Rideau Hall is the Official Residence of the Governor General Of Canada. This residence was built in 1838 by Thomas MacKay a businessman on 80 acres of land near the Rideau river and waterfall and facing the Ottawa river. It is a neighbourhood of Official residences for ambassadors of various countries, the Prime Minister Residence is across the street, though for the last 5 years it has been unoccupied pending a final decision on its demolition or renovation. Rideau Hall today is much larger than the original building, many expansions over the years since 1867 have been made, every Governor General has lived at Rideau Hall. The house has 175 rooms in total, with many used for official functions. It also has beautiful green houses providing flowers year round for the house.
When a new Cabinet is sworn in or when the Prime Minister shuffles his ministers, they all come to Rideau Hall to be sworn in by the Governor General. This happened this week, Prime Minister Trudeau and the ministers of his Cabinet were sworn in by Governor General Mary May Simon in the Ballroom.
The painting behind the group attracted my eye, usually the painting over the decades has changed depending on who is Governor General. The current painting is by Canadian painter Jean-Paul Riopelle (1923-2002) he was the most important signatory to the Refus Global Manifesto (1947). He participated in various artistic movement like les Automatistes, Lyrical abstraction and Tachisme. His paintings are amongst the most sought after in Canada and are found either in private collections or great museum around the World.
This is the largest painting ever produced by Jean Paul Riopelle. It was commissioned by the Government of Canada and inaugurated in February 1964 at the Toronto Pearson International Airport. In 1989, it was presented as a gift to France on the occasion of the bicentenary of the French Revolution and was on display at Paris’s Opéra Bastille.
In my lifetime, I picked up a lot of information about various topics. It follows no one field of knowledge it is just a very diverse group of topics. I have interests in Archeology, history, languages, cuisine, culture, the arts, music, politics, diplomacy and protocol. On the other hand I have no interests in sports of any kind or the mundane, like television, american movies, pop culture including popular music, fast food and vulgarities.
This leads me to read on various topics, anything that strikes my fancy. I can walk into a bookstore and pick up a book, any book and read two or three pages and will know right then if I am going to buy it or not. My love of ancient sites and archeology. In Jordan I often visited the Roman city of Jerash or Gerasa in the Bible. A site built by the Romans and one which saw many roman generals and Consuls come to visit, some became later Emperors. The city has extensive ruins of temples and 2 well preserved theaters. On one such visit, I had read that after the Roman Legions were withdrawn in the fourth century AD, the citizens having lost their military protection decided to build walls to protect themselves from marauding Arab bedouins who would come and pillage in and around the city on a regular basis. I noticed that the walls in question were built hastily with no real defensive plan, more a stop gap. The stones came from other buildings and stacked on top of one another. This observation I made from studying the plan of the city and asking questions about how this had been achieved.
Same with my visits to the Roman Forum or to other Greek and Egyptian sites. In Khartoum all the British colonial buildings were off limits, this would have been the site of where General Gordon fought and died and the Anglican Cathedral. However from my hotel roof top you could see it all and with a plan identify the various buildings of the compound. Gaining an understanding of history and what happened.
I also love to visit art museum, Dresden has wonderful well curated museums, a few years ago I had been told that a retrospective of the works by Otto Dix was on show with the famous triptych to the first World War, painted between 1929-1932, a stunning painting in the modern realist style of Dix. He was a young soldier involved in this conflict and he manned a machine gun, a new invention in 1914, Dix was horrified to see that he could with his machine gun kill 100 men with no effort on his part. He came out of this conflict bitter and angry at politicians and society who failed to accept fully the horror of this conflict and the aftermath. Dix work was put under lock and key and he was declared a degenerate artist by the Nazi regime, what saved him was his war record and his fame in Germany.
There are many more paintings and works of art I love to study. Per example Auguste Rodin, I never really liked him until I started to look in depth at his work, he is thought to be the father of modern sculpture. He broke with the classical school by doing sculpture on a human scale instead of the larger than life which was the accepted method. His sculpture the Age of Bronze, 1876 or The Vanquished as it was originally called. Standing 72 inches tall or 1.80 metres, the model was a young Belgian soldier.
This sculpture comes after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, Rodin like many artists was horrified at the violence of this war and the heavy toll on civilian population and the starving of Paris by the Prussian army.
Per example Austrian author Stefan Zweig and his wonderful book The World of yesterday, presenting a Europe which disappeared forever in 1914. The chronicles what life in Austria and Germany was like then and his travels and all the famous people who were his friends. Life was then so very different and it helps understand the people then and what happened afterwards. He is an author who really brings you into the subject one he lived through and was an actor and eyewitness.
Then cooking shows, I don’t like them all, I do have my favourites. Mostly watched on YouTube, giving you new ideas on old recipes. One is by the former chef to the Queen and Diana. He has lots of anecdotes and funny stories and shows off favourite recipes of the Royals. Thing is they have very similar taste to other people when it comes to food. The difference they can order exactly what they want from the kitchen and set up menus, or I should say the Queen sets up menus for all of them, what you can and cannot eat.
One story was about Friday’s meal at the Palace, being Friday then it’s fish and Fish and Chips is on the menu. He used only Yukon Gold potatoes for the fries and for the staff did a haddock in a nice beer batter but for the Queen she prefers Cod and she does not want greasy fish so it is done in the oven. In this case the Cod is first cut up in even similar size pieces, dredge in egg then in panco and put into the oven at 450F for 7 minutes. The fries must also all be the same size, the chef makes a little tower of them with 2 pieces of cod. Now the sauce that goes with this dish is really nice, it’s not mayo or tartare sauce, but a nice Tarragon Hollandaise Sauce which has that nice yellow colour. All the menus are written in French and Fish (cod) and Chips is Cabillaud et Pommes Frites, why in French because it is believed that French is the language of cuisine, I agree.
So many other things I know and have picked up over the years. It is silly I know but I do enjoy all these little details.
We drove up to Kensington on HWY 2 to go to the groomers for our two puppies, being wirehair Dachshunds their coat needs to be stripped not shaved. Our groomer does a very good job. Since we were in the area we decided to drop by the cottage at French River at the end of Cape Rd. where we are going in about 3 weeks. The place is just as lovely as ever and today being a beautiful sunny warm day, it was just perfect.
We then went for lunch just down the road to SouWest which is a restaurant with a very nice terrace on the water where you can see oysters and mussels being harvested. Nice quiet place and good food, had a nice chat with the staff. The roads in the area are country roads and you rarely see another car, lots of nice farms and homes. Historical old churches mostly protestant and ancient graveyards. There are a lot of good restaurants in the area, given the proximity to water, fish and seafood dominates. You will find some art galleries with local artists, the theme of course is about the sea, beaches and maritime atmosphere.
We also stopped at St-Mary’s Church at Indian River which is a decommissioned church built about 130 years ago by the famous Island architect William Critchlow Harris, who was a musician. His churches are all wood inside and the sonority is wonderful, some say it is like being inside a violin. This year is the 25th anniversary of the Indian River Festival and we will attend the concerts. The church has kept all of its furniture and decoration in a style called Canadian Gothic. It’s steeple has life sized sculptures of the 12 Apostles. It is located in an area surrounded by fields.
We collected the kids from the Groomer, they were happy to see us and get the hell out of there. Any visit to the groomer is always stressful and we gave them liver treats and drove home, upon arrival they had a lot of water and then promptly went to sleep.
They got up to have their dinner and a little walk, only to return to have a cuddle and fall fast to sleep.
We are looking into planning what we will bring to the cottage, liquor and food, there is a nice big bar-b-q and of course we will go to some restaurants. Will made a fresh batch of Colette’s Cocktail and we will call our butcher for some nice cuts of meat.
Also last night Will suddenly remembered that this will be our 14th Wedding Anniversary, we have been toghether 43 years all together. The appropriate gift for 14 years of marriage is Gold, lucky me, I can only wear gold and I have my favourite jeweller BULGARI on speed dial. Though in November for 43 years together would be travel. Gee we have travelled so much in our life time, but then again if some kind hearted friends said, come visit us we are sending you First Class plane tickets to Palm Springs, gee that would be nice.
We finally did a major clean-up of our wardrobe and gave away bags full of shirts and other items. All good and clean but well they all shrank while in the closet and no longer fit. I wonder if some scientist is working on this problem or maybe the Fashion industry is conspiring to prevent any research in order to sell more and more clothing.
On the Health News, now that the population is vaccinated to 70% on PEI and we are in fact approaching the 80% mark, no cases at all of Covid and only a handful of new infections in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, the bubble of Atlantic Provinces is re-forming and travel will be allowed next week for all persons who apply for a PEI Pass to enter PEI by the bridge or by the Ferry service, you will need a certificate to prove vaccination and submit to a test at the border. Other Canadians will be allowed to come from 28 July under similar conditions. As for USA citizens an announcement is expected by Monday. So part of the Summer Season may be salvaged. All good news.
Friends groups exist everywhere and they are useful to raise funds and promote a site. Friends of Museums, Opera Houses, Theatres, Palaces, Gardens, etc. All have in common raising funds and promoting a place and attracting others to their project.
The Palace of Versailles was built between 1631 and 1715. Then after 1792 when it was closed by the Revolutionary government, it’s furniture and all its fixtures where sold off to foreign collectors. The Wallace Collection in London has an incredible array of furniture and objects from the Palace and it is all beautifully presented at Hertford House in Manchester Square, the former townhouse of the Seymour family, Marquesses of Hertford. It is named after Sir Richard Wallace, who built the extensive collection, along with the Marquesses of Hertford.
During the 19th century the Palace was remodelled to accommodate the French Senate and Legislative assembly. Great painting galleries were built from the former apartments of the Great Princes. Other buildings like Trianon and Le Hameau de la Reine were left to decay, this including the fountains and the extensive gardens and statuary.
When I first visited Versailles in 1969 with my parents, the palace looked a little sad and neglected. Yes, you could see the great rooms of the palace like la gallerie des glaces and the royal bedrooms, but they were empty of furniture, no candelabras or curtains on the windows. It was difficult to imagine how the King lived in such a place surrounded by a large number of Courtisans. The guided tours only gave the most perfunctory information mostly the major dates and details well known to all. My father remarked that the way the tour was given you had the impression that everything had been sent out for cleaning but would be back next week.
Les Amis du Chateau de Versailles is more than 100 year old association. In 1998 a group of wealthy Americans formed what is known as the American Friends of Versailles. Their goal was simple, raise funds to promote and support major restoration projects for the Palace and gardens and to support the French group of Les Amis, promoting friendship between France and the USA.
It goes without saying that any restoration work at Versailles requires experts in many fields, including archeologists, artists, historians and scholars plus artisan builders. The cost is always in the millions of Euros and the French Government and the European Union participate financially. Versailles is a UNESCO site.
In the last few years restoration projects were done or are under way at Le Hameau de la Reine, which is this little farm built for Marie-Antoinette so she could play the Bergère and pretend she lived a simple life. The Royal Gate was rebuilt in front of the Chateau, it had been torn down at the Revolution, the roof top of the entire palace was re-gilded in gold leaf as it was in the 18th century. Major fountains in the park were totally restored. Now the Royal Chapel completed in 1715 is being restored and repaired, this multi-year project should be completed in the Spring of 2021. It is the first major restoration of the Chapel since its construction. The roof with its giant wood beams and slate roof had not been touched in 300 years.
These are only some of the numerous projects underway at Versailles. The last time I visited was 1989 for the sad anniversary of the so called French Revolution which now is called a Civil War by historians, at that time some furniture had returned and some restoration had been done.
In recent YouTube videos you can see the work being done on the Palace. It is nothing short of breathtaking. There is also an active program to recover some of the original furniture of the Palace, however the Wallace Collection in London is not parting with any of its royal furniture.
A few days ago Juliette Gréco (1927-2020) described as the Muse of St-Germain-des-Prés and a figure of the après-guerre and the Existantialism Mouvement died in Ramatuelle in the Var region of France, age 93.
It was Jean-Paul Sartre, writer philosopher, screenwriter, political activist, biographer, and literary critic (1905-1980) who encouraged her to go into a singing career. His books on the topic fascinated a whole generation and was a way of looking at the world after the Second World War. I remember in school in Montreal we heard a lot about Sartre and our teachers would often quote him. My mother read his books and those of Simone de Beauvoir. It was the thing then and it all seems so long ago now. Though I think that revisiting Existentialism today while this pandemic is here might be helpful.
Existentialism is a form of philosophical enquiry that explores the nature of existence by emphasizing experience of the human subject—not merely the thinking subject, but the acting, feeling, living human individual.
Juliette Gréco is just one of those artists whose fame makes them immortal. She sang songs with lyrics written by French poets such as Jacques Prévert and Boris Vian and singers like Jacques Brel and Serge Gainsbourg. All the greats of the XXth century French culture. She had a very long career and she left her mark.
I chose this song Il n’y a plus d’après which I think represents that era. St-Germain-des-Prés of course refers to the Paris neighbourhood where political activism was concentrated amongst the students and was the spot to be for anyone who sought to be involved in politics, mostly left wing, socialist, communist. In the song she refers to her lover who has moved to the other end of Paris away from St-Germain-des-Prés, meaning away from life from real existence, from what matters.
Daily I follow the changes around the final touches in the re-building of the Berlin City Palace now known as the Humboldt Forum which was set to open this September 2020, but now it has been postponed to October 2021. The Pandemic cut the working construction crews by 25% many unable to return to work after Easter. There is a lot of details to attend to in terms of landscaping and installing new central heating system which runs in huge pipes along the street on the South side of the Palace. On the North side facing the Lutheran Cathedral and the Museums, gardens and trees have been planted. The East facade looking at Alexander Platz across the Spree River is being completed. On the West facade which is the main gate of the Palace the last scaffolding is coming down on Portal III, one big element that is missing is the bronze cartouche at the top of the triple gate, which according to plans is in the making by the same group of artisans who made the lantern with the dancing angels for the dome of the palace. It is truly work requiring a lot of attention to detail and the artisans belong to another era. Lucky that such artists like Andreas Hoferick can still be found. He is responsible for all the baroque elements of the palace, the numerous statues and cartouche that can be seen. He has worked on many projects all over Germany involving historical reconstructions. www.hoferick.com
The draft design on paper before the casting in bronze.
the cartouche will be attached to the stone facade with hooks. Below is a photo of what it looked like in 1920.
The final recreated cartouche will also be embellished with gold leaf. It is a fairly large element and is part of the 105 million Euros raised through public donations for the portion paid by the public. Total cost of this project is 750 million Euros.
This Summer as the palace was approaching the final phase, a Court case made the headlines in newspapers in Germany. It turns out that the former Royal Family of Germany and it’s head, Prince Georg Frederich of Prussia are asking the German Government for the return of their palaces and art collections which includes art work in several German Museums some of which are just across the street from the Palace. In Potsdam alone there are 5 palaces of various sizes. In Berlin one is now the Presidential Palace, Bellevue, the other would be the Charlottenburg Palace. The City Palace was the main one but in its new incarnation it is a vast conference centre, library, museum and restaurant. The German Government have won the latest round in Court. The legal argument is in the German Constitution of May 1949 which establishes the new German Federal Republic and its basic Law. In it the text states that any claimant of former properties must prove that their family had no connection or did not belong to the NSDAP (Nazi Party). Though the Prince who was born in 1976 and his father had no links whatsoever, his grandfather the Crown Prince and his great grandfather the former Kaiser in exile, uncles and cousins had links or were members of the Nazi party until 1942. So the Court rejected his claim which was seen as an over reach by the public. The family is quite wealthy and has the ancestral Hohenzollern castle in Southern Germany including the Prussian Crown Jewels and many other assets.
Melina Mercouri would be 100 years old in 2020, she died of cancer in New York in March 1994. She was a figure in my childhood, the movie Never on Sunday made her world famous. She was a women of great talent and became a vocal politician and defender of culture. She spoke well and with passion, her life long dream was the return of the Elgin Marbles taken from Greece during the Turkish Occupation by the British Ambassador Thomas Bruce Lord Elgin in a bid to make a quick profit, he was unlucky and despite bringing the marbles of the Parthenon to London, the British Museum refused to pay much for them. He lost his shirt in the process. The British Government to this day refuses to return the marbles, despite the fact that the New Acropolis Museum has a special room built on purpose for them. When I was accredited to Greece, I remember a plan where the British proposed to loan back the marbles at cost to the Greek Government, how cheeky!! They stole them from the Greeks in 1801.
Melina Mercouri came from a politically prominent family. She graduated from the Drama School of the National Theatre of Greece. Her first major role, at the age of 20, was Lavinia in Eugene O’Neill’s Mourning Becomes Electra, but perhaps her most memorable parts were Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire and the good-hearted prostitute in the film Never on Sunday (1960). This film gained her an international reputation that would serve her well in politics. Her involvement in politics was triggered by her indignation over the military coup that brought a handful of army colonels to power in Greece in 1967 forcing King Constantin to go into exile.Married to the French-born film director Jules Dassin (1911-2008) (who directed most of her films), she was abroad when the coup d’Etat occurred. She dedicated herself to stimulating opposition against the military junta in Europe, to the extent that she was deprived of her Greek citizenship by the colonels’ regime.After the collapse of the dictatorship in 1974, she returned to Greece and promptly joined Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou’s Panhellenic Socialist Union (PASOK). She ran unsuccessfully that year for Parliamentary deputy from the same Piraeus district that had made her famous in Never on Sunday, but she was elected when she ran a second time, in 1977. Reelected in 1981 when Pasok won a general election, she was appointed by Papandreou to be his minister of culture.As Greek minister of Culture, one of her major efforts was an attempt to persuade the British government to return the Elgin Marbles stolen from the Parthenon to Greece; she also increased government subsidies for the arts. She served in the post until 1989, when PASOK lost power; she was reappointed after their electoral victory in 1993.
In 1971 Mercouri published an autobiography, I Was Born Greek. In 1997 UNESCO created the Melina Mercouri International Prize for the Safeguarding and Management of Cultural Landscapes; the prize is awarded every two years.
White marble monument to the memory of Melina Mercouri on Andrea Siggrou street across from the Olympian Zeus Temple in Athens. In Athens I would pass her monument every morning on my way to work, hello Melina!
Manos Hadjidakis (1925-1994) won the Oscar for Best Original Song for “Never On Sunday” at the 33rd Annual Academy Awards® in 1961. He was one of the greatest Greek Composer of the 20th century. The song is actually entitled in Greek Ta Paidia tou Peiraia, les enfants du Pirée, the children of the Piraeus, the film was titled in English, Never on Sunday. A great classic, a movie I love to watch, though the Greece presented in this movie no longer exist.
The title is Japanese and means Ancient Moon. This is a jazz piece by Koichi Sugii and is part of Japanese Jazz and Salon Music from 1936-1941. It was very popular in Japan and even the Emperor HiroHito would request it be played by the Imperial guard, old 78 rpm exist out there for those who might like to hear it. Koichi Sugii (1906-1942) was a Japanese bandleader, composer, arranger, conductor, singer, accordionist and recording artist. He skilfully bridged Eastern and Western styles, combining American orchestral jazz with Japanese pop and Chinese folk music to create a sophisticated and melodic hybrid with broad appeal.
Sugii was born in Tokyo in 1906. His mother sang traditional Japanese music while accompanying herself on the samisen, a three-stringed instrument. An early familiarity with his country’s native folk songs later inspired Sugii to arrange these melodies in jazz settings.
Sugii took piano lessons from a Canadian teacher, and became an ardent admirer of Western classical traditions, jazz, and film music. In 1930, after graduating from Tokyo Imperial University, he was hired by the Osaka merchant shipping company, which assigned him to Buenos Aires. In Argentina the young business executive became fascinated by musical trends, especially the tango. Convinced his true interests were in music, Sugii returned to Japan in 1932 and found work composing and recording for a film studio. In 1935 he joined Sakurai Kiyoshi’s Sakurai y Su Orquesta, a Latin-influenced band which specialized in tangos.
Those years prior to the Second World War were years of great development in Japan and the wealth people enjoyed brought luxury products to Japanese markets and a fascination with Western habits. The brother of the Emperor had a complete Lalique Museum built after a visit in France where he and his wife had René Lalique’s house dismantled and rebuilt in their museum. If you visit Tokyo you can see it, fascinating.
This Art deco building built in 1933 is part of the The Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum. The museum is located in Minato ward, just east of Meguro Station. The Art Deco building interiors were designed by Henri Rapin and features decorative glass work by René Lalique. It was pure delight to visit it and showed how sophisticated Japanese society is and was then.
Another spectacular area is the open air museum in Hakone outside Tokyo is easily reach by train. Japanese trains are a dream, never seen anywhere anything like it. The open air museum presents sculptures by Henri Moore, Constantin Brancusi, Barbara Hepworth, Rokusan Ogiwara, Kotaro Nakamura and Niki de Saint Phalle, 120 works in all, the green space was well thought out with trees, and shrubbery designed to bring peace and facilitate reflection for visitors, very much in the Shinto style.
There is more and another incredible find is the Lalique museum, yes more Lalique and Le Train café restaurant, the actual train transported from France, it was in service until 2001 and was part of the Orient Express line. I was trying to imagine how do you transport a train car from Europe to Japan. You can have tea on board with all the actual dishes and linens, absolutely exquisite, very high quality. Again the train car is decorated by Lalique panels and is exquisite in terms of luxury. Reservations are a must.
Telling the stories of the history of the port of Charlottetown and the marine heritage of Northumberland Strait on Canada's East Coast. Winner of the Heritage Award from the PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation and a Heritage Preservation Award from the City of Charlottetown