31 octobre 2005
On the Champs-Élysées, across from "Peugeot Avenue", carmaker Renault has their Atelier (Workshop) Renault. In the post about "Peugeot Avenue,", "Tomate Farcie" commented that she remembered from having grown up in Paris the Atelier Renault having an American drugstore theme to its upstairs restaurant. The restaurant is still there, but the American drugstore theme is gone. Currently, Renault is celebrating their double Formula 1 victories in the displays at Atelier Renault. The Atelier viewed from Champs-Élysées. A Renault "Megane" fitted out for Police work. Renault "Megane" series cars in Renault's racing colors. Sorry, girls, the drivers are just cardboard cutouts.
On This Day: le 31 octobre....
....in 1517 Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses denouncing papal corruption to the north door of Wittenberg's castle church in Germany beginning the Reformation. French Protestantism, though influenced by Martin Luther and French reformers of the early 1500's, was dominated by the teachings of John Calvin. Calvin was a French Protestant leader who headed the Reformed Church in Geneva, Switzerland. King Francis I tolerated the Huguenots for much of his reign (1515-1547), which helped them grow. During the reign of Henry II (1547-1559), the Huguenots became a large and influential group. As they grew strong, the government and the Roman Catholics persecuted them more and more. Such important people as Admiral Gaspard de Coligny and Anthony, king of Navarre, were Huguenots. The Guise family led French Roman Catholics and influenced Henry's son King Francis II against the Huguenots. In Normandie, many Normands, always noted for their independence, took to the Calvinist version of the Reformation. The numbers of Norman Huguenots grew rapidly, and my mother's ancestral family were included among them. After Francis II died in 1560 and Charles IX became king, the queen mother, the Italian and Roman Catholic Catherine de Medicis, dominated the French government. For a time, Catherine encouraged the Huguenots as a balance against the Guises. But feelings in both parties became so bitter that civil war broke out. The Huguenots had some of France's best military leaders and a well-organized army. Catherine, fearing Coligny's influence on her son, allied herself with Henry, the Duke of Guise. Some historians suspect but cannot prove, that Catherine and Guise were responsible for the Massacre of Saint Bartholomew's Day, which occurred in 1572. In the massacre, pro-Catholic forces murdered thousands of Huguenots. Henry III, who succeeded Charles IX in 1574, feared the popularity of the Guise family and had the Duke of Guise and his brother, a cardinal, assassinated in 1588. These murders aroused public feeling against Henry, and he allied himself with Henry of Navarre and the Huguenots. In 1589, Henry III was assassinated, and Henry of Navarre, a Protestant, became King Henri IV. Most of France was Catholic, and Henry realized he must become a Catholic to be a successful king. He famously said, "France is worth a mass." But in 1598, Henry issued the Edict of Nantes, which gave the Huguenots freedom of worship in 100 communities. The edict also gave them much political independence. The Huguenots thus formed a sort of Protestant republic within the Catholic kingdom. In 1590 the members of my mother's ancestral family in Normandie who had not been burned at the stake for being Huguenots stole a fishing boat and fled Normandie for the Isle of Guernsey in la Manche, the English Channel, eight years before the Edict of Nantes. None of my mother's family, the Sarchets, remain in Normandie. As an aside, Henri IV was a capable king and was greatly aided by his equally capable minister, Sully. Sully's home, Hôtel de Sully on rue-Saint-Antoine in the 4e is today a biblioteque. Immediately behind Hôtel de Sully is Place des Vosges, named for the Vosges mountains in north-eastern France and built for the queen, Henri IV's wife, as a retreat from the palace, which at that time was la Louvre. In the 19th century, writer Victor Hugo lived at #6 Place des Vosges. Henri IV ordered the building of one of Paris's most famous bridges, le Pont Neuf, the "new" bridge. Even in the 17th century, Paris was plagued with traffic jams and Henri IV was assassinated by a madman in 1610 while his carriage was stuck in a traffic jam on rue Ferroniere near both the central market, forum des Halles, and la Louvre. The Huguenots lost their political independence under Louis XIII, who was king from 1610 to 1643, and his minister, Cardinal Richelieu. But they did not lose their freedom of worship until 1685, when Louis XIV repealed the Edict of Nantes. After the repeal, about 200,000 Huguenots fled to such places as the Netherlands, England, Brandenburg (now part of Germany), South Africa and America. Many Huguenots were craftworkers or textile workers, and they contributed to the prosperity of the countries where they settled. The Huguenots who remained in France regained their civil rights during the French Revolution (1789-1799). The struggle between Huguenots and Catholics in France contributed to the growth of freedom and democracy in Europe. Arguments for civil disobedience and rebellion against tyranny emerged among both groups. Some writers suggested that the source of political authority should not lie in a hereditary monarchy, but with the people. These ideas influenced English thought of the 1600's and, later, the American and French revolutions. Despite the Calvinist Huguenot background of my mother's ancestral family, I am a Lutheran - by choice, not by "birth." For a haunting perspective on the Huguenot persecutions in France, read Tracy ( The Girl With a Pearl Earring ) Chevalier's The Virgin Blue.
29 octobre 2005
Gare de Lyon
As I wrote in the post below about the TGV, rail transportation is still hugely popular in France. Below are pictures taken at Gare de Lyon in Paris. Besides being an important transfer point for le Métro and the busses, Gare de Lyon links the south east of France with Paris and also links Paris with stops in Italy and Switzerland. There is something magnificent and splendid about these busy stations. The French word for station, gare, contains the root for the English word "garage." Board announcing train departures. Detail of wall by quais, note the Lyon - lion - and the shield of one of the cities served by Gare de Lyon. Murals above the billeteries depicting scenes of the cities served by the station. Memorial to SNCF employees killed in action in World War I. Very busy quais and three TGVs.
Cartes postales de Paris
Postcards from Paris...
28 octobre 2005
Le TGV - Le Train Grande Vitesse
Unlike in the U.S., rail travel in France is still an important means of transportation. This is due in no small measure to the fact that the one and only railroad, the SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer français) is owned by the national government, and the prices are artificially low. French tax dollars at work.
I won’t go into the SNCF jokes the French tell, nor the difficulties posed by the still largely communist union of railroad workers.
Be all that as it may, in my experience, the SNCF does an amazingly good job. The trains are surprisingly clean - especially considering the number of passengers the trains carry. The trains, including the RER in Paris, have far less trash left on them than the BART trains in the San Francisco Bay Area - and BART carries substantially less traffic.
Most of the time, the trains are on time, and the system of connecting with other means of public transportation is very well thought out and generally seamless.
The low prices for SNCF tickets has made it difficult for airline connections between the major cities to be a paying proposition for the airlines. The inter-city trains have roomy, comfortable seats and adequate legroom. So, why board a flying cattle car when for less money and for only slightly more travel time, you can travel in comfort?
The pride of the SNCF, and justly so, is le TGV, Train Grande Vitesse - the high speed trains. Outside of the cities, the TGV moves at 300 kph - 180 miles-per-hour. They are electric, thus clean in operation, all the more so because most of France’s electricity is generated in nuclear plants. Even though French politics are more to the left than U.S. politics, the government has succeeded in being able to build many nuclear power plants.
The seats, even in 2e Classe, on the TGV are more comfortable than most seats on airlines.
I once took the Eurostar TGV from Waterloo Station in London, under La Manche (the English Channel) into Gare du Nord in Paris. It was a fine experience.
The pictures of the TGV above were taken at the TGV station at Charles de Gaulle airport. The SNCF takes its competition with the airlines right to the airport. The pictured train is bound for Lille in the north of France.
Les sites de Paris: "Peugeot Avenue" - Champs-Élysées
Carmaker Peugeot has a showroom on Avenue-des- Champs-Élysées they call "Peugeot Avenue." In it they showcase historical Peugeots, current production models and highlight their concept cars. Currently the showroom is decorated in a 1930s theme and houses two '30s-era Peugeots, one of which is shown here. Also on display are two current models and their wild "4002" concept car. What great fun to visit this showroom!
27 octobre 2005
Les sites de Paris: Le Panthéon
Louis XV vowed in 1744 that if he recovered from an illness he would replace the ruined church of Saint-Genévieve Abbey with an edifice to the glory of the patron saint of Paris: St-Genèvieve. The Marquis of Marigny was entrusted with the fulfillment of the vow after the king regained his health. The protégé of Marigny - Soufflot - was charged with the plans. Thus began the construction of Le Panthéon. Situated on the Montagne St-Genèvieve, it had a commanding view of the city. The overall design was that of a Greek cross with a massive portico of corinthian columns. Its ambitious lines called for a building 110 metres long by 84 metres wide, and 83 metres high. No less vast was its crypt. The foundations were laid in 1758, but due to financial difficulties, it was only completed after Soufflot's death (1780) by his student, Rondelet, in 1789. No sooner completed, than the Revolutionaly government changed its mission from that of a church to that of a mausoleum for the remains of great Frenchmen. Twice since then it has reverted to being a church, only to become again a temple to the great men of France. Among those buried in its necropolis are Voltaire, Rousseau, Mirabeau, Marat, Victor Hugo, Emile Zola, and Soufflot its architect. The remains of Jean Moulin - hero of the French Resistence during the Second World War - were moved here by Charles de Gaulle. In the late 19th century, the mathematician Foucault sought to prove by means other than astronomy that the earth rotated around the sun. He calculated that he would be able to do so with a pendulum of a certain length. The only building in France at the time tall enough to accomodate Foucault's pendulum was Le PanthÃ©on. The pendulum was installed in "the eye of God" in the ceiling of the dome, some 270 feet above the ground. The pendulum is actually stationary. What we see is the rotation of the earth, 11º an hour, 272º a day. The photo of the dome of Le Panthéon was taken from the gardens of Palais Luxembourg, which houses the French Senat.
25 octobre 2005
On this day... (25 Oct) French Composer Georges Bizet was born
French composer Georges Bizet, Georges wrote Carmen (1875), one of the most popular operas of all time. This violent love story was severely criticized at first. Critics said the murder scene was inappropriate for the stage, and called the story obscene and its characters repulsive. They did not realize that Bizet had created true-to-life characters, rather than the usual opera types. He based Carmen on a novelette by the French author Prosper Merimee. Bizet was born in Paris and became a student at the Paris Conservatory just before his 10th birthday. At 14, he won a first prize for piano playing. Even before he graduated in 1857, he had written his Symphony in C. This work was neglected during Bizet's lifetime and was not published until 1935. Although Bizet was a brilliant pianist, his main interest was in composing, especially operas. He was an impulsive man, and started many works but completed only a few. His first important completed opera, The Pearl Fishers (1863), was poorly received. This fine opera is famous for its marvelous tenor duet, Au fond du temple saint. Bizet gained his first recognition with his opera The Young Girl of Perth (1867). In 1872, Bizet wrote the incidental music for Alphonse Daudet's play L'Arlesienne. The two orchestral suites that were created from music from this play rank among Bizet's best compositions. His other important works include songs and pieces for solo piano. Bizet's music is very melodic-tightly organized with relatively simple yet creative orchestral accompaniment. These features brought new freshness to music of his time.
18 octobre 2005
On this day...French Philosopher Henri Bergson was born
Henri Bergson Bergson was born in Paris 18 October, 1859. His books Time and Free Will (1889), Matter and Memory (1896), and Creative Evolution (1907) present the principles of his philosophy. Bergson believed that time is the great reality. But by "time" he did not mean what is usually understood. According to Bergson, time does not exist in the ordinary sense of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He believed in a concept of time that he called duration. Bergson viewed duration as a constant flow from the past into the future, not just as a succession of instants. Bergson believed that time in this sense holds the possibility for new experiences. "Each moment," he stated, "is not only something new, but something unforeseeable." He believed that creative evolution is possible because reality is a past that constantly becomes something new and is also a present constantly emerging into the future. He held that intuition was the most trustworthy guide to understanding. Unlike the intellect, it did not falsify things by analyzing them. Bergson was a professor at the College de France from 1900 to 1921, and became famous as a teacher, lecturer, and author. He received the 1927 Nobel Prize for literature. He died in 1941.
14 octobre 2005
On this day....William the Conqueror won the Battle of Hastings
One of my Norman ancestors sailed from Bayeau with Guillaume le Conquerant and fought in the Battle of Hastings. The following is adapted from The World Book Encyclopedia. The Battle of Hastings on 14 October 1066 marked the beginning of the conquest of England by William, Duke of Normandy. Historians rank it among the major battles that changed the course of history. With William's assumption of the English crown, the Plantagenet dynasty * evolved in England and 400 years of French domination of the English court began. French became the language of the court, and it is from this influence that most of the Latin-derived words that appear in the English language came. Harold Godwin was chosen king of England in 1066, after Edward the Confessor died. But William of Normandy claimed that Edward, his cousin, had promised him the English throne. Harold prepared to defend the coast against an attack, as William enlisted knights from Normandy and northern France. But the King of Norway suddenly invaded northern England to claim the throne. Harold took his troops north on a forced march. His Anglo-Saxon forces defeated the Norse near York. During Harold's absence from the southern coast of England, William landed his army without opposition. Harold hastened south with his weary forces and gathered such militiamen as he could from the south. He met William's invading troops at the hill of Senlac, near the town of Hastings. Harold almost won a second major victory in three weeks in the day-long battle. The details of the fighting are unclear but historians think Harold's men held the top of the hill. Then the Normans pretended to retreat in disorder, causing the English militia on the flanks to rush down the hill in pursuit. The Norman knights split the English formation, cutting the separate elements of the enemy army to pieces. A Norman arrow killed Harold. But it took William five more years to complete his conquest. * The Plantagenet dynasty, of French origin, began with Henry II, who assumed the English throne in 1154, and ended with the death of Richard III in 1485. Most of the British, Canadian, Australian and U.S. legal systems evolved from the legal foundations laid by Henry II. King Henry II tried to take control of the English church, which brought him into conflict with Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury. When Henry asked, in a fit of rage, whether anyone in his court was brave enough to rid him of a single "meddlesome priest," four knights took the king at his word. The knights assassinated Thomas in Canterbury Cathedral. The people were angered by the murder, and Thomas's tomb at Canterbury quickly became a place of pilgrimage. Pope Alexander III declared Thomas a saint in 1173. Thomas's feast day is 29 December. Twentieth-century poet T.S. Eliot was inspired by this assassination to write the verse play "Murder in the Cathedral." In Eliot's play, each of the four knights presents Becket with a temptation, the acceptance of which would save his life. Becket, having shunned the first three, is presented with the fourth temptation, something particularly difficult for him to say "no" to. Eliot has Becket reply
"That last temptation's the greatest treason
to do the right deed for the wrong reason.
13 octobre 2005
Histoire de France: Vercingétorix, "Super Warrior King"
In the post below about Basil Kamir's boulangerie, Moulin de la Vierge, I commented that the story of the name of the street on which the boulangerie, rue Vercingétorix, is located would be the subject of a future post. Here it is. Vercingétorix is a hero to the French, a symbol of French nationalism. Vercingétorix is thought to have been born in 72 BC. He became the chieftain of the Arverni, a Gallic tribe. Vercingétorix led the great Gallic revolt against the Romans in 53-52 BC. His name in Gaulish means "super-warrior-king." As described in Julius Caesar's Gallic Wars, Rome had secured domination over the Celtic tribes beyond the Provincia Narbonensis (modern day Provence) through a careful divide and rule strategy. Vercingétorix ably unified the tribes, adopted the policy of retreating to natural fortifications, and undertook an early example of a scorched earth strategy by burning towns, farms and crops to prevent the Roman legions from living off the land. Caesar and his chief lieutenant Labienus lost the initial minor engagements, but captured the tribal capital at Avaricum (modern Bourges). They then overtook and encircled Vercingétorix at the Battle of Alesia. Vercingétorix summoned his Gallic allies to attack the besieging Romans, prompting Caesar to build a legendary doughnut-shaped fortification with an inner wall to contain the Arvernian garrison, and an outer defensive perimeter to protect against the attempted relief. Caesar's tactics wreaked havoc on the poorly organized rescue force. Vercingétorix surrendered in magnificent fashion, allegedly riding his horse out of Alesia and riding around Caesar's camp before kneeling to Caesar with a flourish. He was imprisoned in the Tullianum in Rome for five years, before being publicly displayed. He died in 46 BC, and there are two theories as to his cause of death: the first and most likely is that he was strangled shortly after Caesar's triumph in 46 BC; a second popular theory, based on legend, is that he was beheaded by Romans. Vercingétorix is the basis for the popular French cartoon character "Astérix," and the inspiration for the "Parc Astérix" amusement park north of Paris in the Picardie region. "Parc Astérix" was built in 1989, several years before Euro Disneyland invaded France and located in the Seine-et-Marne east of Paris.
11 octobre 2005
On this day....French novelist François Muriac was born
François Mauriac was born in Bordeaux on this day in 1885. He died in 1970. Mauriac won the 1952 Nobel Prize for literature. His novels are set among middle-class people in his native Bordeaux. The attitudes toward sin and love expressed in his fiction reflect his Roman Catholic faith. Mauriac's novels explore the mysteries of human existence, the nature of destiny, and human guilt before a judging though forgiving God. His stories are noted for their psychology and beautiful language. Mauriac's major novels include The Kiss to the Leper (1922), Therese Desqueyroux (1927), Vipers Tangle (1932), and The Frontenac Mystery (1933). In 1934, Mauriac began to write essays on his view of life and literature for the newspaper Le Figaro. These essays have been republished periodically in collections called Journals. Mauriac also wrote several plays, including Asmodee (1938) and Le Feu sur la terre (1951). His poetry was collected in Le Sang d'Atys (1940). His biographies include two studies of Christ, Life of Jesus (1936) and The Son of Man (1958). Mauriac was elected to the French Academy in 1933. Claude Mauriac, his son, is also a well-known novelist.
10 octobre 2005
On this day le 9 octobre....
French composer Camille Saint-Saëns was born
French composer Camille Saint-Saëns was born on le 9 octobre 1835 in Paris. He died on le 16 décembre 1921. His most famous work is "The Carnival of the Animals" (1886) for two pianos and orchestra. (He forbade the performance of this work, with the exeption of the section known as le cygne - the Swan, during his lifetime.) His other major compositions include the Cello Concerto No. 1 (1873), the Piano Concerto No. 4 (1875), the opera Samson and Delilah (1877), and the chamber work Septet (1880). Another famous work of Saint-Saëns is his Symphony #3, "The Organ Symphony," which has a spectacular part for the organ in its third movement, written no doubt to showcase his talents as an organist. Showing Mozartian precocity as both a pianist and composer, Saint-Saëns composed several pieces for piano by the age of 5 and made his debut as a pianist at the age of 10. His dazzling gifts early won him the admiration of Gounod, Rossini, Berlioz and especially Franz Liszt, who hailed him as the world’s greatest organist. Saint-Saëns pursued a range of other activities, organizing concerts of Liszt’s symphonic poems (then a novelty), reviving interest in older music (notably of Bach, Handel and Rameau), writing on musical, scientific and historical topics, travelling often and widely (in Europe, North Africa and South America) and composing prolifically; on behalf of new French music he co-founded the Société Nationale de Musique (1871). A virtuoso pianist, he excelled in Mozart and was praised for the purity and grace of his playing. Similarly French characteristics of his conservative musical style - neat proportions, clarity, polished expression, elegant line - reside in his best compositions, the classically orientated sonatas (especially the first each for violin and cello), chamber music (Piano Quartet op.41), symphonies (no.3, the ‘Organ’ Symphony, 1886) and concertos (no.4 for piano, no.3 for violin). Under his leadership, the Societe Nationale de Musique encouraged new French music and introduced the works of such French composers as Claude Debussy, Vincent D'Indy, Gabriel Fauré (he was Fauré's teacher), and César Franck. Saint-Saëns served from 1857 - 1875 as principal organist at L'église de la Madeleine* in Paris, which was also the parish served later by Saint-Saëns pupil, composer-organist Gabriel Fauré. * There are actually three links to photos in the phrase "L'église de la Madeleine:" 1) L'église 2) de la 3) Madeleine