Thursday, January 2, 2014

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 123

 Montpellier, France -- L'Esplanade

My French friend sent this postcard that dates from the early 1900s and shows Montpellier L’Esplanade.   L’Esplanade was originally a military drill field that was in use between 1791 and 1814.  Almost 100 years later in 1900 the army sold it to the city for a park.  The wooded park is lined with plane trees and has statues and fountains making it a very pleasant place to stroll as depicted on the card.  Edouard André (1840-1911) was the landscape architect and horticulturist who designed the park.  Some of his trademarks as a landscaper was the inclusion of artificial grottoes, waterfalls, mountain-style stone structures, the use of natural water bodies and panoramas.  In addition to planning several parks in various European cities he also wrote a book about bromeliads that was published in 1889.

Note the vendor stalls along the left side of the card.  A variety of goods and food items were sold in an open market usually held on a Saturday.  When the open-air market was not in business the stalls were locked up like neat big boxes with the non-perishable goods tucked inside waiting for the next market day.  This type of stall can also be found along the Seine riverside in Paris near the Notre Dame Cathedral where vendors selling mostly used books and other second hand items still use them.   Open-air markets continue to be popular in many European cities including Montpellier.

The use of plane trees in French parks is fairly common.  These deciduous trees are similar to the American sycamores and have round ball-like flowers.  The trees can grow to a height of 30 to 50 meters (approximately 100 to 150 feet) tall.  Sometimes the trees in French parks are pruned to shapes such as rectangles, triangles and balls but the ones shown on the card have been left to grow in their natural shape.

The photo is an historical fashion show for that era, women in long dresses and hats, men in long coats and hats.  There are even a few military looking individuals with fancy epaulets on their coats at the lower right.  Also a couple of horse drawn carriages near the back of the photo.  There is even a spotted dog at the right side of the picture standing in the trees. 

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