Category Archives: Europe – Mediterranean

Spain, Italy, P:ortugal & France

Challenge your Camera # Churches

Linked to Dr. B at Challenge your Camera here

The Victorian Christchurch, Sandown, Isle of Wight, UK (consecrated 1847)

DIJON – More Than Just Mustard

Mention Dijon and you think of mustard, right? But did you know that the bulk of the mustard seed is now imported from Canada, due to worldwide demand for the spicy condiment.  And that the mustard comes in pink, green, black, and tawny-yellow – the gritty one as the kids call it – the one we are most familiar with.

Medieval Dijon

There’s no doubt that the town lives on its mustard: virtually every shop sells the stuff. It’s the obvious souvenir to take home and the best shop for this is the well known and signposted, La Boutique Maille. The shop-owners have made it easy to find the mustard by laying a easy to follow Dijon shopping trail, just follow the brass owls laid into the pavements and you can’t miss a mustard shop! Or if you are there at the weekend, visit the Friday and Saturday markets where stalls selling the hot stuff offer intriguing flavours like Strawberry and Orange.

Dijon is more than just mustard, however: it is one of France’s great Museum cities and what’s more, all of them offer free entry! It is a medieval town with some wonderful architecture, and as the capital of Burgundy it is an ideal base for touring this famous wine region. There were over 100 hotels there at my last count as well as a number of B & Bs and some lovely “chateau hotels” tucked away in vineyards in the area of Beaune and Chablis.

Palais des Ducs and Museum of Fine Arts

Palace by PhillipedeDijon – Pixabay

This lovely old town many of whose buildings date back to before the Renaissance escaped heavy bombing during the Second World War. Some of the buildings are now Museums (the town offers seven in all) and among them is the Palais des Ducs famed as much for its interior as for its exhibits, and home to the magnificent Museum of Fine Arts one of France’s oldest museums (1787).  In its 50 rooms of priceless treasures dating from antiquity to modern day are fabulous works by Yan Pei-Ming, Monet, Manet and other renowned artists, along with jewels of 15th century funerary art, the tombs of Philip the Bold and John the Fearless – extraordinary, lifelike statues held up by incredibly detailed Mourners.

Gargoyles on Church of Our Lady of Dijon by Christine Dautin, Pixabay

You could spend an entire day in the Palais des Ducs but I would recommend giving some of the treasures there a miss and exploring more of what the other museums and churches offer. Don’t miss the exterior of the Gothic Notre Dame de Dijon, its gargoyles never fail to raise a smile, although they are rather high up for good viewing.

Musée de la Vie Bourguignonne

One of my favourites and I would suggest that if you can squeeze in a visit to the quirky Museum of Burgundian Life you won’t be disappointed.  The reconstructions of 19th and early 20th century Burgundian shops are really special  – millinery shops, photographers, pharmacists and others, all filled with bits and pieces from the day.

Chateau on the Hill

Le Consortium

A contemporary art venue in a former Cassis factory, Le Consortium houses more than 400 pieces dating mainly from the 1970s. It’s something rather different and the selection gives food for thought.  Le Consortium publishes around 50 art books a year and if you like books you should not miss this shop with moveable bookshelves and reading area.  

Maison Millièrre

This half timbered house dating to 1483 is not strictly a Museum but it is well worth a visit.  Built 9 years before Christopher Columbus discovered America it has featured in the film Cyrano de Bergerac starring Gerard Depardieu. It’s courtyard is filled with plants and frescoes and there is a tea room and wine bar downstairs and a restaurant upstairs plus a shop selling local products and souvenirs. Find it at 10, rue de la Chouette, right by the magic owl of Dijon!

The Hospices de Beaune

Hospices de Beaune

Not far from Dijon and a must-see is the Hospices de Beaune dating back to the late Middle Ages whose Gothic architecture is considered to be one of the best examples of its time. Originally founded in 1443 as an almshouse and hospital for the region’s poorest people, it is one of the country’s most important historical monuments with its massive courtyard, turrets, colourful roof tiles and the vast, echoing interiors of the Room of the Poor.  

Beaune – Les Hospices

There are other museums worth a visit and if time allows the City Library is recommended, but I choose the above because visiting them still allows time for strolling in some of Dijon’s parks as well, like the elegant Garden of the Fountain Creek Ouche and the Gresilles Park which are within easy walking distance and have picnic lawns.

Dijon is one of those perfect places that offers food for the soul as well as the body, a compact, accessible town right in the rich heart of the major vineyards of Beaune, Chablis, Macon, and Fleury.  Kir is the drink associated with the town, a drink composed of the blackcurrant   liqueur Cassis and white wine (purists insist on a Sancerre) and available at any bar and restaurant.  The ultimate though, is the Kir Royale, the same Cassis but this time served with the sparkling white wine of Burgundy, a Cremant which many people prefer to champagne. 

Cellar entrance at one of the Vineyards in the region

A Night at the Opera

It is 10.00 pm and I’m standing outside the walls of Lucca waiting for the coach to take me to the Opera. My modest attire stands out among the Italians who are, as usual, dressed to kill, the bling, puffery and beautiful people determined to show la bella figura to the world of music. We are on our way to the annual Puccini Festival in Torre del Lago, a celebration of Italian grand opera dedicated to the maestro of emotion and the town’s favourite son.

Our coach arrives and twenty minutes later we arrive at Torre del Lago in a tropical storm which is whipping the waters of the lake into white froth and making music in the palm trees. It doesn’t bode well for the open-air performance of Madame Butterfly tonight.  No one seems to be worrying, though.  Lambrettas buzz between cars and coaches, incredibly glamorous couples link arms and head for the restaurants and bars, and a couple of policemen, rain dripping off their smart blue capes, blow whistles and wave their white-gloved hands cheerily at the crowds.

Image by Marco Pomello at Pixabay

On the way to the open-air Theatre we pass the composer’s villa from where he conducted  his illicit affairs and from where he exited in his super fast cars and we saw the lake on which he loved to hunt the wild fowl.

The skies are darkening but the rain seems to be slacking off. ‘No problem’ seems to be the consensus, just a shower, it will soon blow over.   Nevertheless, the ticket collector gives everyone a plastic poncho as we take our seats before the overture to the opera.   There’s a cool breeze drifting across from the lake.

Overture over we settle down to watch Madame Butterfly:  everyone has joined in humming along with the orchestra but no one seems to mind so I join in too.  I think “This is what it should be like, why can’t we do this at the Garden, or the Coliseum” before realising why we can’t (can you see the glares, the pursed lips, hear the hssts, the shushes)?  

This is not at all like an opera performance back in the UK but it is certainly akin to the one I’m familiar with from E.M. Forster’s “A Room with a View” or was it “Where Angels Fear top Tread”?   But in Italy, especially at outdoor performances, the enjoyment of the opera-loving Italians – even the jean-clad teenagers – is both vocal and loud.  Torre del Lago is a more intimate setting than some open-air opera venues in Italy and people are talking together as if they’ve known each other for years, swapping sticky cakes and coffee from flasks.

All operas have drama but Butterfly has more – it has romance, race, class, opposing cultures, unrequited love, betrayal, and a tragic death.  It is beautifully costumed, the hero in his white naval uniform is dashing, and Butterfly herself is perfect in voice and movement – especially the way she uses her fan.

Image by Rosalie from Pixabay

Puccini’s emotional music always makes me cry.  My tears start during the overture as the plaintive notes hit my heart, but this time we have the rain which dampens my emotions somewhat. 

As the music swells and the drama unfolds, so the weather undermines our engagement with the stage.  Hoods up and enveloped in rustling plastic we try to keep our spirits up.  We know we should leave but we can’t tear ourselves away.  Then, as Cio-Cio-San (Butterfly) launches into her big aria, the lead violin gets up and walks away, taking his violin with him.  The rest of the orchestra look on, unsure, then slowly, the second violin gets up and does likewise and then a steady trickle of musicians abandon the orchestra pit and follow.  Cio-Cio-San continues her aria (I’ve started so I’ll finish) but eventually she gathers up her skirts, picks up her fan, and leaves the stage.

=================

So, we didn’t get to see the big death scene.  We didn’t get to see Lieutenant B.F. Pinkerton’s return with his new American wife, or the desolation of Cio-Cio-San and her servant, Suzuki: the skies opened, the rain poured down and the management said they would have to close.  We all ran for our transport back to Lucca.

Does it sound like a bad evening?  It was one of the best evenings I’ve ever had at the opera. I shall never forget that performance of Madame Butterfly and the warm feeling of being among people who had opera as background to everyday life, people who loved the art form passionately and above all, people who weren’t afraid to laugh and cry openly.

Restaurant on the Lake at Torre del Lago

10-day Photo Challenge: 8

Ooops! I think I missed one.

Nominated by my namesake Marie, at Hops, Skips and Jumps for the 10 Travel Photos in Ten Days challenge, this Challenge involves posting one favourite travel picture for each day and nominating ten bloggers – that’s 10 travel pictures and 10 nominations in ten days. Lucky there’s no text required so I may make it to Day 10 despite Covid and Christmas

It’s hard to decide whether I like a picture because I think it is good or because it reminds me of happy times – sometimes it’s both and that’s a plus.

So today I nominate Linda at meanderingmyway and I hope she can find time to join in the challenge. If you do decide you can join, and I hope you can, please ping me back and let me know but there’s no pressure to join if you can’t manage it.

The Evening Catch

10-Day Photo Challenge No. 3

I was nominated by my namesake Marie, at Hops, Skips and Jumps for the 10 Travel Photos in Ten Days challenge, a Challenge that involves posting one favourite travel picture for each day and nominating ten bloggers – that’s 10 travel pictures and 10 nominations in ten days. Lucky there’s no text required so I may make it to Day 10 despite Covid and Christmas.

It’s hard to decide whether I like a picture because I think it is good or because it reminds me of happy times – sometimes it’s both and that’s a plus.

So today I nominate Keith from TravelRat and I hope he can find time to join in the challenge. If you do, please ping me back and let me know but there’s no pressure to join if you can’t manage it.

Sculpture Saturday: Orlando Furioso in Montpelier

Linked to Mind Over Memory who hosts this challenge.

Oblivious to the suffering bronze figure carrying a horse, people sit at tables in the place de l’Europe, awaiting service in the sun. What days those were, what blissful days!

Inspired by a sixteenth-century Italian poem depicting the Fenosa, this bronze statue of Orlando Furioso is that of a man wearing a dead horse on his back, supposed to signify man’s strength in the face of adversity. 

Linked to Montpelier

Linked to Montpelier (Antigone)

Sculpture Saturday in Pézenas

Hosted at https://nofixedplans5.wordpress.com/2020/11/14/sculpture-.saturday-9/

Statue to the 17th century French playwright Moliėre by Jean-Antoine Injalbert

This statue to the great French playwright Moliėre, one of the great comic-writers of all time and described by Stendahl as “Molière, the great painter of man”, is to be found in the town of Pézenas in the Langudoc-Rousillon area of France, where he lived for many years. He had an acting troupe which worked in both Paris and Pézenas and had as patron, the brother of the King, the Duke of Orleans.

He led an extraordinary life and his death became legend; he died on stage, while performing his final play, Le Malade Imaginaire, or rather, he collapsed on stage, and died a few hours later at his home. At that time, the Catholic church in France condemned the theatre as a school for scandal, held all actors to be ipso facto excommunicated, and forbade their burial in consecrated ground – which included every cemetery in Paris. Two priests refused to visit him to administer the sacraments and the third arrived too late.

The white marble statue was sculpted by Jean-Antoine Injalbert in 1897 and it shows the maid Lucette from Moliere’s play Monsieur de Pourceaugnac paying tribute to the master playwright with a goat-footed satyr representing Satire sitting at the bottom of the statue. Masks of the actors Coquelin Cadet and Jeanne Ludwig are on the back of the monument

Moliėre

In 1792 his remains were brought to the Museum of French monuments and in 1817 transferred to Le Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris.

Further challenges over at https://nofixedplans5.wordpress.com/2020/11/14/sculpture-.saturday-9/