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Paris: MontMartre and Sacré-Cœur!

Sacré-Cœur on Montmartre

Dear Commons Community,

Our hotel in Paris is very comfortable and attractive.  The photo below is the view we wake up to each morning.

Elaine and I spent the bulk of our day at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris or simply Sacré-Cœur  that is located on the summit of the Montmartre, the highest point in the city.  Montmartre is primarily known for its artistic history and as a nightclub district. Many artists including Amedeo Modigliani, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Pablo Picasso, Camille Pissarro, and Vincent van Gogh, lived and/or had studios here. Sacré-Cœur is the dominant structure in the area.

As described in a brochure, the inspiration for Sacré-Cœur’s design originated in 1870, at the proclamation of the Third Republic, with a speech by Bishop Fournier attributing the defeat of French troops during the Franco-Prussian War to a divine punishment after “a century of moral decline” since the French Revolution, in the wake of the division in French society that arose in the decades following that revolution, between devout Catholics and legitimist royalists on one side and democrats, secularists, socialists, and radicals on the other. This schism in the French social order became particularly pronounced after the 1870 withdrawal of the French military garrison protecting the Vatican in Rome to the front of the Franco-Prussian War by Napoleon III, the secular uprising of the Paris Commune of 1870-1871, and the subsequent 1871 defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian War.   Today the basilica is asserted to be dedicated in honor of the 58,000 French citizens who lost their lives during the war, however the decree of the Assemblée Nationale 24 July 1873 voting its construction, specifies that it is to “expiate the crimes of the Commune.” 

Regardless of its history and its dedication, it is a magnificent church both inside and out.  Its location on the top of Montmatre makes it visible throughout Paris.  Beautiful mosaics dominate the walls of the interior with a massive one of Jesus in the ceiling (Christ in Majesty), done by Luc Oliver-Merson in 1922.

I highly recommend a visit here when in Paris,

Tony

Sacré-Cœur Interior Mosaic Christ in Majesty

Sacré-Cœur Exterior View

View from Our Hotel Room

The Agony and Ecstasy of Paris: Notre Dame and Musee D’Orsay!

Dear Commons Community,

We arrived last night in Paris and are staying for a second time (the last time was in 2008) at the very old Hotel Angleterre.  It is in the St. Germain section on the Left Bank.  The hotel has quite a history including being selected as the site for the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783.  The actual site was later moved several houses down the street at the insistence of Benjamin Franklin.  Among notables, Ernest Hemingway and Charles Lindbergh have stayed here.

After breakfast, we went to see Notre Dame.  The fire on April 15th really took a toll on this magnificent cathedral.  Now you see mostly scaffolding, construction equipment, and massive tarps draping the structure.    Very sad. 

A little further up the Seine River, is the Musee D’Orsay, the converted Gare d’Orsay railway station that now houses an extraordinary collection of impressionist art (1848-1914}.  The renovated interior of the train station is an artistic marvel itself.The ground floor of the Musee houses a collection of French sculptures from the 1800s.  The upper floors belong to Cezanne, Gauguin, Manet, Van Gogh, Degas and others who have entire rooms dedicated to their work.    The photographs below do not do justice to the actual paintings.

Quite a day!

Tony

Notre Dame

Notre Dame and Elaine

Musee D’Orsay Interior

Musee D’Orsay Sculpture Garden

Musee D’Orsay Balcony View of the Seine and Paris

Cezanne – The Bathers

Gauguin – The Ladies of Tahiti

Manet – Luncheon in the Grass

Degas – Ballet Rehearsal on Stage

 

Bayeux Tapestry, Cathedral Crypt, Charles de Gaulle Monument!

Bayeux Tapestry Depicting the Battle of Hastings (1066)

Dear Commons Community,

On our last day in Bayeux, we had a relaxing lunch and later a dinner at two fine restaurants on the Rue Saint-Jean.  In the afternoon, we visited three attractions that many tourists go to when in Bayeux:  Bayeux Tapestry, Cathedral of Notre Dame Crypt, and the Charles de Gaulle Monument.

The Bayeux Tapestry depicts the events leading up to and the actual Battle of Hastings in October 1066 fought between William, the Duke of Normandy and King Harold of England.  The victory by William resulted in his being crowned King of England in December 1066.  The tapestry is 70 meters or 76 yards long and has panel after panel done in exquisite embroidery. In addition to the story it tells, it is a window into what people wore, the weapons they used and the food they ate in the early 11th century.  No photography is allowed in the museum that houses the tapestry and the image above is taken from its website.

The Cathedral of Notre Dame in Bayeux is also the burial place for the bishops of Bayeux and houses a crypt.  Its pillars and columns are adorned with paintings, some of which date back to the 15th century. The crypt was walled up for centuries and even fell into oblivion. It was rediscovered in 1412, during work to hollow out a grave for the Bishop Jean de Boissey.

After D-Day and the invasion of Normandy by the Allied forces on June 6th, 1944, Bayeux was the first town liberated in France.  Charles de Gaulle gave a rousing speech in a park and set up his administrative headquarters in Bayeux where he stayed until Paris was liberated in August of 1944.

Today we leave Bayeux and take the train to Paris.  Our stay at the Le Clos de la Chapelle has been perfect.  I highly recommend this hotel to anyone contemplating a stay in Bayeux.  It is ideally situated in the center of the town and you can walk to wherever you want to go.  The proprietor, Claire, could not have been more gracious in meeting our needs.

Brava!

Tony

File:Bayeux cathedrale Notre-Dame crypte.jpgCathedral of Notre Dame – Bayeux Crypt I

Cathedral of Notre Dame – Bayeux Crypt II

Cathedral of Notre Dame – Bayeux Crypt III

 The park where Charles de Gaulle gave his speech has a fountain dedicated to Popee, the wife of Rollo, the First King of Normandy

Elaine on the side of the Monument in Remembrance of Charles de Gaulle’s Speech

This Text is Taken from a Plaque Near the de Gaulle Monument

Normandy: Mont-Saint-Michel

Mont-Saint-Michel in a Distance

Dear Commons Community,

Today we traveled to Mont-Saint-Michel, one of Europe’s most interesting sights and second only to the Eiffel Tower as France’s most popular tourist attraction. Located in the bay where Normandy and Brittany merge, the island can be seen from great distances.  An abbey sits atop the island.

The history of how the abbey came to be is based on the 8th century legend of Aubert, bishop of the nearby town of Avranches who claimed the Archangel Michael visited him in a dream and told him to build a church atop the island.

From 966 on wards, the dukes of Normandy, followed by French kings, supported the development of the abbey on Mont-Saint-Michel. Monastic buildings were added through medieval times and the abbey became a renowned center of learning, attracting some of the greatest minds and manuscript illuminators in Europe. At one point in its history the abbey was used as a prison.  The ramparts at the base of the island were built to keep English forces out.  Other buildings went up along the steep village street, now converted into museums, hotels, restaurants and boutiques for today’s tourists.

One of the most interesting features of the island is that it is subject to changes in the tide coming in and out from the English Channel.  The tides can vary as much as 46 feet between highest and lowest water marks. Popularly nicknamed “St. Michael in peril of the sea” by medieval pilgrims making their way across the flats, the Mont can still pose dangers for visitors who avoid the causeway and attempt the hazardous walk across the sands from the neighboring coast.  To understand this better, if you look at the map below, Mont-Saint-Michel extends out from Normandy on a tidal basin like a fist at the end of an arm with the arm completely submerged under water during high tide and walkable, dry sand during low tide.

An incredible place.

Tony

Mont-Saint-Michel

Map Showing Mont-Saint-Michel’s Unique Location Jutting Out into the English Channel (Click to Enlarge)

A Statue of the Archangel Michael Sits Atop the Steeple

At Low Tide Sand Covers the Surrounding Area for Almost as Far as the Eye Can See

Elaine in the Low Tide Area

A Street on the Island as Seen from One of the Ramparts

Steps Lead Up to the Top of the Abbey

Cathedral de Notre Dame – Bayeux!

Entrance to the Cathedral

Dear Commons Community,

After a long day of touring and the trip to the Normandy World War II memorials yesterday, Elaine and I stayed in town and had a late breakfast/early lunch.  We did manage to visit the Cathedral of Notre Dame also known as the Cathedral of Bayeux.  The present cathedral was consecrated on July 14th, 1077 in the presence of William (the Conqueror), Duke of Normandy and King of England.  The cathedral is the spiritual center of the town and its spires can be seen from anyplace in the old sections. Originally Romanesque/Norman and later added Gothic veneer, the church is a typical medieval structure as imposing inside as its exterior.  The inside consists of white marble, buttress ceilings, and a beautiful altar, all of which complement each other.

In a few hours, we leave for a day-tour of Mont St-Michel, an island and abbey with historical, religious, and architectural  significance dating back to the 8th century.  It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Tony

 

Main Aisle

Rear View

Side View

Steeple Overlooking the Street

The Cathedral’s Steeples as Seen in the Distance from the River Aure

Omaha Beach, Normandy D-Day Memorial!

Ever Forward

Dear Commons Community,

Yesterday, we spent the day touring the American D-Day Memorial sites in Normandy.  Anybody who had anyone connected to the war in Europe will be moved by what they see.  Utah Beach, Point du Hoc and of course Omaha Beach where there were an estimated 10,000 American casualties.  Estimated because those missing in action are still being found.  In 2009, Sgt. John Simonetti from Queens, New York was the last MIA to be found.  Ten percent of the American casualties at Omaha Beach were from New York.  Another ten percent were from Pennsylvania.

Ever Forward, the bronze statue above sits at the entrance of Omaha Beach.  It depicts well the story of an American infantryman trying to save a fallen comrade.

The Obelisk at Point du Hoc is in memory of the American Rangers who made up the first advance unit and who were to scale the cliffs between Utah and Omaha Beaches.  225 rangers landed, of which there were 135 casualties.

The Memorial Cemetery is a place of serenity.  The thousands of crosses in neat rows and on a finely-kept lawn bring tears to one’s eyes.  At 5:00 pm every evening, taps are played as the American flags are lowered.  Everybody is quiet, hats come off, people stand and watch and honor those buried here.  A most appropriate way to spend our Memorial Day Weekend as I thought about two of my uncles John and Anthony DeMichele, both of whom were in Normandy in World War II.

Tony

Obelisk at Point du Hoc

Ruins of a German Battery between Utah and Omaha Beaches

German Bunker

Cliffs at Point du Hoc

Omaha Beach from Above

Elaine on Omaha Beach

Normandy Memorial Cemetery

Arrived at Bayeux, Normandy!

Hotel Le Clos de la Chappelle, Bayeux, Normandy

Dear Commons Community,

We arrived last evening at 6:00 pm at our hotel, Le Clos de la Chapelle that is located in the old part of Bayeux, Normandy.  It was an eighteen-hour trip by plane, train and automobile.  Our hotel dates back to the Middle Ages and was a chapel hence the name.  In our room there are ceiling timbers from the original structure. 

After unpacking and settling in, we took a brief walk through  the old town of Bayeux and had dinner at a small restaurant, La Table du Terroir.  Bayeux has an incredible history that includes connections to Roman times, William the Conqueror (1066), and especially World War II.  Bayeux was briefly the capital of Free France and General Charles de Gaulle gave two important speeches here.  It was spared any bombing or serious damage and was occupied by German forces during much of the war.  It was the first town in France liberated by the Allies after D-Day.  

Walking the narrow cobblestone streets, one sees an old mill, the Cathedral of Notre Dame, quaint houses and shops. Claire, our hotel proprietor, told us that any of the buildings that have a V-shaped roof probably date from the Middle Ages.

To sit down for dinner at La Table was welcome after a long day.

Tony

   Hotel Le Clos de la Chappelle Backyard

River Aure

 Bayeux Street in the Old Town

Old Grist Mill

La Table du Terroir

 

Traveling to Normandy Today!

Dear Commons Community,

Elaine and I are traveling to Paris today on our way to Bayeux, Normandy where we will stay for six days.  We are looking forward to taking in the sights of this beautiful small town as well as the memorials of D-Day that are not very far away.

Assuming I have a good Internet connection, I will post photos of our trip in the days ahead.

Tony

New York Daily News Cover Blasts Donald Trump: The ‘Snit Hits The Fan’!

Dear Commons Community,

The New York Daily News commented on  Donald Trump’s wild Wednesday when the President stomped out of a meeting with Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats and did an impromptu press conference moaning about how he would no longer conduct any business with them. 

The Daily News has a penchant for repeatedly going after the President with a series of blistering front pages and today was no different when it used a photograph of Trump during his Rose Garden press conference with the headline: “The Snit Hits the Fan.”

Trump held the unscheduled briefing, complete with a podium bearing the statements “No Collusion” and “No Obstruction,” after he walked out of a three-minute meeting on infrastructure with Congressional Democrats. He again railed against talk of impeachment and special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible Trump campaign collusion.

The Daily News likes to take aim at Trump.  Possibly the best was his disappointment of not getting funding to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border (see below).

Tony

The College of New Rochelle Holds Its Final Commencement!

Dear Commons Community,

Speakers this time of the year are fond of saying that graduations are a commencement — a start, not a finish — but yesterday’s 112th commencement was the end of the College of New Rochelle.

Founded in 1904 as New York’s first Catholic college for women — before women won the right to vote — the college held its final graduation at Riverside Church in Manhattan, bestowing nearly 1,000 bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Done in by financial mismanagement and a crippling $30 million debt it had no way to repay, CNR this spring announced plans to send its students to Mercy College and cease operations.

President Dr. William Latimer said: “The spirit and the mission of CNR, which has graduated so many strong women and men over the years, will live on through our graduates.”  You can listen to President Latimer’s comments at the 43:00 minute mark in the above video.

Sad day for a great institution!

Tony