Thursday, July 6, 2017

New and Improved!

Exciting news!  I have a totally revamped professional website and blog.  I always meant to "finish" this blog, but it was awkward for me.  I don't know if I can explain why, but it definitely had something to do with the fact that I was no longer in Paris, and my adventures were changing to those at home and abroad in other places.  That content didn't really seem to fit here.

Plus, I "retired" from photographing weddings and portraits and am now focusing on personal photography and providing photography lessons.  It took awhile to figure all of this out, and then it took an equally long while to revamp my professional website and blog.

So, I am keeping this blog and you can always come back to it.  But the new adventures and portfolio are at the new sites.  So check them out!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Le Panthéon national

It's a church.  It's a mausoleum.  It's a church.  It's a meeting house for intellectuals.  It's a monument.  The Panthéon in Paris has a very interesting history that is closely tied to the French Revolution.  The ruined church of the Abbey of Ste. Geneviève stood where the Panthéon is now.  Louis XV wasn't feeling so hot so he promised that he would replace the ruined church if he recovered.  He did, and he made good on his promise.   Construction began in 1758 and the architect, Jaques-Germaine Soufflot, designed the new church in the neoclassic style with the façade modeled after the Pantheon in Rome.  

Massive Corinthian columns adorn the portico

The remodeled Abbey of Ste. Geneviève ran in to timing problems.  Construction was finished in 1790, while the French Revolution was in its early stages.  It was a church until April 1791.  The monarchy was out, and a series of governing bodies were in.  When French orator and statesman Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, comte de Mirabeau died, the National Constituent Assembly ordered that the Abbey of St. Genevieve be converted to a mausoleum for the interment of great Frenchmen.  Another architect, Antoine-Chrysostome Quatremère de Quincy, was retained to oversee the transformation of the Abbey into a panthéon, which included covering up many of the windows. 

In 1806, the building was turned into a church again, and then in 1855, the Panthéon became a permanent civic temple, dedicated once again to great French men and women. Because its function kept changing, so did some of the architectural and artistic decoration. Regardless of the changes, the architecture of the Panthéon  is massive and beautiful.

Chris, Jeff and I arrived just in time to join the next tour of the colonnade and the dome.  The tour is cool because it takes you to the upper levels of the Panthéon, as well as outside and around the dome.  If you recall, at this point I was without a camera.  I felt quite naked strolling the streets and visiting the sights of Paris without a camera in hand.  I also felt quite light!  So, all of these photos are from Chris and Jeff's camera.  They took some, I took some.  Two in particular are surely mine because Chris and Jeff are in them.  I remember quite clearly that it was me who was totally enamored with Foucalt's Pendulum.  As for the rest?  I don't know! 

view from an upper level

outside, around the dome

outside, around the dome and more massive columns
The views of Paris from here were amazing!

The Panthéon is in the 5th Arrondissement, in case you didn't know

View towards Sacre Coeur

View to the Eiffel Tower and Napolean's Tomb

I think this is my favorite!  View of St. Sulpice and all the way across Paris to La Defense.
Chris and Jeff!
After the fabulous colonnade tour, we toured the main floor.

more massive columns



Although it is a replica of the original, which is housed at the Musée des Arts et Métiers, Foucalt's Pendulum is very cool!  In 1851, physicist Léon Foucault constructed a 67 meter pendulum beneath the central dome and conducted an experiment demonstrating the rotation of the earth. 

The lower level of the Panthéon is the crypt.  It was quite dark, and there were many halls with many tombs. 

The Curies, visitors have left thank you notes

There are only two women interred at the Panthéon, and Marie Curie is the only woman interred there on her own merits.  The other woman, Sophie Berthelot, was supposedly interred there by her husband's insistence, although I'm not sure how that worked since he died only several hours after she did.  

Voltaire - he's smiling because this is the best of all possible worlds!

Here Lies the Heart of Leon Gambetta - I do not know where his body is
Seventy three tombs line the crypt of the Panthéon.  It is a fascinating stroll through French history.  In retrospect, it is surprising to me that the Panthéon doesn't make the Top 10 lists of things to see and do in Paris.  It is architecturally beautiful and historically fascinating.  So much so, that I went back with Ron a few months later.  Didn't get enough of the Pantheon?  Lucky you, there's more to come.

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