vendredi 22 avril 2011

Place Palais Royale, 1st arr

It was a beautiful day yesterday and I enjoyed lunch in the gorgeous square at Palais Royale. 

Enclosed as it is by the Palais Royael,  it is not an obvious garden, not a garden one notices from a distance and it's a surprise when one comes across it on the northern end through the quaint surrounding streets. It is formally laid out with avenues of trees with a central fountain and a quiet refuge from the hustle and bustle of the city streets.

In 1624, Cardinal de Richelieu bought the old Hôtel Rambouillet and surrounding properties. These buildings were removed and the Palais Cardinal was built with a large adjoining garden.   When Cardinal de Richelieu died on December 4, 1642, he bequeathed this property to the crown.

Louis XIV officially gave the deed and ownership to his brother and the family d'Orléans lived here until the Revolution. In 1781, the Duc d'Orléans, later known as Philippe-Egalitié, who also owned the Parc Monceau, commissioned architect Victor Louis to enlarge the palace and shrink the garden, allowing for the construction of houses on three sides of the garden.

While Philippe-Egalitié opened the Jardin du Palais Royal to the public, he prohibited it to the police. It thereby became a place of liberty not found anywhere else in Paris.

From the 1780s to 1837, the palace was the centre of Parisian political and social intrigue and the site of the most popular cafés. The historic restaurant "Le Grand Vefour" is still there. In 1786, a noon cannon was set up by a philosophical amateur, set on the prime meridian of Paris, in which the sun's noon rays, passing through a lens, lit the cannon's fuse. The noon cannon is still fired at the Palais-Royal, though most of the ladies for sale have disappeared, those who inspired the Abbé Delille's lines;
"Dans ce jardin on ne rencontre
Ni champs, ni prés, ni bois, ni fleurs.
Et si l'on y dérègle ses mœurs,
Au moins on y règle sa montre."

("In this garden one encounters neither fields nor meadows nor woods nor flowers. And, if one upsets one's morality, at least one may re-set one's watch.")

The Marquis de Sade referred to the grounds in front of the palace in his Philosophy in the Bedroom (1795) as a place where progressive pamphlets were sold.

The courtyard at the Louvre end of the Place contains a well known artwork by Daneil Buren known as Buren's Columns.  (They were being repaired when I was there).  I shall certainly return her for some respite from the hustle and bustle during the summer.

The leafy avenues gave much needed shade for us lunchtime diners.  The restauraunt terraces looking out onto the Place were full of happy diners, the childrens' sandpit occupied by fellow sandwich eaters and the whole scene was busy yet restful and very beautiful.  An added romantic touch was a couple in cream who seemed to have just been married.  If you look carefully you'll see them in the distance in the second photo strolling lovingly together along along the avenue into the bright sunshine.  So Paris!

mercredi 20 avril 2011

Hanami, Sunday 10th April

"Street is just a street but beautiful"

Just received these beautiful, uplifting photos from a colleague in Tokyo.  Hanami took place on Sunday 10th April which was the best day for the cherry blossom trees.  She says that the Mayor of Tokyo prohibited Hanami this year, but everyone just did it anyway.  I'd like to share her words with you.

"We drunk Sake from Miyagi where is one of the Prefecture on disasters area"

and "one of the best things we can do, we do normal life.  We must moving forward with first step for future".

vendredi 1 avril 2011


or 'flower viewing' is the traditional Japanese custom of viewing flowers, namely cherry blossom.  The blossom forecast, a little like the weather forecast begins in February and aims to forecast the optimum day for wiewing the cherry blossom (sakura), which depends on the weather conditions.  Blossoms peak only for around one or two weeks.  Outdoor parties  where special food and drink (particularly sake) are served, are held in celebration either in the daytime or night (a night time hanami is called yozakura, literally 'night sakura').  Lanterns are also hung to light up and decorate the parties.  It must be wonderful to see huge numbers of people celebrating the natural world.  Literally thousands of people fill the parks to view the blossom. 

Elder people prefer the plum blossom parties as they are less crowded and noisy than hanami.

I've been receiving regular updates from a Japanese woman living in Tokyo.  She's been sending daily reports about life in Japan after the earthquake - the numbers of lives that have been lost, the people living in gymnasiums or schools because they have lost their homes, the levels of radioactivity in the tap water and she paints a bleak picture of the aftermath although what does come shining through is the spirit of the Japanese people, their stoicism and ability to get on with life under terrible conditions.

Here's wishing all the survivors of this terrible disaster some peace and a chance to enjoy the cherry blossom again sometime.

This was taken in Parc du Bercy.