We returned from Geneva in time for our much awaited attendance at the chatelet theatre for a performance of Kiss Me Kate directed by David Charles Abell. This is one of my very favorite musicals. My favorite version is the Broadway production of just a few years ago. This production was very good, not quite as fabulous as the Broadway production, but still very satisfying.
Two days later we had tickets for a very different theatre experience at the auditorium of the Bastille opera. La belle mere amoureuse, a parody of Hippolyte and Aricie by Jean Philippe Rameau, performed with marionettes, period instruments and singers. If you google the title, you can find utube clips of the production. This was definitely in the fabulous category. The performance was open seating and we arrived early to be first into the theatre. We sat second row center with great placement to see the puppeteers, marionettes, musicians and singers. It was wonderful. The story, in brief, tells the tale of Thesee, King of Athens, his son Hippolyte, Phedre the step mother of Hippolyte, and Aricie the Athenian princess taken captive by Thesee who is in love with Hippolyte. There are numerous gods involved in the story. Phedre is also in love with her stepson Hippolyte. The story is way too complicated to condense meaningfully, so please check out the Wikipedia summary of the parody. Tom was a bit skeptical before the show, but he loved it, especially being able to see how complicated and cooperative the puppeteers were to manage movement, action and sound smoothly.
During this week we each had a day sick in bed, so Fitbit friends, this is my excuse for low results, a combination of cold weather and sick in bed. I had a return to the eye doctor with a good report. We booked our plane for the trip to Portugal and Spain in March. We had a delicious valentine’s day lunch at café ginger and made a short test trip to St. Germaine en laye (the joys of the five zone navigo pass).
The big outing of interest this week was our day trip, with Hedwig, to Rouen. Rouen is only 70 minutes by train from Paris. Once again the joyful retired traveling trio had a cold rainy day for their outing. After our visit to compiegne which included the arrest of Jeanne d’arc, it made sense to continue with the places where she was tried, burnt, redeemed and honored.
Our visit began with a visit to the tower where she was imprisioned, tortured and tried. The 35 meter tall tower is the last remnant of the castle built by King Phillip II Augustus in 1204, itself built on the remains of a Gallo-Roman amphitheater from the 2nd century. We climbed the spiral stairs to the top floor and visited the exhibits on each floor, including the small Jeanne D’Arc museum. there are many interesting historical items to be seen, including the original copy of a mark twain story. Admission for French and American citizens was free, but not for British citizens. We did not test this assertion, and I managed to make the descent without a panic attack or assistance.
Our visit continued with a tour of the gothic Notre Dame Cathedral, built in the 12th century on the foundations of a 4th century basilica. The cathedral has the highest spire in France, the only adjoining archiepiscopal palace still occupied by an archbishop in France, and is mostly well known for the extensive series of paintings done by Monet of the front of the cathedral. Once again we are amazed at the construction before modern equipment.
When we left the church we spotted a lovely salon de the for lunch. We made a reservation and passed the time until lunch wandering the old city streets, walking around the Palais of Justice ( reconstructed after the destruction of WWII) and admiring the hand painted dishware in the shop windows.
Our lunch at Dame Cakes at 70 rue st. Romain was remarkable delicious and decorated in a style more English than French. We all ate very well and finished lunch with the excellent rhubarb tarte.
Across the road is the new museum dedicated to Jeanne D’arc. The museum is housed in a portion of the archbisop’s palace. It was here that sentence was pronounced against her. Guided multimedia tours last 1 ½ hours and begin every 15 minutes. Following through 15 spaces over five floors of the Palais, visitors are exposed to the historic setting current to Jeanne d’arc the events that led to her military role, her arrest, trial, death and rehabilitation 25 years later following a new trial to reexamine the original evidence. It was not only history of the 1400’s that we learned. We also learned how the idea of Jeanne d’arc has been used as a public relations tool by those on all sides of religious and nationalistic disputes, up to today. The young woman who dared to cut her hair,wear men’s clothing and join battle has held attention for 600 years, and currently seems to be the touristic foundation of Rouen's economy.
Next we entered and admired the beauty of the late gothic Saint Maclou Church then proceeded on to the old market square, passing under the arch with the great clock. The great clock was fully restored in 2006 to working order. It had been in working order from the 14th century until 1928.
At the old market square we met with a surprise for Hedwig. When she had last been to Rouen, the market square was a large open space. There is still a covered market in the square, but since 1979 there is a large modern church dedicated to Saint Jeanne D’arc, built in a sunken position to resemble a upturned boat, a old tradition. The roof reminds us of the Flames that surrounded the Saint. The stained glass windows are from the Renaissance. They had been removed for safe keeping before the WWII bombings from the St. Vincent’s church. Just outside of the church is the marker to show where Jeanne d’arc was burned at the stake.
Our final hour in Rouen was spent in the museum of fine arts on our way back to the train station. We had time only for one floor and the sculpture garden. We loved the sculpture garden, but it was the end of a long, cold, wet day loaded with new information and we just did not have time or energy to give the museum a fair viewing. Perhaps another day.
So we are now looking at all the cool, interesting places to visit only an hour or less from Paris. Many of them are within five zones on the navigo pass. The next posting will included a day visit to St. Germaine en Laye with our joyful retired travel buddy, Hedwig and a weekend in Fontainbleau.
With Bisous from Debbi and Tom.