Five on Friday 13

  1. HODLER MONET MUNCH The musée Marmottan Monet, on the western edge of Paris, in the calm 16th arrondissement, has two major special exhibitions a year. This year, the fall and winter show, which runs from September 15 to January 22, 2017, concerns three very different artists Ferdinand Hodler, Claude Monet, and Edvard Munch. The proposition is that these three were essential to three major European art movements: impressionism, post-impressionism, and symbolism. Also, all three tackled subject matter that was considered almost impossible to render with paint and canvas such as snow, the movement of light on water, or grasses growing beneath the surface of water. As Monet said, “C’est admirable à voir, mais c’est à rendre fou de vouloir faire ça,” which means “It’s wonderful to look at, but to try to paint it is enough to make one insane.”

  2. Madame Bovary – The first book I ever read in French in university was Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert. It’s a great classic of French literature, and after I read it, I felt … annoyed. What was her problem? She was so selfish and I had absolutely no empathy for her. This 2015 English-language film, starring Mia Wasikowska, is not flawless, but it helped me understand Emma Bovary’s feelings of claustrophobia in her small town existence. It’s available on Netflix and Amazon.
  3. Death in the City of Light: The Serial Killer of Nazi-Occupied Paris, by David King – This is an absolutely amazing true-crime story that I had never heard of before. Dr. Marcel Petiot was a physician and antiques dealer by day and a serial killer by night. Although he was ultimately convicted of 26 grisly murders, he may have committed a hundred more. I don’t want to give away too much by telling you what he claimed as a motivation and what his actual reasons for killing appeared to be, but it’s quite the tale. I think that King went down a few too many rabbit holes in trying to tell this sprawling story, but overall this was a very interesting read.
  4. @french_manoir – This Instagram account features the restoration of Le Petit Château in the Loire region if France. If you want to make your internet feed look just as beautiful, you can even rent the château for your own family to enjoy.
  5. Clarins Rouge Éclat lipstick – I wanted a red lipstick that wouldn’t be too bold and garish. I like Clarins skin care, so I tried several of their lipsticks to see if I would be similarly smitten. I really liked color 20, Red Fuchsia, but I like the formula so much that I would definitely consider other shades. Not only is the color beautiful and long-lasting, it’s also an age-defying treatment, featuring Clarins’ Nutri-Youth Complex to create fuller, younger-looking lips. Moisturizing AND longlasting? Ooh-là-là!

Bon wek-end!


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Être la bougie ou le miroir

imageRecently, my husband and I visited The Mount, Edith Wharton’s home in Lenox, Massachusetts. The author of books such as The House of Mirth, Age of Innocence, and Ethan Frome, and my favorite short story ever “Roman Fever,” built The Mount based on design principles she set forth in The Decoration of Houses. Wharton used the knowledge she gained as an insider in the highest New York social circles to write books that showed the weaknesses and failings of that society.

imageWharton and her husband lived in the house for just ten years. Their marriage was marred by their lack of suitability and her husband’s increasing mental health issues. Wharton left for France, where she continued to live until her death. She was very active in charities to ease the suffering caused by war, including work with refugees. She was allowed to travel to the front more than once to report on conditions there. She received the French Légion d’Honneur, a Pulitzer prize, and an honorary Doctorate from Yale University. She is buried in Versailles.

imageThe house and grounds are beautiful, but they’ve gone through some rough times. In 2002, the centenary of The Mount, they hosted a designer Show House. Although no furniture from Wharton’s time was currently in the house, there were many, many photographs and letters describing how things were. Designers were given enormous latitude, provided that what they did was in keeping with how things looked in 1902. The living room, dining room, library, Wharton’s suite of bedroom, boudoir, and bathroom are the most fully decorated spaces. Other rooms are used for educational displays about Wharton and her era.

imageIn the forty works that she wrote in her forty years as an author, Wharton had many a bon mot. One of her sayings has become rather well known: On peut répandre la lumière de deux façons : être la bougie, ou le miroir qui la reflète (ohn puh ray-pan-druh lah loom-e-air duh deuh fass-ohn: et-ruh lah boo-zhee, ooh luh meer-warh key lah ref-let), which means “There are two ways of spreading light:  be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” I think Wharton was a candle, illuminating the good, the bad, and the ugly of privileged New York society. If you get a chance to visit The Mount, I would heartily recommend it.


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Five on Friday 12

  1. Fantin-Latour. À fleur du peau – The charming little musée du Luxembourg-Sénat, often has excellent small exhibits. A new one, dedicated to artist Henri Fantin-Latour will open on September 14. Fantin-Latour is best known for luscious still-lives of flowers that are so realistic you’d like to pluck them, but he also painted portraits, including several warm pictures of his family painted at home. The exhibit is on until February 12, 2017.
  2. Hunt for the Wilderpeople – OK, this movie has 99.99% nothing to do with France; there is about a two second spot where the main character is reading The Little Prince. It is, however, the best movie I have seen in years, maybe forever. I saw it in the charming, old-fashioned Michigan Theater when I was visiting my daughter in Ann Arbor, which only addded to the experience. It’s the story of an “incorrigible” foster child and his foster father who take off to the wilds of New Zealand and become the subjects of an extensive manhunt. Comedy, drama, a great soundtrack, and breathtaking scenery – what’s not to love?
  3. The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, by Phaedra Patrick – This is my favorite of the books I have read so far this year. Arthur Pepper is a widower who finds a charm bracelet among his wife’s belongings. He doesn’t remember ever having seen this piece of jewelry and he starts a quest to trace the story behind each charm and how it connects to his wife’s life. One of the charms takes him to Paris. It’s a delightful read.
  4. The Simply Luxurious Life – Blogger, podcaster, and author Shannon Ables writes about a wide variety of lifestyle topics, often from a francophile point of view. Recently, she wrapped up her first French Week, which she promises will be an annual event; the link to all of those posts is above. Ables is the first to admit that she is more of an enthusiast of the French language than a French speaker, but she always strives to provide valuable content.
  5. Bio Beauté by Nuxe Tinted Repairing Lip Balm with Raspberry Pulp – I like tinted lip balms as I am so fair skinned that a little extra color is always welcome. I picked this one up in Paris, and I keep reaching for it in my purse. It has natural and organic ingredients and a light, sheer raspberry shade. It’s very moisturizing and not at all sticky. One drawback, however, is that it does not seem to be widely available outside of France, so you’ll need to wait for your next trip there to stock up. What a good excuse for a trip!

Bon week-end!

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Five on Friday 11

  1. Watteau’s Soldiers: Scenes of Military Life in Eighteenth-Century France Watteau is generally associated with paintings of picnicking aristocrats, but early in his career, he painted a series of military scenes. France was involved in the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-14). Watteau’s paintings don’t portray battle scenes, but rather quiet moments in camp. This exhibit at the Frick Collection in New York is the first to focus on this aspect of Watteau’s career, including one painting that has never been displayed in a museum. The exhibit is open until October 2, 2016.

  2. Pour une femme (For A Woman) – This 2013 movie is about memories and stories of two sisters after the death of their mother. There is intrigue about the post-war years in France, the black market, the Communist party, and family secrets. It’s available on Netflix or you can follow the link above to watch the full film on Amazon.
  3. The Paris Winter, by Imogen Robertson – I thought this was going to be “starving artist in Paris rubs shoulders with famous people” story, but it turned out to be so much more. A young English woman comes to Paris to study at a ladies-only Académie and finds herself having to chose between paint and food. She gets a too-good-to-be-true position as a lady’s companion but finds herself the victim of a con man’s machinations. It’s a story about diamonds, opium, attempted murder, and revenge. The backdrop is the great Paris flood of 1910, which is particularly interesting to read about after the dramatic flooding this spring. A thoroughly good read.
  4. Mode Personel(le) – French style author, Isabelle Thomas, has a blog about fashion and beauty sponsored by the newspaper L’Express. You can practice your vocabulary while you learn about the mysteries of la touche française.
  5. DiorShow Blackout Mascara – I feel totally naked without mascara. I picked up a new one at Duty Free in the airport and I am very pleased with it. DiorShow lengthens without clumping and stays put so I don’t end up with racoon smudges by the end of the day.

Bon week-end!

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Five on Friday 10

  1. The Spectacular Second Empire 1852-1870 – If I were still in Paris, I would totally go to this exhibit at the musée d’Orsay. The Second Empire marks the reign on Napoleon III, a time of wealth and ostentation, but also tremendous social unrest. It’s on from September 27 to January 16, 2017.

  2. The Little Prince Netflix movie – This isn’t Le Petit Prince that you may have read in high school French class; it’s a story within a story that presents an allegory of the meaninglessness of modern life and the rigors of growing up. Little Girl reminds me of many of my students. Her life is programmed so that she will be ready for an exclusive private school, unsubtly named Werth Academie. Her eccentric next-door neighbor is the Aviator (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry) who introduces her to the tales he has written about a little prince, a tame fox, and a beloved rose. While the message of the novella — that “it is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye” — is kept, the film is much more  about the passage to adulthood and leaving childhood dreams behind.
  3. Moonlight Over Paris, by Jennifer Robson – This is another beach-read recommendation (from someone who doesn’t lie on beaches). I downloaded it as an audiobook from my library to accompany my unusual ritual of spring cleaning in August. It’s an old-fashioned sort of love story that takes place between the two wars in France. Lady Helena Parr travels to France to recover from illness and a broken engagement. She takes art lessons and meets the luminaries of the day, such as Hemingway and Gertrude Stein. I learned a few things, such as the petit blue method of communicating via messages by pneumatic in the pre-telephone age.
  4. The Great Courses Plus – If you’re a fan of the audio and video programs of The Great Courses, you’ll love the App. For as little as $14.95 a month, you can access over 6,000 video lectures (there is a one-month free trial so you can check it out). For the francophiles out there, just type “France” into the search bar, and there are six relevant courses and fifty lectures to get you started.
  5. Kusmi tea – This recommendation comes with a disclaimer: I do not drink tea, but I’ve been surrounded by hard-core tea drinkers my whole life. A few months ago, I was given a box of Kusmi Anastasia tea and handed it off to my husband. When I asked him if there was something I could bring back from France for him, this was his one request. He says it is the best tea that he has ever tasted. For those who know tea, it’s a black tea with bergamot, lemon, lime, and orange.
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Five on Friday 9

I’m now home from Paris. The time always flies when I’m there! The last week of the Program was so busy that it wasn’t possible to post to the blog.

Here are my francophile recommendations for the week:

  1. Fashion Forward: 3 siècles de mode (1715 – 2016) – While I did enjoy the similarly-themed fashion exhibit at the Palais Galliera, this one was even better. The clothes were set up in vignettes along with decor items to complete the setting. Near the end, there was a grouping of wax models on a circular staircase, reminiscent of the famous Chanel boutique. In the next room, there was a series of oversized circular stairs with mannequins sporting looks from more recent decades. The juxtaposition of the two staircase displays was quite stunning. The exhibit will be on until August 14.
  2. Le Parc aux cerfs (50 rue Vavin, 75006) – I was my boss’s guest at this charming restaurant around the corner from where I work when he passed through Paris. Not only does he have great taste in employees but also in restaurants. The decor is charming (but you will be sitting very close to your co-diners!), including a delightful tiny courtyard where we ate. I had an appetizer and main course for about  35 Euros. The appetizer was simply delicous – a mélange of avocado and shrimp and for my main course I also selected a beautifully presented fish dish. I didn’t want to pull out my camera and take photos, so I went back on my last day in Paris for a light lunch of an appetizer and dessert. And it even has a beautiful orange cat named Marcel who freely roams, accepting love from all diners.
  3. Marseilles – Netflix commissioned this political thriller series, starring Gerard Depardieu, about an over-the-hill mayor and his ambitious young protegé turned political rival. Marseilles, France’s second largest city, is a perfect setting for a series about drugs, crime, and corruption since the news is regularly filled with stories that sound just like the plots. It’s not a flawless series, but it is an engaging way to work on listening comprehension skills, even though some of the words aren’t appropriate for polite conversations! A second season is in the works.
  4. Français Authentique – Frenchman Johan has applied what worked for him in his own language learning journey to help people master his native tongue. There are ample free resources or you can buy some of his content.
  5. Resultime by Collin – I went to CityPharma when I was in Paris for a new eye cream. I must have looked as tired as I felt because the consultant took one look at me and marched me over to the Resultime by Collin, Paris display. She tried to press about 400€ of products into my caddy, but I did go with the eye cream. The active ingredients are collagen for firming, hyaluronic acid for moisturizing, and caffeine for de-puffing. Since I started using it, I haven’t been attacked with products by any more beauty consultants. So there you go – scientific proof that it works.
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Les Étiquettes

imageAs I mentioned, I ate well when I was in Trouville a few weeks ago. One of the restaurants that I was glad to visit was Les Étiquettes (65 rue des Bains). This small restaurant specializes in tapas-like small plates of food. The menu, written on chalkboards, was full of fresh and original offerings. I had the salmon tartare with potato galettes. The name Les Étiquettes (layz et-e-kets) means “the labels.” I’m guessing that it refers to the labels on the wine bottles lining the walls like mini works of art. If you’re in Trouville, this is an address worth checking out.


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