Category Archives: france

Paris, in Conclusion; or, the Stories You Can Get from Two Weeks of Travel

Eiffel Tower in Rain

So I have finally, months and months after the adventure, uploaded all my Paris photographs to Flickr. Check it out!

I thought, since I won’t be able to blog each day, that I could summarize here for those who are interested my posts generated from the adventure, although with some stray photographs. Hope it gives at least a glimpse into the traveling.

I’m already hungry for more travel… but where to next?

Musée des Arts Forains (Museum of Carnival Arts)

Musée des Arts Forains (Museum of Carnival Arts) 

Villa la Roche

Le Corbusier’s Villa La Roche

Robertson's phantasmagoria grave

Robert’s fantastic phantasmagoria 

Soleil Froid (Cold Sun)

Soleil Froid (Cold Sun) at the Palais de Tokyo

Helica at the Musee des arts et metiers

Hélica: the car that dreamed it was an airplane at the Musée des arts et métiers

Cemetery Montmartre

The tombs of artists

Musee de la Chasse

Arno Kramer at the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature

Cemetery of the dogs

The Cemetery of the Dogs

Walid Raad

Walid Raad at the Louvre

Basilica of Saint Denis

Basilica of Saint Denis

Marcel Breuer

Marcel Breuer retrospective at the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine

Marquis de Lafayette

Grave of the Marquis de Lafayette

Eileen Grey

Eileen Gray exhibition at the Pompidou

Alabaster Mourners of John the Fearless

Alabaster Mourners of John the Fearless at the Musée de Cluny

Fred le Chevalier

The street art of Fred le Chevalier

The balloonists of Pere Lachaise

The balloonists of Pere Lachaise

Musee d'Orsay

L’Ange du Bizarre (The Angel of the Odd) at the Musée d’Orsay

The Healing Saints and the Medicine of the Divine at the Museum of the History of Medicine

The Healing Saints and the Medicine of the Divine at the Museum of the History of Medicine  

Musee Fragonard

The Musée Fragonard and the “History and Cultural Representations of Human Remains” conference series at the Academy of Medicine, & a Notes from the Field

Johann Rivat’s paintings in Galerie Metropolis

Johann Rivat’s paintings in Galerie Metropolis

Defender of Time Clock

The Defender of Time clock

Jan Fabre at Galerie Daniel Templon

The Museum of Everything

The Museum of Everything

And those are the stories you can get from two weeks in Paris! An argument for more travel if I have ever seen one.

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Morning in Pere Lachaise Cemetery

So when we last left off (and apologies for the lack of postings, it seems that now that I’m basically making my living as a blogger, that the blog where I got my blogging start as fallen to the wayside, hélas!), I had just arrived in Paris and spent a rather jet lagged day journeying around the city. Well, I got a whole night of sleep and felt millions of times better, but still woke up obscenely early. Since the apartment we were staying in was only a five minute walk from Pére Lachaise Cemetery, one of my favorite places to explore in Paris, I decided to go for a morning walk.

I’d never been in the old cemetery quite so early, just after its gates opened, and found that it was mostly full of old French men reading newspapers and eating croissants on benches, not really paying much mind to my ambling walk through the tombs. As the morning burned on there were more and more tourists, but for much of the walk I had the place to myself. Here are some of my favorite photos from the excursion:

This is a memorial for two balloonists who perished while trying to fly up too high. I wrote about their whole story here for Atlas Obscura.

The insides of the narrow mausoleums could be a bit unsettling.

Was this one the most unsettling?

Yes, it was.

Here is the grave of Felix Faure, once the president of France. I believe that’s the French flag draping over his body.

Some rather beautiful cats call the cemetery home.

This is the entrance to the “Aux Morts” (“To the Dead”) ossuary, which acts as the cemetery’s catacombs.

A shrouded angel (even the wings are covered, I think) grasping some cattails. Death keeping a hold on life? I read that the cattails are also a symbol of salvation.

This is the two-story 19th century columbarium. I heard that Maria Callas is interred here, but in the hundreds of plaques I did not see her.

I think this ill-looking face is supposed to be one of mourning, but it reminds me of Jacob Marley, a character who absolutely terrified me as a child with all the chains and  face wrappings.

I don’t think there is much kneeling going on in these mausoleums anymore. I read that there are only 30 year leases that have to be renewed on gravesites (if not renewed, you go to that ossuary), but many of these seem to have been long forgotten by families.

A bat!

This was something I had not seen before: a gravesite shaped like a military tent!

Graffiti at Jim Morrison’s well-traveled tomb. This is as close as you can get due to barricades. Although there was no guard there to stop you from jumping over…

This bas relief certainly caught my eye! It turned out to be on the tomb of Robertson, a famed innovator of phantasmagoria. I also wrote about this tomb for Atlas Obscura, so check it out and read about the conjuring of fake 18th century phantoms!

Robertson was also a balloonist.

After spending the morning wandering, I headed to a cafe for some much needed coffee. I love many things about Paris, but the constant proximity of cafes with strong coffee is definitely a highlight. That and the dense cemeteries for exploring, of course!

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Church Chairs in the Cathédrale Saint-Maurice de Vienne.

Church Chairs in the Cathédrale Saint-Maurice de Vienne.

In preparation for my May Rome adventure, and because it is only a 50 minute train ride, I went to Vienne this Wednesday with Australian assistant Jacinta. Like my current French hometown Valence, Vienne is on banks of the Rhône River in the Rhône-Alpes region. Vienne gets most of its tourism for its Roman monuments, which were built after Vienne became a Roman colony in 47 BC. There weren’t many other tourists on the rather rainy day we picked to visit, leaving some of the sites eerily empty.

Someone had carved out the faces on these at the Cathédrale Saint-Maurice de Vienne. A lot of the statues and carvings had been decapitated.

Someone had carved out the faces on these at the Cathédrale Saint-Maurice de Vienne. A lot of the statues and carvings had been decapitated.

The city has a very handy self-guided walking tour that goes through town, starting at the tourism office. There were yellow arrows painted all over the ground with bronze tree markers leading the way. There were even designated stopping areas to gaze on a particular building from the appropriate angle. We did veer off the path a few times, but overall it was a great way to see the city without getting lost. We first walked past some ruins from the Roman town that had been incorporated into an ugly shopping center and then went by the Eglise Saint-Pierre. It’s more of a museum than a church now, but is significant as being one of the oldest medieval churches standing in the country. Our path then took us to the Cathédrale Saint-Maurice, a stunning Flamboyant Gothic church.

Abandoned glove in the Cathedrale that may or may not have been used to press down those five broken piano keys.

Abandoned glove in the Cathédrale Saint-Maurice de Vienne that may or may not have been used to press down those five broken piano keys.

The Cathédrale Saint-Maurice was completely empty and a little bit creepy. Most of the statues and even some of the carvings on the walls had been decapitated or had their faces dug out. I assume this happened during the French Revolution, but I couldn’t find any information. There were also odd things sitting around, like this dusty glove on a broken piano. Bizarre as some of it was, I enjoyed the unsettling vibe the church gave off. I know it’s awful to say, but after seeing so many Gothic cathedrals in France they all start to run together. But I don’t think I’ll forget the faceless Saints and angels of the Cathédrale Saint-Maurice.

Temple dAuguste et de Livie.

Temple d’Auguste et de Livie.

A short distance from the cathedral was the Temple d’Auguste et de Livie, a Roman temple originally dedicated to the cult of Augustus. It managed to survive over two thousand years of history by being transformed in a Christian church and then a temple of reason during the French Revolution. It was later a museum and a library and today seems to be used as a centerpiece for the square that was built up around it. I was disappointed there was no way to walk through it, but it was still spectacular to come around a corner and suddenly see such a well-preserved Roman temple.

Spiky-teethed characters on the side of L’abbaye Saint-André-le-Bas.

Spiky-teethed characters on the side of L’abbaye Saint-André-le-Bas.

We circled L’abbaye Saint-André-le-Bas and walked across the river to an archaeological site where there are excavated remains of the Roman civilization. You had to pay to actually get in, but we were able to see a lot from the fence. After that we had fougasses for lunch. They’re a specialty of the south of France and are basically soft bread with a filling inside. Kind of like a sophisticated hot pocket, except bigger and with better ingredients.

A crying statue in the Chapelle Notre Dame de Pipet.

A crying statue in the Chapelle Notre Dame de Pipet.

We next went by the Roman theater and then up the hill behind it to the the Chapelle Notre Dame de Pipet. It was a bit of a steep climb, but the view of the valley and the city was worth it. Unfortunately, at this point it started to rain, but I’d brought an umbrella from my broken umbrella collection so we stayed relatively dry. It’s so windy in Valence that I’ve given up on buying new umbrellas because I know they’ll just get turned inside out.

The last part of our walk took us past more Roman ruins and we continued south to the Pyramide du Cirque Romain, which is the only thing remaining from the Roman circus. There is a legend that it is the tomb of Pontius Pilate, but that’s never been confirmed. Today it’s at the center of a traffic circle, around the corner from a kebab shop with a miniature Pyramide outside.