Life on board

Going on a river cruise was a compromise which has turned out to be rewarding. Canal boating was all booked up, and this seemed the next best choice.The Loire Princesse is a small paddle steamer. Most of its guests are French. Here are some aspects of life on board. Best of all are the river views. This was at Bouchemaine this morning: calm water with fish rising.We docked at picturesque villages, and could watch bird life – gulls, egrets, cormorants, white herons and grey herons – as we moved up or down river.Charolais cattle and chateaux featured in views, and wind farms.We went through a lock as we arrived at, and left, St Nazaire.Here we are heading out to the Atlantic before turning into the Loire again towards Nantes:Paddles powered our bateau. Here, they can be seen from the reception area and from my balcony:Here is my cabin:Here are the life rafts!We had beautiful meals, exercises on the sun deck, a great concert by two local Breton folk singers, and well-paced, informative visits to chateaux, vineyards and gardens.We could book a visit to the wheelhouse. It’s a serious business negotiating sandbars, channels, bridges and tides.We saw the crew in action as we docked or set off.A different cocktail was featured every day.There were books and games in the bar too.The crew went a little crazy on football night – as did the whole town. This is one of the chefs:But were highly professional otherwise.Now the cruise has returned to Nantes, and we disembark tomorrow.

A steampunk world

The wasteland left when the shipyards and iron industries ceased in Nantes has been replaced by a fantastic world of machines. In steampunk style, creative people have assembled an array of attractions in late 18th century style but on a massive scale.The carousel has three levels.First creatures of the seabed:Then, creatures which swim in the water:At the top, things which float on the water surface. I rode on this boat, operating the tiller, while it bucked up and down on the waves, emitting water vapour.It seems very fitting for the town where Jules Verne lived.I had been looking forward to seeing the huge elephant.He can carry many passengers.Not today, however. Perhaps he’d blown a fuse?There were other fantastic creatures which you could see operating. An aviatrix in scarf, helmet, goggles and gloves flew a canvas and wood flying machine – too difficult to photograph. This creature is inspired by tropical plants:Here are some others:The people who develop and make the machines are planning this next:Already you can climb up into this part of it:They are creating an imaginary world as Jules Verne did, inspired by the ships which visited the port bringing specimens of strange animals, insects and plants and stories of fantastic forests and undersea creatures.

Holiday House – off to the Bach

As I explored each room at Chenonceau I felt how wonderful it must have been for Diane de Poitiers, Catherine de Medici and Louise of Lorraine to have such a place for a summer retreat. It had an open, airy, feminine atmosphere after the masculine Chambord we’d visited in the morning. Wouldn’t my friends and I enjoy a week here in the summer!Chambord had its charms such as an abundance of towers,a circular stone staircase, charming detail in down pipes and window latches,and bees and butterflies in the garden.Chenonceau had an immediate, warmer appeal. Perhaps it was the donkeys The kitchen garden – also full of bees and butterflies –or the Bentley in the garage, the way it is built over a river (the Cher),the ancient trees,or the floral art in nearly every room.Despite the hot day, the chateau was pleasant inside with its long, bridge-like layout and windows open on each side.It had warmth and charm,some grandeur,but didn’t overwhelm. This is probably because it has been a women’s retreat, not designed to impress in a fist-shaking kind of way as Chambord was. The flowers had a softening effect.People were boating and could pass under the chateau.There is a drawbridge. An ideal holiday bach, don’t you think?

Jardin des Plantes

Funny how places seem to look different when you revisit them. Maybe it was the hot weather or taking different paths.That street art was on the way, near Rue Moufftard. I loved the Botanical Gallery, particularly these lovely, detailed drawings.The last one was in a section about the chemistry of plants.There was a box displaying New Zealand woods:I took this picture because I liked the little lamps on the left, used to illuminate the display. Everything was very carefully done.The labyrinth was closed for restoration, but there was a wild garden with a bee house.Here’s a closer view of a bee house:I liked the herb garden and the prickly plants like this:The tropical house was impressive.There’s an old wall beside it, which reminds me of the Roman presence in the area, and the Roman arena nearby which I sat in for a while on the way to the gardens.Inside the tropical house:Here’s a long view of the gardens:There’s a Natural History Museum and a Zoological Garden as well, which I didn’t visit. I was impressed by this huge tree and thought sadly of our ailing kauri.This group of young people were declaring their principles as I walked through the Jardin du Luxembourg on the way back to the hotel.And finally on a botanical note, these are the flowers I gave the lovely manager/owner of my little hotel to say thank you for her help and for the enjoyable conversations we had about lots of things, but mostly about books!It’s a literary hotel and not just because of its library, including this:One of the night managers who turns out to be an expert on Alexander Dumas, told me about Emile Zola’s book about Bon Marche, and was reading a variety of translations of Hamlet. Somehow, once again, books become significant on this trip!

Musee d’Orsay

It is good advice to visit the d’Orsay in the mid-afternoon when the tours have gone (thank you DK Guide) . Thursday is late closing too, so you don’t have to feel rushed. Stamina is required, however. The museum is much more extensive than I remembered from last time (2013 I think).

Here’s a clue that it was once a railway station:

I was keen to revisit the art nouveau section which had impressed me.

The furniture seems to follow the curves of the tree.

It is about the whole building, according to the audio commentary; you couldn’t place it out of context and expect a happy result. But wouldn’t you do great work at a desk like this? Look at those drawer handles!

This bench was part of an art nouveau building, and you can see it needed that context:

The detail is integral. Here, the hooks on this hat and umbrella stand are like vine leaves, gentle on your hat I would expect.

There were slug handles on a book cabinet.

And happy readers on the top:

I think this was by a female artist…can anyone confirm? Reminiscent of Klimt with its gold detailing.

One of the designers featured was also the designer of the famous art nouveau metro signs.

Now I am behind the clock with a view of Montmartre and the Sacre Coeur.

The Impressionist section was crowded, unsurprisingly. We have a tendency to gravitate to the familiar, to see the originals.

I’ve had a large block-mounted print from this Renoir series since I was a university student and can’t bring myself to part with it.

A print of the card players by Cezanne hung in the Girls’ High corridor leading to the art room when I was a student there. I was impressed only by the incongruity of a picture of men smoking and playing cards. We had some wise teachers.

Still, I prefer the still life to the right.

Another view through the clock, this one across the Seine to the Louvre. I’m not planning to visit the Louvre this time after many previous visits – unless someone would like to change my mind…

There were sculptures, symbolist paintings, endless galleries on multiple levels and on each side of an open atrium space.

Stamina was required, as shown by these women holding up the world:

That’s Africa on the left, her chains broken to symbolise the abolition of slavery. America is on the right with the headdress.

The other side shows Asia on the right, the other…the Baltic states, perhaps? My DK Guide says Oceania was left out for reasons of symmetry!

Speaking of the Baltic States, there was an exhibition of paintings from there, called Ames Sauvages. I was hoping to see some Scandinavian art, but it was mostly Estonian or Lithuanian. This birch forest reminded me of Scandinavia:

And, finally, there was Van Gogh – a troubled soul himself although this painting gives no hint of that – or are those bright flowers beginning to droop?

I was a little grumpy about the lack of female painters represented. It was good to see these formidable women outside:

True to form, I was distracted from my walk back to the hotel by Boulevard St Germain, a bookshop,

and Angelina cafe at the entrance to Jardin du Luxembourg. It was hot, I was in need of an iced chocolate and, oh well, a citrus tart to go with it.

There were more women playing pétanque today.

Art at L’Orangerie

I don’t always have any particular plans as I set out in the morning. I’ll have a direction in mind, but can change if I see a sign pointing to a place on my list – or not on my list, as was the case with L’eglise St Germain.

A sign pointing to L’Orangerie sent me over the Seine via wooden footbridge into the Tuileries Gardens. This plot is amongst the formal avenues of trees:

Monet was inspired by his garden at Giverney, obsessed even, planning its layout and colours quite meticulously. Mum’s love of Monet’s paintings and her interest in his story, led us to visit the garden in 2015. I was grateful for that as I “fell into” the paintings at L’Orangerie.

The “Morning” panel seemed to grow in depth and dimension the more I looked at it. This gives some idea, but the photos are inadequate.

The “Sunset” panel glowed, while the willow tree panels and water lilies (which Monet preferred to call ‘nymphae’) were more familiar images.

There were benches in the centre of the two large oval spaces so you could sit and just look. And learn: the audio commentary pointed out that the paintings were startling at the time because there is no horizon or landmark.

The Guillaume Collection in L’Orangerie gives a pictorial glimpse into the change in art in the early 20th Century with Paul Guillaume’s “ability to reconcile modernity and tradition” according to the Guide.

So there is Renoir:

And Modigliani, featuring a portrait of Paul Guillaume on the left:

And Derain:

And Rousseau, often spurned by critics for his “primitive” style. This painting features the Wright brothers’ aircraft:

I was pleased to find at least one female artist in the collection. Marie Laurencin designed stage sets for the ballet as well as painting. The portrait on the right is of Coco Chanel.

There is a section of modern art which is connected by technique to the work of Monet, apparently. I guess I don’t have Guillaume’s ability to reconcile traditional and modern! Yet Monet was very much part of ‘modernity’ in his time.

I didn’t particularly feel the need to detox after all that art (and there was more to come in the afternoon) but “Garden Detox” was the name of this fruit cocktail I had at an outdoor cafe in the Tuileries. Kiwi fruit, cucumber, mint…

And more art, with crows, nearby:

I miss my mum!

There were pangs last night when I arrived in Paris, and this morning, as I walked the familiar streets Mum and I had explored in 2015.

A different hotel this time, with a musical theme

but one we had passed many times on our way to a favourite place: Jardin du Luxembourg.

On my leisurely visit there this morning I was early enough to see gardeners at work pruning and tidying and driving tractors.

These gardeners were weeding. The instrument for weeding the pebbly, sandy paths caught my attention.

New avenues of what look like rowan trees have been planted, with bamboo poles high up to keep the trees upright.

I sat in a cool spot beside the Medici fountain for a while watching little ducks picking at the moss and diving. Small dark fish were rising to the surface nibbling at insects.

George Sand was also keeping to the shade on this hot day.

I visited Saint Sulpice close by, as Mum and I had done a number of times. No photos this time, just looking. I lit a candle to send thoughts to Mum. I chose St Anne’s side chapel, because of the mother-daughter connection.

I’d read a fascinating and entertaining book called something like The Most Beautiful Walks in Paris which recommended spending time in Place St Sulpice, which I did with lunch (brace yourself)

and quiet time beside the cool fountain

where a film shoot began. The actor, an elegant young woman, walked repeatedly around the fountain filmed on steadicam.

These men were doing the real work – or, at least, they were thinking about it. The seated one is wearing waders.

Mum and I didn’t discover L’eglise St Germain des Pres, which is being restored. It’s interesting to think that church interiors, like Greek temples, used to be brightly painted.

There was a poster to attract teenagers to leadership in Scouts.

I retreated to the cool and quiet of the Jardin du Luxembourg. Children were playing dusty football, the playground was crowded, and Pétanque was getting underway, with some young boys on the sideline.

A very elderly gentleman was watching – perhaps a retired pétanque player. It is a serious sport.

The players have racks to hang their bags and jackets while they play. Each player had a cloth in his back pocket for polishing the dust off the balls, and a nifty device like a bath plug; a thin chain with a magnet on the end so they don’t have to bend down to pick up the balls. I saw only one woman playing – of retirement age like the others – blond, tanned and in a pleated miniskirt. As players arrived, they greeted each other with the kiss to both cheeks.

This was my view as I sat on one of the many metal chairs in the gardens (you can move them into groups or into shade). People were reading, chatting, and working on laptops. I read my very enjoyable book and nodded off from time to time.

A quiet, contemplative beginning to my return to Paris.

And here’s a charming lamp in the window opposite mine:

Shopping and Eating

It’s not all books, views and gardens on this trip. I have a very small suitcase, so taking pictures has become a satisfying substitute for mindless consumption (with the exception of food, which I photograph and consume).

Window shopping:

Just looking, thanks:

Chocolate in a sardine tin – with a famous Portuguese figure or aspect of Portuguese life on the lid:

Music shop with miniature instruments and traditional Portuguese guitars:

Salami and smoked ham in this deli:

Dried cod in a supermarket (definitely just looking):

This second-hand shop is in La Vie, a shopping centre. I wouldn’t risk stepping in there (breakables).

In La Vie, there was a crowd watching football (Brazil vs Mexico):

Dried, sweetened kiwi fruit:

Back at the hotel, I spotted this in the lobby (oops, books again):

The hotel trains young people and it makes a lovely, positive atmosphere.

I went down for a simple salad meal in the bar and was talked into eating in the restaurant instead. Oh, they had to twist my arm!

The restaurant is decorated with students’ art work:

It was a delightful dinner of vegetable soup, fresh fish with spinach and potatoes

and a selection of mousses on a pretty plate:

I’m enjoying Portuguese espresso too (short black):

A fitting last meal in Portugal.

Big walk across Porto

I walked 14.9km today, according to my health app. I found interesting back streets as I walked to the Palacio Cristal gardens.

And views of the Duoro River and an interesting mix of old, new and under-construction.

This garden just about has it over formal gardens. I particularly liked the use of gumboots. There were chooks in a pen behind.

There were chooks in the gardens too:

Among the garden sculptures were peacocks, peahens and peachicks!

The Palacio Cristal itself was under renovation – as was the Historical Museum and the Bolhau Market. The gardens were pretty nice, however, with old trees and a lovely grandeur.

Even in the gardens there was no getting away from books. This mobile library was parked inside the gate.

Old Books

Yesterday, our local guide told us about Livraria Lello, a bookshop which inspired JK Rowling; the Hogwarts staircase is apparently modelled on the one in the shop. Would you agree?

We didn’t have time then, but I was first in the door this morning, hence an empty staircase with no tourists posing all over it.

There was also a small exhibition of Joan Miro illustrated books.

There is a book conservator here and a section of very old books behind glass doors.

I wandered into a couple of new bookshops, but it was the old that appealed the most. These photos are of Manuel Santos Livraria.

What could be lovelier?

I have seen many antiquarian bookshops in Portugal which must say something wonderful about the Portuguese, I choose to believe!