Friday, May 29, 2015

Palais-Royal Gardens in Paris in May

The month of May is about over.  It is one of my favorite months when the trees have tender shades of green and flowers are bright.  The weather in May is warm but not sweltering and the nights are still cool.  Later, under the warm Georgia sun, the flowers will fade, insects and mosquitoes will abound.  On May 10th was our little granddaughter's second birthday.  On May 11 was our niece (the granddaughter of my husband's sister) 16th birthday, and on May 12th would have been my mother 105th birthday had she lived (she passed away in 2002 ages 92.)  May was the month of my late father-in-law's birthday.  It is the birth month of my son-in-law and of my sister-in-law.  In addition, at the end of last week, on 23rd May, our eldest daughter became engaged to a very nice man - a happy month for all.  Below are my granddaughter, niece and my mother on her birthday, when she was 68 years old.

May is the month to celebrate mothers.  In the US, Mother's Day was on May 10th and in France it is celebrated on May 30th.  On that day, I usually would buy my mother a hydrangea plant or some roses.

My mother and I would often visit the gardens of Paris.  One of our favorite gardens was in the Palais Royal - the roses and other flowers were outstanding there in May.  Last year, in 2014, my husband and I spent several days in Paris in May, but it rained often.  The time before that, in May, the days were sunny and very warm and I took him to the Palais-Royal.  We stopped at the Metro station Louvre-Palais Royal - the Louvre Museum is across the street.

I was surprised to see the fancy bead-work around the Metro entrance.  Years ago, I had a summer job in a little shop in the galleries of the rue de Rivoli and the Metro entrance was plain.  In October 2000, for the centenary of the Paris Metro, artist Jean-Michel Othoniel created two cupolas called "Kiosque des noctambules" (Kiosk of the night owls) - one representing the day, the other the night.  The canopies are made of multi-colored glass ball garlands and aluminum.  Below the canopy, at the back of the fence is an aluminum bench.  (Photo of the Metro station courtesy Wikipedia - Click on collage to enlarge.)

The area around the Metro is called Place Colette in honor of the well-known novelist Colette (1873-1954) who lived in a spacious apartment in a building nearby.  She had a superb view of the gardens.  She lived there from 1938 until her death on August 3, 1954.  the Catholic Church refused to conduct religious funerals for Colette, but she was the first French woman granted a state funeral by the French Republic.  This took place on 7 August 1954 in the courtyard of the Palais Royal with more than 6,000 Parisians in attendance to pay their last respects.

The history of the Palais-Royal is long and tumultuous, just like the city of Paris itself.  The Palais and its gardens were built between 1633 and 39 for Cardinal Richelieu - at the time it was called "Palais-Cardinal."  Upon the death of the cardinal the palace and gardens were bequeathed to King Louis XIII.  When Louis XIII died in 1643, his son Louis XIV was only 4 1/2 years old.  His mother, Anne of Austria, took young Louis and his brother to live in the palace so they could play in the gardens.  Thus the name was changed to "Palais-Royal" (Royal Palace.)  Although when he was 5 years old, Louis XIV almost died when he fell in the garden pond and was saved at the last minute.  Below is Louis XIV painted by Philippe de Champaigne (1602-1674) and some old engravings of the Palais-Royal in the 17th century (courtesy Bibliotheque Nationale de France.)

Since this building was constructed in the 17th century, its history has been quite long and varied.  I'll sum it up as I believe that it is always interesting to know the background of a monument - glimpsing at its yesterdays brings it more to life today.  Various branches of the royal family lived in the palace.  This is also the place where a young lawyer, Camille Desmoulins, jumped on a table and gave a passionate speech asking the crowd to take up arms for freedom.  The date was July 12, 1789.  Camille's speech energized the crowd and riots spread throughout Paris culminating on July 14, 1789, with the storming of the Bastille prison.  (Click on collage twice to read better.)

One of the royals had the arcades built with exclusive shops and restaurants.  Later the gardens were modified.  After the Revolution, Parisians would assemble in the Palais-Royal gardens to party, talk, and walk.  It was the hippest part of Paris - the "in" place to be.  It was also a place of debauchery, wild parties as well as rendez-vous for writers, philosophers (and ladies of the night.)  There were cafes, gambling dens and houses of ill repute.  A small 1784 cafe "Cafe de Chartres" was renamed "Vefour" by its new owner, Jean Vefour, in 1820.  It became a top luxury restaurant patronized by Bonaparte and Josephine, Victor Hugo and "le tout Paris" (Parisian smart set.)  The Grand Vefour restaurant has Belle Epoque frescos and mosaics in a sumptuous decor.  It still is one of Paris top exclusive restaurants - the gastronomic place for "haute cuisine."  The prices echo all this.  Apart from their "pleasure menu" at $335 (298 Euros) each not including drinks, they also offer a special set lunch at $110 each (98 Euros.)  (Photos courtesy Grand Vefour.)

The gardens are shaded by red chestnut trees planted in 1910 and double rows of linden trees planted in 1970.  These trees were added to the already 466 trees there.  Below are vintage postcards of the Palais-Royal along the years.

Before France imposed Greenwich Time in 1911, a small cannon installed in the gardens would thunder on sunny days.  A magnifying glass cause the wick to burn at noon.  Many Parisians came to set their time watches by the firing of this cannon.

Today the Palais Royal and its garden have mellowed.  It is quiet, peaceful, and the gardens are closed in the evenings.

During the day, workers bring their lunch and sit on one of the many benches to suntan, relax or read.

Locals walk their dogs or talk about their dogs.  Mothers bring their children.  It is a little tucked away from view, so few tourists come to the gardens.

In 1985, under the initiative of the Ministry of Culture, Daniel Buren, a French conceptual artist  (born 3-28-1938,) designed an audacious and controversial contemporary art titled "Buren Columns."  The 260 black and white striped columns, of different heights, are placed in the inner courtyard of the Palace.  In 1985, another contemporary art had been placed south of the garden: chrome balls, on horizontal fountains, moving up and down with the rhythm of the water.  These kinetic sculptures were made by Belgian artist Pol Bury (1922-2005.)

It was quite a warm day in May when we visited the gardens.  Sitting by the large basin, watching the ducks, had a cooling effect.

While I was busy taking pictures of the lovely roses and flowers, my husband sat in the shade on a bench.  He decided to share his leftover baguette with the pigeons.  They heard the invitation ...

The Palais-Royal houses now four state institutions: la Comedie Francaise (national theatre,) the State Council, the Constitutional Council and the Ministry of Culture.  These cannot be visited but I found some pictures on a French Government virtual tour.  It certainly is an elegant working environment and sophisticate decor for French government employees ...

We rested in this little garden oasis in the center of Paris and imagined the atmosphere of yesteryear.  I was reluctant to leave such pretty roses and to walk back into the Paris traffic.

Here in Georgia my wild rose shrub flowered at the beginning of May.  It climbs very high in the trees.  The roses are a pretty splash of pink against the numerous trees in our yard.

I'll end with the Latin motto on the sign near the little cannon in the Palais-Royal gardens - it is good for the month of May but also for all the other months of the year.


"Je ne compte que les heures heureuses."

"I only count the happy hours."  


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Spring in the Deep South - Madison, part 2

At the end of April we took a little trip east of Atlanta.  In part 1 of this post, I showed where we stopped for lunch - the Blue Willow Inn in Social Circle.  Then we drove further on to another historic town called Madison.  Madison is in Morgan County, sixty miles east of Atlanta (half way between Atlanta and Augusta,) with a population of about 4,000.  It is a pretty town with many vintage houses.  One of its well-known citizens was Oliver Hardy of the comedy team Laurel and Hardy.

Oliver "Ollie" Hardy was born named Norvell Hardy in Harlem, Georgia (outside of Augusta, GA) on January 18, 1892.  His father, Oliver Hardy, a lawyer, had been wounded at the Battle of Antietam in 1862 and was a Confederate veteran.  In February 1892 the Hardy family moved 1 hour 30 minutes away to Madison, Georgia, where the father, Oliver, operated the Turnell-Butler Hotel (shown in postcard below.)  A few months later, in November 1892, Mr. Hardy died.  When Norvell became a comedian he took the name "Oliver" in honor of his father.  In 1927 Oliver Hardy (1892-1957) and Stan Laurel (1890-1965, born in Ulverston, Lancashire, England) started a comedy team.  They were very successful and made hundreds of films.  I remember my father, when I was a wee child in Paris, had bought a second-hand movie projector.  He would play Laurel and Hardy and Charlie Chaplin movies often to the joy of all our neighbors who came to watch them with us.  (Click on collage to enlarge.)

It took us about 30 minutes to drive to Madison.  I avoided the highway and took a small rural road where there was no traffic.  I took a picture through my windshield - there is a glass reflection though.

Earlier I had read that one of Madison's antebellum mansions could be visited but closed by 4 pm so we drove there presently.   The home is operated by the Friends of Heritage Hall and is open for tours, weddings and special events.  When we arrived a bus load of ladies was taking a tour of the house.  We sat in rocking chairs and waited.  As you can see in the picture below the house has four columns and two square piers on each side.  This is the only house like this in Madison.

When the tour group had left, a docent gave me a tour of the authentically decorated house - my husband decided to keep rocking on the front porch.  The house, known as the Jones-Turnell-Manley House, had been a private residence until 1977.  It was built in 1811 and purchased in 1830 by Confederate Dr. Elijah Evans Jones, a prominent physician in Madison.  He had been listed as a medical doctor at 22 years of age after one year in medical school.  There are photos of Dr. Jones and his wife Elizabeth in the foyer, and portraits made from these photos.  Under the photos is an ornate carved bench.  (Oops! you can see my reflection, taking the photo, in the mirror on the right.)

Above the piano was the portrait of a young lady with her hair parted 2 ways.  The docent explained that before the tradition of giving a diamond as an engagement ring - or when there were not enough funds - an engaged lady would part her hair this way to show that she was engaged.  The Jones daughters received diamond rings when they were engaged and to make sure they were real  they made etchings with them on the windows that can still be seen.

The first dining room was converted into a doctor's office.  Some pretty scary Confederate surgical tools are exposed on a table.  During the Civil War very little anesthesia was used during amputations.  Most men died from infections following the surgery.  On one side of the room is a cabinet containing a collection of fancy spittoons or cuspidors that were for the use of ladies.

The last private owner of the house was philanthropist Sue Reid Walton Manley.  A portrait of Sue in her wedding dress is above the mantel in the parlor.  Susan Reid Manley Law, her granddaughter, was married in the house and her portrait, in her wedding dress, is above the dining room mantel.  She inherited the Greek revival house and donated it to the Morgan Historical Society in 1977.

We walked upstairs to take a look at the bedrooms.  Some period clothes were exhibited.

The bedroom with the pink sofa and red carpet was redecorated for the 1994 TV movie "The Oldest Confederate Widow tells all" which was filmed in this house and in Madison.  One of the bedrooms is called "The Ghost Bedroom" as many visitors say they have seen the ghost of Dr. Jones' previous wife, Virginia.  You can read a report on this phenomenon here.

The docent explained that Madison was not burned during the Civil War because Joshua Hill (1812-1891,) a Georgia Congressman, had been a strong Unionist and refused to vote for secession - he resigned his seat in protest.  He was also a friend of General William Tecumseh Sherman's brother and thus the town was spared from Sherman's "March to the Sea."  When Georgia was readmitted to the United States in 1871, Joshua Hill became a US Senator for the State of Georgia.  As the tour ended I returned to the front porch and rested on a rocking chair next to my husband.

We drove to our Bed and Breakfast called The Brady Inn.   The Brady Inn is located in town in an 1885 Victorian house.  There are vintage photographs of Patrick Henry Brady and his wife Austria in the foyer.  There is a long wraparound porch with rocking chairs.  All rooms are decorated with period antiques.  We slept in the Annex, in the "Frances Brady" room which opens to the breezeway porch - the beds were most comfortable.  Breakfast the next morning included cream cheese stuffed French toast with peach compote, scrambled eggs and bacon.  The coffee was good.

Next morning when we left my husband said goodbye to the B&B cat, Brady.  We drove to the Madison Square.

We parked close to the Morgan Court House and walked around.  The Court House is in the neoclassical revival style and is dominated by a large and almost square dome.  It has been described as "one of the most unusual site orientations for a court house and an excellent example of Beaux Arts design."  It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

We stepped into the Madison-Morgan Welcome Center.  It used to be Madison's City Hall and Fire Station.  The original fire bell is in the building cupola.  The lady inside the tourist office gave us a postcard, maps and a self-guided tour brochure of Madison.  She told us that the city was established in 1809 as a stagecoach stop and has one of the largest historic districts in Georgia with most historic buildings completed between 1830 and 1860.  She mentioned that Madison had been the location for numerous movies such as:  In the Heat of the Night, I'll Fly Away, Greased Lightning, The Oldest Living Confederate Widow tells all, My Cousin Vinny,  Footloose, Vampire Diaries, Halloween II, Warm Springs, The Odd Life of Timothy Green, Goosebumps, Selma   and more.  Below is the postcard and writing on the back.

Armed with our paper guide, we drove slowly around the historic district streets, stopping to take pictures, read the numerous historic markers and to walk a bit. The Stage Coach House (center below) was built in 1810 and is one of the oldest houses there.  It was an inn originally, when Old Post Road was part of the stagecoach route between Charleston and New Orleans.

The Church of the Advent was constructed in 1842 as a Methodist Church and purchased in 1960 by the Episcopalians.  The church organ is now housed in the original slave gallery.  Across the road is "Boxwood" a Greek revival house which cannot be seen from the road.  A gardener was cutting the boxwood and invited us in.  There were many English and American boxwood bushes and flowers - I just took one picture of iris, not to intrude. (Click on collage twice to read the signs.)

Just around the corner is Joshua Hill's Home, built in 1835.  When General Slocum, of General Sherman's Union Army, came downtown Madison in November 1864, Senator Joshua Hill rode out to meet him with a delegation of men.  He reminded Slocum of the gentlemen's agreement not to burn Madison on their march from Atlanta to Savannah.  The town and buildings survived.  Below is the facade of the house and the swimming pool in the back.

As we drove away on South Main Street we went by a dilapidated High Victorian style house.  It is the Forster-Thomason-Miller house, built in 1883.  I understand this house has been for sale for a long time.  When it was built it was known as the most elegant country home in Middle Georgia.  The house has 5,000 s. ft. with 5 bedrooms, 8 fireplaces with 14 ft ceilings on 11+ acres.  I saw pictures of its interior in a magazine published prior to the fire.  The rooms were furnished with antiques.  But everything is gone now as it suffered a fire in 2001.  The house is waiting for someone to bring it back to its former elegance.

Our last stop was at the Hunter House.  It was built in 1883 by John Hudson Hunter for his wife Ida Clark Hunter when they married.  The house is still in the same family.  This is the most photographed home in Madison and is known as the Gingerbread House.  All the millwork, interior and exterior, was locally made.  My photo at the top of this post is taken from the side of the house looking toward the spindle-work porch.

John Hudson Hunter was a rich furniture emporium and drugstore owner in Madison.  His children Mamie and Nathan inherited the home and Nathan's wife Evelyn lived in the house until she passed away in 2010 at the age of 103 years old.  At present the house is being restored by her granddaughters.  Below are pictures of John and Ida, John and his children and Evelyn at 102 in 2010. 

It had been a pleasant trip, with sunny weather, not too warm or humid.

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