374 Photos - Sep 23, 2012
Photo: My Paris arrival on a mid-September Tuesday finds a gray and rainy city, not at all suitable for the bit of touring outside the city planned for today, and so a little Paris wandering will have to do. This first photo sets the theme of this visit as flâneur rather than gourmand: wandering the Ile de France, using Annabel Simms’ “An Hour From Paris” as my main guide,. enjoying lunch with the locals wherever I happen to land, complemented with a light breakfast and an evening snack in my Montmartre studio apartment. Today finds a return to this little spot on the rue des Abbesses, with a delicious mixed salad in a bowl just about big enough to bathe a newborn baby. A good, simple start on a somewhat jet-lagged day.Photo: My errands include some honey buying for folks back home, starting here. And as noted (http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2008/09/honey-made-in-paris/), it is an unlikely spot, but one of those hidden bits of Paris that is a delight to discover.Photo: There’s always at least one Metro ad displaying the wry French sense of humor, as this one with a picture of a couch: “346 action films, 248 romance movies, one baby.” Ha! It’s actually an ad for a self-storage company, including the text: :Your property has a story.” The Metro can be counted on to surprise in other ways. I find myself traveling along today across from someone rolling their own cigarette from a Camel brand kit designed for same, with loose tobacco, papers, and even filters. The job was expertly done by someone with considerable experience in this task, but I was quite nonplussed to see it be a young blond woman who appeared to be barely out of her teens!Photo: Another pleasure today was tasting and buying in La Chambre aux Confitures (now, doesn’t that sound so much better than the English translation as The Jelly Room?) on the rue Vieille du Temple. Lots to like here, but I was especially taken by the apricot and lavender preserves, which I was told was a combination based on their simultaneous ripening in Provence.Photo: You won’t see any big American stars shilling at US bus stops, but that’s no barrier to Natalie Portman going commercial in Paris.Photo: Wednesday dawns cool and clear - a perfect day for beginning my Ile de France wanderings, enabled by my trusty Navigo Decouverte card, out of which I get a lot of travel from my 2 weekly full zone (1-5) passes (“cartes hebdos”) at about $8 a day. A number of trips start here, at the Gare du Nord (North Station). It is the busiest railway station in Europe, accommodating about 190 million travelers annually. There are a number of sculptures on the façade of the building (which was completed in 1865), which represent the various major cities served by the station. The central statue, of Paris, is the one most visible here.Photo: The RER B line takes me south of the city to Bourg La Reine, where the traditional railway station has been surrounded by more modern expansions.Photo: This unusual concrete tower (a water tank for exterior gardens) tops Hennebique House, which was built in the early 20th century to highlight the potential for concrete construction in residential buildings; a more complete history can be found here: http://parisisinvisible.blogspot.com/2011/09/concrete-chateau.htmlPhoto: Along the way to my destination, I pass the Lycée Lankanal, a well known secondary school in Sceaux.Photo: And a very large school it is, with about 3000 students.Photo: Across from the school is an entrance to the Parc de Sceaux, this morning’s main attraction. This building, the Pavillon de L’Aurore, is the only surviving structure from the era of Jean-Baptiste Colbert (King Louis XIV’s Finance Minister), who acquired the property in 1670, and had the surrounding park designed by André Le Nôtre (the King’s principal landscape architect).Photo: The Allée d’Honneur was designed for Colbert as the main entrance to the Park.Photo: That entrance leads to the château shown here.Photo: This is in fact not the château of Colbert’s time, which was destroyed following the French revolution. The present one (smaller than the original) was built in 1856-62 by the Duc de Trévise.Photo: The nearby Orangerie was completed in 1685, two years after Colbert’s son had inherited the property. First used for plays by Racine and Voltaire, among others, it continues today as a concert venue.Photo: The château houses the Ile de France Museum, including rooms and furnishings such as these.Photo: There is also a large collection of porcelain from Sceaux and Sèvres.Photo: This model shows Colbert’s original château and associated buildings, including the still present Orangerie on the leftPhoto: The upper level of the château has fine views of the gardens.Photo: This display includes a bed (which looks uncomfortably short to me) from the Louis XIV period.Photo: Outside again, and walking the Allée de la Duchesse to one of the park’s main attractions.Photo: Which is the Grandes Cascades, a series of stepped waterfalls, seen here from the top. The selection of Wednesday for this visit was no accident, as it is the one weekday when the fountains are active.Photo: And here the Cascades, which are powered by hydraulic action alone, from the bottom.Photo: The flowing water moves first into an octagonal pool, and then here into the Grand Canal, shown near its center. The great year-end storm of 1999 felled many of the poplar trees along the banks, but the quality of the restoration was high, and which are new is hard to determine.Photo: Here is the Grand Canal along its full length of almost ⅔ of a mile, with a small bird sanctuary in the foreground, out of which ducks appear with some frequency.Photo: For a little side trip, I leave the park by the western gate near the Pavillon de Hanovre, which was built between 1758 and 1760 in Paris, then disassembled and rebuilt here in 1932.Photo: Leaving the park, I cross into the neighboring town of Châtenay-Malabry, and soon find myself at the Église Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois, the oldest parts of which date to the 11th century.Photo: Here, in the oldest part, at the tops of the pillars can be found depictions of the stonemasons who built the church.Photo: The age of the church becomes apparent in the condition of the pillars and walls here.Photo: The main church area has the small windows and heavy architecture typical of Romanesque churches of this era. Note that because I try to avoid the use of flash in historical buildings, the compromise is sometimes less than perfect clarity of the shots.Photo: A very typical memorial here, with the names of parishioners who sacrificed their lives in WW I.Photo: On the way back to the Park, I pass these recently-built elegant apartments, where rental for a 2 bedroom unit is about $2000 monthly.Photo: More nice apartments, right across the street from the Park’s gate at the Pavillon de Hanovre.Photo: Now back in the Park, and wandering some of the quiet and well manicured paths on the way back to the château.Photo: The trees here are precisely trimmed to give the small open line at the top.Photo: Such trimming gives the tops of the trees the knotty appearance commonly seen in such French landscaping.Photo: Now back at the château, and this view from the rear.Photo: Lunch today is at this pleasant little buvette (snack bar) near the château, with a freshly made cheese, egg, and sausage crêpe, along a Lipton peach iced tea (ubiquitous in France!). The meal starts pleasantly at one of the tables, but a very fast moving cold front comes through, and within 5 minutes, there is quite a heavy shower. So, I finish my meal (with about a half dozen others) huddled under the stand’s awning. I’m not sure whether I was unlucky with this timing, or in fact fortunate, since there is little other shelter in the Park. It was to be the last rain of the trip, however, which was fortunate, as Paris-area weather can be quite variable in September.Photo: Near the northwest exit of the park is the unassuming Petit Canal.Photo: The adjacent Petit Chateau from 1661 was acquired by Colbert for the Park, and has since had several uses - today, as part of the town’s administration.Photo: Now in town, and passing through the Jardin de la Ménagerie, where the Duchesse du Maine buried her pets - here, the stone column marks the spot for her canaries.Photo: And this part of the day’s journey ends at the Sceaux station.Photo: Back in Paris, I first make a little honey-buying detour to this little shop on the rue de la Butte-aux-Cailles in the 13th, in a southern part of the city known for its almost village-like character.Photo: This trip’s sole Metro-only adventure starts at the penultimate southern stop on line 8, at Créteil Université, named for the nearby Paris-Est Créteil Val-de-Marne University, which opened in 1970, when the University of Paris split into 13 autonomous universities. The stark concrete architecture near the Metro stop is far different from what I will encounter shortly.Photo: After about a mile walk, I arrive at the banks of the Marne river (which ends a bit north of here, where it joins the Seine) with homes like this partially hidden behind trees and fences.Photo: This sign notes that at this location on the riverside Chemin du Bras du Chapitre (not quite certain how to translate this - whether it refers to an arm/branch of the adjacent river, or something else) was located a radio, used by the Resistance headquarters here, to communicate with London in 1943 and 1944.Photo: Here, the surprisingly rural character of the area, where the Marne branches around the Ile St. Catherine.Photo: On the other side of the island, the main flow of the Marne is shared by swan families and touring boats.Photo: On the quiet main island road, l’Avenue des Peupliers, can be found homes in a wide variety of styles.Photo: Here, something a bit more upscale, with attractive gardens.Photo: Most of the homes have a certain brightness and charm.Photo: But occasionally, something dark and mysterious like this appears.Photo: Something unusual here in what I think of as Brittany blue.Photo: Moving over to the adjacent Ile de Brise-Pain, and something quite upscale here.Photo: This pink stucco home has what appears to be a large stained glass window in the center section.Photo: And a final look at a tranquil section of the Marne, and the end of a most interesting touring day, where water played a prominent role throughout.Photo: Thursday morning begins again at the Gare du Nord, with a 45 minute trip on the RER D to the station serving the town of Moret-sur-Loing.Photo: It’s tree trimming day along the 1-1/4 mile walk into town along the Avenue Jean Jaures, There is a nice, intensely green smell from all the freshly fallen foliage, which is abundant, given the take-no-prisoners style of tree pruning in France.Photo: You can’t see them from this angle, but the trimmers are seated at a table in this truck, enjoying a sit-down lunch, including wine, it appears to me - no lunch pails here! So, the French respect for a proper meal applies at all times and  circumstances.Photo: There are some fine traditional homes to be found as I approach the town.Photo: The town entrance is through the Porte de Samois, one of the two basically identical gates which served as the only entrances to the town, at opposite ends of la rue Grande (basically, “Main Street”). The medieval ramparts which circled the town between the gates are now gone. The information plaque at the tower notes that one of the two circular turrets contained the staircase for the tower, while the other served as a surveillance point. The details of the construction, and the absence of a drawbridge, indicate that the tower was raised at the end of the 12th century.Photo: This impressive timbered building in the center of town is adjacent to a WW I memorial.Photo: Also nearby is this clock tower.Photo: Here is City Hall, where the rectangular doorway at the left leads to something quite unexpected in the inner courtyard.Photo: This is the Renaissance façade of a house built in the mid-16th century for Nicolas Chabouillé, finance minister to King François I. According to the information plaque, the decorative elements around the three large arches, include. Italian inspired motifs such as the medallion-style in wreaths of foliage. the representation of the elements by deities, and Roman pillars at the bottom (Neptune, Atlas, Vulcan and Aeolus). Also, the owner wanted to show its commitment to the sovereign by including the emblem of François I, the salamander.
This building was purchased by Colonel Brack and given to his mistress, the actress
Miss Mars,  and became the façade of a Paris mansion. The building passed through various owners, and when the property was finally sold to a developer, the façade was returned here in 1956.Photo: The local boucherie features some items not likely to be found in the US, such as the pig faces just to the upper left of center.Photo: And here is the Porte de Bourgogne tower at the other end of la rue Grande. The information plaque notes that like its twin at the other end of the street, it was closed by both a portcullis and a wooden door. There were also openings on the exterior (bridge) side of the tower for dropping projectiles onto invaders.Photo: My first al fresco café lunch of the trip was in this pleasant little local spot, where I sat at a table in the wooden-fenced area, and very much enjoyed my andouille sausage with mustard sauce, and frites, of course.Photo: Down the rue du Donjon is, appropriately, this castle keep (the only remnant of the royal castle on the site built by Louis VI) from 1128, according to the information plaque. It consisted of three levels: a lower dimly lit floor, a first floor (which means second to us in the US) main residential area, and an upper defensive structure with turrets at the corners. It was a prison beginning in the 14th century, notably for Nicolas Fouquet, finance minister to Louis XIV, arrested
in 1664. In the 16th century, French kings raised funds by renting the manor to, among others,  Maximilien de Bethune (Duke of Sully and future finance minister) and the future King Henri IV, who added gardens and terraces extending to the Loing river. On September 4, 1725, the Polish princess Marie Leczinska spent the night here before her marriage to Louis XV at
Fontainebleau. After the Revolution, the building was sold as national property, and some demolition of the structure followed. Privately owned since the early twentieth century, it has been patiently restored with some modifications that have altered its appearance, such  as
the addition of a rose window from a 15th century church.Photo: As noted above the door, the Impressionist painter Alfred Sisely lived in this home until his death in 1899. He is world famous now for his work, which include landscapes of the local area, but was impoverished at the end of his life.Photo: Nearby is the Église de Notre-Dame, portions of which date back to 1166, with the bell tower added in the 15th century.Photo: The age of the church, and the challenges to any restoration, are evidenced by this statue at the main doors.Photo: The view up the church’s front façade.Photo: The Loing river is right outside the Porte de Bourgogne, with the riverside path on the right known as the Quai des Laveuses (washerwomen), no doubt reflecting the practical use of this area.Photo: The serene and attractive view of the river before crossing the bridge.Photo: There are several old mill houses along the bridge. You can’t see them here, but the interiors contain picnic tables, making them an especially nice spot for locals to relax.Photo: Here’s the lock at the bridge, and the towpath on the right that I’ll be walking down to the next town.Photo: The river is quiet here, but there is evidence ahead of more activity.Photo: Houseboats are common on the Loing, with these more modern in appearance than most.Photo: There is also quite a bit of commercial traffic on the river.Photo: Lots of shore resources for the working boats also, such as this one being power washed in dry dock.Photo: Now here’s a houseboat that really looks like a house on a boat!Photo: I can’t begin to capture the full size of this boat, but believe me, this fellow has a full day’s work ahead of him.Photo: Nothing special here but this houseboat’s name, and so a picture I have to take for my dragonfly-loving younger daughter.Photo: Now in the neighboring town of St. Mammès. where the Loing river ends it 88 mile run from Sainte-Colombe-sur-Loing as it flows into the Seine. The Quai de Seine is quiet on this Thursday afternoon, but I’m betting these cafés, and the riverside tables on the other side of the street, are popular on sunny weekend afternoons.Photo: The 11th century Église de St. Mammès has the heavy appearance of Romanesque churches from the era. The steeple peeking up on the left side actually belongs to the town hall behind the church.Photo: This small well-tended home sits on the Quai next to the church.Photo: And today’s touring ends with a trip back to Paris from the small St. Mammès station.Photo: Friday’s travels begin again at the Gare du Nord, but not on an RER line, but instead on this modern and colorful train on the Ile de France regional network, where I am headed to its last stop at Luzarches. I think I am one of only 3 people left on the train at that stop.Photo: It’s a short walk to the center of town and the market square, where everything from fresh local produce to mattresses are on sale. The market building itself has its origins in the 12th century.Photo: City Hall is right off the market square.Photo: And not far away is the ever-present war memorial.Photo: Luzarches is renowned for its Sts. Cosmas and Damian Church, with its 16th century façade and 12th century bell tower.Photo: The church interior.Photo: The 12th century bell tower dates from the time when relics of Cosmas and Damian (patron saints of surgeons and doctors, which was their own profession) were brought here by the Crusader Jean de Beaumont.Photo: The view of the church is particularly good from the cemetery in the back.Photo: A not uncommon sign in old cemeteries, noting a plot whose upkeep costs are no longer being paid, and so is scheduled for “recovery,” unless arrangements are made at the town hall.Photo: And here’s another one which seems not far from the same fate.Photo: By contrast, this section is very modern.Photo: This small group contains the graves of some of those on the town’s war memorial.Photo: This memorial reminds us that earlier times commonly saw situations that few of us today have to confront: a grave for a 19th century town official and his wife - and of their two children, neither of whom saw their 5th birthday.Photo: Across the street is the Departmental Tourism Office, which I am peeking at through a locked gate. The old stone tower at center right is some of what little remains of the original 13th century château de la Motte, also called the château d’En Bas (basically, the Lower Castle)Photo: Now headed for a little hike outside of town, starting at the Porte de St Côme, the last remnant of Luzarche’s medieval ramparts.Photo: The walk starts on the green and rustic Allée de la Croix St Côme.Photo: The trail leads quickly to, of course, to la Croix St Côme, a memorial from 1874. The walls behind conceal the château d’En Haut (the Upper Castle).Photo: Still on course, passing a hole on the Golf de Mont Griffon, which includes three courses and a 3 star hotel.Photo: Oops! Somewhere I zigged when I should have zagged, and find myself at lunch time not in the neighboring village of Seugy, but back in Luzarches, opting for a traditional steak frites (saignant, of course) at this local place - and believe me, I’m the only non-local, for sure!. Also, as much as my middling French allowed, I carried on quite a lively conversation with the 70-something gentleman at the next table, with French and American politics of particular interest. I’m sure that the half of his discourse I missed was just as interesting as the part I was able to puzzle together …Photo: It’s a short ride back towards Paris after lunch, to the little station at Écouen-Ézanville, for the second stop of the day.Photo: The way forward is a quiet and pleasant forested walk of less than a mile along the Chemin du Four à Chaux (literally, the Lime Kiln Path), and then the Route du Pré Curé (the words for meadow and priest - not really sure what’s being referred to here) to the afternoon’s destination.Photo: Which is the Écouen Château. built (1538-1550) for the Duke of Montmorency, and considered a classic example of French Renaissance architecture.Photo: Although fortified with walls and a dry moat, the Château is of an era when such castles were built with gracious living, much more than defensive needs, in mind.Photo: 3257: After ownership by both the Montmorency and Condé families, it became in 1805 (under Napoleon) a school for the daughter’s of Légion d’Honneur members. It remained a girls’ school until 1962, a full hundred years after being named a state historical monument.Photo: Here, the main entrance to the château, and to the National Museum of the Renaissance, which opened here in 1977.Photo: The museum is entered through the chapel - the stained glass here is not the original, which is at Chantilly.Photo: This copy of da Vinci’s Last Supper, painted by his student Marco d’ Oggiono, is still hanging in the chapel since the time of the Duke.Photo: The vaulted chapel ceiling is painted with the coats of arms of both the Duke and his wife. Madeleine de Savoie.Photo: The adjacent High Constable’s Hall contains this painted Biblical scene above the fireplace of the Queen of Sheba meeting Solomon. The style is classic mid-16th century Fontainebleau School.Photo: There are a wide variety of exhibits in the Museum, such as this one showing the evolution of the hand guard in Renaissance-era weapons.Photo: Some of the rooms are decorated with elaborate wall tapestries, including a set over several rooms telling the story of David and Bathsheba.Photo: A closer view of one of these tapestries, which are considered to be some of the museum’s most valuable objects.Photo: There are more elaborately painted fireplaces in the second floor apartments of the Duke and his wife.Photo: This carved fireplace with marble inlays is in the Great Hall of the King.Photo: The original Château flooring was not wood, as today, but these polychrome tiles.Photo: The central courtyard is undergoing extensive renovations, and so some of the Château’s rooms are not accessible at present.Photo: One of the elaborately decorated chests in the King’s Cabinet room.Photo: Here, a view down to the rear gardens.Photo: A model of the Château as it appeared in the Duke’s time. The present state of the property includes many alterations made in the mid-19th century.Photo: The Château is one high ground, and looks down on the town of Écouen.Photo: And a final look at the Château completes the day’s travels.Photo: Saturday brings the start of the annual mid-September Heritage Days weekend throughout Europe, and so I detour from my Ile de France travels to spend some time in Paris, seeing things not generally accessible. I arrive a half-hour before the opening of the Elysée Palace (basically, the French White House), to find several thousand people already in line! The Palace is open to the public only on this weekend, and I have seriously underestimated the number of local folks, as well as visitors, taking advantage of this rare opportunity.Photo: And in only 10 or 15 minutes, this is what happens to the line behind me.Photo: Four hours later, we finally near the entrance to the Palace grounds. The line is very well behaved, and the advice to bring a book is a very good one, as I pass the time reading David McCullough’s “The Greater Journey” on my Kindle. It’s a fine choice for a France trip, as it details the stories of a number of prominent American doctors, writers, and (especially) artists who make their way to 19th century Paris for education and inspiration. The historical events in Paris are also placed in context, making this a most enjoyable read for this wait, and on my train travels.Photo: This seal with the initials RF (for Republique Française) is commonly seen in government buildings - as here on top of the entrance gate (known as La Grille du Coq - the Rooster Gate), and later throughout the Palace. The rooster as a symbol of the French nation began in the Middle Ages as a play on the Latin words Gallus (an inhabitant of Gaul) and gallus (rooster) - originally, a pun to make fun of the French. The Gallic rooster, colloquially named Chanteclair, has been a much used national symbol ever since the French Revolution.Photo: The rear Palace gate leads into attractive gardens.Photo: A small greenhouse on the grounds.Photo: Quiet spots on the grounds today are rare, but this little corner provides one.Photo: Finally approaching the Palace itself, with unfortunately a bit of another line before entering. The Palace had a number of owners and occupants after its completion in 1722 for the Count of Evreux, including the Marquise de Pompadour, Nicolas Baeujon, and the Duchess of Bourbon. It was also the property of a number of French rulers, including Louis XV, Louis XVI. Napoleon I,  Louis XVIII, Louis-Phillipe, and Napoleon III - and was also occupied by Tsar Alexander I after his victory in the 1814 Battle of Paris.Photo: Following the 1848 Revolution, the National Assembly made the Palace the official residence of the President of the French Republic, and it has remained so ever since.Photo: The view down the full length of the back gardens, with the Rooster Gate not quite visible behind the fountain.Photo: The façade of the Palace is of course in excellent condition, including the bas-relief sculptures.Photo: However, painting of some of the upper level shutters now seems a bit overdue.Photo: The immediate rear gardens include these hedges carefully trimmed into fleur-de-lis shapes. This symbol is particularly associated historically with the French monarchy, and remains an enduring symbol of France (on French postage stamps, for example) although it has never been officially adopted by any of the French republics.Photo: The Palace is entered at the small Salon d’Argent, which takes its name from the number of decorative silver elements present (a result of the lilac and silver color scheme designed for Napoleon I’s sister, Caroline Murat).. This tiny room is historically significant, being the place where Napoleon I signed his act of abdication after his 1815 defeat at Waterloo, and where Napoleon III organized his 1851 coup d’état.Photo: An example of the painted cherubs on the Salon’s walls.Photo: The anodized aluminum ceiling and molded polyester walls in the next room are in striking contrast to the rest of the Palace.Photo: It is the Paulin Dining Room, designed by Pierre Paulin in the early 1970’s in a contemporary style favored by Georges Pompidou and his wife.Photo: This is the only Palace room in which Pompidou’s wave of modernization still survives (which many descriptions begin with the word “fortunately”!).Photo: The library is the only remaining room of the private apartments of Napoleon III. It was used as an office by the presidents of the Fourth Republic, then later converted into a library by President Giscard d'Estaing.Photo: The adjacent Salon des Fougères (Fern Room, but no idea why, unless it has something to do with the floral wallpaper) is the study of the current President.Photo: The Palace’s most famous room is certainly the Salon des Fêtes (Banquet Hall).Photo: The elaborate boxed ceiling is decorated with panels painted by Guilaume Dubufe in 1896.Photo: After each 5 year election, new French Presidents are inaugurated in this room, which is also frequently home to their press conferences.Photo: Just can’t get enough of that remarkable ceiling.Photo: The room can hold up to 240 guests for State dinners.Photo: On the walls are 18th century tapestries woven in the famous Manufacture Nationale des Gobelins, which dates back as a royal factory supplying the court of Louis XIV and later monarchs. It is still in operation in Paris’ 13th arrondissement, under the auspices of the French Ministry of Culture.Photo: The total expenditure for beverages served in this room is over 1 million euros annually.Photo: The Hall, built on plans by Eugene  Debressenne, was inaugurated on May 10, 1889, during the Universal Exhibition. However, work on the room under architect Adrien Chancel was not fully completed until 1900.Photo: A collection of menus from State dinners is on display.Photo: There was extensive remodeling in 1984, during the presidency of François Mitterrand, including the addition of 10 large windows on the south and east sides which greatly brightened the room.Photo: The RF emblem appears throughout the room, sometimes relatively simply, as here.Photo: And sometimes in more elaborate and ornate forms.Photo: Copper cookware - with some pieces well over 100 years old - is on display.Photo: The large vessel at left is a sauce dispenser, while on the right are cake molds.Photo: The salon Murat has been home to the weekly (Wednesday morning) meeting of the Council of Ministers since Pompidou. The President and Prime Minister sit on opposite sides of the table, across from the small brass box - which is a clock, so that each may see the time simultaneously. Also, at dinners for foreign heads of state, honored guests are presented in this room. Visible at the rear, with a clock on top, is a console table dating from 1819, with porcelain decor from the Manufacture Nationale de Sèvres - which (like the Gobelins) has a royal history, but is now state operated.Photo: The Salon des Aides de Camp is used for smaller (up to 23 persons) official lunches and dinners. The room’s floor covering is a fragment of the great carpet from Napoleon’s throne room in the former Château des Tuileries.Photo: The The Salon des Ambassadeurs, per the name, is the room where the French President traditionally receives the credentials of foreign diplomats. The room is filled with fine traditional furnishings, although the carpet is of much more recent vintage, having been woven in 1990 in the workshops of the Manufacture Nationale de la Savonnerie (historically, the most prestigious European producer of knotted-pile carpets).Photo: An example of the exceptional pieces in the room is this ormolu (a gilded copper alloy) mantel clock depicting the fall of Phaeton, with the clock dial including indications for month, moon phases and zodiac signs.Photo: The Salon Pompadour (named from its use as the state bedroom of the Marquise de Pompadour; it also was the bedchamber of Napoleon I) is used by the president for audiences and dinners. The room is furnished with 17th century tapestries and Louis XV and Louis XVI pieces.Photo: And here is another elaborate clock, with apparently the same fall of Phaeton theme as the previous one.Photo: The Salon des Portraits, under Napoleon III, was named after the eight portraits of heads of State of the time that are placed on the upper walls, and so not visible here. It has recently been used as the president’s private study.Photo: One more of those clocks that seem to have especially caught my interest.Photo: Here is one of the head of State portraits. Of the eight (Pope Pius IX, the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph, King Victor Emmanuel of Italy, Tsar Nicolas I of Russia, Queen Victoria of England, King Frederick William of Prussia, Queen Isabella II of Spain and King William I of Wurttemberg), three can be easily eliminated as possibilities, but anything beyond that would be just a guess.Photo: The Salon Cléopâtre (formerly the Marquise de Pompadour's dressing room, and Napoleon III's study) takes its name from this Gobelins tapestry: The Meeting of Antony and Cleopatra.Photo: The room was completely renovated in 1992 to return it closely to the original design.Photo: The elegant Murat Staircase leads to the upper level. The original building did not contain a central staircase, and so this one (the subject of an 1808 painting by Francois Gerard of Caroline Murat descending it) was added in 1806.Photo: An upper level antechamber to the President’s office has portraits of all deceased Fifth Republic Presidents - here, Francois Mitterand.Photo: The other antechamber is the the Salon Vert (Green Room), a meeting room for the president and his close advisors.Photo: The office of the President of the Republic, the Salon Doré (Golden Room), retains the original 1861 decor by the painter Jean-Louis Gogon for Empress Eugénie. It is decorated with Gobelins tapestries, carpets from the Manufacture Nationale de la Savonnerie, a Napoleon III crystal chandelier and chest of drawers by Boulle. The masterpiece of this room (and said to be the most valuable item in the Palace) is the Louis XV desk by the 18th century cabinetmaker Charles Cressent, which was placed here at President de Gaulle’s request. It took a few minutes to get this unobstructed picture, as most everyone lingered at this spot.Photo: The Salon des Tapisseries (Tapestry Room), located near the main entrance, is decorated luxurious tapestries and contains a copy of the French Constitution. This receiving room for visitors contains three large tapestries (placed here during Third Republic by President Félix Faure) depicting the history of Scipio, the Roman general who defeated Hannibal at Battle of Zama (I think - there was another general by the same name who led the final siege and destruction of Carthage a little later in 146 BC).Photo: The main entrance to the Palace, which is the exit today.Photo: Some State vehicles are displayed on the Court of Honour, a large open space from the early 18th century, and also the location of important events such as the arrival of a new President, and recognition of Legion of Honour recipients. This car does have some history, with a photo nearby showing its arrival here with the US President Kennedy in the early 1960’s.Photo: And the tour is complete with a final look back at the main entrance, at 55 Rue du Faubourg-St-Honoré.Photo: The long entrance line disrupted my plans for a visit to the National Assembly, and also lunch, which ends up being a quick  2 PM ham and cheese crepe (premade, then reheated - sigh …) and drink at this Champs Elysée stand. It is interesting to see that many French folks seem to favor an American-style hot dog, but in a bun which is a length of a hollowed-out baguette - still one piece, with a tube shaped opening in the middle.Photo: It’s a short hop on the RER A to St Germain-en-Laye, where my wandering plans are detoured by the sound of singing close by, in a little courtyard off the Rue de la Salle. I have by good fortune stumbled on to the start of the 7th Choers en Fete, and the opening group, L’Ensemble Vocal du Pincerais, who makes this town their home. As I sit quietly and listen, the moment (always welcome, never assured, and completely unpredictable) arrives: I have in this moment of my journey fully landed in France, and it surrounds and overwhelms me in a manner beyond description. Such fleeting seconds of the pure, unfiltered joy of being completely in the present moment cannot be extended, or repeated in exactly the same way, but are always the most memorable moments of my travels.Photo: On one side of the square is the rear bell tower of the Église St Germain, the fourth church to stand on this site since 1028 - this one having been completed in 1828. The church is the burial place of James II (Stuart), King of England and Scotland, who died in exile here in 1702.Photo: The town’s dominant historical structure is the massive château, parts of which date back to 1539, and the birthplace of Louis XIV in 1638 (the reason the town’s coat of arms shows a cradle and this date).Photo: The château’s grounds are extensive and popular on a sunny Saturday afternoon.Photo: There are a number of narrow tree-lined paths on the groundsPhoto: The broader Allée Louis XIV leads to the grounds’ famous overlook.Photo: Here, from the viewing table at the Rosarium, is the La Defense are of Paris - somewhat hazy in this view at moderately high zoom.Photo: This familiar landmark peeking above an intervening hill should need no introduction.Photo: The garden’s  famous 1-1/2 mile long stone terrace, giving the impressive views of the Seine valley back to Paris, was built by by André Le Nôtre in 1669-1673.Photo: It may be mid-September, but there are still plenty of locals working on their tans near a garden café.Photo: In the early 1800’s, Napoleon I established his cavalry officers' training school at the château.Napoleon III had the castle restored by Eugène Millet in the 1860’s, and it became the Musée des Antiquités Nationales (Museum of National Antiquities) in 1867, displaying the archeological objects of France from Paleolithic to Merovingian times. This use was interrupted in WW II, when the château served as the headquarters of the occupying German Army in France.Photo: As noted here, soccer games are forbidden on the gardens’ grounds.Photo: Which means, of course, that most every flat space has games underway - after all, the next Zindane might be playing here!Photo: I return as planned to the singing festival, and am completely charmed by this group, Voix Nouvelles, and their French-accent-influenced renditions of a number of pieces of American popular music.Photo: Now back in Paris after a long but very pleasant day, and this reminder that street food grilled in shopping carts can be found seasonally. In several months, it will be chestnuts, but in September, it’s corn on the cob.Photo: Sunday morning starts here at the Luxembourg Palace, built in 1615-1631 for Marie de Médicis (mother of King Louis XIII), and now the home of the French Senate.Photo: After yesterday’s experience, I arrive almost an hour before opening, and find this mercifully short line - which grows by quite a bit by opening time.Photo: I would guess that the nearby real estate is some of the priciest in Paris.Photo: Entry to the Palace’s West Wing is through this main courtyard.Photo: Looking back to the massive entry gate, which is topped with a so-called lantern dome.Photo: The 48 step Staircase of Honor, built by Chalgrin in the early 19th century, leads up to the Senate chamber.Photo: From the top, a bit of the coffered vault,ceiling can be seen. Also visible are some of the 18 Gobelins tapestries hung between the embedded  ionic columns.Photo: War memorials are everywhere in France, and the Senate building is no exception.Photo: The State Messengers Room, formerly an antechamber for Marie de Medici’s public and private apartments is named after the group who were in charge of official messages between the State’s main bodies. This small room is finely decorated; shown here are one of the six mid-19th century paintings on the walls, and one of the four marble busts (which could be any one of  former Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, Belgian King Albert 1, French abolitionist writer Victor Schoelcher or Raymond Poincaré, the French president during WW I).Photo: Connected to this room is the exquisitely ornate (Second Empire style) Conference Hall, of which more shortly. It is 187 feet long, 35 feet wide, and, 36 feet high. Completed by Alphonse de Gisors in 1854 by combining three rooms of the original building, the Hall allows Senators to meet with guests and colleagues without leaving the building.Photo: The small Departure Room (so named as an entrance to the main Senate chamber), with a desk from the First French Empire (Napoleon I), and Louis XV-style chairs from the Second French Empire (Napoleon III).Photo: The Gallery of Busts, created by Alphonse de Gisors, contains carved busts of XIXth century Senators and politicians. The President of the Senate passes through this gallery before opening the Senate’s sessions.Photo: The office of the Questeurs: three Senators elected by their peers to lead the Senate administration and budgeting. The window is flanked by portraits of two important figures in pre-Revolutionary France: on the left, Pierre Séguier (chancellor in the mid-17th century), and on the right, Achille de Harlay de Sancy (a noted 17th century clergyman, diplomat and intellectual).Photo: The main reading room of the Senate Library includes decorative elements by renowned French artists, including Reisener Louis Antoine, Camille Roqueplan, Eugène Delacroix, and Pierre-Charles Simart.Photo: The more than 400,000 volumes in the library are composed heavily of legal and economic books.Photo: The Chamber where the Senate holds its sessions was built from the plans of architect Alphonse de Gisors from 1836 to 1841. The Senate Chamber is made up of two hemicycles: a larger one where the Senators sit and this smaller adjoining one, where orators stand, and the President of the Senate sits to preside over the debates.Photo: The smaller hemicycle is supported by eight columns of stucco, between which are seven statues of renowned legislators.Photo: The large hemicycle contains the seating for the 348 Senators, who are indirectly elected. That is, they are chosen, by 150,000 directly elected officials ("grands électeurs"), including regional councilors, department councilors, mayors, city councilors in large towns, and members of the National Assembly.Photo: Once again, works by renowned French artists are common in the Chamber.Photo: The Chamber’s oak paneling includes artistic carvings by Jean-Baptiste Jules Klagmann and Elshoècht Triqueti.Photo: Each Senator’s seat contains a nameplate such as this. Fourteen desks include commemorative medals honoring renowned former Senators (Victor Hugo, Victor Schoelcher, Pierre Waldeck-Rousseau, Marcellin Berthelot, Émile Combes, Georges Clemenceau, Raymond Poincaré, René Coty, Gaston Monnerville, François Mitterrand, Michel Debré, Alain Poher, Edgar Faure, and Maurice Schumann)Photo: The Senators’ desks are grouped by political affiliation. In a tradition dating from the first National Assembly during the French Revolution, the "left-wing" parties sit to the left as seen from the President's seat, and the "right-wing" parties sit to the right.Photo: A bit more of the elegant Chamber decor.Photo: The are also desks for important Senate functionaries to the side of the main platform. I think that the three Questeurs sit at the small table containing the large green vases, but could not confirm this or find more information about the vases themselves.Photo: Here, a closer look at some of the items in the Gallery of Busts.Photo: Now in the Conference Hall, where atop this fireplace is a marble bust of the Republic by renowned 19th century sculptor Auguste Clésinger.Photo: The ceiling paintings include the Age of Peace and the Age of Victory by Adolphe Brown.Photo: This is the throne used by Napoleon I when attending meetings of the Sénat Conservateur - an advisory rather than a legislative body. Completed in 1804 by cabinetmakers Georges Jacob and Jacob-Desmalter from a design by architect Jean-François Chalgrin, the throne is gilt covered, with red velvet and gold embroidery which includes the bee, an imperial emblem.Photo: The archways contain two large panels by Henri Lehmann of France's history - one from its origins to Charlemagne, and the other from the French epic of the First Crusade to Louis XIV.Photo: One of the Hall’s ornate doors, with multiple occurrences of the RF seal.Photo: The Victor Hugo Room owes its name to this bust, sculpted by Antonin Mercié in 1889, of the famous writer and distinguished parliamentarian - Peer of France from 1845 to 1848 and Senator of the Third Republic from 1876 until his death in 1885.Photo: This bronze medallion, sculpted by Paul Fournier, also pays tribute to Victor Hugo.Photo: The Library Annex had a number of uses since its completion in 1630, including a residence for distinguished guests, and as a detention center (including, for example, Thomas Paine) during the French Revolution. From 1750 to 1780, it was home to the first public museum of French paintings. It ultimately became part of the Library in 1887. The vaulted ceiling (extensively renovated in 2010) is decorated with a series of paintings, including the twelve signs of the Zodiac by Jacob Jordaens (considered Rubens’ best student) and, in the center, Sunrise of Aurora, by Antoine-François Callet. On the center table is a bronze bust of Anatole France by Jo Davidson, an American student of Rodin. [Continued in comments]Photo: This Office of the Vice President of the Senate (one of three) has a mixture of modern and Empire-style furniture. It was formerly the reading room of the Peers of France (who functioned in the first half of the 19th century similarly to the British House of Lords).Photo: The room’s elegant fireplace is supported by two yellow marble sphinxes.Photo: The Golden Book Room, so named as the location (until 1848) of the Golden Book of Peerage.Photo: The ornate room contains some of the remnants of Marie de Medici’s private apartments, which were were stripped of their lavish decorating during the Revolution.Photo: The Questeurs Gallery opens on the south façade, facing the garden. 19th century statues of Spring and Autumn by François Jouffroy, and of Summer and Winter by Jules Antoine Droz, are hidden in niches in the room.Photo: And here is the view into the gardens from the Gallery.Photo: The ground floor Clemenceau Foyer contains two significant historical collections, the first being numerous representations of Marianne assembled by Pierre Bonte and acquired by the Senate between 2001 and 2006.Photo: Marianne is the embodiment of the French Republic, representing the enduring values of her citizens': "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity". Marianne has become the most widely shared representation of France - at times intense and warlike, at times peaceful and nurturing. There is no single policy for the representation of Marianne, which has inspired more than 100 models, including celebrities such as Brigitte Bardot (1969), Catherine Deneuve (1985), Mireille Mathieu, Mireille Darc, Isabelle Adjani and most recently Laetitia Casta.Photo: The other collection consist of a variety of objects centered on the history of the Senate.Photo: This large mural (by Jean Bazaine in 1988) is at the entrance to the Clemenceau Hall.Photo: Clemenceau Hall is a large (262 seats) multipurpose (hearings, committee meetings, political groups, conferences, and cultural events) room completed in 1984. Today, an animated film of the history and workings of the Senate is being shown.Photo: Adjacent to the main Palace is a smaller one called the Petit-Luxembourg, which has been the official residence of the President of the French Senate since 1958. The Queen’s Chapel was created in Baroque style by Alphonse de Gisors in 1854, using an aisle of the Filles du Calvaire church which was destroyed in 1844. Above the altar is an Ernestine Philippain copy of the Mater Dolorosa (original attributed to Philippe de Champaigne and in the Museum of Dijon).Photo: Here, the office of the President of the Senate, furnished in First Empire pieces, including the desk with feet shaped as winged lions; also, gilt armchairs covered with Beauvais tapestries from the late 18th century, based on drawing by Jean-Baptiste Oudry with the theme Fables of La Fontaine.Photo: The Winter Garden is the former monastery of the Filles du Calvaire which was converted to this form in 1854. At the center of the basin is a statue of Eos (goddess of the dawn) by Leon Séverac.Photo: While the US Congress may have a gym, the French Senate has its own private clay tennis court!Photo: This flower bed is installed on the cover of a blockhouse built in 1937 as part of the civil defense program. The decorative boxwood hedge was replanted in the early 1950s, following a design by Joseph Antoine d'Argenville Dezallier, an 18th century naturalist, lawyer, and art historian, who was well known for his treatises on the theory and practice of gardening.Photo: Now back out in the Luxembourg Gardens, and finding that on Sunday morning, the boats in the main pool are not the simple rentals moved by children with wooden sticks, but more elaborate models being radio controlled by an older generation.Photo: And a final look back on the Palace and Gardens as I proceed southerly. There’s another line expected for my afternoon stop, so lunch will need to be a sandwich picked up for the popular Rue Mouffetard shopping street.Photo: Paris seems endlessly full of new discoveries, even after 15 or so visits, as here I pass by for the first time the Church of the Val-de-Grâce. The church was founded by Anne of Austria, Queen Consort of Louis XIII and mother of Louis XIV. Construction began in 1634, and was completed in 1667, including the successive participation of François Mansart, Jacques Lemercier, Pierre Le Muet and Gabriel Leduc.Photo: And La Mouffe is in its usual active weekend mode as I pick up lunch at one of the popular boulangeries.Photo: It’s al fresco dining at its simplest today, sitting on a bench in the Marco Polo Garden - part of what forms what is known as Les Jardins de l'Observatoire (Observatory Gardens), with the unexpected presence of a number of ping-pong tables.Photo: At the southern end of this chestnut-tree-lined garden is this monumental fountain, known variously as the Fontaine des Quatre Parties du Monde (Fountain of the Four Parts of the World), the Fontaine de l'Observatoire or the Fontaine Carpeaux, after the main sculptor. Built in 1873 under the supervision of Gabriel Davioud, the bronze masterpiece represents Asia (depicted by the figure of a Chinese woman), Africa (represented by the figure of a black woman), Europe (represented by the figure of a white woman), and America (depicted by the female figure of an American Indian). The four figures, which support a globe decorated with zodiac signs, are surrounded by prancing sea horses, created by Emmanuel Frémiet. Finally, smaller statues of fish and turtles ring the outer edge of the fountain.Photo: A bit less than an hour wait gets me not too far from the front of the line into the Paris Observatory, the world’s oldest such active institution - predating England’s Royal Greenwich Observatory by less than a decade.  In 1665 the physicist and astronomer Adrien Auzout persuaded Colbert and Louis XIV to construct “l'Observatoire Royal.” The main structure, built without wood (for fire proofing) or metal (to minimize magnetic disturbances).was completed in 1672 according to a design by Claude Perrault (also the architect of the Louvre Colonnade).Photo: This small dome contains a 13 inch diameter lens-based astrographic telescope (i.e., intended only for celestial photography). It was the starting point for the ambitious “Carte du Ciel” project, an international star-mapping effort initiated in 1887 by Paris Observatory director Amédée Mouchez. The project’s main goal, supported by 20 observatories around the world, was to create a photographic reference Astrographic Catalogue of the entire sky down to 11th magnitude stars (which are 100,000 times fainter than the dimmest stars visible to the naked eye). The project was never fully completed, although more than 22,000 (glass) photographic plates were exposed over several decades.Photo: This astronomer provided a lively exposition (with lots of clever props!) of a number of astronomical subjects and phenomena in a near one-hour presentation, which he repeated several times over the course of the afternoon.Photo: This building face contains a number of scientific instruments in bas-relief.Photo: Now up on the roof, near the entrance to the main dome, with its fine views of the city - here towards the Montparnasse Tower.Photo: Here is the view down L’Avenue de la Observatoire, with Montmartre in the distance.Photo: The view towards Montmartre at high zoom - my little studio apartment is in there somewhere!Photo: Here over the rooftops is the Eiffel Tower, the La Defense complex, and (if you look carefully) the golden dome of Les Invalides.Photo: A closer look down L’Avenue de l’Observatoire, with the Luxembourg Palace at the top.Photo: Now inside the dome of the Meudon great refractor, a 33 inch aperture refracting telescope completed in 1891, making it the second largest in the world at that time.Photo: While no longer world class, it is still in active use and carefully maintained, as our guide showed when he easily moved the precisely balanced instrument with one hand.Photo: Now back in the Luxembourg Garden, where it seems that le tout Paris is enjoying the fine September Sunday weather.Photo: And the day’s touring end at the Garden’s main pool, which has been restored to its proper state as the home of children’s toy sailboats.Photo: The weekend is over, and with it the Heritage Days, and so it’s off into the country again, to Conflans-Ste Honorine, by the regional line from Gare St-Lazare to this station.Photo: City Hall here is this nice stately structure.Photo: But it is Monday morning, and so often the quietest morning in many towns and villages - as reflected in the state of the tourist office here.Photo: The town is an important port for inland waterways traffic (i.e., barges), and there will be lots of them to see along the quays on Port Saint-Nicolas.Photo: Some of the barges form a sort of floating museum, but today there’s that not-open-on-Monday thing.Photo: From the quay, looking up towards some homes and the town’s higher ground, of which more later.Photo: In a number of spots, the barges are moored 5 across. Some are working ships, and some houseboats, but it’s not always easy to tell which.Photo: Some of the medieval town fortifications can be seen here.Photo: In some cases. it is in fact a little easier to tell which barges are houseboats …Photo: On higher ground in the town is the Romanesque Tour Montjoie, the remnant of a larger 11th century castle which strategically overlooked the valley of the Seine. It is 49 feet high, with walls almost 6 feet thick, and unusual in that all 4 walls are still standing.Photo: Here’s the first of three views from the Tower, looking straight out to the Seine.Photo: Next. the view downriver towards Paris.Photo: And finally the view upriver towards the Oise, which joins the Seine just outside of town.Photo: Once in a while, something a little more modern interrupts all the barge traffic.Photo: Just down the Rue de la Tour from the Tower is the Eglise St. Maclou, the only surviving structure in town (other than the Tower) from the 11th century border wars. The church is in the process of some restoration, and so is not always open.Photo: But it is open today, and I am able to view its notable features, including two tombs of the Montmorency family, who ruled Conflans from 1270 to 1642 - here,  Mathieu de Montmorency IV, who died in 1304.Photo: The expansion of the church continued into the 19th century. The bell tower was also rebuilt in 1927 after being struck by lightning.Photo: Here is a statue of the church’s namesake (also known as Malo  or Mac'h Low), the mid-6th century founder of Saint-Malo, and one of the seven founder saints of Brittany.Photo: Here, a statue of Sainte Honorine, the oldest, most revered virgin martyr in Normandy - although little is known of her life. In 876, the monks guarding her relics in Normandy moved them here for safekeeping, placing them in the chapel of the Tour Montjoie fortress. In 1082, the castle was destroyed during a siege, and  the monks subsequently built a church outside of the town walls, dedicated to Honorine. Her relics were transported there, and her name added to Conflans in the 13th century, giving the town its present name.Photo: This 19th century chateau and grounds stand on the spot of the former Benedictine priory founded in 1080 for the veneration of the relics of Sainte Honorine. The park and chateau (which now houses the Musée de la Batellerie, highlighting barge construction and the history of river transport) was acquired by the town in 1931.Photo: There are fine views of the town and river from the terrace of the Parc Gévelot behind the chateau.Photo: The park contains a large children’s play area. The structure for younger children in the foreground seems normal enough, but I wonder if the climbing ropes in the rear would ever be found in the litigation-happy US.Photo: There are lots of quiet corners in town, with older and newer homes side by side.Photo: Lunch today is a tasty roast pork and frites on this local spot on the Place Fouillère, the portside center of town. The town market has been held here since 1859, and the square expanded just a year later and planted with linden trees.Photo: After lunch, I begin my journey to the neighboring town down the Quai de la Republique, here passing the permanently moored 230 foot long barge “Je Sers” (I Serve). This towed barge (originally named “Langemark”), built in 1919 for the transport of coal, was then purchased by the Mutual Social Boatmen in 1936. It was renamed "I Serve" by Father Joseph Bellanger, founder of the parish church and social center now here, and inaugurated in November 1936.Photo: The barge is moored in front of the Chateau Théméricourt, built in 1667. At the beginning of the 20th century, it was an open-air sanatorium, and later a convalescent home for WW I wounded. It was then purchased in 1921 by a boatmen’s group to serve as a boarding house for the schooling of the boatmen’s children. It was given to the State in 1960, and currently houses administrative offices.Photo: Now here’s a guaranteed way to eliminate carjacking! I assume that there is a special ramp or similar to let this vehicle reach dry land.Photo: Not sure what to make of this bishop-and-children-in-a-boat statue on one of the bridge piers supporting the N184 road just east of town. Is this Saint Maclou, or someone else? Couldn’t seem to find any more information on this interesting object.Photo: At the confluence (thus, the town’s original name) of the Seine and Oise rivers is this war memorial to the bargers.Photo: The view of the Oise river, which has flowed for 188 miles from Chimay (the Belgian sister city of Conflans), to end here where it joins the Seine. Two bridges can be seen: the Rue du Marécourt bridge in the foreground, and the Pont Eiffel in back.Photo: They’re not normally in the small towns themselves, but this familiar structure often can be found just outside, as seen here from the Rue du Marécourt bridge. Hey, there‘s a lot of barge traffic passing close by, and even a grizzled boatman needs a Big Mac once in a while!Photo: Here’s the view from the bridge upstream along the Oise. There are a number of  industrial docks, services and maintenance workshops in this area, which some of these barges are undoubtedly taking advantage of. The Pont Eiffel railway bridge seen here was built in 1892 by the Eiffel company (for metal parts, and Soubigou for masonry), then destroyed in 1944 during WW II by one well placed bomb, and finally rebuilt in 1947.Photo: It’s a pleasant riverside walk along the Avenue de Fin d’Oise to the nearby town of Andresy, where the steeple of the Église St-Germain can be seen at right center, along with the very green Ile du Devant in the Seine.Photo: Lots of fine looking riverside homes here.Photo: Ha! A bit of French alliteration and whimsy here, along with a serious purpose - loosely translated: this is a sidewalk, not a doggie toilet.Photo: Andresy has a fine looking City Hall on the riverside Boulevard Noel Marc.Photo: And yet another elegant gated riverside home.Photo: Andresy’s 13th century Église St-Germain is undergoing extensive renovation, and so not open today.Photo: Like numerous French churches with this name, it is dedicated to the 6th century Paris bishop who was especially noted for his work with the less fortunate.Photo: These covered structures mark the location of Les Halles, where a market has been held since the Middle Ages.Photo: The ever-present war memorial.Photo: The day’s small town touring ends here at the Andresy station, but not quite the day itself. As the trip begins to wind down, it seems appropriate to give Paris a bit of its due, and so I spend some time in a comfortable shaded chair in the Tuileries, just watching the city go by ...Photo: In the Metro, on the way to this morning’s trip to Poissy from the Gare St. Lazare, I spot this play advertisement: “I love you, you are perfect ... change!!!” It would seem that relationship issues have much in common on both sides of the Atlantic ...Photo: Here are the remnants of Poissy’s old bridge (a bit reminiscent of Avignon’s Pont Saint-Bénezet), whose origins go back to the 13th century. In medieval times, the bridge had thirty seven arches and was topped with four windmills. In the 17th century it became a fortified toll bridge, with a drawbridge, and a solid door at each end that opened and closed at specific times. The Seine at Poissy was a rich fishing area, with nets strung between all of the bridge’s arches - but only at night, since navigation was a daytime priority. The bridge was permanently destroyed by Allied bombing 26 May 26, 1944, and a temporary one used from 1946 to 1951.Photo: And here is the old bridge’s permanent replacement, the Pont de Poissy, completed in 1952.Photo: There is a pleasant riverside walk in town, where the Seine passes by the Ile de Migneaux.Photo: Also, a nice tree-lined walk a bit farther down.Photo: Never found any details on this large brick house on the Avenue Emile Zola, but its unusual shape for some reason reminded me of the Winchester Mystery House back in the US in San Jose.Photo: The Collegiate Church square, and its statue of Saint Louis (Louis IX), who was born in a castle which formerly stood here. That castle was burned during the Hundred Years War, then demolished by Charles V.Photo: The Notre Dame Collegiate Church (which derives its name from having been ministered to by a college of canons), originally from the 12th century on the remains of an older structure, is considered a beautiful example of the transition from Roman to Gothic architecture. There were extensive additions in the 14th, 15th, and 17th centuries; the Church suffered greatly during the Hundred Years War, the Wars of Religion and the Fronde. This damage led to major restoration work during the 19th century, the most famous by Viollet-le-Duc (from 1846 to 1861), who sought to restore the church's Roman character by eliminating the choir's Gothic bays and rebuilding a circular chapel in the chevet (“a semicircular or polygonal east end of a church, especially a French Gothic church, often with a number of attached apses”). The church houses the stone baptismal font of Saint Louis, a 1903 organ by Cavailles Coll-Mutin, and exceptional works of sacred art, particularly its woodworks and sculptures.Photo: One more view of the church exterior.Photo: The Gothic aspect of the Church is revealed in the nave.Photo: Across the street from the church is another impressive brick mansion.Photo: This medieval gate marks the location of a former Dominican Abbey (now gone) and its extensive grounds. Being taken with this location, the well-known painter Ernest Meissonier came here in 1846 and established an important painting school. This drew important members of Paris’ artistic and literary community to the town, as described in a book by Guy de Maupassant.Photo: The Meissonnier Park is on the grounds of the former Dominican Priory’s gardens, and was acquired by the town and converted into a public park in 1976. It is centered on this small lake, informally landscaped in the English garden style.Photo: Here, in a corner of the park, is this statue of Ernest Meissonier (1815[-1891), a French Classicist painter and sculptor famous for his depictions of Napoleon, his armies and military themes. He enjoyed great success in his lifetime, and was acclaimed both for his mastery of fine detail and careful craftsmanship.Photo: Here’s another view of the old bridge as I walk back into town for lunch. On the right is a well-known restaurant, named for the massive fish caught on this spot in 1839 by the owner. The restaurant was frequented by a number of the previously mentioned luminaries, including Manet, Corot, Pissarro, Renoir, Matisse, de Maupassant, and Zola.Photo: Another pleasant al fresco lunch in town, with a terrine de porc starter, steak frites, and a plum tart dessert - yum!Photo: When I arrived in the morning, this gentleman was fishing in this spot. He’s still here more than 4 hours later, looking completely contented. with a line in the Seine.Photo: I’m beginning my walk to the next town along a Seine-side path, with attractive homes on the Ile de Migneaux.occasionally visible. I’m guessing that the riverside barge homes here rarely move, since their gangplanks all seems to have shoreside mailboxes attached.Photo: Another view onto the island, which contains a single road, and served by 2 bridges: one auto, one pedestrian - but none at the end of the island in the direction I am going, so I don’t get any closer islandside views.Photo: The riverside path includes quite a number of garden plots, presumably owned or leased by town residents. I’m betting that these are more than simple vegetable gardens, but also serve as simple “pied á terre” second homes, with their small sheds doubling as cottages for relaxation. A few plots contain obvious signs of such extended usage, such as children’s swing sets.Photo: The Chemin du Bord de l”Eau path I am walking is a very pleasant stroll on a sunny and crisp September afternoon.Photo: Farther along, as I approach the town on Villennes-sur-Seine (and a new single-road island, the Ile de Villennes, appears), the path begins to include fitness stops, such as this balancing beam.Photo: Villennes has a number of boating activities and schools along the Seine, and the small riverside cottages all seem to be associated with nearby docks - and protected by fierce creatures such as here.Photo: Villenes has a mix of traditional and more contemporary residences.Photo: Villennes’ Romanesque church dates back to the second half of the eleventh century. It suffered extensive damage during the Hundred Years War, but because of the strength of its walls and the thickness of its buttresses, it avoided total ruin. The bell tower was added in the late 16th century.Photo: The church interior is simple and serene.Photo: As seen from the church entrance, the commercial area along Avenue Georges Clemenceau is quiet in a Tuesday mid-afternoon.Photo: The Villennes station is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.Photo: The pedestrian bridge at the station affords a limited but better view of some of the Ile de Villennes homes. And then it’s back to Paris, today giving the city its due by spending some time sitting at the Luxembourg Gardens, again just watching the city go by ...Photo: The final day of touring begins from the Gare de l’Est, with the arrival in Crécy-la-Chapelle about an hour later via the Ile de France east regional line.Photo: Like so many towns from medieval times, Crécy was a fortified village, with 46 towers around the enclosed area. In many places only remnant remains, as here - this one topped by the old Town Hall’s belfry, which was placed here in 1876.Photo: The fortifications included a number of brassets, or defensive moats, which draw from the Grand Morin river in town.Photo: Here, the current Town Hall, acquired in 1872.Photo: The picturesque brassets throughout the town make for some simple but compelling views.Photo: A number of the old buildings along the brassets were tanneries, a major industry here in past times.Photo: This archway marks one of the few remnants of the medieval ramparts.Photo: The abundance of these small canals has given Crécy the nickname of “the Venice of the Brie.” (And yes, this is the region of the cheese with the same name.)Photo: One of the remaining mill wheels in town.Photo: Crécy-la-Chapelle has existed as such only since 1972, the year of the merger of the neighboring villages of Crecy-en-Brie (also called Crécy-sur-Morin) and La Chapelle-sur-Crécy.Photo: The Église St Georges in town was rebuilt between 1779 and 1781 by the Duke of Penthièvre, the last Count of Crécy, and last legitimate grandson of Louis XIV and Madame de Montespan. The steeple dates from the 13th century, with the balustrade on the top from the 17th.Photo: This small building boasts a charming trompe l’oeil façade.Photo: It is easy to see why the painter Corot found the town so compelling during his 1873 stay here.Photo: The Grand Morin river flowing through town rises and falls with the seasons, and flooding is not an infrequent occurrence.Photo: Although not in evidence today, the area contains a number of vineyards, producing high quality wines. According to an early 19th century work: :This wine of Brie? It makes goats dance!"Photo: Now walking south of town, along the Grand Morin river.Photo: The route takes me to the impressive Gothic 13th century Église de la Chapelle.Photo: A small creek runs off the Grand Morin under the church, past this little washing house.Photo: The church is normally closed on weekdays, but by good fortune, I happen to be here during a time when there is a large art exhibit inside. The condition of the church indicates a recent thorough cleaning of the stone walls.Photo: Here, in a small side chapel, the Madonna and Child.Photo: Nearby is a modern interpretation of this theme in wood.Photo: And here a second one. I find the juxtaposition of the traditional and contemporary sculptures to be especially compelling.Photo: There are a number of art works on and around the main altar.Photo: The back of the church and main entrance.Photo: And, of course, the ever present war memorial, commemorating parish members fallen in WW I.Photo: The church fights a constant battle with the small stream of the Grand Morin, holding back any more of the damage done to the foundation over the centuries.Photo: The full exterior side view of the church, and its particularly impressive flying buttresses.Photo: Now back in town, and walking Les Promenades, a tree-lined path along one of the brassets. In this area, many of the moat-side homes have gated entrances over the water.Photo: And here, even a mini-drawbridge!Photo: It’s pretty clear that no one has lived here for a while ...Photo: A look back at the area I have just traveled.Photo: Along this part of the brasset is another remnant of one of the medieval defensive towers.Photo: There are also areas in town which show a very traditional character (except for the vehicles, of course).Photo: My final Ile de France lunch is at this popular spot - although inside service only today, in spite of the fine weather. My excellent lamb brochette with couscous and vegetables was completed by a large and indulgent piece of Black Forest cake.Photo: On the way out of town, I spot a war memorial that I had missed on the way in.Photo: The small end-of-the-line train (and that’s not graffitti, but part of the design) at Crécy-la-Chapelle goes only as far as Esbly, where there is a change to the main regional train back to Paris.Photo: And on this final day, Paris gets a few more hours, as I walk from the Ile de la Cité along the quays (where the bouquinistes seem quite active for a Wednesday afternoon) and past the Orsay to the elegant Pont Alexandre. Then, up the Invalides Esplanade and the ever-present boules players, and along the Rue St. Dominique past Thoumieux, the restaurant where I ate my first Paris meal 25 years ago. It’s a short walk along the Rue Cler and its busy market, then over to the Champs du Mars and this familiar view. If fate and fortune are kind, I hope to find myself again in this very same spot soon.