Monday, August 31, 2015

Mont Martre, Paris

Mont Martre is a 130 meter high hill in the northern part of Paris. It also refers to the area around the hill. The Mont Martre area is primarily night clubs. During the Belle Epoch, 1872-1914, the area was home to many artists such as Picasso, Toulouse La Trec, Salvador Dali, Renoir, Monet, Van Gogh, Maurice Utrillo, Matisse and Modigliano.The two photos below show artists and a street cafe on a square in Mont Martre.

On top of the hill sits the church Sacre Couer, built by subscriptions from the people between 1876 and 1919. It was built to remember the suffering of the French people in the Franco-Prussian War and the Paris Commune of 1871. Sacre Couer is shown in the two photos below.

In the photo above on the left you can see a tower from the church of Saint Pierre de Montmartre, built in about 1134 and still standing.

The photo below is a view of Paris from just below Sacre Couer. The Eiffel Tower is to the right, blocked by the trees.

To get to the top of the hill where Sacre Couer is one either rides a bus or a small train(no tracks), walks up stairs or takes a funicular. We chose the funicular going up and walked the stairs going down. The photo below shows a group of actors performing before a small audience just below Sacre Couer.

Below is a small square in the Mont Martre area.

The photo below shows an outdoor eating area for a cafe. A set of stairs begins on the left side, whee the people appear to be heading.

Below is a street musician situated at the top of the stairs. I don't know what instrument he is playing. If you do please let me know in a comment. He seemed to be good and his music was enjoyable.

These are the stairs that we went down that the musician was playing at the top

These two shops were located at the bottom of the stairs.

A look back up the stairs.

It ain't France if you don't see a Citroen automobile.

A tavern.

The last set of stairs leaving Mont Martre.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Bruges, Belgium..."The Venice of the North"

Bruges is located in the northwest corner of Belgium. During the Middle Ages and the early Renaissance Bruges was a wealthy city of merchants. At one time it may have been the wealthiest city in Europe. It was a very busy port until the estuary that led to the sea silted up, sometime in the 16th century as I remember. Recently(1907) a new port was created for Bruges, called ZeeBruges. This has apparently revitalized trade and the city's economy. We were able to spend a day there; it was very enjoyable despite off and on again rain. The first thing we did was to get on a tour boat and view the city from the canals.

Below are some windows and doors.

The Bruges residents are very proud of their beers. I love this brewery sign.

The message board below was outside a small pub.

Below are several examples of art on the corners of buildings.

Below is a photo of the Provinciaal Hof and the square.

Below is an emblem above an archway. The second photo is of some lovely old buildings.

The next photo is a side exterior view of the Church of Our Lady, built over the 13th through 15th centuries. The photo was taken from our canal boat.The second photo shows the tower of this church.

Michelangelo, between 1501-1504, sculpted the Madonna and Child. This sculpture was purchased from Michelangelo by Giovanni and Alessandro Moscheroni, wealthy Bruges cloth merchants, for 4000 florins. This was the only sculpture of Michelangelo's to leave Italy in his lifetime. In 1514 they donated it to the Church of Our Lady. It was removed by French Revolutionaries in 1794 and sent to Paris. After Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo in 1815 it was returned to the Church of Our Lady. In 1944, as the Allies were closing in, the Nazis took it to Austria were they stored it in a salt mine. President Roosevelt established a commission to try and get back all the art work stolen by the Nazis. They found the statue in the salt mine and restored it to the Church of Our Lady November 12, 1945. The photo below is of the statue being removed from the salt mine.  The movie "The Monuments Men", released in 2014, is about these efforts.

The two photos below are of the Madonna and Child. They have been behind bullet proof glass since the Pieta was shot by some nut in 1972. You also can't get closer than 15 feet. I really like it; Mary seems like a real woman and Jesus is a real baby.

There are two other sculptures in this church that we really liked. I don't know the artists' names. The first one is of Mary and the second one is Joseph and Jesus as a boy.

The last photo shows some tulip beds in a park.

Since we were in Belgium we thought we should have mussels for lunch; unfortunately the restaurateurs saw tourists as big money. We declined to pay 30 euros each for mussels. We also didn't get any Belgian chocolate while we were there. 30 to 60 euros per kilo seemed just a tad steep. Despite those things Bruge was well worth a visit.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Brest and Cherbourg, France

Brest is a port in the northwest part of France, just before you enter the English Channel. The day we were there was May 1, a Friday. It was the May Day holiday in France; there was basically nothing open in Brest. It was also cold and rainy. Brest was virtually destroyed in World War II. The combination of things let us stay on the ship and not go ashore.

Below is a photo of the inlet. This small patch of blue sky is all the blue we saw that day.

The photo below is from WWII taken by a British plane. This is the German U-boat pens built by the Germans after the capture of France. They were used to refit and repair German submarines, the U-boats. The water could be pumped out of the individual pens thus making it a dry dock. The roof was originally 12 foot thick concrete; as the war went on an additional 20feet of material was added to the roof. Only a handful of bombs ever penetrated the roof and they did very little damage to the interior. The second photo shows these same pens today; they are used by the French navy for small ship repair.

The photo below shows some old fortifications, probably gun emplacements, from WWII.

The next photo shows the pier at Cherbourg. The Titanic docked here before setting out across the Atlantic on its one and only voyage. The old terminal is the building on the left. The large gangways used by the Titanic are still present, and appear to be in pretty good shape for being at least 100 years old. The old terminal is now a museum. There is also an old French nuclear submarine that is part of the museum which can be seen just behind and to the right of the newer building.

The photo below show the Titanic gangways up close and the gangplank for our ship being put together, kind of like an erector set.

When they got our gangplank put together we went ashore. It was cold but not raining. This was Saturday May 2, still part of the French holiday. Below is a fresh seafood vendor, at the end of the dock just before you go into the town. It was cloudy and cold, but no rain. The pier is right next to the old town.

It was market day and their were several vendors on the old square. Below is a vegetable stand followed by two photos of a cheese vendor.

Below are two photos of a seafood shop. Notice the size of the sea scallops in the first photo. The crabs kept trying to crawl out of their bin.

The three photos below are of old Cherbourg. I don't know the name of the church.

Shortly after we got back to the ship We saw a passenger being taken to an ambulance for transport to a hospital I presume. I never heard what the passenger's problem was.

As the ship pulled out of the harbor we passed these old fortifications. These date to the Napoleonic wars and were also used in WWII.

Cherbourg was one of the prime targets for capture during the Normandy invasion of WWII. There were several ship sponsored excursions to the Normandy beaches. Having been there a few years ago by car on our own, we declined to go this time.