Saturday, November 17, 2018

Catching Up with an Old Friend!

Well, as you know from the last post, we had quite a Sunday -- a fabulous art exhibit, a gorgeous garden, a wonderful walk. Of course, we needed a bit of a rest after that so we stopped back at the hotel for a quick feet-break.

And I have to add here that our hotel was lovely!

What could we possibly add to an already terrific day to make it even better? The answer is simple. Friendship and reacquaintance.

That afternoon our intrepid group of Rick, Jerry and I, walked across the Seine to visit our blog friend Peter of Peter's Paris. We passed by this new church with its golden onion domes along the way. Quite impressive.

Peter's was one of the first blogs I followed when I began blogging almost eleven years ago. His posts on Paris (and his occasional "diversions" to other places) are fascinating with loads of photos and terrific research about various places and themes relating to the city. When we visited in 2012 we were lucky enough to spend the day with Peter as he took us through Montmartre, making the visit all the more enjoyable.

As we crossed the Seine we were at Pont de l'Alma, a road bridge crossing the Seine, just east of the Eiffel Tower and north of the bridge on Place de l'Alma. It is very near to the tunnel where the car carrying Diana, Princess of Wales, crashed on a late August evening in 1997. A statue called the Flame of Liberty stands at the end of the bridge.

It is a replica of the flame on the torch of the Statue of LIberty and it is full sized with the flame in gold leaf over gilded copper. Many people believe it is a memorial to Diana and in a way, it has become one, although the intial gift of the flame ten years before was as a thank you for restoraton work on the Statue of Liberty by two French businesses. While we were there, several came to pay their respects to the late princess and several items had been left behind, almost like a shrine.

We rounded the corner and passed this lovely site...

...and shortly after arrived at Peter's. He graciously offered us champagne and we had the most wonderful talk. It could never be long enough -- but that means there must be a next time!

We left Peter, heading to Rue Cler for our final dinner in France. Although we would have most of the following day, we would be leaving in late afternoon for London.

Even though it was a little nippy, the outdoor patio was heated and we were cozy.

We enjoyed a lovely red wine first (with all the photos that go with it!). The toast...

...the sip...

...the critical evaluation!

And then it was time for Rick to try snails. And they were -- as always -- delicious!

I love that the French don't rush you at dinner. We stayed rather awhile and enjoyed our delicious meal as well as a little more wine!

Then home again -- and off to bed. Tomorrow would be a full day!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Paris: Luxembourg Gardens and Rue Mouffetard

So, it rained a little. It also just drizzled. I can work with that!

After leaving the Mucha exhibit we were just around the corner from one of my favorite Paris gardens, Les Jardins du Luxembourg.

It's on the impressive grounds of the Palace and I've never been inside. But why? It's lovely outside!

And so, too, were the gardens, still bringing out their glorious summer colors on a gloomy autumn day.

I can't tell you how cheery this bed of marigolds looked on a day when the sky was so gray!

It was clearly autumn, but nice to see the colors of summer mixed in with those glorious golden tones!

The gardens are impeccably landscaped, and different levels add to the visual interest of the gardens.

There are numerous sculptures on the grounds, as well as a bandstand and play area. (This one honored the artist Delacroix).

 But our walk took us through the gardens and to the pond.

I love the pond. Seagulls are flying...

....and families are together, even on this damp day, sailing little boats.

The boat vendor wasn't doing land-office business, but I loved his little stand.

And I had to admit, they looked pretty darned cute on the water!

The palace itself was built in the 1600s as the royal residence of Marie de'Medici (King Louis XIII's mother). Well, we all know what happened a century later -- such palaces were not particularly enjoyed after the Revolution. Consequently, it became a legislative building and is the seat of the French Senate.

Perhaps my favorite part of this beautiful area is the Medici Fountain, also built by Marie de Medici. It is said that the fountain and grotto was designed by Tommaso Francii, who oversaw the waters and fountains of the king. It is built in the Italian style.

Ironically, when built, there was a great lack of water on Paris' Left Bank, a problem not solved until the aqueduct of Arcueil was built. Over time it fell into disrepair and was restored by Jean Chalgrin (architect of the Arc de Triomphe) at Napoleon's request in 1911. It was at this time that "Venus in Her Bath," a statue of white marble, was added.

The fountain was moved in the 1860s as part of Baron Haussmann's plans to add wide roads. The move changed the fountain's setting and appearance and the additional statues were added, along with comedy and tragedy masks. He replaced the statue of Venus with a group by Auguste Ottin.

These included a bronze representing the cyclops Polyphemus, son of Poseidon, discovering the lovers Acis and Galatea.

Unfortunately, Polyphemus was in love with Galatea, which did not bode well for Acis, who was killed by his rival.

Such a romantic story requires a romantic moment! We chose the Acis/Galatea moment (as opposed to the Polyphemus/Acis confrontation.)

Can you see why it's a favorite garden and fountain? Even in the rain it is simply breathtaking.

I especially love how they created these ivy swags lining the pathway to the head of the fountain.

We left the garden and headed to Rue Mouffetard, an area where there is street dancing on Sundays. But we were too late -- or it was too rainy. So, we walked up the long street...

...stopping for a snack...

...and some window shopping.

Isn't this fruit pretty?

Rick ogled a bicycle...

...and I ogled a cat in the window who reminded me of sweet Lizzie.

Our walk was at an end. But we had dinner coming and a special friend to meet up with before the evening was over!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Paris: Much Ado about Mucha (and rightfully so!)

On every trip a little rain must fall. Ours fell on a Sunday.

Our plan had been to take off after breakfast for some vide greniers, then visit Rue Mouffetard to catch the street dancing.

We'd wrap it up with a stop at Musee Luxembourg for a visit to the exhibit on artist Alphonse Mucha.

Rain cut the antique sales short -- many had covered up their exhibits by the time we arrived. And we didn't expect the dancers to be out, so we headed to the museum. It was packed.

I'd long wanted to see this exhibit and I thought I might be bitterly disappointed when you could barely move, much less see the art.

But the crowd evened out as we moved along and the end result was fascinating. You are probably familiar with the artist's work, particularly some of his posters for Sarah Bernhardt (I had needlepointed one of these long ago, perhaps the start of my interest in Mucha!).

He was also a leader in the Art Nouveau movement and much of his work was included in advertising on tins and packaging. You could find his work on everything from cookie tins... champagne bottles.

What I didn't realize was that the Czech native returned to Czechoslovakia when he was 43 and created a series of canvases that depicted the history of the Slavic people.

The details on these paintings are remarkable and markedly different from the more art nouveau style of his theatrical and advertising work.

A deeply religious man, he was also quite musical but longed to study art. Although he was rejected from Prague's Academy of Fine Arts, he became an apprentice scenery painter for the theatre in Vienna and also became attracted to photography. He later went into portraiture and decorative art and began to receive some commission work, which brought him travel opportunities and expanded his style as an artist. Ultimately he landed in Paris and began a career in illustration. He expanded his interest in photography and was able to use his photos as inspiration for his art. Soon he was illustrating books as well.

But it was his work for Sarah Bernhardt that brought him great attention. She commissioned him to do a poster for her play, but it wasn't the first time he had painted her.

Earlier he had done illustrations for one of her performances.

The poster he did this time was ornate but in pastel colors, different from other posters of the day and it caused a great sensation. Mucha was given a contract to produce more posters of Bernhardt and he became well known. He also designed sets and costumes for her.

The posters were so popular he became in great demand for advertising posters and packaging. He then launched a series of decorating panels.

His work appeared at the 1900 Paris Universal Exposition and then began designing elaborate pieces of jewelry.

His collaboration with jeweler Georges Fouquet brought him great acclaim and Fouquet asked him to design the interior of his new shop, which the artist did with elaborate style in the Art Nouveau manner. He later ventured to America where he continued to meet with great success.

Mucha's love for his native Czechoslovakia continued. But Hitler and the Nazis were coming into power and when they took Prague, Mucha -- a nationalist -- was a prime target. Arrested, he was interrogated for several days and then released, dying four months later  of pneumonia.

Despite being known for his Art Nouveau work, it was his Slav Epic paintings that he viewed as his most significant work. His style has since inspired countless other artists.

I don't know if this exhibit will ever tour, but if it does, I cannot recommend it highly enough. It was not only visually stunning but fascinating to learn about the life of this remarkable and gifted man.

(By the way, I'm having trouble directly replying to comments, Blogger having stopped my notifications. I just want to let you know that I read and really appreciate (and am motivated by!) your comments and if I don't reply back, it's that manually dealing with these right now is making me a little crazy. Hopefully it'll be resolved in due course, otherwise, I'll go back to adding the reply page on my blog.)

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