Wednesday, August 20, 2014

L'Hôtel national des Invalides

It's really hard to write a blog post when I'm trying to fill in gaps from several years ago.  I look through my photos and see how I've sorted them and which were my favorites and 3 years later, I wonder why I didn't choose this photo or that photo.  Since I've decided I don't care about a lot of things related to this blog lately, I've decided that I don't care if there are too many photos either.  That's an oxymoron anyway isn't it? 

I've been trying to catch up on Chris and Jeff's visit, and their last full day in Paris was so chock-full of fabulous stuff, that their last day will have to be several posts.  I know you're heartbroken about that. And the order of things isn't exactamundo either and I know you're really concerned about that too.  All of my new Paris posts are from the past anyway, so what difference does a few days or weeks make at this point?  None, I say.  So this is out of order, and I don't care.  I think my theme song for 2014 is I don't care.  This is a big step for me, since I'm typically an anal retentive perfectionist who eschews redundancy.  But I don't care about that either.  On Chris and Jeff's last full day in Paris, one of the places we went to was  L'Hôtel national des Invalides and I do care about that.

L'Hôtel national des Invalides
That's its proper name.  Perhaps you know it as Les Invalides or Napolean's Tomb.  Whatever you choose to call it, it is still the same complex of buildings that today houses museums and monuments dedicated to France's military history as well as a hospital and retirement home for war veterans.  The buildings were originally commissioned by Louis XIV in 1670, as a home and hospital for soldiers and veterans.  An added chapel, Eglise Saint-Louis des Invalides, was finished in 1679.  It is known as the Soldier's Chapel and they were required to attend daily.  Shortly after the Soldier's Chapel was completed, Louis XIV commissioned a separate chapel for the royals.  Inspired by St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, it is known as Eglise du Dome, was finished in 1708, and is an excellent example of French Baroque architecture.

Baroque Dome
Inside the dome
The inside of the dome is as beautiful as the outside.  The ceiling was painted by Charles de la Fosse, a french painter born in Paris.  The surrounding windows add a beautiful, soft light to the chapel.  In addition to the baroque architecture, this chapel has many features that make it stunningly beautiful;  the intricate, inlaid and multi-colored marble used through out,

Marble banister

In-laid marble floor decoration

beautifully adorned side chapels containing sarcophagi of Napoleon's family members and notable military officers,

Tomb of Joseph Bonaparte
Tomb of Marshal Ferdinand Foch
Tomb of French Army General Hubert Lyautey


Napoleon II - The King of Rome, also known as The Eaglet
and an ornate altar.

High Altar of the domed chapel 

This altar was designed by architect Louis Visconti, which was a redesigned of the original altar to accommodate Napoleon's crypt.  The yellow light from the yellow stained glass casts a golden light on the entire altar, including the twisted, black marble columns.

As I said, there are many features that make this chapel stunningly beautiful, but the thing that caught my eye the most was the light.  I'm biased by light, I admit, but it can be truly beautiful and dramatic and soft and warm, all at the same time.  This church was designed with light in mind; from the colors of the stained glass to the placement of the windows and lamps, light was very much a part of the art and architecture of the chapel.  If you look again at the photos I've already posted, most of them are in amazing light.  Here's some more:

Detail from Lyautey's tomb - the blue light from the blue stained glass windows glanced off the side so beautifully

Stairway leading down to Napoleon's crypt - the yellow light from this window was soft and warm and casts a regal golden hue

There is a mix of natural and lamp light in this one, creating amazing colors amidst the architecture
The above photo is from the crypt where Napoleon's tomb has been placed upon a green granite pedestal.  The statues on the columns represent Napoleon's victories.

Napoleon's Tomb - which is surprisingly like a Russian nesting doll; there are 6 coffins, one nested inside the other
Napoleon's tomb from above - his main battles are inscribed around the inner circle surrounded by a laurel crown
The circular gallery around the crypt contains 10 white marble bas reliefs, each depicting a significant event from Napoleon's reign.

Bas relief depicting the Napoleonic Code
The chambers on the lower level and adjacent to Napoleon's crypt contain more tombs and vaults.  Did you know that the hearts of nine people are interred in vaults?  Their bodies are interred elsewhere.  And did you know that Napoleon was originally buried on the island of St. Helena, where he was originally exiled?  And that the British changed their minds about his burial and in 1840, moved his remains to Paris aboard a black frigate?  No?  Me neither until recently.  Moving Napoleon's remains became known as the return of the ashes.  Upon his return to Paris, Napoleon was buried at St. Jerome's Chapel at Les Invalides.  Twenty-one years later, he was finally laid to rest in his 6 coffins under the dome.  

After we visited the Eglise du Dome, we walked around the back to see Saint-Louis des Invalides Chapel.   Along the way we saw some interesting light play and took an interesting photo:
Chris - light and dark

We saw some antique cannons:

French Classical Cannons-pretty but deadly

And then we entered the chapel:

Soldier's Chapel, Saint-Louis des Invalides Chapel

The Soldier's Chapel is smaller and more intimate.  Its architecture is classical and it is decorated with trophies taken from the enemy.  These trophies were originally hung on the vault at Notre Dame Cathedral, but after the French Revolution, those which weren't destroyed were transferred to L'Hotel des Invalides.  



The organ in the chapel is a Germain Pilon and dates back to the 17th century.  

Organ detail

After spending several hours immersing ourselves in French history and architecture, we were hungry.  Lunch on Rue Cler was perfect!

We loved this creperie that used to be a butcher shop.   

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Deportation and Shoah Memorials

It was fitting that we visited these two places with Chris and Jeff.  In 2000, we traveled through France together and we spent a day at the Normandy Beaches.  That was an incredibly emotional day for us, but well worth the visit.  We didn't know about the Deportation Memorial in 2000, and the Shoah Memorial was opened in 2005, so we made time to visit both.

The Deportation Memorial is on the eastern tip of  Île de la Cité, behind Notre-Dame Cathedral.  If you don't know  it is there, you can easily miss it.  At the far end of a little park, you'll see a cement wall with an inscription 

Martys de Francais De La Deportation 1945

and then some stairs 

leading down to a courtyard.

The courtyard is stark and because it is triangular, the paving stones appear to lead you to barbed iron and a view of the Seine flowing towards you.  The walls are high, there is no view of Paris from here,  only the sky above.  Through a narrow stone passageway

 is the memorial crypt. 

The memorial crypt and tomb of the unknown deportee
The memorial crypt contains the Tomb of the Unknown Deportee, a deportee who died at Neustadt.  The dark hallway is lined with 200000 pieces of illuminated glass, each representing a deportee who died in a concentration camp. At the end of the hallway is one bright light symbolizing the eternal flame of hope. 

On another wall are triangular urns.

The triangular shape mimics the shape of the badges prisoners wore.  The urns are inscribed with the names of the concentration camps and contain soil and ashes from the camps.

About a 10 minute walk from the deportation memorial is the Shoah Memorial and Holocaust Center. From the street, you enter a courtyard where large a circular memorial contains the names of the camps.

Before you enter the main building, you see the Wall of Names of the Missing. 

Inside the main building is a museum (no photos allowed), a documentation center, a reading room and a memorial crypt.

The Deportation and Shoah Memorials are both powerful and thought-provoking. They are understated, stark and dignified and allow you to contemplate the suffering, fear and loss of the French Jews while honoring their memories.

We did some fun things that day too!

We had a Mexican lunch at La Perla:

We saw MY hotel:

We saw what is thought to be the oldest building in Paris:

We went to Printemps!

And then after dinner, we went to the top of Tour Montparnasse:

Tour Montparnasse

St. Sulpice

Jardin du Luxembourg


And of course...

Le Tour Eiffel

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Wow, how time flies!

In some ways, it is impossible to believe that it has been almost 3 years since my last post.  And in some ways, it feels like it has been forever since my last post.

I have a confession to make.  I didn't want to post when I first got back to the states.  I missed Paris and France so much that this blog was salt in a raw wound.  And I was so happy to be home, that posting in a blog about Paris seemed...well, dumb.  I was conflicted and not in Paris anymore and life was a whirlwind of crazy when we first got home.  A daughter was getting married, holidays were fast approaching, and we were catching up with all of our friends and family whom we missed so much whilst in Paris.  But in the back of my mind, I still thought about this blog.  Or a new and improved blog. I even reserved a few blog names just in case.  I'm sure you noticed, nothing happened.

So why am I here now?

Because I went back to France for 3 weeks.  And because of a challenge I decided to participate in for the fun of it.

The challenge is the 100 Happy Days challenge.  Google it - it is simple, easy and fun.  I heard about it through a friend and decided to do it.  I decided to do it because I love photography, but I had gotten stale with it.  I made it my business for awhile and because I got so caught up in trying to get everything right for my clients, I forgot about the part I truly love, which is just making images that thrill me to pieces.  I thought the challenge would be a great way to immerse myself in photography for the fun of it again. So I signed up for the challenge and chose to share my 100 happy days photos on facebook, mostly because I don't have an instagram or twitter account and because I felt a public forum would help keep me accountable.  For 98 days, I've been posting photos on facebook.  At this point, I'm pretty sure I'll finish the challenge.  But that got me to thinking, what will I do when it's over?

Going back to France.  Yes.  That was an equally important factor.  We didn't go to Paris and I didn't care.  Instead of horribly missing our wonderful little apartment on Rue de la Convention, I remembered it fondly and then got down to the business of finding a good baguette.  We didn't even stop at Charles de Gaulle, our flight went to Frankfurt first, then Marseille.  We were a long way from Paris but we were in Provence!  I was incredibly happy to be there and thrilled that my 100 happy days photos would be from France.  And my Parisian friend Alex asked about my blog.  Again.

And so over the three weeks I spent in France, I finally came around to the idea of just posting in this blog again.  Who cares that Paris is in the title when I'm not in Paris anymore?  Who cares that I have no idea what the purpose or point of this blog will be if it isn't just about Paris?  I decided I didn't care, and if I don't care, maybe the handful of people who keep asking me about this blog don't care either.

So here we are.

What I do know is that photographs, as before, will play a big role in this blog.  What I also know is that I needed to start to begin again, and that's what this is.  The start.  I learned something about myself during the 100happydays challenge; sometimes, I'm circuitous.  My path is very much like my thought process, which, if I wrote it down, might strike a strong resemblance to Benjy in The Sound and the Fury. It may take awhile to find a groove or a purpose or a point, and perhaps there will be no groove, purpose or point.  I decided I don't care.

Alrighty.  That's enough talk for now.

What you're really wondering is, did Chris and Jeff ever get to the snazzy department stores in the 2nd arrondissement?

Yes, they did.
The amazingly beautiful Printemps Dome

Stay tuned.  This time, I promise I'll be back before 3 years have flown by.