156 Photos - Aug 3, 2008
Photo: It’s Saturday, November 22, and after an overnight flight, and 3 hours by car, we arrive at our B&B in Normandy. It’s Les Marronniers (Chestnut Trees), outside the little town of Cambremer, in the Pays d’Auge region – famous for its many horse farms, cheeses, and products from apples (more on that later). Here is the main house.Photo: Here is one of the guest quarters buildings. The property is owned by the Darondels – he a former large animal veterinarian in Paris, and she the primary caretaker and decorator of this Chambres d’Hotes. They have lived here about 20 years, and have operated the B&B for the last 10. We saw pictures of the property when purchased – what they have done to restore it is quite remarkable!Photo: The other guest quarters, done in the half-timbered architecture typical of the region. Here, Kim and Rob check things out.Photo: The family horse, Boy (pronounced “bow-ee,”) is pastured adjacent to the guest quarters. There is also a small donkey, who seems to follow Boy around, mostly hidden on the horse’s right.Photo: Here we are at dusk, looking at the very narrow lane leading to the house. It seems impossible that two cars could use the road at once, but we made it work several times, even with our good-sized van!Photo: Farther down, we pass by this interesting tiled home.Photo: Another example of typical Norman architecture. We were told that besides the rural location, crime is not a problem here: both a well-known French actor, and a retired senior EU minister, have homes on the lane, and local police patrol regularly.Photo: Here’s our room, looking at the sitting area; it’s done in a typical French country style.Photo: Our first dinner is in Cambremer, in the small local restaurant Au P’tit NormandPhoto: It’s now early Sunday morning, and the house cat takes his usual breakfast spot on this window sill.Photo: Cambremer is at the heart of what is called the Cider Route, a circuit linking local villages and small recognized producers of apple cider, Calvados (apple brandy), and Pommeau (an aperitif which is a mixture of the two). Here we are at the home of Mme. Foucher (age 70, and living with her 97 year old mother!), who was kind enough to open her cellar to us for an exclusive tour and tasting of her products. We ended up purchasing 9 bottles of Pommeau – which our hosts later told us was a nice sale for Mme. Foucher on such a Sunday morning.Photo: Farther along, we stop briefly in the little village of Beuvron-en-Auge, also on the Cider Route, and holding claim to being one of the most beautiful villages in France. We return that night for dinner in another local restaurant, La Boule d’Or (The Golden Ball). As in all of the local restaurants we sampled, $15-20 bought a very nice 3 or 4 course meal.Photo: Another example of the fine half-timbered architecture of the region.Photo: Moving along, we are now in Etretat, famous for its towering limestone cliffs.Photo: On the opposite side is L’Eglise Notre-Dame de la Garde (Church of Our Lady the Protector), dating back to the 11th-12th century. The barely seen slanted spire to the right of the church is in memorial to two French aviators, Nungesser and Coli, who made the first, unsuccessful attempt to fly the Atlantic in May, 1927. Their aircraft was seen for the last time at this location.Photo: We walk up the cliff heights along to the Falaise d’Aval, where the Manneporte arch and the Aiguille (Needle) can be seen. To get a sense of the scale, this solitary spire is about 230 feet tall.Photo: A look back towards town, showing part of the golf course just behind the cliffs – a real links course, and what elevation changes!Photo: Another view of town. There are a few remnants of German fortifications from WW II, but Etretat does not have a good natural harbor, and so was not considered a strategic location.Photo: We move along to Honfleur, sometimes called the Jewel of Normandy, and a very popular tourist spot. It was also a central gathering spot for Romantic and Impressionist painters, and continues its strong artistic traditions to this day. Here we see La Lieutenance, what remains of the 16th century home to the king’s Governor of Honfleur.Photo: Looking now towards Le Vieux Bassin (The Old Dock), and a central area of the town.Photo: Our first view of L’Eglise Sainte-Catherine, a rare example of all wooden church construction. After the Hundred Years War, all stonemasons and architects were engaged in larger reconstruction projects, and so the church was built by the local shipwrights in thanksgiving for the departure of the English.Photo: The Clocher (bell tower) de Sainte-Catherine is unusual in that it stands completely separate from the main church.Photo: The church’s interior has a double knave, and many wooden statues.Photo: A view of the church exterior, along the only side where the entire structure is easily visible.Photo: Back to The Old Dock, looking at the St-Etienne Quay (meaning bank of a river or waterway), with its impressive two-story stone dwellings – the homes of rich merchants and business owners in early Honfleur.Photo: On the other side, Ste-Catherine Quay - note the contrast to St-Etienne. Here, timber and slate dwellings of up to seven stories marked the side in which fisherman and other workers lived.Photo: Monday morning dawns cold and rainy, and after a two-hour drive, we arrive at Mont-St-Michel. This view from near the entrance to the Abbey looks down on the parking lot, where our red Citroen van can be clearly seen at the entrance. Only in November could one get such a choice parking spot! We are here at low tide, and must leave by late afternoon, as this lot will be under water by early evening.Photo: Outside the Abbey Church, looking up at the main spire. It tops out at 515 feet above ground level with a statue of St. Michael the Archangel.Photo: Inside the church, where its construction in stages is evident. The lower Romanesque portion has heavy walls and small windows. The upper Gothic section, with improved construction methods, allowed for larger windows. Construction on the Mount began in the 8th century, and continued in various stages through the 16th.Photo: Another view up the central chancel, showing the arch construction common to Gothic architecture, and one of the elements allowing the lighter, more open structure.Photo: We are now inside the Cloisters, a square arcaded passageway which was a main point of transit within the Abbey.Photo: A view up from the Cloisters, to some of the structures referred to as La Merveille (The Marvel), a collection of Gothic buildings from around the 13th century.Photo: Much of the decorative work inside the cloisters is of a general floral theme. Here, however, the master stonemasons slipped in several images of themselves – reportedly much to the displeasure of the monks!Photo: We are now inside the Refectory, one of the structures of La Merveille, and a central meeting a dining room for the religious community. It is considerable more illuminated than this picture shows, since the two main windows are supplemented by a larger number of thin widows not visible along the side walls.Photo: The archwork in the Salle Des Hotes, where visitors of nobility were received.Photo: The Great Wheel, dating from the period when the Mount was used as a prison. 4 or 5 men walked inside the wheel, powering ropes used to haul provisions to the upper levels.Photo: The final stop for our small group tour (just us and another American couple) is the Scriptorium, where manuscripts were copied and studied by the monks.Photo: The weather has cleared a bit, making for more enjoyable walking on the ramparts.Photo: We are at relatively low tide right now, and the silting of the Bay is evident. This problem was accelerated by the building of the causeway connecting the Mount to the mainland. There is now a plan to remove it, replacing it with a long bridge, and so returning the bay to a more natural water flow. We are at new moon, so the tides are especially impressive. The differences between low and high tides here can be nearly 50 feet, and it is true (as claimed) that they can move at the speed of a galloping horse. The couple on our tour said that they saw the tides come in the previous evening, and it was like a dam had been opened! Unthinking visitors are sometimes trapped, and in fact a helicopter had to be called in the previous day to rescue several careless tourists.Photo: Looking back up the main structure from the ramparts.Photo: Another view of the main spire, with the Archangel now more clearly seen at the apex.Photo: A single main street, the Grand Rue, defines the town. It is full of shops and eating places, catering now to tourists in much the same way that it did to religious pilgrims for centuries.Photo: An example of the colorful, medieval-style signage in the town – here for La Poste, the post office.Photo: A final look back at the full Mount. That evening we have dinner at Le Pot d’Etain (The Pewter Pot), a lovely country inn outside the little town of Manerbe. The French love to dine out, but usually late in the week or on the weekend – so, we are the only ones in the restaurant tonight! Our hosts tell us that this is not unusual, and many such restaurants make their way by being completely booked on the weekends. The entire staff, including the female chef, was under 35 years old.Photo: On Tuesday, we are touring some of the beaches and other historical areas from WW II. Here we are at Arromanches, site of the most remarkable engineering achievement of the war. Some remnants of the artificial harbor, the Mulberry, can be seen in the distance.Photo: Another view of some of the artificial breakwaters, large concrete filled boxes, which protected the floating piers closer to land. The Mulberry was constructed under high secrecy in England, then towed across the Channel in June of 1944. Over a half-million tons of material were supplied through the artificial port from June through August, at which point the major ports of Antwerp and Cherbourg were in service again.Photo: Here, a memorial to the Royal Engineers involved in the operation.Photo: The effect of the tides is remarkable here as well. We are present today at high tide and a new moon, meaning especially high water. When we were here two years ago, one could easily walk about 25 yards on the beach past this nearest remnant!Photo: We are now at the famous American Cemetery at Colleville, just up from Omaha Beach, site of some of the heaviest fighting on D-Day. This land has been given by France to the US, and so we are officially now on American soil.Photo: Most of the 9,385 marble crosses are engraved with a name, unit, home state, and date of death. But not all …Photo: The winding path from the cemetery down to Omaha Beach – again, little exposed due to the high tide.Photo: From whatever angle viewed, the crosses form perfect straight lines.Photo: A view down the coast, towards Pointe du Hoc, where we will visit next.Photo: Looking back towards the main monument. A carillon inside plays patriotic US music on the hour.Photo: Inside the monument are detailed descriptions of the course of the struggle through Normandy.Photo: We are now at Pointe du Hoc, where this simple plaque gives a description of the encounter here.Photo: The site has not been restored in any way, and so the remains of fortifications, and the shell craters, are plainly visible.Photo: Portions of the tunnel system which ran between fortifications can also be seen.Photo: The 120 foot cliffs in the area give a sense of what the Rangers faced on that day.Photo: The monument, at the cliff’s edge (and blocked from closer approach due to erosion), commemorates the 225 Rangers who began the battle – with only 90 remaining at the end.Photo: Shawn and Barry checking out what remains of this fortification.Photo: We move on to the less-well-known German cemetery at La Cambe, final resting place for more than 21,500 soldiers who fell in 1944. Here, the central mound of the memorial.Photo: A view of the groups of 5 crosses placed throughout the grounds.Photo: The grave markers themselves are more subtle than at Colleville.Photo: Our final stop of the day is at Le Memorial, the famous D-Day museum (opened in 1988) on the north side of Caen. The unusual entrance is meant to symbolize the opening of the continent which began with the D-Day landings not far north of here.Photo: A new section of the museum, the Hall of Peace, covers events during the Cold War period and after.Photo: The are many unique design elements in the museum, as seen here in an area chronicling the early years of the US-Soviet conflict.Photo: Most of the museum is devoted to events leading up to WW II, and its resolution. Here, the reconstruction of a town wall from the French Resistance period.Photo: Now outside near sunset, and the illuminated flags of the nations.Photo: And a final look back of the museum.Photo: Dinner that night was at L’Auberge Les Peupliers (The Inn of the Poplars), outside the little town of Giberville, just east of Caen. We had a good meal here two years ago, and decided to return. We had the same waiter, who we recognized, and who said he recalled us! He even described where we sat, and the name of the B&B owner who made the recommendation, and so I know that he was telling the truth – but how he remembered, I’m not sure. Once again, we had the place all to ourselves.Photo: Our final morning and breakfast at Les Marronniers, with our host Christiann, who watched over us very well while the Darondels were on vacation in Morocco (leaving later on the day we arrived). She is the 17th of 18 children, and left school at 14 to begin working, and has been with the Darondels for years (Mme. Darondel described her as “like a sister to me.”) A kinder and more helpful person would be hard to find.Photo: The main house at dawn. There are actually only a few small chestnut trees on the property; we were told that the former owner went a little crazy in his old age, and chopped them all down.Photo: Barry with the two dogs, Popeye and Pomme (Apple), who are father and daughter.Photo: Later Wednesday, on to Paris - after some mishaps finding our van drop-off office in the western suburb of Nanterre, and a kind man who drove there, with us following, even though it was clearly out of his way! We are staying on the Right Bank this time near the major department stores like Printemps and Galeries Lafayette. The Hotel Langlois is a traditional French one, and in fact changed its name to this from L’Hotel des Croises after being featured in the movie “The Truth About Charlie,” a remake of “Charade.” The name was selected by the director in honor of Henri Langlois, the founder of French Cinematheque.Photo: Our room has this large built-in bed: on one side the door is an armoire, on the other side the entrance to the bathroom. Here, Diane checks out the equipment.Photo: That night we have our “cuisine intermezzo” – taking a break from all the rich dinners in Normandy by having a light snack in the food court at the Louvre. Here, the view outside, with the Eiffel Tower and the golden dome of Les Invalides in the distance.Photo: Taking the Metro down to Les Invalides, where this is the view of the Eiffel Tower when the flashing lights are turned on for 10 minutes on the hour. The system was installed for the millennium celebration, with the intent to be on for one year. The concept was popular, but the system not designed for long-term use, so it was off for a year or two during rewiring, then recently turned back on.Photo: Les Invalides, an exceptional example of Baroque architecture, at night. Napoleon’s tomb (a series of six nested coffins!) is under the dome. The other buildings house several museums, including one of the world’s foremost military museums.Photo: The Eiffel Tower in its more normal (the last 50 minutes of every evening hour) state.Photo: One of the illuminated bridge towers of the Pont des Invalides.Photo: The Palais Bourbon, just on the Left Bank; home to the French Parliament (L’Assemblee Nationale) since 1798, and always under close police surveillance.Photo: The Place de la Concorde, at the end of the Champs-Elysees. The 107 foot Egyptian obelisk is almost 3000 years old, and was erected here in 1833.Photo: Thursday morning brings a tour of the Bois (forest) de Vincennes, one of the two large wooded areas on the outskirts of the city – this one on the east side (the better known Bois de Boulogne being on the west end). It was originally enclosed in 1183 by Phillipe Auguste to hold hunting animals given to him by the King of England. Here at the entrance to the Chateau de Vincennes, the principal residence of French kings until 1668.Photo: An impressive sight, even under renovation, is the Donjon (keep) at 175 feet tall - the only remaining part of the fortress constructed here by Phillipe de Valois in 1328-1350.Photo: Also under renovation is the Chapelle Royale, a Gothic church modeled on Sainte Chapelle.Photo: A look back at the Chateau. Quite a number of German troops were garrisoned here in WW II, and heavy damage was done when they blew up several munitions dumps before fleeing the city during its August, 1944, liberation.Photo: Farther along, the Parc Zoologique de Paris, opened in 1934, and one of the first zoos to use moats and walls – not cages – for its more than 1000 animals. The approach is dominated by the man-made Grand Rocher (rock) at over 230 feet in height.Photo: Here, some of the mountain goats that call the Rocher home.Photo: Continuing on to Lac Daumesnil, one of the artificial lakes created by Adolphe Alphand when the park was formally laid out under Napoleon III in the 1860’s.Photo: Near the lake is an Asian area, which includes a large Buddhist temple (roof in the background) and a Japanese building closer. The sculpture in the foreground by a noted Japanese artist was presented as a token of Franco-Japanese friendship. It is titled Les Pelerins des Nuages et de L’Eau – Pilgrims of Clouds and Water – presumably a reference to the central Zen and Buddhist tenet of the impermanence of all things.Photo: Now Thursday afternoon, and beginning a two-part tour of the remains of the ancient Wall of Paris, constructed around 1200 CE by King Phillip Augustus. The wall served political, commercial, and psychological purposes, as well as military ones. It was over 3 miles in circumference, between 20 and 30 feet high, and up to 9 feet thick at the base. Here is the longest (about 260 feet) visible portion, on the Rue des Jardins Saint-Paul, with the Saint Paul church down the street. At the far side, one of the defensive towers, which were set about 200 feet apart, can be seen. The contrast between ancient and modern is evident all along the Wall – here, I am photographing between the bars of a fence, and just off the shot to the left is a group of boys playing basketball.Photo: A bit farther down, at the corner of Rue Sainte-Paul and Rue Neuve-Saint-Pierre, is this towering structure – the remains of the bell tower of the medieval church St-Paul-des-Champs, where French royalty were baptized from 1361 to 1559. As is often the case, these old structures were incorporated directly into more modern buildings.Photo: Here, a bit of the Wall can be seen above a schoolyard at 10 Rue des Hospitalieres-St Gervais.Photo: The base of a tower can be seen here at 55 Rue des Francs-Bourgeois; the upper part of the tower was “restored” in the 19th century in a completely different style!Photo: A brief detour to 58 Rue des Archives, to Olivier de Clisson’s Portal, a gateway to a 14th century manor house of France’s nobility, and restored in the 19th century.Photo: Now at 69-71 Rue du Temple, and L’Hotel de St-Aignan, a townhouse now being converted to a museum. The windows on three sides, as shown at the far right, are real. However, the southern wings “windows” are covered, since behind them is the Wall, which the building’s architect did not tear down, but simply incorporated in the structure.Photo: This modest sign on the Rue St-Denis marks the location of the Porte (gate) at this spot. Gates were few, and this one was on a main north-south route, and so was especially well defended.Photo: At 20 Rue Etienne Marcel, we find the Tour de Jean-Sans-Peur (Fearless John’s Tower). In 1407, Jean Duke of Burgundy arranged the assassination of rival Duke Louis d’Orleans; then, to avoid reprisals, he built this tower and closeted himself in a fortified bedroom on the top floor – not that fearless! In spite of this, he was killed by his rivals in 1419. The tower is connected to the Hotel de Bourgogne, which contains inside a tower of the Wall.Photo: The Wall’s presence has led to many architectural oddities, such as here at 13 Rue de Louvre. This concave building corner is the result of a long-gone tower, around which the building was designed.Photo: Finally, this very narrow building at 148 Rue Saint-Honore - the width determined by the Wall and one of its gates that once stood on this site.Photo: That evening we are on a Bateau Mouche for the one-hour trip up and down the Seine through central Paris. There is an especially good view of the Eiffel Tower from our Pont d’Alma departure point.Photo: And, on the hour, on come the lights. We have a very nice bistro-style dinner that night at La Table d’Aligre, on the Place (square) d’Aligre, home to a daily busy market for goods of all sorts.Photo: Friday morning brings the second half of the Wall tour, this time on the Left Bank. Here, on the Quai de Conti, a plaque noting the location here of the long-gone Nesle Tower. Such plaques, noting various historical events or places, are common throughout the city.Photo: Here, at the end of the narrow Rue de Nevers, is a stuccoed-over portion of the inside of the Wall.Photo: To see the other side of this part of the Wall, I proceed to 27-29 Rue Guenegaud. Here, several workers were kind enough to let me inside the ground floor of one of the buildings, where the Wall is one side of a modern office!Photo: And adjacent is a tower rising up from the room, behind a laser printer! The gentlemen were very kind, responding to my “merci bien” not with an informal “de rien,” but with a more formal “je vous en prie.” Politeness in Paris is always returned in kind, in my experience.Photo: In the Passage Dauphine is a language school, whose receptionist realized quickly what I was looking for – this section of the Wall in the Philip Augustus Lecture Hall.Photo: What is now the Rue Mazet was once La Rue de la Contrescarpe, which was the outer wall of the Wall’s moat in this area.Photo: Here, in a toy store at 4 Passage du Commerce St-Andre, a recently-cleaned tower, reportedly close to demolition a few years ago to make space for a fast-food restaurant!Photo: Nearby is La Procope, one of the oldest cafes in Paris still in business.Photo: Some of its historically famous clients, such as Robespierre and Benjamin Franklin, are commemorated by portraits in the front windows.Photo: Subtle signs of the Wall appear in many places. Here, at 2-4 Rue Antoine Dubois, the door and ground floor windows are not perpendicular to the façade, showing the Wall’s presence here.Photo: Similarly, at 5 Rue Sofflot, the skewed building face is in fact parallel to a section of the Wall in a private courtyard behind.Photo: Another plaque, at 172 Rue St-Jacques, shows a plan of the gate at this site, and the defensive structures which prevented attackers from approaching at high speed.Photo: Behind the latticework doors at 10 Rue Thouin, is a painted section of the Wall.Photo: Another plaque, high on a building at 50 Rue Descartes, notes the Porte Bordet (simply the name of the man who owned this land when the Wall was built) at this site.Photo: The name Fosses denotes a dry moat formerly running through this area. It was also used as a dumping ground, with many arguments about who was responsible for clean-up.Photo: This courtyard at 62 Rue du Cardinal Lemoine shows a nice length of recently-restored Wall.Photo: The same bit of Wall, unrestored outside the courtyard, showing the structure of the internal and external stonework.Photo: Another nice section of the Wall at 7 Rue Clovis, topped by the archer’s path added by Charles V in the 14th century.Photo: Another small plaque at 2 Rues des Ecoles (right above un distributeur – an ATM!) denoting the major Porte St. Victor here, named for the Abbey just outside the Wall in this area.Photo: Photo: At 7 bis Blvd. Saint-Germain, another narrow building of now familiar origin: replacing a section of Wall removed as rising land prices in this area encouraged its demolition.Photo: Finally, here at 13 Quai de la Tournelle, a former part of the Wall serving as a prison tower, where 17th century thieves and ladies of the evening were detained before exile – to places like Louisiana ….Photo: A lunch break takes us back to our hotel just off the Place de la Trinite, named for this church on the square. It is a neo-Renaissance structure from the 1860’s, with what one guidebook describes as “a central wedding-cake tower of dubious aesthetic merit.”Photo: Friday afternoon takes us on a tour of the exterior of Notre-Dame Cathedral. The construction was in two phases: 1163 to about 1250 for the central structure and towers, and 1220 to 1320 for the flying buttresses, which opened space for the stained glass and the chapels between them. Much of what is plainly visible is, however, a product of 19th century restorations.Photo: Now on the parvis – the large open area in front of the Cathedral’s main entrance. It was enlarged to its present space in the 19th century; earlier, it was quite narrow, as shown  by the white stone stripes marking the width of the original approach.Photo: The parvis was earlier so narrow because the area was crowded with smaller chapels, such as the remaining outline of this one – it could not have been more than about 40 feet long by 20 feet wide.Photo: Now on the north side, at the Cloister Portal.Photo: The famous gargoyles served a very practical purpose: draining water as far as possible from the Cathedral walls. Why such beastly forms were chosen for a Christian church remains a mystery, but possibilities include them representing the pagan state of all creatures before redemption, or as charms to ward off evil spirits.Photo: The lintel above the door served its typical purpose in the Middle Ages: a pictorial representation of Biblical events for the illiterate majority of the people. This one contains two stories: the Nativity on the lower level, and a 13th century play about a Bishop Theophile on the upper two.Photo: Also on the north side is the Red Door, decorated between 1250 and 1270 by Pierre de Montreuil (one of the first known architects of the Cathedral, and who also renovated St-Germain-des-Pres and designed Sainte-Chapelle). The central area shows an angel crowning, and Jesus blessing, Mary, while looking on are King Louis IX and Queen Marguerite de Provence, who ruled during the door’s construction. On the arches are scenes from the life of St. Marcel, a well-known 5th century Paris bishop.Photo: Near the door are a series of bas-reliefs on Mary, this one showing her funeral procession. An unbeliever tried to seize her coffin, but the Archangel Michael cut off his hands, which remained attached to the coffin!Photo: Now on the John XXIII Square, and a view of the famous flying buttresses. Computer simulations suggest that if the buttresses’ attaching points were moved just an inch or two in any direction, the structure could not have stood. How this precision was realized in the 14th century remains a mystery.Photo: Back at the Pont de l’Archeveche bridge, one can see some of the twelve apostles (in four rows of three each) on the main spire. They were placed there during the 19th century restoration by architect Viollet le Duc. Interestingly, one apostle on the top row is facing inward, towards the spire, in essence shunning the city around him. This apostle, with the face of Voillet, represents Doubting Thomas, and is the architect’s response to the criticism he received for the spire as part of his restoration!Photo: Along to the southern face now and Saint-Stephen’s Portal, the entire lintel being devoted to scenes of his life and martyrdom.Photo: This southern tower, with its narrow archer’s-slit window, contained an asylum room which authorities could not enter.Photo: The delicate columns high on the main facade were each cut from a single piece of stone. It has been calculated that the removal of even one would result in a major collapse – another mystery of the skills of the 14th century builders.Photo: The statues in the Gallery of Kings are all 19th century replicas, as the originals were destroyed during the Revolution. Why there are 28 statues is uncertain. The Revolutionaries destroyed them as images of the French monarchy, even though the Church claimed they represented the Kings of Judah (of which there were only 15, however).Photo: Now to the three main doors, first the Saint-Ann Portal on the right, with images both Biblical and those of more French origin. The central part is believed formed around 1140-1175, and is supposed to have been  originally designed for an earlier churchPhoto: Photo: The central area is topped by Jesus and several angels, below which is the Archangel Michael weighing the souls of the resurrected, who have been awakened by the angel’s trumpet as shown in the bottom area.Photo: On the left side is the Virgin’s Portal.Photo: The main theme here is Mary’s Assumption into heaven.Photo: Some of the minor stonework contains many curiosities, as shown here. There are twelve panels representing each month of the year on the outward side, and they are matched by images of the twelve signs of the Zodiac – another bit of non-Christian representation at the Cathedral.Photo: On the way home, passing by L’Hotel de Ville, Paris’ city hall. The present structure was built in 1874-1884, and follows closely the 16th century Renaissance original (which was destroyed during the Commune of 1871).Photo: Near our hotel, one of the major department stores decorated for the holidays.Photo: That night, on the way to dinner (at Le Jardin de Ann et Phil – Ann & Phil’s Garden – where we had some very good seafood), we see Sacre Coeur in the distance.Photo: Also illuminated for the holidays is Samaritaine, a department store directly on the Seine’s Right Bank.Photo: Notre Dame by night. Most of the illumination is by searchlights on buildings to the left.Photo: The much-photographed Gothic fountain on the back side dates from 1845.Photo: Saturday is reserved for some casual touring, such as here at the popular market street La Rue Mouffetard (“La Mouffe” to locals).Photo: One of my favorite stops in Paris, the Place des Vosges, the oldest square in the city. It has always been a very desirable address since it was created by Henri IV early in the 17th century.Photo: Whatever the weather (such as this chilly afternoon), groups of men can be seen without fail on Saturday afternoons playing boules (the French name for bocce) on the esplanade of Les Invalides.Photo: On the way back to the hotel (before our dinner that night at La Chaumine Normande – The Norman Cottage – one of our favorite out-of-the-way Paris restaurants) I chance on this group of musicians playing in front of the Paris Opera. There were more than two dozen brass and percussion performers, all under 30, and they drew a large and enthusiastic crowd. As I listened for a while, I had the unbidden experience of being exactly in the moment with what was occurring, and simply savoring the present experience, and feeling what in Buddhism is called sukkha – the sweetness of life. A most pleasant and unexpected way to conclude a memorable visit to France.