Versailles & Le Chocolat

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Photo: wikipedia

It was in the 17th century that Anne d’Autriche, the daughter of the King of Spain, married Louis XIII and introduced chocolate, as Spain held the monopoly on cacao at that time. When Louis XIV married a Spanish princess, Marie-Therese, it was said that she had two passions:  the King and chocolate!  The King considered chocolate as something that satiates the appetite but isn’t filling.  On May 28, 1659, the King granted an officer to the Queen the position of selling a certain composition of chocolate throughout the kingdom and created a corporation of 150 “limonadiers” (beverage vendors) who were the only ones authorized to sell the chocolate drink.

IMG_0056At the court of Versailles, chocolate became fashionable and was served on certain days, no one certain of what
it really was: a gourmandise or a medicine.  Madame de Maintenon, the 2nd wife of Louis XIV, had chocolate served during certain celebrations. However, other opinions at that time stated that chocolate would physically cure your ills and that it would cause palpitations and sudden fever that would continue until death. (Perhaps, that is where the saying death by chocolate originated!?)

The taste for chocolate passed from the court to aristocrats, with France developing the cultivation of cacao in its colonies of Martinique, Les Antilles, and Guyane, but was reserved for rich clients that could afford its high cost.  In 1705, limonadier Pierre Masson introduced a gourmand beverage that consisted of cacao from Spain, vanilla, clove, cinnamon, and sugar mixed with water or milk.

Madame Pompadour, mistress to Louis XV, was the first to order chocolate served in the china/porcelain manufactured in Sevres. At the court of Louis XV, the taste for chocolate continued with the King preparing his own chocolate in his private apartment’s kitchen – chocolate said to have aphrodisiac properties. Madame Pompadour favored chocolate with vanilla and amber in order to heat one’s blood.

Until the 19th century, chocolate was considered a type of medicine, known for its digestive properties.  It was a pharmicien, Sulpice Debauve who was passionate about chocolate, who made the famous chcolate candy with almond milk (pistols de la Reine) for Marie-Antoinette. As chocolatier to the Queen, he invented for her various chocolates made with orchid bulbs for fortification, orange flowers for nerves, and almond milk for digestion.

For more than three centuries, the success of chocolate in the town of Versailles has continued, hosting many artisanal chocolate specialists and local patisseries – a ‘royal’ treat indeed!

Source: Magazine “Versailles” no. 81

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The Art of Baroque Dancing

What is baroque dance?

The term is used to refer to ballroom and theatrical dance of France, other Western European countries, and their colonies during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.

Is baroque dance baroque (that is, highly decorated, ornamented, and so on)?

Well, sometimes. The steps can be highly decorated, curved shapes and paths are often used, and the choreographic thread is sometimes elaborately nonlinear.  But it can also have elements of classical order and symmetry, and even simplicity.

So why is it called baroque dance?

Presumably, partly by analogy with music and other arts of roughly the same period, and partly because it does have baroque elements.

History

The origins of the baroque dance are found in the court at Versailles during the reign of Louis XIV of France in the 1600s. The art of ballet was born under his rule, thanks to his passion for dance. Because of Louis XIV, balls, operas and the baroque dance played a pivotal role in the lifestyle at Versailles.

Baroque dancers at Vaux-le-Vicomte

Baroque dancers

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Louis XIV

Louis’ connection with the dance was personal. When he took the throne at a young age, according to Labelldanse.com, “his authority was opposed by a faction of nobles in a series of uprisings known as the ‘Frondes'”. After the Second Fronde was conquered, “Cardinal Mazarin (who ruled through the regent, Louis’ mother, Anne of Austria)” directed a ballet called “Le Ballet de la Nuit.” In the la Nuit, Louis danced the main role of the Rising Sun. While Louis acted In character as the sun, he warned that anyone who chose to oppose his power “would soon feel his heat.” This threat was directed towards the nobles, reminding them that their opposition to the royal authority would not be tolerated

Dance as a Weapon

After Louis had felt his power as the Rising Sun character, he employed dance with the mindset of it being used as a weapon of State. Due to his enthusiasm for dance, the establishment of the Academie Royale de la Danse emerged in 1661. From then on, other ballets and operas that were composed by other directors such as J.B. Lully, praised Louis as “the wisest, most powerful and benevolent ruler in Christendom.”

The Baroque Dance Spreads

The form of dancing gathered popularity through parts of Europe, England and Spain. Other ballrooms and operas embraced the court dance forms and began teaching what Louis had created. In 1738, French dancing masters traveled as far as Russia, where Jean-Baptiste Lande established a school that gradually became the school of the Kirov Ballet at the Maryinsky Threater. According to Labelledanse.com, other French dance instructors traveled to the New World where French ballroom dances became popular “in the salons of the governors of New France (Quebec) and later at Colonial assemblies in which George Washington danced the minuet.”

Baroque Dance Evolves

The baroque dance form that was made famous under the Sun King continued to thrive during reigns of Louis XV and Louis XVI. As the French Revolution began in the late 19th century, the dance grew closer to the modern form of dance known as classical ballet.

 

Source: ehow.com

Vaux-le-Vicomte (Part 1 of 3): Le Chateau & Visite aux Chandelles

It was an overcast day, with threats of rain in the dark clouds, during our first afternoon at Vaux-le-Vicomte.  My spirits were not dampened, however, as I visited the carriage annexe, followed by visiting the chateau, while eagerly awaiting le crépuscule (dusk) for the evening’s main event:  “visite aux chandelles” & “feu d’artifice” (fireworks). This once-a-month event is beautifully highlighted by 2,000 candles being placed and lit throughout the gardens and in the chateau’s interior.  Quelle ambiance majestueuse – fit for a King (& Queen)!

 

chateau

 

gate & chateau

statue

steps candle] chateau candle

 

candles gardens

candles chateau

 

Chateau photos:

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Carriages:

 

 

 

Louie, Louie, Oh, oh – Louis, Louis, Oh, la, la !

My favorite place to be is the Chateau de Versailles, with its opulent Baroque decor and grandeur.  So, not surprising that I recently spent some time there during my trip to Paris.  This time, however, I did a “visite-conférence” – a one-and-a-half hour guided visit, which included access to the private apartments of Louis XV and Louis XVI, the Royal Opera, and the Royal Chapel – areas  not permitted to visit with the general admission.  You can reserve the “visite-conférence” online (recommended) for the guided visit in English or in French.

My favorite “Louis” is the XIV, and with the chateau being his signature piece, his visual presence is seen everywhere.  I love the dress and music of that period (video below).  As the “Sun King,” he was golden and the gold-leaf decor equally resonates throughout the chateau. Vive le Roi –  “My Louis”!

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French Fable by Jean de la Fontaine

Most French children learn (and can recite) this classic, French fable (written in 1668) around the tender age of 6-8 years old. The author, Jean da la Fontaine, applied human-like qualities to the animals/principale characters in his poems; the morale of this one is to not trust fake flattery, meant only to deceive.  His work was recognized and appreciated by Louis XIV and his court.

LE CORBEAU ET LE RENARD   (English version below)

Maître Corbeau, sur un arbre perché

Tenait en son bec un fromage.

Maître Renard, par l’odeur alléché,

Lui tint à peu près ce language:

“Hé ! Bonour, Monsieur du Corbeau.

Que vous êtes joli ! Que vous me semblez beau !

Sans mentir, si votre ramage

Se rapporte à votre plumage,

Vous êtes le Phénix de ces bois.”

A ces mots le Corbeau ne se sent pas de joie ;

Et pour montrer sa belle voix,

Il ouvre un large bec, laisse tomber sa proie.

Le Renard s’en saisit, et dit: “Mon bon Monsieur,

Apprenez que tout flatteur Vit aux dépens de celui qui l’écoute :

Cette leçon vaut bien un fromage, sans doute. “

Le Corbeau, honteux et confus,

Jura, mais un peu tard, qu’on ne l’y prendrait plus.

The Crow and the Fox

At the top of a tree perched Master Crow;
In his beak he was holding a cheese.
Drawn by the smell, Master Fox spoke, below.
The words, more or less, were these:
“Hey, now, Sir Crow! Good day, good day!
How very handsome you do look, how grandly distingué!
No lie, if those songs you sing
Match the plumage of your wing,
You’re the phoenix of these woods, our choice.”
Hearing this, the Crow was all rapture and wonder.
To show off his handsome voice,
He opened beak wide and let go of his plunder.
The Fox snapped it up and then said, “My Good Sir,
Learn that each flatterer
Lives at the cost of those who heed.
This lesson is well worth the cheese, indeed.”
The Crow, ashamed and sick,
Swore, a bit late, not to fall again for that trick.

(Translation Source: http://lafontaine.mmlc.northwestern.edu/fables/corbeau_renard_en.html)