July 24, 2014

  • An Eastward Homage, Day 14, Part I: Capital of the Bold

    June 9, 2014- From 1986- 1992, Penny and I lived and worked in the South Korean island province of Jeju.  We both trained English teachers.  Our son was born there, and so the affinity for Korean people and culture has stayed with us.

    As I got back to Pontorson, to catch my train to the Breton capital city of Rennes, (pronounced “Hren”), I encountered a young Korean lady, who was looking for a train/bus schedule.  She was headed for Rennes, and from there, she had to go to the airport in Nantes, a city about an hour or so southeast of Rennes.  My train would have gotten her to Rennes with about 90 minutes to reach Nantes.  That would have put her at the airport one hour before her flight.  I asked where she was from in Korea, and it turned out, she was from Jeju!  Once we made that connection, a bus came that was headed for Rennes, so she hopped on and I had made another interesting, but ephemeral, connection.

    I already had a train ticket, so I stayed behind, for another hour and had pizza and rice pudding at Pontorson’s only pizzeria.  The fare was actually agreeably light.  Most pizzas in France are made with thin crust.  The train arrived around 4:15 PM, and I was soon on my way southeastward, to Brittany’s well-preserved and vibrantly cosmopolitan capital.  Rennes, like the rest of Brittany, has a bilingual element to it, but feels more continental than the communities further northwest.  Perhaps that’s because it is the only major city in the region that is inland.

    I arrived in Rennes around 5:20 PM, and found that my hotel, De Bretagne, was directly across Place de la Gare from the train station.

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    The service was as fine as could be expected.  My computer battery died here, so my reports henceforth would come via Cyber Cafe.  My attempts to charge the device, both in Rennes and elsewhere in Europe, proved futile.  It took 10 hours of a 220 volt current to get this machine back from the dead, but that’s a story for later.  The bottom line is, aside from that, the staff at Bretagne were supremely helpful.  The high school girl who tended my room was extremely efficient, and the desk people had breakfast ready on the double, each morning.

    Well, on with the show.  Avenue Jean Janvier and Square Kergus lay just to the west of the hotel.

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    Most of the homeless and other street people are to be found on Rue Jean Janvier.  I was joined at dinner in Royal Kebab, by a trio of free spirits who pranced about the tiny restaurant and eventually ordered some emportee items, much to the relief of the stern Algerian owner.  One of the men resembled a young Kiefer Sutherland and the woman looked a lot like Natalie Portman.  They were a nice bit of comic relief, after I had pounded the cobblestones for a few hours.

    Once I reached the canal area, I spotted the very modern Theatre National Bretagne, off to the right.

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    Although Emile Zola was a Parisien, and his life’s work was accomplished in the capital, he was, and is, highly regarded in Rennes, and across Brittany, for standing up for the downtrodden.

    L’Acadmie Lycee Emile Zola is one of Rennes’ most prestigious high schools.  As it happened, the trial of Captain Alfred Dreyfus, who was defended in the press by Zola, was held here.

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    Nearby, the Grand Canal features Quay Emile Zola.

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    On the south side of this quay is La Musee des Beaux Arts.

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    It being Sunday night, the museum was closed, a fact that is a bit surreal, given that sundown here was close to 10:30 PM.

    Walking further towards the city centre, at 8:00 PM, I spotted a congregation, and their priest, gathered outside L’Eglise Saint-Germain.

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    I aimed towards the spire, so as not to catch unaware parishioners in the camera cross hairs.

    The central place of Rennes has three imposing structures.  Here is the Post Office building, which also houses Television Bretagnais.

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    A block or so to the south, the Opera House and Hotel de Ville (City Hall) share a square.

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    Rennes’ back streets are also arresting, in their own, rather Hanseatic appearance.

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    I did not get inside the cathedral on this visit, but the exterior offers a reason to pencil it in, on a future sojourn. Here we also see La Place de la Cathedrale.

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    My attention was thoroughly captured next by La Porte Mordellaise, by the ensuing Roman-era ramparts, Les Murailles, and by the fortress from the days of Amorican Romans, who resisted both the Bretona to the west and the encroaching Germanic Franks, coming from the east and north.

     

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    I must have been on or among the ramparts for close to an hour, this being my first real exploration of Roman ruins.  Of course, the upper levels were definitely Frankish, but were equally impressive.

    My evening ended with a quick view of the Parliament of Brittany.

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    I walked back to the hotel, past Place Motte and Palais St. Georges, but more on them, next post.

     

July 23, 2014

  • An Eastward Homage, Day 13: The Mount, The Tides and The Saint

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    Around, 708 AD, Aubert of Avranches, a monk of Normandy, established an oratorical chapel on an outcrop of land, some two miles separate from the mainland, at high tide. He dedicated the small church to St. Michael, the Patron Saint of Sailors.

    Thus, today, we have Mont St.-Michel, France’s most popular site, outside of Paris, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It  was to this unique and astonishing place that I came, along with nearly 700 others, on the lovely Sunday, June 8, 2014.

    I had taken a train to Pontorson, a small town in the southwest corner of Normandy, on Saturday afternoon.

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    There are about a half dozen small hotels there, but I had booked a room in a more rustic setting, Roz-sur-Couesnon, six miles over the department line in Brittany.  Pontorson has a bus that takes passengers directly to Couesnon (not to be confused with Roz), which lies at the northern end of the Causeway to Mont St.-Michel.  There are more hotels, shops, and a Visitor’s Center, with lockers, at Couesnon, Normandy.  I ended up taking a taxi to Roz, and L’Hotel des Quatres Salines.

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    After a lovely night’s sleep, and a full breakfast, I took a short walk around Roz-sur-Couesnon, noting sturdy metal craftsmanship and stone masonry, in the grounds and structure of Maison des Polders.

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    My faithful taxi driver, Raymond, arrived just as I had finished photographing the Maison, and we made the short drive to Mont St.Michel.  I arranged to meet Raymond at 1:30 PM, precluding the tour of the Abbey, but knowing it was necessary, if I were to catch the train to Rennes.  Taking the shuttle meant buying a ticket at the Couesnon Visitors Center.

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    The tide was out, so in no time, we were at the base of the great edifice.

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    There are two entrances to the church-fortress:  La  Porte d’Avancee and La Porte de Roi.  We, of course, entered through the former.

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    As it was still D-Day Weekend, all flags were visible.

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    The first place most people see, and towards which they head, is  Grand Rue de Marche- the shops.  Many observers criticize “the commercialism” of this site, but, truth be known, the bottom level of Mont St.-Michel has been a marketplace since the site was expanded by the Benedictines, in the 12th Century.

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    After picking up a postcard to send my non-computer using mother, I looked around a few nooks and crannies- the flood tunnel, the gate to the dungeon, things like that.

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    L’Eglise St. Pierre is the first major room of note that is not commercial.  It lies at the east end of Grand Rue.  it is guarded by a statue of St. Jeanne d’Arc.

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    Equally telling is the view of St. Michael, killing a dragon.

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    Of more sanguine comfort are the image of Madonna and Child,

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    and the stained glass windows.

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    I was able to next focus on the sweeping views, long and wide of this magnificent structure.

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    The troop of pilgrims, exploring the beach, added perspective.

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    Of course, flowering plants are not neglected here.  Mont St.-Michel has a plethora of gardens, at all levels of the structure.

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    I ended my two hour visit, with a silent promise to two little friends,and to myself, to return here in three years’ time,hopefully with one of my brothers.

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    It’s said that goblins have long memories, and so do I.  Those of Mont St.-Michel will be  very fond, indeed.

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July 22, 2014

  • An Eastward Homage, Day 12: Two Eternal Legacies

    June 7, 2014- The affairs of those who lived, strove, suffered and died six centuries ago have seldom crossed my mind, since I completed World History, in my second year of baccalaureate study.  This drizzly Saturday morning, though, I would experience stirrings of unease, a sense of injustice and want of understanding.

    Joan of Arc’s story is more than one of man’s maltreatment of woman, more than the tale of a feckless cleric selling his services to the highest bidder, or of a young woman loving both God and her people, while wanting so desperately to be loved by those around her.  It is her complete story, her timeless sacrifice, that brought me to my knees, and still stirs my heart.

    In the Vieux Marche, the Old Market, people were readying their wares for sale,as they did in the 1400′s.

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    At Square Verdrel, a short distance to the north, the trees glistened from the early morning drizzle,

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    and  swans searched for food, from visitors and from the water.

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    I spent a few minutes among the ruins of L’Eglise Saint Sauveur (Church of the Holy Savior), where my distant forebears on my paternal grandfather’s side had been baptized.

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    Ordinarily, such a place would be my sole concern on a day like this.  It will certainly rate highly on my list of experiences and memories from this journey, and I would love for my siblings and cousins to see it some day.

    Yet right next to this amazing scene, stands L’Eglise Jeanne d’Arc, built to replace the shattered Church of St. Vincent, 200 meters to the east, a casualty of World War II.  L’Eglise Saint-Vincent lent its stained glass windows to the newer church, and we are all the richer for it.

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    It is when one gets outside, and finds the place where St. Joan was martyred, that the emotions can run their most intense.  This cross stands in her honour.

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    This is the garden where all of Henry VI’s plotting, and all the excesses of the Hundred Years’ War, came to naught, in the end.  The French and English crowns absolved Joan, following her being found a martyr by the Inquisition of Rome, in 1455, twenty-five years after her death.

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    This is the exact spot of St. Joan’s immolation, preserved by both the Bourbon kings, and by the Jacobins who tore down L’Eglise St. Sauveur, in 1790.  All those who have ruled France since then, have regarded this for what it is:  Hallowed Ground.

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    Across the centuries, across eternity, her soul calls out.

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July 20, 2014

  • An Eastward Homage, Day 11: Morning in Rouen, Afternoon at Utah Beach

    D-Day was the beginning of a hard deliverance for the French people.  We, the Allies, landed on the beaches of northern Normandy, on June 6, 1944.  So, June 6, 2014, some 32 years after Penny and I were married, and 70 years after the combined weight of the U.S., Canadian, Free French, British and Anzac forces were first brought to bear on the German/Vichy French Army, was a very big deal.

    I had no  concrete plan to join in the observance, other than to get on a train from Rouen to Caen, thence to Bayeux, then to St. Mere Eglise, or as close as I could to Utah Beach, or Omaha Beach.  I brought money to kick in for a taxi, in any case.

    Before hopping the train to Caen, I sauntered around Rouen’s Palais de Justice for a few morning stretches.  By ANY stretch, this thing is huge.

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    It is still used for legal matters, in the Department de Seine-Maritime.  Having looked at my watch, though, I knew it was train time.

    Along the way to Caen, we passed the lovely little town of Lisieux.  The river, of course, is the Seine.

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    I met a Seattle-based couple who are researching for a book the wife is writing on the experiences of living World War II veterans.  They were headed to Omaha Beach.  I had decided to go to Utah Beach, as that would give me the best chance to get to St. Mere Eglise, afterward.

    We arrived in Caen, and found this scene.

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    The French Army was on full alert, as so many dignitaries were out and about, for the commemoration. We were not bothered at all, and got on a train that would get us to Bayeux.  A young lady named Anne, an American, met us on board the train.  Once she heard I was headed for Utah Beach, she became my friend for the day, and we got along most agreeably.  She gave me a few pointers on photography, so my shots ended up clearer than they had been earlier.  She turned out to be an American, embedded in a military unit, elsewhere in Europe.

    This is near the train station at Bayeux, where we got off.  Bayeux is also famous for the tapestry that shows William the Conqueror, but today was not to be a day for examining that great work of art.

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    Anne and I split a taxi fare to Utah Beach.  Here are some things we saw, en route.  Below, is Carentan.

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    Next, being blocked from going to St. Mere Eglise, we went to St. Marie de Mont.  Here a few shots of that nice little town, before we arrived at Utah Beach.  I will show you other shots that I took here, on our return trip to Carentan, after posting the Utah Beach photos.

    First, though, here is the approach to St. Marie de Mont, from the south.

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    Next, is the center of town.

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    Finally, the 101st Airborne, in loose parade mode.

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    We got to Utah Beach, in plenty of time. This is just west of the Utah Beach Visitors Center.

     

     

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    The tide was, of course, out, so we had a good scene for the memorial activity.

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    I used the occasion to honour a Prescott resident who was a commander in the U. S. Army, on that fateful day.  He is still very much alive, and I’m told he was delighted to see this photograph.

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    The re-enactors were getting set, as we walked about the beach.SAM_9715

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    We also climbed the dunes, to see what the Allies were up against.

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    I ended up in a few scenes. This is the second time in my life that I’ve been this close to a tank.  The first time was in Basic Training, in 1969.

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    Here is a reminder that “Freedom isn’t free.”

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    This was a German bunker, which the Allies had to approach, and overcome.

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    Here are some reminders of the resilience of sand dunes.

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    Anne was watching the gathered force.

     

     

     

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    I got in the middle of it all, just one more time.

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    Then, we headed up for lunch, to call a taxi to Carentan, and to thank the motorcyclists of Europe, for all they do to keep the memory alive.

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    After twenty minutes or so, a taxi came to take us to Carentan, and our train back to the east of Normandy.  Here a couple of scenes from St. Marie de Mont, on the return trip. Note that the tour bus ahead of us is from Czech Republic.  They were among the first to suffer Hitler’s rage.

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    Above is one of the ways the French remind us that this was no invented story,but a true, worldwide horror.  No amount of revisonism or faded memory can change what actually happened.

    NEXT:  Rouen’s Vieux Marche, and Jeanne d’Arc’s legacy

     

July 17, 2014

  • An Eastward Homage, Day 10, Part 2: Coming to an Ancient Home

    In about 1650, three brothers left Rouen, France and joined a sailing expedition to the thriving French settlement of Quebec.  They were roofers, and as such, made a thriving business in the emerging French colony.  Their descendants would spread to Montreal, Ottawa, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, and from those haunts, the Boivins spread throughout North America, into Mexico and among various Caribbean islands.  Today, the surname is common enough, and when I last checked, there were twelve of me, in various parts of North America.

    Rouen is a thriving and picturesque city, on the western course of the Seine River, as it heads towards the sea, hence the name of the department:  La Seine-Maritime.  It is perhaps best known to the wider world as the place where English King Henry VI ordered Jeanne d’Arc to be burned at the stake, for “witchcraft” and “heresy”.  It is that, but is also vibrant, welcoming and forward-looking, with strong links to Le Havre, at the mouth of the Seine, in fostering French commerce.

    My ancestors were recorded as having been baptized at L’Eglise St. Sauveur.  It was destroyed during the French Revolution, but its ruins have been maintained by the state, first under orders from Napoleon I and by his successors, both regal and presidential.  A new church, honouring St. Jeanne d’Arc, stands at the site of St. Sauveur.

    The evening prior to the 70th anniversary of D-Day gave me time to get acquainted with this ancestral home.  Here are some scenes of the evening of June 5.

    I arrived in Rouen at La Gare Rive Droite, a reference to its location on the right bank of the Seine.

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    I  walked across the square, wandering a bit before getting clear directions to Hotel Morand.  Here is Place de la Gare.

     

     

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    There were a few short blocks to be crossed, before the district of my hotel.  On the way, I passed Tour Jeanne d’Arc, where the great young lady was held captive.  I will have much more to say about her, and the Donjon, in a subsequent post.

     

     

     

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    Many of the houses in this district are rather Hanseatic in style, reflecting the Norse influence on Rouen.

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    I also passed by L’Eglise St. Maclou, one of about 20 which make up an alliance of parishes in Rouen.

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    One of Rouen’s great buildings looks like a church, and used to be one (L’Eglise St. Antoine), but it was desanctified by the Jacobins in 1790, and is now the home of Musee Secq des Tournelles.  It displays the quality ironwork of Normandy.

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    After passing the plaque which honours the liberation of Rouen, by the Allies, in 1944,

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    I came to the city’s largest church: Abbatiale St.  Ouen.  Note the severe Gothic exterior.

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    The interioris absolutely delightful, with all the stained glass one could want, and a heavenly organ-trumpet.

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    Here is “Christ as an Apparition to St. Peter”.

     

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    A passageway leads from the baptismal font to the street.

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    Next, are a couple of examples of Norman metalwork.  This is a receptacle for Lenten ashes.

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    Here is some wrought iron, at the communion rail.

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    Lastly, here is the altar.

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    In the garden between the church and Rouen’s City Hall, there were several young people relaxing and playing various games.  Looking on was the first Duke of Normandy:  Rollo.

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    Rollo’s Viking compatriots communicated with runes.  Here is a copy of a runestone, sent to Rouen by Denmark.

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    Across from Place Hotel de Ville is a smaller church, L’Eglise St. Marc.

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    As i walked back towards the hotel, to meet a taxi taking me to my evening appointment, I spotted Lycee Pierre Corneille.  The author of “Le Cid” was a native of Rouen, and is proudly honoured with this school and a museum devoted to his life and work. I regret not getting to visit that establishment.

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    Near the Museum of Natural History, a small park has this imposing work.  It is a monument to the French farmer.

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    I crowned the evening by visiting with the Baha’is of Rouen, on the occasion of one of our Spiritual Feasts, which mark the beginning of a new month on our spiritual calendar.  We offer devotions, discuss various internal matters and then enjoy fellowship and refreshments. The gentleman in the photo introduced the Baha’i Faith to the Canary Islands.  Several of his family members, including his widow (rear, underneath picture), are serving the Faith in Rouen.

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    This was the perfect ending to an exciting day.

    NEXT:  A Morning Walk in Rouen

     

     

     

     

July 16, 2014

  • An Eastward Homage, Day 10: Paris in the Rearview Mirror

    June 5, 2014- I left my luggage downstairs at the Hotel Monte Carlo, so the ladies could get about their business.  There are two types of chambermaids in Europe:  Those who blaze through the rooms like the White Tornado of 1960′s American television, having everyone’s room clean by check-out time; and those who pick and choose which rooms on which to focus, maybe getting them all done by quitting time, or not.  With one exception, I had the first kind working on my rooms.  The Monte Carlo was definitely of the first order. There are also two types of desk clerks at these same hotels.  The first kind are semi-formal, but professional, glad but not overjoyed at your arrival and helpful with all reasonable requests.  The other are dour, have to work hard at even letting guests in the door and less than pleased at one’s approach to the counter.  The man who checked me in was of the second type, and never quite forgave me for having removed his door block, in my initial attempts to get in.  It took the Senegalese woman in the real estate office around the corner, calling and asking just what kind of hotel locks the door on their guests at 5 PM on a Sunday evening, to guarantee my entrance.

    That was about my only encounter with the French arrogance of legend.  The vast majority of people I met, in this land of my paternal ancestors, were more than gracious and very pleasant.  France is a very busy place these days.  There was a strike by SNCF workers, the entire time I was in the northwest of the country.  I was pretty much inured to coming to Paris, each time I traveled from one provincial city to another.  Despite that, though, people were focused and seemed to be working hard at whatever task was in front of them.

    I spent the morning of this final day of my first extended visit to Paris, visiting a place that may well be one of the most important offices in the City of Light, in years to come:  The National Centre of the Baha’is of France, several blocks east-northeast of L’Arc de Triomphe.  I say this out of personal conviction, but anyone who is interested is more than welcome to investigate the Teachings of Baha’u’llah for themselves.  The unity of the human race, and independent investigation of all truth, are cornerstones of what we believe, and of what we do. Here are scenes of the immediate neighbourhood, the interior and the garden of the National Centre of the Baha’is of France.  The buildings below are not the Baha’i Centre.  The actual location is just to the right of the Red Cross, on Rue Pergolese. SAM_9557 SAM_9567

    Once inside and properly introduced to staff, a prayer room is available.^ The staircase leads to offices on the second floor. SAM_9566

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    I spent about thirty-five minutes speaking with the three staff members who were present, enjoyed a cafe au lait, bought a prayer book in French, and bid them a fond “A dieu”. After retrieving my luggage, and thanking the gracious daytime desk clerk, for his steadfast help over the four days, I headed to Gare St. Lazare, for the journey to Rouen, from whence some of my paternal ancestors set out for L’Amerique du Nord, one day in 1650. So, this is a good point to look back on Paris.  I first made a brief stop here, with Penny, in 1982.  We were en route to Israel, and our Baha’i pilgrimage, so sightseeing was not on the agenda.  It was a mere transit stop.  This time, though, was planned almost to the hour, and I certainly took in a lot:  Montmartre (though not Le Moulin Rouge), Tuileries, Le Musee de Louvre, Versailles, Champs-Elysees, Le Tour Eiffel, Trocadero and L’Arc de Triomphe.  I enjoyed Petits Dejeuners aux pain, viande et fromage, a four course dinner at a Brasserie, another four course dinner at a Turkish restaurant, and a few kebab sandwiches here and there.  One rainy day, I wore my poncho. On the other rainy day, I pretty much stayed indoors or underground.

    I learned the difference between eating au place and taking my meal emportee. (It was usually 5 euros).  I learned that one should never, ever write on a France Pass rail voucher, before it has been cleared by the proper official.  I learned that, if the first three trains on the Metro are overcrowded, the fourth will afford sufficient space for a man and his household.  I learned that Paris is a supremely lovable place.

    Many thanks then, to the young lady at the Montmartre Tourist office, the clerk at Metro Station Le Peletier, the desk clerk at Hotel Victoria and the aforementioned real estate agent, for getting me to Hotel Monte Carlo, albeit in piecemeal fashion; to the manager of Hotel Monte Carlo,  his day clerk and the chambermaid, for arranging a most pleasant stay; to our tour guide at the Louvre and to the staff at Versailles, for their most informative explanations of these fabulous cultural repositories; to the restaurateurs, of establishments great and small, for unfailingly delicious fare, served pleasantly and to my Baha’i friends, for helping me add a spiritual dimension to my Paris visit and for connecting me with the friends in Rouen and Strasbourg. I leave you with this view of the French countryside near Vernon, west of Paris

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    NEXT:  An Evening in Rouen

July 15, 2014

  • An Eastward Homage, Day 9,Part IV: Trocadero and The Master’s Apartment

    June 4, 2014-  Upon finding that the rain had stopped, I set out from my hotel room for Trocadero, the near west Parisian neighbourhood with exquisite views of  Le Tour Eiffel, and a smaller, but no less tantalizing garden, replete with fountains.  There is a National Theatre here, and some important museums.  One, the Museum of Man, is under renovation, though, and will not reopen until next year.  Trocadero is so named, in commemoration of the restoration of the Spanish Bourbon King Ferdinand VII to his throne, with French help, in the 1830′s.  The present Palais de Chaillot was built in the 1930′s, to replace the demolished Palais du Trocadero, as a concert hall.

    Here are some scenes of Trocadero, taken while I was waiting for my Baha’i friends.This is  La Theatre Nationale, or Palais de Chaillot, a large concert hall.

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    Anne de Bretagne, inspired this sculpture, entitled “The Midas Touch”.

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    This is an eastward view of Le Tour Eiffel, from the top of Trocadero’s hill.

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    As is evident, the sweep of Trocadero’s canals, fountains and gardens makes it the perfect place to while away an evening,and many Parisiens do.

     

     

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    The rural origins of Chaillot are not forgotten here, and busts of animals grace two of the fountains.  This is “Chevaux et Chien”, or “Two Horses and a Dog.”

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    Several of the statues are risque.  This one is called “The Naked Musicians”.  French people today can get quite saucy with one another, but they were demure and modest around visitors like me.

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    At 6 PM sharp, my Baha’i escorts arrived to take me to the apartment where our Exemplar, ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Who was Baha’u’llah’s eldest son and immediate successor, stayed during the first of His three visits to Paris, in 1911.

    To get to this apartment, on the north side of Trocadero, we went through a peaceful garden, some of it arranged in Japanese style.  ‘Abdu’l-Baha,  to Whom we refer sometimes as the Master, enjoyed taking walks in this garden, each day.

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    We also relished this garden walk, then came to the likeness of Luis do Camoes, the Bard of Portugal, for whom the street, on which the apartment is located, is named.

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    The apartment is viewed as a sacred place for Baha’is, and is open by appointment, a couple of days per week.  I feel very honoured to have visited and prayed there.

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    My younger host was not putting up his hand to stop the photo, but was engaged in making a point of information.

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    These two thumbnail photos of ‘Abdu’l-Baha came out more dignified than the others I took of His full countenance, which had a glare to them.

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    After prayers and delicious tea and cookies, we left the same way we came, through the lovely garden.

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    My time in Paris was growing short, and this visit was one of the most perfect ways to end it. The following morning, I would visit the National Center of the Baha’is of France, then catch a train to Rouen, home of my paternal ancestors on the grandpaternal side.

     

July 14, 2014

  • An Eastern Homage, Day 9: Le Musee du Louvre, Part III- The Masterpieces of the Renaissance

    June 4, 2014- The Section Denon, which contains many of the Renaissance paintings in the Louvre’s treasury, is entered via the Hall of Queen Anna.  An informational sign tells the origins of the Louvre as a public museum.

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    Next, note the ceiling.  The ceilings throughout this lead-in to Cour Corree (Square Salon) are done up like those in a palace, or grand cathedral.

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    The hall has a series of ceiling panels, all in high ornate gold.

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    We will see the Coronation of Napoleon, as well as the treasures of Chambre de La Joconde (The Mona Lisa Room).  First, though, I wish to share some of the items in the Great Hall of Louis XIV.  Many fine crystal and lapis lazuli pieces have been brought here from Versailles.

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    The Two Crowns, those of Louis XIV and of Louis XV, are shown in this case.

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    In the subsequent galleries, the aforementioned Chambre La Joconde and Salon de Coronissement, are found several of the paintings for which people visit the museum.

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    I will start with Veronese’s  “The Wedding at Cana”.

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    This, and “The Coronation of the Virgin in Paradise”, by Tintoretto, are actually far more  prominent in the gallery itself.

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    Giotto’s “Madonna and Child ” complements Veronese’s masterpiece.

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    Leonardo da Vinci’s “Madonna and Child with Ste.Anne” follows his predecessor’s depiction.

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    On the opposite wall is the Other Lady.  I was actually fortunate to get this close.

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    We left this sanctified room after fifteen minutes, and spent time with France’s two most active militarist rulers.  First is Francois I, a contemporary of Henry VIII.

     

     

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    Then there is the Emperor, at his coronation.  Jacques-Louis David’s masterpiece is the center of Salon de Coronissement.

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    After the guided tour ended, I found Salon de Verres, and these Biblical gems.  First is “The Fainting of Esther”, by Veronese, showing the Jewish Queen swooning at the prospect of her marriage to Xerxes.

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    The ceiling fresco, “The Banishment of Lucifer” graces Salon de Verres as well.

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    With this brief visit to Salon de Verres, I thought I was ready for the east segment of the Left Bank.  The Universe had other plans, and as the rain was getting heavier after lunch, I visited L’Eglise St. Germain d’Auxerres and then went back to my hotel for a bit.  This was nonetheless a fantastic introduction to one of the world’s true treasure houses.

    NEXT:  A Visit to Trocadero, and ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s Apartment

     

July 12, 2014

  • An Eastward Homage, Day 9: Le Musee du Louvre, Part II: The Antiquaries

    June 4- The Louvre is divided into three sections:  Sully, Denon and Richilieu.  Section Sully, on the east side of the museum, was our group’s place of entry.  It is here that one may peruse the Egyptian, Classical Greek, Etruscan, Roman and Bourbon French collections.

    As we did in Ancient History class, when I was a high school freshman, our group started with the Egyptian artifacts.

    A Pharaonic sphinx, from one of the tombs, greeted us.

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    There are a couple of sections of wall, from one of the early Egyptian temples, reportedly brought to Paris by Champoleon, when he was sent to Egypt by Napoleon I.  Here is one of those sections.

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    We spent about fifteen minutes in the Egyptian Antiquities Room, then went on to the Classical Greek collection, about twice as large as most of the other rooms.

    Here are some masques and an overview of the Hall of Greek Statues.

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    The centerpiece of this Hall, as is widely known, is the limbless statue of Aphrodite, popularly called “Venus de Milo”.  Here is one view of this iconic piece, presently credited to Alexander of Antioch.  I took several shots of Madame Aphrodite, from several vantage points.  I think I was outmatched by a Chinese photographer with a Nikon, but the lot of my photos are all on my Flickr site. (www.flickr.com/boivin.gary)

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    The next item  I spotted in the Hall, as we headed towards the Great Hall of Louis XIV, .was “The Torment of Marsyas”.  You may notice that the sculptor’s working model is to the right of the completed piece.  This was done by Athenian sculptors, looking to produce better quality work.

    The story goes that Marsyas, a satyr, challenged Apollo to a flute-playing contest.  One simply did not challenge supernatural beings to a contest of any kind, so when Marsyas lost, he was subjected to this punishment.

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    The next frame shows details of the Hall’s ceiling.  Arches were essential in distributing the weight of large stone structures.

     

     

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    The Four Muses are depicted, at the western end of the Hall.  I always liked these ladies.  Then again, I like most ladies.

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    The bust of a satyr gives the impression of a creature contemplating some rather insane spot of mischief.

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    We left the Hall, looking at a celestial scene, of more recent vintage, on the ceiling.  The gold was a sign we were in Bourbon territory.

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    After the guided tour was finished, I returned to the Greek Antiquities section, and found these gems.  First is a sarcophagus,  reportedly from Corinth.

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    Next, are three Pithos urns.  Pithos simply means “large storage container”.  They were most commonly used in cremations.

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    For those who like hideous things, here is “Gorgon Barbue Agenouillae”.  Gorgons were the creatures who had snakes as hair, and could turn a voyeur to stone.

     

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    Lastly, I spotted this amphora, with a two-headed lion.  The large cats were present in Europe until about the time of Christ, and in the Caucasus Mountains until about 1000 A.D.  I don’t know about conjoined cats though- that’d be a bit much.

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    With that, I again found myself in Section Denon, and went on Salle de Verres.  This, and other great repositories of French and Italian Renaissance objets d’art, will be featured in the next post.

  • An Eastward Homage, Day 9: Le Musee du Louvre, Part I- The Entrance and Immediate Neighbourhood

    June 4, 2014- During my time in Europe, there were only two rainy days.  This was one of them, but I was going to the Louvre!  My Wednesday would be spent with six hours in this grand museum, two or three hours in the southeast quadrant of the Left Bank (Paris City Hall, Notre Dame de Paris, La Sorbonne),and topped off by a jaunt over to Trocadero and visit to the apartment where ‘Abdu’l-Baha lived on the first of His three visits to Paris (1911).

    I caught a bus over to Rue Rivoli and dawdled just a bit, around Tour St. Jacques and L’Eglise de St. Merri, two architectural gems just west of the Louvre, in Place St. Jacques.

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    I met the tour guide and our group, at the tour office,with five minutes to spare, and we all walked over to France’s signature museum, with no rain falling while we were en route.  There would be no lines, as we were in a pre-paid tour, but we were to mind our photography etiquette and keep an eye out for pickpockets.

    The visitor is greeted in the Courtyard by scam artists bearing clipboards and “petitions”, Roma bearing gold rings and I.M. Pei’s Pyramide.  I like the structure, and it does fit, as the first exhibit one sees in the museum itself is the Egyptian Room.  Let’s start this segment with a look at the west courtyard.

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    We entered the museum and got a look at the original walls of the Louvre, when it was a fortress, during the reign of Louis XIII.

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    Below, we see a water catchment.

     

     

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    Here is a look at the wall’s thickness.

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    With this, we began our visit to Section Sully, the Egyptian Antiquities Collection, and two hours of some of the world’s greatest art, which you will see in the next two posts. :)

    Once the guided tour was over, I spent two more hours in the Greek Antiquities Room and the French Renaissance Gallery.  After lunch at Chez Paul (the cafeteria), I headed outside to the Inner Courtyard

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    It was dry!  I happily exited upstairs, and headed across the street to L’Eglise St. Germain d’Auxerres, the first stop on my anticipated walk to Sorbonne, via L’Ile du  Cite and Notre Dame de Paris.

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    I went in this marvelous church, on the Musee’s east flank, and spent about forty minutes inside. I was greeted by Madonna, Child, and Three Magi.

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    Angels graced the archway.

     

     

     

     

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    The scene of Christ being taken down from the cross was a key feature of the confessional chapel.

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    As with any church, though, the most majestic sight was the altar.

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    When I left the church, it was pouring, and the street and sidewalks were rapidly being inundated.  Thus, my outing to the Left Bank is left for a future date.

    So it is the Musee du Louvre is framed, west, east above and below.  In the next post, I will highlight Egyptian and Greek art of the antiquarian kind, followed by a post devoted to the Italian and French Renaissance collections, with a nod to Louis XIV and his displays of wealth.