Skip to content

the sad sad story of abélard and héloïse from long long ago

In looks she did not rank lowest while in the extent of her learning she stood supreme. –Abélard

God knows I never sought anything in you except yourself. I wanted simply you, nothing of yours. HéloïseThe Letters of Abélard and Héloïse

I like cemeteries. Not all cemeteries, of course, but I do like the ones with old tombstones of famous people, the ones that have had obituaries written about them in the New York Times or Le Monde, or both, or even better where extraordinary individuals had been recognized during their time, in the manner of their time,  to warrant continued recognition after death.

My favorite cemeteries are in Paris: the cimetière de Montparnasse, Père Lachaise, and the cimetière de Montmartre. They are large and have residences on streets, impasses, and boulevards, like the cities of the living.

I prefer to visit on sunny days. On gray days, the day compliments too much the stone of the markers. The green trees and fresh flowers don’t help to ameliorate the dreariness (and dreaminess) of the place.. The gray days do not offer shadows nor slices of light striking though the branches.

Imagine this story: a teacher falls in love with his student, who is 20 years younger than he, and she falls in love with him. They have an affair. They do it in the kitchen and in the bedroom of her guardian. They send hundreds of love notes to each other via text and email. Then, she gives birth, and they decide to marry, secretly. The guardian finds out, and is furious; he punishes them severely. They do not live happily ever after. They are separated and will never see one another again, but they do write to each other for the rest of their lives. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.) But wait, there’s more!

contemplating sculptures along the chemin de saint-jacques

Everyone knows the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route that leaves Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France and then goes to Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain. The lesser known route, but well-known in France and Europe, is the Chemin de Saint-Jacques that extends the same distance in kilometers as the Camino from Le Puy-en-Velay to Saint-Jean- Pied-de-Port.

Walking the Chemin de St-Jacques-de-Compostelle is fun for many reasons. You exercise each day; you meet people from France and elsewhere who are like-minded; if you are smart, you do not carry much weight and you will sleep in a warm bed every night; and because you are in France you will most likely eat good meals when you are starved.

Along the Chemin one finds many types of markers: arrows will tell you which direction to turn; some stones will have distance chiseled into them; Christian crosses are everywhere; stone markers dating back to the middle ages tell you that you have not deviated from your chosen route; and sometimes a scallop shell is nailed to a tree or a fence post.

By far the most fun and the most extraordinary markers are the sculptures. Many styles are represented. Sometimes they are large and modern and abstract.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.) But wait, there’s more!

look, it is bonne mère, the basilique notre-dame de la garde

She who governs the roads of the sea,
Who shines above the waves and the sun,
The giantess standing behind the blue hours,
high gold inhabitant of a long white country,
Christian Pallas of the Gauls.  –Valery Larbaud

I hastened to go up to Notre-Dame de la Garde, to admire the sea bordered with the ruins the laughing coasts of all the famous countries of Antiquity.  –Chateaubriand

Stand any where in Marseille and you will probably see the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde. There is no escaping its presence high on the hill. In this respect, it is much like the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

As a popular tourist destination, it offers a spectacular 360 degrees panoramic view of Marseille and the Mediterranean Sea.

One can choose many ways to go up the hill: public transportation, ie the city bus; the small tourist train; the tourist bus; and walk. I take the #60 city bus from the Vieux Port. To descend I enjoy walking down, choosing a different direction in order to see an unexplored part of the city.

It takes a little planning, but one can climb to the basilica via some neighborhood streets and via a path that approaches from the side that faces the Vieux Port. A decent digital map, such as Google maps or ViaMichelin, can help navigate some of the alleys and side streets.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.) But wait, there’s more!

the roof and spire of la cathédrale notre-dame de paris are gone

Lundi 15 avril, 18h45, au pied de la flèche de la cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, une légère fumée s’échappe des combles. L’alerte est donnée, l’édifice, évacué de ses touristes et ­fidèles. Des dizaines de millions de gens, peut-être plus, partout dans le monde, garderont longtemps en mémoire les heures désespérantes qui suivirent. —Telerama, le 23/04/2019

La Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris burned Monday, April 15, 2019, starting around 18:30, Paris time.

From the bridge that crosses the Seine river at Boulevard Saint Michel, it is the front of the cathedral that we see. The roof and its spire is almost hidden behind the two large towers in front. It was the roof and the spire behind the towers that burned.

One day in August two years ago, I wandered around La Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris and wondered about it. I decided to spend time looking more closely at the other sides. I offer some photographs I took then.

Oliver Gee, host of the Earful Tower podcast, had a guest Philippe Hertzberg of Secret Journeys on his program. Philippe was at Notre-Dame when the fire started. In addition one can get a “private tour” of the inside of Notre-Dame before the fire.

Annie in her podcast Join Us in France talked about the fire and more in “Notre Dame Fire: What Now? Episode 230.” At the end of the article, one can see an extensive list of other podcasts she has done about Notre-Dame.

Slate, the on-line magazine, and the Slate Cultural Gabfest, used a part of their weekly broadcast to consider the consequences of the fire. In “Free Rein on Some Gargoyles” Edition” they invited Lauren Collins, writer for the New Yorker, to talk about the fire. She had been into the roof earlier before the fire. She wrote about it in her article “On the Roof of Notre-Dame, Before It Burned“.

Lately, I have been listening to the polyphonic music of Pérotin. He lived between ca. 1155/60 and ca. 1200/05 and composed for the Notre Dame school of polyphony during the early years of Notre-Dame.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.) But wait, there’s more!