Sunday, February 28, 2010

Grab the Brass Ring

The beginning of the carousel as we know it today most likely had its origin in France about 300 years ago. During that time, the French built a device to train young noblemen in the art of ring-spearing. The device consisted of carved horses and chariots suspended by chains from arms radiating from a centerpole. The object was to spear the ring. This is also the source of the phrase "grab the brass ring."

By the late 1700's there were numerous carousels built solely for amusement throughout Europe. It was apparent that other members of nobility, particularly ladies and children, and the general public were both eager to climb aboard this new "carrousel,'' (the device having taken the name of the royal pageants which inspired its creation.)  The advent of steam power made possible the more elaborate machines we now associate with carousels.

During the late 1800's, many skilled European carvers immigrated to the United States to produce carousels. The carvings of these immigrants were a great improvement over the first efforts of unskilled carvers. Usually the side of the carousel horse facing the audience, the "Romance" side, was adorned with carved decorations, while the inner side received little attention. The golden age of carousels only lasted 25 years, but still brings back wonderful childhood memories today.

Today, a number of charming carousels may be found in Paris.  Carousels may be found in the Jardin Des Tuileries, in the Parc du Champ de Mars, at bottom of the hill of Sacre Coeur in Montmartre, and in the Luxembourg Gardens.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Daudet's Windmill

Ribet or St Pierre wind-mill, as it was formally called, was built in 1814 in Provence, France and ground wheat during one century. In 1935, the association "Alphonse Daudet's Friends" , decided to restore it and create a museum dedicated to "Les Lettres de mon Moulin", Daudet's most famous work which is a collection of wryly humorous stories admired by Flaubert, Dickens, and Henry James. It evokes the vital rhythms of Proven├žal life and Daudet’s youth in the mid–nineteenth century. The building is a symbol of the writer and his work.

Daudet is as important to the French as the windmills of Cervantes' Don Quixote are to the Spanish. The stories won French hearts, and they have now become an essential part of French cultural heritage. The tower windmill is typical of those found throughout southern France. Unlike windmills in northern Europe, those of southern France use a sharply peaked conical cap and blades with sails of equal dimensions on either side of the stock or blade spar.

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