Snap Judgments for the Undeserving

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Annecy, Savoy

Retreat!! Retreat to the alps!!

Bridget and I decided that it was just too darned hot in France... and since we're likely to experience much worse in Italy, we decided to escape the heat for a week or so by going up up up!!

So here is our first stop of Annecy, a lovely little town in the foothills of the French Alps.

Here's the Idyllic veiw down onto the Old Town, from the Hotel du Chateaux, where we stayed

Me, in front of the fabulous Lac d'Annecy

We took advantage of this highly cultural experience to better edify ourselves. Here's a sampling of the means by which we improved our minds:
Bridget eats some French ice cream at a French beach, highly cultural...

We take strange and educational French bikes out on a long ride along the lac d'Annecy:

Strange Foreign Signs, part 4

If Zeus was a French teenager who decorated his door with a street sign, I imagine it would be this one*:

*Bridget informs me that no-one will understand this ... sorry, it was funny in my world.

Lyon, the Rhone Valley, France

Lyon, the second largest city in France, was a perfect break from our small-town tourism. Here they have such things as high-speed internet, and Organic food stores and air conditioning apleanty ... it is a beautiful beautiful place!

Lyon is also a fun, interesting city ... Built on a large Roman town (Lugdunum, which I think is a great name), Lyon later became a big textile produced in the middle ages. This, of course, means that there are great Roman ruins to visit, and also a really cool Old quarter ... more on this further down:

The view from the Place Bellecour, one of Europe's largest public squares:

Lyon spans the meeting point of two rives (the Rhone and the Saone), on the old side of town, on the banks of the Saone, is the Old town, as well as the huge Fourviere hill where the Romans built their city. This hill is fun because you get to ride the Funiculaires to get to the top, whee!
The fabulous Funiculaires:

When you get to the top, you find the remains of two Roman theaters...
Here's Bridget on top of the smaller of the two:

And back down in the beautiful Old Town, filled with Medieval and Renaissance buildings, you can go through the Traboules, passages winding through buildings that were put in by the textile workers so that they could get around without getting their silk wet.
The traboules, which look like regular doors, but open up into ridiculous hallways and courtyards:

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Vezelay, Burgandy

Ah France ... I seem to find myself in another tiny town with a remarkable Romanesque Cathedral ... what an odd coincidence. Vezelay is an amazingly tiny and beautiful town, perched on a hill amidst rolling countryside. Its showpiece is of course the Basilique Ste. Madeleine, built in the 12th century to house the relics of Mary Magdalene. They're still there, by the way, which is not at all creepy.

Basilique Ste. Madeliene,
Which I know is fairly ugly from the outside, but houses (you guessed it) a remarkable collection of historiated capitols!!!
The view of the surrounding countryside from the medieval wall behind the Basilica:

So that Bridget wouldn't die from chruch-overload, we also spent one afternoon canoeing down the nearby river 'Cure'.
Here I am, optimistic, at the beginning of our journey:

It turned out, of course, that the "river" was basically unnavigable ... there were so many rocks and it was so shallow that we took turns periodically getting out of the canoe and pulling it through the water.
Once, when we got stuck on the rocks, we decided to just picnic right there.

Avallon, Burgandy

The gorgeous hilltop town of Avallon was our stopping point between tiny towns as we make our way through this region of France. It might be telling that in my view as a traveller, Avallon's best attribute was the free internet at our hotel ... Oh, and I suppose they have pretty medieval ramparts too.

Here's the Church of Ste. Lazare, in the heart of the old city:
(I guess there were a lot of tiny pieces of Lazarus floating around this region in the middle ages, thus the amount of pilgrimage churchs dedicated to his cult)

Here's the great thing about this little church, the front door, and the rest of the church, are at completely different angles to one another because they decided to move the front door 20 meters in a new direction about 600 years ago ... this makes for a very disconcerting experience inside.

On this floor plan of the church, you can see the funky door on the far right:

Okay, so I've been holding out on you ... the best part of Avallon was the amazingly strange "costume museum" that seemed so bizzare, even from the outside, that Bridget and I knew that we had to visit.

Me, at the creepy door you have to ring to get into the Costume "Museum":

It just got better on the inside ... an extremely sweet woman, who must have been about 137 years old, and who was wearing a formidable amount of a very potent perfume, met us at the door, and proceeded to take us through the museum (which turned out to comprise several floors).

Here's a sample of the exhibition style (aieee!!):
This is what all of the rooms we saw looked like; just costumes from a whole bunch of different periods jumbled together in room after room on scary scary mannequins. It also turned out that this collection was formed by this woman and her daughter just as a hobby for the past 50 years. That's one heck of a hobby. I'm sure you are all relieved that we emerged alive from this experience.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Autun, Burgandy, with pictures!!!

Hi all, you've all waited patiently (well, except you, dad) for the photos of Autun, so I won't waste too much blather on introducing them... Besides, I'm sure that my love of Romanesque historiation and Gislebertus will shine through without any need of detailed explanation.

Me radiating joy in front of the Cathedral Ste. Lazare:

Inside the Cathedral, they've taken down some of the best Capitols to conserve them, and put them up in a special room.

Here's me in complete raptures over the work of my man, Gislebertus:
(for those with Art Historical interests, the capitol on the left depicts the dream of the 3 wise men, and the one on the right is the flight into Egypt of Mary Joseph and Jesus)

Bridget took all of this Cathedral-going rather well ... I think she'd make a good monk:

But there are other sights to be seen in Autun, including many vestiges of the Roman and pre-roman cities that were superceded by the medieval town.
Here's Bridget enjoying the remains of the Roman theater:

And here I am outside the city atop the Temple De Janus (which was actually a site of Celtic worship, and not a Temple to Janus at all ... I love 19th century historians!)

And finally, here is one of the existant Roman gates to Autun. Bridget particulairy liked this because even though it was built in 15 B.C.E. it still has two doors for wheeled traffic and two for pedestrian traffic!

Monday, June 20, 2005

Autun, Burgandy

My tour of the Burgandy region has taken Bridget and me west, from the wine-growing countryside of Beaune, to the tiny town of Autun.

Autun is interesting, as far as I can tell, for three reasons:
1. It's not really a tourist town in most areas, so you really get a taste of rural France.
2. It is one of the many towns in France that started off as a Roman settlement sometime around 15 BCE (some of the Roman walls are still standing) and so we got to visit the aphitheater that is still there, as well as see one of the old Roman city gates.
3. There is an absolutely amazing Romanesque Cathedral here!!! I can't even describe to you how thrilled I was to see the Cathedrale St. Lazare. It boasts these amazing carvings by Gislebertus (one of the first Medieval artisans to sign his name to a work ... and you can see his little name right on the Tympanum, under Jesus' right foot!!!). You'll just have to wait for pictures to fully appreciate my glee.

I made poor Bridget go to that Cathedral 3 times. That's how much I love Gislebertus (um, and I also just like saying 'Gislebertus' ... gislebertus gislebertus gislebertus ... wheee!).

Pictures to follow, and more after the jump ...

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Slight Tragedy

Here's what's fun: biking in the beautiful wine country of France.

Here's what's not fun: being run off the road by a overzealous French motorist. It also doesn't help if there happens to be a wall in the way when you are run off of the aforementioned road.

I hurt myself:

But from my sad little event I have learned a useful lesson: Pharmacies in France do EVERYTHING. They even have a little doctor's examining room. The nice ladies in the Beaune Pharmacie cleaned me up, fitted me up with bandages and supplies, and even gave me a strange homeopathic cure thingie that I was supposed to take to reduce swelling*. Since the incident, I've had mixed reactions from the French, the best being from a boy of about 8, who looked at me and said in this tone of great admiration: You hurt yourself!! I think the implication being that I must have done it while playing ... which I did.

*Which I did take, even though it seemed really sketchy. Hey, if anyone knows what 'Arnica Montana' is, and why you can't touch it - it comes in a special dispenser bottle - and have to 'hold it under your tounge' to take it, please let me know.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Beaune, Burgandy

My tour of France has taken me away from Paris, and to the wine country of Bourgogne! Bridget and I have enjoyed several lazy days in the beautiful town of Beaune. Here is the Hotel-Dieu des Hospices de Beaune, the Medieval hospital run by nuns since 1443!

Note the cool tile roof! Also, there is a river under this well, I know because I looked.

The sometimes quite bizzare Tapestry depicting the life of the Virgin is here, at the Basillique Collegiqle Notre Dame. At one point Mary actually holds the baby Jesus over a roaring fire as Joseph looks on. I have no idea what this is supposed to mean, and I would include a picture but they werent allowed (alas)
Bridget is thinking about becoming a model:

The beautiful wine country of Bourgogne
(from where we stopped to picnic on our bike ride)

Renting bikes and going for a tour of the local countryside and surrounding little towns was a great idea and made for a wonderful day (aside from the slight accident, but more on that later).
Bridget the intrepid sets forth:

Beaune is also known as the Capitol of the wine growing region of Bourgogne. We felt that we would be remiss not to attend a Degustation de Vins (thats snooty for Wine Tasting). We decided to attend one at the 13th century Convent des Courdeliers (at 10:30 in the morning, no less!). We got to try wines from all around the region using these special metal cups called Tastevin, which are supposed to be good for allowing the wine to breath, and for viewing its color.

I think we have a connasieur:

Sunday, June 12, 2005


Bridget and I arrived in Paris on Thursday, and have been enjoying the hospitality of Donna and Jean-Pierre (Donna having been my mother's roommate when they studied in Paris together in College). Let's hear it for mooching!

Ah Pareees, citee of ze enchantement, of l'amoooor ... of really good views ...

If you go up Notre Dame, this is what you see:

Conversely, if you happen to be in front of Notre Dame, and I was there, you'd see this:

Look! Look! We can prove that we were actually here!!

Bridget is Gene Kelly on the Place de la Concorde
(If you haven't seen "An American in Paris" this will make no sense at all)

Anna finds Art Nouveaux in Paris! Isn't the Metro beautiful (or, the outside, at any rate)?

Also, for those of you keeping track of my Art Historical journies, here is the foot of St. Adalhard (14th Century, French), viewed at the Musee Cluny:
Some people worship feet:

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Strange foreign signs: Part 3

Brussels, Belgium

Some readers have already posted their comments:
Dave: In the event of a fire evacuation DO NOT run down the hallway with the giant arrows pointing towards it.
Ken: Umm.. no running thru the hall with the music on? the other one is no pregnant women standing on the steps. there might be someone running thru the hall with the music on.

Personally, Bridget and I are convinced that it means "Don't run from the music, or you will be crushed. Also, neck-less people not allowed on stairs"


As you may have inferred by the previous posting of pictures with absolutely no explanations (sorry! lack of internet!) I have arrived in Brussels, and met up with Bridget, who will be coming with me on my crazy tour of Europe punctuated many times by Poland (which, yes, I'm aware, is part of the aforementioned conglomerate of countries).

These are the Guild houses in the Grande Place of the city:

I was surprised and thrilled by Brussels' amazing Art Nouveaux architecture. The following is was designed as a department store, and is now the musical instruments museum.
Art Nouveaux in Brussels:

Look! I'm a tourist! Here's the obligatory photo of me and the Mannekin Pis
Don't I look thrilled??

The lovely Bridget and Malaika (who was our very sweet host in Brussels) sack out after an exhausting macro-biotic lunch (no, seriously).

Bridget and I both found things to amuse us in Brussels. Bridget found her dream car: The best thing about this car, she says, is that any second one expects a giant child's hand to come down from the sky, and run the car backwards a few times to wind it up.
Cutest car ever:

And I found really big old churches. Gothic Cathedrals you might say.
Cathedrale St. Michel et moi

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Oh dear lord...

This and the following posts are the rantings of my really crazy friends (yes, that means you Dave) when I wasn't able to post anything but pictures.
If this happens again, feel free to comment, but I promise that eventually I'll make all my pictures into one cohesive post!
Also, the fact that I can post pictures at all is due to Inoui, so everyone please thank her!!

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