Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Paris 2004


 

Letter from Paris, No. 1 

Wednesday, April 28, 2004, as the romantic sound of the poubel, the very efficient garbage service of Paris underneath our windows, the flashing light on the top of the truck in my eyes, our first full day in Paris draws to a close.  We arrived a week ago after a difficult change of planes in Philadelphia, running from the C terminal to the new International Terminal and - against all odds - two breathless senior citizens were boarded before the doors closed, and we were en route.

 

On arrival in Paris, and against all odds, our suitcase did arrive, the last two, and then we were greeted by the “April in Paris” cold, heavy rain.  Good luck, we had a taxi driver, a charming woman, neatly coiffed, who knew our section of Paris.

 

The next day we took a taxi back to Charles de Gaulle Airport and a short flight to Rome.  We were looking forward to a reunion with dear friends that we had known in Saigon and had last seen in New York when Klaus was at the German Mission to the United Nations.

 

From Paris to Rome via Alitalia was pleasant, an excellent cold lunch was served and, interestingly enough, the three flight attendants were men not the accustomed gorgeous Italian young ladies.  On arrival our suitcase came quickly and we looked for taxis. 

 

We were accosted civilly several times by men in attired in black suits and white shirts and black ties offering cut rate fare to Rome, Euro 15 each.  We were tired of walking so we agreed, and followed our new guide to his little bus, already packed with luggage and other passengers.  His English was better than my Italian, he knew the neighborhood where we were going and off we went.  So for Euro 30 plus a Euro 5 tip we got quickly to our destination.  The normal fare would be Euro 45 or more.  Taking his card, we promised to call him for the return trip to the airport.  Moreno Perucci, Limousine e Minibus, tel 338 2820 554.

 

With the exception of Monday morning, during our stay the sky in Rome was as grey as Paris, and rain showers were frequent.

 

We arrived at Klaus and Angelica’s house in about 20 minutes.  The German Embassy is set in a very large garden behind walls, it is just outside the walls of Rome at the     Gate.  Angelica does not drive in Rome so she has learned to ride the city bus system to the surprise of many of her German, Italian and other expatriate friends.  Klaus was out-of-town for the day but would join us later at the German Cultural Center where an amateur jazz group from Berlin would be playing with food and drink accompanying it. 

 

Angelica ordered a taxi to take us into town and while the typical Roman taxi driver went with verve, unnerving us not by his speed or his audacity, normal in Rome, but his attention to the GPS screen in front of him.  While we caught up on each other’s news, children, and travel, Angelica let drop that the next time we came to Europe they would be in Paris!  Klaus's nomination as German Ambassador to Paris had been accepted and they would leave Rome in July and take up residence in Paris in September.  We expressed delight, of course, as we would be back in the fall, but disappointment as we were looking forward to another visit to Rome soon.

 

Saturday afternoon we had planned to take a bus to downtown Rome and look for Bramanti’s Tempietto.  Klaus volunteered to drive us there.  He had grown up in Rome, had most of his primarily school education there, where he had also learned to drive.  He had served there after his tour in Saigon, so obviously knows Rome and speaks Italian as a native.  The trip up to the Tempietto was challenging in a heavy rain and, as we turned into the court yard the skies really opened up and we were deluged by a heavy fall of large hail.  We decided to give up on sightseeing that day and return to the house where Klaus’ wife, Angelica, offered welcomed refreshments.

 

Sunday Klaus drove us to Ostia Antica.  Under a grey sky and cold breeze we explored the ruins.  It was a fascinating look into the life and times of a commercial port town in early Christian Rome.  Then on to lunch across the road from the fishing port at the L’Orologia di Fiumicino, via della Torre Clementina, 114, 00054 Roma, tel. 066505251, closed Wednesdays.

 

It is a very small restaurant where Klaus is well known; all four tables were filled, one with a family of 12.  Colette and I had tagliatelli with a mix of mussels and langoutines in their shells, and the tagliatelli had bits of fish and shrimp. Klaus had a salad of     and       .  The first course was followed by a whole baked sea bass, accompanied by a light, chilled white wine.

 

However, on Monday, the day before our departure we took the city bus into town and we had a lovely morning permitting us to renew our acquaintances with the Piazza Novena, the Pantheon, and trudging up a hill, the Scuderie del Quirinale, the wonderful art gallery across the top of the hill from the offices of the president of Italy, to see an exhibition of some Velasquez, Benin, and others on loan from El Pardon, London, Paris and Budapest.  Occasionally as our needs we required, I tried what is left of my Italian on policemen or innocent passersby and, with one exception, a lady with a tiny baby, all had enough English to solve our problem.

 

After the Pantheon, tired, hungry, we crossed the Corso and into a little street that we hoped would lead to the Scedure di Quirinale.  A few steps, then to the right, and we nearly tripped over two neat little tables with chairs.  We went inside the little bar, the sandwiches looked good, as they always do in Rome.  We selected two different ones, the barman put them in a grill, and after we sat down, he brought them to us.  Delicious, with a bottle of water, followed by a black coffee, we then had to the courage to continue.  The little bar is Wine Café al Corson, Vicolo Sciarra, 60 -00186 (angele via del Corso).

 

Now back in Paris, not much warmer than Rome, and we are faced with the housekeeping problems left over from a nephew who lived in our pied a terre for the last school year.  He did not have many housekeeping skills.  The telephone answering machine had to be replaced, the telephone does not work quite right, so we make trips to renew batteries.

 

However, our pied a terre, actually a pied on the first floor, is comfortable.  Built about 1850 +/-, probably as lower-income rental properties, with dubious plumbing and a water pipe on the landing, it has charm.  The previous owner chopped out the plaster in the roof to divulge the beams, some of them badly eaten by what ever bugs eat beams nominally covered in plaster.  The kitchen ceiling is a disaster since a long, slow leak from the kitchen above it has left stains, hanging bits of plaster, and each morning finds bits of and pieces on the floor.  A year ago at the annual meeting of the condo association it was agreed and promised that repairs would be made by the association; it has not be done yet.

 

What we call our section of Paris is not what most of you know from your several trips here.  We live in a working class neighborhood in the third arrondisement.  Our zip code is Paris 75003.  Known as the marais, it is one of the oldest parts of Paris.  Our apartment is located on rue de la Notre Dame de Nazareth, abbreviated as rue de la ND de Nazareth.  Its great advantage is we are equal distance from three Metro (subway) stations, Place de la Republique, Temple, and Arts et Metier.  It is a 10-15 minute walk from here to the Picasso Museum, to the Beaubourg Museum, and five minutes more to my favorite Paris department store, the Bazar de l’Hotel de Ville, and then the Seine.

 

Our neighborhood is very mixed.  The shops on the Rue de ND de Nazareth are primarily wholesale dealers in leather work and sport fashions.  The shopkeepers are Algerian, Tunisian, and Jewish.  Halfway between our apartment and the rue du Temple is one of the larger synagogues of Paris.   We have only one bistro, on the corner of our street and rue Volta, two doors to the left.  Happily for us, it is open only during the week from 8 AM to 6 PM so while it is busy during the day, evenings and weekends it is quiet.

 

On the corner of rue Volta and Rue de Vertbois is a restaurant, Le Clos de Vertbois, of which we have heard very good reports.  On the other side of the street is an Argentinean steakhouse that has good business, and to its right is Ami Louis, one of the more expensive restaurants of Paris.  When we are here and Chirac brings his friend Bill Clinton there to dinner, our neighborhood is sealed off from the outside world.

 

Of our neighbors, the most important of which is, of course, the boulanger.  Originally Tunisian, like so many of our neighbors, he has fresh bread four or five times a day, baguettes are the first in demand.  He also has some patisserie, and now soft, cold drinks.  For the occasional urgent purchase of salad, potatoes, milk, even a bottle of wine the Tunisian to the left on rue Vertbois is always glad to see us and, after ceremonial greetings, is ready to help us. 

 

Our apartment is small, very small.  The kitchen has a window, an antique table in front of it, a small refrigerator sitting in a support so we do not have to get on our hands and knees to look for some important element of our dinner, and a wonderful stove.  The stove has three gas burners, one electric burner, an oven with an electric, still unused rotisserie and, wonder of wonders, in the very bottom a very efficient little dish washer.  There is no room for a laundry machine in the kitchen, much less a dryer.

 

Washing clothes and household linens in no problem for the coin-operated washing place is just around the corner off rue Volta.  Colette puts everything in little trolley (Thrift Shop, Chapel Hill) and she is there in about three minutes.  One load costs Euro 3.50, and the dryer Euro 1.50. When she returns she always has observations to share about the other customers.  Once there were about five large young men and women trying to put all their dirty clothes in an oversized washer.  They asked Colette’s advice in broken French; she assisted them and learned they were from Georgia, in Russia, not the U.S.

 

In a little room in the back of the coin-operated washing machines is a cubby hole where a woman operates a little sewing business.  Recently Colette was there when a young man arrived to have a pair of slacks shortened.  With little awareness that he was not alone, he took off one pair, pulled on the new ones, and the sewing lady pinned him up and asked Colette’s advice on the length.  The young man then pulled off the new pair, put on the others, and left.

 

We cannot tell you much about the restaurants of Paris.  Lunch, at home, is usually a sandwich made from half a baguette, split in half, with excellent mayonnaise that comes in a tube that has a little Dijon mustard mixed in, and a slice of ham.  Each trip we plan an evening out but we have yet to make it.  We would like to try Le Clos de Vertbois but it does not start serving until after 8 p.m.  But after an afternoon outside, at a museum, window shopping, household errands, we are ready to eat at our normal dinner time, 7 p.m.  Since we are on vacation Colette resists cooking in our very little kitchen so sometime during the day we make a stop at Monoprix or, preferably, Picard, to see what frozen dinner meets our imagination.

 

Picard is a chain of stores throughout France that sells only frozen foods including veggies, fish, meats, snacks, hors d’oeuvres, and meals.  Frankly there is nothing comparable to it in the US.  I wish I could send you a copy of its catalog (see Picard.fr).  At Monoprix, an all purpose chain found throughout France, the frozen food section contains meals prepared using recipes of well known chefs.  Once again the choice is enormous and decision making is difficult.

 

When we need anything for the apartment or if we shop for food, in addition to Monoprix, there are several alternatives.  The first choice is the rue de Bretagne; there are several excellent butchers, the Marché des Enfants-Rouges.fr, a hardware store (quinquillerie), boulangerie and pastisserie, a very refined wine store, and don’t forget florists and other miscellany plus, of course, bistros, and a famous restaurant specializing in Tunisian couscous.

 

But speaking of food, no trip to France is complete without a visit to one of the two famous shops on the Place de la Madeleine.  Our favorite used to be Fauchon that is now upscale complete with a doorman.  However, walk by it and tourists are usually looking through the windows at the prepared dishes beautifully presented.  Fauchon has gone upscale with a very large picture of a young lady stretched at roof level, a doorman at the curb but it has lost the clubby feeling that made it so welcoming.

 

We have abandoned Fachon in favor of Hediard (see Hediard.fr), on the other side of the Church of Madeleine, very old world atmosphere, and a wonderful choice of anything that may be important to you: Wines, coffees, spices, canned exotica and, upstairs, a restaurant..  Of course it also has a doorman to help you in and out of your chauffeured car.  We arrive by foot from the Metro.  The service is personal and patient.

 

Travel in Paris outside of rush hours is easy.  The Metro has been renovated and its cars are bright and comfortable.  The bus system is more sophisticated but I have finally learned to use it between certain points, but traffic is heavy so it sometimes takes twice as long as the Metro.

 

Two of the Metro lines are extraordinary.  Line No. 1 from La Defense to the Chateau de Vincennes, crosses Paris.  The cars have large windows, comfortable seats, and there is no division between cars so you can see the length of the train.  The newest line is from Madeleine to the new National Library and it is quite extraordinary.  Completely automated, the doors open and close without your assistance, and again there is no division between cars so you can see the full length.  The stations are cheerful, and that at the Botanic Gardens has great plants.

 

Friday, May 7th, I took the Metro to the Chateau de Vincennes with one change at Nation, and arrived at the Chateau de Vincennes in about 20 minutes.  When I returned I took the bus, also one ticket direct to the Place de la Republique, 45 minutes.  I was fortunate to have a seat for most of the trip the bus was very crowded.

 

The Metro and bus system tickets cost Euro 1 per ride.  On the Metro you can change trains (Correspondence) at no extra cost.  With the bus system there is no transfers.

 

One of my ongoing projects is documenting the life of a French artist by the name of Jean Launois (1898-1942).  His father was a cousin of Colette, and Colette inherited a number of his drawings and watercolors.  When I am in Paris I try to continue the pursuit of details, not very easy, as Launois’s life is not that well documented although his pictures are relatively well known.

 

I am now well adapt at using the libraries and archives of Paris.  I have permanent cards to several of them.  I start at the little library on the 4th floor of the Mairie of the Third Arrondissement, where we live.  It is, of course, a branch of the main Paris library and although very small has good basic reference works, a collection of murder mysteries mostly translated from the English and American, and shelves of French novels and classics.  To get a card there you need proof that you are a resident of Paris which is done by providing a gas or electric bill with your name on it, and identity card, in my case a passport.  The librarians there have been very helpful in obtaining books through interlibrary loan and, on two occasions I have crossed Paris to use materials in other branches.

 

The National Archives in Paris, the National Library (the Mitterrand Library), and the Archives and the Bibliotheque of the Armee de la Terre at the Chateau de Vincennes is not quite the same nut.  There you present yourself, you explain your purpose, you produce identity, and you are given a card.  The nest step is to meet with a research advisor to begin the research process.  At the National Archives the documents are computerized; when your document has been identified you are given a paper with its identification on it, and you proceed upstairs where you check in, leaving coats, briefcases in a locker, then you are given a desk, you turn in your paper with the research information on it, and you sit at your desk and wait.  It can take anything from half and hour to a day, but you can leave and return, check in and out.

 

At the National Archives the box I was handed turned out to be a collection of correspondence from the Director of the Museum of the Palace of Luxembourg, from almost the beginning of the20th C.  Here were the original documents itemizing the purchase of pictures by the museum, and letters from him about his work.

 

 

Letter from Paris No. 2

 

The difficulty of a short trip to any destination, known or unknown is meeting your expectations and those of friends and family.  In our case this problem is amplified by distance.  Colette’s nieces live, respectively, in the south (Montpelier) and the west (Brittany).  My friends are similarly dispersed.  Once back in Paris we made telephone calls to set up our different itineraries.

 

My friend Brigitte and her brother, Gilles, have retired to the center of France in a little, very little, village of Meaulne. Brigitte’s family had a garage business in Bangui, Central African Republic where I was at the embassy from 1967 – 1969.  Another friend of the same period is Jean-Francois, now a retired General of the French Medical Corps and he lives in Brittany.  We agreed to meet in Les Sables d’Olonne, a fishing port, resort area, and a center for international sailing races.  The purpose of meeting there was to see and exhibit of drawings and paintings by my artist, Jean Launois.  To add to the complications, the niece of Jean Launois, Brigitte Launois Demay was to meet me at the exhibit where I would say goodbye to my other friends and leave with Brigitte Launois Demay for a two day visit with her at her home in Longeves, near Niort.

 

Friday, April 30, 2002

 

As part of our preparations for our trips, Colette to the south of France, me to the center of France, we prepared sandwiches, half a baguette with ham and mache for green.

 

I walked with Colette to the bus stop on rue du Temple where she took the No. 20 to the Gare de Lyon.  I returned home, had a cup of instant coffee, then closed the apartment and walked up to the Place de La Republique to take the Metro to the Gare de l’Austerlitz.  Just before the Seine the Metro surfaces and takes to the air past the new and awful Ministry of Finance building, across a bridge, to one of the few above ground metro stations. Pulling my little suitcase on wheels behind me I descended to ground level, followed the signs and entered the Gare d’Austerlitz, one of the least preposing of the railroad stations in Paris, now undergoing massive rehabilitation to brighten it up.  Austerlitz is smaller than most of the stations of Paris.  But it does not offer the variety of the others where there are shops, café/bars, ample seating areas and that make waiting for a train in Paris pleasant. 

 

My train to St. Amand Montrond was an old one, not a TGV (train de grand vitesse).  The trip was pleasant, and the French country side was in contrasting colors of green, gold and brown.  The green, newly sprouting fields of wheat, corn, or turnips (I guess!); the gold of the ripen rape awaiting harvest; and the brown the tilled, but not yet planted fields. 

 

I enjoyed my sandwich as we sped toward our destination, Bourges.  Coffee was sold from a cart; at Bourges the train was broken up and the part of the train in which I was a passenger tacked onto another electric engine destined for Montlucon.  French trains travel at high speeds, even the old ones, but stop only for two minutes to embark and disembark passengers.  I stepped down from the train, turn to give a hand to a spry lady even older than I am, and turned to find Brigitte and Gilles waiting for me, with Jeep, their West Highland Terrier.

 

From the time I first became acquainted with Brigitte and Gilles, their parents and cousins in Bangui, they were and continue to be the most avid approvers of all things Americans imaginable.  Especially automobiles.  In Bangui their company represented International Harvester.  They had a Buick in France for their vacation and until recently Brigitte had a Dodge Tourister modified to burn liquid petroleum, the same as we use for our bbq’s as well as the usual gas, not that unusual in France. Brigitte assures me we do this in the US but I have never seen it.  Before retiring they had a Volvo marine engine agency in the south of France; as part of their retirement they sacrificed the Dodge for a new diesel Volvo station wagon. 

 

Their very pleasant three bedroom cottage would bed welcomed anywhere in the US particularly with its French doors from the two bedrooms, dining room and living room that face the little patio, and overlook a field.

 

Nearby is the home of Alain Fournier who wrote Le grand Meaulnes, a heavily romantic novel set in the years before WWI.  Alain Fournier died in action but his novel lives on.

 

The next three days included visits to the Abbaye de Noirlac, the Chateau of Meillant, George (without an s) Sand’s home, the Chateau de Nohant, the exterior of the Chateau of St. Armand Montrond, and last but not least the wonderful Palace of Jacques Coeur in Bourges.

 

Lets talk food for a moment.  All French women and French men are not wonderful cooks.  I’ve known some who could boil water but burn it.  Brigitte is an exceptionally good cook and her moules frites were wonderful.  Moules are, of course, mussels, cooked rapidly.  She cooks them twice, the first time to drain the salt water from them, which she saves; the second time with butter, white wine, then adds the water from the first cooking and a little cream, and it is wonderful.  Her French fries (produced by an American company in France, frozen: you cannot find the equivalent in the US) are excellent; she does them in an Italian deep-fat fryer and it does the work and does it well.  A second meal was wild salmon cooked in “pappiote.”  I’ll call and get the details.  It was very well done, the salmon succulent, not too fishy, and the little shrimp added color and taste contrast.

 

Tuesday morning we were up early, had a typical French breakfast of coffee, bread and butter (croissants are for the occasional Sunday extravagance), and were in the car and on our way by 6:45 AM.  The weather was not beautiful, cloudy, drippy, but it did not distract from the scenery.  We were driving west toward the Atlantic through the Bourbon country of France and the chateaux and forts are still visible at close hand, as are Roman period churches.  So much to see and not time to!

 

By 11:00 AM we were lost in darkest downtown Les Sables d’Olonne, but we did eventually find Jean-Francois, his miniature black poodle sitting at his side.  Jean-Francois had a cap, a shirt open at the neck and sleeves rolled up to his elbows.  He did not look the part of a distinguished, retired, medical General of the French Army.  He said he was not cold, but Brigitte, Gilles and I were glad to have our waterproof jackets against the fresh and strong breeze, with some light rain.  I would have welcomed another layer. 

 

Jean-Francois was already checked into the two-star Hotel de Commerce, 8, rue Hoche, 95100 Les Sables d’Olonne, tel. 02 51 32 02 80.  Brigitte and Gilles check in and we were ready for lunch.  With some confusion, cars and dogs were sorted out, and we set out for the port for lunch. The choice of restaurants was difficult, there were many, but the Hotel  Restaurant du Port, 14, Quai Garnier, 95100 Les Sables d’Olonne, tel. 01 51 32 08 47, was a happy solutions. Brigitte had a platter of oysters, coquillages, (little shell fish, three different types), and langoustines.  What she did not finish, we did.  Gilles and I had oysters, followed by tagliatelli with shellfish and langoustines, and Jean-François had a very large serving of oysters followed by stuffed ray. Les Sables d’Olonne is a fishing port, a summer resort, and a year around sailing port for the serious.

 

After lunch back into the car to drive to Le Musee de l’Abbaye de la Sainte-Croix where an exhibit of Jean Launois’ water colors of his Algeria period were hung; there were also cases with interesting familyj documentation. 

 

As planned, our cousin Brigitte Launois Demay met me there as scheduled, and after introductions, mutual interests were notified and the next half hour was a discussion of life in Algeria in 1942 where Brigitte’s mother and her four children spent the war years.  Jean –Francois was there as a young intern.

 

 

Brigitte and I said our goodbyes and left to drive to her home an hour away from the coast.  After a family party the next day, Brigitte drove me to Niort where I took the TGV back to Paris.

 

Saturday, May 8, 2004, Buy new umbrella, E 7.5, Musee National Medieval de Cluny, tapisserie, La dame a l’icorne, lunch at Pizza la Sirena, 73, boulevard Saint-Germain, 75005 Paris, Pizza au feu de bois, tagliatelli avec langoustines, mussels, very good.  Driving rain.  We replaced umbrellas!  Dinner with Jean Curtil, Sarkosy, taxi home in the rain.

 

Monday, May 10, 2004

 

9 PM, home from the library of the Armee de la Terre, the Chateau de Vincennes, where my research into the French Army on the Italian Front during WW I went ahead, but inconclusively.  The purpose of my research is to try to find first hand accounts of the battles the French Army units fought in Italy.  I have found some pictures in old L’Illustration, but nothing first hand for the period when my artist, Jean Launois, was serving in Italy.  His experiences were so dreadful that he said he did not want to talk about them.  The only descriptive material on the horror of this particular part of the WW I is in Earnest Hemingway’s Farewell to Arms, and the defeat of the Italian Army and its retreat across the Piavo almost a six-months earlier.. 

 

By the wonderful, open, bright Metro line Chateau de Vincennes to La Defense that crosses Paris, 20 minutes later I got off at the half way mark, the Hotel de Ville.  The purpose of the trip was to visit the Bazar of the Hotel de Ville, my favorite department store in Paris to shop for a non-battery powered telephone.  This accomplished, I started the walk home, up the Rue du Temple, left on Blvd. Reamur, Right on to Rue Volta (Italian Physician who developed the battery  the sign under the street name reads, in French of course), and soon I was tapping the code on the magnetic pad that has replaced the concierge to unlock the doors of our building into the court yard.

 

A glass of wine (biological,) while I prepared dinner and had a telephone call from Louise, our daughter in Raleigh, to assure me they were well, as were our respective dogs.  I spoke briefly to Ian, our son in New York City, who gave us news of his wife, Eva, also an architect, and Javier, his father-in-law, who was visiting from Rome. 

 

Watching the news French Channel 2 (our TV 5 at home in Chapel Hill) was depressing as more details were unfolded about the Iraq mess, and as I listened loud music interrupted the news broadcasted.  I opened the windows to peer out and saw a happy man with a paper cup walking back and forth across the street, looking up and waving and, behind him two musicians.  The first a trumpeter, the second playing what looked like a small French horn and pulling behind him a battery powered tap player.  I could recognize the music from the trumpeter and the horn player, but not the portable orchestra.  Only in Paris!

 

Wednesday, May 12, 2004, Achives, Chateau de Vincennes, cold, cloudy day.  After usual wait my two boxes were available, and neither produced anything of real interest about the Italian campagn.  Home, sandwich, the sun came out and for the firswt time a beautiful day.

 

After lunch and nap metro to the Trocadero and then a leisurely walk down, across the bridge to the Eiffel Tower, many tourists, seemingly as many French as foreign.  The wlk along the Seine was pleasant, cross the pedestrian bridge, taking pictures as I go.  At the Place Alma Marceau what appears to be a gold ball with wird spikes on top of pyramid draws my  attention.  I cross to the pedestrian island then take a picture, before crossing to the base of the pyramid to read the inscription.  It is replica of the flame of liberty held by the Statue in New York with an inscription of gratitude to France.  I bed George W. Bush has never seen it.

 

Thursday, May 13, 2004  Another cloudy day.  Buy and read Le Mond and The NY Heral Tribune, each more depressing than the other.  The news from Washington and Iraq. 

 

Na

 

Hotel le Relais du Marais, 76, rue de Turbigo, 750034 Paris, anyl.pirba@wanadoo.fr

Musee Marmottan Monet, 7, rue Louis Boilly, 75016, Paris, tel. 01 42 24 07 02

La pierre du Marais, 96, rue de Archives, 75003 Paris, tel. 01 42 77 25 02

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Farmers' Markets in Chapel Hill & Carrboro  We have two that I try to visit.  The Farmers' Market in Carrboro is great fun, parking is in short supply, but aside from that you can find many things except live farm birds and animals, thus this is no place to look for a pet chicken, duck or turkey nor a babygoat, sheep or even kittens or puppies.  However, I am sure if you mentioned that you were in the market for a pet of almost any description someone would volunteer quickly.  There are plants - flowers, herbs, trees, a wonderful assortment of fresh and home-grown vegetables.  There is a variety of farm-raised meats, chicken, lamb and beef and a variety of cuts. There is art work, and handiwork including hand-woven textiles, even outdoor furniture - beautifully made Adirondack chairs.  Another vendor offers items made from cedar  and bags of cedar chips.  It is open Saturday mornings from 8 a.m. through early afternoon and, I think, on Wednesday afternoons.

There is also a Saturday morning market in the parking lot of University Mall.  It is less sophisticated, the range of choices is smaller, but it is pleasant as well.

June 6, 2012  We sold the apartment in Paris and moved what we could back to Chapel Hill, NC.  Unhappily, it will be some months before we return so now my attention is on Chapel Hill and real estate. 

Our daughter with her two little boys (6 & 4) have moved into the same condominium complex where we live, so we see her a little bit more.  I walk her dog, a non-barking Jack Russell.   I had become used to its charms, and now I am looking at Chapel Hill with different eyes as Louise renews her acquaintance with this charming little town (not really so little) where she finished high school and college.

Our condo complex has a swimming pool so she and the two boys spend an hour or two there every time they can.  In Raleigh they did not have access to a swimming pool except at the Y and it was less relaxed.  The public library here is a delight.  Temporarily it is in the University Mall, with lots of parking, and just minutes from where we  live, so they visit it weekly, a good habit for little children, and the children's section there is wonderful.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

35, rue de Notre Dame de Nazareth, 75003 Paris

Interior of our apartment.
Entering the apartment you see the windows overlooking the street, and the hand-hewn beams.  A part of Colette's collection of 19th C pottery is on the walls.


Looking from the interior of the exterior wall toward the dining area with the
built in desk and closet.  The appraiser and other knowledgeable people put the date of construction about 1715.  The beams were obviously cut by ax not a circular saw, and the plumbing was added much later.  This is evidenced by the fact that the bthtub and toilet sit about 6" above the floor to provide for the plumbing! At some point before plumbing was added to the interior of the apartment, the building was plumbed and fawcets added to each landing.
The kichen in very serviceable.  The Rosiere stove is really nifty.  Three gas eyes, one electric eye for slow cooking, an oven with built in rotisserie, which we never used, and the bottom drawer is a very efficient dishwasher.

Colette found someone to build a cupboard on which to put the refrigerator wo we do not have to get on our hands and knees to put things in/take out.








Friday, November 18, 2011

Thanksgiving in Bangui, Central African Republic (CAR)

       Thanksgiving in Bangui, Central African Republic (CAR)

Colette and I were married in September and by October we were well established in our little house on the edge of the great Ubangui River and very much a part of the local civil and diplomatic party scene.  Colette’s English teacher, Tim Browne, and his wife, Carole, had become good friends and they would frequently join us, and other friends, for barbecues on the front lawn.  Other good friends included the Jacques and Augé and their two teen-aged sons.  Brigitte Renault would arrive via the river in her inboard motor boat, the fastest on the river!

As was/is the custom in French speaking Africa, soon after our arrival we had given our own party to introduce Colette and it had been a success.  More than 40 friends and acquaintances invited, my secretary at the US AID office in the Embassy engulfed in telephone calls of people who thought they should have been invited, many of whom I had never heard of.  The crowd was such that arrival times had to be budgeted by the quarter hour so everyone would not arrive at once. 

Now a year later and in anticipation of Thanksgiving and Christmas Holidays, in September the Embassy had put a group order for frozen turkeys and other goodies from Denmark, so the menu was already established.  Over sunset drinks on the terrace overlooking the river with the Browns and the Augés the subject of Tfhanksgiving – a high profile American feast, came up and we planned a simple dinner.    The issue of additional guests was discussed and we agreed to keep the group small, say 12 persons.  The goal had been set, and the execution was the next step.

A week or two later Tim dropped by and said with excitement that they had written friends in England about the Thanksgiving project and said friends, an airline pilot and his wife, replied they would fly to Bangui for the occasion.  Another French friend heard about the project invited himself and his wife, and said parents would come down from France for the occasion.  The guest list became longer.

The turkey was at least 20 pounds so we were safe.  The great day approached. I would cook the turkey, and the Browns and Augers would prepare other dishes.

On the equator the daily weather is fairly predictable.  The big rains come in April-May, and a shorter rainey season in September-October.  The hot weather without rain is more or less from Ocgtober until the spring rains begin.  December and January are splendid!  So we had no concern about planning an outdoor activity.  Chairs and tables were borrowed from the Embassy.  Now we had to cook the dinner. 

I had decided to do a corn-bread stuffing, so my battered copy of The Joy of Cooking was brought out. Jacques Augé said he would help and the late evening before the schedule feast we set to make corn bread stuffing following the recipe from Ms. Rombauer in The Joy of Cooking.  The guest list now numbered more than 20 persons, so we set up an assembly line for measuring, mixing, and baking.  I

By midnight we were done, Jacques went home, and I set the alarm for 4 AM and went to bed.  Too soon the larm went off and I went to the kitchen and lit the oven, stuffed the turkey, and popped it into the oven and returned to bed.  Our cook  and houseman would come in by 7 and would take over the responsibilities of watching the turkey, setting up the tables and chairs and preparing for the onslaught of guests.

By 12 noon the guests had started to arrive, men in shorts and flipflops, the women in a wide variety of costumes from the African version of the Hawaiian mou-mous (?) to skirts and shorts.  Dorothy Parker put it neatly that candy is fine but liquor is quicker.  There was a wide variety of thirst quenchers – guests brought Champagne, white or red wine, and of course there were G&T’s. 

Beside the turkey the highlight of the afternoon was reading aloud and passing around copies

of

Buchwald’s A la Recherche du Temps Perdue


By Art Buchwald
Thursday, November 28 1996; Page B01
The Washington Post



[ In 1953, during my tour of duty with the French Foreign Legion in the Sahara, my tough sergeant from Marseilles said to me, "Why do all the American recruits refuse to eat anything but turkey on this day?"
I told him I was sorry but my lips were sealed. He then poured honey on my head so the ants would get me. That's when I broke down and talked.]
One of the most important holidays is Thanksgiving Day, known in France as le Jour de Merci Donnant.
Le Jour de Merci Donnant was first started by a group of pilgrims (Pelerins) who fled from l'Angleterre before the McCarran Act to found a colony in the New World (le Nouveau Monde), where they could shoot Indians (les Peaux-Rouges) and eat turkey (dinde) to their hearts' content.

They landed at a place called Plymouth (now a famous voiture Americaine) in a wooden sailing ship named the Mayflower, or Fleur de Mai, in 1620. But while the Pelerins were killing the dindes, the Peaux-Rouges were killing the Pelerins, and there were several hard winters ahead for both of them. The only way the Peaux-Rouges helped the Pelerins was when they taught them how to grow corn (mais). They did this because they liked corn with their Pelerins.
In 1623, after another harsh year, the Pelerins' crops were so good they decided to have a celebration and because more mais was raised by the Pelerins than Pelerins were killed by the Peaux-Rouges.
Every year on le Jour de Merci Donnant, parents tell their children an amusing story about the first celebration.

It concerns a brave capitaine named Miles Standish (known in France as Kilometres Deboutish) and a shy young lieutenant named Jean Alden. Both of them were in love with a flower of Plymouth called Priscilla Mullens (no translation). The vieux capitaine said to the jeune lieutenant:
"Go to the damsel Priscilla (Allez tres vite chez Priscilla), the loveliest maiden of Plymouth (la plus jolie demoiselle de Plymouth). Say that a blunt old captain, a man not of words but of action (un vieux Fanfan la Tulipe), offers his hand and his heart -- the hand and heart of a soldier. Not in these words, you understand, but this, in short, is my meaning.
"I am a maker of war (Je suis un fabricant de la guerre) and not a maker of phrases.
Although Jean was fit to be tied (convenable à être emballé), friendship prevailed over love and went to his duty. But instead of using elegant language, he blurted out his mission. Priscilla was muted with amazement and sorrow (rendue muette par l'etonnement et la tristesse).

At length she exclaimed, breaking the ominous silence, "If the great captain of Plymouth is so very eager to wed me, why does he not come himself and take the trouble to woo me?" ("Ou est-il, le vieux Kilometres? Pourquoi ne vient-il pas aupres de moi pour tenter sa chance?")

Jean said that Kilometres Deboutish was very busy and didn't have time for such things. He staggered on, telling her what a wonderful husband Kilometres would make. Finally, Priscilla arched her eyebrows and said in a tremulous voice, "Why don't you speak for yourself, Jean?" ("Chacun à son gout.")
And so, on the fourth Thursday in November, American families sit down at a large table brimming with tasty dishes, and for the only time during the year eat better than the French do.

No one can deny that le Jour de Merci Donnant is a grand fête, and no matter how well fed American families are, they never forget to give thanks to Kilometres Deboutish, who made this great day possible.

(C) 1996, Los Angeles Times Syndicate . Copyright 1996 The Washington Post Company

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Marriage in Paris


Marriage in France consist of one or two ceremonies.  In any case there has to be a civil ceremny.  The civil ceremony now is referred to as the Pacte civil de Solidarite or Pac.   Originally the civil ceremony was intended only for heterosexual marriages.  The PAC now includes same sex marriages and provides for most contingencies included in marriage vows concerning property and divorce.  As a result many young, and not so young, people on both side of the sexual fence prefer the one step PAC and forget the religious ceremony.

In any case for a marriage to be recognized by the government there must be a civil ceremony.  If you want a religious one as well, that is your choice.  As the PAC simplifies the ins-and-outs of marriage, it has become a popular alternative.
 
I do not have wifi in the apartment and because the town hall does and the town hall for the 3rd district (arrondissement) is open Saturday mornings, I come in with my backpack with my laptop to one of the desks in the east or west wing to check my mail and read the papers.  Before I pack up to leave I hear the crowd noises of guests coming to the town hall to watch a friend or friends get married that does not due justice to the red carpet on the elegant, late 19th C staircase to the first floor where the civil ceremonies are held.

Because the bride is wearing a traditional wedding gown, we assume that following the civil ceremony the couple and their friends will caravan to the church of their choice for for the religious ceremony followed usually by a formal and extensive luncheon with lots of liquid goodies.

So far I have only seen hetero marriages with the bride outfitted appropriately in a formal  white wedding gown. Here is a bride and groom in full marriage dress crossing the bridge behind Notre Dame de Paris.  We imagine they have made the trip from Japan to Paris for the occasion although for a non-resdent to marry in France it is a little complicated.

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