Gargoyles and Chimeras of Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris

The best-known chimera is le Stryge.

The best-known chimera – guardian demon – is le Stryge.

By Judy Berman

Parishioners in the late-1800s rushed to Mass, averting their eyes from the eerie, frightening creatures that protruded from the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

The creatures had a practical purpose. They were gargoyles that were designed to carry water away from the roof and sides of the church to minimize damage from a rainstorm.

Architect Eugene Violet-le-Duc playfully added his own image for one of the gargoyles.

Architect Eugene Violet-le-Duc playfully added his own image for one of the gargoyles.

But their fearsome looks – especially the chimeras – were “especially useful in sending a strong message to the common people, most of whom were illiterate,” according to Wikipedia. Gargoyles have been viewed alternately as a concept of evil or as elements that scared evil spirits away from the church.

A chimera on Notre Dame Cathedral's balcony

A chimera on Notre Dame Cathedral’s balcony

Much of the church’s religious imagery was destroyed in the 1790s during the French Revolution. In 1845, Architect Eugene Violet-le-Duc began extensive restoration to the cathedral, returning it to its original Gothic state. It took 25 years to complete.

Violet-le-Duc also added the chimeras, guardian demons. They are mythical or grotesque figures that some often describe as gargoyles. He wrote that restoration is a “means to re-establish (a building) to a finished state, which may in fact never have actually existed at any given time.”

Chimera and apostles on Notre Dame Cathedral

Chimera and apostles on Notre Dame Cathedral

There are hundreds of grotesques on the Notre Dame. The best-known chimera, le Stryge, is on an upper balcony and overlooks the city. “An 1852-54 series of etchings on Paris by artist Charles Meryon featured an image of this grotesque. He named the print Le Stryge (The Vampire) and catapulted the stone carving to fame.”

Meryon wrote of the image, “This monster which I have represented does exist, and is in no way a figment of imagination. I thought I saw in this figure the personification of Luxuria (Lust).”

Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris

Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris

inside of Notre Dame Cathedral

inside of Notre Dame Cathedral

stained-glass window, Notre Dame Cathedral

stained-glass window, Notre Dame Cathedral

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original
content.

All photos in this post – with the exception of the video – were taken by Judy Berman or a family member, June 2013:
* The best known chimera – guardian demon – is le Stryge
* Architect Eugene Violet-le-Duc playfully added his own image for one of the gargoyles.
* A chimera on Notre Dame Cathedral’s balcony
* Chimera and apostles on Notre Dame Cathedral
* Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris
* Inside of Notre Dame Cathedral
* stained-glass window, Notre Dame Cathedral

Etching – Chimera – Le Stryge (1853) – by Charles Meryon http://www.drawingsandprints.com/CurrentExhibition/detail.cfm?ExhibitionID=5&Exhibition=40

Video: Gargoyles and Chimeras of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris  

The Streets of Paris (Part 2) – Photo Essay

Cafes along rue Mouffetardcafes along rue Mouffetard, Latin Quarter 

By Judy Berman

The city’s energy and soul: its people, its art. After viewing Claude Monet’s massive murals of water lillies in Musee de L’Orangerie, we stopped at Jardin des Tuileries. There, we relaxed on deck chairs by a fountain, and drank in our surroundings: the statues, children playing, and plump pigeons pecking the crumbs left by visitors’ lunches.

Jardin des Tuileries – a pleasant respite in the middle of the city.There is beauty in everyday sightings in Paris as well.

“I loved the city. We were anonymous, and even then I had the sense that cities were yielding; that they moved over and made room.” (Sheridan Hay, The Secret of Lost Things)

Rue du Chat-qui-Peche - The "Street of the Cat Who Fishes" is said to be the narrowest street in Paris.

Rue du Chat-qui-Peche – The “Street of the Cat Who Fishes” is said to be the narrowest street in Paris.

Feeding pigeons, next to the Cathedrale de Notre-Dame

Feeding pigeons, next to the Cathedrale de Notre-Dame

Firefighters (sapeurs pompiers) at their fire station in the Latin Quarter.

Firefighters (sapeurs pompiers) at their fire station in the Latin Quarter.

We were both sad when I told him my family was returning to America.

We were both sad when I told him my family was returning to America.

“It is in the shelter of each other that the people live. “ (Irish proverb)

Men at work in park next to Cathedrale de Notre-Dame

Men at work in park next to Cathedrale de Notre-Dame

An artist drawing a caricature along the Seine River

An artist drawing a caricature along the Seine River

Not just a gelati, but a work of art.

Not just a gelati, but a work of art.

Street musicians in the Ile de la Cite

Street musicians in the Ile de la Cite

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original
content.

Video: Movie clip from “A Man and a Woman” (un homme et une femme). This is music I often hum when I think of France.  

The Streets of Paris (Part 1)

By Judy Berman

Pastries, baguettes, quiche ... oh my!

Pastries, baguettes, quiche … oh my!

We were looking for that Goldilocks’ travel experience – where everything is “just right,” and you don’t wind up in a stranger’s bed.

On our first night in Paris, however, we came uncomfortably close to the latter. Or so a hotel guest thought when he heard us try to unlock our hotel door, which was next to his. He kept saying: “You have the wrong door.”

The confusion was quickly resolved … but, poor guy! I think my husband and I woke him up.

Hotel des Grand Ecoles, Paris

Hotel des Grandes Ecoles, Paris

The next morning, we were ready to do some leche-vitrines (“lick the windows” or “window shop”). We’d bid the merchants “Bonjour” (Good Day) – although, they often were the first to greet us warmly and wish us the same as we entered their shops.

Our French is minimal, but any language barrier we encountered was easily overcome by a little patience. Also, many Parisians we met spoke English as well as French. (At Hotel des Grandes Ecoles, where we stayed, their staff is fluent in six languages.)

Breakfast and lunch was easy, tasty – and inexpensive. We just went to La Parisienne. It is a Boulanger Patissier (a bakery where master craftsmen are inside) down the street. “Café” (coffee) is understood in many languages, and the display case made it easy to point to what we wanted. The problem was we wanted it all – croque monsieur (a grilled ham and cheese, with the cheese outside the bread), quiche, baguette and pain du chocolat (a lighter-than-air croissant with chocolate).

Our dining experiences in the City of Lights have ruined me for all other food – forever. I swear!

It can be a challenge to please the palates of eight people. But our daughters, sons-in-law, and our two grandchildren were each delighted with the menu choices, prices, presentation and service where we ate.

Bon appetite (Enjoy your meal) - We all did.

Bon appetite (Enjoy your meal) – We all did.

We’d no sooner stop swooning over Le Volcan restaurant’s excellent blend of flavors in its Boeuf Bourguignon than we’d be wowed by our next meal at Bistrot l’Epoque. My chicken with carmelized onions and apples was delicious, but I couldn’t wait to try their crème brûlée. The rich custard with its carmelized top was decadently creamy. These were just two of the many excellent restaurants right near our hotel.

That look says it all - dessert was excellent!

That look says it all – dessert was excellent!

After all that scrumptious food, you’d think we’d be ready for a weight-loss program. Parisians have one built right in. It’s called walking, and we did a lot of that. We hoofed it to and from the Metro or just meandered to sites around the city. For miles. Every day.

And, at night, we had an excellent view of the Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel) from the front of the Pantheon near our hotel. Our six-day stay went by too fast.

Mother and son enjoying a view of the Eiffel Tower at night

Mother and son enjoying a view of the Eiffel Tower at night

“A bientôt,” Paris, which means “see you soon”..  (I hope.)

View of the Eiffel Tower from the Pantheon

View of the Eiffel Tower from the Pantheon

(Coming June 29, Part 2, a photo essay)

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original
content.

Main photo: La Parisienne – is a Boulanger Patissier (a bakery where master craftsmen are inside, there are no premade goods). It is where we got many of our breakfasts, lunches and wonderful desserts

Photo: Hotel des Grandes Ecoles

Photo: Dinner at Bistrot l’Epoque. Every place we ate at was just excellent

Photo: Connor over the moon about dessert at Bistrot l’Epoque

Photo: Danielle and Connor viewing the Eiffel Tower

Photo: View of Eiffel Tower from the Pantheon, near our hotel

Video: Patricia Kaas – Les Moulins de Mon Coeur (The Windmills of Your Mind) – lyrics in French and in English – song is from the 1968 film “The Thomas Crown Affair.”  

Another Time, Another Place

After midnight, Paris is magic.

After midnight, Paris is magic.

By Judy Berman

What if you could step back in time in an exotic location?

One year, while vacationing in Paris, my husband and I traipsed along the streets late at night in a misty rain. As we did, I wondered what if … what if we lived here. How would our lives change?

It was a romantic notion. Our French was minimal. But, I rationalized that could be overcome by immersing ourselves in the culture and language.

That idealism glossed over that our family would be living on the other side of the pond and the outlook for a job – with our having limited French-speaking skills – would be bleak.

What would you do?

Suppose, it’s late at night. You’re out alone on the streets of Paris. An older model car slows to a stop near you. The passengers look like they’re headed to a party. They’re dressed in 1920s clothing and beckon you to join them. On an impulse, you jump in.

What happens next? You go to a tavern and meet the creative talents of another era. It’s magical and it all seems so real.

The Eiffel Tower in the City of Lights, Paris.

The Eiffel Tower in the City of Lights, Paris.

That’s the premise of the Woody Allen film, “Midnight in Paris.” (2011) Owen Wilson (as Gil) is a successful Hollywood writer. He wants to move to Paris and leave his lucrative career behind to write a book about a man in a nostalgia shop.

His fiancé, Inez (played by Rachel McAdams) dismisses his dream. She loves the idea of marrying a Hollywood writer and wants to live in Malibu.

This is not the only area where the two clash. When Gil takes long walks in the City of Lights, it’s not just creative inspiration he’s searching for. But he doesn’t realize that at first.

The ride takes him back in time to the 1920s which he views as the golden age when several ex-pats were living in Paris. At the party, he meets Corey Stoll (as author Ernest Hemingway), Kathy Bates (as Gertrude Stein), Tom Hiddleston (as F. Scott Fitzgerald), and Alison Pill (as Zelda Fitzgerald).

Gil idolizes Hemingway and is thrilled when the literary great says he’ll show the book to Gertrude Stein. Gil dashes back to his hotel to retrieve his manuscript. But when he returns, the tavern where he met Hemingway and his new friends are gone. Without explanation, Gil is back in the present.

For several nights, Gil continues his time travel. As he does he begins to fall in love with a woman from the 1920s. But, just as Gil feels torn about the path to take, so does the young woman. He toys with the idea of staying. When he discovers that Inez is cheating on him, it appears fate is clearing the way for him to justify returning to the past.

Bateau-Mouche (boat tours) on Seine River in Paris near the Notre-Dame Cathedral

Bateau-Mouche (boat tours) on Seine River in Paris near the Notre-Dame Cathedral

What would you do? It’s tempting to think that life would be better in another time, another place. Or, would you decide that despite life’s bumps and bruises that the here and now is really the best place of all?

If you’d like to explore that premise, check out Ronnie Hammer’s blog. She writes about her book club’s discussion of “Dreaming in French” by Alice Kaplan. Her book describes three young women in the 1950s and 60s – Jacqueline Bouvier, Susan Sontag and Angela Davis – who spent part of their youth in Paris. Here is the link:  http://morristownmemos.wordpress.com/2013/01/06/book-club-meeting/

Video Movie Clip: “Midnight in Paris,” with Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Corey Stoll and Kathy Bates.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=atLg2wQQxvU

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Photo: Midnight in Paris. Photo taken by McKay Savage from London, UK http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b1/Midnight_in_Paris_%286287019647%29.jpg

Photo: Eiffel Tower – Paris photo taken by Poco a poco on Feb. 14, 2010  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/96/Eiffel-Tower_Paris_Feb2010.jpg/640px-Eiffel-Tower_Paris_Feb2010.jpg

Photo: Bateau-Mouche (boat tours) on Seine River in Paris near the Notre-Dame Cathedral. Photo taken by Jebulon on April 2, 2011 http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/15/Bateau-Mouche_Notre-Dame.jpg/603px-Bateau-Mouche_Notre-Dame.jpg

Charade in Paris

By Judy Berman

A train races down the tracks in a desolate country scene. Before the opening credits roll, one of its passengers tumbles out in his pajamas. Dead.

The widow – although she doesn’t it know it yet – also appears to be about to meet a violent end at a ski resort. As Reggie Lampert (played by Audrey Hepburn) sips a cup of coffee, a gun is aimed directly at her. Fortunately, it’s a water gun, and the shooter is her young nephew, Jean-Louis (Thomas Chelimsky).

His next water-soaked victim is Peter Joshua (Cary Grant). This Stanley Donen film, “Charade” (1963), is being re-released this year on DVD. It also can be seen online, and is well worth the view.

Most of the action in this romantic comedy/suspense thriller takes place in The City of Lights.  Several years ago, this movie inspired my husband, Dave, our daughters, and me, (all of us “Charade” aficionados) to check into the Hotel St. Jacques, stroll along the Seine River, dine on a riverboat, tour a market off the Champs-Elysees and take in other sites featured in the movie.

When Hepburn returns to Paris, she discovers her husband, Charles, had emptied out their place. She frantically runs from room to room, and is startled when Inspector Edouard Grandpierre (Jacques Marin) emerges. He asks her to come with him.

At the morgue, she identifies her husband’s body. The Inspector reveals her husband had multiple identities, planned to leave the country, and gives her Charles’ small duffle bag.

It contained an agenda listing his last appointment – Thursday at The Gardens, 4,000 francs, a letter to her – stamped and unsealed, keys to their apartment, a comb, a fountain pen, a toothbrush and tooth powder.

Not much to go on. When she returns to the apartment, the door creaks, and she hears steps across the floor. It’s Peter Joshua (Grant), and he suggests she go to a hotel where she’ll have a safe place to stay.

Hotel St. Jacques actually is a great place to stay. Some of the film’s interior shots were filmed here. But this turns out to be a bad choice for Hepburn. She no sooner opens the door to her room than she is confronted by George Kennedy (as Herman Scobie) – one of three men she wishes to avoid.

Kennedy threatens her. He and two others – James Coburn as “Tex” and Ned Glass as “Gideon” – are convinced Hepburn knows the whereabouts of the $250,000 that her husband stole from them.

Hepburn runs toward a winding antique staircase and screams for Grant. Grant rushes inside. You hear a scuffle and then silence. Hepburn tentatively opens the door and finds Grant on the floor. Kennedy is nowhere in sight. He escaped out the window. Grant follows.

When you step outside the hotel at night, you can almost visualize Grant leaping from one balcony to another in pursuit of Kennedy.

A fourth man, Hamilton Bartholemew (Walter Matthau), tells her that he’s with the CIA, and the money her husband stole really belongs to the U.S.government. Matthau tells her the government wants the money back. He warns Hepburn: “Now that he’s (Charles) dead, you’re their only lead.”

Grant and Hepburn also find time for romance over dinner aboard a riverboat along the Seine River. We took a similar cruise. In the dark, the Eiffel Tower looked golden and the view of the Notre Dame Cathedral from the river also is impressive.

Despite this idyllic setting, the body count and tension mount in the film.

The movie is a classic game of who do you trust. Donen keeps us guessing, even after Hepburn discovers where her husband hid the money.

If you can’t make it to Paris, check out this movie. Viewer discretion is advised. Shortly after you watch it, you’ll want to see the real thing.

** Post a comment below if you’d like to share what film from past decades is most memorable to you?

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COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

* Photos of Audrey Hepburn, Jacques Marin, Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, George Kennedy, and Walter Matthau and Audrey Hepburn in the movie, “Charade” (1963)

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Charade

* “Charade” – movie trailer – about 3 minutes

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056923/

* “Charade” – movie summary, cast on IMDb (Internet Movie Database)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056923/

Dining in the Dark

By Judy Berman

First, let’s put this right out on the table: I am not an adventurous eater. When I go to a restaurant, I can be counted on to order the same thing every time. It only varies depending on the type of place we’re dining at.

Boring. I know. So the idea of dining in the dark – first permanently opened in 2004 under the name of Dans Le Noir (French for “In the Dark”) in Paris and recently opened in New York – was surprisingly intriguing. Still, given a rather disastrous experience in a restaurant I’ll call “Murphy’s Law” – whose motto is “anything that can go wrong will” – I’d have some hesitation about making a reservation.

The Dans Le Noir restaurants in New York, Paris, London, Barcelona and Saint Petersburg, Russia, as well as elsewhere across the globe, are staffed by blind waiters who guide you to your table. Then you have a “surprise” menu that offers one for meat-eaters, one for fish and seafood diners, one for vegetarians and a fourth that is truly a surprise.

“Guests can choose only among a limited choice of surprise menus. The idea is that each guest should not know exactly what he or she will be eating…just the general category. It’s all about the flavors, the textures and the seasonings. It is an old principle often used in the industry, called ‘blind tasting,’ ” according to the Dans Le Noir website.

That’s where my experience eating at “Murphy’s Law” rushes in. “Are you sure? Something new?” Concern is deeply etched on its face.

What happened? Well, the night was an aberration, to be sure. We’d dined there before – no problems. This night was – to put it kindly – an off night.

First, my daughter, Danielle, ordered a steak. She asked if it could be sent back to the kitchen, as it was very rare. The waitress informed her that the heavy abundance of red juices she saw on her plate “was just the lighting.” Believe me, the meat was so rare it was practically galloping off the table ready to return to pasture. (She is now a vegetarian. I’m sure this experience had nothing to do with her change in eating habits.)

Then, we noted that the sweet potatoes were undercooked as well. So they also were dutifully returned to the kitchen and then back to our table. But the waitress at Murphy’s Law got the orders mixed up and gave mine to my husband.

How do I know? Mine had fork marks in it from where I taste-tested it. Thank goodness we’re all family. It could have been worse.

As a gag, I’m sure, we saw someone lick one of the rolls and return it to the basket at their table. By New York state law, restaurants are supposed to throw out unused bread. Apparently, that was not the case at Murphy’s. We learned later from a family friend who worked there that leftover rolls from one table are frequently recycled to other tables.

Yikes! How unsanitary. We never returned.

So, should one disastrous experience influence all of my dining decisions? Absolutely not. Time to stop being skittish. It’s comforting to have all five senses engaged when dining. But how deliciously decadent to savor your meal sans lighting. Already Dans Le Noir has drawn more than 1 million people to its restaurants.

To them, I say, “Bon appetit!” (“Enjoy your meal!”) Go for the gusto. Someday, I might be there at a table near you.

To learn more about Dans Le Noir in New York and to book a reservation, click on this link:

http://newyork.danslenoir.com/

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Photo credit: filet mignon (http://commons.wikimedia.org/)