Mushrooms and Saumur (France 2015)

This charming nook greets us every morning as we leave the hotel.

nook

Troglyte house
The region around Chinon has many “Troglodyte” homes. These are houses that were built into caves in the hillside. This was one of the fancier ones. Note the chimney. Naturally, with so many caves, they grow mushrooms. We went to lunch at a restaurant built in one of those caves. It was a steep climb, all for nothingl – mushrooms aren’t fattening! Mushroom StairsOn to Saumur Castle. First built in the 10th century, it became part of the English Plantagenet realm. It burned, as castles will, and was rebuilt in the 13th cent. Saumur CastleIt is the model for the September castle in Les Tres Riches Heures, a 1410 prayerbook for the Duc de Berry. It has been under restoration since 1904…anyone who has remodeled a kitchen will understand!Tres Riches Heures

We met a guide who spoke English, French, Spanish, German and a few Russian phrases. Hubby asked if he could translate Borscht?

SaumurThe main castle was set in a large courtyard surrounded by walls and a moat. Very traditional.

There were furnishings and displays of objects dug up on the grounds. Or at least from the time period. A tapestry; notice the hat! A carving from the chapel of a petulant girl. A restored fireplace and the wooden mechanism (original they said) that worked the well.

Saumur CarvingSaumurTapestry

 

Saumur Fireplace

WellOn the way home we passed a boat maker. Very much in demand – we see boats on the river everyday.

Boat Builder

BoatA little walk through Chinon. Eerie how few English speakers – most are Brit. Watch a movie in our room. Isn’t technology wonderful? But no popcorn.

Chinon (France 2015)

Chinon River Mist1Chinon is a wonderful town. Medieval houses wedged in between more Renaissance ones. Little alleyways. Foot traffic only in the town center. Perfect place from which to venture forth and explore the Loire Valley.

Chinon StairwayChinon Old House2 Chinon Houses

Chinon Poppies

 

 

 

We  landed in a great hotel, The Agnes Sorell, right on the river Vienne. Nice room and a little patio right outside where we could sit in the sun. And as I said in my last post, the owners are kind and helpful. Chinon Patio at B&B

We came to Chinon because of my reading about the castle. I was interested in the English King John of Magna Carta fame who locked up his French bride here, but Jeanne d’Arc met her French King here also.  As is usual with castles and cathedrals, it was built up over time; the oldest section is separated from the newer by a ravine. Lots of wind and great views over the town and river.

Chinon Fortress Walkway
Chinon from the Fortress
We finally had sun and spent the morning exploring, then went to lunch in a Troglodyte cave where mushrooms are grown and on to another castle – more on that next time.
Chinon River Bridge

Chartres Cathedral Tour (Spring 2015)

On the road to ChartresUp at 6:30. Paris is not busy on an early work day (I was expecting the packed chaos of Rome). Today we rented a car and had to stop a passerby to ask how to start the thing – Toyoto Auris (hybrid). Not bad traffic getting out of town, then we had bright yellow fields (mustard Mother said long ago; I think hops). Long flat views.
Chartres in the mist
Chartres in the distance. Later, in our tour, the guide says some pilgrims still walk there; they say they can see the spire several days before they arrive.

chartres flowersParking is good, and it has a free, clean toilette! This after my hubby paid .50 in a shop for a stinking mess that almost made him up-chuck. As antidote to that sentence, here are some flowers that were in the parking lot.
Chartres Front
They are cleaning the cathedral – first time in 300 years. chartres dragonOutside, the statues are almost white with traces of color. Take a look at this little aqua dragon. Hard to imagine it all painted, though. Like this statue, one of dozens that caught my eye. That’s probably not a parrot on his shoulder…
chartres pirate

We walk around the outside. You never see photos of the back, but it’s lovely. With wisteria, even.
chartres wisteria

Malcolm Miller gave the tour. He has been giving tours here since 1958, is 81 and a walking encyclopedia of facts and synthesis about the cathedral. I took one years ago when he stacked us up in demonstration of how the flying buttresses worked; we held his weight with no problem.

This one was equally memorable. We wore headsets, which was good since they are working inside. Chartres Malcolm MillerLong lecture about history. The windows are the oldest in all of Europe and are didactive, that is they are meant to teach. He then “read” a couple of the oldest. He also told us about some tourists from Dallas who had lectured him about the Bible and creationism. I never realized there were words incorporated into the glass.
Chartres Stained Glass

On to Chinon, long drive. Some forests and it gets hilly. Trouble finding the hotel but the owner (new since Jan) is charming. We speak some French – she “doucement” – slowly, carefully. I’m going to get to practice after all that studying.

Musée des Arts et Métiers in Paris (2015)

Arts and Metier metro Paris
coffee shopA morning planned at the Arts and Metier museum. It’s a showplace for scientific instruments and inventions. The metro station is designed to advertise it.

It’s Sunday and before the museum, we need coffee. We walk for blocks. Most places closed but we found this one. Note the chandeliers. Only the waiter spoke any English. Since we hadn’t seen the museum, we asked him. He’d never heard of it. Turns out we’d walked in the wrong direction – it was right at the metro stop.

Arts and Metier Museum

It’s in a church so we were fooled. (See the grey, rainy day. It rained everyday we were in Paris…) The scope of the displays is broad, ranging from a fancy coal measure to a space module.  Here’s a magnet built in the late 1700’s and some old bicycles.
metier magnetAntique bikes

 

 

 

After the museum we metro to the Sunday bird market near Notre Dame. I find the little birds so dear. There’s a man with a pet duck.
b white fluffChickensBirds with orange beaks2

 

 

 

 

We then metro and walk to the Tuilleries Garden. Time to sit and rest feet at the pond, people (and boat) watching. The chairs are comfy, the crowd entertaining.Boat in the Tuilleries

Next: the Orangerie museum to see Monet’s Water Lillies which he painted at Giverny. I’m  very glad we had the pass. The line was the length of the museum. I’d have been sorry to waited for what we saw. The paintings look better to me in photos than in person. They are kinda muddy and dark. But I loved this Urtillo.Utrillo

Walk to the Grand Palais but decide not to go in. Then we get lost and walk for blocks and blocks. Got some good pictures, but oh, my feet.

It’s our last night in Paris and we eat outdoors in thin sunshine. The waitress is nice, the food good. What a pleasure. This is what I expected (hoped for) in Paris.

I’ll close with some last glimpses of this interesting city. Boats on the Seine, one obviously a house boat — note the bicycle and motorcycle.House boat on the Seine
Trio of Boats on the Seine
A street vendor of oysters and lobster. And a shot from the Place de la Concorde. Au Revoir Paris. On to Chartres and the Loire Valley.
Oyster Vendor b2 towers

Musee des Arts Forains and Arts Decoratif (Paris 2015)

PantheonAfter the Cluny Museum in the morning, we went to the Pantheon. Were glad we had the “go to the front of the line” tickets. Otherwise we’d have had to wait forever and we found it a big bore. Lots of graves. Famous people – Victor Hugo, Zola, Voltaire – but dead and unavailable for a conversation.

ad towerThere was, however, an interesting church (seen when we got lost, which despite GPS, happened a lot). Take a look at the spiral staircase on the left with the little landing balconies, and the chimney flue (I think) on the right. The black blotch in the middle is not Bat Man ready to fly to the ground. It’s the back of an illumination light.

Forains theater door
Onward to Musee des Arts Forains.

It contains artifacts from fairgrounds and music halls, including old carousels. The pictures on line looked interesting. The outside of the museum was enchanting, fairy-like. But the tour I really can’t recommend. Total kitsch, boring, a commentary that was false enthusiastic – like watching an old children’s TV show. Can you tell how much I hated it? We left after about 10 minutes, even though it was one of the most expensive tickets. My advice? Avoid it! Musee des Arts Forains

 

 

 

 

 

 

Because we abandoned the tour, we had time to just run down to the Musee des Arts Decoratif, which had been on my wish list, but I wasn’t able to fit it in. That one was really worth while. Just take a look. By the way, the little face on my home page is from a special exhibit about buttons. Thousands of them.

Decoratif bat vase
Decoratif bass fiddle dresserDecoratif Deco stairs
Wouldn’t you love to have that stair rail? Or the bat vase or the funny dresser? The artifacts were from all periods. The little flute pitcher much earlier. I don’t remember about the crazy chair.
Decoratif flutist jarDecoratif weird chair

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 
 
 

A charming riding toy for a little child. And below that, an early “Hummel” in ivory, a reminder of mortality.

Decoratif  swan toy
Decoratif skeleton

Cluny Medieval Museum (Spring 2015)

c museum
May 2. This morning after coffee, the medieval Cluny museum, a period of art I love. The museum is in an old “town” house of the Cluny Abbots.

There was a special exhibition of carvings from Swabia in SW Germany (I look it up.) I had to photograph through glass, but couldn’t resist the faces of the nuns or the beautiful gold swirl of the beheading.
c nuns 2c beheading
Basement surprise: a Roman bath was discovered and excavated. Since we visited Italy a couple years ago, I didn’t take any pictures. But there were a row of heads taken from Notre Dame during the revolution and discovered in someone’s back yard when he dug.
c boy I’m often surprised by medieval art. The rich people were pooping into the castle walls, but they had beautiful stuff. This boy missing his sword arm and with a dragon(lion?) biting his leg amused me. Sorta like a Hummel… Then there were the reliquaries, fancy containers for bones or teeth or some part of a saint. This reliquary has the three magi marching across its top.
c reliquary
Before we get to the tapestries, I want to show you some fun carvings from a set of misericords. What? you say. These were little seats like shelves in the choir of the church. Those who had to stand for lengthy prayers could use them to lean on. I always look for them in cathedrals because they are usually carved, and not necessarily with religious motifs. The Cluny has a set (in a very dark room, alas) with carvings of daily work. A baker, a couple being drawn in a cart, churning butter, and the most fun of all, two kids riding stick horses and playing at swords. (Click on the picture if you want to see an enlargement. They are slightly fuzzy. As I said, the room was dark and flash not allowed.)
c misry 4
c misry 3
c misry 1
c misry 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

c lionThe Lady and the Unicorn Tapestries – also in a dimly lit room to preserve. There are 6 of them. Five represent the senses – taste, smell, etc. The sixth is labeled Mon Seul Desir. Lots of arguments about what that single desire is. I’m going to stick my neck out and say she’s holding a treasure chest, so her desire is money. My interpretation is in no way colored by our own era!
c ladyc lion2

Now to close with a carving from a church screen a with an unusual subject: the circumcision of Christ.

c circumcism