Archive for the ‘French Traditions’ Category
During a delightful 3-day visit to Aix-en-Provence, we enjoyed the added benefit of the artisan craft fair, “Les Calades Provencales.” Aix is famous for its many fountains and talented favorite son Cezanne, so it’s not surprising that artisans are celebrated here.
At any moment Cours Mirabeau offers an enchanting, tree-lined boulevard; but the fair magnified the magic. Elegant hand-painted scarves danced in the breeze, while artisans warmly greeted visitors explaining their crafts, demonstrating the potter’s wheel and generally serving as welcoming ambassadors in this dynamic city.
Hand-crafted shoes and sandals, exotic jewelry, perfumes and pottery spread all along the boulevard. The cobbler followed generations of the art of shoemaking; the silk scarves were painted by hand.
After a pleasant stroll to examine the many gorgeous crafts, we stopped at one of Aix’s many canopied cafes. Ummm – delicious ham and cheese galette, a pichet of wine and a strolling guitarist made for a relaxing Aixoise experience.
We would offer a hearty thumbs up to any planning a trip to this lovely area. An easy drive from Avignon, Aix-en-Provence and the surrounding area immerse you in an enchanting landscape, exceptional architecture and abundant dining choices.
You might wander through Cezanne’s landscape and stop for dinner in Greoux-les-Bains or take in the grand Pont du Gard aqueduct; but parking yourself at a café along the boulevard provides plenty of enjoyment!
All of us who love France find ways to nurture those feelings, to indulge often in the pleasant memories that stay with us for weeks and weeks after our travels. And so it is with my painting, as if touching brush and pen to paper will resurrect the best of our times in France.
One of my favorites, this ‘vitrail’ painting returns me to the one of the most enchanting times of our last stay in Paris. With our dear friends we were invited to brunch at the home of his brother and family in the 16th arrondissement. We enjoyed a warm welcome from our hosts, their two young-adult student children and the Russian exchange student, who was residing in their ‘chamber de bonne’ for a year. Instantly we have the mix of generations and diverse cultures to guarantee lively conversations!
We gathered in their lovely dining room – with the table set before this magnificent window and spread, of course, with all kinds of enticing fare from the patisserie, charcuterie and local market. As we spread artisan breads with fresh local jams and sampled an assortment of meats and cheeses, we shared little slices of our lives.
I particularly remember talking about different expressions and ways of life. We refer to ‘raining cats and dogs’. The French – ‘raining ropes’. Our ‘turncoats’ are traitors. Theirs turn their coats inside out – quelqu’un qui a retourné sa veste. The daughter asks, “What IS a food court?” I think her question was borne less of really expecting some kind of definition and more of trying to comprehend why you would have such a thing. That’s not exactly surprising given all of the intimate café choices one has in Paris!
As if we had not been immersed in enough culture and charm, we wandered a bit on leaving and found ourselves in front of the home of Hector Guimard – designer of the famous Art Deco metro entrances. Quite an afternoon, so I’m sure you don’t wonder at my desire to resurrect the whole thing!
Hoping you have a “Bon Weekend!”
I love the slices of life you see through windows in France … and elsewhere, but you know where my heart lies! We enjoyed the good fortune of honeymooning in Paris, where our friend’s apartment overlooked a boulevard facing a typical five-story residential building. Reminding me of the famous Rear Window movie, we could look across to our unknown neighbors to glimpse little moments in their lives.
An elder man positioned a Christmas tree in the corner of his living room. Oddly, we never noticed the addition of lights and ornaments. Below his apartment, a couple walked back and forth through their brightly-lit rooms, ostensibly readying their place for the arrival of another couple a bit later in the evening.
From the bedroom window of our pleasant gîte near Chateau de Chennonceau, we looked out on a wildly colorful balloon rising above the trees. Through our hotel window in Normandy, we watched two older women with fishing gear progress up the grassy hill en route, we supposed, to a dinner of their grilled “catch of the day”.
Village windows capture vivid earth and sky colors in their protective shutters. Delicate lace curtains detail themes, and rich swishes of elegant taffeta and satin set a tone of grandeur over soaring windows.
So it’s not surprising, you see, that my paintbrush would gravitate to window scenes! So many sights, individual stories and imaginings!
Two years into the renovation of the renowned Hôtel de Crillon in Paris, we still can only imagine the changes taking place. Many of us would wonder at any change to this veritable institution directly across the street from the American Embassy. Yet, in 2013 came the announcement about the closure for renovations and the forthcoming change in management to Rosewood Hotels & Resorts.
Beyond tantalizing mentions of the auctioning of an abundant number of hotel accents, furnishings … and wine; the fate and future of the hotel has been cloaked in mystery. Now, though, we learn that no other than Karl Lagerfeld has been commissioned to apply his creative genius to the design of two suites.
Acclaimed not only for fine craftsmanship but for blending history ‘with an edge’, perhaps even Mr. Lagerfeld feels a slight hesitation in tackling this Parisian landmark. Of course I am wrong about that – what designer wouldn’t jump at the chance to create a signature suite in one of the world’s finest hotels?
Under Rosewood’s core philosophy – A Sense of Place® – Mr. Lagerfeld will apply his unparalleled talent in the marriage of 18th century heritage with 2015 ‘je ne sais pas’. Overlooking Place de la Concorde, the Hôtel de Crillon has witnessed abundant history from the reign of French Kings to the fall of Napoleon’s Empire and the birth of the League of Nations.
I hope that Karl Lagerfeld and the myriad designers involved in this renovation find the ideal balance of respect for heritage with light touches of the contemporary world in which we live. While my personal prejudice sways away from ultra-modern treatments of grand old buildings, I recognize that some might lean in the opposite direction.
Some describe the magnificent hotel as “…a living testament to the very best way of life France has to offer.” Alas, we all simply must wait and see for the unveiling of this monumental project in 2016.
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I love to theme gifts – French gifts or otherwise – so let’s call these gift ideas for Monsieur “A Matter of Taste”. For the budding to the mature wine connoisseur, we begin with a focus on very appealing champagne from France.
Perhaps to whet his appetite, you will include an engaging and comprehensive book by one of the world’s leading wine authorities, An Encyclopedia of the Wines and Domaines of France. Author Clive Coates shares his expansive knowledge of wine, its character, the meaning of appellations and the finest of French wine estates.
Now, let’s get right to the heart of the matter with an enticing bottle of Taittinger Champagne! Go to your favorite specialty wine shop for guidance. In Orlando, that would be Tim’s Wine Market, where they have been helping customers with personal guidance for over 20 years.
Taittinger is one of the distinctly historic champagne houses of France and one of only five to cellar its wines in the renowned “Crayères” of Reims – the chalk caves originally dug out by the Romans. Since their discovery early in the 18th century, champagne merchants found the cave conditions ideal for aging wine. The Taittinger family is one of the largest vineyard owners in Champagne, and this esteemed brand was the official champagne at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Perhaps you will choose Taittinger’s Comtes de Champagne, chosen in 2012 as “Best Champagne” by Fine Champagne Magazine.
Round out your themed gift with a pair – or a set of champagne glasses – yet another opportunity for learning the ins and outs of the heavenly nectar. Flutes, coupes and tulips are your choices, and there are myriad designs from which to choose.
Champagne flutes aid in capturing the flavor and aroma of champagne with their tall narrow shape, medium to long stem and point at the bottom of the glass. Champagne coupes (saucers) are the wide-rimmed, shallow glasses with a short stem. A favorite in the early 1900’s, they are not as popular with ‘experts’ today, in that the shape allows the aroma and carbonation to escape. Finally, the aptly-named champagne tulip is similar to the flute but curves inward at the rim. Especially recommended for finer French champagnes, the wider base allows flavors to be captured and taste enhanced.
Voila! So there you have a wonderful assortment of French gifts for him, and I’m certain you can find a handsome bag or box in which to present your refined collection.
Copyright © 2005-2017, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.