Sunday, November 30, 2014

LIGHTNING STRIKES

While out walking around the city of Versailles we noticed still another remarkable embellishment in the form of a golden bolt of lightning on this 1790 balcony guardrail at 17 rue de Satory. The inscription "sensere gigantes" is a devise of the Chevau-Légers, or light calvary, and means in French "terrasser les géants," strike down the giants. The motif is just above the entrance of the former caserne.



Vocabulary
un garde-corps:  a body guard, or as here, a guardrail for balconies or windows;  also called un garde-fou, which literally translates as a protection for a madman
la foudre:  lightning, a bolt of lightning

©2014 P.B. Lecron

Friday, November 28, 2014

NEVER ENOUGH

I'm afraid that yours truly needs one of those contraptions she's seen tourists using--a hand-held telescoping camera pole to extend her camera higher to do justice to this magnificent Renaissance stained-glass window of the Église Sainte-Foy in Conches-en-Ouche. Pictured above is simply the foreground of an ensemble representing the Annunciation. The flamboyant Gothic style church in the small Normandy town has an exceptional and celebrated treasury of twenty-two 16th century master works of Romain Buron de Gisors, master stained-glass artist, and yes, disciple of the important maître-verrier, Engrand Leprince de Beauvais. 

The name of the town of Conches is derived from the word conque, a conch shell, because the town was an important step in the pilgrimage to Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle in Spain. A return visit to Sainte-Foy is guaranteed.

Vocabulary
l'Annonciation:  the Annunciation
un maître-verrier:  a master glazier

©2014 P.B. Lecron

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

THE GARDNER'S NEW CLOTHES

Here's another example of how the École d'Art Mural de Versailles has spruced up numerous utility boxes around town. This box has been dissimulated by a trompe l'oeil of a poster after Nicolas de Larmessin's Habit de Jardiner. A prolific engraver, de Larmessin created  fantastical series of engravings featuring grostesque costumes for various professions during the early 18th century. The majority of the trompes l'oeil are to be found on utility boxes on four major streets in Versailles, each according to a theme: on Avenue de Sceaux it's parks and gardens; on Aveunue de Paris it's baroque music; on Avenue de Saint-Cloud it's Molière; and on Boulevard de la Reine it's the fables of Jean de la Fontaine.


Vocabulary
un habit:  an outfit
les habits:  clothes

Expression
L'habit ne fait pas le moine. This literally means "the outfit doesn't make the monk," and is used to convey a meaning similar to the English expression, "don't judge a book by its cover."

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©2014 P.B. Lecron

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

SHORTCUT

There's more in the city of Versailles to explore than the palace and its grounds--like the city's several charming 18th-century shortcuts connecting edifices, squares, and commercial districts. This one has been glorified by the École d'Art Mural de Versailles with a very nice rendering, in a trompe l'oeil frame, of the baraques which were built around public squares. It leads from the Carrés Saint-Louis, with its restaurants, shops, and abodes, to the Cathédrale Saint-Louis. The baraques are all still standing and vital to the Saint-Louis quarter. Most of them have been meticulously restored.

The shortcut


Vocabulary
un raccourci:  a shortcut
un passage:  a pedestrian walkway
un carré:  a square

©2014 P.B. Lecron

Monday, November 24, 2014

MELLOW YELLOW

It's turning out to be a long, soft autumn here in Versailles, with unseasonably (if not disturbingly) warm temperatures; and as yet, no killing frost. The pastel palette of this 18th-century baraque in the  Saint-Louis quarter matches the mellow weather. The baraque is a part of four ensembles of identical buildings, each group originally constructed around public squares to form commercial districts for the servants and personnel of the Château de Versailles. The charming buildings with their Mansard roofs are the pride of the neighborhood and are preciously conserved; a number of them house interesting specialty shops. Not to miss when in Versailles.
Vocabulary
une baraque:  a barrack; a light construction often built to lodge military troupes or store hunters', fishermen's or workers' material; when used as slang it means a poorly built, uncomfortable house

Expression
Casser la baraque:  literally to break the barrack; the term means to frankly succeed at an endeavor


©2014 P.B. Lecron

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

MERCY

Tenderness and compassion from the Left Bank on the Square René Viviani, Paris. The sculpture, by the late, great George Jeanclos (1933-1997), is flanked by the Cathédrale Notre Dame on one side and Église Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre and its 400 year-old acacia, on the other. The work is actually a fountain, but from at least as far back as June 1996, water, like tears, no longer flows from it. 

Cited as the oldest living tree in Paris, the Robinier acacia was planted near the small church in the 17th century by the royal botanist, Jean Robin, from seeds said to have been introduced to France from the North American Appalachians. The Robinier, or false acacia, is braced by concrete supports.



Vocabulary
la compassion:  mercy
la miséricorde:  God's mercy

©2014 P.B. Lecron

Saturday, November 8, 2014

UNDER THE GINKGO TREE

Male - Female
Who wouldn't feel playful under one of France's favorite ornamental trees from China? That half of the Ginko Biloba trees we saw at the arboretum this week were already yellow or turning yellow while the other half were still green left us perplexed, until we read that the male trees are more precocious than the females. In the spring, the male trees' leaves appear two weeks earlier than the females', and yellow as well two weeks earlier in the autumn. The ancient and resistant to pollution species is commonly known in France as l'arbre aux quarante écus owing to the fact that in the late 18th-century a French botanist bought five ginkos from an English botanist, paying 40 écus d'or or gold coins for each tree.

©2014 P.B. Lecron

Friday, November 7, 2014

TURN, TURN, TURN

From a mid-autumn stroll in the Arboretum de Chèvreloup, at Rocquencourt. Maintained by the National Musuem of Natural History, the 195-hectare arboretum borders the grounds of the Château de Versailles.

Expression
Celui qui a peur des feuilles, ne doit pas aller aux bois.  He who is afraid of leaves should not go into the woods. This French proverb means that you should not engage in a project or enterprise if you are afraid to pay the costs. 

Vocabulary
une feuillle d'érable:  a maple leaf
lie-de-vin:  wine-colored
bordeaux:  when used as an adjective, burgundy-colored
brique: when used as an adjective, brick-red

For more on autumn, click here.

©2014 P.B. Lecron

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

THE FIVE SENSES

Learn more French with Pompon
Famous French cat Pompon noses a cyclamen to demonstrate one of the five senses, l'odorat. Cats have a highly developed sense of smell, 50 to 70 percent more powerful than that of man. 

Vocabulary
la vue:  sight
l'ouïe:  hearing
le goût:  taste
le toucher:  touch
l'odorat:  smell


©2014 P.B. Lecron

Sunday, November 2, 2014

DESTINATION GUADELOUPE

La Route de Rhum 2014
C'est parti!
Photo of television coverage taken from the comfort of my armchair this afternoon just after the start of the famous race from Saint-Malo to Pointe-à-Pitre, Gaudeloupe. Ninety-one solo skippers are participating this year in the single-handed transatlantic yacht race which takes place every four years. French channel 3 provided the splendid view.

Vocabulary
un fauteuil:  an armchair
une chaîne de télévision:  a television channel


©2014 P.B. Lecron