Thursday, March 31, 2011

Finding 'Bobos' in Paris

I've received emails from two friends in the past two days directing me to an article in the NYT Sunday Travel section. They both know I LOVE Paris and Paris is exactly what the Times article is about. Amy Thomas spent two years in Paris doing research for a book on food. (That's a gig I could do you manage to get one of those?) She speaks not only of the Right and Left Banks of Paris, but also of the Edgy East and the Refined West...areas of Paris less well known, but up and coming places for 'Bobos' those well-educated, upper-middle class professionals who mix their bourgeoise lives with their bohemian philosophies.

The Edgy East is anchored by the Canal St.-Martin. I spent a morning in September 2009 wandering up and down the Canal. I found not a single 'Bobo' but rather a lot of homeless men sitting on benches and wandering about in the little parks along the waterway. One park in particular appeared to be 'homeless central' with old mattresses and pieces of cardboard stashed behind bushes waiting for nightfall. I have to say it made me a bit uncomfortable! The Canal, the parks and the pedestrian bridges were lovely, but the area seemed a little too edgy for me that morning.

Maybe I did see a 'Bobo' or two during my stroll. These two children were adorable sipping their hot chocolate at the nighborhood sidewalk cafe while their maman had her morning expresso. So very Parisian! Maybe the area is worth a revisit..this time I'll be on the lookout for 'Bobos' and not 'hobos!'

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sunny Memories On a Gray Day

It's a rainy, gray morning outside my window, dreary and dripping...
I can barely see Saujac across the dark, brooding Lot because of the mist. Last week's glorious sunshine has given way to a week of predicted rain. Yesterday at language class we shared our summer plans. Greg will garden, Evelyne will go to Venice, and Patricia will spend 10 days at Argeles-sur-mer along the Mediterranean coast. She will take the ferry to Collioure to shop and enjoy that beautiful beach village. I've been there! And this morning, that's where I long to be again. For now, though, photo memories will have to suffice....
My first glimpse of the Mediterranean in September 2009. I'm looking up the coast towards Argeles.

Looking down the coast towards Spain...
Collioure with its separate beach and boat harbor...
A hot September day, the brilliantly blue Mediterranean, and a pristine white sailboat....what could be a better sunny memory for a gray and misty spring morning?

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Paper Cranes

I'm taking a bit of a break from France today to tell you about a very cool project that my friend, Edith just finished...folding paper cranes for Japan. As part of a student based fund-raiser for Japanese architects who will be re-building the areas in Japan destroyed by the recent earthquake and resulting tsunami, Edith hosted a crane-making party. She invited all her friends both in Boulder and also those of us living far away to make cranes. Her guests ranged in age from 2 1/2  to 95 1/2 years old, and they made over 200 paper cranes! That's pretty impressive, don't you think? If you're interested in this project, click here to go to the Students Rebuild website. And if you're like me and have no idea how to fold a paper crane, click here for an excellent instructional video.

I have to admit...I haven't quite mastered this paper-folding gig. I'll let you know as I progress!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Re-thinking Transportation

One of the things that I haven't had during my stay in France is a car. I wanted to experience life here the way Laury She manages quite well on foot, on her bicycle, on the bus and occasionally by catching a ride with a friend. I have to say that I've found most things very do-able without a car. I certainly don't miss worrying about gas prices or traffic or finding a parking place. It feels good to be not adding to the earth's carbon emission problems. Riding the bus has been fun. I get to really look at the passing countryside and its little villages without looking at the road; I let the bus driver take care of that. All that being said, I'm re-thinking transportation. When I return to France this fall, do I need to buy a car? I find that I miss being able to explore beyond the bus route. Sometimes it's not very convenient to plan my life around the bus schedule. I haven't been able to go to church this winter because the bus doesn't go where I need to go. I've not gotten involved in any activities outside the village. Again being car-less, it just doesn't work.

Obviously, the rusting relic hiding in the woods just beyond Jean's house isn't the answer! And as much as I'd love to have one of these, a deux chevaux like Christiane's isn't right either. I've toyed with the idea of a cute little red Vespa, but realistically...that doesn't work in the rain or when I have a lot of groceries to haul. Do I need to bite the bullet and buy a little car? Patrick would help me find a used Peugot, I think. Is that the way I should go? What do you think?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Chair Worship Deja-vu

When Laury and I explore places together, we often compare notes and photos. While we look at the same things, we frequently 'see' them differently. Our photos reflect that. Sometimes we choose different angles; sometimes we catch different light and shadows. Sometimes she gets a shot that I miss and only when I see her blog, do I realize that I saw that photo opportunity and missed it completely. An example of this is the beautiful reflections she captured in the Lot when we were in Cahors. I saw them; we talked about them. She snapped the photo, and I didn't! These chairs are another example of this same./different phenomena. She blogged about them today at Soar-Dream-France. I chuckled when I saw them. "I know those chairs!" Here's my version....

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sunday in Paris

Here's what I have in mind for my Sunday afternoon in Paris. This is the Musee du Quai Branly, and yes, those are plants growing on the side of the building. I visited this museum soon after it opened and have been anxious to go back ever since. It contains cultural artifacts from all over the world that are displayed in fascinating and interactive ways. My goal this visit will be the Christain Lacroix exhibit of women's clothing and textiles from the Near East. Called 'Women of the Orient', the collection shows the clothing that was literally a work of art before the 1970's when women in this Muslim world were burqua'd. Please click this link to see the exhibit's webpage. The video shows some beautiful pieces. I love it that there are embroidered dresses on display that you are invited to touch and feel...quite unusual for any museum.

This is where I want to spend Sunday evening of my weekend in Paris...Sainte Chapelle. Ever since I learned that there are classical music concerts in this amazing space, I've wanted to attend one. It's a bit pricey at 34 euros, but I can't think of a more beautiful venue for great music. Vivaldi's Four Seasons is the scheduled performance. I can hardly wait to hear it filling the soaring vaulted ceiling of gorgeous stained glass and raining down on me. For a YouTube preview of what I'll experience, click here.

So this is my plan: beautiful clothing and beautiful music for my Sunday in Paris

Credit is due to Google Images for the photos. I don't have access to my own of these places, so I used these from here and here. My compliments to the photographers!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

la rive droite**

My time in France has been about living here, not about being on vacation. So I'm excited that I'll end my visit with a weekend in Paris to be just a tourist. Laury and I will meet on Friday as she returns from her work assignment. We'll spend Friday night and Saturday exploring the city. She'll leave on Sunday to complete her journey home to Cadrieu, and on Monday, I'll fly back to the States. I've put myself in her hands. She is a Right Bank girl; I'm a Left Bank'er. She's agreed to show me 'her' side of the Seine. This photo is from L'eglise St. Merri, one of the few Right Bank churches I know. We may attend a Saturday evening concert here. I expect we'll explore Montmartre and St. Eustache which is Laury's favorite church in Paris. What other wonderful places will she share with me? It will be intriguing to see part of Paris that I'm not familiar with and to see it through someone else's eyes. And I'll have Sunday afternoon and evening on my own. I've already got a few ideas for how I'll spend that time....on the Left Bank!

This is a photo of the vestibule of St. Merri. I love the juxtaposition of the graphic black and white floor tiles, the childrens' art and the Gothic elements of the old church. Mixing old and new is something that France does best.

**la rive droite....the Right Bank

Sunday, March 20, 2011

First Day of Spring

Happy first day of spring from France! And did you see that full moon last night? It was shining so big and bright last evening as I walked down the hill at midnight from a dinner party that I didn't even need my tiny flashlight to guide me home. The biggest full moon in twenty years lighting the night of the spring equinox has to be a potent sign of good things to come. And I hope it shines graciously on my plans for the rest of this year. I received a surprised comment on my post this Wednesday, Where Is Home? asking me about my plans for returning to France. It's time to share them in full.

I will leave France on May 9th spending the summer months in Iowa and in northern Wisconsin working as a camp nurse at Red Pine Camp. After camp I will close up my house again...if I haven't been able to sell it...and head west to visit Travis, Becky and kids and end up in Nevada to see my brother and my Dad. I will fly back to France on Sept. 27th from Reno. Hopefully, France will have me back! I will do the paperwork for a long-term visa, so I can legally spend as much time here as I want. Lucie will stay here with Laury, Dali and Sam until I return. While all the details aren't worked out, I will help Laury again with pet care if she needs it, perhaps house sit, perhaps rent a little house here in the village. Lots and lots of difficult logisitics to figure out, of course, but difficult things have never stopped me in the past and won't now. All I need to do is 'melange a little more magic.'The adventure continues!

Flower photos...roses were taken on a Paris street in 2009. The pansies are from the Cahors market two weeks ago.

Friday, March 18, 2011

We Have Arrived

As I said to Laury in an email a few minutes's amazing what a woman, a backpack, a suitcase and a break in the weather can accomplish! We have arrived back at the Chatette to stay for the remainder of my time in France. Lucie is upstairs asleep on her blanket at the end of my bed; Dali is checking out the place to make sure everything is where it's supposed to be, and Sam is curled up in a bit of sunshine upstairs. We're all happy and content to be here. .
I brought a few flowers from Jean's to brighten up my table.

The weather has not been kind to Laury's beautiful plum tree. About half of its blossoms are gone and the lawn is sprinkled with snow-like tiny blooms. The bees aren't discouraged, though! They are buzzing all over the tree!
Spring is here, life is good, and we're back!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

On The Rue Where I Live

I've enjoyed my stay on this side of Cadrieu. It has an entirely different feeling than the other side that sits in the shadow of the Chateau. There's a bit more hustle and bustle over here. I can watch the farmers on their tractors travel to their fields along the river. I see the bus going up to the Mairie to pick up and deliver the school kids. I know when the neighbors leave for work and which ones come home for lunch. This side is a bit more modern. Jean's brief road, Les Cayrels, has some new construction at its end. I'll complete my move back to the quieter, more historic side of Cadrieu with its beautiful river views and old, mossy stone soon...if it ever stops raining long enough to roll my suitcase down the road! Here are some random images from walks down my rue...
Signs of spring on the rue where I live...
Green is a popular color on the rue where I live...
Lots of open fields as well as houses, old and new...
Full moon rising--on the rue where I live.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Where Is Home?

I'm beginning to transition from Jean's house back down to the Chatette. I've been making a trip every day to feed Sam and to bring a few things in my backpack. I'm down to the last few things. If it stops raining, I will probably complete the move tomorrow or Friday. Home has moved from one side of the village back to the other; from le Chalet to la Chatette.

I've also begun the process for returning to the States in May. I've bought my ticket, round trip because I will come back to France the end of September. I've asked a friend to pick my weary-traveler self up at the Des Moines airport and arranged with my brother, Jim to keep my car and get me to the Reno airport in September for my return flight. All of this moving around has me pondering....where is home?

I'm pulled in many directions...Iowa, Montana, France, Cadrieu, Red Bell Farm, Gardiner, family, friends, old and familiar, new and adventurous. Which place should I call home? If home is where your heart is, can it be possible to have home in several different places? Maybe home isn't a place after all...maybe home is any place that you love and that loves you in return!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

It's the Little Things

It's easy to be 'wowed' by the big sights in France...the Eiffel Tower, the Notre Dame, the art, statues, gardens bursting with blooms and fragrances, beautiful churches with gorgeous stained glass windows...the list goes on and on. But I find the charming 'little things' just as delightful and in some ways, even more impressive than the biggies that everyone oohs and aahs over. For example, Laury and I were exploring the dark, winding ruelles of old Figeac the Saturday of the photo vernissage. We  stopped a moment to get our bearings and figure out where to go next when I felt as if someone were watching me. I turned and right at eye level, I saw this tiny woman looking at me! She is faded and worn, some of her crisp, sharp edges have been dulled by the centuries, but there she is...a  bit of beauty lurking on the wall of a dark, narrow passage. She actually moved side to side, and I think she was at one time, a decorative hinge that held open a window shutter. Someone went to a lot of work to make her and obviously had great pride in their home to embellish it with this petite piece of carved metal. It's a French make everything, even a lowly shutter hinge, beautiful!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Peeking In

One of my favorite things to do as I wander through the old parts of French villages and towns is to peek into open gates and down dark passages. I'm often delighted with what I find. In Cahors this dark passage and its open door led to another tiny ruelle with  red doors pointing the way to more ancient buildings.

As Laury and I wandered along another old Cahors rue lined with shops, I glanced to my right and between two buildings, I saw a passage leading to an enclosed courtyard. It was empty except for this large circular planting that anchored a modern art installation.
I turned to exit after snapping this image and spied one of my favorite photo subjects....laundry!

You just never know what you'll spy when you peek into tucked away places.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


I'm always inspired by the pretty doors that I see here in France. I love the vine, the art nouveau awning, the lovely blue color,and the interesting glass pattern on this one. Laury and I spent a few moments sitting here in Place St. James admiring the medieval architecture and the dog-face fountain. As I mentioned in yesterday's post, this square was the market place for spices during the Middle Ages when Cahors was an important trade and religious center. It's fun to let your imagination run wild and picture yourself here in those days....great baskets filled with the most exotic spices and herbs, their fragrances perfuming the air with hints of the Orient, Africa, and the Levant. This blue door probably wasn't here then, but my guess is that its house was....

This door on the square probably is medieval.

In another 600 years perhaps the red graffiti will be completely faded. Or perhaps people then will see it as a charming art form of the 20th century!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Stony Faces

France is a country carved in stone. From its cobblestone streets to its dry stacked-stone walls; from its commemorative statues to its magnificent churches and cathedrals....stone is a defining element of the face of France. And I'm always intrigued and amused by the stony faces I find wherever I roam with my camera. Here in Cahors, I was delighted to find stony faces everywhere...
I think he's telling his friend to cheer up, purgatory is better than the other bad place!

You have to love a church 'face' with attitude!

From the sublime stone carved tympanum over the doors of St. Etienne....

to the water fountain in Place St. James where spices from all over the world were bought and sold...
stony faces look at the world from their ancient past.

Dog faces on the fountain...six in all.

This one looks a bit like Lucie. I think it's the ears.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lunch with a Friend

Laury wanted to take me to lunch before she left for her Germany work assignment and gave me three choices in three different towns: Figeac, St. Cirq Lapopie, and Cahors. I chose this one in Cahors, 'Au Fil des Douceurs.' I was intrigued that the restaurant was actually a boat docked on the Lot and that the food was reported to be excellent. I wasn't disappointed on either score. Our lunch was lovely! We arrived at noon last Saturday just as it opened and even though we didn't have a reservation, we were seated. Soon every table was taken! We shared a split of silky Cahors wine, munched on terrific food, and admired the view of ancient Cahors across the water.
A 2006 Triguedina...yummy good!
After an entree of onion and anchovy tartlette topped with a warm round of Rocamadour chevre, a plat of duck confit with cassoulet, we finished by splitting a cheese plate and a dessert....sauteed bananas with a caramel crunch crust and vanilla ice cream drizzled with caramel. Need I tell you that we ate well?

This is a zoomed  view of the old city that we enjoyed across the river while we ate.

I finished our lunch adventure with one of my signature "I was there" shadow photos. This time it's entitled "We were there" That's Laury and me casting our shadows into the Lot from the Pont Cabessut.