Les Gilets Jaunes–part 2

Hi from Paris,

Many of you have written to me to make sure I am okay as the tv reports showed a Paris out of control and burning.  I am fine.  The protests, the demonstrations and rioting have been in the centre of Paris where tourist attractions are and the wealthiest streets are.  It has affected my ability to travel around Paris.  Yesterday, we were warned ahead of time that forty metro stations would be closed.  And, as a caution, all tourists sites were closed, all museums closed and the department stores on the Grands Boulevards were closed.

What started as a protest against a tax on diesel fuel has now escalated to a full-blown rage at the cost of living in France, hatred of President Macron as a president of only the rich and a general overflowing of suppressed anger at the things the average French person cannot control

I have friends on both sides.  A number of my french friends are disgusted with the Gillets Jaunes.  They feel they do not appreciate all the services that they do get for ‘free’. The French pay one of the highest taxes in Europe and those taxes are what support the French Healthcare System which is remarkable, maintenance of roads and highways–they are always up to date, and many days and evenings during the year when the average person can go to museums and monuments for free.

I also have friends who support the Gilets Jaunes.  They also believe that this protest has been hijacked by the hooligans and the far-right as well as the infamous ‘black bloc’.  Many believe that the Gilets Jaunes want a peaceful protest but as one french worker said, “if we protest peacefully, we get ignored.  If there is violence, they hear us and things change.” (that is not an exact quote).

For those of you who want to read a lot more detail, I’ve included articles from the NYTimes, The guardian and France24.

https://www.france24.com/en/20181208-live-hundreds-detained-paris-france-braces-new-anti-macron-riots

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/08/paris-police-flood-streets-gilets-jaunes?utm_term=RWRpdG9yaWFsX0d1YXJkaWFuVG9kYXlVS19XZWVrZW5kLTE4MTIwOQ%3D%3D&utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GuardianTodayUK&CMP=GTUK_email

No one knows what will happen next.  Macron is supposed to talk to the country early this coming week.  Is he going to stick to his revolutionary plan or will he have listened and be willing to work with the French?  And interesting sideline is the comparison to the 1968 student riots that brought Paris to a complete standstill.   “In an interview with the Observer, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, one of the leaders of the May 1968 student riots and one of Macron’s friends and advisers, said the president and the government needed a “complete reset …and a tax revolution” to answer protesters’ demands.”

Thank you all for your concern,

A bientôt,

Sara

 

Les Gilets Jaunes — What the heck is happening in Paris

Les gilets jaunes are the yellow vests that are stored in every car in France. It is mandatory.  In case of emergency, one can stand outside the car with the vest on and any passerby knows you need help.

When Macron announced his plan to raise the price of diesel fuel, the French were infuriated.  For years, the government had been pushing diesel cars as the most climate friendly as well as the cheapest to run.  As a result, the majority of cars in France are diesel.  Now we have learned that diesel is not very climate friendly so the price of the fuel has been steadily rising in order to dissuade the French from buying diesel cars.

The government is offering incentives that are excellent if you trade your diesel car in for a new car.  However, at least 50% of the population cannot afford a new car even with the incentive.  At first, a friendly protest was planned for Saturday November 17.  There were no leaders and they had no idea what to call themselves until someone came up with the idea of wearing the yellow vests for the reason they are there in the first place.  Word of the protest spread on the internet through social media. That first Saturday most of France participated in the protest.  Those of us that didn’t, sympathised with them.  In Paris, there was a death when a woman panicked in her car and put her foot on the accelerator when she meant to hit the brake.  In Le Gers where I was that day, it was extremely friendly.  Yes, traffic was held up but no one seemed to really mind.

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Paris–November 17, when things were still peaceful
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Trying to stay warm in the French countryside

By the next Saturday, November 24 when a second protest was planned, a list of taxes that Macron has added or raised on the majority of French, was added to the protestation.  This time, agitators from the far right and far left came on the scene in Paris hoping to take advantage of the situation to create havoc.  It worked.  Cars were burned, fires started, metro stops were closed to protect people and tear gas was used by the police.  It reminded me of Occupy Oakland back in 2012 when the Black Bloc came out and created so much violence that Oakland became the poster child of how the protests were not working.  Friends back in the States were writing asking if I was ok with all the riots going on.  I thought to myself ‘Count on the media to put a spotlight on the anarchists and the violence and not on les Gilets Jaunes and their real complaints.’

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Yesterday was the third day of les Gilets Jaunes and protests. The “Casseurs” (thugs, agitators) were by far the majority on the streets yesterday.  The New York Times called it the worst civil unrest that Paris has seen in over a decade.  More fires, more tear gas, more broken windows, more havoc.  The metro lines that went through the centre of Paris closed completely.  Today, movie theatres on the Champs Elysees were closed as I’m sure many others were.  Many of us stayed home all day.

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This reminds me of Occupy Oakland.  The casseur won’t even take credit for protesting.

Macron is now home from Argentina and has been to the Champs to assess the violence.  There is the possibility that a state of emergency will be declared. “Even if mostly perpetrated by vandals who have now latched on to the movement, the symbolism of Saturday’s violence was powerful. A modern-day peasants’ and workers’ revolt against a president increasingly disdained for his regal remove turned the country’s richest boulevards and most prominent landmarks into veritable war zones.” NYTimes, Dec. 2, 2018.

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This all makes me very sad.  France, I’ve found, is remarkable in how manifestations are conducted.  They are registered ahead of time, people are warned to stay away from certain areas.  Buses announce ahead of time that they will take different routes.  The gendarmes stand with them not to respond to violence but to protect the protesters and just be a presence so that things remain friendly.

No one seems to know what will happen next.  One publication I read said that gas prices were actually falling because of cheaper oil prices and that by yesterday, it had made up for the 6% the price of diesel has gone up.  I suspect that is not the point anymore.  Macron took away a tax on the wealthy that was causing them to leave the country, move elsewhere.  Now he has to make up the revenue somewhere.  Ergo, the lower 99% are having taxes raised.  This movement can’t go backwards.  Macron has made so many mistakes in his first 18 months as President.  Will he listen?  Will he respond to the people? Macron has “sought to douse the anger by promising three months of nationwide talks on how best to transform France into a low-carbon economy without penalising the poor.” France24.com.   He doesn’t seem to understand that a huge percentage of the French cannot live in this economy and, living day to day, could care less about climate change.

More to be revealed.

A bientôt,

Sara

 

Le Gers in late Autumn

Five pm and the sun was setting casting a rusty orange glow over the empty fields as I drove up the one-lane road to Tourré.  I turned the corner and there she stood in quiet majesty just as I’d left her in August.   A ranch-style stone house with a covered yet wide open terrace, she welcomed me back for a too-short week of rest and writing.

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I had been afraid that I would be disappointed in Le Gers once the summer was over. In the summer, the fields are full of people-sized sunflowers, their huge heads following the daily path of the sun until, in mid-August, they are bowed way down by the weight of their dying beauty, waiting to be cut and turned into sunflower oil.  These same fields are now brown and bumpy from being turned over by huge machines plowing their way up and down the non-existent rows.  A glorious burnt-sienna light is spreading out quilt-like over the gentle ups and downs of the Gers countryside.

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If anything, it is more beautiful than summer.

I parked my Renault Clio and sat in an arm chair looking back the way I’d arrived.  Taking in the absolute quiet, the solitude of the surrounding Tuscan-like landscape. It is a gentle, spacious and friendly landscape. One that hasn’t changed in decades.

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At night, the half moon will quiver in the slight wind and cold as I stand under the heavens reminding myself of the constellations that I can’t see in Paris.

I feel full of anticipation.  To be here, to walk here drinking in every golden leaf, every blade of grass, every spire of each church that stand in the center of the many hamlets of fourteen or fifteen homes.  There are no big cities in Le Gers.  Just small villages and hamlets, some still have the ramparts surrounding them that were built in the 13th/14thcenturies.  There are no large byways only two lane roads that never have many cars on them, although those cars are always speeding.

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D931 with the ‘city’ of Condom in the distance

I read that there are more animals here than people.  It is a place that God has favored, loved and cared for.  I am so grateful to have found this place, to be able to spend time here.  Now I realise it doesn’t matter what time of year it is, it will be beautiful.  It’s Le Gers. Trite as it sounds, I feel my heart leap into my throat each time I turn off D931 and make my way back ‘home’.

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Boudu, my companion for the week.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone who celebrates it.

A bientôt,

Sara

 

 

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