242 Photos - Aug 2, 2008
Photo: After an uneventful flight from Philadelphia, we find ourselves on the morning of Friday, May 23, at our apartment on the small Place Emile Goudeau in Montmartre. It’s a traditional building with narrow stairs up to our fourth floor rental. Our VRBO host, Jean-Noel, lives with his family one floor up, and so arrangements are especially convenient. It’s the second Paris visit for my daughters, and first for son and son-in-law.Photo: The photographer and tour guide makes a rare appearance on the other side of the camera. Our small square is quite animated at many times, including late night “discussions” and a 4 AM appearance by a Liza-Minnelli-in-Cabaret-quality chanteuse. It should have been off putting, but hey, it’s Paris!Photo: We set off on our first day on a city orientation, to see it from several vantage points, starting at nearby Sacre Coeur, whose foundation stone was laid in June, 1875. It’s less than 10 minutes away on foot (although we did use the funicular for the last of the climb). The weather is lovely on our first morning.Photo: The view of the city is good this morning, with the Montparnasse Tower (not a favorite of many Parisians) standing out.Photo: There are many performers in the area, including these parkour practitioners (“traceurs”) who climb and jump from various points.Photo: The dome of Sacre Coeur, which was built of travertine stone quarried in Château-Landon. The stone exudes calcite, and so the basilica remains white even with weathering and urban pollution.Photo: Living statues are seen in may parts of the city as part of the performance art.Photo: Our first view of a Velib (a contraction of “velo libre,” meaning “free bicycle”), the very popular city-sponsored system of rental bicycles begun in mid-2007. There are about 20,000 in the city, and we encounter them frequently.Photo: Down we go from Sacre Coeur for our first metro trip to the city center. We purchase the Carte Mobilis every day we’re in the city for the flexibility of all-day travel, and we do get our money’s worth.Photo: And here we are on the Vedettes du Pont Neuf for our Seine-side look at the city. We buy our tickets in advance on the Internet, and get a very good discount.Photo: Cruising past the former Orsay train station, the terminus for the railways of southwestern France until 1939, then for suburban services, and various other uses until closing in 1973. In 1977, its conversion began to the Musee d’Orsay, which was completed in 1986.Photo: The Eiffel Tower is framed between two of the gilt towers of the Pont Alexandre III, which crosses the Seine at the Esplanade des Invalides, connecting to the Champs Elysees quarter. The bridge (named after Tsar Alexander III, who had concluded the Franco-Russian Alliance in 1892), with its Art Nouveau lamps, cherubs, nymphs and winged horses at either end, was built between 1896 and 1900. We see here two of the four gilt-bronze statues of Fames on the bridge, supported on massive 55-foot socles that provide stabilizing counterweight for the arch. These two, on the Left Bank, are the Renommee du Commerce ("Fame of Commerce") by Pierre Granet and the Renommee de l'Industrie ("Fame of Industry") by Clement Steiner.Photo: These houseboats are often truly residences for some Parisians. Some are also available for rental as alternatives to hotels and conventional apartments.Photo: The river is crowded for our noon excursion, with several other tour boats lined up behind us.Photo: We pass by the Grand Palais, the glass exhibition hall built for the Paris Exhibition of 1900. The exterior of the massive palace combines an imposing Classical facade with Art Nouveau ironwork.Photo: Some of the hammered copper statuary on the Pont Alexandre III can be best seen only from this river perspective. We see here the Nymphs of the Neva with the arms of Imperial Russia; on the center of the steel arch on the other side are the Nymphs of the Seine with the arms of France.Photo: The Seine-side view of the bouquinistes, the roughly 250 booksellers on the quays whose green metal boxes are a familiar landmark in this part of the city. They first appeared here in the early 19th century (when their wares included lead figurines, which have been recovered in some number from the Seine riverbed), with their present storage boxes defined by 1993 regulations.Photo: Photo: Photo: The Seine banks are crowded with strollers and picnickers on a pleasant Friday afternoon.Photo: We pass by this statue of Sainte Genevieve, the city’s patron saint, on the Pont de la Tournelle. A bridge has occupied this location since 1370, connecting the Left Bank with the Ile St. Louis, with the current one built in 1928.Photo: Notre Dame from the back, with the flying buttresses in full view.Photo: Our boat commentator tells us that this wooden tower marks the oldest medieval house in the city. Who are we to argue?Photo: For another view of the city, up the 165 feet and 284 steps of the Arc de Triomphe we go. (We’ve seen a lot of steps for only having been in the city a few hours!) The Arc was commissioned in 1806 by the Emperor Napoleon I after his victory at Austerlitz, but it was not completed until the early 1830s.Photo: This view from the top of the Arc down the Champs Elysees, arguably the world’s most famous thoroughfare.Photo: From the top, a closer view of Sacre Coeur, and our home neighborhood below and to the left in this view.Photo: To the north is the Arche de la Defense (officially La Grande Arche de la Fraternite),  with government offices in each tower. The entire Arc de Triomphe would fit in the interior opening.Photo: In another direction, the familiar Eiffel Tower, completed in 1889 for the centennial of the French Revolution. Little known fact: the tower weighs less than the air in a right circular cylinder which would contain it.Photo: Here, the Invalides dome and the Montparnasse Tower are seen. The view from the top of the tower is excellent, although we did not ascend on this trip. A popular local saying is that the best thing about the view from the Montparnasse Tower is that one cannot see the Montparnasse Tower! It is also disparagingly called l’asperge (the asparagus) for the sense of a single large stalk sticking out of the ground. In fact, two years after its 1972 completion, the construction of skyscrapers in the city center was banned.Photo: Our home metro stop is Abessess, with its traditional Art Noveau appearance. It is  the deepest metro station in the city at 98 feet, and has the unusual feature of two large elevators from the platform level to the surface. We follow the lead of the locals and use it frequently. A stairway ascent by one of us confirmed that this is a good idea!Photo: Dinner the first evening is at Chez Gladines, a popular spot with the locals in the Place d’Italie area, featuring the cuisine of the southwest, including Basque. It’s inexpensively priced, has good food, and is out of the touristy beaten path - all excellent features in our view. We have a mix of their really big dinner salads, cassoulet, and tuna Basque style. We are careful to arrive at opening at 7 and are seated right away, since by the time we leave somewhat after 8, a long line has developed - as we anticipated from a previous visit.Photo: Our first closer view of the Eiffel Tower, which as experienced folks know, should be approached from the Trocadero Square for the best view.Photo: Saturday morning brings us to what many of the locals are doing - shopping for the day’s needs (in our case, a picnic lunch) at one of Paris’ market streets. Our favorite is the Rue Mouffetard (La Mouffe to locals), and its impeccably fresh offerings, as shown here at the poissonerie.Photo: Even with a dozen visits to the city, there are always new discoveries. Ours today is the Lutece Arena, a Roman site from the first century.Photo: The site is well preserved and restored. It was believed to be multipurpose, which was unusual for a Roman amphitheater. That is, it was used for both gladiator spectacles, as well as plays and other artistic events. We are looking here at the stage area, where these niches - now containing benches - are believed to have been aids to improving acoustics.Photo: The spectator area is popular with locals for a quiet lunch. These bleachers are accurately located, but have been reconstructed with new materials.Photo: Besides the locals, some American tourists sneak in for a snack of fresh fruit before lunch. Historians conjecture that the bleachers, surrounding more than half the arena's circumference, would have accommodated about 17,000 spectators.Photo: This small boy is getting an early start on football with his grandfather, and he enthusiastically chases the ball around for some time.Photo: A number of groups make their way through the arena during our visit there.Photo: This older boy has got some serious game, and makes solid and accurate contact during his football practice in the arena.Photo: Farther down, we pass this marker for the wall which once surrounded the medieval city.Photo: Although only a small section is seen here, it does give a sense of the height and solidity of this more than 800 year old structure.Photo: We are now firmly in the Left Bank university area, here facing the Gothic exterior of the Church of St-Etienne-du-Mont, built over a long period between 1492 and 1626. The Church occupies the site of an abbey founded by Clovis and later dedicated to St. Genevieve, the patroness of Paris. St. Genevieve's tomb was destroyed during the Revolution, but the stone on which her coffin rested was discovered later, and her relics were gathered for a place of honor at St-Etienne.Photo: The interior contains this exceptional (and unique in Paris) early 16th century rood screen, with spiral staircases on either side. Such screens served as symbolic separators of the altar from the congregation. Another treasured feature is the wood pulpit on the right, held up by Samson, who is clutching a bone in one hand, with a slain lion at his feet.Photo: One of the massive brass candlesticks on display.Photo: Around us are many schools (“facs”) of the universities - here, the law school of the Universite Paris Descartes.Photo: We are just down the street from the Pantheon, originally built as a church dedicated to St. Genevieve, but now combining liturgical functions with its role as a famous burial place. Among those entombed there are Voltaire, Rousseau, Marat, Victor Hugo, Émile Zola, Jean Moulin, Marie Curie, and Louis Braille.Photo: A fuller view of the structure, including the dome, which is visible from much of the city. It is an early example of Neoclassicism, with a facade modeled on the Pantheon in Rome.Photo: Now at our picnic lunch in the Luxembourg Gardens, the largest public park in the city. The original plan was for bread, cheese, and sausage. However, the pissaladiere (which we came to appreciate in Nice) and pizza chevre at a boulangerie in La Mouffe looked so enticing, we went in that direction instead. For Ash in particular, most anything combining French bread and cheese proved to be a favorite!Photo: The Luxembourg Palace, built for Marie de Medicis, mother of king Louis XIII, was completed in 1631.Photo: There is also some fine (and I’m sure, expensive!) residential architecture around the Gardens.Photo: On the Place de la Concorde, we chance on a modeling shoot in front of the fountain. The model was quite friendly, chatting with the passers-by during free moments.Photo: The main fountain on the square. In the background is the Crillon Hotel, one of the city’s most fashionable and expensive.Photo: Two large curved metal walls form the current-artwork entrance to the Tuileries. Seen behind is the famous obelisk on Place de la Concorde, given to the French in the nineteenth century by the Egyptian government. The obelisk once marked the entrance to the Luxor Temple. The obelisk arrived in Paris in 1833, and three years later King Louis-Philippe had it placed in the centre of Place de la Concorde, where a guillotine had stood during the Revolution.Photo: The fountain at the Louvre end of the Tuileries is tranquil today.Photo: But giant spiders are on the attack nearby! This is in fact “Maman” by Louise Bourgeois, who is having a major retrospective this year at the Guggenheim. Here, from their Web site, on this work: Like a creature escaped from a dream, or a larger-than-life embodiment of a secret childhood fear, the giant spider Maman (1999) casts a powerful physical and psychological shadow. Over 30 feet high, the mammoth sculpture is one of the most ambitious undertakings in the long career of Louise Bourgeois (b. Paris, 1911). Through a vast oeuvre spanning over 60 years, Bourgeois has plumbed the depths of human emotion further and more passionately than perhaps any other artist of our time. In its evocation of the psyche, her work is both universal and deeply personal, with frequent, explicit reference to painful childhood memories of an unfaithful father and a loving but complicit mother. Bourgeois first gained notice in the 1940s with her Surrealist-inspired Personnages: thin, vertical forms in wood or stone that evoke the human body. Installed in clusters, suggesting a small crowd or perhaps a family, the Personnages were meant to symbolize figures from the artist's past. Maman, in fact, is associated with the artist's own mother. The spider, who protects her precious eggs in a steel cage-like body, provokes awe and fear, but her massive height, improbably balanced on slender legs, conveys an almost poignant vulnerability.Photo: A typical example of one of the 1450 Velib stations in the city, with subscribers picking up and leaving bicycles, as controlled by the electronic station at the left. While there are many stations, the logistics and bicycle distribution are of course not perfect: some stations like this are completely full (perfect for starting, not good for returning), and we see others which are entirely empty. I’m sure that the increasingly-experienced users are adept at managing all this.Photo: There are always some clever Metro ads to be found; on this visit, some food ads were my favorites. Here, by my uncertain French: “Babette would very much like drop in on your filets, if they are tender.” I’m sure that my translation does not do full justice to the double entendre here!Photo: We return to our home on Place Emile Goudeau, to find a movie shoot in progress, and a large group of pedestrians curious about the action. One of the large movie lights and diffusers is seen at the left. Note also the building in back with the phrase Bateau Lavoir. This former tenement house is famous for the group of outstanding artists who lived and rented artistic studios there, with the first artists settling here in the 1890s (but beginning in 1914 moving elsewhere, mainly Montparnasse). The name of the place means the laundry-boat, for its resemblance to the boats of laundry women. One of the most famous residents (from 1904 to 1909) was Pablo Picasso,  who reputedly invented cubism here and painted one of his finest works, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon.Photo: There is some serious camera equipment involved, which is being carefully protected from some light sprinkles in the area.Photo: The view from our kitchen window down to the square, with a view of a large boom mike projecting into the scene.Photo: The woman on the bench reading the newspaper stays in that position for several hours, and so is obviously part of the cast.Photo: Most of the cast is in everyday dress, but there is at least one who is clearly intended to be a cabaret performer. She draws an interested crowd of passers by, and chats with them during the breaks in filming.Photo: Photo: Saturday dinner is at the well-known Left Bank institution, Polidor - a familiar location to generations of students, and to writers like Fitzgerald and Hemingway.Photo: The gang gets its first taste of escargots, with bread sliced by the giant paper cutter behind us, and the excellent white bean soup. Christopher also chooses the steak tartare for a main course -  a must for at least one try on a Paris visit.Photo: After dinner, we stroll in the main tourist area of Montmartre - only a few minutes walk from the apartment, but not disturbing our quiet square. Since our last visit, the artists’ stands on the square have been entirely replaced by tented restaurants. This is rather sad, we think, but a reminder that money talks everywhere.Photo: The view from the square in front of Sacre Coeur, with the city lighting up at dusk. New visitors may be surprised that the city is not especially bright at night - a reminder that the City of Light sobriquet may refer not to Paris physically, but to the many intellectual and artistic luminaries that the city claims as its own.Photo: However, Sacre Coeur is especially well illuminated, and so an evening landmark in the area. The structure is of an overall Romano-Byzantine style, unusual at the time, and a reaction against the neo-Baroque excesses of the Opéra Garnier.Photo: From an out-of-the-way corner of the square, the Eiffel Tower is visible.Photo: His height enables Christopher to zoom in from a fence in the area.Photo: Photo: Sunday morning brings our first museum stop, at the Orsay, where we start on the top floor - finding ourselves in the room with Seurat and the other pointillists. Here, Seurat’s “The Circus” from 1891. It is an excellent example of Divisionism: that it is possible to obtain brighter hues of color such as green, orange and purple, by a series of dots (or blobs) of both primary colors so that they are optically intermingled in the spectator’s eye (rather than being pre-mixed).Photo: Paul Signac’s “Women at the Well” from 1892. Signac was a forceful advocate for Divisionism, and the banishing of “muddy mixtures” (usually the result of pre-mixing colors) in favor of the luminous intense colors blended by the viewer’s eye.Photo: Seurat’s Harbor at Port-en-Bessin at High Tide. From the Orsay’s Web site: The overall composition, both geometrical and asymmetrical, plays alternately on the slanting lines of the cliffs and the flat lines of the jetties and the horizon, punctuated in turn by the upright masts. The road winding up from Port-en-Bessin to the edge of the cliffs softens the strict construction, a frequent device in Seurat's work. The wild grasses in the foreground introduce an untidy note in this motionless landscape. The port emptied of all human presence leaves an abandoned, melancholic impression.Photo: With our visit to Brittany last year, I am especially drawn to this piece. It’s Gaugin’s 1886 “Washerwomen at Pont-Aven.”Photo: Renoir’s 1892 “Girls at the Piano.” It is an excellent example of his use of vibrant light and saturated color, most often focusing on people in intimate and candid compositions. In typical Impressionist style, Renoir suggested the details of a scene through freely brushed touches of color, so that his figures softly fuse with one another and their surroundings.Photo: The inside-out view of one of the museum’s large clocks.Photo: Now out on the top floor terrace, and looking back once again to our home neighborhood for the week.Photo: Across the Seine to the Louvre.Photo: The third version of Van Gogh’s “Bedroom in Arles,” from 1889.Photo: Some of the Monet series in the early 1890’s of the west door of the Rouen cathedral, which we saw in person a few years ago. Monet painted this same scene in various weather conditions and times of day, to show the influence of light and shadow.Photo: Here, one of at least at least 17 views which Monet painted of the footbridge over the pond in his garden at Giverny.Photo: Monet’s “Woman with a Parasol” from 1886.Photo: Renoir’s famous “Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette.” From the Orsay’s Web site: This painting is doubtless Renoir's most important work of the mid 1870's and was shown at the Impressionist exhibition in 1877. Though some of his friends appear in the picture, Renoir's main aim was to convey the vivacious and joyful atmosphere of this popular dance garden on the Butte Montmartre. The study of the moving crowd, bathed in natural and artificial light, is handled using vibrant, brightly colored brushstrokes. The somewhat blurred impression of the scene prompted negative reactions from contemporary critics. This portrayal of popular Parisian life, with its innovative style and imposing format, a sign of Renoir's artistic ambition, is one of the masterpieces of early Impressionism.Photo: Caillebotte’s “The Floor Scrapers,” which has special meaning for one of my research projects (any more is both complicated and boring …). More interesting, from the Orsay Web site: This painting is one of the first representations of urban proletariat. Whereas peasants (Gleaners by Millet) or country workers (Stone Breakers by Courbet) had often been shown, city workers had seldom been painted. Unlike Courbet or Millet, Caillebotte does not incorporate any social, moralizing or political message in his work. His thorough documentary study (gestures, tools, accessories) justifies his position among the most accomplished realists. Caillebotte had undergone a completely academic training, studying with Bonnat. The perspective, accentuated by the high angle shot and the alignment of floorboards complies with tradition. The artist drew one by one all the parts of his painting, according to the academic method, before reporting them using the square method on the canvas. The nude torsos of the planers are those of heroes of Antiquity, it would be unimaginable for Parisian workers of those times. But far from closeting himself in academic exercises, Caillebotte exploited their rigor in order to explore the contemporary universe in a completely new way. Caillebotte presented his painting at the 1875 Salon. The Jury, no doubt shocked by its crude realism, rejected it (some critics talked of "vulgar subject matter"). The young painter then decided to join the impressionists and presented his painting at the second exhibition of the group in 1876, where Degas exhibited his first Ironers. Critics were struck by this great modern tableau, Zola, in particular, although he condemned this "painting that is so accurate that it makes it bourgeois".Photo: Whistler’s Mother has moved up from the first floor since our last visit. From the Orsay Web site: Although an American by nationality, Whistler divided his career between London and Paris. He enrolled in Charles Gleyre's studio at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1856 and went into partnership two years later with Alphonse Legros and Fantin-Latour to ensure a better circulation of his works. Fantin-Latour put him in the centre of his painting “Homage to Delacroix,” alongside Manet and Baudelaire, proclaiming his place in the avant-garde of the Paris art world.  Whistler was also close to Courbet who briefly considered him "his pupil".  “Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1,” also called “Portrait of the Artist's Mother,” is a reminder, if only through its double title, of the stylization to which Whistler soon submitted the realistic aesthetic of his early years. The portrait's psychological acuity is powerfully conveyed by the deliberately pared down composition. The work, in its linear austerity and chromatic rigor dominated by neutral tones, was a continuation of Whistler's experimentation with prints, to which “View of the Thames” hanging on the wall is an allusion. Dropping all pretense at anecdote, Whistler soon gave nothing but musical subtitles to his paintings, insisting on the musical notion of harmony rather than that of subject matter. The painting, bought by the French state in 1891, is now one of the most famous works by an American artist outside the United States.Photo: From the top floor, looking down.Photo: The family art expert - happy to return here after 14 years - and husband.Photo: This very large (at least 20 foot high) painting is being restored on the first floor.Photo: We pass by the Louvre, but the Sunday line is long, and so we will save it for another day.Photo: The serene view down the Seine from the pedestrian Pont de Arts. The first metal bridge in Paris was completed at this location in 1804. However, damage from boat collisions and two world wars led to its closing in 1977, with the current bridge, built to preserve the style of the original, opening in 1984.Photo: After a stroll past many of they quayside bouquinistes, we arrive at Notre Dame, and continue to the Ile St Louis for a taste of the famous Berthillon ice cream.Photo: Following a stroll along the Seine banks, we metro over to the Esplanade des Invalides, which is typically animated on a Sunday afternoon. Several boules matches are underway on the hard packed dirt areas.Photo: This is a serious game, and so serious measurements are required!Photo: This player shows the tanque (pronounced tan-KAY) bent knee position favored by experienced throwers. This gives boules the name of petanque (pronounced peh-TANK) in the south of France in particular.Photo: And on the rest of the Esplanade, a mix of football and general lazing away the pleasant Sunday afternoon.Photo: A look at our home for the week, with the gang playing cards in the main area. Kitchen and bathroom areas are behind the camera, and the two bedrooms in the back. It’s cozy, but congenially Parisian, and we adapt well to it.Photo: Since we have an early Monday morning start, we opt for an early dinner at a local spot, the Bar le Houdon. It’s one of a thousand typical small cafes in Paris, with good food - and a very friendly but somewhat harried waiter, as his partner did not arrive that day, so he was doing double duty for both the inside and outside crowd.Photo: Monday brings the first of our two day trips out of the city, and by duration and destination (recalling the movie of the same name) is appropriately dubbed The Longest Day. We are on our way at 6:30 AM, picking up our car - this Ford C-Max - at the nearby Gare du Nord. And off we go to Normandy, expertly guided by our Garmin GPS, Madame La Carte.Photo: Several hours later, we arrive at the American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-mer, which is now home to a new visitors center completed in the past year.Photo: The well-appointed center contains photography, documentary films, and other information on the wartime activities in Normandy.Photo: This reflecting pool leads directly out to the Channel.Photo: More of the new walkways installed as part of the center.Photo: The view down to Pointe du Hoc, our next stop.Photo: We begin on the Channel-side walkway. France has granted the United States a special and perpetual concession to the land occupied by the cemetery. The U.S. flags flying here signify that we are in fact on American soil.Photo: Christopher elects to take the walk down to Omaha Beach. This calm and beautiful morning could hardly be a sharper contrast to the original events which now bring us to this place.Photo: On the overlook, a map of the D-Day events.Photo: We are by good fortune here on Memorial Day, but flower tributes like this are ever present.Photo: And, for Memorial Day morning, the flags are at half staff.Photo: Each flag is marked with both American and French flags; I do not recall this being so on our earlier visits.Photo: Some graves are more highly decorated than others.Photo: The cemetery occupies 172 acres, and contains 9,387 grave sites.Photo: Advances in identification mean that today there are no longer any graves of “unknown soldiers.” However, this is a recent development, as seen here.Photo: The remarkable precision of the crosses produces perfectly straight lines in all directions. All the graves face west, towards the United States.Photo: Consistent with Memorial Day protocol, the flags are raised to full staff at noon.Photo: One of the Battlefield Commission employees completes this raising.Photo: On one of the Memorial walls is a full description of the post-D-Day events. On an adjacent wall are the names of 1,557 Americans who lost their lives in the conflict but could not be located and identified.Photo: I walk away from the main area, but chance to have a view of the flag through the trees at the moment that the National Anthem and Taps are played.Photo: The facilities at Pointe du Hoc have also been enhanced, including this description of the events of D-Day.Photo: The new entrance contains these wooden slat structures in many places. We wonder if they are intended to represent the climbing ladders used by the Rangers that day.Photo: This large new observation area places the events in context.Photo: We move on to the battle area, which has been left untouched for more than six decades.Photo: A view down the cliffs.Photo: The sea is a little turbulent today, but once again the overall calm is in sharp contrast to the events being remembered.Photo: A large swivel mount for a piece of German artillery.Photo: The Ranger memorial near the cliff edge is even less accessible than on out last visit, and nowhere close to the situation when President Reagan gave his memorable speech here in 1984 (http://www.reaganlibrary.com/reagan/speeches/dday_pdh.asp, and a wonderful version at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBeyZAmmJNg). Given continuing erosion, we expect that the memorial will have to be moved in the near future.Photo: Another look at the area’s cliffs.Photo: Remains of a German bunker.Photo: This cliff view gives a sobering reminder of the task faced by the Rangers that day. In fact, the most difficult tasks they faced were after the cliff assault, as they held out against German counterattacks over the next two days before being reinforced. Of the more than 225 Rangers in the initial assault, only about 90 were still combat-worthy when relief arrived.Photo: The guys take a look inside one of the fortifications.Photo: About 90 minutes further by car is Mont St. Michel, reportedly the third most visited place in France (after the Eiffel Tower and the Versailles palace), and the most visited village, with St. Paul de Vence being second. The view is striking on this clear, sunny day – by far the best in my three visits her.Photo: We happen to be here at low tide, and some visitors show the telltale signs (gray-mud-caked feet and walking shoes/sandals!) of having made the crossing on foot from the mainland across the mud flats.Photo: The Mont was a well fortified location, as is plainly evident here. For example, during the Hundred Years' War, the English made repeated assaults on the island, but were unable to take it.Photo: The small parish church is, of course, St. Pierre (Saint Peter) - pierre being the French word for rock. The present church was built in the 15th century on 11th century foundations. It still contains a number of early elements, such as the 15th century statue of Madonna and Child seen on the right.Photo: We now ascend to the main entrance, and have this look back into the bay.Photo: Now on the plaza in front of the church entrance, and looking back to the entrance road. This causeway has blocked the bay’s natural flow, causing a good deal of silting. There has been talk for some time of removing it, and replacing it with a bridge to restore the bay to its natural flow.Photo: There is a good amount of foot traffic at low tide. The water level at high versus low tides can differ by up to 45 feet.Photo: While I have forgotten the full details, a guide on an earlier visit told us that this small island was used as a place of “contemplation” ( = punishment) for unruly monks.Photo: A close look at the image of Michael the Archangel on the very top of the main steeple. Legend says that the Archangel appeared to St. Aubert, bishop of Avranches, in 708, instructing him to build a church on this spot. This traditional representation from 1897 by Emmanuel Fremiet has the Archangel in armor, holding a sword and scales, and standing atop a defeated dragon (a symbol of the devil).Photo: It’s a long way to the top. The rock base of the abbey rises 300 feet from sea level, and it’s about another 200 to the very top of the spire.Photo: Now in the abbey church, looking down the 11th century Romanesque nave towards the Flamboyant Gothic choir, built after the end of the Hundred Years War. Construction began in the mid-15th century, but was not completed until 1521.Photo: The “lightness” of the choir reflects the architectural advances that has been made since the nave’s construction.Photo: The famous Cloister, central in the series of buildings called the Merveille (Marvel), and so the communications link to the various buildings central to monastic life.Photo: Here now in the Monks Refectory, their central location for meals and the reading of spiritual texts. Many features, from its wide barrel-vaulted ceiling, to the “hidden” side windows providing much of the light, make it an architectural wonder of its time.Photo: Below the Refectory is the Salle Des Hotes, where invited guests were welcomed and fed. The room also contains two massive fireplaces which served as the kitchen for the meals served.Photo: This large wheel is from the 19th century, when the structure was used as a prison.Photo: Two men walked inside the wheel, pulling a cart attached the rope to an access ramp. This was a major means of bringing supplies up to these heights, and were widely used from Roman times through the Middle Ages.Photo: A final look up the structure, and the facade of the 11th century convent buildings. We have a quick dinner at one of the small restaurants on the Grand Rue (as once pilgrims, and now tourists, have done for centuries!), as we have over a three hour drive back to Paris.Photo: We park our car at 11, and on the short walk back to the apartment, we pass by this well-known tourist landmark. There is a very long line, presumably for a midnight show. We expect it’s all tourists, including many Japanese, who will pay over (some, well over!) 100 euros each for the event. When we return to pick up the car the following morning, it’s all over, of course - to be replaced by trucks unloading six-foot-high pallets of champagne cases for the following night!Photo: On Tuesday, we switch from history to stops at several picturesque towns in Normandy, beginning in Etretat. Here, we see one of the traditional wooden market buildings on the Place Foch.Photo: War memorials and expressions of gratitude to the Allies are by no means restricted to the major battle sites. Plaques like this can be found in many places in Normandy.Photo: A quiet, picturesque corner of the town.Photo: There are some quite old half-timbered buildings in town.Photo: We now turn seaside, and a view of the seaman’s chapel (Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde), high on the Amont Falaise (cliff).Photo: It’s these limestone cliffs and arches which are the town’s main attraction. Here, a view along the Aval Falaise, the more popular one for walking, and the one we would ascend. We see the Aval Arch, with the Needle (Aiguille) behind.Photo: And, up we go! It’s breezy and pleasant - a good day for the climb.Photo: Looking back to the Amont Falaise, and another view of the church. Behind it is the memorial to Nungesser and Coli, who left from here in 1927 on an attempted Atlantic crossing, but we never heard from again - one of the great unexplained mysteries in aviation.Photo: From higher up, we get a good view of the town and beach. Typical of this part of Normandy, the latter is stone rather than sand.Photo: Etretat attracted a number of painters, including Boudin, Courbet, and Monet.Photo: One more church and memorial shot. The memorial was destroyed in WW II, and rebuilt after.Photo: Looking farther along to the Manneport Arch – 300 feet from sea to the cliff summit.Photo: It’s very low tide here, and the beach area is unusually exposed.Photo: The gang looks pretty fresh after the hike up!Photo: Here’s the tour guide, sneaking in for one more shot.Photo: The Aiguille is as tall as a twenty story building.Photo: The seaside golf course would not be considered a links course in the British sense, but certainly present some challenges by its location and elevation changes. It is considered one of the 25 best courses in France.Photo: Again, the Needle and nearby Aval Arch, which has been compared to an elephant dipping its trunk into the ocean.Photo: A more panoramic view of the same scene.Photo: At one point on the path is a quite steep rope descent down - certainly more than a casual hike! A bit of the rope can be seen in the upper right, and a ladder completes the descent to the beach.Photo: We move on to the popular tourist destination of Honfleur, here at the old harbor. The narrow slate-and-timber buildings on this side (the Ste-Catherine Quay) are the former homes of sailors and workers.Photo: On the other side (the St-Etienne Quay) are the considerably-better-appointed stone homes of former ship owners and wealthy merchants.Photo: A well-known symbol of the town is La Lieutenance, what remains of the former 16th century home of the king’s governor of the region.Photo: Honfleur is also home to an unusual all-wood church, St. Catherine’s. After the Hundred years War, skilled stonemasons were called away to rebuild the larger cities. So, when the town decided to build a new church in gratitude for the departure of the English, the task fell to the local “axe masters” of the local shipyard, who used their building techniques in wood to create this result.Photo: Since a wooden structure could not support the weight of a large steeple and bell, the church’s tower was built on the ground next door.Photo: The interior further reflects the all-timber construction of the church.Photo: There are many memorial plaques on the church walls, some quite touching, like this one: “Gratitude to St. Theresa for curing little Jean-Pierre, February 23, 1939.”Photo: The ever-present war memorial is inside the church in Honfleur.Photo: Wandering through a quiet corner of town – art galleries are everywhere.Photo: Some of the old half-timbered buildings seem to have not seen much exterior work in some time.Photo: The sign on one of the old salt warehouses remaining. Before refrigeration, Honfleur’s fishing fleets relied on salt to preserve the catch. As noted, this warehouse could hold up to 10,000 tons.Photo: The building is approaching 350 years of age, but its solid stone construction has borne the passing of time well.Photo: For our final stop, on the way back to Paris, we visit Le Bec Hellouin, designated one of the Fifty Most Beautiful Villages of France.Photo: The historical center of town is the remains of the old abbey. The monastic community here began in 1039 by Herluin, a Norman knight who left the court of Gilbert, Count of Brionne, to devote himself to a life of religion. Bec Abbey became a major center of intellectual life in the region.Photo: The Benedictine monastic community returned to the village in 1948, almost two centuries after being driven away during the French revolution.Photo: The full Abbey Church at its peak was one of the most impressive in all Christendom.Photo: But today, only the Saint Nicholas Tower survives.Photo: It’s a rare war memorial that doesn’t make its way into at least one picture.Photo: The more commercial center of town, carefully spruced up to hold on to the quite competitive Most Beautiful Village designation. But on this cloudy Tuesday afternoon, it’s very quiet.Photo: No French culinary experience is complete without at least one stop at an aire for some roadside grub! Well, maybe not, but that’s how our schedule worked out.Photo: And a final look at our trusty C-Max, safely tucked back in the Gare du Nord parking lot  - once we could find the entrance, which eluded even Madame La Carte. Not a scratch on our two day trip, which at the end included an unexpected trip around the twelve lane Etoile at the Arc de Triomphe - something we saw a lot of as pedestrians, but experienced for the first time roadside today.Photo: Wednesday began with a late wake-up, and then some shopping at the Grands Magasins - here looking up at the cupola dome in the Galleries Lafayette.Photo: The center rotunda is eight levels up before the dome starts.Photo: Lunch is on benches in the Place d'Estienne d'Orves (a French Navy officer, and  one of the major heroes of the French Resistance) in front of La Trinite church, built in 1861-1867. The somewhat fussy “wedding cake” appearance of this church is not universally admired. But, we knew a good boulangerie for sandwiches from a previous stay, when this was our “home” neighborhood, and so it made a nice place for our mid-day break.Photo: The gang decides on more shopping after lunch, but the tour guide/chauffer elects to take a break back at the Luxembourg Gardens, with a couple of hours spent napping and reading in this delightful shady spot. The only thing you don’t get to see is the eclair au chocolat on my lap, but believe me, it hardly ever gets better than this.Photo: The first of a five part series: Les Enfants Avec Des Bateaux Au Jardin De Luxembourg.Photo: In truth, this just means Kids with Boats in the Luxembourg Gardens.Photo: However, it sounds so much better in French!Photo: But then, doesn’t most everything?Photo: I’m sure that these folks all agree.Photo: Later that day, we take advantage of special evening tickets to Roland Garros, admitting us to outer court matches at the French Open for only 10 euros.Photo: We start at a women’s singles match between a Swiss and an Israeli player.Photo: I don’t recall their names, but we saw some lively action.Photo: Later, we switched to a men’s second round match, where American qualifier Wayne Odesnik unexpectedly had advanced to the second round.Photo: He’s looking good on the serve!Photo: The famous Roland Garros red clay (la terre battue) takes its toll on players’ apparel. The shoes may live for another day, but those socks will never be white again.Photo: His opponent, Korean HT Lee, is the picture of concentration, as is the lineswoman.Photo: An overhead camera runs the length of the facility, allowing the large monitor on the main stadium to pick up most any match in progress.Photo: Wayne heads to victory with a sharp service return.Photo: And it’s all over, no doubt disappointing a  good size Korean group in the audience. Wayne does unexpectedly well, and so it’s certainly no disgrace when he later loses his third round match to third seeded Novak Djokovic.Photo: With outer court matches concluded, we watch a match on the main stadium screen.Photo: The stadium is ringed by the names of all French Open men’s and women’s singles winners. Here a reminder of the glory days of French tennis in the 1920’s, when the Four Musketeers (Borotra, Lacoste, Cochet, and Brugnon) dominated the men’s game, while Susanne Lenglen (for whom one of the stadia is named) was a major force in the women’s game.Photo: The ladies have had a good time, making our over-90-minute wait for the evening tickets a good choice.Photo: Our last full day begins at the Louvre.Photo: A small study for the larger version of Gericault’s Raft of the Medusa stood out for Ash from her art history class.Photo: Lots of stuff to see in the French section.Photo: This battle scene (name and artist forgotten) is quite reminiscent of American Civil War art, a central theme of the family’s art expert’s thesis.Photo: One of the very-high-ceilinged rooms, where the art is hung from low to high levels.Photo: While the Louvre was of course originally a palace for French kings, here is s reminder of its place as a museum for more than 200 years.Photo: A stop at one of the classics, The Winged Victory of Samothrace, a third century BCE marble sculpture of the Greek goddess Nike (Victory). Following its 1863 discovery by the French consul and amateur archaeologist Charles Champoiseau, Victory was sent to Paris, where it has been prominently displayed at the Louvre since 1884. Despite its significant damage and incompleteness, the Victory is considered to be one of the great surviving masterpieces of sculpture from the Hellenistic period, with a mastery of form and movement which has impressed critics and artists everywhere. It is considered one of the Louvre's greatest treasures, and is displayed in dramatic fashion at the head of the sweeping Daru staircase. The loss of the head and arms, while in a sense regrettable, is thought by many to enhance the statue's depiction of the supernatural.Photo: One of the large barrel-vaulted rooms on the way to the Mona Lisa.Photo: La Gioconda (full title: Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo) moved in 2005, and the oil-on-poplar-panel work occupies a wall in the Salle des Etats, with much easier viewing and access for the estimated six million visitors who see it annually.Photo: The full version of the Raft of the Medusa. From the Louvre’s Web site: Romanticism’s manifesto, this work caused a huge scandal at the Salon of 1819. For the first time, an artist had depicted an event from contemporary history without having received a commission and had filled his composition with anonymous figures in a format hitherto reserved for historical painting. Precursor of the critical spirit that so often motivates art today, the subject was a caustic statement on the government then in power: in 1816, the frigate “Medusa” sank because of the incompetence of a captain who had obtained his post through political relations. Due to a shortage of lifeboats, 149 people piled onto a raft that drifted for twelve days. Only fifteen survived the ensuing slaughter, madness, and cannibalism. Seen from one corner, the raft appears very unstable, while two diagonals heighten the dramatic tension: one leads the eye to the vast wave that threatens to engulf the raft, the other leads to the tiny silhouette of “The Argus,” the ship that eventually rescued them. This long oblique line evokes the tragedy - the torso of a man who has perhaps been devoured by his companions - and the various psychological states of mind: the dejection of the bewildered man holding his dead son, the dying man rising up with a start, and the desperate hope of those waving to their potential rescuer. But at this point in time, nobody knew which way the scales of fortune would tip. The only hero in this poignant story is humanity, and that is what still moves us today.Photo: Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People (commemorating the July Revolution of 1830, which toppled Charles X) has inspired generations of French patriots. From the Louvre Web site: The peak of fervor occasioned by victory is represented in a pyramidal composition; the base, strewn with corpses, resembles a pedestal supporting the image of the victors. Delacroix had used a similarly rigorous composition for his painting entitled Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi, and a comparable structure is apparent in Géricault's Raft of the Medusa. Here, it serves to contain and balance the painter's vigorous brushwork, and the impetuous rhythm of the scene. The allegory of Liberty is personified by a young woman of the people wearing the Phrygian cap, her curls escaping onto her neck. Vibrant, fiery, rebellious, and victorious, she evokes the Revolution of 1789, the sans-culotte, and popular sovereignty. In her raised right hand is the red, white, and blue flag, a symbol of struggle that unfurls toward the light like a flame. The composition is given unity by the painter's particularly skilful use of color; the blue, white, and red elements have counterpoints; the white of the parallel straps across the fighters’ shoulders echoes that of the gaiters and of the shirt on the corpse to the left, while the gray tonality enhances the red of the flag.Photo: The Venus de Milo (or Aphrodite of Milos, after the island where it was discovered in 1820) draws a large crowd, of course. The statue’s great fame has not simply been the result of its exceptional beauty, but also of a major propaganda effort. In 1815, France returned the Medici Venus to Italy after its seizure by Napoleon Bonaparte. The loss of the Medici Venus, regarded as one of the finest Classical sculptures, led the French to actively promote the Venus de Milo as an even greater treasure, and the epitome of graceful female beauty.Photo: A final look up at the Louvre, from inside the 1988 I. M. Pei pyramid. It is today difficult to understand the controversy this structure originally created, especially since the area was previously used as a parking lot!Photo: Looking down the main nave of Notre Dame.Photo: And here, the rose window which we saw from the outside on our first day boat trip.Photo: The large brass chandelier provided lighting by candles and oil pots.Photo: Now at Saint Chapelle, consecrated in 1248, here in the lower chapel parish church for use by all palace inhabitants.Photo: Only nobles could ascend to the upper Royal chapel - a prime example of the  "Rayonnant" Gothic architectural style with its sense of weightlessness. Much of the chapel as it appears today is a recreation (although nearly two-thirds of the windows are authentic), following serious damage during the French Revolution. The restoration, completed under the direction of Eugene Viollet-le-Duc in 1855, is regarded as exemplary, and is faithful to the original drawings and known descriptions of the chapel.Photo: The glass is striking even when the outside light is not the best, as today.Photo: The rose window in back was added in the 15th century.Photo: A close view of one of the panels, and the detail involved.Photo: Our final dinner is at this pleasant, non-touristy spot on the north side of the city, just off the Canal St. Martin. We are especially fond of finding these little neighborhood spots where the locals dine.Photo: Ash once again opts out of the escargots, but is especially happy with her cheesy first course.Photo: Our last night on Trocadero Square. Hey, isn’t that a young Jean Paul Belmondo walking by? Well, maybe not …Photo: Ah, la politesse francaise! Nothing so crass as “Keep off the Grass,” but rather, “The Lawn is Resting.”Photo: Long lines discourage a trip up, so we watch the Tower come alive from the Champs de Mars.Photo: And at 10 PM, it’s finally dark enough for the famous 10 minutes of Eiffel twinkle.Photo: And one more shot, top to bottom.Photo: Our last morning, and before a taxi to CDG for the trip home, I make one final trip to our neighborhood boulangerie right across the street. The same congenial young Parisian woman greeted me each morning, kindly tolerating my middling French, and provided us with all sorts of morning goodies, from baguettes to croissants to brioches to roulettes de pommes. We parted each morning with a cheery “a demain!” (“see you tomorrow!”), but today I explained that this was sadly our last day in the city. With grace and kindness (for, of course, she is not just a counterwoman - this is her profession, to be viewed with pride!), she wished us a good voyage and good health, and happily posed for this picture. Our parting this time was not with an “au revoir,” but a more hopeful “a la prochaine” - “until the next time.” For this is Paris, which we love so much, and so the next time is most assuredly waiting for us, and we eagerly for it.