Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Fascinating French

Me surrounded by the work that I produced in the studio in the cottage in Dinan

 This will be my last posting about my trip to France (I think!). Below are some observations that I made resulting from my short time in France, with apologies to those of you who know much more than I and have spent much more time in France than I:

1. The French always say hello when you enter their establishments, whether a shop, a visitor's center or a restaurant and you must do the same. Bonjour.
2. The French always say goodbye when you leave their establishments, whether a shop, a visitor's center or a restaurant and you must do the same. Au Revoir. Merci!
3. Similar to numbers 1 and 2, the French always say hello when you are out walking. This is not true on the streets of Paris or in the towns, but is definitely true when you are out walking for exercise. Bonjour, bonjour, bonjour!
4. A close relative to numbers 1, 2 and 3 is that the French always apologize if they bump into you and they are sincere about it. Oh, Madame, pardon! Ironically, they do not make way for you on the sidewalk and I have come close to getting hit by cars numerous times. It's a bit like a game of chicken.
5. The French enjoy their food. There is no shoveling the food into the mouth. The food is savored and you must ask for your bill because you are not rushed away from your table.  L'addition, s'il vous plait.
6. The French don't worry about mosquitoes. I can only assume this because they do not have screens on their windows. I remembered the lack of screening from previous visits, but I had hoped that screens would have made it across the pond since I was last here. Sadly, they didn't and I fought mosquitoes and gnats while there. I got  bites as proof that I lost the battle.
7. Cigarette smoking is pervasive, but fortunately not indoors. This is a ruling that made it across the pond since my last visit.
8. The French love their dogs and the animals are very well-behaved. We were at a creperie when Sarah saw movement from the corner of her eye. To her surprise and my delight, a darling wire-haired dachschund was at the feet of her owner. Then to Sarah's delight and my surprise, we were introduced to her sister who was quietly napping under the table. Tres bon.
9. The French apparently don't spend a lot of time in their bathrooms, but they still look fabulous and often smell terrific. My theory about this is that they are enjoying their food and don't want to waste time in this other area. I was puzzled by the tub in the house since I arrived. I got fair warning from my friends who stayed in the cottage in the past, but nothing can prepare a person for the dreaded bathtub in the house. I got clean in record time. There was no possibility of lanquishing in that tub while folding one's body into a pretzel. That said, I could spend more time with crepes as a result.
10. Related to number 9, the French take their frangrances seriously. To illustrate this, everyone boarding the plane was handed a small vial of sample perfume. Only in France is it possible to have a sample of perfume handed to you before going through security at the airport!
11. The French care about art. To illustrate this point, while waiting in line at the Post Office, there was a video for our viewing pleasure discussing the compositional elements of a Cezanne still life! C'etait incroyable!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Adieu la France ... Je serai de retour!

My final day in Paris was spent walking for miles with an astounding amount of fatigue in my feet, and an overwhelming thrill in my mind. Paris is the perfect city for walking.

One of the interesting buildings along Rue de Rivoli
Rain was in the forecast so I was pleasantly surprised when I saw blue skies. I had wanted to go to the Musee d'art et d'Histoire du Judaisme, so I started my day there. This museum houses a broad collection of Jewish art and artifacts and discusses the history of Judaism in France and Europe at large. The plan was to then grab a bite to eat and walk around the Marais section of town.  The Marais section is the oldest area in the city, but my horrible sense of direction forced a change of plan.  I recognized my error, but enjoyed walking, perused the shop windows, went into a few stores, and enjoyed the architecture. Suddenly, I realized that I had walked all the way to the Louvre! By this time it was getting dark and chilly, but the energy of the city pulled me along. I realized how close I was to Champs Elysees and knew that I should take the opportunity to walk along that most famous of streets in Paris. I am so happy that I did! While in Dinan, I watched while workers installed holiday lights all over the city. This work was serious and took the entire month. Unfortunately, those lights were not to be turned on until December 3.  Not so in Paris, and the lights all along the Champs Elysses were magnificent. I was so mesmerized that I walked all the way to the Arche de Triomphe. By then, my feet were arguing with my head and I made my way back to the area of my hotel.
A small example of the lights on the Champs Elysees
The Arche du Triomphe... magnificent and gigantic!
I had considered grabbing a crepe for dinner and calling it a night as I had to rise early to make my flight. Instead, I decided I would try an Indian restaurant that I saw several days earlier. I was seated, already beginning my meal, when a single American man entered the restaurant. He inquired where I was from and we discovered that we were both from Virginia. We dined together, sharing with one another what had brought us to France. This was the perfect ending to my last terrific day in Paris.

Yesterday morning, I reluctantly said goodbye to France and the trip of a lifetime!