The Clairemont

Our friend, and acting tour guide, was born and raised in Berkely and used to live across the street from the fabulous Clairemont Hotel. We decided to park and check out the lobby, one of my favorite things to do. It was, as expected, fabulous and maybe one day I will spend a night there.

Mary, our friend, told us that she used to come in the hotel and wander around, take tennis lessons and use the pool. Her brother and other neighborhood boys used to slide down the laundry shoot which no longer exists-she asked. The lady she asked was also raised in the area and her brothers did the same thing.

This is a shot of the side. It was much larger when viewed from the front.

This was a view of San Francisco and the bay down below. Imagine what the view is from one of the rooms at the top of the hotel.

There is a friendly resident dog at the front desk to greet guests.

The front desk. The interior decorating was very modern. I think I would have preferred a more old fashioned look.

One of many reading areas.

Parc Monceau

Near the Jacquemart-André Museum is the Parc Monceau. It’s a very beautiful park but I am seldom there as it’s nowhere near where I live-it’s in the 8th arrondissement. It’s different from most parks and when I was getting ready to post on my visit there I did a Google search and it has a fascinating history. It was established by Phillippe d’Orléans, Duke of Chartres, who was a cousin of King Louis XVI. He decided to created a public park and being a lover of English gardens, wanted it to be similar, full of what are called follies, which are reconstructions of buildings from different ages and countries. He wanted to surprise and amaze visitors. When it was first created there was an Egyptian pyramid, a Roman colonnade, antique statues, a pond of water lilies, a farmhouse, a Dutch windmill and on and on. There were often unusual animals there too, such as camels. In the end, despite being a member of the assembly that voted to execute his cousin, he too became a victim of the guillotine and the park was nationalized.

The park was reduced by half in size and houses of the wealthy were built on the property. When Napoleon III came into power, Haussmann, that great city architect, did a lot of redesigning of the park. In 1871 after the downfall of Napoleon, there was a rising of what is called the Paris Commune which was then crushed and the park was the site of a massacre of the Communards by army troops. (This also happened in Pere Lachaise Cemetery). So, wow, lots of history, right?



img_2309 I was there on a rather icy cold day but the sun was out.
img_2299 Two Roman looking columns.
img_2300 They give pony rides to children too.
img_2304 This”ruin” lies at the end of the lily pond. Very picturesque.
img_2306 Here’s a bridge right out of Venice going over some water. It was a Chinese bridge on one point.
img_2308 This rotunda is by one of the entrance gates. There is an apartment at the top. There are nine gated entries into the park that are closed at night and monitored by a fifth generation park watchman who lives in that apartment. Six private homes located right on the park have 24 hour access to the park. Wouldn’t that be something?
img_2307 I don’t know why she was dressed like this. There was a guy with a camera next to her so who knows.



The Unexplored

We have a friend who was on a group tour composed of French tourists somewhere in the Middle East. Our friend was talking to a couple and asked them where in France they lived and they told her Paris and a place on the Atlantic Coast near La Rochelle that she wouldn’t have heard of and she said, “It wouldn’t be Chatelaillon, would it?” They were really shocked because she was right. She sent us their names and contact information and we met and have had several meals with them. The husband is especially interesting. He has worked all over the world and has lots of fascinating stories. He and his wife explore this area when they are here much more than we have. He is always telling us of interesting places to visit around here. One of these was a quarry, called la Pierre de Crazannes, near a village called Crazannes less than an hour from our place. People have been getting stone from here for centuries. It is especially popular because it is pure limestone without fossils in it which is what those doing sculptures want and many builders. Since the advent of cement in 1948 the quarry shut down but they have a little museum there and take you on a tour to see it all. It was very fascinating.

When you drive up into the parking lot there are a bunch of huge sculpted statues which are done by resident artists. We saw them chiseling away while there.

The entrance to the trail leading to the quarry.

A look at some of the huge blocks of stone left. They did it the old fashioned way, chisel groves in the shape they wanted, put in dry wedges, put linen on top and pour on water. As the wedges expanded, the stone would fall out of its place in the wall, be put on a wagon pulled by six oxen where the stone would be moved to the nearby Charentes River. It was hard labor and the average age expectancy was 52 years. Boys started working there when they were nine moving rubble and were doing work by the time they were 16. It paid more than farming. Also, many men went blind working on the white limestone in the sun for years.

IMG_0641[1] - Copy (2)
The workers could only go down 18 meters as water was reached being near the river. It was a very tropical place as you can see-ferns all over the place.
We went for lunch to a nearby city called St Jean d’Angely where there was a church on the Camino de Santiago, the path followed by pilgrims walking through France to Spain.

Here is what is left of an old abbey.

Inside the church that is there now. Such a pretty floor.