Friday, October 31, 2014

Paris - Notre Dame Cathedral

Date of visit: 16th April 2014

We took a connecting Metro from RER lines straight to Notre Dame which is located in Place Jean Paul II from Versailles knowing very well that the time of visit is from 7.45am till 6.45pm. What we did not know was, the last access to the cathedral tower is 45 minutes before the closure times. We reached Jean Paul street at around 3pm, supposedly to be a quick stop for lunch and toilet break at Le Petit Chatelet. But my 2 sisters were suddenly out of sight while shopping at the nearby shop. By the time we reached the cathedral, it was already passed 4pm. My heart broke into pieces when the guard stopped me from climbing 387 steps to reach a south tower, for I have promised myself to be at where Quosimodo (his story as narrated in below paragraph) spending most of his time. Nizam, my social media friend has captured the gargoyles and chimera built by Viollet-le-Duc in the 19th century and the 17th century Emmanuel Bell. For those who may not know, the cathedral open it's tower for visitors to take a tour through all of the upper parts of the western facade, dating from 13th century where visitors can contemplate the gargoyles and chimera (see below photo as captured by Nizam). 

"Half man half beast chimera" Photo by KNizam Artwerk, who has walked up 387 steps to snap this dream shot

Notre-Dame de Paris is 1 of the oldest cathedral, age over a 800 years old. It was built by the decision of an appointed bishop of Paris in 1160, Maurice de Sully to give the capital a cathedral worthy of France’s largest city. He wanted to build it in the present architectural style of the day, now known as the Gothic style. King Louis VII, one of his classmates, encouraged the project. The Church, notable residents of the city, and the entire population participated in construction contributed to the project. Some offered money, others offered their labour, whilst the rest offered their knowledge.

Construction commenced in 1163, but due to financing issue Notre-Dame was completed some 100 years later, i.e. in 1272. During that time, many craftsmen’s association (sculptors, carpenters, joiners, masons, and glassblowers) worked relentlessly under the supervision of seasoned architects. They all made an equal contribution to God and to Mary, Mother of Jesus, to whom Maurice wanted to dedicated the entire cathedral at.

Yes, the cathedral was dedicated to Mary, Notre-Dame de Paris, referred as “Our Lady of Paris”. There are no fewer than 37 representations of the Virgin (sculptures, paintings, stained glass, and more) was furnished in the whole cathedral. Since it was built, the cathedral has been one of the main symbols of Paris and of France. It has been a stage to major religious and political events, which is why the historian Michelet said that Notre Dame is a history book in its own right. No one could not list all the major events here.

When the cathedral wasn’t even completed, in the late 13th century, the Parisians watched over the body of the King, Saint Louis, who died in Tunis. It was there too that King Philip the Fair opened the first Estates General of the Kingdom of France in 1302. In 1572, it was where King Henry IV married Marguerite de Valois, and where he converted to Catholicism in 1594. It is also there, where Pope Pius VII crowned as Napoleon I Emperor of the French in 1804 (the coronation painting was hung at Versailles). It was there too, at Notre-Dame that the Te Deum (also known as Ambrosian Hymn or A Song of the Church) was sung at the end of the First and Second World Wars.

The following are the timeline of how it’s construction took place and completed (within that 100 years gap):-

  • 1160 Maurice de Sully (named Bishop of Paris) orders the original cathedral demolished.
  • 1163 Cornerstone laid for Notre-Dame de Paris; construction begins in 3 years later.
  • 1182 Apse and choir completed.
  • 1196 Bishop Maurice de Sully dies.
  • 1200 Work begins on western facade.
  • 1208 Bishop Eudes de Sully dies. Nave vaults nearing completion.
  • 1225 Western facade completed.
  • 1250 Western towers and north rose window completed.
  • 1245–1260s Transepts remodelled in the Rayonnant style by Jean de Chelles then Pierre de Montreuil
  • 1250–1345 Remaining elements completed.

To me, I personally thought of the story “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame”, the cartoons version that I watched a countless time when the kids were young. It was a movie inspired/originated from French Romantic/Gothic novel by Victor Hugo published in 1831. The title refers to the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, on which the story is centered. 22 years ago, I was glued at the beautiful sights of cartoon sketches of the Gothic Notre Dame in the movie, therefore, it was a dream comes true to stand in front and inside the beautiful cathedral for real life on 16th April 2014.

Victor Hugo began writing The Hunchback of Notre-Dame in 1829, largely to make his contemporaries more aware of the value of the Gothic architecture, which was neglected and often destroyed to be replaced by new buildings, or defaced by replacement of parts of buildings in a newer style. For instance, the medieval stained glass panels of Notre-Dame de Paris had been replaced by white glass to let more light into the church.

I could picture that Esmeralda used to dance here, at the courtyard

This explains the large descriptive sections of the book, which far exceed the requirements of the story. A few years earlier, Hugo had already published a paper entitled Guerre aux Demolisseurs (means War to the Demolishers) specifically aimed at saving Paris medieval architecture. The agreement with his original publisher, Gosselin, was that the book would be finished that same year, but Hugo was constantly delayed due to the demands of other projects. In the summer of 1830 Gosselin demanded that Hugo complete the book by February 1831. Beginning in September 1830, Hugo worked nonstop on the project thereafter. The book was finished 6 months later. 166 years later, Walt Disney Featured Animation released the movie to the theater
If Demi Moore cast as Esmeralda in Disney's 1996 animated musical drama, I was singing and dancing in my heart, out loud as Esmeralda, for at this place Quosimodo first saw her. The movie was a hit, grossed over USD325 millions worldwide 

The story begins on Epiphany (6 January), 1482, the day of the Feast of Fools in Paris, France. Quasimodo, a deformed hunchback who is the bell-ringer of Notre Dame, is introduced by his crowning as the Pope of Fools.

Esmeralda, a beautiful Gypsy street dancer with a kind and generous heart, captures the hearts of many men, including those of Captain Phoebus and Pierre Gringoire, a poor street poet, but especially Quasimodo and his adoptive father, Claude Frollo, the Archdeacon of Notre Dame. Frollo is torn between his obsessive lust and the rules of the church. He orders Quasimodo to kidnap her, but the hunchback is captured by Phoebus and his guards, who save Esmeralda. Gringoire, witnessing all this, accidentally trespasses into the Court of Miracles, home of the Truands (criminals of Paris). He was about to be hanged under the orders of Clopin Trouillefou, the King of Truands, until Esmeralda saved his life by marrying him.

I can picture very well, how sad it was for Quosimodo to hung out up there at the balcony, doing his daily routine as the bell ringer in the movie... so sad, so pitiful, so alone in his world

The following day, Quasimodo is sentenced to be flogged and turned on the pillory for one hour, followed by another hour's public exposure. He calls for water. Esmeralda, seeing his thirst, approaches the public stocks and offers him a drink of water. It saves him, and she captures his heart.
Esmeralda is later charged with the attempted murder of Phoebus, whom Frollo actually attempted to kill in jealousy after seeing him trying to seduce Esmeralda, and is tortured and sentenced to death by hanging. As she is being led to the gallows, Quasimodo swings down by the bell rope of Notre Dame and carries her off to the cathedral under the law of sanctuary.

Frollo later informs Gringoire that the Court of Parliament has voted to remove Esmeralda's right to sanctuary so she can no longer seek shelter in the church and will be taken from the church and killed. Clopin hears the news from Gringoire and rallies the Truands to charge the cathedral and rescue Esmeralda. When Quasimodo sees the Truands, he assumes they are there to hurt Esmeralda, so he drives them off. Likewise, he thinks the King's men want to rescue her, and tries to help them find her. She is rescued by Frollo and her phony husband Gringoire. But after yet another failed attempt to win her love, Frollo betrays Esmeralda by handing her to the troops and watches while she is being hanged.

When Frollo laughs during Esmeralda's hanging, Quasimodo pushes him from the heights of Notre Dame to his death. Quasimodo then heads for the Gibbet of Montfaucon beyond the city walls, passing by the Convent of the Filles-Dieu, a home for 200 reformed prostitutes, and the leper colony of Saint-Lazare. After reaching the Gibbet, he lies next to Esmeralda's corpse, where it had been unceremoniously thrown after the execution. He stays at Montfaucon, and eventually dies of starvation. About eighteen months later, the tomb is opened, and the skeletons are found. As someone tries to separate them, Quasimodo's bones turn to dust.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Paris - Le Chateau De Versailles

Date: 16th April 2014

The Palace of Versailles is a 300 over years royal chateau in Versailles located in the Ile-de-France region of France, known as the Chateau de Versailles in French. The chateau is 1 of the famous destination among foreign visitors, hence, you are advised to come as early as possible to short cut the queue. We took RER line since Versailles seated on Zone 5 which was outside the coverage of our 2 days Paris Passes. It was Wednesday, a normal working day that we visited the palace, but the queue was already formed up by the time we reached there at about 11am. For your information, there are 2 lines of queue for those who did not have any ticket yet, meaning you have to buy tickets and with that ticket you are required to stand on another queue to enter. There's a tight security point where everyone has to passed. As for our case, we patiently stood there for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, imagine if it's weekend. 

When the chateau was built, Versailles was a country village. Today, however, it became a wealthy suburb of Paris, although it located some 20 kilometers southwest of the French capital. The court of Versailles was the center of political power in France from 1682, when Louis XIV moved from Paris, until the royal family was forced to return to the capital in October 1789 after the beginning of the French Revolution. Versailles is therefore famous not only as a building, but as a symbol of the system of absolute monarchy of the Ancient Regime.

The earliest mention of the name of Versailles is in a document dated 1038, relating to the village of Versailles. In 1575, the seigneur of Versailles was bought by Albert de Gondi, a naturalized Florentine (Italians), who invited Louis XIII on several hunting trips in the forests surrounding Versailles. Pleased with the location, Louis XIII ordered the construction of a hunting lodge in 1624. Eight years later, Louis obtained the seigneur of Versailles from the Gondi family and began to make enlargements to the chateau. Louis XIII's successor, Louis XIV, had it expanded into one of the largest palaces in the world. Following the Treaties of Nijmegen in 1678, he began to gradually move the court to Versailles. The court was officially established there on 6 May 1682.

Another advice to all is to bring something to read to kill your time during the long queue. And food too. I finished off my sandwiches while standing in the cold weather. 1 hour is really no jokes.  

1 hour 10 minutes after a long queue, we finally at the entrance gate. We were inside the palace courtyard at around 12.30 noon

After the disgrace of Nicolas Fouquet in 1661, Louis confiscated Fouquet's estate and employed the talents of Le Vau, Le Notre, and Le Brun, who all had worked on Fouquet's grand chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte, for his building campaigns at Versailles and elsewhere. For Versailles, there were four distinct building campaigns.

Our first view of the chateau, "The Chapel Royal" worth the long queue
The first area that we've been at is the Royal Chapel, the chapel that was used by Louis XIV for 5 years since it was not officially open until 1710 though the works begun in 1682. The decor was fixed in 1699, a design including a nave, aisles and ambulatory, an elevation with tribunes (or vaulted galleries), a harmony of white and gold contrasting with the polychrome of the ornamental marble tiling and vault paintings. It blend both Gothic architecture and baroque aesthetics. The King attended the daily mass in this royal tribune with his family. The public occupied the side galleries and the nave. Above the altar was where the chapel music choir performed.

King Louis XIV and I, he of course on the painting hung on the wall rode the white horse
The large painting in below photo is placed in the large Coronation Room which was transformed in the 19th century when King Louis-Philippe turned Versailles into a museum recounting history of France up to his own reign through paintings and sculptures. The paintings refers to the Napoleonic era, and its name stems from the presence of David's famous composition depicting the crowning ceremony. It was a coronation of Napoleon 1 and Josephine, which took place in Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral on 2 December 1804. Below is a replica. The original version is displayed in the Louvre.

Large painting in the coronation room
The Abundance Salon in below photo was where the refreshments were taken; coffee, wines and liqueurs were available on a sideboard. It was also the antechamber of Louis XIV's cabinet of curiosities. The king liked to show his distinguished guests the silver vases, gemstones and medals that were kept there and which inspired the decor of the arch. Though not visible in below photo, the large royal ship represented above the door is something that you can admired.

Abundance Salon

The Venus Salon is just next to the Abundance Salon furnished in striking green. Along with Diana Salon, this salon represented the main access to the state staircase, known as the Ambassador's Staircase led to this room. But the said staircase was destroyed in 1752. During state occasion evenings, tables were set out with baskets of flowers, pyramids of fresh and rare fruit. This salon is named after the planet, a theme linked to the solar myth that inspired all the decors in Versailles in the 1670's. The planet Venus is represented on the ceiling, in the form of the goddess of love, who was linked with this planet in ancient Greece. 

Venus Salon

The Mars Salon (in reference with below 2 photos) was originally design as the guard room for ceremonial purpose. As well as being a planet, Mars is also the god of war. The choice of this military theme (in shocking pink) that was to inspire the decoration throughout this large room can be explained by the fact that it was originally designed and subsequently used for music and dancing on state evenings, hence came to be commonly known as the ballroom. Court dances were very formal and required numerous rehearsals, princes took part in them, sometimes alongside professional dancers. 

The Mars Salon

We were so taken by another beauty of the State Apartment, Hercules Salon which was created at the end of Louis XIV reign. The building where the salon is located was constructed in 1682 on 2 floors and were in use until 1710, when it was replaced by the current chapel. The monumental painting visible in the above photo was by Veronese, "Christ at Supper with Simon", painted for the refectory of the Servite convent in Venice around 1570, was placed there in 1712. The painting was given to Louis XIV by the Doge to thank him for supporting Venice against the Turks. Francois Lemoine completed the ceiling painting in 1736 showing "The Apotheosis of Hercules"", designed to depict the fact that "virtue elevates man above himself". 

The Hercules Salon

We also visited the salon of wars in 2 below photos, where the salon was decorated and furnished in a richly gold ornaments. The building works commenced in 1678, the decoration completed in 1686, exalted the military conquest of the Dutch war (1672-1678), ending the treaty in Nijmegen. The walls were covered with marble panels decorated with 6 trophies and chutes dame's in gilded bronze. The ceiling, painted by Le Brun shows the centre "armed France seated on a cloud, surrounded by victories". A portrait of Louis XIV adorns her shield and the 3 vanquished enemies are displayed in the vaulted ceiling panels; Germany, kneeling with an eagle, a threatening Spain with a roaring lion and Holland, upside down on a lion. The 4th panel represents Bellone, goddess of war in rage between Rebellion and Discord. 

Military trophies decorating the Salon of Wars.. "I said peace no war"
After we have completed the tour inside the Salon of Wars, we take a break at the outside balcony where the museum open a booth selling souvenirs. There are many choices for visitors to choose and bring home. I bought "Visit Versailles"book which is quite heavy but gave informative guides to the palace. Since we did not rent the informative audio that explains each and every details of the rooms that was open for visitor, the book is indeed quite helpful to assist.  

The Queen's Bedchamber
The queen's bedchamber is the suite's principal room, where the queen would almost be found. The royal births took place in this room, where 19 children's of France were born. The decor preserves the memory of the queens who occupied the room. All the features were preserved since the time of Marie Antoinette, for whom the furniture and the fireplace were delivered new. The fabrics hanging around around the bed and the wall were re-woven in Lyons in the style of original cartoons that been kept. The bed and balustrade were re carved based on old documents.

Seated next to the queens bedchamber is the queens guards room. The Queen accessed her bedchamber through the guards room by the marble staircase (mentioned in below phrase). 12 body guards served the queen at one time. At Versailles, only the king, the queen and the dauphin had a personal guard made up of soldiers belonging to these elite units which were the king's four companions of bodyguards. 

The marble staircase, seen in above photo is also known as the Queen's staircase, was the most used by the courts as it led to the King's suite and Queen's suite. It is also leading to the apartment of Madame de Maintenon whom the King, Louis XIV married secretly upon the death of Maria Theresa. The staircase was built in 1681, to match the Ambassador's staircase located on the other side of the courtyard. The richness of the decor stems above all from its ornamental paving and panelling composed in a variety of marble. My husband said, we would not be able to furnished our bungalow staircase in this manner, it is to extravagant.

Please take note that a different entrance fee and entrance queue for touring the gardens section
It was in the gardens that Louis XIV would give free rein to his imagination. The king who delighted in bullying nature, taming it with art and treasure in his gardens. The works involving levelling, excavating earth and major hydraulic works, to create such a huge hard landscape which came with numerous fountains, sculpture and lighting's. The main authorising officer for the job was Andre le Notre who raised the art of the French style garden to new heights. It was created in the period of 1660-1680, the grounds drew on the Apollonian myth with their sculptured groups.

If I ever return to Paris again in the future, I shall spent a whole day in Versailles visiting remaining areas that was left out that day, especially on the Versailles gardens. There are many hard landscape architecture, arts and monuments that are worth to see and appreciate. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Paris - the Avenue des Champ Elysees

Date: 15th April 2014

The very first day we were in Paris, Anne has left her camera at the apartment. I was talking to a French guy in the Metro when she asked me what to do. I said "NO WAY"and she shows her most sorrowful face, hoping I took pity on her. I have none to offer instead consoling her by offering my Iphone whilst assured her that I will take more beautiful photos of her. We were supposed to end our visit at Eiffel Tower to  see Trocadero, a night light show that day. We reschedule the program and concentrate on shopping instead. In the end, we did enjoy shopping in Champ Elysees and she forgotten about her camera by then.  My sister bought something at LV shop and I spent more than Eruro500 at Roger Federer special Nike outlet for beloved hubby. I guessed everybody were at least, very happy with the walk at the huge shopping boulevard. Important tips for ladies, focus only spending your wealth when you are here, care's nothing else but shop shop till drop. 

The main boulevard street, Champ Elysees

Apart from shopping, I personally fall deeply in love with a beautiful Gothic architectural design of the buildings in this boulevard, once part of the Palace courtyard. Hence, I'm sharing those beautiful sight that was captured by us that day in this entry. The Avenue des Champs-Elysees is a boulevard in the 8th arrondissement of Paris, 1.9 kilometres long and 70 metres wide, which runs between the Place de la Concorde and the Place Charles de Gaulle, where the Arc de Triomphe is located. It is famous for its theatres, cafes and luxury shops, and for the military parade that takes place each year on the avenue on 14 July to celebrate Bastille Day. The name is French for Elysian Fields, the paradise for dead heroes in Greek mythology.

The lower part of the Champs-Elysees, from the Place de la Concorde to the Rond-Point, runs through the Jardin des Champs-Elysees is a park which contains the Grand Palais, the Petit Palais, the Theatre Marigny, and several restaurants, gardens and monuments. We came out at this point when we get down from the metro. The Elysee Palace, the official residence of the Presidents of France, borders the park, but is not on the Avenue itself. Please take note that Pont Alexander III was somewhere in the corner of the presidential palace. The avenue ends at the Arc de Triomphe.

Posing inside LV boutique is forbidden, but this 1 is exceptionally matching her, so I pleaded the LV guy to allow this 1

Until the reign of Louis XIV, the land where the Champs Elysees runs today was largely occupied by fields and kitchen gardens. The Champs Elysees and its gardens were originally laid out in 1667 by Andre Le Notre as an extension of the Tuileries Garden, the gardens of the Tuileries Palace, which was built in 1564, and which Le Notre had rebuilt in his own formal style for Louis XIV in 1664. Le Notre planned a wide promenade between the palace and the modern Rond Point, lined with two rows of elm trees on either side, and flowerbeds in the symmetrical style of the French formal garden. The new boulevard was called the "Grand Cours", or "Grand Promenade". It did not take the name of Champs-Elysees until 1709.

In 1710 the avenue was extended beyond the Rond-Pont as far as the modern Place d'Etoile. In 1765 the garden was remade in the Le Notre style by Abel Francois Poisson, the marquis de Marigny, brother of the Madame de Pompadour and Director-General of the King's Buildings. Marigny extended the avenue again in 1774 as far as the modern Porte Maillot.

Beautiful souvenirs shop by the street offers various selection of items

A stop for coffee and croissant is a must when in Paris

By the late 18th century, the Champs-Elysees had become a fashionable avenue; the trees on either side had grown enough form formal rectangular groves. The gardens of the town houses of the nobility built along the Faubourg Saint-Honore backed onto the formal gardens. The grandest of the private mansions near the Avenue was the Elysee Palace, a private residence of the nobility which during the Third French Republic became the official residence of the Presidents of France. My sister was so happy for she was able to visit all her favorite brands boutique, Guerlains was 1 of them, along the boulevard. 

The Champs-Elysees became a city property in 1828, and footpaths, fountains, and, later, gas lighting were added, making it a City of Lights. In 1834, under King Louis Philippe, the architect Jacques Ignace Hittorff was commissioned to redesign the Place de la Concorde and the gardens of the Champs-Elysees. He kept the formal gardens and flowerbeds essentially intact, but turned the garden into a sort of outdoor amusement park, with a summer garden cafe, the Alcazar d'ete, 2 restaurants, the Ledoyen and the restaurant de l'Horloge; a theater, the Lacaze; the Panorama, built in 1839, where large historical paintings were displayed, and the cirque d'ete (1841), a large hall for popular theater, musical and circus performances. He also placed several ornamental fountains around the park, of which 3 are still in place.


In 1855 Emperor Napoleon III selected the park at the beginning of the avenue as the site of the first great international exposition to be held in Paris, the Exposition Universelle. The park was the location of the Palace of Industry, a giant exhibit hall which covered thirty thousand square meters, where the Grand Palais is today. In 1858, following the Exposition, the Emperor's prefect of the Seine, Georges-Eugene Haussmann, had the gardens transformed from a formal French garden into a picturesque English style garden, with groves of trees, flowerbeds and winding paths. The rows of elm trees, which were in poor health, were replaced by rows of chestnut trees.

The park served again as an exposition site during the Universal Exposition of 1900; it became the home of the Grand Palais and Petit Palais. It also became the home of a new panorama theater, designed by Gabriel Davioud, the chief architect of Napoleon III, in 1858. The modern theater Marigny was built by Charles Garnier, architect of the Paris Opera, in 1883. One of the stop that most Malaysian would make is at the Laduree shop. Laduree is most famous (to Malaysian) for it's macaroons which comes in various pastel colors and good taste. There's also an outlet at Charles de Gaule airport should 1 wishes to bring home for their love ones.

As we all know, Champs-Elysees is for the shopaholics boulevard. It begins in 1860, the merchants along the Avenue joined together to form a committee commercially to promote the Avenue, becoming the oldest standing committee in Paris. The committee has always dedicated itself to seeking public projects to enhance the Avenue's unique atmosphere, and to lobby the authorities for extended business hours and to organizing special events. Today, the committee, in coordination with other professional organisations, may review with the Parisian administration the addition to the Avenue of new businesses whose floor area would exceed 1000 square meters. Because of the high rents, few people live on the Champ Elysees; the upper stories tend to be occupied by offices. Rents are particularly high on the north side of the Avenue, because of better exposure to sunlight.

The Avenue is one of the most famous streets in the world for upscale shopping. Adidas, Benetton, the Disney Store, Nike, Zara, H&M, Cartier, Bel Air Fashion, Toyota, Gap, and Sephora occupy major spaces. Traditionally home to popular brands, as well as luxury brands Louis Vuitton, Hugo Boss, Lancel, Guerlain, Lacoste, Hotel de la Paiva, Elysee Palace and Fouquet's.

The arrival of global chain stores in recent years has strikingly changed its character, and in a first effort to stem these changes, the City of Paris (which has called this trend "banalisation") initially decided in 2007 to prohibit the Swedish clothing chain H&M from opening a store on the Avenue; however, a large H&M store opened two years later at 88 Champs-√Člysees. In 2008, American clothing chain Abercrombie & Fitch was given permission to open a store.

Source of info: Wikipedia