Often I walk past Hôtel de Ville, Paris’ City Hall since 1357, and always I wonder what the interior looks like. This neo-renaissance building houses the local administration, and since 1977, the Mayor of Paris. Rebuilt after the original burnt down during the Paris Commune in 1871, it sits close to the Seine, bordering the famed Marais and attracting all who pass by its regal structure. Very often an art exhibition takes place within or outside its walls.
Every September, Les Journées du Patrimoine or Heritage Days, envelop Paris. For these 2 days it’s possible to visit monuments & sites usually not accessible to the public, for free, if you don’t mind standing in line, sometimes for hours.
Last Sunday my Italian and I took to the streets of Paris for a treasure hunt unlike any other, joined by over 30 friends and Paris bloggers. We were searching for the likes of Montaigne and Rimbaud, among other hidden gems. This hunt amidst historic Paris being THATRue, the latest creation by Daisy de Plume, mastermind behind THATLou. You can read about my THATLou adventures here.
Being a great fan of Daisy’s endeavors at cleverly educating while entertaining the masses on French culture and history, I was honored to be one of the co-hosts along with Forest of 52 Martinis and The Chamber. I designed a THATRue bag for the occasion, to be won & worn by the winning team.
Our team included Erica of HiP Paris Blog, and though we did not win, we had a blast discovering corners of the left bank none of us had known, and my Italian even sang for us, to earn extra points of course! Though he seemed to enjoy it. As quoted in the latest feature in The Huffington Post, “This new Paris scavenger hunt is the perfect way to see the city.” I could not agree more.
A few weeks ago a dear family friend was in town. Since she’s already seen much of Paris, I planned a day of historic elegance in a landscape not too far away. We boarded a bus on an overcast morning, and soon arrived to the legendary, and now private estate, Château de Vaux le Vicomte.
Here began our adventure into the life of Nicolas Fouquet, who created this 17th century castle.
This majestic masterpiece was a collaboration between architect Louis Le Vau, the painter Charles Le Brun and the landscape gardener André Le Nôtre. A ‘home and garden’ to be admired by all.
Yet the story behind Monsieur Fouquet and his château is a unique and tragic one.
In brief, after throwing a lavish party in his new home, Fouquet was arrested by Louis XIV (who had plotted against him out of jealousy), and spent his remaining days behind bars, unlawfully so.
In the famous words of Voltaire, “On 17 August at 6 in the evening, Fouquet was King of France; at 2 in the morning, he was nobody”.
As we wandered the château and landscape, the gray sky set a sobering mood. At once in awe and aghast at the history lesson upon us. Certainly a castle fit for a king, perhaps even too much so.
During my mom’s recent visit to Paris, we decided to take her for a day trip. Where else but to a château? Less than 30 minutes by train lies the town of Chantilly, home to a spectacular château spanning the 14th to 19th centuries, not to mention chantilly cream, which in itself is worth the trip!
Our first stop was the Grand Stables. Yes, horses do still live within this admirable structure!
At first sight the Château de Chantilly exhibits an air of serene magnificence.
The Musée Condé boasts the grandest collection of paintings in France, after the Louvre of course.
I could not stop admiring (and photographing) the château from every angle, both near and far.
A idyllically regal day spent beneath blue skies and the historic charm of France.
During my recent trip to Sanok, the town where my mother grew up and where I spent many childhood summers, we took a trip to one of the largest open air museums. Skansen museum, established in 1958, recreates 19th and early 20th century life in this region of Poland. You begin to understand the simplicity and often the hardship of life so many years ago. Along with our tour guide, and my mom who herself studied ethnography, we explored this long forgotten world.
The tour begins with a replica of a Galician town square from the second half of the 19th century.
A historic tailor shop and pharmacy…
Even a horologist, with quite a sense of humor.
Each section features an ethnic group who lived in the region prior to the post-WWII resettlements.
As I walked in and around these dwellings, I imagined the lives that once inhabited them.
Amidst the homes and churches we discovered elaborately sculpted bee urns.
There too was an exhibition of long lost Jewish treasures, some of the few that remain.
Within the stillness of Skansen, I better understood the history of this part of the world.