Why this blog?

To understand why this blog was created and where it got its name, start here

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Rainy June

We're setting records for cool temperatures and rain in Paris this June.
 Too bad we can't send some of this rain to Colorado where it is sorely needed to fight the forest fires.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Making movies

Patrice has been spending lots of time making movies and today's clear skies and fast flying clouds provided the perfect opportunity to film some background video for his current project. This bit was taken from the top-floor terrace of the Institut du Monde Arabe.

As you can see, filming required a great deal of concentration.  ;-)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Legislative elections

The French elected their president in May, and now, one month later, they've just elected their Chambre de Députés (similar to our House of Representatives). Seems curious to an American. We combine all candidates and issues in one long ballot every two years in November, whereas the French do not have a specific date for elections. In fact, each election is held in two rounds on two successive Sundays. Last Sunday, our district had 23 candidates for one post. Today, voters decided between the two candidates with the largest number of votes from last week.

Voting was simple today. There were two stacks of ballots, each with one name. The voter picks up both, goes into a cabin behind a curtain and puts one of the ballots into an envelope and throws the other one away. He then takes the envelope to the voting judge (called the President) who verifies the identity of the voter. Finally comes the ceremonial placing of the envelope in the transparent box as the President announces out loud that the voter "a voté."

President Hollande's Socialist Party is expected to easily win a majority of seats in the house of representatives. He also has a majority in the Senate - which held elections in September, 2011. Now Hollande should be able to pass legislation without roadblocks.
He has a big job ahead of him with the current economic situation in Europe.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Searching for Scent in Paris

Chanel No. 5 was launched ninety years ago and today it is still the top selling perfume in the world. To what does it owe its longevity? Aldehydes! Aldehydes are organic compounds present in many natural materials (including roses), that also can be synthesized artificially.  In 1921, while working on the creation of a perfume for Coco Chanel, the great nose Ernest Beaux was the first to use the synthetic component to intensify the fragrance now known as Chanel No. 5.

And so began a class I took this week taught by Theresa de Belder entitled "Searching for Scent in Paris - a Workshop about Perfume."

What a revelation! And what better place than Paris? We learned about trends in perfume history, the four major fragrance families as defined by Michael Edwards, and lots of answers to a perfume FAQ.  We also sampled representative perfumes from each of the major families; both old classics such as Chanel No. 5, and newer modern fragrances being created by independent "noses" and perfume boutiques. Creating a perfume is a unique marriage of art and science, with abundant comparisons to wine making.

It's still intimidating to walk into a perfume boutique - there are so many different scents and so many unique formulas - but now I am determined to branch out from the old classics. . .

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Mont Valérien

Mont Valérien is the site of a fortress built in 1841 that sits high on a hill just outside of Paris on the west edge of town. It was occupied by German troops during WWII and was used as an execution site. Over 1000  resistance fighters and hostages were executed by firing squad here. The men were brought in trucks from other prisons in the area, held for a short time in a small chapel on the site, then marched to a clearing in the woods, shot, and their bodies taken away for anonymous burial in cemeteries throughout the city. Only men were brought here. Women who were condemned to death were sent to Germany to be executed.
Prisoners were held here while waiting to be executed.
This is one of only three photos that exists of the executions.
Flowers mark the site of execution posts in the center of the photo
Trucks carrying bodies for burial left through this gate.

Entrance with bas relief sculptures and eternal flame

After the war, General de Gaulle designated the site as a war memorial. 
The names of all who died here are inscribed according to date of execution

The presence of those who perished here weighs heavily on all who visit.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Philippe in Paris

I'm thrilled to have my son Philippe in Paris this summer. Philippe is Assistant Professor of French at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. He was invited to participate in a five week National Endowment for the Humanities seminar here in Paris. Even better, he's just five minutes away. You know what? I'm happy. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Sound and light show

I've witnessed some spectacular sound and light shows - such as the Chartres Festival of Light, and last month's show at Les Invalides. But one of the most original that I've seen lately was set in a former limestone quarry near Saint Rémy de Provence. It featured the paintings of Gauguin and Van Gogh - a great follow up to our earlier visit of Van Gogh's local haunts.
Waiting for the show to start
Van Gogh's notes and letters to his brother Theo
Gauguin's painting - 12 meters high
Van Gogh's Irises behind our silhouettes

It felt like we were walking inside the paintings - a surreal experience. But don't forget to take a sweater - it's cold inside! For a more complete virtual visit, click here.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Monthléry autodrome

This weekend's photo excursion took us to the town of Monthléry 10 miles south of Paris. Established in 1924, the race track in Monthléry is no longer used for races, but it's still used as a automobile test track and for special events for vintage car enthusiasts.
The cars weren't just sitting around looking pretty - they also took several laps around the race track. Not a race exactly, but the opportunity to show that they can still take the road.

There was also a special section for vintage motorcycles. My favorites were this father/son team and their unique side car.
Check out these guys in action!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Gallo-Roman ruins

The area near Saint Rémy de Provence is rich in vestiges from the past. The archeological site Glanum was first inhabited in the 6th and 7th centuries BC by the Gauls. It was a fortified city protecting a sacred spring at the entrance to the Alpilles. The site was later occupied by the Greeks and then the Romans before being overrun and destroyed by the Alamanni in 260 AD. The remains of the settlement were later flooded and buried under mud and sediment. The site was completely unknown during the time when Van Gogh was hospitalized just a few hundred meters away. It wasn't until 1921 when the first systematic excavations began.

The site now represents an interesting voyage through several historic periods as archeologists have revealed stone structures of the three major eras of occupation.

My personal favorite of the ruins we visited is the Pont du Gard - an aqueduct built by the Romans in the 1st century AD. It carried an estimated 200 million liters (44 million gallons) of water a day to the fountains, baths and homes of the citizens of Nîmes.