Saturday, August 20, 2016

Monte-Cristo / Saint Germain-en-Laye

Le Chateau de Monte Cristo
(and two historic royal chateaux in Saint-Germain-en-Laye)

We spent our first night in France in the suburb of Paris called Saint-Germain-en-Laye. It's west of Paris about 45 minutes from the airport and on our way to Normandy. It's also near the Chateau de Monte-Cristo, which is why I chose it. I am listening to the Count of Monte Cristo with Craftlit

Saint-Germain had two royal chateaux. Here are some photos and notes about them.

I didn't get a photo of the chapel, but I thought this was interesting, so have included it. The chapel is on the back side of the chateau. We walked past it on our first trip into town, but then we discovered walking on this side through the gardens was a shorter way from town to our hotel.

As a part of the old royal chateau in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, the Gothic Sainte-Chapelle, built in the 1230’s, housed the relic of the crown of thorns purchased by King Louis IX (Saint Louis) in 1239, until the Sainte Chapelle in the Ile de la Cité was finished in 1248. The architect for both chapels was Pierre de Montreuil.

The old chateau was burned down by the Black Prince in 1346. Only the Gothic chapel remains of that building. The rest of the chateau was rebuilt by Francois I in 1539. The royals returned to this chateau from 1660 till 1682. After that, it fell into disrepair, but starting in 1907, was restored to its appearance under Francois I. It is currently (2016) undergoing a face-lift. It houses the National Archeological Museum of France.

This is a small corner of the formal gardens of the old chateau. The park here is much larger than the Bois de Boulogne. 

In 1556, Henri II and Catherine de Medicis built a separate new château (le Château Neuf) nearby. His wife and successors Francois II, Henri III, Henri IV, and Louis XIII used the chateau (among others). In 1638 Louis XIV (The future Sun King) was born in this chateau to Louis XIII and his wife Anne d’Autriche.

The red brick building on the right is part of the New Chateau.

Above the gate the sign says "Here was born Louis XIV." The red brick room is now on the left.

Le Château-Neuf was the refuge of Charles II of England in 1650, after the execution of his father. In 1660 the French Royals returned to the newly renovated “Old chateau.” In 1682, the French Court left Saint-Germain for the Palace of Versailles.

Looking from the terrace of the New Chateau towards Paris, across the Seine. The group of large buildings is La Defense. The Eiffel Tower is just visible on the left part of the mound on the right. You may have to blow up the photo to see it. 

Looking back toward the New Chateau from the gardens. 

 After the French revolution (1779-1793) most of the new chateau was destroyed by its owner of the time. In 1825 an entrepreneur bought, renovated and expanded the remnants of the chateau-neuf. He later gave it to the railroad which used it as a hotel and a famous restaurant was established in it. In the 1840’s Alexandre Dumas resided in the hotel and it was there that he wrote two of his most famous works,  Les trois mousquetaires et Le comte de Monte-Cristo.

This is the Hotel Pavilion Henri IV, where we spent the night. I didn’t know any of this history before we got there. I just knew it was near the chateau Monte-Cristo.

This is the lobby of the hotel, and the door to the red brick room, which is part of the chateau where Louis XIV was born.
Close-up of the door and the sign above it. 

Another shot of the lobby showing the front entry.

And one more shot of the terrace. 

Finally I come to the chateau de Monte Cristo. After his success with the two famous novels mentioned above Dumas decided to build himself a chateau near to Saint-Germain-en-Laye. He bought some property on a hillside where he built a residence in the renaissance style and a small gothic “chateau” surrounded by a moat, where he put his writing desk. He entertained lavishly and frequently. He installed a room on the 1st (U.S. 2nd) floor decorated entirely in the Moorish style. The main chateau is now a museum dedicated to the life and works of Dumas. They don’t allow pictures inside so please take a look at this link for photos of the chateau and the Moorish room.

Here are some of my photos taken in the garden and of the two chateaux.

This is the main chateau, which Dumas called the chateau Monte-Cristo.

And this is the writing studio as seen from the main residence. 

The door of the writing studio named the Chateau d'If.
Chateau d'If means "Yew chateau" in French, but it is the name of the island prison off the coast of Marseilles, where the character Edmond Dantès was imprisoned for 14 years. 

Here's the sign, in case you didn't want to take my word for it. 

The main chateau seen from behind the chateau d'If. 

One of the gardens. This one had some hedge mazes in it, but was a bit overgrown. 

There's also a Grotto, as was fairly common in gardens like this at the time. 

Well, that's my report about the day we spent in Saint Germain-en-Laye and Port Marly.

Do let me know if you enjoyed it. It has taken me 3 days to put this together, so I'd like to know if anyone is reading it. :-) Thanks.   

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Flories d'Antan

Les Flories d'Antan - Old Time Festival in Saint Fraimbault, Normandy

Our little village puts on a festival every August 15th. We have only been here to experience it once before, but wanted to be here again this year on this day. 

There is a parade of vintage and antique cars. One of these two is from 1910. some of the others were from the 30's, 40's and 50's. 

The village also enters an annual flower competition and has won the top category for flower display every year since 1988. The color schemes vary every year. This year they used a lot of black--black foliage and black petunias. Up close these petunias are not dark purple. They are black. This bed is black, red and white. The restaurant in the background is reopening after being closed for about 3 years. They were serving drinks for the festival.

There were some American jeeps in the parade from the liberation forces in 1944. You see one here behind the flower bed and a horse and carriage that was not part of the parade, but was just giving tourists rides.

There were booths lining the mains street selling crafts, jewelry, wooden items, cloth bags and aprons, and lots of home-made and local food products. I bought a home-made Camembert. The vendor asked me if I was going to eat it that day! This is why cheese tastes so much better in France. You can buy it for the day you want to eat it.

Our house is right in the middle of the action-literally. There were booths just outside the front door. This is the street behind us. Our garden is behind the wall where the butterfly bush is. You can almost see our gate and the red garage door is ours. In this street they set up lots of wooden games, which were in use all day once people arrived. I took this before the crowds showed up.

This is part of the parade of old farm machinery. Here you see a tractor pulling a hay wagon with a calf and girl with milk bucket just behind. More people in old farm costumes behind them.

And behind them were school girls dressed in 'tabliers' or school smocks from the 1950's. I was in elementary school in the 1950's, so this is my generation. they were also wearing wooden shoes.

Here they were serving buckwheat crepes or galettes. You could get them with sugar and butter, jam or with a local sausage. We bought two with sausages and took them back to our garden to have for lunch. They were very good. 

This man was carving a stone by hand-just with a hammer and chisel.

I believe the one he is working on above will look like this when it's done. It is obviously part of a bigger project. 

There were demonstrations of threshing wheat by hand and then by machines of different periods. There was a dressage show, demonstrations of spinning wool, milking a cow, making butter,  preparing apples for cider, and more.

We went back out at 7:00 for supper. They served it cafeteria style, which they call 'self'. The choices were sausages, 1/4 melon, cut up tomatoes with a 1/4 hard boiled egg, nectarines, frites, baked potatoes, sliced bread, and a chunk of Camembert,  I think that was the menu. You paid for whatever you took. The choices for drinks were cider, beer, coke, water, or wine--all pretty much the same price. (I think the water was cheaper, but it was not sparkling) They also had coffee and ice cream for dessert. After that there was music and dancing, but we headed home. It had been a pretty long day already.


Well, this is the first blog post I've done in two or three years. I don't know if I am resurrecting this blog or if this is a one-off. We'll see how this goes.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The old Medina in Fez, Morocco

The Medina is the old walled city within the larger city of Fez.  Many North African cities have a medina. The Medina in Fez is a very large network of small alleys, surrounded by a wall.  No cars are allowed inside, making it one of the largest car-free urban areas of the world. If you want to know more check out this UNESCO World Heritage web page.

We spent a few hours in the Medina, being guided by our  ex-pat friends.  We were glad they knew their way around as it could have been confusing.

This first photo was taken from an overlook. Most of what you see in the photo is the medina.  It's very large. We drove down to a gate at the lower end, parked and walked from there.

The Medina in Fez

Our first stop was the tannery.  They gave us fresh mint to hold under our noses to block the strong odor, but by the time we reached the overlook the odor was gone.  It was a very comfortable day, probably about 72 degrees F. Warm in the sun and nice in the shade. Here's what we saw looking down.

looking down: parking and tannery

Here you see on the left the area outside the Medina, where we parked, the wall and just inside it the river, where the hides are washed first.

looking down on the tannery

The hides are next soaked for several days in these greenish vats. They contain ammonia made from pigeon poop. Hence the stink, but as I said it wasn't too bad up where we were. The brown and colored vats farther up were where the hides were dyed. Each man was paid by the piece, so he bought raw hides outside, then followed those hides through until they were dry and ready for resale.

dying vats

We went through the shop, but I didn't buy anything. I guess this is as good a place as any to express my somewhat confused views on animal treatment.  I found all this to be rather gross and the leather products very soft and nice.  I realize these animals are slaughtered, which is sad, but if it weren't for this industry they would never exist. How do you weigh the animals existence for a time and slaughter against not having lived at all?  These animals live outdoors. We saw many herds of sheep, goats and cattle.  They looked like they were well-treated. Some of these hides are camel, but we didn't see any camels.

Next we went into a different gate of the medina and climbed through narrow lanes, twisting and turning until we reached an area where various items were being made of metal.

metal working area

The man on the ground seems to be scoring the shiny metal using a template. There were other tourists here.

square near the university

This is a square (the French word Place is better, because it doesn't imply a shape). Squares are hardly ever square. We walked into the narrow lane you see straight ahead. There is a sign here telling about the square in Arabic. There was an entrance to the university behind me. This is supposed to be the oldest university in the world. It's not the one where our friend works.


metal shops

Beautiful gold and silver-colored objects for sale.  I'm not sure what the metal was. It wasn't actually gold and silver.


This was the only shop I saw selling mirrors. They were very ornate and I couldn't resist a couple photos.

Mirror shop

Here's a shop where they sold colored metal objects. The man in the photo is applying color to that item.

colored metal-cropt_1

Farther down the lane.

lane in medina

From here we back-tracked back out to the car. Transportation in these lanes was by push cart and donkey. I tried taking pictures of the donkeys, but they moved quickly and mostly I just got their tails. Here is one carrying a roll of that shiny gold-colored metal.

donkey transport

We're almost back to the car now.  The balcony above is where we were when we looked down into the tannery.


I think those white disks are some sort of traditional communication  device. :-)


After this we drove to another gate in the medina and walked through more narrow lanes past hundreds of shops selling almost anything. Here's the gate at the entrance to this lane. The lane was narrow and crowded and apparently I didn't get any pictures of it.

gate in medina

Then we went to the airport and started home.

I'll try to get more blog posts up, but most of my pictures are on my husband's computer, so they weren't available to me today.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


We made a trip to Helsinki last fall.  We were there the second week in October. It was chilly, but the fall colors were nice.  Here are some of my pictures.

Helsinki-2012 234

This was the doorway to our hotel. It looked like a castle on the outside.


Helsinki-2012 024

Here's a picture of boats in the harbor. These boats are backed up to the wharf and are selling things from the back. They had fresh fish, pickled fish, other foods in jars and knitted items.

 Helsinkiboats 009

It's hard to see, but this is a boat.

Helsinki-boats 010

This is another boat. You can see the cabin and a crane.


And here is another one.

Helsinki-2012 smoking

Smoking fish right on the sidewalk.

Helsinki-cruise ships

You can see both of the big cruise ships that come over every day from Stockholm, I think.

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One day I walked around the neighborhood where the embassies are.  These are two of them, but I don't remember which ones they are. No photos were allowed of the American Embassy. It was under construction anyway, so not very picturesque at the time.


There are more pictures on this web page.  Helsinki 


Okay, that's it.  It's only taken me 3 1/2 months. It's been a busy 3 1/2 months. It seems like more.