French Mustard on the Move Thursday, Sep 11 2014 

You’ve probably heard that the food truck craze has hit France and Paris in particular. French-style burgers, dim sum, tex-mex, pizza (though great pizza trucks have been around in France for a long time!), sandwiches, ice cream, crêpes and more are on offer in these mobile meal machines and are getting rave reviews. Last year even saw the country’s first “Food Trucks Festival” take place just outside Paris. Click here and here for quick guides to Paris food trucks by Le Figaro newspaper and L’Express magazine.

But the famous French Dijon mustard company Maille has decided to one-up the French food truck frenzy and share its delicious offerings on a national tasting tour across America. This month, following a wildly successful East coast tour this past summer, the Maille Mustard Mobile is turning heads in California and the Midwest. The snazzy mustard-bar-on-wheels will spread the French mustard love in San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles and Chicago at food festivals, local restaurants, food stores and trendy urban locations.

Maille Mustard Mobile on the Road

The black and gold Maille Mustard Mobile features a custom-designed tasting bar from which several Maille mustards including Dijon Originale, Old Style, Honey Dijon, Horseradish, and Rich Country can be sampled alongside the brand’s crunchy Cornichons. Mustard fans have the opportunity to compose their own palette of Dijon flavors, compare tastes, and choose their favorites. Recipes are also available to inspire creative cooking with mustard. And it’s all complimentary.

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Maille Mustard Mobile_Dijon Tasting Palette

So what is Maille’s goal in driving its chic French food truck around the U.S.? To entice discerning food lovers to try its world-renowned mustards and other gourmet products. And if it converted more than a few fans of regular yellow mustard into afficionados of its marvelous French moutardes, then that wouldn’t be so bad either!

So if you live in California or Chicago or are visiting there this month, check the Maille Mustard Mobile schedule below and come on out for some French mustard on the move:

September 11
Nob Hill Foods
1250 Grant Road
Mountain View, CA 94040
3:00pm-7:00pm 

September 12
2035 Filmore Street (Between Pine and California)
San Francisco, CA
12:00pm-6:00pm 

September 13
Ferry Plaza Farmers Market
1 Ferry Building Marketplace
San Francisco, CA 94111
8:00am – 2:00pm

September 17
Santa Monica Farmer’s Market
Location TBD
Los Angeles, CA
9:00am-10:30am 

Greenspan’s Grilled Cheese
7461 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90046
11:00am-3:00pm 

September 18
Albertsons
27702 Crown Valley Parkway Suite B
Ladera Ranch CA 92694 

September 20
Eat Real Food Festival
65 Webster Street
Oakland, CA 94607
10:30am – 9:00 pm 

September 21
Eat Real Food Festival
65 Webster Street
Oakland, CA 94607
10:30am – 5:00 pm

September 27, 28 & 29 – Chicago (locations TBA)

(Click here for the regularly updated schedule and locations.)

Another reason for coming out? Lucky tasters will have the chance to win a three-day culinary and cultural adventure in Paris for two while additional winners will score a year’s supply of Maille mustard. For a great preview of the Maille Mustard Mobile tasting experience and how to say the word ‘Maille,’ click here to take a look at the tour video. And you can click here to see a previous French Affaires article on Maille’s history and its wonderful boutique in Paris.

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French Onion Soup in Paris Thursday, Sep 4 2014 

Sometimes you just have a French craving. For me in late May, it was French onion soup. Unfortunately my Paris lunch cantine (regular neighborhood restaurant), the Café Varenne in the Rue du Bac, had just taken it off their menu until the cold weather came around again. I suppose it was too hot and too filling for the summer. Still, Paris weather in May was a bit cool so I was determined to find some good French soupe à l’oignon.

Then I remembered the classic Paris brasserie where French onion soup is always on the menu – the legendary Au Pied de Cochon.

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Located in the Les Halles area of the city, Au Pied de Cochon opened in 1947 and has been a Paris institution ever since. As you might guess from its name, the restaurant’s specialty is everything about the pig. For example, one of their star dishes is “Le fameux Pied de cochon grillé, sauce Béarnaise, pommes frites” (the famous grilled pig’s trotter with Bearnaise sauce served with French fries). While I am always tempted to try chef specialties in France, I’ll stick to steak with my sauce Béarnaise, thank you very much, which the restaurant offers along with plenty of other good non-pig brasserie dishes. (Click here to check out the Pied de Cochon menu in French; for the menu in English, click here.)

But I was on a mission to enjoy Au Pied de Cochon’s traditional French onion soup and it did not disappoint. It came piping hot with the right combination of onion and beef broth flavors. And the golden crust of toasted emmenthal cheese (the key to great French onion soup) was perfect topper. At 8,50 euros, it made for a great – and filling – meal and a bargain for lunch in Paris!

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Truth be told, I had not been to Au Pied de Cochon in years thinking it a bit too touristy for my taste. What a pleasant surprise to find it overflowing with French patrons. And the warm, personable service was the biggest treat of all.

You can’t however talk about Au Pied de Cochon without mentioning the decor. The bright, authentically French atmosphere is a big plus. The white cloth napkins are lovely. But it’s the pig paraphernalia everywhere that catches your eye. From the cochons on the zinc bar to the pig’s trotter door handles, the pig is the guest of honor. It could easily seem corny or tacky but it all works – and wonderfully so.

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To wrap up this nice lunch, I ordered un express (expresso coffee) which is de rigueur for the French after their meals. Often in France it comes with a small square of chocolate. At Au Pied de Cochon, it is served with a darling pair of meringue cookies – in the shape of the pig, bien sûr!

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NB: Au Pied de Cochon is open “jour et nuit” (day and night) 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. In essence, it never closes. So if you end up with a French onion soup craving in Paris on any day at any hour, think about heading to this classic Paris venue!

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Au Pied de Cochon

6 Rue Coquillière

75001 Paris, France

www.pieddecochon.com

 

Beyond Paris: A Day at Chartres Cathedral Thursday, Aug 28 2014 

This summer, I made a long overdue pilgrimage back to la Cathédrale de Chartres - Chartres Cathedral. It had been nearly 25 years since my last visit during my graduate school days in Paris. I wanted to refresh my memory of this crown jewel of gothic art and architecture and also to get in a tour with Malcolm Miller, the famous Englishman who has made Chartres his life’s work. I succeeded on both counts, although I must say I now regret not having been to this sacred gem more often over the years.

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Located about 50 miles southwest of Paris, the charming town of Chartres makes a great day trip from the French capital. Local trains run approximately every hour from the Gare Montparnasse in the 14th arrondissement. The easy journey takes about an hour and costs around 23 euros round trip. The church is a 5 to 10 minute walk from the station.

In a country that abounds with gorgeous gothic churches and cathedrals – Notre Dame de Paris, St. Denis, Reims, Amiens, Bourges, Rouen, to name a few – what is it that makes Chartres so special?

First, Chartres, a UNESCO world heritage monument since 1979, is the best-preserved of all of Europe’s Gothic cathedrals. Today, most of its stained glass and sculptures remain intact from when they were created in the 1200’s. Wonderfully enough, the cathedral’s sacred art survived the ravages of time, the mobs of the French Revolution and also the destruction of the two World Wars. Sometimes, the acts of preservation were deliberate. In 1939, for example, les vitraux (the stained glass windows) were removed prior to the invasion of the Germans. They were then restored and replaced after the war.

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Second, the architectural design of Chartres is amazingly unified. The fact that the church was built in the space of about 30 years – very quickly as far as cathedral-building goes – is a main contributor. A bit of history: There have been five churches on the site of Chartres, each previous one destroyed by fire or war. After the great fire of 1194, the cathedral as we know it today was rebuilt in the early 1200’s. To be fair, some details of the church have changed over time, like the north spire which was destroyed by lightning in 1506 and then rebuilt in the flamboyant gothic style. (This answers the question about why the two spires are different!) But it is important to remember that most medieval churches have undergone significant alterations since their construction. At Chartres, the architecture of this medieval church has remained remarkably consistent over the centuries.

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Finally, Chartres is also noteworthy for the matchless expertise and enthusiasm of British-born Malcolm Miller who began giving tours of the cathedral in 1958. Miller first came to Chartres from the U.K. when writing his thesis on the cathedral for his degree in French from Durham University. He then decided to make Chartres his life’s work and stayed on in France. He has written numerous books, appeared in documentaries and given lectures abroad. For his significant contributions, the French government has recognized Miller with the Chevalier of the Ordre National de Mérite and Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres awards.

However, Miller is at his best when leading English-speaking tours of the church and its iconongraphy which he does at 12noon and 2:45pm from Easter to the end of October (except Sundays or during religious ceremonies). The cost is 10 euros per person. Miller also offers private tours. For Miller, such are the riches of Chartres that no two tours of his are ever like.

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The Saturday I visited the cathedral, I made sure Miller was on tap for the noon tour. We started on the interior with a sweep through the nave, then sat in the pews as Miller deciphered a cycle of stained glass and the biblical symbolism within and finally went outside to unlock the stories of the exterior carvings. Most fascinating were the metaphors he used to speak about all the sacred art at Chartres. He likened the cathedral to a library yet the texts are not books; they are the narratives contained in the 12th and 13th century stained glass and sculptures. At the time the church was built, paper was nearly non-existent and printing had not been invented. Most people could not read or write but they could ‘read’ the sacred texts of the colorful windows. Miller added that there is so much material at Chartres that one can never take in all the ‘books.’ Hence, he is still learning himself. Alternatively, he said, Chartres cathedral is like a book with the church’s architecture as its spine. The text is the unfolding of time from Creation to the Last Judgment as seen in the medieval stained glass and sculpture.

As we took our tour, we could see that restoration of the church is ongoing. It is clear which parts have been newly cleaned and which still are dark with soot and pollution whether in stone or glass. A couple of weeks after our visit, a large section of the church was going to be closed off for some time as the painstaking work began. And plans were announced this summer that the American Friends of Chartres are raising funds to restore Bay 140 of stained glass. As part of the restoration effort, they are sponsoring the exhibition of the restored glass at a major museum in the U.S. next year. This would be the first time ever that Chartres stained glass would travel to the States. Wow. The institution to host the exhibit has not yet been announced – stay tuned for that one!

Meanwhile, here is a look at the newly restored Belle Verrière window with the Blue Halo Virgin which is perhaps the most famous stained glass at Chartres. The startlingly bright colors, including the famous Chartres blue, just pop out at you.

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To sum up, visiting Chartres is to be transported to the Middle Ages and its rich sacred art, a very meaningful experience whether one is religious or not. If you have the time and the inclination to go, here are a few thoughts for making the most of your journey: Go on a Saturday – the charming town is bustling with activity and the weekly outdoor market. When you first arrive, see the cathedral in the morning light. Then go back in the afternoon for a whole different view. Take a tour with Malcolm Miller before he retires! Take the time to decipher an entire cycle of stained glass – and notice the characters at the bottom who sponsored the piece whether bakers, carpenters or other medieval tradesmen. Have a nice lunch outdoors at one of the restaurants by the church – and enjoy the view of the cathedral nearby. Be sure and walk around the exterior perimeter of the church – the details and angles are fascinating. And last but not least, relish the less crowded church atmosphere when compared to Notre Dame in Paris. Bonne visite!

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Cathedral Notre-Dame of Chartres (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres)

Cloître Notre-Dame, 28000 Chartres

 Open: Daily 8:30am-7:30pm

 Entry: Free

NB: Located near the cathedral are the Centre International du Vitrail and the Ecole Internationale du Vitrail et du Patrimoine which are dedicated to the history and art of stained glass. Their superb cultural offerings include lectures, excursions, exhibitions and training in making ancient and contemporary stained glass.

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French Take-Out ~ La France à emporter

For a little armchair travel to Chartres with Malcolm Miller, you might want to check out his book in English on the topic: Chartres Cathedral by Malcolm Miller (1997), ISBN 1878351540. For further reading, an array of other books is also available at the church’s lovely bookstore located just to the left as you enter the cathedral.

The French Coffee Table Book of the Decade Wednesday, Aug 20 2014 

Not long ago, I promised myself no more books. As a former French professor and a book lover in general, I have way too many books and can’t seem to edit my collection. But this past spring, a fabulous new French volume appeared that I just couldn’t pass up.

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Jacques Garcia, Twenty Years of Passion: The Château of Champ de Bataille celebrates the magnificent restoration of the historic Normandy château Champ de Bataille by French owner and world famous interior designer Jacques Garcia. Garcia acquired the run-down property in 1992 and slowly began to bring the 17th and 18th century gem back to life. The result is a truly stunning French architectural, decorative and garden experience which is brilliantly recorded in this oversized coffee table book. Two-inches thick and full of exquisite photos by the extraordinarily talented French photographer Eric Sander, the French book was published by Flammarion in France last winter and the English version in the U.S. this spring.

I recently had the chance to meet with Eric Sander in Paris. We had an engaging conversation about his photography for Champ de Bataille and some of his other projects. Eric began his photojournalism career in the late 70’s and since then, his work has appeared in major magazines and publications worldwide along with more than twenty books. For the past several years, he has focused more and more on capturing beautiful French estates and their gardens through photography. Here are some excerpts from our conversation about Jacques Garcia’s baroque and rococo masterpiece (translated from the French):

Elizabeth: How did it happen that you were chosen as photographer for the book?

Eric: It was a wonderful series of events. In 2008, I was working on a book of the Manoir d’Eyrignac in southwest France and had a great relationship with the owner Patrick Sermadiras. During the project, he would often say to me, ‘Tu sais, tu devrais aller voir le jardin du Champ de Bataille, c’est le plus beau jardin privé de France.’ (You know, you should go see the gardens of Champ de Bataille. It’s the most beautiful private garden in France.) One day, he called Patrick Pottier, Champ de Bataille’s landscape designer, to introduce me and to tell him that I was going to call him about taking a few photos sometime. All that led to my going there in October. 

October 10, 2008 – 8:40am: “It had frozen during the night for the first time that season. It was a good sign. When I arrived at the château, I was warmly greeted by Jacques Garcia who then said: ‘Hurry, Eric. In all the time I’ve been here, I’ve never seen such beautiful light.’ He suggested that I go up to the third floor balcony. I was running behind one of his staff who showed me the way. We went through a moody corridor full of stuffed wild animals, a leopard, a lion, an insect collection – it looked like a movie set – before finally arriving upstairs out of breath. And I opened the window to the most beautiful morning ever in the world. Then, startled by the noise, a group of pigeons suddenly took flight right in front of me. Totally surprised, I changed my camera focus quickly and had enough time to grab four images. It was a gift from heaven – my camera was in the right mode to capture the birds…It was an extraordinary moment.”

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That morning, the light was so exceptional, the kind that one rarely sees in a lifetime. I ran around for two hours taking photos. I was truly amazed by the size of the property. Then I rejoined Monsieur Garcia who offered me a glass of champagne. I showed him several images and he was surprised by the incredible beauty of the light. I was asked to join him and his other guests for lunch. We had made contact.

I was so fortunate the way that first meeting turned out. A few months later, Mr. Garcia hired me to photograph the interiors of the château. I then proposed a feature on the gardens to the French magazine Point de Vue and then a piece on the château to Le Figaro. Both were published. One thing led to another and then Mr. Garcia told his editor at Flammarion that I would be the one to shoot Champ de Bataille for the big book they had in view. I was terribly honored and proud to be chosen to photograph one of the most beautiful estates in France.

Elizabeth: How many times did you go out to Champs de Bataille to photograph? Clearly, you captured it in different seasons – how did all that work? 

Eric: From the beginning of the project until the last day of shooting, I went there 18 times often for two or more days at a time. I went in all seasons to capture the gardens and the various rooms in the château as soon as they were restored or redecorated. Jacques Garcia has a massive collection of museum-quality furniture, artworks, objets d’art and more. He is always changing around the interiors of the château which makes things very lively at his place – and it kept me very busy! I also had to respect the wishes of his very talented editor Suzanne Tise, an American from North Carolina who has lived in France for 35 years.

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Elizabeth: How did you decide what to focus on inside the chateau? In the gardens?

Eric: JG made a list of the most important art objects in his collection, and I made sure to focus on these. Suzanne was also often there and she would help arrange them into marvelous “still life” poses. They really are the “pièces maitresses du château” (absolute masterworks of the château).

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Elizabeth: What was it like working with Jacques Garcia?

Eric: It is very easy to work with JG. He is so charming and always in a good mood. But you have to deliver what he wants. That said, from the moment he decides to work with you, he has total faith in you and your abilities. He is also a wonderful host who makes the most of every moment.

Elizabeth: How long did it take to do this project? Did you stay at the estate when you were photographing?

Eric: We stayed at Champ de Bataille as privileged guests. There was champagne, a full staff, a beautiful bedroom with an antique canopy bed. We had our meals in all the wonderful venues of the property – the orangerie, the Indian palace in the summer, the two dining rooms of the château. We even dined in the salon of Apollo with a gorgeously set table next to the fireplace. It was magnificent and magical to be in the middle of this remarkable setting, yet it was so livable too. Not like a museum at all.

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Elizabeth: What was your favorite shot in the château? In the gardens?

Eric: My favorite photo in the gardens was the rising sun with the pigeons in flight. For me, it signified heavenly beauty and also the auspicious beginning of an incredible project. For the interiors, that’s difficult to say. I think I liked the green salon best with the objects and portraits of Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI. It’s a setting bursting with history yet it’s a extraordinary mix of emotions at the same time. You have not only the very refined taste and sensibilities of the late 18th century but also a sense of the tragic end of this king and queen.

Elizabeth: What did working on this book mean to you?

Eric: This book is the work of a master of decor, of settings and of a beauty of perhaps the best era of French style. Champ de Bataille is a property completely unique in all the world – a rare melange of Louis XIV, Nicolas Fouquet and Louis II of Bavaria – put together by the inimitable Jacques Garcia. I was very privileged to work with the interpreter of this exceptional place – a big merci to Jacques Garcia and to Flammarion and Suzanne Tise who had faith in me and my work.

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This sumptuous book is a treasure trove of the ultimate in French 17th and 18th century style, brought to life for the 21st century. Perusing the images and accompanying text will afford endless hours of pleasure and discovery of the French art de vivre. The quality and scope of the book, however, mean that it costs a pretty penny – the retail price is $125, although it can be purchased at amazon.com for around $78 at the moment. One gets a lot for the price – the book is about two inches thick and weighs over 8 pounds.

Given the richness of the material and the presentation, Jacques Garcia, Twenty Years of Passion gets my vote for the French coffee table book of the decade, maybe even the best coffee table book ever. Think about giving it to yourself as a gift, putting it on your Christmas or birthday wish list, giving it to a friend, offering it to an antiques loving friend (Garcia got his start roaming French flea markets with his father), sharing it with your favorite interior designer. It might even be the French gift of the decade!

* Photos courtesy of Eric Sander. Many thanks to Eric for sharing his amazing talent and photo stories with us.

Jacques Garcia, Twenty Years of Passion: The Château of Champ de Bataille

 
 
By Jacques Garcia and Alain Stella (authors), Eric Sander (photographer)
Flammarion
March, 2014
Hardcover, 400 pages 
 
NB: Champ de Bataille is open to the public and receives about 30,000 visitors per year. It is located 40 kilometers from Rouen in Normandy. Click here for the Château’s web site and more information. To view a short interview with Jacques Garcia about Champ de Bataille in French, please click here.
 
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Luscious French Drawings Wednesday, Aug 6 2014 

When visiting to museums in France and other parts over the world over the years, I’ve noticed that paintings are usually the main attraction. Museum-goers seem to prefer the often vibrant colors and textures of paintings over other more ‘austere’ forms of art such as drawings or prints. In addition, paintings typically are set off by beautiful frames, a phenomenon which directly or indirectly communicates “Look at me! I’m an important work of art.”

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Gorgeously framed Impressionist works from the Musée d’Orsay and the accompanying crowds of visitors

Fortunately for museum-goers in the U.S., the Dallas Museum of Art is offering an exciting opportunity to contemplate fascinating drawings and other works on paper now through October 26, 2014. The DMA’s new exhibition entitled “Mind’s Eye: Masterworks on Paper from David to Cézanne” showcases a variety of works on paper including drawings, watercolors and pastels by famous and lesser-known European artists. Notable about this show is the special spotlight on the artistic process and creative imagination of the artists as well as the fact that many of the works on paper are shown in magnificent frames.

At the “Mind’s Eye” press preview in late June, DMA Associate Director of Curatorial Affairs and former curator at the Louvre in Paris Olivier Meslay introduced the exhibition to the large group. He noted that the 120 works on view come from the DMA’s own collection and also significant loans from private collections in North Texas. The perhaps once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see these privately-owned works adds a special dimension to show, he confirmed. (You may remember the Marmottan Museum in Paris had a great show this past spring on Impressionist paintings from private collections all over the world – it was a big sellout of course!)

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Meslay also described the show’s departure from traditional methods of displaying works on paper. Typically, museums mount these types of works in very neutral, almost-disappearing thin frames. Here, the DMA has chosen to display the works on paper in lovely, often ornate frames, some of which come from the DMA’s own Reves Collection and some from the private collectors themselves. To my mind, the frames add a wonderful dimension to the enlightening presentation of the exhibition’s works.

Following his introduction, he and co-curator Bill Jordan, former director of the Meadows Museum and Deputy Director of the Kimbell Art Museum, led our group on a tour through the exhibition galleries. Arranged in roughly chronological order, the arresting drawings, sketches and watercolors focus on European art from the French Revolution in the late 18th century to the birth of modernism in the early 20th century. The works by Delacroix, David, Manet, Degas, Van Gogh, Cézanne, Schiele, Mondrian, Picasso, and other artists span almost 150 years of creativity. The show’s curators pointed out the many ways the artistic creations reveal the working methods of the artists. You can literally see and almost feel the energy and vitality of the artists’ minds seeking to express their visions on paper.

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According to the exhibition’s curators and DMA Director Maxwell Anderson, a sub-theme of “Mind’s Eye” is the encouragement to collect art, i.e. that art collecting is not something reserved for a privileged few. “One of the goals of the Dallas Museum of Art is to encourage collecting within the community. There is no better example of how to do this than to highlight the Museum’s graphic holdings together with those that have been assembled in private homes throughout the area,” said Anderson. In essence, drawings are more available – and affordable – for those who have an interest in collecting art.

“Mind’s Eye” also includes ancillary displays such as how to care for and conserve works on paper as well as the various materials artists over the centuries have used to create paper-based works of art. In my opinion, seeing the actual samples of ink, pencil, charcoal, pastels, watercolors and other media is a wonderfully educational complement to the exhibition, particularly for those who have never taken a studio art class.

The exhibition is accompanied by a 240-page full-color catalogue, edited by Olivier Meslay and William B. Jordan, with contributions by Esther Bell, Richard R. Brettell, Alessandra Comini, Dakin Hart, William B. Jordan, Felix Krämer, Laurence Lhinares, Heather MacDonald, Olivier Meslay, Jed Morse, Steven Nash, Sylvie Patry, Louis-Antoine Prat, Richard Rand, George T. M. Shackelford, Richard Shiff, Kevin W. Tucker and Charles Wylie. The publication is distributed by Yale University Press.

To sum up, this exhibition is a must-see for art lovers of any stripe. And the preponderance of French artists makes it a must for Francophiles as well. A few thoughts for enjoying “Mind’s Eye” to the fullest: Allow enough time to really look closely at the drawings and absorb what the artists were trying to accomplish. Notice the ways the artists use the white of the paper to create forms and images. Take in the frames and how they set off these works on paper. Bring the kids – drawing and coloring are a time-honored childhood pastime. Finally, once you have nearly reached the show’s exit, turn around and go back through the galleries in the opposite direction from which you came (assuming gallery traffic allows). It’s amazing how many new things are visible by trying this technique. Bonne visite!

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The Harvest, 1895, by Camille Pissarro. Pen, ink, and lead white gouache on paper. Dallas Museum of Art.

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 Still Life with Apples on a Sideboard, 1900–06, Paul Cézanne. Watercolor. Dallas Museum of Art.

Dallas Museum of Art
1717 North Harwood
Dallas, Texas 75201

Museum Hours: Tuesdays through Sundays 11am to 5pm, Thursdays until 9pm. Closed Mondays.
Special Exhibition Tickets: $8 per person. Click here for further DMA visitors’ information.

Photos of Olivier Meslay and the Pissaro / Cézanne images courtesy of the Dallas Museum of Art.

French Take-Out ~ La France à emporter

In addition to the “Mind’s Eye” exhibition in Dallas, there are a host of other French-related art shows on view across the country. Check out these various offerings happening from coast to coast:

San Antonio:  Matisse: Life in Color. Also on view: The Art Books of Henri Matisse. San Antonio Museum of Art. Through September 7.

Houston:  Charles Marville: Photographer of Paris. Houston Museum of Fine Arts. Through September 14.

Los Angeles:  Rococo to Revolution: 18th-century French Drawings from Los Angeles Collections. J. Paul Getty Museum. Through September 21. Also in LA: Expressionism in France and Germany: From Van Gogh to Kandinsky. Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Through September 14.

Oklahoma City:  Gods and Heroes: Masterpieces from the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris. Oklahoma City Museum of Art. Through September 14.

New York City:  Miracles in Miniature: The Art of the Master of Claude de France. Morgan Library & Museum. Through September 14.

Washington, DC:  Degas / Cassatt. National Gallery of Art. Through October 5.

Boston:  Daguerre’s American Legacy: Photographic Portraits (1840-1900) . MIT Museum, Cambridge. Through January 4, 2015.

Coming This Fall:

Dallas:  Bouquets: French Still-Life Painting from Chardin to Matisse. Dallas Museum of Art. From October 26, 2014 to February 8, 2015. Also on view at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA (March 22, 2015–June 21, 2015) and the Denver Art Museum, Denver, CO (July 19, 2015–October 11, 2015). Images courtesy of the Dallas Museum of Art.

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Ft. Worth:  Faces of Impressionism: Portraits from the Musée d’Orsay. Kimbell Art Museum. From October 19, 2014 to January 25, 2015.

Rethinking Modern Paris Wednesday, Jul 30 2014 

Bonjour! After a brief working sabbatical to gather new ideas for forthcoming French newsletters, programs and trips, I am sending out this latest French Affaires Weekly article on the development of modern Paris. More interesting topics are to come including “The French Coffee Table Book of the Decade,” “Luscious French Drawings” and more. Bonne lecture (happy reading) and as always, please send us your comments and thoughts on anything French!  Elizabeth New Seitz, French Affaires 

Rethinking Modern Paris

As visitors to the French capital know, Paris today is an amazing combination of beauty and charm, history and modernity, creativity and tradition all in one place. The city never ceases to attract huge crowds wanting to sample its many pleasures and sights. Such is the draw of Paris that it is tempting to take its legendary tourist status for granted.

But historical records tell us this wasn’t always so.

When then did modern, iconic, visitable Paris come into being?

Conventional accounts credit Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann in the mid-1800’s with the development of the modern French capital that we know today – the grand boulevards, the public works, the parks and gardens, the 19th century apartment buildings. In reality, the development of modern Paris goes back much further. Professor Joan DeJean’s wonderful new book How Paris Became Paris: The Invention of the Modern City recounts how Paris became a model of urban development back in the 1600’s and in so doing, it revolutionized the way people thought about and engaged with cities moving forward. This very readable volume highlights not only Paris’s road to physical modernity but also the evolution of its reputation into the mythical city it is today.

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This summer, I had the chance to sit down with Dr. DeJean (pronounced DAY-Jahn) in Paris and interview her about her new book. We met at one of her favorite hangouts, La Tartine, in the Marais where she lives when she is not teaching at the University of Pennsylvania. Here are some excerpts from our conversation:

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ENS: How did you get the idea for your latest book?

JDJ: “How Paris Became Paris” started as a French history and culture course for my students at UPenn. I called it “The Invention of Paris.” I got tired of hearing that Baron Haussmann had invented modern Paris. He didn’t all of a sudden make Paris modern in the 1850’s and 60’s. He didn’t invent the big boulevards as so many claim. He was an agent employed by Napoleon III to update Paris, not an original urban thinker. The real boulevard got its start in 1676 under King Louis XIV and was actually called a “street” at first. It was 120 feet wide which is quite something when you think about that time period. It then morphed into an “avenue” or “boulevard,” two terms often used synonymously today.

ENS: Were other world capitals undergoing modernization in the 17th century as well?

JDJ: London probably could have gotten there but then the Great Fire of 1666 and also the plague decimated things for some time. These two events were greatly responsible for holding London back. London only becomes more populous than Paris after 1750. Likewise, Amsterdam’s population doesn’t keep growing so the city doesn’t move forward like Paris does. For the French capital, it was a fortuitous combination of timing, luck, money, a willing population, and a king – Louis XIV – who lived a long time.

ENS: What most interested you in all your research for the class and ultimately the book?

JDJ: I was fascinated by the notion of the boulevard and what it meant for Parisians’ physical and social space. I spent a lot of time doing research in libraries, archives and museums in Paris. The trend of painting cities started in the 17th century. For example, visitors to Paris would buy souvenir paintings to show their families back home what this splendid place called Paris looked like. So I pored over paintings of Paris showing boulevards and other urban projects.

The other thing I loved delving into was how happy the people of Paris were at these urban developments. Parisians were thrilled by the opportunity to socialize in public spaces, especially after long years of civil wars that kept them mostly indoors. They liked walking and strolling along the boulevards and on bridges. The new bridges were a huge commercial success – they cut down travel time across the capital – and they also provided a focal point for various social activities, including strolling, enjoying views of the river, theatrical performances, vendors, etc. It’s amazing to think that a bridge could so change a city as was the case with the Pont Neuf.

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ENS: Can you say more about what the Pont Neuf (‘New Bridge’) meant for Paris at the time?

JDJ: Instituted by King Henri IV in the early 1600’s, this new, wide bridge of stone replaced wooden bridges that were narrow and didn’t last. Now, two wagons or carts could cross at the same time without causing a traffic jam which was a major practical advance. This also meant that the speed of urban life just took a big leap forward. In addition, the planners wanted to make sure that pedestrians had a dedicated space to walk across so they made raised sidewalks. As such, carts and horses stayed on the road and didn’t crowd those on foot. And wonderfully enough, this bridge included small balconies spaced along the entire width of the bridge so people could pause and look out over the river. Prior to this time, the river wasn’t seen as something to view or enjoy; it was a conduit for commercial activities. You can see that the bridge revolutionized how people interacted with the city. Taking pleasure in the view became an attraction in and of itself which was quite a novel idea at the time. These dynamics just snowballed with multiple projects all around the city, so much so that Paris developed a reputation greater than the sum of its parts.

ENS: Do you see the same spirit of modernity and development in Paris today?

JDJ: Yes, there are always interesting projects going on in Paris. The recent opening of ‘Les Berges de la Seine” shows great creative thinking in how to use the spaces along the edge of the Seine river for public enjoyment and interaction. This sort of idea goes back to the 1600’s when sidewalks were developed and the Seine’s riverbanks were paved and shored up. One 17th century painting even shows a sort of ‘beach’ on the banks of the Seine where people could go swim.

ENS: An early version of today’s ‘Les Plages de Paris’!

ENS: How did you make France and French your career?

JDJ: I grew up in Louisiana so French was all around me. It seemed like a natural fit. And too, I love to teach and bring France to life for my students. This past spring, I taught a course on the French Enlightenment. And this fall, I will be teaching a course entitled “Marriage and the Novel” which is a fascinating topic.

In my opinion, How Paris Became Paris” is an engaging read and one of the best new books out on things French. In addition to the chapters on Parisian boulevards and bridges, Dr. DeJean describes many other modern advances in Paris that date back four centuries, including town squares, parks, street lighting, bus service, fashion, pocket guides to the city, and more. Reproductions of 17th century paintings, drawings and maps of Paris help illustrate her points. Reading her book puts the French capital in a whole new light – you’ll never think about Paris the same way again!

How Paris Became Paris: The Invention of the Modern City (March, 2014) – Available through major booksellers and amazon.com.

Hardcover: 320 pages

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA

ISBN-10: 1608195910

ISBN-13: 978-1608195916

French Take-Out ~ La France à emporter

For an even more in-depth experience on the development of modern Paris, I’ll be teaching a new class “How Paris Became Paris: The Development of the Modern City We Know Today” for the SMU Continuing Studies program in Dallas this fall. Below is the course description – registration opens on August 5, 2014 at http://www.smu.edu/CAPE. Make plans now to join us for the two-session series!

Paris continues to be the most visited city in the world. This iconic metropolis fascinates everyone from first-time visitors to regulars and begs the question – how did Paris become Paris? While some people are familiar with the modernization of the city that took place during the 19th century, many are unaware that Paris’s modern urban development actually began two centuries earlier with the efforts of such kings as Henri IV and Louis XIV. Join France expert Dr. Elizabeth Seitz for this captivating course which will explore the various facets of Paris’s 17th century remaking through illustrated lecture and lively discussion. The new book “How Paris Became Paris: The Invention of the Modern City” by French scholar Joan DeJean and other sources will accompany our class sessions. You’ll walk away with a whole new understanding of Paris – and plenty of travel ideas for your next trip to the French capital!

Date: Two Mondays – November 3 & 10, 2014
Time: 7 to 9pm
Cost: $99 per person early registration. Advance sign-up through SMU Continuing Studies program – please click here to register.
Location: SMU main campus – Dallas, TX 75205. Classroom & parking information provided by SMU upon registration.

French Market Fresh ~ Asparagus Season Wednesday, Jun 4 2014 

On the seasonal food calendar here in France, May and early June are un régal (delight) of fresh goodies. In Aix-en-Provence, I have been wandering the outdoor markets and come upon bunches of ciboulette (chives) with purple flowers intact, hefty bulbs of ail nouveau (new garlic), plump fèves (fava beans) direct from the vendor’s garden, bright green petits pois (spring peas), and the most tender fragrant fraises (strawberries) on the planet. It’s tempting to become a vegetarian with all this gorgeous produce.

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But a real star has been all the asparagus. Cultivated in French potagers (vegetable gardens) since the 15th century, les asperges are so plentiful this time of year that they seem to nearly overtake everything else. Green asparagus, white asparagus, thin stalks, thick stalks. There are mounds of them for sale everywhere. And no matter which type you buy, they’re all very flavorful and tender as vendors make sure to tell you.

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You can imagine that these unruly green stalks have just been plucked from the garden. It’s like the wild, wild west of asparagus. Speaking of wild, I have friends in Provence who love to find wild asparagus growing near where they live. They pick it and then sauté it quickly with a little butter or olive oil for a truly rare, seasonal treat.

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In Europe, white asparagus gets just as much attention as the green variety. You’ll see it on restaurant menus steamed and served with hollandaise sauce or roasted in the oven with a nice sauce béchamel. Here is a French market shopper carefully choosing her own white asperges.

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Les asperges vertes also show up on many restaurant menus this time of year. Lately, I’ve seen green asparagus with parma ham and parmesan offered as a starter. Or asparagus with a poached egg – even poached quail eggs! – and parmesan. There’s also the classic asparagus with vinaigrette for a lighter option. And many main dishes have been featuring asparagus somewhere on the plate, including a lovely asparagus risotto. But my favorite asparagus taste this season has been the fabulous asparagus pâté I stumbled upon the other day at the best boucherie (butcher shop) in Aix.

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It’s not every day that you see this variety of charcuterie due to the short asparagus growing season. Sure enough, the saleslady at La Boucherie du Palais said that once asparagus was over, their pâté aux asperges was done for another year. Immediately, I asked for a nice tranche (slice) which she promptly cut and wrapped in the traditional waxed paper. Later, I spread some on a fluffy fresh baguette. Franchement (frankly), it was one of the best pâtés I’ve ever had. And unless I figure out how to make the pâté myself, I’ll be lining up at their door same time next year for more of this wonderful delicacy.

All that to say, if you’re into fresh, you’ll want to check out the seasonal market offerings while traveling in France. Make a mental note of the top things growing at that moment. Then, try restaurant dishes featuring these items. Also, if you’re not a cook and/or you don’t have a kitchen while visiting, keep your eyes open for somebody close by – such as the Aix butcher shop – who is making something take-out with the latest and greatest in French market fresh. You never know what specialty you’ll find!

 

NB: The French Agricultural Ministry publishes a fantastic monthly guide to what’s fresh in French markets. You can click here to see the seasonal offerings listed for May 2014 (June is not posted yet). Note that it is in French.

 

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A Short Guide to French Aperitifs Friday, May 2 2014 

Now that spring is officially here and summer is on its way, it is once again possible to enjoy apéritifs outdoors at a French café or on a terrace at someone’s country home. Designating both the beverage and the social moment before lunch or dinner, the apéritif is a time-honored French ritual that encompasses people from all ages and all walks of life, from young to old, from blue-collar workers to aristocrats.

Whether it’s followed by a meal or is just drinks alone, the apéritif moment in France is the chance to slow down, imbibe alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages with a salty snack and engage in leisurely conversation with friends or colleagues. This apéritif menu from a popular Left Bank café in Paris captures perfectly the French dedication to this social custom: “L’apéritif, c’est la prière du soir des Français.” Translated into English, “The aperitif is the evening prayer of the French.”

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Not to be confused with the Anglo-Saxon ‘Happy Hour’ where bars try to attract customers to a late afternoon or pre-dinner drink through elaborate cocktails or 2-for-1 specials, the French apéritif time seems to be built into France’s social DNA. In other words, no encouragement is needed to get the French to stop for a convivial drink with friends, colleagues or family. Nonetheless, some Paris cafés are currently capitalizing on the French mania for anything American or British and are trying to tempt customers with happy hour drink deals…

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Translation: “Happy Hour 4 to 9pm: All cocktails (with or without alcohol) and draft pints 5 euros.”

So what do the French have as apéritifs? Here’s a short description of some typical French beverage offerings of the non-hard alcohol variety:

WINES: Still and sparkling wines are always good options. One can have un vin blanc or un vin rouge – a glass of white or red wine. With so many wine-producing regions in France, the possibilities are endless. Or a sparkling wine from Champagne, Burgundy or the Loire Valley is nice too. Ordering a glass of champagne is done with the expression une coupe de champagne. (You can click here for a previous article on French champagne and a great champagne bar in Paris!) But nothing says French apéritifs more to me than sitting at a cafe in southern France with a glass of wonderful rosé wine. There are terrific rosés found all over Provence but I particularly like those from Bandol, Tavel and around Aix-en-Provence.

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KIR: Originally from Burgundy, a classic kir is a wine cocktail of inexpensive dry white wine and crème de cassis (black currant liqueur). Another variation is to substitute red wine for the white to make a cardinal, so named for its very red color. One can take the regular kir up a notch by adding champagne instead of white wine for a kir royal. I have tried the kir royal with other liqueurs such as crème de pêches (peach), de fraises (strawberry), or de mûres (blackberry). My favorite is a liqueur I buy in Paris at a charming wine shop* specializing in Armagnac, an earthy cousin of Cognac. Their crème de mûres à l’Armagnac (blackberry liqueur with Armagnac) is heavenly when paired with champagne. * The wine shop in Paris is Ryst-Dupeyron, located at 79, rue du Bac in the 7th arrondissement.

FORTIFIED WINES: Then there is the whole other category of fortified wines, or vins de liqueur. Some French prefer a glass of dry sherry or port as an apéritif. Or they might have some Pineau de Charentes from the Cognac region of France, a lesser known wine blend apéritif that includes cognac brandy. On occasion, I’ll be in the mood for a lightly fortified wine such as a Muscat or Sauternes. Known in the States as ‘dessert wines,’ these are white, slightly sweet and made in many regions of France. Some popular ones include the Muscat des Beaumes de Venise  from Provence and the Muscat du Cap-Corse from Corsica. Or there are some interesting ones from the Dordogne region in southwest France such as Rosette and Montbazillac. I was introduced to Rosette a couple of years ago by some British friends. Roger and Sue invited my husband and me over for apéritifs at their home outside Bergerac and served the local white dessert wine. The Rosette came well chilled and was a delightful surprise with its fruity aromas of apricot and peach. Later, as we took a walk in the countryside near their home, we came upon the hamlet and vineyards of Sainte Foy des Vignes where Rosette is made.

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LILLET: Last but not least in the fortified wines category is the legendary Lillet. Dating from 1872, Lillet is a secret blend of Bordeaux wines, fruit liqueurs and quinine from the village of Podensac in southwest France. Lillet is served very cold –  as the bottle says, “Servir très frais” - and can come straight in a wine glass or served over ice with a twist of orange. Today, there are several versions of Lillet. The mainstays are classic white, red and rosé Lillet, though the rosé version is a new addition to the Lillet stable having just come out in 2012. And there are some new reserve versions that are exceptionally good including Réserve Jean de Lillet Blanc, Réserve Jean de Lillet Rouge and the Magnum Réserve Jean de Lillet Blanc Cuvée 1996. Lillet is proud of its heritage – go to lillet.com and then select “Lillet Visuals” for a great collection of Lillet advertising posters from the late 19th century to the present!

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PASTIS: This French apéritif  tastes of licorice and herbs and is for me an acquired taste. Still, you could say it has a cult following, especially in the south of France. In fact, pastis is often called the “national drink of Provence.” Transplanted Brit Peter Mayle, Mr. Provence himself, even wrote a novel entitled Hotel Pastis. To be sure, the intense libation is not limited to southern France. In the rest of the country, however, you’re more likely to hear it by the brand names of Ricard or Pernod. Now I wouldn’t put the taste of licorice on my top ten list… EVER…but there IS something about sitting at a café in the shady square of a Provençal village on a really hot day with a shot of pastis in the bottom of a tall glass, a carafe of water and a couple of ice cubes. Here’s how it works: You pour as much or as little water as you wish into the glass of pastis, watch as the clear golden liquid turns milky white, and add the ice cubes. Voilà, you have a drink so thirst-quenching and perfect for the setting that it just might turn into a favorite apéritif.

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A pastis afternoon at Les Deux Garçons in Aix-en-Provence

FRUIT DRINKS: Fruit-based options in France are popular too and may or may not contain alcohol. One can order un jus d’orange (orange juice) or un citron pressé (fresh squeezed lemon juice to which you add water and sugar). There are also a variety of flavored syrups diluted by water. You’ll often see French kids with un menthe à l’eau, or mint syrup with water, hard to miss with its super bright green color. Also popular is the French drink known as un diabolo menthe – mint syrup with limonade (lemon-flavored soda similar to Sprite). On a cultural note, “Diabolo Menthe” also refers to a 70’s French movie of the same name directed by Diane Kurys. This autobiographical film tells the story of two Jewish sisters in a Parisian high school in 1963 against the backdrop of the Algerian war.

To be sure, there are plenty of other drinks out there suitable for the French apéritif moment – including Dubonnet, Campari, vermouth, etc – but this list covers the main characters and will certainly get you started at any café or soirée in France. Cheers!

A NOTE ABOUT APERITIF SNACKS: When having apéritifs, the French don’t overdo in the snack department. Since the point of the ritual is to enjoy conversation and to whet the appetite a bit for the meal to come, something salty but light is often served. Snacks might include some olives, peanuts, crackers or even potato chips. It always surprises me to go to the home of French friends and see a small bowl of potato chips sitting there. However, in recent years, the French have tended to serve more substantial snacks with their cocktails and even turned the moment into what they call a “cocktail dinatoire” where the heavy hors-d’oeuvres are the meal itself.

A GUIDE TO FRENCH CAFES: For a previous article on navigating the French café experience, please click here. 

The French Remember ~ Commemorating WWI and II in 2014 Friday, Apr 25 2014 

Historically speaking, 2014 is a big year in France. June 6th marks the 70th – hard to believe – anniversary of D-Day and the beginning of the liberation of Europe by the Allies in World War II. And this year also observes the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I. A propos, the French are making a point to remember both the events and those who lost their lives in these conflicts with a host of special activities and commemorations.

World War I: If you’re in Paris between now and August 4th, you’ll want to check out the moving photo exhibition commemorating the ‘Grande Guerre’ at the Luxembourg Gardens on the Left Bank. British photo-journalist Michael St Maur Sheil spent six years capturing the battlefields of the Great War from the North Sea all the way to Gallipoli. His efforts have culminated in an open-air gallery show entitled “Fields of Battle – Terres de Paix 14 – 18″ which is being shown on the fences on the eastern side of the Luxembourg Gardens.

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Exhibition poster courtesy of the French Senate

The large-scale photos poignantly capture the haunting remains of the devastation and violence that occurred along the front lines as well as the interminable rows of tombs of those who fell during the war. These landscapes also reveal the healing powers of time and nature as the trees, woods, mountains and rivers resumed their peaceful existence in the aftermath of World War I.

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© 2014 westernfrontphotography.com / Mary Evans Collection

Also included in the exhibition is a massive memorial map created by the top cartographers at Michelin. Laid out on the east side of the Luxembourg Palace – home of the French Senate who sponsored the exhibition, the  giant map recalls the battlefields and front lines of France, Europe and the world, highlighting the global scale of the conflict. Included are the 50 most important battlefields, nearly 700 kilometres of front lines during the four years of war, and 80 commemorative sites that can be visited today as well as the frontier demarcated by the Armistice signed on November 11, 1918 at 11am.

And when it comes to commemorations, no detail is too small for the French. The wooden railings installed around the giant map are made of 100 year old beechwood from the forests around Epinal. The French National Forest Service helped log the wood and a local workshop created them specifically for the exhibition. It turns out that these forests supplied the wood used to build the infamous trenches of the war. Be sure to click here for a short French video (with English-subtitles) of the installation of the exhibition map and photographs at the Luxembourg Gardens.

After its run in Paris, “Fields of Battle – Terres de Paix 14 – 18″ will travel to London where it will be shown in St. James’s park. The exhibition will then move to Nottingham as part of the city’s ‘Trent to Trenches’ commemorative program. The tour will continue, visiting major cities and towns throughout the UK, until its conclusion on Armistice Day on November 11, 2018.

“Fields of Battle – Terres de Paix 14 – 18″ will be on view in Paris until August, 4, 2014. Admission is free. The Luxembourg Garden fences have been used to host a wide variety of photography exhibitions in recent years, reaching a large urgan audience that might not otherwise visit a museum or gallery. To locate the Luxembourg Gardens outdoor photo exhibition, please see the map below:

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A large number of WWI commemorative events are being held all over northern France this year. Please see the Chemins de Mémoire 14 – 18 website for activities in the Nord-Pas de Calais region. Also of note is the Musée de la Grande Guerre located in Meaux in the Ile de France. Opening there on June 28 and running through December 29, 2014 is the temporary exhibition: “Join Now! L’entrée en guerre de l’Empire britannique” (’Join now! The Entry into the War by the British Empire’). And the war memorial and museum at Belleau Wood is always worth a visit.

World War II: The inhabitants of Normandy, France are pulling out all the stops this year to observe the 70th anniversary of the Allied landings on D-Day. From June 5th to August 21st, 2014, re-enactments, memorial ceremonies, exhibitions and more will be taking place in observance of June 6th, 1944. Adding to the emotion is the fact that this will be the last decennial D-Day celebration in which actors and witnesses to the actual D-Day event will be able to take part given their age.

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Event poster courtesy of the Comité Régional de Tourisme de Normandie

A comprehensive calendar in either French or English can be found on the event’s site. If you are traveling to Normandy soon, please click here to see what’s in store. A couple of things that caught my eye were the concert for peace in the town of Sainte Mère Eglise  on June 6th in the evening and also the grand picnic on Omaha Beach the following day to honor all those who fell there. What a place to be on June 7th, 2014!

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If your WWII D-Day history is a little rusty, you can see a terrific recap of the key military events of the Normandy landings on the 70th anniversary website by clicking here. And if you’ve never seen the American film “The Longest Day,” I recommend rushing out to rent or buy a copy. Also not to be missed is the recent documentary by film maker Doug Stebleton on the “Mother of Normandy.” Stebleton stumbled across this riveting untold story while making another documentary in France. He dropped everything and then spent three years in both Normandy and the U.S. tracking down the impact Simone Renaud made on France, American and the world.

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 Book cover courtesy of Doug Stebleton

Simone Renaud, the wife of the mayor of the Norman town of Sainte Mère Eglise, was there the night that American paratroopers landed as part of the Allied offensive in June, 1944. She, her husband and three sons witnessed the violent battle between the occupying Germans and American soldiers and the deaths of some 60 of their fellow townspeople. In the weeks that followed, makeshift cementeries around the town filled up with graves of the fallen GIs. Rain or shine, Simone Renaud took it upon herself to tend to the graves. When American families heard where their sons, husbands and fathers had died, they sent letters addressed simply to the “Maire” (mayor) of Sainte Mère Eglise to inquire about their graves. Alexandre Renaud passed the letters on to his wife who began to answer them individually, often including a photo of the graveside cross, a bit of dirt or even a pressed flower from the burial service.

After a photograph of Simone Renaud laying flowers on Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr.’s grave was published in Life magazine in August, 1944, even more letters came. From then on until her death in 1988 at the age of 89, Simone Renaud made it her mission to care for these soldiers who had died fighting for liberty and who were buried far from home. She wrote hundreds and hundreds of letters to American families and hosted some of them when they came to visit their loved one’s grave. As part of her efforts to make sure these heros were never forgotten and to express gratitude for the freedom they brought, she began to organize yearly D-Day memorial celebrations and re-enactments. Long story short, her immense legacy earned her the title “Mother of Normandy” and Stebleton’s compelling documentary ensures that her memory will never be forgotten.

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 Simone Renaud tending to GI graves – photo courtesy of Doug Stebleton

The “Mother of Normandy” is a must for those who love France and French history as well as WWII history buffs. To purchase the DVD version of the documentary, you can order it directly through the producer. The DVDs are $20 each, plus $4.00 for shipping, or $24.00 per DVD. Checks can be made out to Doug Stebleton and sent to:

Doug Stebleton
5506 Aurelia St
Simi Valley, CA 93063

Upon receipt of the check, the DVD(s) will be sent to the address provided. To order the accompanying book, please click here for more info.

Notes from Paris 2 Wednesday, Mar 19 2014 

Today’s post is a follow-on to the previous “Notes from Paris” describing current events and activities all over the city. You’ll have to agree, there’s always something happening in Paris!

TRANSPORT NOTE: Even in Paris, good things can have a down side. The sunny, warm and windless weather that recently brought everyone out of doors and into the parks, sidewalks and cafés has also delivered high pollution levels in Paris and northern France. The City has taken drastic measures over the past several days to help decrease particulate matter in the air. Wood-burning fires have been banned, covoiturage (ride-sharing) has been encouraged, car speeds have been reduced by 20 km per hour (about 12 mph), and public transport including the Métro and buses has been free for many days running. To top it off, government officials declared a partial driving ban this past Monday – only cars with odd-numbered license plates were permitted on the roads (electric and hybrid cars and vehicles containing three or more people were exempted). As you might imagine, all this has caused both hurrahs and headaches. Thankfully the wind has picked up and the pollution has abated – but everyone has to pay for public transport again.

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I love the Paris buses that run under the south wing of the Louvre Museum.

BIKE NOTE: On the subject of transportation, bikes are gaining ground as the vehicle of choice in Paris. Loads of my Parisian friends use their bikes to get around the city. And Paris is creating more and more bike lanes – taking parts of regular roads to do so – much to the chagrin of taxi drivers and regular drivers. However, in case bike riders think traffic rules don’t apply to them, there are regulations, marked lanes and even dedicated stoplights to remind riders to stay in line. Bonne route (happy riding)! 

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EVENT NOTE: You’ve gotta love this cool event that popped up in Paris week before last…hopscotch, or la marelle in French, for everyone. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Argentine writer Julio Cortazar who wrote a novel set in Paris called “La Marelle,” Argentine performance artist Marta Minujin created a Paris hopscotch zone in the Place du Palais Royal. The hopscotch fest lasted three days and drew the participation of kids and adults alike. 

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FOOD NOTE: Just recently, our antiques trip group was treated to a private tour of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs and got to see up close some of the most beautiful French furniture and objets d’art from the 17th and 18th centuries. Following our visit to the “Arts Déco,” we went to the nearby Le Soufflé for lunch. (Click here for a previous post on this classic Paris restaurant.) For dessert, I decided to branch out from the decadent soufflé au chocolat and try the soufflé aux fruits rouges – red berry soufflé. It was divine, tasting like the most sweet and fragrant raspberry you can imagine. But I was more struck by how the big pink soufflé looked like a giant cupcake!

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MUSIC NOTE: There are always fabulous classical music concerts happening in Paris. If you’ve never taken in a musical performance at the Salle Pleyel or the Palais Garnier or one of Paris’s many churches, I would highly recommend putting this on your Paris to-do list. To find a performance, you can look up the venues online ahead of time or when you are there, look for the posters publicizing these great offerings. Tomorrow night and Tuesday night at the stained-glass heaven of La Sainte Chapelle for example, the Orchestre des soloistes français is performing works of Bach, Albinoni and Mozart.

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BOOK NOTE: Walking down the Left Bank’s Rue Jacob the other day, I was stopped in my tracks by all the women pausing in front of a window display. Intrigued, I went closer to see what they were looking at. It turns out the new Dictionnaire universel des créatrices was just published in France, and the Espace des femmes at 33-35 rue Jacob was sponsoring a photo exhibition to celebrate the event.

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Upon entering the gallery, I found out this new comprehensive dictionary of creative women – “creative” in every sense – includes more than 10,000 articles on well-known and lesser-known women and their contributions over the centuries. French feminist Antoinette Fouque was one of the driving forces behind the work. According to a recent interview in Le Figaro, she noted that while women make up half the population on the planet, only 5 to 10% of entries in dictionaries of proper names included women. So the idea for “Universal Dictionary of Creative Women” was born.

I spoke with a nice young woman there at the Espace des femmes. She mentioned that for printing reasons, the dictionary does not contain photographs of the women listed. So the gallery was exhibiting photos of many of them along with illustrations by French fashion designer Sonia Rykiel, some of which do appear in the publication. The woman also mentioned that an English translation of the dictionary is in the works and should come out later this year. Click here for more information on the Espace des femmes and this great contribution to the world of dictionaries.

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