Monday, September 15, 2014

Château de Vincennes and Parc Floral

If memory serves, it will rain throughout October, November, and December, the time of damp sweaters and warming cafés and layers shifting uncomfortably in crowded metros and museums, and we are thus taking advantage of these sunny days to be outside almost at all times. The market calls on Saturday morning regardless, but to be greeted by such flowers seemed a special gift, a herald almost.

Another photograph by Eleanor
So this post will be mostly images, with brief descriptions and a pause about something that Oliver said that has had me thinking ever since. If you're down at Vincennes and you haven't seen the castle (as I hadn't) then it's high time. You go in and you can climb the castle keep and walk in the footsteps of Charles V (a lot of footsteps of Charles V) and think about Louis IX setting up his hunting lodge here and then sitting under an oak tree and writing out counsels to his children. On a sunny day, you can wonder anew about kings past and all of this being open to us. Like I never get tired of flying in an airplane, I never get tired of All of Us getting to walk in grounds not meant for us. I wouldn't need to walk amongst the dinosaurs - this is enough.

La Sainte Chapelle
The castle ramparts are massive and the moat is truly impressive (no water, but still impressive in girth!). They enclose what must have been at one time a bustling space but has now been cleared out to reveal the gems and masterpieces: the Sainte Chapelle here (begun by Charles V with the Sainte Chapelle in the center of Paris very much in mind, and finished by Henry II who adorned it with some pretty incredible Renaissance stained glass). There are mysterious sculptures within that make the space wriggle a bit.

The Castle Keep
The Castle Keep (le Donjon) is truly grand. The tallest of the Middle Ages and designed with a resolute symmetry and order, it has had many lives. The statues that used to greet one at the entrance were those of Charles V and his wife Jeanne de Bourbon. They now await you at the Louvre. Charles seemed especially fond of this space and fashioned two studies for himself there: one for manuscripts and consultation with counselors, and another with an adjoining treasury (more manuscripts and rare and beautiful objects - now also at the Louvre). In the 18th century, the king's study became the humanists' prison, and Diderot was there for his Lettre sur les aveugles à l'usage de ceux qui voient (and wow does that ever look interesting - I picked it up and have started it and now want to rethink Derrida's Memoirs of the Blind exhibit at the Louvre - more to do!).

Cool app!
In the first study of Charles V you are handed an iPad and beneath your gaze and within your grasp, Charles V's study appears in resplendent color and furnishing. The Château belongs to the Centre des Monuments Nationaux, which has big, big funding. Might I wave at iPad at Carnac and see rituals displayed? This is a very cool idea (I think that there's an app like this for the Roman Forum) - one of those revolutionary ones for archaeological sites. And of course it comes with a million questions about authenticity, access, intimacy to the past, and imagination.

Is that the Grandes Chroniques I see in the bottom left-hand corner? Let me just reach over...

Mac, this time

Of the dozens and dozens of photographs that Mac took of these resplendent gardens, this one signals the lushness and expanse rather well. The Parc Floral is both exuberant and meticulous. A horticultural paradise and pedagogical space, it offers up meditation and information. There's not a weed anywhere, no way. There's a sculpture to the gardening here: plants in full bloom creating volumetric shapes with each other. It's just magnificent. We listened to a concert of music composed by women around WWI by the Calliopé Ensemble - it was difficult music in parts, lyrical in others, it made me love every single person sitting there listening and France itself. I'm going to stop here because it's Monday actually and that's our day to go to the Louvre and so we're off. There's more, I realize, and there'll be time, I hope. Back soon, dear reader.


  1. A birthday spent at the Louvre. Perfection.

  2. There's something here to say about a feast for the eyes at the Louvre, but having just returned from dinner, I'll stick to just being grateful and happy for the real actual food feast! :-)