Princess Diana

Is there anyone alive who doesn’t know that Princess Diana died in a horrendous auto accident entering a tunnel near the Pont de l’Alma?  It happened 21 years ago this past August.  Emerging from the Alma-Marceau metro and walking towards the bridge (Pont de l’Alma), you have to pass a large flame that to this day is always covered with flowers and photos of  Princess Di.

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Several times a week, I cross Pont de l’Alma coming from the American Library headed to the metro and home.  I’m often with someone else and I always ask, pointing at the site, “Do you know what that is?”  Usually I get back “A memorial to Princess Diana?” or “I’m not sure, what?”  Having come to Paris many times over the last 50 years, I knew that that monument had been there before Princess Di died.  But I didn’t know what it was.  So I asked someone.

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It is the flame that our Lady of Liberty, given to the US by the French, holds for all peoples, immigrants and others, to see as they enter the Port of New York.  “Erected in 1986, the 12 foot metal fire is a made of copper covered in actual gold leaf. Donated to the city by the International Herald Tribune, the flame officially commemorates not only the paper’s hundredth year of business as well as acting as a token of thanks to France itself for some restorative metalwork which the country had provided to the actual Statue of Liberty. Even with the air of global familiarity emanating from the sculpture like heat from a flame, the site has taken on a grimmer association in recent years.”   AtlasObscura.com

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Princess Dianna had her tragic accident just under the monument and not knowing where to express grief, people began putting flowers, photos and expressions of love at the base of the flame.  The younger generations have no idea why it was originally constructed.IMG_1983.jpg      Almost every day and, certainly on the anniversary of her death, something new is added.  I’ve passed the flame when flowers were six inches deep.  There is always a crowd around the Flame, always there for Diana and not Lady Liberty.  Today, many people think the Flame was built for Diana.IMG_1701 2.jpg

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Thirty-two years after the Flame was built, relations between France and the US are not very good.  President Trump has refused to meet with President Macron when he arrives in France Sunday to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the end of WWI.  Vigils are being planned for Saturday night and all day Sunday protesting Trump’s behaviour and the lack of liberty in the US at the moment.

The Flame now seems to represent tragedy.  On a smaller scale–that a Princess died underneath on the roads of Paris and on a much grander scale–Liberty being exchanged for Autocratic rule and Dictatorship.  Trite as it sounds, one can only hope that the flame of liberty never goes out and there is always hope.

A bientôt,

Sara

Go out and Vote–Democracy depends on you.

I hope the New York Times will forgive me for posting a part of Saturday’s editorial.  It is too long to put the whole thing here but it is good.

“It’s also true that when more people vote, the electorate becomes more liberal. If Americans voted in proportion to their actual numbers, a majority would most likely support a vision for the country far different from that of Mr. Trump and the Republicans in Congress. This includes broader access to health care, higher taxes on the wealthy, more aggressive action against climate change and more racial equality in the criminal justice system.

Republicans are aware of this, which is why the party has gone to such lengths to drive down turnout among Democratic-leaning groups. A recent example: In North Dakota, the Republican-led Legislature changed the law to make it harder for Native Americans to cast a ballot.

It comes down to this: Democracy isn’t self-activating. It depends on citizens getting involved and making themselves heard. So if you haven’t yet cast a ballot, get out and do it on Tuesday, or earlier if your state allows early voting. Help your family, friends and neighbors do the same. Help a stranger. Vote as if the future of the country depends on it. Because it does.”    NYTimes Editorial, Nov. 3, 2018

Unknown-3.jpegI have had quite an education in the last two months.  Thanks to my sister, Margaret Somers, University of Michigan; Nancy MacLean Duke University and Malcom Nance a retired Intelligence Officer, my eyes have been opened to what I’m sure many others have seen but I hadn’t.  The rise of market fundamentalism and, perhaps, the end of Democracy as we know it.  Or as Malcolm Nance said when I heard him speak at the American Library “It’s possible that Tuesday will be the end of the American Experiment”

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This isn’t a political blog but tomorrow everyone in the United States has the right to vote.  Many who want to vote are being prevented from doing so.  Many who can vote don’t.  Because they are lazy?  I’m old enough that I remember being taught about women dying  working to get the right to vote.  We were taught that voting is a privilege and not to ever abuse it.  People who don’t vote are actually voting.  The NYTimes says that the more people that vote, the electorate becomes more liberal.  So not voting is a vote for conservative.

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We live in a crazy, crazy world.  France fought off Marine Le Pen.  I heard she was one of the first, along with Donald Trump to congratulate the new President of Brazil.  The papers were asking how could someone like him win when he was so vilified a decade ago?  I think there is an answer.  It means reading and educating ourselves about the Far Right, Extremism and Russia.  It means having to stretch our brain cells to comprehend things that, to me, seem unimaginable.

So go vote tomorrow.  Then read and read some more.  Don’t get distracted by tweets and  stories that rise up and flame away.

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A Bientôt,

Sara

Le Musée Marmottan-Monet

People traveling to Paris always seem to have high on their list of “Must See” first the Eiffel Tower then The Louvre followed by the Musee d”Orsay.  If you were to ask them who their favourite French painter is, more than likely 60% or more of them would respond “Monet”.  So I have made it a project of mine to introduce Americans to the Musée Marmottan-Monet.

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It just happens to be about three blocks from where I live but that is only one of the reasons I love it.  In no particular order, I love it because 1–it is small and easily negotiable without getting overwhelmed or tired.  2– it has the largest collection of Monet paintings in the world 3–it has the largest collection of Berte Morrissot paintings and drawings and 4–it is a wonderful example of what an old hunting lodge turned town house looked like back in the days when this part of Paris was actually outside of Paris and men came in the Autumn to hunt.

The website of the Musée Marmottan has this to say about the history of the building and the permanent Collection.  “Former hunting lodge of Christophe Edmond Kellerman, Duke of Valmy, the Marmottan Monet Museum was bought in 1882 by Jules Marmottan. His son Paul settled in it, and had another hunting lodge built to house his private collection of art pieces and First Empire paintings.

Upon his death he bequeathed all his collections, his town house – which will become the Marmottan Monet Museum in 1934 – and the Boulogne Library’s historical rich historical archives to the French Academy of Fine Arts.

In 1957, the Marmottan Monet Museum received the private collection of Madame Victorine Donop de Monchy as a donation inherited from her father, Doctor Georges de Bellio, one of the first lovers’ of impressionism whose patients included Manet, Monet, Pissaro, Sisley, and Renoir.

In 1966, Michel Monet, the painter’s second son, bequeathed his property in Giverny to the French Academy of Fine Arts and his collection of paintings, inherited from his father, to the Marmottan Monet Museum. This donation endowed the Museum with the largest Claude Monet collection in the world. On this occasion, the academician architect and museum curator, Jacques Carlu, built a room inspired from the Grandes Décorations in the Tuilerie’s Orangerie to house the collection.

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The Denis and Annie Rouart Foundation was created in 1996 within the Marmottan Monet Museum, in compliance with the benefactress’ wishes. The Museum was hence enriched with prestigious works by Berthe Morisot, Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas, and Henri Rouart.

In 1980, Daniel Wildstein gave the Museum the exceptional illumination collection put together by his father. Throughout the years, other major donations have come to enrich the Marmottan Monet Museum collections: Emile Bastien Lepage, Vincens Bourguereau, Henri Le Riche, Jean Paul Léon, André Billecocq, Gaston Schulmann, Florence Gould Foundation, Cila Dreyfus, and Thérèse Rouart.”

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As well as the extraordinary room downstairs that houses many of the Monet’s, the Museum has twice yearly exhibitions.  The one that is there from September 13, 2018–February 10, 2019 is called Private Collections: From Impressionism to the Fauves.  The entire exhibition is paintings taken from private collections, many have never been seen before.

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It seems only right that the exhibition opens with paintings by Monet.

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Caillebotte, who I never studied in University as an Art History major, has become an artist that I highly respect and I have grown to love his work.  The poster announcing the exhibition is by Caillebotte.

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I’ve never seen this work by Gauguin

 

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or this one!!

These two Gauguin paintings are examples of his work from the time he lived in Pont-Aven, Brittany.  I had to include The School of Pont-Aven as I visited friends there last summer.  That is when I first learned of the school and the Gauguin stayed there between Paris and French Polynesia.

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I have taken up way too much of your time so I will introduce you to Berte Morisot and her paintings at another time.  If you are coming to Paris, please make sure to visit the museum.  You take the metro 9 to La Muette.  From there you walk through the wonderful Parc de Ranelagh.  The park ends at the museum.  If you love art, you will not be sorry.

And to wet your appetite in case you are not visiting until next Spring, the next exhibition is posted here!!

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For more information on the Musée Marmottan-Monet: http://www.marmottan.fr/page.asp?ref_arbo=2507

And Paris??  It is cold, cold, cold.  The days have been in the high 40s and low 50s.  The nights have fallen to the high 30s.  Out have come the wooly caps and scarves, down jackets and doubling up on socks in one’s boots.  Restaurants have brought out their large heaters so that Parisians can still sit outside if they choose.  Seats have blankets on them to serve as lap warmers!!!  How wonderful is Paris?!

So wherever you are, stay warm.

Everyone in Paris is praying and wishing the United States Bon Chance and Bon Courage on November 6.

A bientot

Sara

 

Les baskets

I receive a number of blogs informing me of events in Paris, fashion, food, etc.  They are fun reading and, occasionally, I get a really good tip.   At the beginning of this week, I received one that asked the question “How to dress like a Parisian woman.”  Among the many tips was the caution that Parisian women never ever go out wearing their gym clothes or yoga gear.  It just isn’t done.  And they never wear sneakers that they work out in.  They do wear sneakers–called les baskets here in France–but fashionable ones.  Since almost everyone wears sneakers much of the time, I thought I would investigate who is wearing what.  The best place to do that is in the metro or bus.

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The most popular sneakers are Adidas and Converse.  The girl on the left is wearing Adidas with a black label at the back.  Usually it is a green label and it is just the same as wearing something by Burberry that has the marque name glaring at you.  For some reason, women would never wear these same sneakers to run or work out in.  The girl in the middle is wearing Converse.  These are low top.  More popular are the high tops.  It’s my understanding that Converse are made for fashion, to be seen in.

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I think these are also Converse.  Why? Because of the red line along the bottom.  They sparkle and as the weather cools and the holidays come, more and more sneakers will have “bling” on them.  Younger Parisians love their sparkly shoes… and sweaters… and jackets…and T-shirts.  Even I have a blingy T-shirt and blingy winter jacket.  I’m very proud of them!!

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In the middle, we have white leather sneakers.  Mine are made by Aigle.  Aigle, to me, is high-class LL Bean.  Aigle is most famous for making rain boots, high and low.  They come in many colours and children love them.

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Pink and Bling!!!!

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Off to work in black and white sneakers!

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These baskets are for sale in a fashionable small women’s clothing store near me.

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Two blocks up Avenue Mozart is this wonderful store.  These sneakers never go on sale even during the Winter and Summer Sales.

So thanks for reading my first blog on Parisian fashion!!!

A bientôt,

Sara

This and That

Paris is having a lovely Indian summer.  The weather stays in the low to mid 70s.  The air just feels different, however, than in Spring or Summer.   Maybe it’s the leaves turning brown and the sidewalks full of fallen leaves.  It does feel like the beginning of Fall.

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next to Avenue Ingres

La Rentrée is over and Paris is in full swing.  My swimming pool has opened after four weeks of renovations, adult classes have started.  At the American Library where I volunteer, “Evenings with an Author” will be starting up with  Richard Russo”.  He will be discussing his latest collection of short stories: Trajectory.  He is in Paris for Festival-America, a three day gathering of well known authors speaking, dinners, presentations.  The focus this year is on Canada and the Festival will be celebrating the life and work of John Irving.   https://www.festival-america.com

In other words, Paris is buzzing with energy.  The streets and cafes are full at all times of the day.  Dog walkers are out by the dozens.  Every size of dog imaginable but mostly small dogs that fit comfortably into small apartments.  My hydrangea, though still full and sporting green leaves, have brownish flowers that are drooping towards the floor of my terrace.  The pinks and blues are just a memory of my wonder of when they actually bloomed in May.

I last wrote about La Rentrée.  After reading it, a French friend of this blog wrote to me. This person is not a fan of Les Réseaux Sociaux (social media) and wishes to remain anonymous.  Which is why I have taken out some words.

Sara,
You are right to underline the importance of la rentrée in France. This country is run by the schoolteachers’ unions. The building sector, the car industry , the hotel industry, the traffic jams, the prices of plane tickets, everything depends from the sacro saint summer recess of schools.
I always hated it: as a child, la rentrée was for me the end of the wonderful summer months in ________, back to the drawing board, the nasty teachers , the anxiety of lessons and home work, the tiny apartment in Paris, the chilly days of autumn.
Later as an adult, having to work at my self-employed job, July and August were damned months when the turnover was low, the billed hours at low tide, no money in the bank to pay the bills. I hated having to be in Paris at work in August, when the sun shines, Paris is empty, everybody having fun at sea, mountain or travelling, and you are chained to your desk to make a living.
But now I take my revenge! I am retired! Fuck with la rentrée! I am still in __________. I don’t have to spend hours in the car in traffic jams on the périphérique. Don’t have to take the crowded trains or flights. Can wait until they are all back to work and railway stations, airports and highways are empty to buy the lowest fare and not stress at the counter!
Don’t have to shudder in front of the school mistress because I did not learn my lesson, nor my banker because my billings  in August were miserable. Free! I am free of all the hassle of la rentrée!
It is so good september in ___________, when all the ants are back in the cities and you are gently tending to your garden, riding your bike on empty backroads and taking time to go the store…
Vive la non rentrée !

And there you have one French perspective!!!

A bientôt,

Sara

La Rentree

bonne-rentree_008.jpgLa Rentrée in France is as much a time of year as Christmas Week and Easter Week.  It is the time when the French return to wherever they live. Many have spent the whole summer away in the south of France or in their country houses in Normandie.  Now it’s return to work and return to school.  In America, we see Back To School signs in department stores and book stores.  Think quadrupling that energy and you might get close to the fuss that is La Rentrée.

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In the larger grocery stores that also sell clothing and supplies, a whole section of the store will be devoted to La Rentrée.  Whatever else had been there has been removed for the duration.  I was in Carrefour (which is a HyperCarrefour) and doing a big shopping: loads of TP and Paper towels, cat food and cat litter.  Things that I hope will last for awhile.  Hoards of students were there in La Rentrée section.  One rarely sees students in grocery stores.  Backpacks, pencils, pens and refills, writing books, on and on and on.  When I asked one of the women who works there where the gardening stuff had been moved to, she shook her head and lifted her shoulders: “It’s not here for awhile, madame” as if to say ‘what can you do?’

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Although it is only September 4 and I just returned from Brittany, it is definitely not summer anymore.  Though warm and lovely, the air feels like Fall. Very young children are screaming in happiness during their play breaks and the sound drifts up to my apartment.  The metros are crowded again.  The RER A, which always takes a summer break for repairs, is running again (This is the RER that goes from the west suburbs into Paris).  All the stores are open and the streets are teeming with shoppers, people hurrying to the bus and students once more hanging out on all the corners.

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For those of us who have always lived by the academic calendar, the year is now beginning.  Time to organise everything.  Time to put everything away that relates to summer.  Time to get out those pens and pencils and get to work!!!

So from Paris, I wish you all a Bonne Rentrée!

A bientot,

Sara

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Thalassotherapie and Spa, Roscoff

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For my birthday this week, my friend, Barbara booked Body scrubs and massages at Institut Spa Valdys in Roscoff, a town about one and a half hours west of Perros Guirec, Brittany.  I was quite excited and kept telling people that I was “taking the waters” at the Spa.  Finally she said to me, “Have you never heard of Thalassotherapie?  I can’t believe it.”                                                                                                                                                              I hadn’t.  I wasn’t sure I’d even heard the word.  It looked Greek and that was about it.   Thalasso means ‘sea’ in Greek.  Thalassotherapy is the use of seawater as a form of therapy.  So I may not have known what I was talking about, but I wasn’t that far off the mark.

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After chatting away happily for a one and a half hour drive, we arrived in Roscoff.  The landscape had changed about ten minutes before entering the town.  It seemed flat and grey.  Although we could see the sea, there wasn’t much attractive about the geography.  We followed the directions on my iPhone to the Hotel Tulip next door to the Spa.  We found parking and began our day at Noon.  Unlike American spas, this spa checked us in and left us on our own.  No ‘Welcome, let me show you around’.  No ‘First you go here and change, then you go there and’ …..American Spas, at least the ones I’ve been in, treat every person like a Queen.  I wasn’t sure if this was the french way or just this Spa.  We wandered around a bit lost until we finally asked someone what we do.  She explained where to change our clothes and get a robe.  Then to come back to her floor and sit in a jacuzzi or steam bath or swim in the swimming pool.  Upstairs on the 4th floor was a gym with bikes and walking machines.  No one was there!

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Swimming Pool–high tide outside

At 2pm, we sat in waiting rooms waiting for our names to be called.  When called, I was asked what kind of scrub I would like.  I asked her what the difference was.  One was for sensitive skin which I don’t have so she suggested the ginger scrub.  The word in French is Gommage.  I hadn’t asked for a translation so I wasn’t quite sure what I was in for.  It turned out to be delicious.  She rubbed my entire body with this oily exfoliating scrub and after showering the particles off, I was left with  glowing sweet smelling skin.  I wanted to keep the oil on forever.  She took me back to the waiting room where I found Barbara and we compared experiences.  We had picked different scrubs but the looks on our faces probably said to anyone looking that we had both loved it.

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My name was called again and this time I was led to a massage room. My massage was good but not great.  At the end, I was relaxed and happy.  Barbara had a great massage and couldn’t believe how effective it was.  Her masseuse had told her go to the Solarium and relax.  So I followed along.  The door that said Resting Room opened up to eight chaises longues with buttons to push for music or heat.  I tried to read but promptly fell asleep.  Barbara’s chair had a view of the sea at low tide.  There were tide pools, tons of algae, three large pools for swimming that filled up at high tide.  We decided to get dressed and go for a walk.

The sand had the strangest little curly-que details.  It was like pieces of thick string wound up and dropped.  I thought maybe it was droppings of some sort but when I put my foot on it, it collapsed into sand.  They were everywhere.  I was trying to imagine how the water would roll in as the tide rose to make those little ‘decorations’.  I was stumped, it was beyond my imagination.

So what exactly is Thalassotherapy?  This is what Wikipedia has to say:

“It is based on the systematic use of seawater, sea products, and shore climate. The properties of seawater are believed to have beneficial effects upon the pores of the skin. Some claims are made that thalassotherapy was developed in seaside towns in Brittany, France during the 19th century.[3] A particularly prominent practitioner from this era was Dr Richard Russell,[4][5][6]whose efforts have been credited with playing a role in the populist “sea side mania of the second half of the eighteenth century”,[7] although broader social movements were also at play.[8] In Póvoa de Varzim, Portugal, an area believed to have high concentrations of iodine, due to kelp forests, and subject to sea fog, the practice is in historical records since 1725 and was started by Benedictine monks; it expanded to farmers shortly after. In the 19th century, heated saltwater public baths opened and became especially popular with higher classes.[9]Others claim that the practice of thalassotherapy is older: “The origins of thermal baths and related treatments can be traced back to remote antiquity. Romans were firm believers in the virtues of thermalism and thalassotherapy.[2]

In thalassotherapy, trace elements of magnesium, potassium, calcium, sodium, and iodide found in seawater are believed to be absorbed through the skin. The effectiveness of this method of therapy is not widely accepted as it has not been proven scientifically. The therapy is applied in various forms, as either showers of warmed seawater, application of marine mud or of algae paste, or the inhalation of sea fog. Spas make hot seawater and provide mud and seaweed wrapping services. This type of therapy is common in the Dead Sea area”

Well, whatever it is, I enjoyed it.  I didn’t wash the oil off my skin for eighteen hours!

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And here we are oily, relaxed and very happy!!!

A bientôt,

Sara

 

 

 

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