Zamora – Part 3

Santa Semana

The week before Easter is a big deal in Spain. No, let me correct that: a huge deal in Spain. In many cities and towns little else happens during Holy Week except Holy Week activities. Seville is said to be the biggest, and Zamora has to have the most intense celebration for a smaller place. Zamora even has a museum dedicated to Santa Semana, which we visited and at which we were amazed/astonished/fascinated!

Starting Palm Sunday, cofradias (essentially religious fraternities) carry huge statues and tableaux through the streets of the city. These pasos, as they are called, depict scenes from the week before the cruxificion of Jesus. They are huge, some of them requiring more than 30 people to carry them. They wend slowly through the streets, watched by huge crowds at every step of the way. The pasos start their journey late in the afternoon and usually take somewhere around 4-5 hours to reach their destination. (On Good Friday the pasos for that day start at 5 a.m. and travel until 2 – 3 a.m. the following morning!) For the members of the cofradias, and for the people watching, this is a mark of their devotion.

The Museo Santa Semana here has many of the pasos used in Zamora’s Holy Week processions, as well as the costumes worn by the cofradias, and explanations of the week. It is pretty amazing!

A paso in the Museo Santa Semana. You can see the base here.

The bases are beautifully carved from walnut. Under them, 30-35 men walk in unison for hours.

Pasos used in the Santa Semana processions in Zamora.

The picture above shows three pasos. As the people under them walk, they move in a slow swinging gait that makes the paso move as though alive.

I thought that all the pasos would be old, but in fact, a number of them were created and introduced into the processions over the last twenty years. Others have been used for over 150 years, and several were old ones re-created and renovated in the last forty-fifty years.

The Muséo Santa Semana also has costumes worn by the members of the cofradias as they process through the streets. Some are, um, eerie:

I have no idea why when the Ku Klux Klan got going in the United States it took its well-known hooded costume from the cofradias of Spain. I wish it hadn’t. But then I wish the KKK had never existed.

The Cathedral

Zamora’s Cathedral is unusual in that it is Romanesque – most cathedrals in Europe were replaced with Gothic buildings as that form of architecture spread from France. But it took hundreds of years to reach Spain and be accepted here; the Seville Cathedral, the largest in the world, is purely Gothic but was built almost 400 years after the first French Gothic cathedral. Zamora’s Cathedral itself is interesting, and it has a small but quite nice museum attached. We spent a lot more time here than we planned!

In the museum, we came across this bust of Mary holding Jesus. It’s carved in wood and painted. The face is just breathtakingly beautiful.

The Cathedral museum also has a series of beautiful tapestries created in the 1500s that are amazingly well kept.

One of the smaller tapestries, about 15 ft by 15 ft.

Here’s a detail of one (a detail because they are all huge)!

A detail of the border.

Today’s interesting tapestry fact: a few years back I did some reading about tapestries and learned that with a tapestry of this quality, a skilled tapestry-maker could do about a square yard per year! These tapestries would take years, with several people working on them at the same time. No wonder they were so valuable.

The Cathedral itself had some interesting aspects. Our favorite was this:Built into a wall and part of a sepulchre, this was created in 1402, and, for an unknown reason, covered up at some later date. It was rediscovered during a 2010 renovation. The colors are original: this is a 800-year-old unrestored work of art.

And a simple but elegant altarpiece of silver:

Laurie liked this candlestick.

This thing would light up a stadium.

Okay, enough about Zamora for now. We love this place and will definitely return, more than once, we hope.

Okay, two more Zamora pictures.

Laurie would like to find a sweet little girl for whom she can buy a pair of one of these shoes. You choose which color.

Or the dress here. We thought about buying the boy’s outfit for Henry, but, somehow, it didn’t seem right for him.

 

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Zamora – Part 2

We were in Zamora for three days and think it might be our favorite place in Spain. The old city of Zamora (casco antiguo), in which our hotel was located, is the most fascinating place. Within easy walking distance of our hotel were a dozen Romanesque churches, all built in the 11th – 14th centuries. There was a fortress, a beautiful river walk, lovely streets, lively plazas with many restaurants and tapas bars. Other than that, the place was totally boring.

First, some general thoughts and pictures about Zamora.

For centuries Spanish towns and cities have held onto the tradition of the paseo – the evening walk. Though it is disappearing in places, especially the cities, many places hold onto it, and Zamora falls into this category. Here’s a picture, taken at about 8:30 in the evening, of the main street through the old part of the city.

The paseo in Zamora.

The Duero River runs through Zamora and, of course, has an old bridge across it. This one has an inexplicable name: “The Stone Bridge.” Ok, maybe not inexplicable.

The Casco Antiguo from across the Duero River.

Romanesque Churches

Zamora has so many churches of the Romanesque architectural style that the city is called The Romanesque City. Before showing some pictures, a little background on Romanesque:

Romanesque architecture started to appear in the 700s throughout Europe. Architects of the time had not solved a key problem that later architects did solve, resulting in the soaring Gothic cathedrals: how to support the weight of high walls and roofs required in the larger churches they were building. Their solution was to build thick walls, and thick walls meant no ability to add stained glass windows or lift the building height. Also, the only arch available to them was a rounded one, which is not as strong as the pointed arch that later allowed Gothic buildings to rise to great heights. So Romanesque architecture is marked by thick walls, rounded arches and small windows.

But if Gothic buildings, which started to appear in France in the 12th century, are soaring and graceful, Romanesque buildings have their own beauty. They are simple and solid and powerful. I think there’s no place better than Zamora to get your fill of Romanesque.

Thick walls, small windows, kind of fortress-like.

Rounded arch gives this away: Romanesque

Solid – that’s Romanesque.

Capitals in a Romanesque church.

A late Romanesque church – the main arch has a bit of a point to it.

A beautifully restored church. I guarantee it didn’t look this good when it was built.

Each of these churches has a person just kind of watching over them and answering questions. We visited one church where the fellow told us that it was the oldest church in Zamora. At the next one, the woman there told us her church was the oldest church in Zamora. I looked them up: turns out either could be, as the dates of their construction are not known. Both, however, are referenced in city records in the mid-1100s, so maybe they both deserve the title “oldest.”

This is just a taste of the Romanesque churches in Zamora. There are twelve of them within 10 minutes of our hotel. We visited probably seven or eight; the others were not open when we arrived. Next trip…

Modernist Buildings

In the late 1800s/early 1900s, an architectural style that came to be known as Modernism arose in the northeast part of Spain, centered in Barcelona. Modernism revolted against the established and accepted architecture of the time by basing its designs on nature: buildings became curvy, with plant and animal motifs everywhere. In Barcelona this style was best represented by Antoni Gaudi.

For some reason, Zamora became the Spanish center of Modernism, but definitely a Modernism that incorporated features from other styles. One of the main features seen here and in Barcelona is the oriel window, a bay window that does not extend to the ground floor (there’s a picture below of an oriel window). There are many buildings here with oriel windows, and many with the organic designs of Modernism. Throw in some influences of Art Deco, with its straight lines and geometric designs, and you have a most interesting architecture here in Zamora. Almost every street has a surprise, and we stopped in amazement to look at many buildings.

An Oriel window – common in many Modernist buildings here and in Barcelona.

That wraps up Part 2 of our Zamora adventure. More to follow; soon, as I’m writing these from Trujillo and that’s a whole ‘nother story.

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Back in Spain

We came from Saint-Jean-de-Luz in France yesterday to Zamora, Spain. Now, I know I owe you posts on some day-trips we took last week, and one on Saint-Jean-de-Luz (“appalling” might sum it up), but our return to Spain has been pretty amazing, so I’m going to skip ahead. I will fit in those last two France posts Real Soon Now.

We stayed in Zamora ten or twelve years ago and decided to make it our first stop on our “Greatest Hits of Spain” tour this year: towns we’ve visited and loved in the past. No big cities or new places this trip, just smaller, loved places. Honestly, we had not expected Zamora to be as great as we’ve found it already.

Our first experience: we went out for a walk after we arrived and as it was a little warm (about 88F) we soon got to a point where we were tired, thirsty and hungry: time for refreshment and a sit-down. We found a small bar which was, miraculously, air-conditioned, and ordered two beers and some tapas. Over the next 45 minutes or so, we had those beers (muy frio) and eight tapas – four each. When the bill came I was shocked: 9€, about $11. And the tapas had been substantial enough that we skipped a full dinner. Not a bad start.

Then we walked down to the castillo at the western end of the old town to see the sunset. While there we heard from inside the castillo the overture to the famous opera Carmen (set in Spain), then the sound of flamenco dancers warming up. As there was a line of people at the entrance to the castillio (at 9 o’clock at night) we wondered what was up. So we joined the line, entered and found that we were part of the audience for a flamenco performance by a famous mother-daughter team of bailoras (women flamenco dancers) and their students. It was fabulous. Laurie and I know enough about flamenco to know good from mediocre, and this was far better than good. The daughter was great, and the mother absolutely hypnotizing. When she finished her dance, the audience went nuts. She is evidently quite famous in Spain (she’s from Seville, a center of flamenco), as we mentioned her to someone we met the next day and he was was amazed that we’d seen her. The cost for this performance, performed in a courtyard of a thousand-year-old castle, under beautiful warm skies, was extravagant: 0 Euros. Converted to dollars, that’s $0. Pretty amazing, we think.

The castillo of Zamora. We were watching this beautiful sunset when we heard flamenco dancers warming up inside the castillo.
Sure enough, there was flamenco! Really good flamenco at that.

Our hotel here is one of Paradores chain, in a converted convent from the 1700s. It’s nice. Very nice. As in, 4-star nice. After where we stayed in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, it’s a freaking palace.

So, we love Zamora! More tomorrow on the eleven Romanesque churches within ten minutes of our hotel, the walls, the plazas, the…whatever we find!

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Léhon

On the boat ride described in the Dinan post, I showed some pictures of Léhon, which we passed on the ride. The town, especially the abby there, intrigued us and so the next day, we took the 20-minute walk from our hotel to Léhon. We found the abby, walked around it and the town, then walked along the Rance river back to Dinan.

Abbaye St. Magliore

The Abbaye of Saint Magliore was founded in the 12th century and survived until the French Revolution (1789). Since then it has gone through several lives and now survives as the church, where services are still held (occasionally) and a conference/exhibition center, using the other buildings that were part of the Abbaye. We found it to be a beautiful and peaceful place and were glad that we’d seen it the day before and made the effort to visit it.

Stained glass window behind the altar at St. Magliore
Gotta love it: this stone honoring someone was placed in the church in 1611.
Stair decoration.
Decoration on a railing honoring Charles of Blois, whoever he was.
Cloisters – we love ’em. This one has no roof, but is still beautiful to us.
More cloisters.
St. Magliore and its sunflowers.
This wall houses the refectory (dining room) of the Abbaye. It is unusual in that it has many windows; refectories were often windowless.
Inside the Refectory with its windows. This is a beautiful room.
Remember the bridge we saw on our boat ride? Here it is again.
The “main street” of Léhon.

We see this a lot: campers (called caravans here) with all that’s needed for any opportunity. Find a nice place to picque-nique? Pull out the table, the chairs and you are ready!

French camping: bring a table andchairs so you’ll be able to have a picque-nique anywhere.

All in all, a very pleasant day!

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Dinan

Another of our favorite places is Dinan, in the northern part of Brittany. We came here two years ago and just loved it. Dinan is a medieval city, with walls and towers and many buildings looking just as they did 600-800 years ago, when they were built (the recorded history of one building goes back to 1224!). We returned this year and were not disappointed; in fact, we enjoyed this visit more. We did a couple new things, walked to a beautiful nearby town and, as before, just enjoyed being in this place.

Around Dinan

Dinan is a pretty interesting place to just stroll about. It has many buildings that have been here for hundreds of years.

 

A main street in Dinan.

 
 

Another old building.

Gotta love a door like this…

Look outside long enough and you’ll see all kinds of interesting things.

Early in the morning. A couple people setting up tables and a street-cleaner doing his thing. And he did it well: the streets he cleaned – by hand – were immaculate by 8 a.m.

Walking the Walls of Dinan

Dinan has been here a long time, and has the walls to prove it.

One of several remaining towers in Dinan’s walls.

One of four gates through the walls of Dinan.
Another gate in Dinan’s walls.

You have to give this bush credit for making a go of it.

But the walls were always places of solitude.

Our River Cruise

We read of a boat that daily comes from St. Malo up the Rance River to Dinan and thought that would be a cool thing to do. Maybe so, but it was also complicated, requiring taking a train to St. Malo early enough to get the boat, and there are no direct trains; figuring out the schedule which changes depending on tides at St. Malo (which is on the Atlantic coast); and then finding out that there wasn’t even a boat scheduled for two of the three days we were in Dinan. So we walked down to the port where the boat arrived to see if we could get some more information and found  a one-hour boat ride on the Rance from the port, four times a day. Sign us up! We had a great boat “cruise” on the Rance.

The port of Dinan, on the Rance River. That’s what I call a bridge!

Here’s our cruise boat. This is probably as close to a cruise as we’ll ever get.

A closer view of the bridge.

 

The view from our seats on the river cruise from the port of Dinan.

 

There has been a bridge at this spot, in the neighboring town of Lèhon, for a thousand years; this exact bridge has been here about 600 of those years.

We even got to go through a lock on our river cruise.

And we saw this abbaye, which inspired a visit to it the next day.

That was our first morning in Dinan, and I’m not sure we could have found a better way to spend it. Tomorrow I’ll post about our visit to Lehon, where we saw the abbaye.

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La Rochelle

This is the fifth time we’ve visited La Rochelle and it confirmed for us that this place is one of our favorite places in the world (except maybe that first night: ). La Rochelle is quite a historic city, with many buildings from the 1600s and 1700s still in place. (For more on La Rochelle, check this post from previous trips: 2016 -1, 2016-2, 2015, 2013). For this post, I’m mostly just going to present some pictures.

We even get beautiful sunsets! This is from the balcony of our room.

Our hotel in La Rochelle is about a mile west of the city center, which means we get some exercise walking into town. Over the stays here, we have done this walk many times and we still enjoy every step. Here’s the walk as we see it going into town.

Getting closer…

That pointy building is called the Lantern. Built in the 1600s, today no one knows its original purpose.

Looking back (westward) from the same location.

Closer…

This is next to the only sandy beach on this side of La Rochelle. It’s also next to a Michelin 2-star restaurant, but with the set menu at $180 per person (wine not included), we haven’t visited there yet.

Across a dam and canal ordered to be built by Eleanor of Acquitaine (an amazing woman: queen of France, then queen of England).

Closer…

La Rochelle is full of sailing schools. We would see hundreds of boats from the schools going out into the bay.

The towers that flank the entrance to the main harbor, and have done so since the 1400s.

Finally, the entrance into the harbor area.

Made it! Along the right are the many boats that sail to islands in the area, or sail out on tourist excursions.

Buildings of La Rochelle

Nice clock tower, eh?

La Rochelle has many streets like this one. It’s not that La Rochelle has been restored; it has been maintained over hundreds of years, so it looks as it did in the 1600s (except for neon signs and cars).

Many of the stores on the several main streets in La Rochelle still have old signs over them.

That’s a quick look at La Rochelle, 2018 version. It still is one of our favorite places in the world.

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La Rochelle Part 1: Fine Gourmet Dining

This is our fifth stay in La Rochelle. One thing we realized almost immediately on our first stay is that La Rochelle is devoted to seafood. It’s on the Atlantic, and has a long history of being a home for a large fleet of fishing boats, and a center of shellfish farmers, first and foremost being mussels, in French: moules. I was not a great fan of mussels before I arrived in La Rochelle; now, I’ll have them just about every chance I get.

And we have found a favorite place for moules. This is fine dining at its best. Situated right on the water is Le P’tit Bleu, and we love this place. We ate dinner twice here this trip, and probably would have a third time, but we know a lovely small restaurant that we always go to for dinner the last night we’re here.

C’mon, what’s not to like about a fancy place like this?

The “dining room.” It sits right on the harbor.

The view from our table, of all the other seafood restaurants on the harbor.

Moules. They put a bunch in aluminum wrapper, with some amazing seasonings, and grill them. They arrive so hot we have to wait a few minutes to start the feast.

The menu is limited – things that can be done up on a grill: moules, grilled sardines, grilled calamari (we share an order of this, with our moules, and it is also fabulous), oysters, etc. No frites, though, as they have no place to fry them. In fact, they won’t allow a customer to bring frites from one of the nearby frites stands to the dining area, as they want to keep the gulls away and frites will draw them like seagulls to french fries.

As for value, each order of moules, and that’s a lot of moules, is 6.95€ – about $8. A similar-sized portion, though with frites, at restaurants right across the street, is 14.50€. And you can’t sit right on the water there. We get a nice bottle of Muscadet and a couple large rolls that we use to soak up the broth from the moules; that’s a tasty fill-us-up meal for about $40. Love it!

Any wonder why we keep coming back to this crazy place? Honestly, we’ve been looking forward to moules at Le P’tit Bleu for two years!

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Just Another Adventure…

We had an…um…”interesting” day of travel yesterday. More than once we fell back on the “when something goes wrong” philosophy of our friends Marv and Becky who, when they encounter something crazy, say, “Someday we’ll look back on this and laugh, so we might as well laugh about it now.” Wise words…

Driving to La Rochelle

Off we went, only a few minutes later than planned. Now, we knew we would be traveling on toll roads and we knew what the tolls would be at each of the three toll booths. We also knew that our fancy-schmancy, chip-equipped Alaska Airlines Visa card would not work at the toll booths, so we had cash.  (I should point out that it is difficult for us newbies as we approach the toll-booth lanes to tell which lane takes cash, and there might be a lane with a person to take our non-automatic card, but you can’t tell which lane, if any, that person is in until you’re committed to another lane.) First toll booth, no problem. Second toll booth, I inadvertently entered a lane that took credit cards only. Merde! I knew this was going to be a problem. But I tongive me our Boeing Employees Credit Union fancy-schmancy, chip-equipped Visa card and…it worked! This is a big deal to have a working card for the tolls and we were quite happy about it.

Half an hour later we went through the place where drivers pick up a ticket to start the next toll portion. No problem. An hour or so later, we left the autoroute so had to pay our toll. We roll up to the booth, confident because I’ve got a working card (and cash as a backup). I insert my toll ticket and the machine spits it out. Merde! Tried again. Same thing. Again, same thing: says it can’t read my ticket. Now we had this happen to us a few years ago so I knew what to do: push the red Help! button and talk to the voice at the other end.

“Bonjour,” says the voice. “Bonjour,” says I (remember, every transaction in France starts with bonjour). “J’ai un problem. Est-ce vous parlez Anglais?” “Oui, a little.” I explain that the machine rejects my card and she says, as I expected, “Read me the last five numbers printed on your ticket.” (When you get the ticket as you come into the toll road, it prints on it a big long number that records where and when you entered, so they can tell how far you’ve driven, hence, what you have to pay.) I look at the ticket, and there are no numbers printed on. I tell her, “There are no numbers,” and get the response, “What do you mean there are no numbers?” I explain and she asks, “Where did you get on the autoroute?” The booths are all named and she thought I would just happen to remember the name of the place where I’d gotten the faulty ticket. Right. Fortunately, after failing to remember that little bit of esoterica, I say, “It was south of Tours.” “Oh, okay,” and the machine flashes the correct toll (19.30€, about $22), and she says, “Now you can insert your card. Au revoir,” and signs off. Phew.

Not so fast. At that moment, a window in the ticket-taking, toll-paying machine opens and a very nice employee asks if we’re having a problem. I explain it to him, he looks at the ticket, points to a blank spot on it and says there should be numbers printed there. “No numbers,” I say. “No, no numbers. It happens,” he responds, takes the ticket, closes the door and disappears. I then insert my credit card to pay.

Not so fast. Evidently, as I talked to the now-gone employee, the machine has timed out, and now it will not let me even insert the card or a 20€ bill. If there hadn’t been a solid gate down in front of the car, I would have just left without paying. I push the red Help! button again, get another person, and explain to him the problem. He, of course, says, “Read me the number on your ticket,” to which I reply, with just a little exasperation in my voice, “I don’t have the ticket because an employee took it and, anyway, if I had the ticket, there were no numbers on it.” “What do you mean, no numbers?” “We got on the autoroute south of Tours, and the toll is 19.30€,” said I. “Okay…” That amount appears on the machine, I put the card in, it works, the gate goes up and off we go.

It seemed like two hours, but in fact was probably ten minutes (to do something that should take ten seconds). The entire time we had a huge truck behind us and that must have been the most patient truck driver in the world, as not once did he honk or yell at us. I will say one thing, though, that shows we’ve become reasonably comfortable here: over the entire time, with one thing after another going wrong, we never panicked, thinking we’d be at the toll booth for days or that someone would come and arrest us for toll-road fraud; never got angry; never got frustrated. We just kept thinking, “We’ll get through this somehow,” and we did. Laugh we did not.

Always an adventure…

But wait, the day’s adventures are not over…

In La Rochelle we stay at a lovely hotel with a beautiful view of the water. One room is on the corner of the top floor and has an almost 180 view of the harbor. We lucked into staying in this room the first time we came here and have asked for it every time since. We were so pleased to again be in this room. But…an adventure lurked.

We love La Rochelle, and after we arrived, we took a nap, had some wine, walked into town, had dinner at our favorite “colorful” restaurant (more on that in a later post) and walked back to the hotel.

At 10 o’clock we were sitting on the balcony outside our room, enjoying a beautiful sunset on a warm evening and a lovely glass of wine when the automatic shades that cover the door from the room to the balcony started to close. I didn’t realize what was happening for a second and when I did realize, my old brain did some remarkable feats of thinking and I immediately realized that if those shades closed completely, we would be sitting on a balcony on the sixth floor with no way to open the shades and get back into the room! I jumped up and grabbed the shades and got it to stop about a foot above the ground. Then I crawled inside and tried to use the switch that raises and lowers the shades to get them back up. They went up about a foot and stopped.

So in this beautiful room, where we always leave the shades and windows up and open all night so we have fresh air and the sound of the waves, we have a shade with about two feet of opening.

I call the front desk, start to explain the situation and get the response, “I don’t speak English.” So I go down there, with Google Translate in hand. He comes up to the room, fiddles around and saying, “Ne marche pas,” leaves. Yes, that’s right, it wasn’t marching at all. C’est en panne: broken. So we prop the shades up as much as we could with a chair, open the door to the room to get some ventilation (the hotel might be a 3-star, but air-conditioning? Pas de climatesée). A night of miserable sleep followed.

Our sophisticated “fix” to allow some air into our room.

Laurie “stepping” out onto the balcony to enjoy the view.

This morning I went to the manager, who came up to the room and checked things over. She found that the master switch to power in the room was messed up a bit, and when she fixed it, the shades went up. So all we lost was one night of sleep. That’s all. Nothing more. Grrrrrrr.

When I pointed out to her that we had no way of knowing that the shades were going to automatically close at 10 pm (I didn’t even address why they would be set to do that), she said that when we checked in, the receptionist should have told us. “No, no one said anything to us about that.” She responded, “That’s not normal.” No, I guessed that being stuck on the balcony was not normal. I suspect someone got a talking-to soon thereafter.

Today looks cooler than yesterday, good for a long walk. We might walk off some frustration while we’re at at. Update: it just started to rain.

Update: there is actually a kind-of-logical explanation for what happened, which I will share with any fool who wants to hear it. The important bits are that someone should have explained to us that the shades are connected to the master switch (they didn’t), that they will close at 10 pm if the room key isn’t in the master switch (it wasn’t) and that when the card is put into the master switch, the shades should be controllable by the shade switch (they weren’t).

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Musée Nissim de Comando

As promised, yesterday we went to the Musée Nissim de Comando, one of our favorites. First, a little background on this gem.

Möise de Comando, born in 1860 in Istanbul into a wealthy Jewish banking family, moved with the family bank to Paris in the early 1900s. He became a passonate collector of furniture and art of the late 1700s; he believed that era was the most refined in history. Given his wealth and passion, he was able to build the finest collection of art and furniture of the 1700s in the world. In 1911 he decided to tear down the mansion in which he lived near Parc Monceau (this area was then one of the priciest in Paris and and remains so), and build a 1700s style house so he could live in, use and display his collection. When he died in 1935, he willed the house and collection to Paris; it is named after his son, killed in World War I.

Laurie and I love to visit places that have rooms restored or maintained in period style (any period, really). Musée Nissim de Comando is the apex of this type of museum; built in the 1900s and maintained since, it is essentially a perfect representation of the house of a wealthy family from the late 1700s. This was our second visit and we appreciated it more this time. I think last time we were gobsmacked by the place; this time we were able to absorb it better.

Here’s the house, from its courtyard. I could guess the house has about 12-15,000 sq ft, not including servants’ quarters. The house had between 10 and 15 full-time servants at any given time.

Rooms

Without further ado, some pictures of the rooms of this mansion.

The dining room:

The Sitting Room:

My favorite room: Moïse’s study/workroom. It even had a day-bed, for those days when a nap would be nice…(every day, in my opinion):

One view of the Library. The windows look out on a beautiful garden and, beyond the garden, Parc Monceau.

Comando had purchased these walls before the house was designed and wanted to use them in the library. Hence, the height and design of the floor was dictated by the walls he already owned.

A room in which guests were received:

The main Living Room:

The living room, above, has more furniture and objects d’art in it than when de Comando lived here, to show his collection better. Most of the other rooms are as when the family was here.

Laurie got some ideas for a bathroom remodel.

Details

As if the rooms and the furniture weren’t enough, here are some pictures of the details in the house which were, of course, perfect everywhere.



Doesn’t everybody have an elevator in their house?

Someone had to feed those folks…

Kitchen remodeling ideas for Laurie.

Now, it would be nice to say that Moïse de Comando lived happily every-after in this house of his dreams, but no. In his early 40s, he married a much younger woman and had two children. She then left him for an Italian count. Moïse was completely devoted to his two children and when his son was killed in World War I, he pretty much withdrew from the world. His brother, who had run the family bank, died, and Moïse, having no desire or need to run the bank, closed it down. He continued his collecting and particiated in several organizations devoted to collecting and books. He died in 1935, which may have been for the best, because in 1941 his daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren were deported to Auchwitz, where they died. Today, the de Comando family line no longer exists.

But this beautiful house stands as a monument to Moïse de Comando’s passion (and his financial ability to indulge that passion). We think this is the best of the “small, specialized” museums in Paris, we will certainly visit it again, and we honor Moïse de Comando for what he collected and built.

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Culture Day!

We came into Paris yesterday for a couple reasons: 1.) an exhibit titled “Impressionists in London” at Petit Palais; 2.)  a planned return visit to Musée Nissim de Comando; and 3.) why wouldn’t we go to Paris if we have the chance? Today we went to the exhibit, and though I took no pictures, here’s a brief report:

It was great. Glad we went.

Laurie says I have to provide a little more detail. Ok, ok. Many of the Impressionists spent time in London, particularly around the 1870 – 1875 time frame, when Paris was a mess (Prussian invasion and the Paris Commune had roiled life in the region). This exhibition displayed paintings from the well-known Impressionists (Monet, Sisley, Pisarro) as well as many others who were part of that crowd:  Tissot, Daubigny, Dalou among them.

We loved the known Impressionists, of course,  and found a new favorite: James Tissot (born Jean-Jaques). Born in France, but evidently an almost-lifelong Anglophile, he moved to England after fighting in the 1870-1871 Franco-Prussian war, and lived there until 1882 or 1883, when he returned to France following the death of his love Kathleen Newton. Before moving to England he studied painting in several French studios and learned the ways of Impressionism. While in England he painted scenes from English society and gained great renown (and income). We loved his paintings of this time; they reminded me of Auguste Renoir’s later paintings – Luncheon of the Boating Party, Dance in the City, Dance in the Country, Dance at Bougival. He will definitely get some attention from us. Here are a couple of our favorite paintings in the exhibit:

File:James Tissot - Too Early.jpg

I gotta say, we love this about Paris (and other big cities): there is always something cool going on, no matter what your interests are.

Tomorrow: Musée Nissim de Comando.

 

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