Sunday, July 5, 2015

L'Hermione, historic French frigate, in Baltimore

The French war frigate L'Hermione took the Marquis de la Fayette in 1780 for his second trip to the United States.  Lafayette had first come to the USA in 1777, aged 19 years old, against the wishes of the French Government.  Wounded, he returned to France in 1778.  But he longed to return to fight with the American War of Independence.  He lobbied French King Louis XVI for two years.  Finally winning the king's support Lafayette returned on board L'Hermione arriving in Boston on 28 April 1780.  Below are paintings of Lafayette and L'Hermione by Auguste-Louis de Rossel de Cercy, French, 1736-1804.

About 20 years ago, a small group of people dreamed of building an exact replica of General Lafayette's 18th century ship.  They assembled in Rochefort, France (the same city where the first Hermione was built) craftsmen/women from all over the world who used 18th century ship-building techniques to build this authentic Tall Ship replica - the first and largest one built in the last 150 years.  They used 2,000 oak trees from French forests for the 400,000 hand-sculpted pieces for the hull.  One ton of oakum for caulking was utilized.  Many of these techniques had to be re-invented and forge re-kindled including old-style manufacture of 26 cannons for the battery deck and 8 cannons for the quarter-deck.  By 2011 three million people had donated funds to support this new Hermione. (Photos courtesy L'Hermione Association.)  Please click on collage twice to enlarge and read better.

To re-affirm the historic friendship between the United States and France it was decided that L'Hermione's first voyage would be across the Atlantic to the US.  In mid-April 2015 L'Hermione sailed the 3,819 miles (6.146.08 km) from Rochefort, France to Yorktown, Virginia.  I followed its departure on the French Internet.  (Photos courtesy L'Hermione Assoc.)

Our 48th wedding anniversary was on 17 June 2015. I noticed that L'Hermione would arrive in Baltimore Harbor on the 19th of June.  After a quick check with airlines I found some flights on sale from Atlanta to Baltimore.  Our trip to Baltimore on June 18th was the anniversary present to ourselves.  On June 19th we were on Baltimore harbor.  To say I was beyond excited to visit this amazing historic ship would be an understatement! Below is a picture of an information panel that was hanging on L'Hermione.

In Baltimore the visit of the ship was free to the public (in other ports admission tickets had to be purchased,) starting at 11:00 am, based on a "first come, first served" basis.  My husband joined people waiting in line to visit the ship.  I went toward a group of people standing and watching the welcoming ceremony that had already started.  The French national anthem "La Marseillaise" was being sung and I joined the singing, then the Star Spangled Banner was sung by a lady in period costume.  I was behind several person and could not see very well.  There were chairs in front for the VIPs and a lady going toward the chairs told me that a seat was vacant in the front row and to go ahead there.  So I did.  I had then a perfect view of the ceremony.  There were remarks made by several dignitaries:  the Deputy Mayor of Baltimore, Colin Tarbert, followed by US Senator from Maryland, Ben Cardin (shown below,) followed by the French Naval Attache, the US Navy Commanding Officer and more.

The VIPs were first to visit the ship.  While we waited, the ship crew sang some period French shanties.

It was our turn then to board the frigate L'Hermione, also called The Frigate of Freedom.  We could only visit the top deck.  I took many pictures of course (actually about 350.)  I had never been on a tall ship before and loved looking at everything - the ropes, the canons, ect.

Crew members, wearing period 18th century sailor clothes, explained life on ship.

Looking up, the mast seemed so tall.  Then looking down I could see the 8 canons on the quarter-deck.  A visitor (?) was playing his guitar next to a Hermione lifeboat.

A French company made the cannons.  It took almost four tons of molten metal to 1,600 degrees Celsius - or 2,912 degrees Fahrenheit.  The guns weigh a total of 45 tons of cast iron, a weigh that helps to balance the ship.

After our visit of the museum ship we went back down dockside and visited the Traveling Exhibit.  It is a photographic panel display of Lafayette's role in the American Revolution and the building of L'Hermione replica.

I learned there that the Oneida Nation, a Native American tribe, were precious allies of Lafayette during the 1778 battles and kept ties of friendship with the French and the Marquis de la Fayette for years.  The Oneida called Lafayette "Kayewla" (The Great Warriaor.)  The Hermione next stop was in Philadelphia and Ray Halbritter of the Oneida Nation came to the welcoming ceremony.  He is in the picture below with Benedict Donnelly, President of  L'Hermione La Fayette Association (courtesy L'Hermione Assoc.)

A video was showing the building of L'Hermione's replica in Rochefort.  I took several pictures from it.  (Don't forget to click on collage to enlarge and see better.)

We came to Baltimore from Thursday 18 June, 2015, through Sunday 21 - L'Hermione was staying in Baltimore Inner Harbor until Tuesday 23rd.  There were many educational and cultural activities and events pier-side and beyond during those days - we could see just a few of them.  There were demonstrations of sail making, spinning and weaving, shipboard cooking, small guns demonstration, rope making and more by period clothes re-enactors.  The two fellows sitting below - one is from Rochefort, France and the other from Quebec, Canada.

A re-enactor from the Fixed Regiment of Spanish Louisiana (active from 1769 to 1821) explained the Hispanic involvement in the Revolutionary War and the military and financial support they provided.  It is a part of history not well known - you can read about it on their website here

It was a very warm and humid day.  We decided to take a rest and went up to a second-floor Spanish restaurant name La Tasca.  The waterfront patio dining, next to the harbor, was perfect to keep watching the activity around L'Hermione, berthed just a few feet away.  After a salad "Ensalada de aguacante" - shrimp and sliced avocado served over mixed greens with an avocado vinaigrette, we ordered tapas - my husband had "Mejillones con chorizo" - fresh sauteed mussels, chorizo in a ginger broth.  I had "Calamares a la Andaluza" - fried squid, in lemon aioli.  Both were delicious.  For dessert my husband had "Trufa de chocolate" - a decadent dark chocolate truffle croquant topped with traditional vanilla ice cream.. I had "Compota con helado" - dried fruits: cranberries, apricots, raisins, prunes, mango and pineapple sauteed in oloroso wine, with cinnamon ice cream.  Yum!

Well rested and fed, we returned to the Inner Harbor and witnessed a cannon firing demonstration.

Most of our time in Baltimore was spent around the Inner Harbor.  I had been to Baltimore three times before - when I first came to the US I spent several days visiting my English pen pal who lived there.  Another time we came to stay a week with our youngest daughter who was getting her Master's Degree at Jones Hopkins University, then a few years ago, another week to babysit our two grandsons while our daughter and son-in-law were attending a medical seminar - so we had seen many of the main sights there.  We did return to eat in a restaurant in Little Italy - and I'll have posts on all this later on.  But this visit was to see the French frigate replica of L'Hermione - and we had a great time with the ship and all the activities.

I just wished we could have traveled to New York City this past week-end when the Hermione was there for the 4th of July.  The French Minister Segolene Royal as well as the Mayor of Rochefort, Herve Blanche, made speeches.  An evening of dance and music was performed by the Orchestra des Champs-Elysees of Paris.  The Hermione, joined by 300 ships, took part in the People's Parade with a sail-by Salute past the Statue of Liberty.  (Photos credits: Abaca, GeWoessner and L'Hermione Assoc.)

L'Hermione will go up the coast to Boston, Castine (Maine,) Lunenburg (Nova Scotia - Canada) and St. Pierre et Miquelon (France in No. America) and then will return to mainland France.  But there are some good news:  I just read on an online French magazine that there are definite plans for L'Hermione to return to the US around 2018-2019 and stopping in North Carolina, Charleston, Savannah, Jacksonville, Miami, Key West, Tampa, Pensacola, Mobile and New Orleans up to Lafayette in Louisiana.  The Tour de France also just started - life is good!  I'll end up with a beautiful rendition of L'Hermione drawn by my friend in New York City of the blog "Bowsprite."  Please visit her there.

Post pre-programmed.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Flowers in Key West, Florida and at home

In 2010 and again in 2013 we visited Key West in Florida and really enjoyed the city.  When our youngest daughter told us that her family was driving from Nashville to Florida around Memorial Day then keep on driving all the way down the Florida Keys to Key West we decided to take a flight and join them there.  They were going to spend five days in Key West but we opted to stay almost 10 days.  We just came back - my laptop computer had a small problem, so I did not take it with me.  It was very warm in Key West and the tropical plants and flowers were dazzling.

Key West is one of my favorite US cities - a magical place full of charm where one has the impression to be at the end of the world.  It has a unique casual atmosphere, quaint Caribbean and colonial style houses with enchanting tropical gardens and walkable streets.  The sweet fragrance in the air, from the subtropical flora, reminds me of the French Riviera.  The Royal Poinciana (Delonix regia) trees, also known as Flame Tree, were in full bloom.  The tree has vivid orange flowers with dense foliage - it grows in many gardens there.  I took the close-up view below outside our lodging.

We passed often by a house with exuberant bougainvillea adorning their white gates.  The plant was classified by Philibert Commercon, a French botanist who accompanied French Navy admiral and explorer Louis Antoine de Bougainville during his voyage of circumnavigation in 1789.  The magenta red of the flowers is so bright that it is hard to photograph under a bright sun.

Another colorful tropical flower tree is the cordial sebestena, also called "Geiger Tree" of the borage family.  It was introduced into the Keys from Cuba.

Below are more lush flowers and flowering trees - I don't know all their names.  Could the tree with the yellow flowers be a Trumpet Tree?  (Click on collage twice to enlarge.)

These little orchids looked like they were growing out of a palm tree.

A restaurant close by had bright yellow hibiscus flowers all around its facade, giving it a cheerful appearance.

One evening, walking back from eating at a Cuban restaurant, I saw many pink flowers laying on the side of the road.  They were coming down from a tall flowering tree.  My husband picked some flowers up from the ground - they were very fragrant.  We took them home and placed them in a bowl with water.

The above are Plumeria flowers, named in honor of 17th century French botanist Charles Plumier (1646-1704) who documented many plant species during his voyage to the new world.  They are also called frangipani.  They come in various colors, from white to yellow, pale pink to dark, almost red.  Their delicate and refined scent is most fragrant in the evening.  In Hawaii they use the plumeria flowers to make their popular garland called Lei Necklace.  My photo at the top of this post shows the yellow plumeria, as well as below.

Coming back home, we checked to see if our flowers in planters had survived.  It must have rained as the flowers looked healthy including our begonias, heliotrope and all the others.

Last Friday we went to the gardens near us, the Smith-Gilbert Gardens.  The Chinese Evergreen Dogwood was in full bloom and striking.
Lilies, in a variety of colors, were also in full bloom.  Some were fragrant.

After the warm and humid weather in Key West the 80 degrees F (26.6 C) temperature and low humidity in Cobb County felt cool.

Most of the roses had bloomed in May and the spring flush was gone but there were still some stunning roses left.

Before we left for Key West in late May I had seen some pretty pink single roses in our eldest daughter's front yard.  We also had a couple of roses in our yard.

Honeysuckle vines grow wild in our yard and cover many hedges but I like to smell their sweet fragrance when a soft southern wind passes through the pine trees.

My first tea rose blossomed in mid-May.  As I tried to take its picture in the kitchen, I placed the rose in a vase, on a trivet, on the cat's stand near the window, to catch some natural light.  I used two cameras.

Cody, our cat, came to inspect what was on his window stand.  He sniffed and did not look very happy to have his place taken.  (Click on collage twice to enlarge and read the captions.)

Cody did not share my delight with my first tea rose.  He meowed, hissed and almost threw the vase on the floor.  I moved it away.

We did see many pretty cats in Key West ... that will be for a future post.

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."  

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