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Monday, 30 September 2013

Paris - Part 2

Another mammoth post I fear!


We decided to go to the Bois de Boulogne and to search out the Shakespeare Garden there.  So we set off on the Metro and then on foot - it is certainly not easy to find the entrance from the Metro station and involves crossing many busy roads and a huge roundabout - if you check out Porte Maillot on Google maps you will see what I mean!

However once we had found the way into the park it was lovely.  It is apparently based on Hyde Park but whoever laid it out had obviously not been to Hyde Park or maybe both have changed since they were planned and never for one moment did I have the feeling of walking in Hyde Park!

There was a lovely lake you might say is rather like the Serpentine but that was as far as the similarity went.  It was beautiful though first thing on a Saturday morning.

Having walked along the lakeside we eventually came to the Jardin du Pre Catalan where we were to find the Shakespeare Garden - the Jardin du Catalan was lovely but the Shakespeare garden when we did find it having walked all the way round it and not finding any way in was closed to the public as a children's performance of some kind was just finishing.  The lady at the gate did let us in to look though and where we had expected the various plants and herbs to be named and linked with the plays of Shakespeare there was nothing to say what was what at all.  The guide book had told us we could "study the herbs, trees and flowers referred to in the Bard's plays" - well maybe if you were a plantsmen and also a Shakespeare scholar you could but for us it was just a garden!!  I gather they put on open-air Shakespeare plays and French classics during the summer here.

A glimpse of the Eiffel Tower!

Back to the lake and we continued our walk ....

and out of the park where our route took us over the busy main road which plunges into a tunnel just here...
...past this statue to Fontaine who is famed for his fables and this one shows the fox outwitting the crow (Jean de la Fontaine wrote his fables in the late 1600s many based on Aesop's tales) ..... Ranalagh where we had luch sitting at a pavement cafe and watching the world go by.....

...and noticing the temperature showing on the nearby pharmacy!

After lunch we joined another guided walk this time entitled Art Nouveau Architecture in the 16th District.  This time our guide was a young American lady and sadly the group was a large one and her voice not as strong as a male voice so we missed some of what was said but that we did hear was very interesting.  This house was designed by Hector Guimard who also designed the iconic Metro entrances.

Notice the lovely natural lines in this carving....

...even the drainpipes are designed in the Art Nouveau style.

This lovely building is now a student lodging house!

Our walk took us to a square  named after the sculptor and.... is a life size sculpture by Rodin entitled The Age of Bronze.  Apparently he did a sculpture for an exhibition and it was rejected as it was thought to have been a mould rather than a true sculpture and returned to him.  Rodin was so annoyed he did in fact make a mould from his original and made several pieces from this mould saying "I'll show them the difference between a real sculpture and a mould" or words to that effect of which this is one.  Note:  This is what we were told (and we were near enough to hear this bit!) but on checking the internet it is not quite what I read there.  Who knows but apparently he did his later sculptures either larger or smaller than life so that the criticism of having made a mould from a human model could not be leveled again.

More different styles of architecture

We were exhausted by the end of this walk as we'd covered quite an area and it was hot and what with it being difficult to hear what was said and so on we were glad when we'd had enough!!  These walks are an incentive to find out more as it is not really possible to make notes, walk along following a group, and listen to what is being said all at the same time and so much of it is forgotten and it is only later with access to the internet that we learn more.  A book on Parisien Architecture is on request at the library and eagerly awaited!  Returned to the hotel buying some fruit and cheese to make a picnic lunch for the following day when we planned to walk in the Bois de Boulogne again and maybe to sit for a while with our lunch and rest our feet!


Whilst we were busy looking at the information board with its map searching for the Shakespeare Garden in the Bois de Bolougne yesterday a young chap with a child in a pushchair asked if we needed any help and then told us that we really should visit the Jardin Bagatelle as even though there was a charge it was well worth seeing.  Parisiens have a reputation for being aloof and unfriendly but we didn't find it so at all and several people struck up conversations with us during our stay - maybe we look like a poor old couple who need help or maybe people whether in Paris or anywhere else can be as friendly as the next person.

We had bought bread and pinched a couple of butter pats at breakfast, borrowed a knife too and so with our cheese we made a couple of cheese baguettes and with our tomatoes and fruit packed our picnic and set off through the woods following a different path this time, we didn't follow the lake nor did we sit by it with our lunch as we had thought we might do but ended up eating our lunch sitting in the Jardin du Pre Catalan before wandering on to the Jardins de Bagatelle where we went in through this lovely gate.

For some reason it was free, no entrance fee required on that day - possibly because that weekend was some special celebration of gardens I think.  Whatever the reason we loved the garden and would happily have paid the usual 5 euro entrance as it was so beautiful.

This is the orangery.....

... inside was an art exhibition and I noticed this floral candelabra  not sure if the flowers were real or not but wouldn't it be great for a wedding?

This was my absolute favourite area of the garden - although it was all lovely - a potager with a little house alongside.

The decorative beds in front of the house were filled with lovely vegetables and how beautiful they all looked.  Who needs flower borders when vegetables can look so good?!

The rest of the potager was laid out in a more formal style with beds of vegetables alongside the paths.

 And a lovely bench to sit down and take a rest from all the weeding and so on!

Through the arch to a flower garden the other side of the little house ...

I said to Mr M that I hoped he was taking notes as I want a garden like this!!!

Then there was the rose garden which even at this late stage was lovely and I can imagine how beautiful it might be in June!

Here is the little chateau de Bagatelle - the story goes that the Count of Artois, brother of Louis XVI, proposed to build a folie (a flight of fancy) of grand proportions here in just two months. Marie Antoinette bet him that he couldn't and that it would take much longer. "Bagatelle!" said the nonchalant Count.  I think the word in this instance meant it would be a mere trifle and easy to do.  So he did or at least his workers did and this is the result.  Nine hundred men toiled day and night to achieve it within 64 days!  There was a long queue so we didn't venture inside but peeped through the windows instead!

This is the Trianon built at a later date alongside the original house.

The back is covered with a trellis of blue painted wood.

More of the garden - we did enjoy wandering round and hearing the cry of the peacocks and seeing the dozens of cats obviously feral.

 The back of the chateau  ...

... and seen from across the lake

Reluctantly we left the gardens having spent a very pleasant afternoon there.  As we walked along one of the arterial roads that cross the park on our way back to the Metro and home we noticed that the "girl" I'd noticed this morning getting out of a van was still hanging about there by the van and another "girl" was a bit further along with a complement of men.  Yes we'd stumbled across the red light district.  The Bois de B is well known for such things and is not a recommended place to wander at night but mid afternoon on a Sunday?!  We crossed the road and continued a little further and then came to a barrier across the road.  On Sundays in Paris many roads are closed to traffic - Paris respire (Breathes) - and the roads are available to walkers, cyclists, roller bladers and children on bikes and scooters - it seemed yet another contrast to me that the two should be within yards of each other!

We wended our way back to the Metro past the lakes we'd seen yesterday.


Our last full day sadly.  We walked to Blvd Haussman a different route to before - noting that we could perhaps just follow this road and maybe be home in time for tea!!

We were headed for the Jardins de Luxembourg via Galleries Lafayette!

We didn't want to buy anything - actually can I be the only visitor to Paris who bought nothing but just a few postcards and a couple of magazines from a news stand?!!  Mr M did buy some socks in a shop in Ranelagh but that was the extent of our shopping apart from some bread and provisions for our picnics - no what I wanted to see was this.  The cupola in Galeries Lafayette - it's beautiful and like a kaleidoscope isn't it?

I loved the patterns made by the curved mezzanine floors too.

Now how can I interpret that in something crafty I wonder.

We also wanted to make use of the toilet facilities whilst we were here so decended the stairs to the basement level which is one huge shoe department with every kind of make and brand of shoes you can imagine.  I thought the Jimmy Choos rather tacky which is just as well at the price!!  This stairway caught my attention in the same way as the cupola above another source of inspiration perhaps?  I was quite shocked after all the opulence to discover the toilets rather shabby and the bin in need of emptying but that is yet another contrast and this is France!!

Might be Russia or Eastern Europe mightn't it but no it's Printemps the department store just down the road from Galeries Lafayette.  There is a fantastic view from the roof here but we didn't go there.

This was where we were headed.  This is where the French Senate is housed in the Palace so no access to that but the gardens were beautiful.

This is the Fontaine de Medici and it was stunning.  We sat on a couple of the many green iron chairs dotted about along side the water and ate our picnic in the shade.

The ripples on the water and the reflections were mesmerising.

After lunch, time for a wander round the gardens.

Could be America couldn't it?  But no this is the Panthenon which was built by Louis XV to replace the ruined church of the Abbey of St Genivieve patron saint of Paris and it was used to contain her relics but soon after it was completed came the Revolution and it was changed from a church to being a mausoleum for great French men.  Over the years it changed back and forth to being a church finally becoming the mausoleum it is today for the great and the good.

This too might be America mightn't it but this Statue of Liberty is much smaller than the one in New York harbour designed by a Frenchman and a gift from Paris in 1886. There are other smaller statues made as prototypes but this was the only one we saw - next time maybe we'll find one of the others which stands in the middle of the Seine on a concrete island called Isle des Cygnes a little green oasis apparently.  Now it was time to leave the lovely Jardin de Luxembourg as we were to join one last guided walk this time in the Latin quarter which promised to take us "through this atmospheric district and show us hidden details, Roman remains, charming old streets and to tell us the story of medieval scholars and the Sorbonne University"

 Once again our guide was Chris and we enjoyed our walk no end.  This was the very first school set up  at a time when only the Church was allowed to teach and their curriculum was the three Rs Religion, religion and religion!!!  Tales of how schools were set up to teach the poor to read and to include other subjects such as mathematics and science and so on made me realise just how lucky we are to be allowed an education and not to be kept in the dark as it were.  Of course it is still the same for girls in some places even now.

 Here is Notre Dame seen from the Square de Rene Viviani just across the river.  Just look at that sky!

 This tree in the Square is the oldest in Paris being over 400 years old.

Blue sky and gargoyles (for I am sure these are to carry water away from the roof and so not grotesques).

 These are the remains of the Roman baths.

 And here is the Hotel de Cluny - a Medieval building which was founded was founded by the rich and powerful 15th century abbot of Cluny Abbey in Burgundy.  It was built over the ruins of the Roman baths part of which you see in the above photo.  It is now the Cluny Museum of the Middle Aghes and contains the famous tapestry The Lady and the Unicorn amongst other tapestries and items.  We didn't go inside but it's certainly on our list for next time!

 It is not actually on the Camino de Santiago but the pilgrims would have passed along the nearby Route de St Jacques and the Hotel de Cluny is decorated with the scallop shells which are an iconic symbol of this pilgrimage.  I must admit I had not known about this route until we lived in France and one of the routes passed through Limoges our nearest shopping centre and the way was marked with brass shells set into the pavements.  One of my French friends is currently walking part of the route with her husband (they are doing it in stages and hope to arrive at Santiago in the Spring of 2015 doing two trips each year) so I was particularly interested to see all the shells incorporated into the stonework and on the gate.

On now towards the Sorbonne.  Only fact I recall for this was that the drop out rate is 50% and the fact that unless you are a student you can't get inside!!!

And here is what used to be the medical school in the days when you were better off not being able to afford a doctor as their ideas often lead to death rather than recovery!! 

Our guided tour finished we wandered along the river - the famous Notre Dame seen across the Seine.

We wandered along the Seine until we reached the Pont des Arts. Paris has long cashed in on its image as the global city of love, with tourists flocking by the million to soak up the romantic ambience of its cafes, restaurants, cobbled streets and monuments.  But the Socialist-run town hall has announced that lovers' growing trend of sticking cadenas d'amour (love padlocks) to the railings of the Pont des Arts bridge over the Seine linking the Left Bank to the Louvre is defacing the monument and has to stop - so said a report in the Telegraph back in May 2010 but as yet there seems to be no sign of removal and indeed very little space left for these love padlocks now either.  I did wonder if I might find yours Helen but decided a needle in a haystack might be easier to find!!  I did say to Mr M that maybe since we spent our honeymoon here in Paris back in 1972 we should have added a padlock but we didn't have one with us!

Here are the iconic bookinistes stalls alongside the Seine - apparently it is not easy to obtain one of these stalls and a very long waiting list.  There are many rules and regulations regarding how many hours and days a week one must be open, what kind of books may be sold, percentage of other items that may be sold and so on and so forth including the fact that all the stalls must be painted this same dark green.  For more info on them see link here.

 Here is the Fontaine de St Michel in the Latin Quarter which we passed on our way to look for somewhere to have a cup of tea or a coffee and a sit down before wending our way back to the hotel.  I think I have discovered the answer as to why French ladies are all so slim (not actually always true but I noted that there were far fewer overweight people in Paris than one might see in London) it must be because it is so difficult to find anywhere which sells tea or coffee with the option of a scone or cake alongside.  I think maybe the cafes are supposed to sell coffee and patisseries to sell pastries and cakes and boulangeries to sell pain aux raisins, choucrettes or other less ornate "naughties" so you can sit over a coffee or even a cup of tea - if you don't mind the hot water being served with a teabag alongside so that it never really brews since the water is not boiling and a jug of hot milk if you ask for milk - but if you want something with it you might not be so lucky!  There are exceptions of course and I know about the Angelina Rivoli salon de the with its Mont Blanc cakes as well as Laduree with its famous macaroons but for an everyday cup of tea and a cake forget it!  Not that I minded really as I don't want any extra pounds n weight but as it was our last day and as I really fancied a sit down with a nice cup of tea and a treat I was disappointed to discover that after searching for ages the best we found was a rather non descript Paul where I had a pain aux raisins and Mr M an apple pastry neither of which matched up to expectations and the tea was awful!


At the Metro station on our way back to the hotel yesterday I picked up a free magazine and in it I discovered that there is another green route along a disused railway called the Petite Ceinture  
which we wished we'd known about earlier so now another trip to Paris is called for!!  Always a good sign of a good holiday if even before you leave you are planning another visit eh?!

We set off after breakfast for the Gar de Nord and the train home - here is the view from the window of the train Northern France looking much nicer in the sunshine than when we came in the rain! After 5 days of being on our feet most of the day apart from the odd coffee sit down and our lunches we were quite happy to sit back on the train and rest our legs - I don't know what distances we had walked but we'd done a few kilometers!

Back at St Pancras and here is the clock again along with a rather strange piece of artwork showing people presumably on clouds.and represents the intermediary between two worlds apparently.

I said I would tell you more about the clock last time so here goes.  The original clock was it seems sold to an American collector for £250,00 but in taking it down it fell and smashed into thousands of pieces which were then sold to a retired train driver for £25!!  I'm not sure what he planned to do with them but luckily he still had all the bits and so when the station was being restored the clock makers Dent who had been commissioned to build the new station platform clock went to him and were able to find out exactly how it had been made and from whence came the slate for the numerals and so on.  Now the new clock with its 18 foot diameter dial, 23 carat gold leafing and paint and mouldings specially created to match the original now sits within some 60 million new bricks, 18,000 new panes of self-cleaning glass, 300,000 new slate tiles at the station.

If I were less wordy and capable of writing a brief post (I wish and I am sure you do too!) with one or two photos and much less waffle what would I have picked as my favourite bits of our holiday?  Probably the Pottager at Parc Bagatelle, sitting with our picnic lunch by the Medici fountain in the Jardin de Luxembourg, the friendliness of people such as the elderly (well older than me) lady who struck up conversation with me on the Viaduc des Arts, The beauty of the buildings, the sense of history and the fact that it has given us the motivation to want to learn more about Paris.

Medals all round for those who made it to the end!