Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Right Day for the Castle?!

I woke up Tuesday morning and it was a glorious day.
I thought, "Today will be a great day to visit Haut-Koenigsburg castle after I spend the morning at the Selestat library!"
I have long wanted to visit Haut-Koenigsberg, but only this year has the bus system added it to its route.
I was on the train, halfway to Selestat, before I realized that Tuesday was the day that the Selestat library was CLOSED.
So I couldn't get any work done.
I decided to go to the castle, anyway.
It WAS a lovely day for the castle.
Unfortunately, hordes of other tourists thought so too.
It was very crowded, and taking pictures that don't feature backpacks or elbows was quite a challenge.
I did end up with some beautiful ones.
The view of the main living quarters:

A view of the lower courtyard, from the upper gun bastion:

From the upper garden, a view of one of the castle drawbridges:

The south wall of the main keep:

This castle, as you might gather, has been heavily restored in the early 20th century.
The detail of this south wall shows not only a Renaissance oriel window but next to it a long chute... that's the latrine chute, open at the bottom.
It must have made a nasty smelly mess on the rocks beneath.

Good Lunch

Today I treated myself to a three-course restaurant lunch.
I had missed breakfast, and I was very hungry!
The salad was crisp and delicious.

For main course I had baeckhoffe.
It was good, but I actually like my own way of preparing it better.
(They used leeks instead of onions, and didn't cook the meat quite as long as I did.)

For dessert, I had a cream-filled cake topped with raspberries.
It was absolutely scrumptious!

You know you're in France when...

This bicycle was parked in the foyer of the parish church of Ste. Foy at Selestat.
Yes, that is a baguette in the side bag!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Backstage visit to Strasbourg Cathedral

I got permission to go to behind the chapels of Strabourg cathedral.

I was primarily interested in this little courtyard, which has the funerary inscription of Erwin von Steinbach, the celebrated architect of the fourteenth century.

However, the visit continued! Since I was there on site, the mason in charge offered to take me up the construction elevator, to the reconstruction work on the crossing cupola. I was thrilled.

The views were wonderful.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Daytrip to Colmar

I went to Colmar to see this manuscript fragment.
(Yes, it's upside down in relation to the rest of the book.)
Though fragmentary, it told me some very interesting things in relation to the other manuscripts I have been studying.

Because I was only dealing with a fragment, I had the rest of the day off.
So I went to the Musee d'Unterlinden to see my favorite painting:

I went out for lunch and had a Flammenkeuche (sort of a pizza: a thin crust smeared with creme fraiche, bacon and sauteed onions- and in this case, also Gruyere cheese- and baked in a wood fired oven.)

Then I strolled around the town and admired the architecture.
Colmar is very picturesque, with lots of half timber houses.
This street is the petite rue des Tanneurs.

Beautiful Light... Photo Lessons

I came back from a day trip to Colmar, after a rain storm, to find absolutely beautiful evening light in Strasbourg.
Also, there was a street fair that had been going on all day that blocked up the major routes, and I wanted to avoid it, so I headed off for my favorite photo spot.

Of course, once I got to the Vauban embankment, the sun had clouded over again and I had to wait half an hour for the light to shine out as I wanted.
And then I got careless.
I was so enthralled with the light, and impatient during my wait, I forgot to frame properly and adjust the focus as I prefer.
So, though this is a gorgeous photo, it doesn't meet poster-size enlargement standards, which is what I try to uphold. (You won't see the slightly soft focus on the cathedral spire until it gets to be 10x12 or thereabouts.)
Also, I wish I had framed it just a little differently, and had raised the horizon and gotten in all of the tower reflections.
It's little goofs like this that really separate me from the professionals.

But THIS frame of the cathedral made up for it!
This makes me very happy!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

An Evening in Strasbourg

After a day at the archives, I went for an evening stroll.
I wandered through the picturesque half-timber houses and canals of the Petite France area...

... and I went out to the Vauban embankment (a 16th century fortification installment that today has been converted into a viewing platform, looking east toward the cathedral and the so-called Ponts Couverts, no longer covered, but still retaining the name.

I had a yummy salad and refreshing NON alcoholic (see the label) mild grain beverage at a waterside cafe....

... and I finished up with a double scoop of ice cream at Franchi, the best ice cream maker in Strasbourg.

Guess what flavors?
You will NEVER guess.
The orange is passionfruit, of which I am passionately fond and have every chance I get.
The purple is VIOLET.
Yes, as in flowers!
It was actually quite tasty.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Strasbourg Cathedral!

Each year when I visit Strasbourg, the first time I go to the cathedral I go up to the bronze griffin beaks on the west front and I kiss my fingers and press them to the beaks to say hello, I'm back.
I did that this morning, and the tourists stared at me.

The scaffolding is finally off of the spire!
This is such a GORGEOUS building!
I love it very much.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Picnic in the Park

A book of Harry Potter underneath the bough,
A bottle of of Pellegrino, a baguette sandwich...
Halfway to Paradise, anyway!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The modest little house of Jacques Coeur in Bourges

Jacques Coeur was a 15th century merchant/financier with big social ambitions.
And a taste for fancy architecture.
I can't fault him his love of Gothic frills. It was quite an experience to tour the house, and wonder what it must have looked like with all the furniture and tapestry and plate, back in the day.
But the modesty of the man!
You'd think that the facade of the house would be quite grand enough for him (this is only a fraction of the street view):

But no, he had to have his portrait carved on the facade, looking out a "window' at the street below.
The scallop shell beneath him on the window frame is a pun on his name, Jacques (James, in English: the shrine of St. James in Spain-- Santiago de Compostella-- has as its pilgrim badge a scallop shell.)

In addition to scallop shells, M. Coeur also liked hearts (for obvious reasons.)
This is his religious little in-house chapel, with a lovely big niche for his chair just to the side of the altar... and hearts and his motto painted over and over again, all over the walls.

Alas, his love of display led to his downfall.
The king saw his house and wanted it, and found an excuse to bring him down.
I missed the details (I was looking at the architecture, not listening carefully to the French tour guide) but I want to look them up some time.
It's a Really Interesting place to visit, if you ever visit Bourges.

The Best French Cathedral Yet

Chartres has the title of "Classic High Gothic" cathedral in all the art history textbooks.

BOURGES is infinitely more beautiful, even if it did not spawn lots of copies.
It is elegant, economic, and multilayered.
It has slim clean buttress flyers and a gorgeously-unfolding interior pyramidal space.

I LOVE this building.
It is the COOLEST French cathedral, ever.
(Strasbourg excepted- which is not really French, anyway.)

Friday, July 20, 2007

A night at the cathedral

Amiens cathedral is beautiful in the light...
... but at night it becomes truly magical.

The city's light show simulates the original polychromy of the middle ages.
It is quite convincing, up to fairly close viewing.

And, Sarah, in order to take these pictures I stood on the same dentist's doorstep that we sat on 9 years ago when we visited Amiens (and you were bored and jetlagged while I photographed the west front!!)

And now, Lords, for France

I found a nice seat on the ferry and listened to the Henry V soundtrack on my iPod as we traveled across the channel to Calais.

Breakfasts Abroad

In England, breakfasts are typically hot and cooked: bacon (more like ham), eggs, toast, hash browns, mushrooms, grilled tomato, beans... and of course tea (I like peppermint.)

In France, you get a croissant and some baguette pieces with butter and jam and some orange juice and tea or coffee (or hot chocolate, which I like.)

It's interesting to adjust one's eating patterns to these different countries.
I like both breakfasts, for different reasons.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Farewell to York

This is such an amazing cathedral.
I will have to come back!!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

A head for heights

The minster curator arranged for those of us who were interested to go up the construction elevator of the east front (currently under restoration.)
I'm so glad she did- it was an amazing experience!
Below: a closeup of a saint worn past recognition:

Above: a closeup of the great east window tracery, including archivolt carving that no one can see from the ground (literally!)
Below: a pinnacle of the chapter house under restoration

Glaziers and Stonemasons

Our NEH group got to tour both the glaziers' (glass makers') workshops and the stonemasons' yard.
It was Extremely Cool.
It is absolutely amazing what they can do with conservation these days: take out old leading from previous bad repairs of windows, redo stone bits, and so on.