Thursday 30 November 2017

The Palais du Luxembourg

After the assassination of Henry IV in 1610 Marie de Medicis decided that as Regent she deserved a better type of palace. Styled after Marie's ancestral home in Florence (the Palazzo Pitti) building started in 1615 and lasted 30 years.

The southern facade of the Palais du Luxembourg

It has been extensively and frequently remodelled since then. It is now the home of the French Senate, and sits in the extensive (23 hectare, or 56 acre) Jardin du Luxembourg. The garden is lovely, and contains many statues (including the 20 notable ladies), playgrounds, a marionette theatre, restaurants and kiosks, tennis courts, basketball courts, and an art gallery. It also has "chalets de nécessité" - their term, not mine.

We visited the garden in September this year, and can thoroughly recommend it as something to do in Paris. The official site is here.

Wednesday 29 November 2017

Célestine at Fougères-sur-Bièvre

In September we took clients through Fougeres sur Bievre and were excited (maybe too strong a word...) to see that the bus which normally parks blocking the view was not in occupation.

This mean that I could take a photo of Célestine with a proper looking piece of chateau behind. Which I promptly did.

There are more photos of the chateau here and here.

Tuesday 28 November 2017

That's a Range!

This shop sells many things, but at least one of them is superfluous to needs at all times - according to Simon. Accordion to Susan, it's just about perfect.

I love the imprint of grime from the volets (shutters).

Monday 27 November 2017

Monday is Queens Day: 9 Marie de Medicis

This one is complicated...

Maria de Medicis was born a member of the "other side" of the Florentine Medici family, being descended from Lorenzo the Magnificent via her great-great-grandmother, Lorenzo's eldest child. She was Henry IV of France's second wife, replacing (in 1600) the barren Margaret of Valois. There is some evidence that the marriage was a very commercial transaction, as Henry owed huge amounts of money to Maria's father, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, who had helped finance his war against Henry III.

The marriage was not a happy one, although it produced a string of children, including an heir, a couple of spares, a Queen of Spain, and a Queen of England. Henry had a string of mistresses, one of whom (Catherine Henriette de Balzac d'Entragues) he had promised to marry when his official mistress (Gabrielle d'Estrées) died. Failing to do so and marrying Maria instead meant that the two women were constantly at each others (metaphorical) throats, with plenty of name calling on both sides.

Part of Maria's efforts to upset the apple cart included supporting Marguerite de Valois (Henry's first wife, remember), encouraging Henry to allow her back into France. Maria was finally crowned Queen of France in 1610, and the next day her husband was assassinated after being caught in a traffic jam in part caused by the crowds attending the Coronation.

Maria served as Regent for her son (Louis XIII) until 1617, at which time Louis banished her from the court. In 1619 she provoked her third son (Gaston d'Orleans) into rebelling and trying to claim the throne, but after the failure of that enterprise she and Louis reconciled - until 1630, anyway, when she tried to lead a rebellion against Richelieu. This failed, and Marie spent the next 12 years travelling around Europe, visiting Brussels, Amsterdam and London, before dying in 1642 in Cologne.

We have written about Marie de Medici before here.

The Jardin du Luxembourg has statues of 20 French Queens and Illustrious women. The subjects were chosen by Louis-Philippe I in 1843. This statue was created by Louis-Denis Caillouette in 1847. To see Margeurite looking complicated you have to go here.

Eventually all 20 statues will be featured here.

Sunday 26 November 2017

Cicada Shell

There are 800 species of cicada in Australia and I have no idea which species this quite large exuviae belongs to. This is the shed outer cuticle of a cicada nymph, left after the adult has emerged. You can see the slit down the back through which it has pushed itself out. There is also some soil still adhering to the cuticle behind the eye, a reminder that the nymphs live underground and only come out to transform into adults. I photographed it on a fern in Ravensbourne National Park, a remnant rainforest habitat near Toowoomba.

Saturday 25 November 2017

Aussie Trip 2017: week 1

Some random pics of our first week away. No doubt we will write about them in the fullness of time.

Friday 24 November 2017

The Palace of the Dukes of Berry

On Monday I mentioned that Marguerite d'Angoulême was also known as Marguerite de Navarre and Marguerite d'Alençon. What I didn't say is that another of her titles was Duchess of Berry, a position she held in her own right, being granted the Duchy by her brother François I.

A part of the ducal palace in Bourges still exists, and is incorporated in the Prefecture of the Cher region. It was built in 1370, and has a rather plain 20th century extension blocking the view. You can see what is left of the Palace of the Dukes of Berry peeking over the new section.

Thursday 23 November 2017

Some more photos from the Traffic Jam

Back in September I went with Gaynor and TimB to the Bouchonne du Sainte Maure. Here are some additional photos.

Sometimes you have to improvise:

We're all going on a.... what sort of holiday?

Not only cars - there were quite a few bikes of all sizes

American and French style...

Wednesday 22 November 2017

Angevin Architectural Delights

Here are some more details of the Maison d'Adam, the late 15th century timber framed building in the centre of Angers. To see my previous post about it, click here.

The most famous of the carvings, the 'Three Balled Man'.

Saint George (or Saint Michael) slaying the dragon.

The Lovers.

Tuesday 21 November 2017

Avranches Cathedral.

The internet is a wonderful thing, but you have to be really careful about using it as a reference tool: if you Google "Avranches Cathedral" the images you find will almost invariably be of the Eglise Notre-Dame-des-Champs, misidentified.

Avranches Cathedral was rebuilt in 1204 after the previous building of 1121 was destroyed by Breton invaders. The "new" building was probably built on the Romanesque plan of the previous building, and incorporated its towers. The whole lot started to fall down in the 16th century, and the remaining parts were demolished in the 19th century.

The reason we know the internet is wrong:
this is all that survives of Avranches Cathedral

There is a reason I am interested in Avranches Cathedral - we were there in early August, and I wanted to see the place where in 1172 King Henry II of England performed his penance for the murder of Thomas Beckett.

 The monument was erected in 1843 by the local historical society.

The inscription reads "At the door of the Cathedral of Avranches, after the murder of Thomas Beckett, Archbishop of Canterbury, Henry II, King of England and Duke of Normandy, received on his knees the absolution of the legates of the Popes"

So, disappointingly, not only was I unable to see the church where this event took place, even the church that replaced the church where the event took place no longer exists.

Monday 20 November 2017

Monday is Queens Day: 8 Marguerite d'Angoulême

Also known as Marguerite de Navarre and Marguerite d'Alençon, Marguerite d'Angoulême led a very complicated life: married twice, wife of a king, sister of second king, and grandmother of yet another king, patron of the arts, poet, diplomat and religious provocateur.

With her brother, François I she invited Leonardo to France and installed him in her home, Clos Lucé. She also invited trouble by writing a very long (and quite weird) poem, Miroir de l'âme pécheresse (Mirror of the Sinful Soul). It was enough to have her accused of heresy, a charge her brother had to fight long and hard to have overturned. The poem found its way into the hands of the 11 year old English princess Elizabeth, who translated it into English and gave it to her stepmother, Catherine Parr. It is claimed that the poem was in part responsible for the Protestant fervour of Queen Elizabeth I.

The Jardin du Luxembourg has statues of 20 French Queens and Illustrious women. The subjects were chosen by Louis-Philippe I in 1843. This statue was created by Joseph-Stanislas Lescorné in 1848. To see Margeurite looking pensive you have to go here.

Eventually all 20 statues will be featured here.

Sunday 19 November 2017


Blackbean Castanospermum australe is native to the north-eastern coastal areas of Australia, New Guinea, Vanuatu and New Caledonia. It is a large tree with orange flowers and big pods of seeds that look like chestnuts.

Aboriginal people ate the seeds (carefully prepared to remove toxins) and the timber is attractively grained so after white settlement it was sometimes used for furniture.

The flower and seeds, fallen to the forest floor.

Saturday 18 November 2017

A Re-roofed Tower

Three years ago we took a photo of roofers at work in Montresor.

In September  I remembered to take a photo of the completed work. The delay is mine, not theirs....

Friday 17 November 2017

Trains, Planes and...

...hopefully automobiles.

This is what today should look like for us. We're out the door before midday, heading towards Australia. We arrive Sunday afternoon local time, but before that I have arranged a little excursion.


Just a quick reminder about the Loire Valley Time Travel gift store. We are quite proud of the designs, and we like the t-shirts we have received so far. We will be wearing them in Australia, hopefully to admiring looks. The cups look great, but we have 3 households' of coffee cups here so haven't ordered any - yet. Someone may get a cup for Christmas. Check out (and make sure you use) the discount codes - they always seem to have at least one set of discounts happening.

Thursday 16 November 2017


It's been ages since we featured a peek in a boulangerie window, so here we go!

The meringues were in a boulangerie in rue Daguerre, on the corner of where we stayed in Paris last time. Didn't try any - saw them too late and would have exploded if any more food had been taken on. Still - we know where they are...

(And yes, like most French meringues, they are the size of a baby's head).

Wednesday 15 November 2017

A Wired Tree

I have no idea what this is about - I noticed this tree (in the grounds of Chateau Cheverny) in September, but couldn't work out what the wire was for, where it went, or what it was feeding. It may even be that what you see is all there is, which adds to the mystery.

Tuesday 14 November 2017

What is and what should never be

Modern science is pretty amazing, allowing things to happen that even 20 years ago would have been almost impossible. One of the fields where this is the case is architecture, where modern design technology has allowed designers to make a break from simple squares. Looking at some of the results I wonder if this is a good thing - will these be future classics, or a case of "just because you can doesn't mean you should"?

The first two photos are in La Defense, Paris. It's the edge of town repository for strange shaped wind funnels that allows inner Paris to stay attractive. It's also the home of one of the most outrageously overpriced views in Paris: 19€ for an escalator ride strikes me as being 10 euros too much (and even then I probably wouldn't...).

The third photo is the new Fondation Louis Vuitton. Once you realise it's just a couple of concrete boxes with bits of glass hanging off it in a not terribly attractive way, it's more "meh" than "wow".

*not my own title

Monday 13 November 2017

What Happened to All Those Messages?

In late October I was whiling away the time at the ophthalmologists, reading a copy of Grazia from November 2016. Inside, the article that really caught my attention was a two page spread about saving all the thousands of messages and tributes that had been left by people at the sites of the terrorist attacks in Paris twelve months earlier. I was fascinated and moved so I thought I'd pass on the story via the blog.

Today in the Archives de Paris there are two shelves which are home to the 7689 documents that they collected from the streets after the attacks on 13 November 2015. This collection was the brainchild of a man called Gérôme Truc. He felt it would allow historians and sociologists to have access to another dimension of the event ie how ordinary individuals experience these things and respond to them.

Place de la République.

The documents come from the Bataclan, la Belle Equipe, the Café Bonne Bière, Casa Nostra, the Carillon, the Petit Cambodge and the Comptoir Voltaire. Ten volunteers collected the messages of love from Parisians, French people and foreigners, bit by bit from 17 November.

In addition two archivists and a conservator made 17 visits to the sites. According to them the most affecting was visiting the Bonne Bière because there was a message found there from an intensive care doctor, who apologised for being unable to save a young man.

Tributes outside the Charlie Hebdo offices.

The archive staff assessed the condition of the messages, children's drawings and poems. The main problem was plastic pockets. They were useless because the rain quickly got into them and turned the contents to mush.

Back at the Archives, the documents were dried in two sorting rooms. Usually overnight was enough to dry them out. They were then sent to be fumigated to kill mould and other fungi before being left for three weeks to stabilise. Once returned to the Archives, the documents, from metro tickets to A3 in size, were dusted with a microfibre cloth then sorted by place and date before being digitised (thanks to a donation by Arkhênum).

 Tributes in Boulevard Richard Lenoir after the Charlie Hebdo attack.

The archivists didn't look at the documents. They had no time and they needed to maintain a certain distance emotionally. While they worked the tried to be calm and converse normally, even crack jokes.

The Museum of Paris, Carnavalet, conserved all the objects (soft toys, guitars, flags...) but those that didn't carry a meaningful message were thrown away. There was a debate about what to do with the wilted flowers. Gerôme Truc suggested that like in London in 2005, the flowers should be collected, composted and a tree planted in the compost.

 Tributes left in Boulevard Richard Lenoir after the Charlie Hebdo attack.

A hundred and fifty documents were recovered from the temporary memorial in the Place de la République. The rest of the messages from this spot were kept by the collective known as 17 Plus Jamais, created the day after the Charlie Hebdo attack in January 2015.

At the time of the Charlie Hebdo attacks the archival work was not able to be applied to the messages to the murdered cartoonists and they were deposited at various sites. At the time the Mairie de Paris just didn't think of preserving and cataloguing them. Eventually Harvard University launched an appeal to collect the messages after the event, and many of them are now in the US.

 The Bataclan.

The Nice attack happened just after the Archives had finished their digitising project, but despite calls from those involved, the Mairie de Nice did not initiate a similar project and the messages were not collected there.

You can see some of documents on the website, and 900 of the messages were published by Michel Lafon in Je suis Paris.

Sunday 12 November 2017

Piccabeen Palms

The Piccabeen Palm Archontophoenix cunninghamiana is one of the special species hanging on in Ravensbourne National Park. It is also known as the Bangalow Palm. They can grow up to 20 metres tall and have become invasive in some places outside of Australia where they have been introduced.

The red fruits attract birds.

They favour wet ravines in subtropical climates. Ravensbourne National Park, on the Great Dividing Range in south-east Queensland, is ideal for them.

The fronds are large and eventually fall to the ground.

Saturday 11 November 2017

Here Are Your Sons

This memorial to the dead of the First World War is hidden away on the western end of the Ile d'Or in Amboise, behind a building site and the youth hostel. It dates from 1971 and is one of several memorials to the dead in the town, including a war memorial on the Mail (the main drag).

The inscription reads 'Mère voici tes fils qui se sont tant battus' (Mother here are your sons who fought so hard). It comes from a poem by Charles Péguy, a French poet and essayist who was killed at the Marne in 1914. The poem is called Eve and is a phenomenal 9000 lines arranged in Alexandrines. Péguy was above all a French patriot, whose work was adopted by both Vichyists and de Gaulle during the Second World War.

Triangular in form and set into a mound the memorial is constructed of big blocks of reinforced concrete. Inside the names of the dead are listed. The work is by Henri-Paul Derycke and is on loan from the National Collection of Contemporary Art (as is the fountain by Max Ernst).

It is not very visible and no one ever places flowers on it, or appears to maintain it. It is not owned by the town, and one gets the sense the monument was sort of dumped there by the State. Amboise has over 20 monuments to various wars and other public sculptures, and the town itself only owns half of them.

Whilst Max Ernst's fountain has recently be lovingly restored, this memorial appears to be more or less abandoned. There are no clues to who commissioned the monument that we can find or why it is on the island, either on the monument itself nor on line.

Update: A friend who lives in Amboise has sent a link to a local newspaper article about public statuary in Amboise from 2012. It still doesn't explain who commissioned this monument or why at that time. The article also mentions a work by Alexander Calder, about which a completely different disagreement is currently rumbling.