Saturday, April 4, 2015

" of chocolate eggs and cultural facades "

saturday, april 4

This is in France the Easter week end.  The French take their Easter sunday very seriously. Not so much for religious reasons, though churches in France are usually full on two dates,  December 24th for la Messe de Minuit which is midnight mass, and for Paques, which is Easter.

You can talk with any Frenchman and he will tell you " Ah je ne vais plus a l'Eglise"  which means " Ah I dont go to Church any more,"  but for Paques,  they will all tell you, " Ah c'est Paques, on y va."  which of course means " It's Easter, and I am going, (to church)" and they will all look at you, frowning, like this is so evident, how do you not get it.  So in effect, when you think of it,  all those beautiful churches have been built in the end for two days in the year.

Except of course, weddings, and baptisms.  And again they will look at you talking about the daughter of a friend,  and they will become totally horrified, saying " Comment, Aurelie ne se marrie pas a l'Eglise ?"   which literally means, " What ? Aurelie is not getting married in a church?"  like this is the worst thing they have ever heard.

It has definitely nothing to do with the fact they do not go to Church, do not read the Bible, probably might not believe in a Catholic God or any God, but God forbid that Aurelie would get married only at City Hall, and not in front of a regular priest too.

This is the French way,  so Easter is really an important date.  First you go to church, and there, attend any Easter Mass in any church in France, and you will see the local priest look very starry eyed at the congregation and say under his breath,  " Oh my, I have never seen my church so full, ever." Of course he says that under his breath in French so it sounds even better.

After the Church, you stop at the pastry shop and buy " un oeuf en chocolat"  which is only " a chocolate egg"  just like one of those :

And where you buy your chocolate egg is not anywhere, it has to be at the really, really good pastry shop or rather at a chocolatier, which is just a chocolate-maker. But the chocolatier  has this added under his name,
which only means : "epicurean stop."  The French take their epicurean stops very seriously.

Once you have bought your chocolate egg, you just walk home where you will have the Easter Lunch with the family, the uncles, the aunts, the grandpa and the granny. And everyone will eat the "agneau de Paques"  which is the Easter lamb roast. And during lunch, the grandpa will ask the grand-child "si il lit beaucoup" which only means if the grand-child still reads a lot, that is one of the vital questions the French ask their grand child.

And the grand-child says he does, and then the grandpa will stick his index finger up,  and will announce that his grand child must have lots of books because " une piece sans livre est comme un cops sans ame," which only simply means " a room without books is like a body without a soul" or just like in here :
and as you can see here, Cicero said that, so that is not something new.

This was written on a fence, in a street where a huge excavation was made to build a huge new development. As you can see, the French really like to put up smart fences. Anything for a cultural facade, just as that other one, where on the square where the Ritz Hotel is being remodeled, on Place Vendome, the column in the center, the Colonne [ column ] Vendome is also being redone, and they  also built up a cultural facade all around it as you can see below :
Nothing extravagant can faze the French.

Here on the door of a shop is a new opening being announced :
It says " PROCHAINEMENT, OUVERTURE du magasin de SORCIERES"  or simply put in rough english :  " SOON, OPENING of a store of WITCHES."

You probably will like the fact that the last word has been underlined three times.

And that, dear Reader,  is how the French enjoy cultural facades.

With all love,
The Frog

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

" where the french go vuitton "

tuesday, march 31st

In the mid 1850's  the glorious French people used to travel in style with trunks that had a round top, generally to offer water run-off,  as most probably the French would visit the British Islands where sunshine was provided in a hectic way.  So those looked like these :

Then a gentleman, named Louis Vuitton created a travel trunk with a flat top, so trunks could be stacked, and this provided the instant success to Mr. LV back in 1854.

In 1892,  poor Louis passed away,  and the reins were in the hands of his son George, who toured the United States in 1896, smart guy. So skipping some years, we have now the  Fondation Vuitton which  building was started in 2006, and opened late 2014.  So, our ever courageous Reporter decided to come close and see what it was like for the purpose of nourishing the ever increasing hunger of her readers.

Here is an AFP pic :

First the Reporter asked her friends what they thought of it and if they liked it.  They shared that they had many thoughts about it,  as in, that "  ca prend un espace... "   which only meant " takes lots of space" so it was pretty big,  and then "  Mais y a pas grand chose a l'interieur !"  which only meant " But there isn't much inside !" In other words you didn't have to secure a lot of hours to visit it.

Then they would say something like "  C'est assez interessant comme architecture."  which means simply " It's rather interesting architecturally speaking."  When the French say that, even though  it sounds a somewhat medium warm compliment,  you can bet it's going to be pretty good.  

And then you ask, sort of innocently,  well how did you like it overall, inside and out ?  Then they all said "  Ah aucune idee, je n'ai pas eu le temps d'y aller. Y a trop de monde."   which again, simply means, " ah no idea, I didn't have time yet to go. Too many people anyway. " And then they look at you like you really are tourist minded,  and why don't you go first.

So, you just swallow your breath,  and since you do not want to look like a simpleton sightseer, you branch on another subject.  Then, in a discreet way, you decide to reserve a ticket online.

So that was the way the courageous Reporter acted,  and there,  by an extraordinarily beautiful morning,  she found herself visiting La Fondation Vuitton.

 First, because she was meeting some friends for a small lunch,  she checked into the little restaurant,  Le Franck,  which looked pretty ok, with lots of fishes hanging up,
Then she got herself into one of the rooms with pretty cool yellow paintings,
Then she decided to venture into another smaller room dedicated to her hero, Giacometti,

Then, courageous as ever, she did go outside, and there she was treated to this pretty remarkable sight :
with which she in fact fell pretty in love, and to calm all that emotional elation, she got back in, and checked on that Thomas Schutte guy who had created this sculpture,
The Reporter was in fact duly impressed so to soothe the extraneous elation, she got out again, and there on top of it,  she visited what was a pretty protected (?) new palms potted area :
Not sure whether this was a random act of dazzling creation, or the overanxious work of the Chef Jardinier de la Fondation, simply put,  of ' the Foundation Head Gardener', the Reporter manifesting symptoms of the Brownian Motion, got inside again,  and there contemplated this sculpture :
The Reporter went close to the bench and would have enthusiastically picked up the two heads hat, but there was guard close by, and he said, softly, " Ne pas toucher"  which of course means, " Do not touch.'  Whisper those words, in french, and you will scare anyone, believe me. So pretty regretfully, we have to say, the Reporter didn't pick up the double head,  and walked onwards.

She then walked all the way down to check on the water spilling over a grand staircase, alongside mirrors where the egomaniac French can exercise their narcissism, 

So, after all those emotions, shared  by few other  visitors, 
the Reporter decided to leave the  Fondation, and then went to a Salon de The,   or what is simply called here a Tea Shop, and there meeting the only friend who had been in fact to the  Fondation,  they put their heads together, and debated whether it was really awesome, medium awesome, just a little awesome, or a perfect fail.  It was agreed, after a short debate, that it was a pretty cool thing, and that they both could agree to that statement,  since they were sort of not French, who know very little about the real world of the French.

The Reporter's friend asked her what was going to be her next move as a Reporter, and the Reporter said for the moment she had none, and her friend said with a horrified expression, " Well, you should always have a plan B ! "  The Reporter argued that she couldn't have a plan B,  since she didn't have yet a plan A, and her friend looked so troubled that the Reporter quietened her, and said in fact she  did have a plan B, and it looked like that :

And that is when her friend swooned in the middle of the Salon de The.

So till the next time, dear Reader, with plan A,

With all love, 
The Frog

Monday, March 23, 2015

" the chic and only way to bike "

monday, march 23rd

The French are very particular about the way they transport themselves from one place to another.

In other large cities around the planet,  people just hop into a cab, or walk down to the subway, or a catch a bus.

The French, and, you might think this only applies to Paris, but honestly the same goes for Lyon, or Bordeaux,  or Brives La Gaillarde which is like a less well known city in the middle of nowhere, or any other smaller town.

The French first make a very well thought decision on how they are going to get from A to B.

Honestly, they usually do not like the subway, that they consider ' un peu trop populaire" which is only " a little bit too populated"  like the next human being is not to be mixed with, in  too close a fashion.

The bus ranks slightly better, " mais c'est moins fiable " or " but it is less reliable."  Then there is, of course the new system :  UBER,  whose drivers, the French will tell you, " Ah ils sont toujours charmants"  or " Ah they are always charming"  which is something you have to take into account as the French are always charmants too,  due to possibly lack of good food, lack of good social coverage, lack of good new fiction books, lack of good movies,  lack of good weather, lack of good boulangerie, in a few words,  the multiple issues that the French have to daily endure.

But, apart from UBER, there is one thing that the french will beam about,  it is their bicyclette.  Nothing, they will explain to you can top  your list as the best way of transportation,  and it is when they can cycle themselves to B from A.

First it is easy to park,  you don't have to park in these forbidden places like a Parisian will usually do with his tiny Italian car :

So, as they explain to you, you can park anywhere but you will have to " l'attacher'  or " secure it to a post",  " parce qu'il n'y a plus de securite aujoud'hui " or " there's no safety anymore today."
So you need a safety device.  Then, the most important thing,  because when you get to B, you will probably buy some fresh eggs,  or a pair of shoes, so you need a "panier"  or a basket.

No worthy bikes will be seen without its basket securely attached,
in the front :

or in the back :
and then you have the queen of french bikes, which in fact is manufactured in the Nederland,
" le velo hollandais"  or " the Dutch bike"

This is the very best. As you can see, it is black, shiny,  basket in front, and then check the old fashioned leather saddle,  none of those comfortable plastic new composite, and then check the leather handles too, all in that nice tan leather color which reeks of distinction and elegance. 

And you can see the seat has been lifted to a really high point as well as the handle, you can bet this is the property of a tall lanky gentleman who will ride it with a soft wool  blue scarf around his neck,  grey flannel pants, blue blazer, and of course no helmet.  We will have none of these vulgar fake nylon outfits for cyclist champs.

So, once you have got yourself that Dutch bicycle with the basket, and the woolen scarf, you can now take yourself to B, which means, first the cheese store :

True, that store looks a little derelict, but this is The cheese store in Paris.  There are inside about 352 different cheeses,  and the salesperson there will look at you when you say something like I would like to buy this camembert, and she will look at you with big frowning eyes, and say " Ah non, pas celui-la ! " or ' Ah no, not that one !"   like you pointed at a disaster. And then, if she likes you, she will whisper that one will be done in four days, " mais pour l'instant c'est du platre !"  or " but for now it's plaster !"  

As of course, the saleslady and you have tasted plaster before in your life, and it is not that good. And you will walk away with a completely different cheese than the one you were firmly decided on.

Then you will stop at the locksmith because the key to your apartment has definitely some issue, so you stop at the Serrurerie,  and you know it is the right store since it has a huge key hanging above the door, 
Then you decide to go check the tile store,  since your bathroom needs some work, and you look at the front window which has a selected choice like the Naturals :
  then you check the hexagonal ones :
 then you check the mosaic ones :
  then at last you discover that there is also the " Les Bizarres" or the 'Bizarre Ones":
and now you are not too sure if you want to fix the bathroom, so instead you go check the next store, because you need to replace your glasses,  and that store is called:
as you can see  Voyeurs, this making you a little iffy, since you are a sensitive and sensible American, you decide to pass on replacing your pair of glasses, which after all lets you still see quite well les  Voyeurs, you hop to the next store which is an art gallery, as art will soothe your frazzled senses, and you see that its title is :
which means,  "waiting for the barbarians,"  and suddenly everything around you seems pretty bizarre anyway.

So you decide you would rather go back to Le Bon Marche,  where at least there seems to be some sense to life, and there, while it is still pretty much winter,  borderline freezing spring, you can check that they have a department called :
' LE BAIN DE MER"  which literally means "THE SEA BATH,"  and it features that little doll in the center which is a vintage doll that appeared in France in the late twenties called  Le Baigneur, The Bather,  made in celluloid,  and they were,  at the time,  not very expensive dolls, and every french little girl had one, and every french little brother would try to secretly destroy it, as the French, we know, can be at rare times slightly aggressive.

Anyway, it seems Le Bon Marche had found a cache of celluloid  Baigneurs,  and they even had them lined hanging down above one of their displays of expensive swim suits :
These poor hanging dolls upside down did not quite do the trick of restoring your sense of balance,  so that is when you decide to walk away,  and stop at the little public garden nearby, and there, at the end of the afternoon you can see two little kids playing soccer, like any kid would do in the twenties or the thirties or the forties or any time since, and there, suddenly, you feel the world might be all right after all,

It is the end of the day, Paris smells like early spring, you can hear the birds and the kick of the ball, and all is well.

With all love,

the frog

Monday, March 16, 2015

" the french and their kitchen tools "

 monday, march 16th

Courageously as ever, the Reporter despite some biting temperature, forged forward to examine the ways that the French deal with their kitchen and their supplies.

Now,  the French, it has been said before,  feel slightly mortified by the fact  that all that fusion cuisine has appeared globally.  Suddenly,  what seemed to be their only rational kingdom,  is now being shared by a lot more people.

Of course,   ils haussent les epaules,   or rather simply put, they shrug, as they do that so often.
And then they will take you to a kitchen emporium that looks like this :

 or like this

 So, you know, as a humble and shy American,  you just look in awe,  marveling at the extraordinary refined quality of these cocottes.  A cocotte  is one of those truly magnificent cast iron dutch oven that will leave your account depleted, and crush to crumbles your metatarsal bones if you let them fall on you feet.

But if you slide today a finger on one of these cocottes, and express your admiration, your french friend will shrug and tell you : "  Oui mais celles-la sont pas les bonnes."   Which only means, " Yes but those are not the good ones."  So of course, you nod because you know nothing about kitchen tools and cocottes, and  you want to see, and choose the good one.  

So, like a puppy,  you keep following your french expert with a look of envy at all those Le Creuset little things that are so shiny, and are shown in such lovely colors.  And then he will stop there 
and now you look at these dark matte totally unappealing ones, and you say, eager to please,  " so these ones ? "  and your friend will shake his head from left to right then left, and he looks still pretty unhappy.  And then he will sigh and say,  "  Well those are not bad,..."  like those cocottes just managed to get through the plague,  and are still slightly tainted with germs.

Then you walk again,  and leave your friend in deep reflection about the plagued cocotte, and suddenly you take charge, you go get one of these adorable shiny turquoise blue Le Creuset,  and you walk to the cashier with it, and you don't even  dare looking back at your expert friend who might be soon  excommunicating you. 

You rush the poor sales girl a bit, and just as you slide your visa card in the tiny machine, your friend arrives on you like a small tornado,  looks at the package, so your heart stops.  And then,  he'll say : " Ah, tres bon choix !"  Which mean,  " Ah, an excellent choice ! "  And then, you feel so clueless as to how the French function, so you just give up.

Now that you have passed the test, he will take you to have a look at the dish towels,
and there,  you just ignore him totally,  and choose the pale blue ones you like.

After that you just decide to buy some ham, and you explain to him, because of the Virginia ham, which ones to buy, and if he starts to explain to you that there is one from the north Cantal, which is  lost in the middle of France, and no one goes there, but any food from le Cantal is totally appreciated by the French. So you just poopoo what he just explained,  and tell him that there's nothing much like Virginia, and just forget the Cantal, and he becomes very meek.

Then, once you got the pink ham you really like, you both go out, stop at the clock repair shop,

which is in effect called the HORLOGER,   as in above, and there when you pick up your old watch that has been totally revamped, you friend will tell the repair man, meaning you, '  Elle a du caractere, vous savez."  which roughly means "  She is pretty strong-willed, you know, " and there the clockmaker gives you a discount for your revamped watch, and that is where you know you are becoming slightly French, and you start to breathe normally.

And in the end, arm in arm, you cross the Seine, with your friend, and you feel like Paris is not so scary anymore.

Then it 's time to go to the bistrot and it's another challenge all over again, but at least the food will taste really fine.

With all love,

the frog

Saturday, March 14, 2015

" of bakery, local trains and museums "

saturday, march 14th

At last, dear Reader,  the Reporter,  after many adventures,  returned to Paris, to rest her dusty explorer's boots.

It has been a few harrowing months since her last post on refined Parisian life, where wonderfully talkative taxi drivers can sometimes break your heart with their gleeful views on life.

So, immediately arrived, the Reporter repaired to her favorite haunt, the Boulangerie Proctor or by its second name, Boulangerie des Invalides, and there, our writer got the shock of her life as she discovered that the bakery which used to have heavenly lavender blue walls was all painted fuchsia pink !

 As you can see,  it is definitely pink. To make sure of it, you can check it again below, 

It was a bit of a shock,  and since the owner was there in person, the Reporter asked shyly if there would be a possibility one day to revert to the blue, and he said " No."  It did seem pretty definite that there would be no reversal. Then, as he felt some sort of remorse as probably the Reporter's face showed some tinge of fright at such definite statement,  he offered her a croissant,  and she crumbled in apologies.

He then pointed to how the statues showed so well against that gorgeous color, such as those two :


And one has to agree they look really happy up there. Then the owner showed with even more pride his new acquisition, 

which is a poster for a novel written in 1842,  The Mysteries of Paris, by a French writer named Eugene Sue.  Sue in french means sweat. This book brought such fame to the writer that Theophile Gauthier, then a well known writer too, published an article where he said that " sick people in France would delay dying to know the end of 'The Mysteries of Paris'." 

Which just shows how the French are really a very literary people.  Think if the Americans today delayed dying to know the end of Jason Bourne. Honestly, that would mean a lot of delaying as Jason seems to have incredible luck surviving,  and then that would mean a lot of surviving too for tons of dying people, which would create clogging of many hospital beds.  So of course, it wouldn't do at all.

So now that we have exhausted those painful possibilities, the Reporter turned her attention to the issue of french trains, one more.

The Reporter is planning in a few days to visit her friend, again,  in the middle of nowhere, so she had some thoughts as to the details of that dangerous trip, which includes changing trains and treading long platforms to get to the connected train as in this :

You may not realize this but her connected train last year was at the end of that very long platform.

What is more, it was a small, small local train, but which looked like a tiny TGV, the famous french bullet train, and inside you may see it looks really cute and luxurious, with etched glass doors,  as well as seats which are also reserved for, as you can see on the little panel, pregnant women and really old gentlemen bending on their canes,


So now that the Reporter had arranged some reservation plans on the SNCF, the  Society Nationale des Chemins de Fer Francais,   she decided to go cultural again.

So she checked out what were the Grand Palais exhibits on that panel :

But then,  there was nothing for the date of march 14th, as the new one was coming up on march 25th, date at which she would be away in the middle of nowhere.  So she cried.

Back in October, she had gone to the Okusai which was really extraordinary,

and where the French were pressing themselves like little ants, whispering in the dark cavernous rooms, 'mais c'est extraordinaire' which just means 'but it is extraordinary'  as you might have guessed, but said in french, it looks and sounds much better. Or  at least, the French certainly think so, if you ask them.

So the Reporter looked meditatively and sadly at the nice little poster which explained where and how the Grand Palais works,  

knowing that for the moment, she wouldn't be able to get into her cherished Grand Palais,  as it was in hiatus, just like her two beloved shows on vulgar American television : Veep, and Downton Abbey.  [ A specific post will be published later on Downton Abbey ]

Then she slowly retreated her steps to the Bon Marche to check out how things were in the simple field of Department Stores.

With All Love,

the frog