the area which were Catherine’s markets, a place of meeting and socialising, getting the freshest food and catching up with the local news.
In particular we finally saw the small Statue of Liberty, given to France by America as a thank-you for the original, the tethered balloon which rises from the site of the old Citroen factory and the church of St Christopher, built by the parish and assisted by Citroen, from iron and pre-cast concrete panels, beautifully and very softly lit inside and with walls covered with paintings done in coloured wax on fabric.
The Paris Greeter program allowed us to see an area we would not have otherwise experienced from someone who was passionate about “her” Paris. Very worthwhile.

Liberty on the tip of Isle des Cygnes

The softly glowing St Christopher’s church

Later, we revisited the Marmottan Museum, famed for its Impressionist paintings. I enjoy the feel of being in a sumptuous house here and the paintings upstairs were beautifully displayed but the Impressionists usually in the huge basement rooms had given way to an exhibition about the Dufy brothers, Jean and Raoul. It was unexpected but we made the most of it. I enjoyed particularly the seaside ones in joyful shades of blues and the parallels that were drawn by the curator between their works even though they were often estranged. No pictures of course.

Still to come: Visiting the covered passageways and dinner at Guy Savoy.

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