Autumn                  2011
VOL. 15                  NO. 4
  The Independent Traveler's Newsletter

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  La Fayette, we are here!

La Fayette, we are here!

Paris Enigmas

Ici et Là

Why Paris Streets Are Called 
     What They Are
  by Arthur Gillette

Château d'Agel ©2011 Cold Spring Press   All Rights Reserved
 Château d'Agel in Languedoc's Hérault

Paris 'Palaces' Controversy: 
    Off with Their Heads!
  by Maribeth Clemente

Near Paris:  A Medieval Castle
    of Many Talents! 
  by Arthur Gillette

Featuring:  September in France
  ~ Planes, Trains, Automobiles -
     Buses & Boats

Notes from Narbonne
  ~ Times Are Changing: Summertime
      in Narbonne
  by Marlane O'Neill

"Humanity has gained its suit; Liberty will nevermore be without an asylum."
                                                                                                      - Marquis de La Fayette,  in a letter to friends in 1780

That famous quotation, "La Fayette, we are here!", although attributed to General John Pershing in a speech at La Fayette's tomb on the fourth of July, 1917, was actually said by his aide, Charles E. Stanton.  We feel is is an apt quotation as we tell you about our visit to the site of the reconstruction of La Fayette's ship, the light frigate L'Hermione, in Rochefort, France, in September.  It is a grand vessel  being painstakingly and lovingly built in as traditional a manner as possible. Seeing the effort employed and the beauty of the ship brought us to the realization that the Marquis de La Fayette (Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier - September 6, 1757 - May 20, 1834) was an incredible man and that he is held in great esteem and reverence today in France.

The city of Rochefort on France's Atlantic coast is the same location where the original Hermione was built - in less than one year - and the current project is in its fifteenth year. The Hermione was a 45 meter, 32-gun frigate from 1779 and, one year later, carried the Marquis de La Fayette to the Colonies to join the fight against the English in the American War of Independence.  The reconstruction was conceived by members of the maritime cultural Centre International de la Mer in 1992, when the Hermione-La Fayette Association was officially formed.  After finding the best ship builder available, the actual construction began in one of the two dry docks in Rochefort on July 4, 1997. The association's founders were but a few dedicated volunteers. Today, with the addition of 'supporting members' (including us!), the organization numbers over 4,000 people.  Although it was hoped to launch L'Hermione for its voyage to the United States in 2012, limited funding for the project has delayed its completion, so the current target date to set sail is Spring of 2014.

For a small admission fee, visitors to the center are permitted entrance first to an exhibit area with large photos depicting different stages of the work already done on the Hermione.  When we were there a guide was explaining certain aspects of woodworking and maritime carpentry to a small, attentive group.  We looked into another area to see volunteers making rope - hemp rigging for the Hermione - just the way it was made in the 18th century for sailing ships, and we learned that the sails will be synthetic for endurance and to allow for a smaller crew to handle them.  There is also a theater where visitors can sit and watch an entertaining film about the project.

Artisan working on Hermione figurehead. ©2011 Cold Spring Press   All Rights Reserved
Several 'footbridges' are provided for visitors - one is a lower observation level where we looked down upon the talented artisan carving and chiseling the massive figurehead that will eventually adorn the bow of the Hermione.  Guided small group tours are available to those who wish to actually board the yet unfinished vessel, but we decided to watch from above on the higher level - a catwalk giving us the best overall view of the ship from stem to stern.  Visitors will appreciate the talented and dedicated artisans, including carpenters and blacksmiths, who are making this project a reality.

                                                                                                             continued on page two
Look inside

> to visit the incredible Chateau de Pierrefonds  ~ Near Paris : A Medieval Castle of… Many Talents!


> as Maribeth Clement takes us to  some of Paris' truly grand hotels in her Paris ‘Palaces’ Controversy: Off with Their Heads! exposé.


> to accompany Arthur Gillette to discover the secrets and stories behind some of Paris' most unusual street names ~ many may surprise you!


to travel with us as we highlight some most enjoyable places visited this September ~ from La Rochelle to the tiny villages of the Limousin and Poitou ~ and the variety of transportation that got us there.


>  where Marlane O'Neill offers a look at the musical performances, area wine domaines and the winding down of summer in Notes from Narbonne.

  PARIS ENIGMAS . . . A Quiz on Your Knowledge of Historic Paris
                                                                                                                by Arthur Gillette

Question from the last issue:  Commemorating Colonel Denfert Rochereau's 103-day defense of the town of Belfort, besieged during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, at the Parisian place named for him is a lion designed by the Statue of Liberty architect, Bartholdi.  But the lion has no tongue and Bartholdi was severely criticized for this oversight.  Was it really an oversight?

Answer: No. Bartholdi had recently visited Egypt and been impressed by the sphinxes, which inspired his Lion de Belfort.  "Sphinxes," he reminded (or informed) his critics, "don't have tongues!"

Our new question:  At the Conciergerie Palace on Ile de la Cité, the oldest (ca. 1250 A. D.) tower is known as Tour Bon Bec (Good Beak Tower).  Why that name?

Contact Arthur Gillette to take advantage of his amazing knowledge of Paris
by enjoying one or more of his Paris Through the Ages Strolls. 
Visit our Marketplace page for a complete list of strolls and information about Arthur.

[See the answer to this edition's question revealed in our Winter 2012 issue.]


Red Balloon Travel Consulting

Red Balloon Travel offers custom French holidays including culinary, countryside, historical,
or even genealogical themed adventures.  As Americans based in Southeast France, their first-hand
 knowledge and accessibility ensure an unforgettable experience exceeding your highest expectations. 
Click on the banner above to visit their web site, or contact them at

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