Chateau de Chenonceau - Loire Valley, France - egg & dart blog
Art, design, Visiting France

Chenonceau again

Chateau de Chenonceau - Loire Valley, France - egg & dart blog

It’s not the first time we’ve been to Chenonceau, and, you might remember, not the first time I’ve written about it (1 & 2). But it is one of those places that you hold dear to your heart. There is something about it besides its location spanning the beautiful Cher River, or its grand but comfortable dimensions, or even its ornate detail. It must be its soul.

Chateau de Chenonceau - Loire Valley, France - egg & dart blog

Chateau de Chenonceau - Loire Valley, France - egg & dart blog

Halloween day turned out to be a glorious sunny day in central France and, lucky us, R and I had planned to leave É and his Mamette to have fun for the day while we went our way. The first time we’ve been gone that long since he was born I think.

It was autumn, my favorite season, and I knew I wanted to go soak up the inspiration and beauty of my favorite chateau. That we needed that. Luckily R was in complete agreement and, to our surprise, we realized it had been more than 5 years since our last visit, after our French wedding in 2011. So we set out for Chenonceau.

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The Chateau dates to the 16th century when Thomas Bohier and his wife Katherine Briçonnet demolished the existing castle and mill to build the chateau we see today, minus the wing spanning the river. Katherine supervised the work and incorporated modern art and design, like the flights of straight rather than spiral staircases, a model brought from Italy.

Katherine lived for just two years longer after the castle was finished but she said and had carved into the doors, along with their initials ‘TBK’, this saying: “S’il vient à point, me souviendra” (If it is completed, I will be remembered). I think she succeeded.

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Chateau de Chenonceau - Loire Valley, France - egg & dart blog

Known also as the ‘Chateau des Dames‘ (castle of the ladies), Chenonceau was seized by the crown from Katherine’s son for unpaid debates and King Henri II’s mistress, the famous Diane de Poitiers took up residence. She oversaw the building of the wing over the river, at that time a bridge, and extensive flower and vegetable gardens. While she was particularly fond of Chenonceau, she was forced to give it back to Henri’s widow at his death, Catherine de Medici, who transformed the bridge into a 2-story wing where she hosted spectacular fêtes and balls. The first fireworks seen in France were displayed over Chenonceau.

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Chateau de Chenonceau - Loire Valley, France - egg & dart blog

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The clever contraption above has a weight on the other end of the rope which hangs out the window over the river. As the weight drops down, the movement rotates the spits on the fire in the kitchen!

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Chateau de Chenonceau - Loire Valley, France - egg & dart blog

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The bedroom on the second floor where this arrangement was is called the Five Queens Room for Catherine’s two daughters and three daughters-in-law, one of whom was Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots. There were so many people visiting I wasn’t able to photograph them, but Mary’s guards left fascinating graffiti carved in the chapel walls on the first floor, including “Man’s anger does not accomplish God’s justice.

Year-round the chateau is filled with the amazing arrangements of Jean-François Boucher. They are always perfection and are an integral part of what keeps the chateau and its history alive for visitors. You can follow his work on Instagram.

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Chateau de Chenonceau - Loire Valley, France - egg & dart blog

Chateau de Chenonceau - Loire Valley, France - egg & dart blog

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The line of ladies of Chenonceau continued when Louise de Lorraine withdrew to mourn her husband, King Henri III, to this room on the top floor in 1589. With black walls adorned with the symbols of mourning and dark textiles, Louise would have glowed in royal white mourning clothes in this room. While hers was the last royal residence of the chateau, the line of women mistresses continued even through the World Wars when Chenonceau played an important role as a hospital.

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Chateau de Chenonceau - Loire Valley, France - egg & dart blog

Here I promised myself that I would offer a visual tour of our time at Chenonceau and not go into too much written detail! But I love this place and its history is such a fascinating and important part of its soul.

If you can, plan your visit to the chateau so as to finish in the dying light of the day before you leave. The magic of the windows spilling golden light onto the gardens and river is not to be missed! Like being able to peek in to see the household of Catherine de Medici bustling around preparing for the evening meal to be laid. The past still lives here.

Chateau de Chenonceau - Loire Valley, France - egg & dart blog

Chateau de Chenonceau

open year round with special decorations for the holiday season

xo,

A.

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Chateau de Malmaison, France | egg & dart blog
Art, design, Visiting France

Visiting Le Chateau de Malmaison

Chateau de Malmaison, France | egg & dart blog

May was full of not only long weekends here in France, but a strange mix of weather highs and lows. The weekend of (American) Mother’s Day corresponded to a summery high that made you feel like you were on vacation in your own town. I had wanted to visit Josephine Bonaparte’s home at Malmaison for a few years but the timing was never right – Malmaison is known for its roses and I really wanted to visit when they were in bloom. Unfortunately, we were a mere two weeks early for the roses that weekend but that didn’t bother us in the least because what we discovered was a fascinating building surrounded by wildflower lawns and bordered by a beautiful bois (wood).

Chateau de Malmaison, France | egg & dart blog

The Chateau de Malmaison is not big like Versailles or perfectly conserved like Chenonceau but what makes it worth a trip is its visitable size (you aren’t completely exhausted by the end) and its fascinating history. Many chateaux in France are furnished as they may have been or were during the French renaissance or before but the Bonapartes’ chateau is from a much younger period and one that you don’t often see in such a context. Bought by Josephine while Napoleon was in Egypt, the chateau was decorated almost completely around the theme of military campaigns (albeit, the very rich and fashionable version) and classical and Egyptian motifs. This influence is in every detail – the arrow shaped curtain rods, the x-benches used throughout, the striped wall hangings – but what I found most striking were the wonderful and saturated color combinations in so many rooms.

On the first floor, one of the first rooms you visit is the billiard room which happened to be my favorite palette in the house – that wonderful verdigris green contrasted with the vibrant orange. Then the music room with cobalt blue walls lined with saturated red upholstered furniture trimmed with black. And everywhere, even on Josephine’s harp, the military detailing.

Chateau de Malmaison, France | egg & dart blog Chateau de Malmaison, France | egg & dart blog Chateau de Malmaison, France | egg & dart blog Chateau de Malmaison, France | egg & dart blog Chateau de Malmaison, France | egg & dart blog Chateau de Malmaison, France | egg & dart blog Chateau de Malmaison, France | egg & dart blog Chateau de Malmaison, France | egg & dart blog

On the other end of the first floor, past the dining room, are Napoleon’s council room and library where the military imagery is on full display, the council room being swathed in draped striped fabric to mimic a military tent ornamented with regal eagles, lions, and mythical creatures.

Chateau de Malmaison, France | egg & dart blog Chateau de Malmaison, France | egg & dart blog Chateau de Malmaison, France | egg & dart blog Chateau de Malmaison, France | egg & dart blog

When Napoleon and Josephine divorced, she kept Malmaion and lived there until her death. The upper floor is a mix of rooms that show her softer, simpler style and spaces that were converted to exhibition rooms after the house became a museum. On display are stunning collections of hand-painted china she commissioned displaying scenes of Egypt, artworks she collected from both classical and contemporary artists, and David’s original painting of Napoleon Crossing the Alps (originally commissioned by the King of Spain, four versions were eventually made).

Chateau de Malmaison, France | egg & dart blog Chateau de Malmaison, France | egg & dart blog Chateau de Malmaison, France | egg & dart blog Chateau de Malmaison, France | egg & dart blog Chateau de Malmaison, France | egg & dart blog Chateau de Malmaison, France | egg & dart blog Chateau de Malmaison, France | egg & dart blog Chateau de Malmaison, France | egg & dart blog Chateau de Malmaison, France | egg & dart blog Chateau de Malmaison, France | egg & dart blog

The gardens around the chateau were converted to the English style by Josephine and remain beautifully simple and natural, much of the lawns being taken over by wildflowers. The gardens are also home to some remarkable trees, brought back from Napoleon’s travels.

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While the Chateau de Malmaison is not the grandest castle, it is worth the visit on a longer trip to France for the uniqueness of its story and interiors. Access is very easy and parking is right next to the castle. But be sure to plan some time to visit the Bois-Préau next to it, planning a lunch picnic there is a great idea, because it will only add to the enchantment of the visit which truely feels like you’ve escaped Paris for the afternoon. Oh, be sure to take the well-done audio guide that is included in the price of admission. Although, you may be required to share as Romain was!

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Chateau de Malmasion and Bois-Préau

Avenue du château de Malmaison
92500 Rueil-Malmaison

xo,

A.

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Art, Night Au Musée

Night Au Musée: Faces, Flora, and Fauna

It had been a while since we had made it to a nocturne at the Louvre and since our last planned visit ended in an evening home with a sick husband, I think we were even more determined to break out and get there this past Friday after work! We decided to visit the new Arts d’Islam wing again since it is so large we didn’t even see half of the collection on the first visit. Now, a second visit down, we still have a lot more left to see.

These collections, even before the new wing was opened, have always been some of my favorites at the museum. The colors and prolific patternwork (which is often calligraphy transformed into decoration, giving it several layers of purpose) are endlessly stunning. I am fascinated by the lines of these works and love drawing inspiration from them. Their sense of scale and balance is so perfectly tuned.

Half way through this second visit, I realized that the overwhelming majority of the pieces I was drawn to that evening were depicting faces, flora, and fauna, the latter two being particularly common themes in Islam art. So, here is a second visit to the new wing for you, featuring the many faces, plants, and animals carved, painted, and smithed over centuries and across continents.

You can see pictures from our first visit to the Arts d’Islam wing here.

xo,

A.

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Art, Night Au Musée, Paris

Night at the Louvre – Les Arts de L’Islam

 

Ever since the much anticipated new wing of the Louvre opened, I’ve been excited to see the new space and discover the pieces of the museum’s collection that hadn’t been displayed before. The Islamic and Middle Eastern collections are some of the most inspiring to me for their rich decoration, vibrant colors, and fluid lines. Last Friday, after a fairly hectic week, we meet at the Louvre for a nocturne visit and headed straight for this new wing. Built into a previously unused inner court, the architecture is very modern, in the tradition of the  I.M. Pei glass pyramids, but marries will with the existing structure, not competing with it. So entering the new wing is like stepping through the wardrobe into a completely different world. With 2 1/2 levels of space, there was much too much to see in one evening and it was fairly busy, with everyone interested in the new space.

The pieces on display vary widely, the theme of the collection itself covering a vast geographical and cultural area, and different areas are highlighted by themes such as writing (calligraphy being such an important decorative element in Islamic art), game objects, or tile work. These displays are complemented by touch screens that play fascinating videos in several languages, several 3D models that were created from key pieces for visitors to be able to touch the work with their own hands, and maps that glow from behind, the light moving to show the spread of an empire or culture. It was all very interesting and there is still so much for us to see but we did have just a few critiques: for one, the light is unusually low, even for light sensitive pieces, and the floor, walls, and displays are charcoal making it difficult to read even for R. and I who don’t have trouble reading. Also, almost all texts were presented in three languages but not Arabic. For a country with such a large Arabic population and tourist stream, I feel that it’s a miss not to offer the exhibit information in the major language of the culture whose work is being displayed.

Despite those things, the new wing is a space you should visit if you can. The work is beautiful (the above reproduction mosaic looks so contemporary to me yet it dates to between 705 and 715 A.D.!) and I know we’re both looking forward to going back to see even more. Here is a taste of what you’ll see there:

How was your weekend?

xo,

A.

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Art, Life, Paris

Monday and Friday

The weeks have been busy around here and the end of last week was no exception. On Thursday evening, the Musée d’Orsay hosted a fashion show of pieces by young designers from the Studio Berçot. They had worked on designs inspired by the musée’s new exhibit: Impressionisme et la Mode (Impressionism and Fashion). It was a packed night with many designs that were interesting and thoughtful applications of more than 100 year old fashions and I always love these kind of current day events in museums that seem to bring a whole new life and dimension to the art on display. These are just a couple glimpses of what the night included. With such a packed house, getting pictures wasn’t easy!

I tried and tried to get a post about that event up on the blog on Friday but fate had other ideas for me and I had to finally give up when we arrived at R’s grandparents farmhouse in the countryside of the Sancerre region and no internet signal could be coaxed from any of the technology we brought with us. I was so excited to be away from the city, in that beautiful place and at this time of year, that I have to say, I let go of the frustration pretty quickly. I’ll be back on Wednesday with lots of pictures to share from that trip (oh, it was too short!) but here’s one peek:

Happy Monday!

xo,

A.

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Art, Food & Recipes, Life, Paris

Marché Photo of the Week

Everyone was so happy at the marché this weekend! One of those visits when you think “This is why I love coming to this marché.” You see, we don’t go to the easiest market to get to. There is one just a block up the boulevard and another just past the grocery store that both stretch on for ages. And they are fine but we once went to the marché just on the other side of the périphérique, the boundary between Paris and suburb which, after all, is very close to your apartment, and it hooked us. There we found our vegetable guy who is the farmer himself. There is my herb lady who always has the best herbs and micro and baby greens and the other farmer who has the heirloom varieties and the different colors of carrots, radishes, and tomatoes. The Italian stand with the pancetta with bits of peppercorn throughout and the baker and family with the best bread we have found in the whole city. Now we go every weekend we can and always come home saying how strange it is to go 10 minutes and be in what feels like a smaller village, not Paris. Here’s what we got this week:

– Cresson de Terre (Perhaps American or Land Cress in English? Anyone know?)

– Unpasteurized Buffalo Mozzerella

– Beets

– Celery

– Little Yellow Onions

– Cucumber

– Zucchini

– Eggplant

– Campari Tomatoes

– Sage

– Red and Green Sweet Peppers

– ‘Master’ Bread

– Thyme

– Felino Sausage

– Mint

And here are some of the dishes all that will go into:

Eggplant & Tomato Tartines with Mozzarella – Lieu sur Lit de Cresson – Roasted Root Vegetable Salad with Manchago & Herbed Croutons

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The weekend was as beautiful as the weather people predicted and we tried to take advantage of Paris Design Week and Les Journées du Patrimoine as much as we could. I loved these colorful ladies we found on a back wall near Arts et Métiers.

How was your weekend? And what is on your menu this week?

xo,

A.

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Art, Night Au Musée, Paris

Night at the Louvre – Eugène Isabey

Last Friday we made it to the Louvre for the first nocturne in a long time and we took the time to visit a temporary exhibit of work by Eugène Isabey from the Louvre’s collections. This selection of work focused on his sketches of the Normandy and Brittany coasts and rural villages. Most of the work presented was graphite with watercolor and gouache and what mesmerized me were his brush strokes. I’ve always loved pieces that were not so perfected as to hide the hand of the artist and in this exhibit Isabey’s voice rings clear in his frank and sure hand through his paint brush. But I’ll let the works speak for themselves, here is a selection of details (not entire sketches) that I particularly loved for their marks.

(above: oil on canvas)

The light was not helping for the viewing (or photographing) of this last one but I had to include this detail despite the ghosting of the image. Here he has laid down charcoal over graphite and then ‘etched’ the forms from the black. This detail shows two baskets (center, 2/3’s down) laying on the shore at the base of a ship(top left) among the rocks (bottom right). I have to try this technique!

The show runs through the 17th of September and I definitely need to get back at least one more time. If you’re in Paris, try to find the time to go see it!

xo,

A.

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