Posts Tagged ‘Lafayette’

It was thrilling to see the French Tall Ship ‘Hermione’ pass through the opened Wilson Bridge at midnight. Adding to the fun were all the people out with us who were equally impressed by, not only the Hermione but the mechanical marvel of the Wilson Bridge. As a side note, living in the Washington DC area makes me empathetic for anyone “stuck” on the bridge. Even at midnight, I could see the line of cars and trucks.

The Hermione Wilson Bridge

Night photography is a challenge for me ~ mostly because I don’t do much of it. My attempt to photograph the Hermione at midnight convinced me to practice, practice, practice. With that in mind, I’ll be up late on Friday when Hermione leaves Old Town en route to Annapolis attempting to get better shots.

Here are my attempts but for some really gorgeous photos from last night, check out Photographybykent:

The Hermione and Capitol II
If you look closely, the US Capitol can be seen on the bottom left

PS Hermione

The Hermione in the Potomac
Earlier in the day, the Hermione was anchored near Mount Vernon Estates where a Lafayette event was happening.

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The Hermione (pronounced ‘err-me-own’) is an exact replica of the 18th century tall ship which carried the Marquis de Lafayette to the USA in 1780 and it’ll be visiting our corner of the world this week.

In March 1780, Lafayette boarded the Hermione in Port des Barques, France and sailed across the Atlantic to Boston. The ship made it’s way down the East Coast. When Lafayette arrived in the United States, he brought news of full French military aid to George Washington which secured victory against the British. Hermione’s voyage culminated with the American-French triumph at the Battle of Yorktown in 1781, ending the Revolutionary War.

Building the Hermione took 18 years and it celebrates Lafayette ~ the Hero of Two Worlds. His contribution to the success of the American Revolution is nothing short of amazing. As a wealthy French aristocrat, he easily could have lived the life of leisure but instead he traveled to the colonies and volunteered to fight against the British. He also persuaded several other French officers to join him. He lived a fascinating life and, as an American, I’m thankful he was passionate about the plight of the colonies.

The ship is also a tribute to the craftsmanship of the Poitou-Charentes region in Western France. The ship was re-created by hand using traditional tools and techniques. The 1500 irons, tackles and pins used in the rigging were made using 18th century forging methods. There are some “modern” items on the ship due to safety rules and sanitary requirements.

It was twenty years ago when a small group decided to live by Lafayette’s family motto: Cur Non which means ‘Why Not?‘. The Association Hermione-La Fayette’s mission statement, as shown on their website, is as follows:

  • To evoke the spirit of “why not?” and demonstrate that given determination, anything is achievable.
  • To symbolize and rekindle through the Hermione the intimate ties between France and the United States, and the spirit of liberty that sustains them.
  • To celebrate the value of impeccable craftsmanship, the firm foundation of the authentic reconstruction of the Hermione.
  • Through this, to create a lasting educational legacy which will be accessible to generations of young
    Americans to come.
  • To demonstrate the inestimable value of history, to the present and the future, and to show that it can be a living force in increasing our understanding of the world.
  • To bring to life the memory of Marquis de Lafayette who embodied this spirit.

The first stop for the Hermione in North America is Yorktown, Virginia. Additional ports of call include: Mount Vernon and Alexandria, Virginia;, Annapolis and Baltimore, Maryland; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; New York City and Greenport, New York; Newport, Rhode Island; Boston, Massachusetts; Castine, Maine and Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

The Hermione will be docked at the Alexandria City Harbor, Virginia on June 10,11 and 12. Tickets to tour the Hermione are sold out but a limited number of tickets will be distributed at 8:30 a.m. and 12 noon each day at the dock. I’m thrilled I jumped at the chance to obtain tickets when I first heard about the visit. Hoping photos of the inside of the ship will be permitted. More to come after my visit…

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Gold Entrance Gate, Palace of Versailles, France

Gold Entrance Gate, Palace of Versailles, France

Versailles Gardens

My first recollection of the Palace of Versailles was in Junior High history class when we studied World War One. The signing of the Treaty of Versailles, which officially ended WWI, took place at the palace on 28th June 1919. Since then, I’ve read about and seen numerous documentaries about the French Revolution and, of course, the famous (or is it infamous) Marie Antoinette.

Versailles was the focal point of France’s Royal court from 1682 until 1789. It’s easy to envision it as a Royal Playground ~ Opulence is how most people describe it. It’s that and then some. It was built by Louis XIV because he wanted to remove himself and his courtiers from the intrigues of politics in Paris. It housed over 6,000 courtiers and, from what I’ve read, the gossip, jealousies and back stabbing would make a viper pit more enjoyable. By removing the nobles from Paris, it made Versailles very insular. That’s why I’m fascinated by General Lafayette who plays a part in the history of the palace of Versailles.

Marquis de Lafayette (Gilbert du Motier) went to Versailles at the age of 17. Even though he had a huge fortune and ties by his marriage to a powerful family close to Louis XVI, his independent spirit led him to a military career rather than a highly sought after court position.  He was impassioned with the American Revolution and secretly organized a voyage to the New World against the king’s wishes. Quite a bold move for such a young man. By the age of 20, Lafayette was a Major-General in the American army and a close friend of George Washington’s. I’ve read that George Washington treated him like a son. Lafayette helped the Colonial Army win several battles, including the Battle of Yorktown in 1781 ~ losing this battle led England to grant independence to the Americans. After his experience in the Americas, Lafayette returned to Versailles and was welcomed by the King and Queen. But the ideas of liberty he learned while in the US were not forgotten and in June 1789, he drafted the first Declaration of the Rights of Man, a document closely based on the Declaration of Independence. On 14 July, 1789, the storming of the Bastille occurred and he was appointed (again against the Kings wishes) as Commander of the French National Guard. He was responsible for keeping order in Paris and so he played a large role in the French Revolution’s early days. Although he was part of the revolution, he did save Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette when people of Paris overran the château and killed the bodyguards defending the queen’s apartment. Although he saved them that day, he couldn’t keep them from being executed by guillotine in 1793. He was viewed as straddling the fence by both sides and fled France. In 2002, Lafayette was posthumously made an honorary citizen of the United States.

But let’s get back to the gorgeous Palace:

Versailles Hall of Mirrors (2)

Versailles Hall of mirrors

The Hall of Mirrors is a 235-foot ballroom lined with 17 floor to ceiling mirrors. The cost of these mirrors were staggering and, like the building of the rest of the Palace, the expenses drained the Royal coffers and sadly that meant not much left for the running of the country. It’s a very impressive room with chandeliers, statues, ceiling frescos and windows which open up to the gardens.

Chapel at Palace of Versailles, France

Chapel at Palace of Versailles, France

Louis XVI (age 16) and Marie Antoinette (age 15) were married in the beautiful White and Gold Royal Chapel in 1770. We weren’t allowed into the chapel which was OK by me since there were so many people visiting the Palace. It was nice to see the Chapel without anyone in it.

There were large paintings throughout such as this one :

Coronation Painting at the Palace of Versailles

Coronation Painting at the Palace of Versailles

One of the ceiling paintings at Palace of Versailles

One of the ceiling paintings at Palace of Versailles

I was especially enthralled with the frescos on the ceiling ~ so much so I got a neck ache from looking up for so long. They are stunning!

Versailles The Battles Gallery

The Battle Gallery was interesting but, as I looked at the names on the marble busts, it was obvious I need to study a little more about French history because a lot of the names were unfamiliar to me.

Large Fireplace at Palace of Versailles

Large Fireplace at Palace of Versailles

Versailles the Queens Bedroom

The Queen’s Bedchamber ~ not very cozy!

Statue of Artemis (Diana), Palace of Versailles

Statue of Artemis (Diana), Palace of Versailles

Versailles View of the gardens

Looking out to the Gardens ~ so beautiful.

Gardens at the Palace of Versailles

Gardens at the Palace of Versailles

Statue in the Gardens  of Versailles

Statue in the Gardens of Versailles

Versailles Gasrdens and pond

Versailles Gardens Little angels on garden urn

Loved these plant urns ~ unfortunately, they weren’t for sale in the gift shop.

It truly was sensory overload for me. I got to see a lot of the Palace and a little of the gardens but I feel I only touched the surface. We were limited on time and both of us didn’t want to miss the gardens so I felt a bit rushed the whole time I was at the Palace. I’m calling this visit a preview and will leave it on the “return visit” list. I would love to go back sometime when I can spend a day or two exploring the Palace.

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