Sunday, September 12, 2010

60+ days

When Suzanne posted her beautiful self-portrait starting her 50-day countdown to her 50th birthday, I thought it was a clever way to mark the year's end-in-progress. But darn, I forgot and missed my counting date. Then this evening I needed to take a quick photo of myself for something else. Although I haven't found the right photo for that project yet, here's the come-as-you-are "self-portrait in a bathroom mirror" version, complete with bad lighting and bad focus, to mark 60+ days till my 66th birthday. (At least I'm IN the photo, which was no easy task.)

Dinner with friends on Saturday evening provided an interesting statistic to contemplate. Heidi, the young mother of a 3-year-old daughter, remarked that, among girls now 3 years and younger, one out of two is predicted to live to be 100 years old. Imagine!!

Friday, August 27, 2010

paris in the afternoon

In the last minutes as we were leaving a sunny afternoon luncheon/reception,
shaking hands and kissing cheeks and lingering in the garden,
I turned around to take this photo across the shaded lawn,
where only a few empty glasses waiting to be cleared
reminded of our earlier presence.
Isn't the setting delicious?


Monday, August 23, 2010

postcards from paris: un peu de bleu


Elegant doorways can be found all over Paris.
But this photo is cropped at the knees because inelegant trash cans
lined the sidewalk edge just in front of the doors, as is often the case.

A little red, white and blue.

Another wonderful doorway, marred visually by posted announcements.
To control this, many public buildings still retain "défense d'afficher" warnings chiseled or painted in scrolling fonts along eye level (although the original 1881 law had larger intentions, including holding the "press" legally responsible for anything it printed).

Ways to maneuver around the city.

After a long walk, it's lovely to sit on a bench in a small tree-lined park
with one's pastry and Kindle, listening to the gentle fountain sounds,
feet up if possible.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

so much paris, so little time

My husband tells me he is battling traffic in hot, humid 95-degree-temps in Virginia while I'm zipping around in cool low-70's here in Paris. But there's not enough time in the day, regardless. This timepiece sculpture outside the St Lazare train station appeals to me, hosting weary pigeons who need a break, stretching the hours, setting the time forward or backward as you choose. If only. The serious clock is still there in the background.

Each day I am greedy to see as much as I can, slowly but surely exploring different arrondissements around each special site I visit. And I measure time by how much my feet hurt by the end of the day. (Not really complaining, you know.) If only I had one of these motorbikes, ubiquitous here, noisily maneuvering through traffic, parked on every square.

Or if only I had one of the little toy cars that must have wheels that turn at 90-degree angles to scuttle sideways into impossibly small parallel parking spaces. Speaking of parking spaces, have you been wondering what's behind those great double doors that punctuate the serried collection of connected block-long facades? Now you know. Why doesn't my garage look like this?

Now it's 1 in the morning, time for the Eiffel Tower lights outside my window to flash and dazzle from top to bottom for 5 whole minutes and then to darken, just like clockwork. So I'm off to bed.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

postcards from paris: château de versailles

So grand is the scale of the Château de Versailles that I could capture only small parts of it with my camera. You will have to rely on the many professional photos, or better yet, visit Versailles yourself to get the full impact. Beginning in the early 1600s as Louis XIII's hunting lodge, with its vast hunting grounds, Versailles became the transformed, spectacular, and increasingly centralized seat of the monarchy under Louis XIV (the "Sun King") who reigned from the age of 4 for over 72 years until his death in 1715. During three successive building campaigns, he brought much of Versailles to its current appearance by 1682, with the Chapel to follow. The palace's location outside the city of Paris allowed the King to house most of his court and many of his relations in one place (keeping track so he could live his long life, I guess). Only two more kings, Louis XV and young Louis XVI, lived there before the Revolution.

From the front gate (first photo above), the massive cobblestoned courtyard opens up to an array of grand court buildings. The focus of Louis XIV's fourth building campaign was the Chapel, a masterpiece whose heightened vaulting was allowed to break the otherwise regulated horizontal palace roof-line.

Below is a ground-level view of the cobblestones, giving you some idea of their irregular walking surface. Even arriving by horse and carriage must have been a jolting affair, because the baby strollers on site were definitely jostling the little sightseers. By the way, the palace and park (over 800 hectares, or about 3 square miles) is entirely fenced.

Back of the palace (below):

Bronze sculpture of La Seine

The park of Versailles spreads out behind the palace. Here (in photos above) you can more clearly see the horizontal emphasis of the long palace extensions, set off by the long perpendicular view down the axis of the Grand Canal (below). Among the many bronze sculptures surrounding the pools and fountains is this figure of La Seine, matched by La Marne on the other side. The park view encompasses the model layout for subsequent French gardens, with fountains and sculptures in marble, bronze and lead, the Grand Canal that stretches the eye "towards infinity" and, off in the woods, Le Grand Trianon and Le Petit Trianon.

Looking down the Grand Canal

Looking from the turtle fountain up the steps to the palace

Last Saturday evening, we stood with the crowd on the steps to watch the fountain displays and fireworks over the Grand Canal. Here, on a Friday afternoon, you can just see them testing the gas flames that march up the grass and are synchronized as part of the evening's display.

Dragon fountain, just before the Grand Canal

Much too much to show here, not to mention Le Grand and Le Petit Trianons, plus the glorious interiors of the palaces and chapel. But how about a few close-ups of workmanship (click on any photo to enlarge)?


Monday, August 02, 2010

monday monday in paris

Even on vacation in Paris, Monday turned into a typical Monday. First doing the laundry, hanging it out to dry in the morning breeze on the apartment's "penthouse" wrap-around deck (no energy-wasting dryer here). Then grocery shopping, lugging bottled water and bandaids and other basics home in our reusable shopping bags, squeezing everything into the tiny 1930's elevator and rattling up to our top floor apartment. Then removing the dried laundry so it didn't blow away while we went off to search for summer sales at the grand magasin Au Printemps. And then being caught in an afternoon rain shower that drenched us. Which required us to shop elsewhere for a cheaper alternative to the 150E parapluies in Au Printemps. And also required a coffee break under a cafe awning with plastic roll-down sides at that awkward hour when no establishment is serving food. Here are some highlights of just another Monday in Paris.

The grand two-block-long department store Au Printemps needs an elevated walkway to connect its two halves. The inside stairways are grand, too, but we elected to use the escalators.

Coffee and tea at a little cafe in Paris in the rain.