Sunday, December 30, 2018

Fast trip to 1900 Paris

Christmas was celebrated early, on December 23, 2018, at my daughter's house (both she and her husband had to work on Christmas Day.)  On Christmas Day I was with my cats and tried to stay busy.  I had set a small holiday area on the butcher block.  The little tree under the globe turns and plays several Christmas carols.

While packing away gift wrapping for next year I found a very slim package between two wrapping papers.  It was a present my husband had bought for me some years ago but had told me he had lost somehow, or misplaced and so never given to me.  I opened it - surprise: a new present from my late husband, a pretty scarf.

A month or so ago I saw on the Net that a museum had an exhibition on Paris 1900.  I did not know the museum and thought it must be in New York City.  Then several days ago I read some more on this exhibition and wondered where in New York this museum was located, the Frist Museum.  It turns out that it is the art museum in Nashville!  When I searched the address I realized it was on Broadway, downtown Nashville, only 3 miles from my house ... so I decided to go and see the exhibition last Thursday December 27, 2018.  I walked up and down the foyer, admiring the art nouveau details, the cast aluminum doors and grill works.  This was originally the main post office for Nashville, built in the 1930s and now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The white Georgia marble building with gray-pink Minnesota granite was renovated and converted into the Frist Art Museum when a new post office was built near the airport.

The exhibit named "Paris 1900: City of Entertainment" opened here on October 12, 2018 and will close on January 6, 2019.  I am very pleased to have found out about it before its closure.  It will travel to only three US cities: Nashville, then Cincinnati, Ohio from Mar-1 to May-12, 2019 and to Portland, Oregon, from June-8 to Sep-8, 2019.  It was like a special present to me - a quick holiday trip back home to Paris.  The brochure given at the entrance showed the groupings of the exhibit - 1) Paris, Showcase of the World, 2) Art Nouveau, 3) Paris the Capital of the Arts, 4) The Parisian Woman, 5) Traversing Paris and 6) Paris by Night.  The exhibition, originally on view in 2014 at the Petit Palais, Fine Arts Museum of the City of Paris, brought over 250 objects - paintings, prints, decorative arts, sculptures, costumes and fashion accessories, posters, photographs, souvenirs, etc., usually only seen in several Paris museums.  There were also videos of films of the period.

Paris, Showcase of the World - this was Paris at the turn of the 20th century during its prosperous golden age, with technological, political, social and economic advances and progress.  After World War I, in retrospect, this period was called "La Belle Epoque" (the beautiful era) with nostalgia for its modernity, carelessness, luxury, peace and joie de vivre (and excess.)  Paris attracted the whole world and was the undisputed capital of arts, elegance and pleasure.  Baron Haussmann rebuilt the city with large avenues and parks - everything brightly lit and why it deserved to be called The City of Lights.  At the time France was the world's biggest exporter of automobiles with 600 car manufacturers in France and 150 different makes.  The Sacre-Coeur basilica of Montmartre was built then, the large department store Les Galeries Lafayette was opened.  The first section of the underground Metro was built.  Below are paintings illustrating that time by Louise Abbema (1858-1927) with Allegory of the City of Paris, 1901, standing up on the left.  Two bottom right paintings by Henri Gervex (1852-1919) and top right is Jean Beraud (1849-1935) Le Boulevard Montmartre.  (Click on collage to see better.)

The Frist brochure says "The International Exposition of 1900 was the culmination of these projects and showcased the cultural power of the French capital to the world."  Two new rail stations were built - Invalides and Orsay.  This landmark world exhibition of 1900, welcoming the new century, drew 51 million visitors during its 212 viewing days (when France only had 41 million inhabitants at the time.)  It was a great moment of optimism and triumph for industry and technology.  Vintage film clips show French President Emile Loubet opening the exhibition on April 14, 1900.  People hopping on the revolutionary "moving sidewalks" are shown, too.  France had invited foreign nations to participate and 43 of them did, building pavilions to showcase their countries.  A huge print in the Frist museum gallery showed all these pavilions.

I assembled some postcards of these pavilions below.  In the center is the monumental main entrance door into the 1900 Paris Exhibition.  Click on collage to read the countries of the pavilions (Austria, Finland, Russia and Siberia, Italy, Serbia, Egypt, Mexico, English India, South Africa, Hungary, Ottoman Empire.)

There were many huge buildings too, called palaces such as the Palace of Electricity, of Metallurgy, of Education.  The pavilions and buildings were temporary apart from the Grand Palais and Petit Palais (great and small palaces) which were built to stay in Paris as museums.  Below are postcards of the Petit Palais on the left with the Grand Palais on the right, during the 1900 exhibition.  Below each is the way they currently look with their interior below it.

The Electricity Palace is in the center of the collage below.  There was also a reproduction of Medieval Paris, and more.  I have read some people saying that the Eiffel Tower was built for this 1900 exhibition.  No, Gustave Eiffel had his tower built between 1887 and 1889 as a centerpiece for the Paris 1889 World Exhibition celebrating the centennial of the French Revolution - it was inaugurated on March 31, 1889.

The 1900 Universal Exhibition in Paris was a huge event.  The following was not mentioned in the current Nashville exhibition, but I can add that Russia obtained the first prize for their sparkling wine thus defeating French competition for the Champagne Grand Prize.  Rudolf Diesel, a German born in France, exhibited his diesel motor.  Also, Campbell, the American company created in 1869, received a gold medal for their soup.  This gold medal is still printed nowadays in the center of their soup can labels.  Look at your cans!

Art Nouveau - In 1900, Paris was one of the European capitals celebrating this new art form.  To access the 1900 Universal Exhibition a new ornate art nouveau bridge was built, named Alexander III in honor of the Tsar of Russia (his son, Nicholas II had laid the foundation of the bridge in 1896.)  It had art nouveau lamps, nymps, cherubs and winged horses at each end.  Below is a postcard from the 1900 exhibition, the bridge as it stands now and a painting shown in the Nashville exhibition, painted by Auguste Leroux (1871-1954.)

As an aside to the exhibit in Nashville, I can explain that in 1900 the French Government wished to affirm their "Franco-Russian friendship" (hence the construction of the Alexandre III bridge.)  In addition to their pavilions, Imperial Russia was introducing their Trans-Siberian Express Railway.  It was the world's longest railway (not finished until 1916.)  At the Paris 1900 worlds exhibition Russia and French Wagon-Lits, the sleeping car company, let visitors experience the luxury on board real railway carriages which included an ornate Russian Orthodox church.  Moving panoramas provided the impression of the journey going through the Urals, Siberia and Manchuria.

Some art nouveau pieces, ornaments, furniture, prints and paintings were exhibited here in Nashville.  An art nouveau Paris Metro entrance was shown in a very large photograph covering a wall of a gallery.  Click on collage below to enlarge.  On left is art nouveau painting of the drowning of Ophelia by Paul Seck (1866-1924) and in the bottom a stained glass study by Alfons Mucha (1860-1939.)

I have many photos from the remaining sections: Paris the Capital of the Arts, The Parisian Woman, Traversing Paris and Paris by Night.  This will be for my next post because it would make this post way too long.  This post will be next year as 2018 is ending.  For 2019 I wish you all much happiness, good health, fun and joie de vivre.  (Click to enlarge to read cards.)

Friday, December 21, 2018

Christmas time in New Orleans

It has been raining all day here in Nashville.  I came back from Georgia on Wednesday December 18, 2018, as I did not like to fight the rain on the highway; the trip is tiring enough as it is.  Thinking now about New Orleans is pleasant.  From the start New Orleans was a party city.  In my last post I mentioned that 2018 was New Orleans 300th Anniversary.  The city was founded in May 1718 and named La Nouvelle-Orléans  in honor of Philippe II, Duke of Orleans, a nephew of French King Louis XIV.  Philippe loved music and to party.  Already the first Mardi Gras in the United States had been celebrated there in March 1699.  The music, parties, creole cuisine and festivals have kept up.  New Orleans is fun and keeps sadness away.  Music is everywhere.  Walking along Royal Street after visiting the Gallier House I went by a band playing in the middle of the street.

Later on, as I stopped in Jackson Square to rest on a bench, there was a band playing in front of me, under the sign "Church - Quiet Zone."  :-)

Then I heard more music coming down the side of the road.  I walked up to it - it was a "second-line" wedding parade.  "Second Line" is a brass parade tradition in New Orleans.  It is believed that it started in West African circle dances from a long time ago.  The "first line" of the parade consists of the band, the grand marshal and the people who obtained the parading permit.  The second line is made up of the rest of the party and anyone who would like to join the parade.  Second line parades for funerals are well known but these other parades are also used in many types of celebrations such as the opening of a business, or the anniversary of a neighborhood, or a wedding, or a birthday, or Mother's Day, or the birth of a baby, or the start of a convention, or any reason, really.  So, as you may be walking in the French Quarter, a second-line parade with a brass band can be coming toward you, with people following with handkerchiefs, parasols or umbrellas and, if you like, you can join the fun.  As I was watching this second-line parade the new married couple came after the band, each with a Champagne glass in hands, the guests were behind dancing and twirling their napkins in the air.  Below are examples of second-line parades.  (Click on collage to enlarge.)

I walked back from Jackson Square to our hotel on Canal Street (helped by my cane.)  The French Quarter, unchanged since 1721, is about 13 blocks wide and easy to navigate.  Below is a map of it, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Along the way, I walked first by an interesting couple wearing period clothes, just talking to each oher then I saw some pretty Christmas decorations on balconies and doors.  The two little snowman and woman were Saints fans.  The Saints is New Orleans famous football team.  The fleur-de-lis is the symbol for the city of New Orleans and you will see it everywhere.  The New Orleans Saints' team has a variation of the fleur-de-lis in their logo since 1967.

My two youngest grandchildren were flying in from Nashville with their Chinese au-pairs later on that afternoon.  I was looking forward to taking them to a couple of historic hotels to look a the Christmas decorations.  Our hotel had a pretty Christmas tree in the lobby.

In May 2012 our daughter attended a conference in New Orleans as well.  My husband and I stayed at the Hotel Monteleone then.  I wrote about the hotel in a post called The Ambiance of New Orleans (click on it to read it.)  The hotel was founded in 1886 by an Italian family and their descendants still own the hotel.  It is one of the last family-owned hotels in the USA.  It is an historic landmark and a member of the "Historic Hotels of America."  It has been a favorite of many southern authors.  When in New Orleans Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote and many others were frequent guests.  Below is a vintage postcard of the hotel.

A girl choir was caroling in the hotel lobby, with gusto and great voices.  Bright lights were all around - coming from the polished marble floor, the gleaming brass appointments, the glittering chandeliers, the sparkling lights in the Christmas trees.  Even the old grandfather clock was surrounded by a garland of lights.  The antique grandfather clock dates from 1909 and was hand carved.

In the evening my two grandchildren and I walked to another historic hotel close by, the Roosevelt Hotel.  This hotel was originally named Hotel Grunewald and was opened in 1893 by a German immigrant, Louis Grunewald.  A new tower was added to the hotel in 1900 to house 400 more rooms.  A nightclub there, called The Cave, was one of the first in the US.  The hotel stayed in the family until 1923 when it was sold to a business group and renamed The Roosevelt Hotel in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt.  It was rebuilt with nearly 800 rooms.  Some of their past guests included Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Marlene Dietrich, Audrey Hepburn, Bob Hope, Ray Charles and more.

The Roosevelt Hotel is now managed by Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts.  It has had a $145 million renovation since Hurricane Katrina.  Walking in the block-long lobby under the fantastic display of arching lights and shining trees is quite an experience.  Before I could take some pictures we heard a band coming down the lobby.  Yes, it was a second-line parade for the opening of some conference with the attendees walking noisily behind with drinks in their hands.  I took some photos, but because of the large group walking so close the pictures came out blurry.

While they passed by we stayed on the side near the classic furnishings.  We had time to look from the mosaics tile floor to the lights in the ceiling as well as the grand piano and paintings on the wall.

We slowly walked under the trees covered with lights and ornaments.  There has been a Christmas display in the hotel since the 1930s.  It includes 112,000 lights, 1,610 feet of garland, 300 bows and 4,000 glass ornaments decorating 46 Christmas trees and 78 birch trees.  It certainly was stunning!  We ended by the central French clock, called "The Paris Exhibition Clock" crafted by Farcot and Carrier de Belleuse around 1867.  It stands about 10 feet high on a large base carved from solid Algerian onyx.  A bronze sculpture of a robed woman holding a scepter sits on top.

All the glitter, glitz and glamour are back in the Crescent City, as New Orleans is called.  Now I am here in Music City, as Nashville is also called.  No decorations and lights around me, just my faithful Christmas cactus, showing abundant blooms.

It had been a fun Christmas time in New Orleans, just like Louis Armstrong sings in his 1955 melody.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas, if you celebrate it, and a very Happy New Year.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Return to New Orleans - The Tricentennial and the Gallier House

Last August my daughter, who was going to attend a week's conference in New Orleans at the end of November-beginning of December, asked me if I would like to come along.  I refused because I did not want to be away from my husband that long as his health was declining.  She insisted saying that I needed to get some respite from my care giving.  I did buy a flight ticket for a 4 days stay, thinking I could always cancel the trip.  But then my husband passed away in early October, so on Friday November 30, 2018, I flew to New Orleans, one of my favorite cities.  This year New Orleans, or NOLA as it is called for short (New Orleans Louisiana) celebrated its 300th birthday since it was established by France in spring 1718 as La Nouvelle-Orléans.

I have been to New Orleans numerous times and have written several posts on it.  In those earlier posts I gave some of the history of the city and state, see The Ambiance in New Orleans written in 2012 and Riding the Train Called The City of New Orleans, part 1 and part 2, or check all the entries under New Orleans on the side of my blog.  To mark its 300th Anniversary New Orleans has had a yearlong series of unique events, festivals, restorations, improvements and more.

Some of the events included massive projects such as a brand-new airport terminal, expanding the streetcar line, a dog parade, but the one event I would have liked to attend was in mid-November called "Fête des Fromages." This festival, hosted by the French-American Chamber of Commerce, celebrated French cheeses, wine and music.  It also offered cheeses from Vermont to California and Switzerland.  There was a market where one could buy cheese, and chefs' demonstrations and seminars.  (Photos courtesy The Times-Picayune.)

Saturday morning, December 1, 2018, was very sunny.  Looking from our hotel window I could see the streetcar below on Canal Street and decided to take it to the French Quarter.  The last time I was in New Orleans with my husband we were going to visit the historic Gallier House but it was closed that day so I thought I would visit it this time.

I hopped on the red Riverfront Line streetcar (44 cents for a senior) that runs along the Mississippi River, went by the statue "Monument to the Immigrant" by Italian sculptor Franco Alessandrini, and got off at the French Market stop, the oldest public market in the US.  Then I took my time to walk up the four blocks to the Gallier House.  New Orleans is not a classic US town, it's an old city with a melting of cultures: French, Spanish, Native Americans and African-Americans.  It is reflected in its architecture.  It is a city made for walking, strolling and stopping but not for being in a hurry.  I had only brought my little Sony camera as my Nikon is heavy (my husband used to be the one carrying it) and I stopped often to take pictures, usually looking up to the ornate balconies.

One of the large scale projects for the NOLA tricentennial was the restoration of Gallier Hall.  James Gallier, Sr., was the architect who designed this Greek Revival building in the mid-1800s.  It was dedicated on May 10, 1853.  It was NOLA City Hall until 1956, and is used now for special events.  The wife of NOLA Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Cheryl Landrieu, helped raise $3 million in private donations to pay for the interior restoration (under budget as the work was estimated to come to $5 million.)  Below is Gallier Hall in the mid-1800s, and in a vintage postcard.  The restoration photos are courtesy The Advocate.  (Click on collage to enlarge.)

James Gallier, Sr. (1798-1866) was a prominent New Orleans architect.  Actually he was born in Scotland under the name Gallagher but changed it to a French name after moving to New Orleans.  He had his family residence built on Royal Street in the Vieux Carré  (The French Quarter) in the 1860s but he and his wife died in 1866 while on board the paddle-wheel steamer The Evening Star on a journey from New York to New Orleans.  A hurricane sank the ship off the coast of Savannah, Georgia, and only 6 passengers survived out of the 250.  His New Orleans house passed on to his son James Gallier, Jr. (1827-1868,) who was also a successful architect.  The two-storied Creole Townhouse stayed in the family until 1917; now it is owned and operated by the non-profit Woman's Exchange.  It is a National Historic Landmark.  This house museum is furnished in the style of the 1850s and is rated by the New York Times as one of the country's top house museums.  The tour started in the double parlor filled with antiques, period objects and art.

On the second row, on the left below, is a metamorphic desk.  This was an ingenious Victorian furniture invention - a table that opened up to reveal a chair.

As an eminent architect, James Gallier, Jr., included the latest innovations and style in his townhouse (then he would add them to his clients' future houses.)  His office/library on the second floor had a double skylight in the ceiling to help ventilation and provide light.

The bedrooms had elegant period furniture.  It was one of the first houses in the city to have indoor plumbing and an indoor "bathing room" with porcelain, a copper-plated bathtub with running cold and hot water and a wood flushing toilet.

On the bottom right hand side in collage below you can see a door opening to the back gallery.  The gallery on the left was the slave quarters.  There were 4 enslaved people working for the house; most stayed on after the Civil War as paid servants.

We toured one of their bedrooms.  The guide explained that the bath tub shown in the room would have been used in the kitchen rather than the bedroom.

We went back downstairs to the dining room.

Then we looked at the modern (for that era) kitchen.  It had a copper water heater and a ventilated coal-burning stove providing heating for the water system.

The picture in the center of the collage below is a sugar cone loaf.  Sugar was expensive and was added sparingly to hot beverages.  A portion would be broken off from the loaf with strong "sugar nippers."  It would be then ground down in a mortar and pestle.

The tour ended in the interior courtyard.

I enjoy visiting historic houses and this one was beautiful.  It gave a fascinating glimpse of the New Orleans of that bygone period.  The Woman's Exchange owns another historic house museum but it is several blocks away, so I decided to visit it another day.  It was quite warm - 81 F (27C) and time to stop and have a cool drink.  Farther on, still on Royal Street, I found CC's Coffee shop.  It felt good to sit down and sip a frozen coffee (with whipped cream and a Peruvian brownie ...) while reading more on the 300th Anniversary of New Orleans.

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