Bienvenue à Marly-Gomont

F5FB7F7E-D1A5-4F65-ADBD-B1E0798FD91ASeveral years ago, a French friend introduced me to the song “Marly-Gomont,” by Kamini. I thought it was brilliant; the lyrics were clever and the beat was infectious. It’s been viewed over 11 million times on YouTube, so others must agree. In the song, Kamini talks about moving to a little village in Normandy where cows outnumbered humans 20:1 and his was the only Black family. Racism – overt and implicit – are the themes of the song. I often use it in class when doing a unit on immigration.

2BC93229-7E5D-4288-B5E8-F9EA9BCAA273Netflix recently recommended a French film to me with the English title The African Doctor . When I started watching it, however, I saw that the title was actually Bienvenue à Marly-Gomont and it was the story of how the family came to the village when Kamini was just a little boy.

E21ED3A1-912E-41E7-97E8-97AA5F25042FHis father, Seyolo Zantoko, a recently graduated doctor from the Congo, but who trained in France, agreed to be a physician in a tiny village that could not attract a new doctor. He hoped that he’d be able to bring over his family from the political unrest of the Congo and eventually be sponsored for French citizenship. Integration came slowly and put a strain on the whole family. I don’t think it’s a plot spoiler to tell you that all eventually works out well for the Zantoko family. The story is told with lots of humor along the way, even though the message is a serious one. I highly recommend this film to you. Have any of you seen it?

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De retour à San Francisco

We came back to San Francisco to visit our daughter in August and discovered even more reasons why this is a great city. Here are my new favorite things to explore in and around the city:

598DFC8D-5227-49CE-A950-6F0D4A3A42C5.jpegPerry’s restaurant (1944 Union Street) – This local institution has been around for fifty years, which is the restaurant equivalent of forever. We had a seat in the atrium room near the back, which was bright and quite quiet. I had a tortilla scramble which was really yummy.

392C7C59-8831-4234-A99C-AD26E5F1AC0FOctagon House (2645 Gough Street) – The Colonial Dames of America act as docents in this unusual historical house. It’s only open three days a month (second Sunday and second and fourth Thursdays), so our timing wasn’t so good on our last visits to San Francisco. They have a collection of Colonial and Federal era furniture and artifacts and the ladies are pleased to share their knowledge and enthusiasm with visitors.

14FDF1DB-1BE2-4A8D-A580-6B124C0BF708Muir Woods – This national monument is the home to giant redwoods, some of which are estimated to be 1000 years old. There are many hiking paths through a variety of terrains and the views are absolutely spectacular. You need to reserve ahead of time to get a parking spot.

D70CFF54-EBCA-4557-BA96-A417FC42F2F6Sausalito Houseboats – On our way to Muir Woods, we stopped at the colorful houseboats in Sausalito. I can recommend Fred’s Place (1917 Bridgeway) for classic and tasty breakfast or lunch options if you want to have a meal before going for your hike in the woods.

BA892063-A8E1-4F3B-BBD0-0D661F3FD7F7Stinson Beach – After our hike, we drove a few miles to the beach and just enjoyed a lovely walk along this wide, uncrowded beach.

367EFE92-E33A-47A8-AEC4-3F05B6893D33Japanese Tea Garden (75 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive) – This rather magical Japanese-style garden is located within the Golden Gate Park. Admission is free before 10am on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; otherwise, it’s $7.

CCF87897-7540-40BA-B79C-E97DF29191AFBritex Fabrics (117 Post Street, Union Square) – I just about went gaga over this two-story store filled with bolt after bolt of exceptional fabrics. Chanel suiting, dazzling silks, luscious velvets….oh my! If I were still sewing my own clothes, I would have staggered out beneath my load, especially since there was a half-price sale on remnants. I contented myself with fabric and ribbons to make sachets for all the lavender I brought back from Provence. I keep thinking about a particular silk so perhaps it’s good to know that I can shop online.

Our daughter is talking about moving back to the East coast, so this may be my last trip to San Francisco for quite a while. The City by the Bay is well worth losing your heart to! What are your favorite places here?

8D957536-92C8-40E4-A0D0-FD580AEE911C111 Places in San Francisco that You Must Not Miss

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Cézanne et moi

65A91C81-574A-4716-BEAE-7090E7F126D6 After having spent an idyllic time in Aix-en-Provence this summer, the film Cézanne et moi caught my eye on Netflix. The film is about the friendship between writer Émile Zola and painter Paul Cézanne. It’s hard to go too many steps in Aix without seeing a reference to one or both of them. Here is where they went to school; here is where one lived; here is where the other worked.

AFC9AC76-7342-448E-9CE1-AB6494A1067EThe film, by director Danièle Thompson, examines their relationship over many years, culminating in the rupture over Zola’s depiction of his friend in L’Oeuvre. One has the tendency to think of them both achieving fame and fortune at somewhat the same time, but Cézanne, the son of a banker, worked without recognition or financial reward for decades after Zola, an immigrant who grew up in poverty, had become a wealthy bourgeois. Quite the role reversal.

29375EBA-1EDB-4272-B07B-77D7E6C1F29FI don’t think it was a great film, but it gave a view of the friendships and rivalries of an incredible group, such as Manet, Monet, Maupassant, and Renoir, at the time of the Salon des Refusés and the birth of Impressionism. I also enjoyed seeing the streets and fountains of Aix incorporated into the film, as well as the singing of the cigales, or cicadas, that are the soundtrack of Provence. It’s in French and subtitled in English.


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La Mode (non)jetable

5BEACD39-A8D8-464F-8F26-D35C3AA573BCThis year, I discovered a new-to-me French clothing brand near Saint Sulpice church, Maison Standards. This home of chic basics has been around since 2013, but used to be only online. Now it has a handful of Parisian boutiques in addition to Internet sales.

01E2F4D7-8D81-4072-8092-56D3EA681414As it was during one of the twice-yearly official sales periods, when big discounts lure customers in, the first thing that I noticed about them is that there were no markdowns. The founder, Uriel Karsenti, keeps prices relatively low by eliminating middlemen. Because the look is totally timeless, there is no need to dump one season’s clothes to prepare for the next.

EEBA5CA9-1179-47CB-A3EB-5FD678E4EABCIf you also like well-cut classics in quality fabrics at fair prices, this is a brand to consider. And if you won’t be in Paris, their Internet business is alive and well, shipping men’s and women’s fashion to many parts of the world. The equivalent of “fast fashion” in French is la mode jetable (lah mowed shjet-ab-luh), literally “disposable fashion,” and that is the exact opposite of the Maison Standards esthetic. My only regret is that my closet is sufficiently well-stocked that I couldn’t justify picking up several pieces. I was on the hunt for a red dress, and they did have one contender, but the color was too tomatoey for me (a different dress from the one above), so I regretfully left empty handed. But I’ll be back.

14BF85C2-DC26-4FAF-BE74-A57BA7CCEAC2Parisian chic

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Jacques-Louis David

60DF4882-4323-4FC8-96A0-8BE07049DFB6French Neoclassical painter Jacques-Louis David was born on August 30, 1748. In both his art and his life, David displayed a tempestuous nature, possibly inherited from his father, who was killed in a duel in 1757. He trained under Vien, and his early paintings featured the same uncomfortable blend of Rococo sweetness and antique trappings as those of his master.

After winning the Prix de Rome, however, David spent an extended study period in Italy (1775-80), where his art acquired a new dignity and grandeur. With their fiery patriotism and stern morality, David’s paintings of the 1780s captured the rebellious mood of the times.  Indeed, his greatest painting, “The Death of the Horatii,” has often been seen as a visual call to arms. During the Revolution, David was swept up in politics, joining the National Convention, where he became associated with Robespierre and Marat, whose death he immortalized.

DD208EF4-ED6D-4185-A4F4-40E2F9199EC4After their fall, he was imprisoned and was only saved from the guillotine by his royalist wife. This experience did nothing  to quell the artist’s spirit, however, for he became equally involved with Napoleon. After the latter’s defeat, David fled to Brussels, where he remained in exile for the rest of his days. He died on December 29, 1825.

E6FECE0B-69A7-4A2B-9539-C939B8F53ED6Jacques-Louis David: Empire to Exile

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Le jardin français

61AFD91A-5D5A-4E32-BD4F-3852C2E7DC05Upon returning from France, I was pleased to turn to Monty Don’s French Gardens on Netflix to revisit my favorite country while recovering from jet lag. There are three hour-long episodes: Gardens of Power and Passion; The Gourmet Garden; and The Artistic Garden that were first broadcast on the BBC. The host is an earnest and affable Brit who speaks quite good French and clearly loves everything he sees and eats. Everyone – from nuns to Michelin starred chefs – responds to him in the same open-hearted way. He criss-crosses the country in a classic blue 2CV with a straw hat shielding his head from the French sun. He even goes to Aix, that I visited and loved in June. If you want to take a trip to the heart of France – no jet lag required – I think you’ll enjoy this show.

924B6DA9-8CEF-4F3E-BF09-45492D113483Private Gardens of Paris

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Dos à la mode

FEE1ECEE-1109-4741-8738-172FE52D36A0If you’ll be in Paris prior to November 17, 2019, I highly recommend that you visit the exhibit Backside / Dos à la mode at the musée Bourdelle. Located near the hulking and hideous Tour Montparnasse (oops, my bias is showing), this little museum was the atelier of sculptor Antoine Bourdelle. A few times in recent years, it has housed fashion exhibits in conjunction with the Palais Galliera, the museum dedicated just to fashion. I think this is the most successful collaboration to date, as the juxtaposition of couture items seen from the back alongside sculptures presented in the same way creates an interesting dialogue.

A8FABF47-464A-42F9-8E0A-9B3E0B3E0A6FAnd it isn’t just pretty dresses. Did you realize that, apart from a straitjacket, men’s clothes always open at the front, whereas women’s have frequently opened at the back? I never thought about how this one simple fact kept women dependant upon others to get dressed or undressed. We teach children early in their lives how to dress themselves, but women did not have this simple independence.

DF440E93-9FEB-47CF-B6CC-BB433B45900FThe back can also be used as a canvas to write messages, explicitly or implicitly. Remember the furor caused by the writing on the back of Melania Trump’s coat when she was on a humanitarian mission? A look-alike of that “just a coat” is in the exhibition. Some gowns demonstrated Puritanical modesty from the front while saving all the show for the back. From clothes that made news in recent years to a court train from the 18th century, this exhibit covers the whole gamut. Which of these gowns would you choose for yourself?

A4E2EC3B-28EF-4204-B8E5-068979FE45DFBackside / Dos à la mode

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