Five on Friday Eleven

  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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Five on Friday 8

It’s been a hot week here in France! Nothing makes you appreciate air conditionning quite like the lack of it. As I’m typing this, a cool breeze is coming through the window, and I’m very grateful.

Here are my francophile recommendations for the week:

  1. Anatomie d’une collection – The tiny Palais Galliera: musée de la mode always has interesting temporary exhibits. This time they plundered their archives for examples of high and low fashion from the 18th century to today. I saw a suit that belonged to Louis XVII, the child of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI who died in captivity and Napoleon’s vest.From more modern times, there were a number of pillbox hats and trim suits belonging to Audrey Hepburn. My biggest criticism of this museum is that they rarely translate the information into other languages; it’s fine for me, but I’m sure many people would get more from the exhibits if they could read about what they were seeing.
  2. Marguerite (2015) – In this humorous and touching film, Catherine Frot stars as a wealthy socialite who cannot sing, yet who insists on giving concerts that her friends are compelled to attend. It won a pile of awards in France last year and it’s available on Amazon. It sounds a lot like the plot of Florence Foster Jenkins, with Meryl Streep, but France did it first!
  3. Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes, by Elizabeth Bard – Again, this week’s book recommendation is more of a beach read than serious literature. It’s a memoir about Bard’s decision to move to Paris to be with the love of her life. Bard gives an honest account of what she had to give up, adjust to, and ultimately embrace in order to make peace with living in Paris. Food played a starring role in her new life, to which the recipes in this book attest.
  4. @tresorparisien – The Instagram account of Aisling Greally features great pictures from all across France. Definitely worth checking out.
  5. Georgette – This super little Parisian restaurant is on the same street where I work (44 rue d’Assas). The food is made on the premises with fresh ingredients, not just microwaved, and the difference shows in every bite.

Bon week-end!

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IMG_4254When I was in Deauville, I thoroughly enjoyed a long walk on the beach. Amid all the beautiful homes and hotels, one massive structure really stood out. It was much more like a château than a summer home – there was even a flying buttress on one side – but it was abandoned and in very rough shape. Some windows were boarded up, some were empty of glass, and some still had elaborate curtains hanging in the window.

imageWhen I got back to my hotel, I searched for the history of the house online.  I found that the house was known originally by two different names, La Tour Carrée, after its bulky, square tower, and Villa Mors, after the family who had lived there. It was actually outside of Deauville (there are no town lines on a beach) and in Tourgeville-les-Sablons. The Mors brothers were early pioneers in the automobile industry. Together, they constructed this grand home in 1905. André Citroën became chairman of the company in 1908 but shut it down entirely in 1925. The Mors factory produced Citroën cars thereafter. While Citroën has remained a household name, not much remains of the Mors company except this empty hulk on the side of the sea.

imageDélabré (day-lab-ray) means dilapidated, and it certainly fits this once grand house. I had a fantasy that the New England boarding school I work at could buy Villa Mors and transform it into our French campus. We could even stay in shape after crêpe binges by running along the beach. Maybe we could crowd-fund my brilliant idea? All donations gratefully received.

imageRick Steves Normandy 

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Five on Friday 7


This morning, the news from Nice was profoundly sad. Here, in Paris, the sun is shining brightly and it’s a simply beautiful day. It’s hard to imagine that France has once again been the victim of senseless violence. I hope that all your loved ones are safe today.

Here are my francophile recommendations for this week:

  1. L’Atelier en plein air – Les Impressionnistes en Normandie – Having just visited Normandy, I particularly enjoyed this exhibit at the always stunning musée Jacquemart André. I really loved a painting of the cliffs of Dieppe by Spanish Impressionist Eva Gonzales. Her work had a pastel-like effect, very diferent from her contemporaries. I had brunch in the tea room for the first time, instead of lunch, and it was just lovely – a real treat. The exhibit is open until July 25.
  2. Les émotifs anonymes (Romantics Anonymous) – This fluffy, romantic comedy stars Benoît Poelvoorde and Isabel Carré as two highly sensitive, highly awkward chocolate experts who fall in love. It’s charming and lighthearted and available on Netflix (at least in the US and France).
  3. The Paris Key, by Juliet Blackwell – OK, this is NOT “literature;” it’s a beach read, but it’s a beach read that is set in Paris, particularly the Marais. It’s part romance, part mystery, part history, and part travelogue. (That’s a lot of parts.) Most of the commentary about Paris is accurate, so it’s possible to learn a thing or two as you toast yourself in the sun (slathered in sunscreen, I hope).
  4. @fallingoffbicycles – This Instagram account features beautiful pictures of France, often featuring bicycles. The photographer, Julia, and I like the same sorts of vignettes, so there is always plenty of visual inspiration.
  5. Saint James – I just got my first Saint James marinière during les soldes, or the twice-a-year sales. (Yes, I already have a great many striped tops, but each one speaks to me in its own way.) The fabric is light and breathable, provides sun protection, and dries in a flash. I also look really, really French! Their products aren’t cheap; even on sale, my top was 70 Euros, or 78 USD, but the made-in-France quality is excellent and I think I’ll be wearing this bleu, blanc, rouge top for years.

Until next week, au revoir.


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