President Macron, a brighter day in France, a brighter day across the pond

June 13th, 2017

We like your president, my liberal friends across the pond to the United States tell me. Yes, France did not elect from the left or right- instead opting for a straight down the middle young guy who offers hope to the French of all ages.
Yet I do have French friends who voted for Marine LePen, arguing they agreed with her immigration policies. All however agree LePen showed her dark side in her dismal debate.
A fresh breeze blows through Paris, a man who speaks up to President Trump, who is an an embarrassment to many expats in Paris.

God bless France, God bless and help the USA.

Paris-maybe dim but lights not out

November 15th, 2015

Darkness came to the city of light Friday, November 13, a night that will live in Paris infamy. Darkness in the form of death and injury to hundreds enjoying a rock concert; death to people of all nationalities living Parisian life on a balmy French fall evening; death at a soccer game, death and injury, death, death, death.

After an early dinner with my husband Jim at a favorite Thai restaurant in the 5th arrondissement where we live, we oohed and ahhed at the holiday lights on Rue Mouffetard then returned home to watch reruns of NCIS on French television. I retired to bed at 10 p.m. Unlike our former experience in St. Petersburg, Florida, French television channels do not present emergency alert overrides. Alas, I do not go to bed with a handheld communication device clutched in my hand or strapped to my chest. So when Jim brought me the telephone at 11, I knew nothing of the attacks. A Toronto radio station wanted me to do an interview, no fee involved mind you, just my voice report. I know nothing I told the producer after she said terrible things were happening in Paris, call me back.

Wide awake I stayed up until 3am,shocked and glued to newschannel France 24 and CNN. Saturday we gratefully received many emails and calls from friends and family from the shores of California to Italy. I called my friend Vcky in the 11th arrondissment. Formerly of Denver she lives with her French husband Alain in a lovely flat not from the crime scenes and a hospital. They heard sirens until 4 30am on Saturday morning. Vicky lived near Littleton, Colorado when the horrific Colombine massacre happened. She drove to Littleton that night, witnessed cars covered in flowers, and saw grieving people of all ages walking the neighborhood streets with stunned faces. She said she witnessed the same reactions Saturday on Paris boulevards, stuuned “how did this happen here?” reactions.Then I heard about my French friend Lucia’s son. He was at the rock concert, escaping when French police stormed the building. He was treated by the French Red Cross at the scene, then taken to the Hotel de Ville, Paris’ city hall, to be registered as a victim of terrorism.

I shared their stories in an interview with the Toronto radio station on Saturday night. I no longer do many interviews for media outlets. The declining print industry has little money or space for free-lance writers. My skills do not include producing video reports with our smart phone or texting stories. I write on a computer keyboard with a flat ccreen, soon to be as obsolete I suppose as an IBM electric typewriter or a fax machine.

Meanwhile I have not been to this blog page in a year, bemoaning that I had nothing of substance to say. Alas, now I do, can write as long as I want to, and say what I please.

We have called Paris home for ten years and recently received our ten-year residence card on which we are no longer noted as visitors. Of course we are still US citizens, not legally citizens of France.Should we pack our tent and leave I asked Jim in Friday night’s aftermath. No,this is our home, was his reply. To paraphrase writer Gertrude Stein,America is our country, Paris is our hometown.

Finally, a possible offensive alert- beware and please read before some of you run for the comfort of Fox news. We are appalled by the USA violence fueled by too many guns and a gun worshipping culture; anti-semitism with a swastica drawn in feces on a college dormitory wall; and domestic terrorists running wild in a country we used to call home. I reported to the Toronto radio station that Parisians, akin to hurricane shoppers in the US, were stocking up on wine, water and chips Saturday. Anger, shock and pain are on faces and in the air. People here like to gather together to mourn, and debate, including the elephant in the living room issue, what has been the role of the US, Britain, and other countries in creating Isis. That’s another thing we like about Paris, a town where diverse people can gather in cafes or apartments to debate issues like we baby boomers did in the 1960′s and 1970′s, with the right to disagree without a gun or knife terminating in an argument. Cigarette and marijuana smoke do not permeate these indoor gatherings. Sparkling water and soft drinks are served to non drinkers. Jim and I cry and yell with our friends and deplore the violent world.
Now it is Sunday, horror and tears continue to set in. We are all shell-shocked, holding the dead and injured in our prayers and hearts, determined to stand together with the people of our hometown in solidarity,strength, light and resolve.

 

 

 

 

Shakespeare Bookstore- Vanity Fair, our story too

October 22nd, 2014

The word hit the streets last night, inspiring me to finally return to this blog. Mary Duncan, founder and director of the Paris Writers Group announced that Vanity Fair Magazine sweepingly features the iconic Paris shop in its current November issue. There are anecdotes, historical and personal, photos of Sylvia Whitman and visiting celebrities, as well as her father George,  revered inlife and  death.

My husband Jim and I have our share of Shakespeare & Co. stories. Our first tiny studio in Paris, nearing ten years ago, was around the corner on Rue Petiit-Pont. One day we locked ourselves out, a costly mistake in Paris if one has to call a locksmith. Instead we ventured into the bookshop and asked George Whitman to borrow the phone to call our landlady. He graciously agreed. Not long after, as we awaited our rescue at a corner cafe, George rushed out of the bookstore and asked if were published writers, and offered us a bed in the shop for overnight. Alas, we lost our chance to be Shakespeare tumbleweeds, the name given to writers, artists, young employees and vagabonds who bed down throughout the shop. Anther morning we walked home after struggling at a French class and ehe corner cafe waiter excitingly stopped us. “You missed it, he called out. “Bill and Hillary Clinton pulled up in front of Shakespeare this morning but the shop was closed.”

George was known to host Sunday afternoon tea parties in his cluttered fourth-floor flat. He prepared the tea himself in rusty teapots, served in well-used mugs and cups. Jim and I sunk into cushey chairs by a mother-daughter duo from Los Angeles. The mother, an elegant blond said she wrote books and  came for tea every time she visited Paris. After we left I carried the nagging thought she looked familiar. It turns out she was movie star Eva Marie Saint. Everyone goes to Shakespeare.

In his declining years George Whitman could be cantankerous. After one Shakespeare book festival ended, he threw water on lingering patrons, yelling it was time to go home. Other times he operated on all cylinders such as the night he proudly hosted Daniel Ellsberg for a reading. Our friends Linda Lappin of Rome, and  the late Marian Coe of St. Petersburg stand among those who have read their work at this famous  shop.

George was spotted at various church and school bazaars across Paris, accompanied by a tumbleweed helpmate, gathering up cheap donated paperbacks to resell at the store. Now Sylvia remains fiercely protective oh her father’s often juicy reputation and image while keeping Shakespeare& Co. books thriving and alive.

 

 

 

 

January 13th, 2014

Nine Years in Paris coming up in April but who’s counting-me! Most of real life is good, some not so good. Cest la vie as the French say. December weather was unusually sunny, lovely  Scarves are already around many necks, not for fashion, to protect the neck, what the French call the gateway to health. The dark side-the shadowy winter to come makes me miss Florida sunshine and beaches.

Have our lives changed living here across the big pond from the USA? Yes, we speak get by French and will probably never be fluent. We have adventured in  Italy, Spain, Holland, Portugual, Prague, Transilvania, Germany, Belgium, across France, and right here in our own Paris backyard, well balcony that offers a golden view of Notre Dame. The dark side- our honor looks to sell so we may be looking for another rental. What will be will be- French shrug!

Three nights in Trouville

August 1st, 2013

Just two hours from Paris via an air-conditioned train, Trouville was just the cool alternative our hot Paris summer ordered. separated by the River Touques from Deauville, the  site of  international film festivals and G-8 conferences, the  small cities, deemed the Parisian Riviera, offer lively street markets with fresh from the boat succulent fish, narrow cobblestone streets lined with affordable, good dining, belle-Epoque villas, miles of sparkling beaches,  and a crystal blue ocean.  Ooh-la-la. We traveled with friends Dawn and David Fall, plus our little dog Chablis, and all stayed at Trouville’s welcoming Le Fer a Cheval, a two-star Hotel De Charme with comfortable beds and a good French breakfast. We sampled regional snacks and wine at a special intimate spot, rode the petite local train up the steep hills where we viewed colorful villas,  sipped drinks on the family beach,  walked, walked, walked,  around three miles back and forth to Deauville for the packed Saturday market and a look at the Hippodrome. Trouville, France’s first seaside resort, is the carefree sister to Deauville’s glitz and glamour.  Bagpipes led Sunday parades as the weekend featured the blessing of the fishing fleet.

Seeking a vacation escape from Paris and this summer’s stiffling heat, French families as well as many Britons and some Americans flock to the flower coast where huge hanging pots and crafted gardens paint the region with vivid colors for days, weeks and months. To visit as a traveler and not a tourist, venture off into side streets, speak French with other diners at the popular brasserie Les Vapeurs, experience a guided history tour offered by the tourism office,  sample fish soup at the fish market, and wander into a little gallery such as the gallery Van Gogh. Gustav Flaubert, author of “Madame Bovary,” stands as an honored past resident of Trouville-his family began vacationing there when he was 15.

We plan to return to Trouville, and Deauville, soon. Let us baby boomers not forget, Deauville was the site of that so-French romantic movie “A Man and a Woman.” And today early risers can witness horses running at dawn on the Deauville beach.

 

Le Fer a Cheval, 95 euros- 106, breakfast 11 euros per person

 

Dining – see photos for our Trouville spots and a terrific Italian find in Deauville.

Direct trains leave from Paris’ Gare Saint Lazare.

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Linda Lappin rocks in Vitorchiano, Italy

May 7th, 2013

In my continuing rave about Vitorchiano, the news of Linda Lappin’s latest book now hits the news. Linda, founder and director of Centro Pokoli with her husband Sergio, remains a profilic award-winning and praised writer; See Thomas Kennedy comments below-bravo. Jim and I have visited the mysterious monster garden featured in the book.

The latest book, Signatures in Stone, is by Linda, author of The Etruscan and Katherine’s Wish. It’s a terrific novel set in Italy in the 1920s, and featuring a middle-aged writer of mysteries who has a drug problem and needs to find a way to  (1) kick the habit, and (2) write her next novel. She gets involved with several characters who may or may not be very upright. What’s really going on in the mysterious estate with its strange sculpture-filled garden? Suddenly, a murder. Hmmm.

Author Thomas Kennedy said this about the novel:”Linda Lappin is a master of place, of character, of the past, and of literate prose – as anyone who has read her brilliant novelistic portrait of Katherine Mansfield, Katherine’s Wish, can attest.  To her newest novel, Signatures in Stone, she brings all these formidable literary skills and stirs in a mystery and a murder, set in “Monster Park,” in Bomarzo. Signatures in Stone is a journey not only back in time to early in the last century, but also to a dramatic, frightening Italian landscape with four eccentric traveling companions in an automobile to hell.   Signatures in Stone is as brilliant as it is entertaining.”The ISBN is 978-1-929355-90-7, 

Linda will be in Paris the end of June to teach at a writing project in Montmarte. Jim and I still marvel at our trip and will post photos and more travel on this blog.

Buono in Italy, Vitorchiano and beyond

April 15th, 2013

Bone-tired yet bubbling with excitement for our travelers, not tourists Etruscans-Umbria adventure, our puddle-jump overnight train from Milan arrived in Orte, Italy at the good Friday 6am crack of dawn. Brief train stops included Florence, and Pisa.We left Paris with a sweet sage chicken salad picnic and too much baggage on a fast comfortable TGV for a seven-hour ride to Milan where we tranferred to a local train for Orte, sitting up all night for seven hours in a packed car, a compartment designed for six, stuffed with eight passengers. Many Italian travelers, heading home  to Naples for Easter, dozed on corridor floors, or even sitting on toilets. Chablis, overwhemed and exhausted, slept all the way, cozied between Jim and me. Our friendly Italian compartment mates offered us strawberries and a chorus of Oh Solo Mio.  Mercifully our hotel was a brief walk from Gare Orte.  Jim, Chablis and I rang the bell on the ornate iron fence and soon a young Italian woman stood there. Gesturing with her fingers she told us Hotel Letiza, a restored Italian villa,  did not open until 9 am. Pleading fatigue and a desperate toilet need, she opened the gate for us, smiled, threw up her hands, and told us the hotel had suffered a lighting strike overnight and had no power. A ready room was found for us and charming Gabriella led us with a battery-powered lantern to our second floor chamber where we all fell into a comfy queen-size bed. Gabriella called us at 9 am to tell us colazione, breakfast-included in our room rate- was ready. On the window-side dining room table we found the typical Italian morning repast, strong, buono-so good!, Italian coffee with hot milk, delicious red orange juice squeezed from Sicilian blood oranges, and cornettos, Italian croissants filled with strawberry and lemon creme.

Back to our room for a welcome shower, we took another train-lag nap, and at 1pm  Gabriel called us to pranzo-lunch. We wandered down near 2 for antipasto mista- marinated vegetables, salami and incredible Bruschetta, then pasta with tomato sauce, THEN manzo, beef scallopini- simply sauteed meat- and green salad. Mangia, Mangia, too much eat, eat! Bread, pane, is different in Italy, unsalted. In the early middle-ages the rulers of Pisa cut off salt supplies lines from the coast in retaliation of a fall out with their rival in Florence. In 1540 Pope Paul III imposed an indrect tax on salt, which immediately changed the culinary habits. Some Italians still swear that “filone” tasts better that way. Not Jim, he poured olive salt onto a plate, sprinkled salt then dipped the bread. As Europeans do, we also mop up sauce and gravies with bread.Mangia,mangia!

The hotel’s Aphrodite cultural center featured the oil paintings of Naples artist Ennio Colavero. I knew my Paris art teacher Renée Mauri-Amoros would be proud that I didn’t miss the show. During an afternoon camminare-walk, we stopped for tea at a local bar-cafe. The only English speaking patrons, adults and children greeted us with stares, smiles and a friendly Buona sera, good afternoon. No dinner that night, books, early to bed, up early for another colazione the next morning. Sergio was coming to fetch us for Vitorchiano!

 

 

Constant craving

April 8th, 2013

Often I seek out real life in Paris, longing to satisfy my craving to be a traveler instead of a tourist, to walk on off the beaten path narrow cobblestone streets, to savor cuisine not dusted by tourists waving tattered Rick Steves’ guidebooks, and avoid desert-dry overcooking. The desire to “live real” has taken over, somewhat satiated by our own good home cooking and once a week French art classes where I was the only English speaker. Now another English speaker has joined, learning to paint from an elegant spirited French woman and improve language skills too.

Our Easter weekend trip satisfied and also stirred my desires as my husband Jim and I plus our small dog Chablis journeyed 950 miles from Paris to the  Italian countryside via 14 hours on a  fast and slow train. Just like Harriet Sackett in the novel “The Etruscan,” we traveled to Vitorchiano, an hour north of Rome,  in search of history and connection.

Linda Lappin, “The Etruscan” author and her  Italian husband of 21 years Sergio Baldassarre-a renowned Italian cook and dramatist- own a home in old town Vitorchiano.  They spend their weekdays in Rome, Linda teaching, Sergio working as a functionnaire. We first met in 2006 when I attended a writing workshop led by American Cecilia Wolloch in Centro Pokkoli, Linda’s writing center in the double- walled medievil village.

Born of the earth centuries ago by volcanic eruptions, the Etruscan village with earth-brown stone walls, crooked lanes and dramatic cliffs was just what the adventure doctor ordered.  We breathed in cool rain-cleansed country air as we arrived through the gates into the village, staring at the massive Piazza Saint Agnese clock tower.The writing center, our home for the long weekend, stood just across the corner, a warm welcoming flat with a port window view of the valley. I could feel the center’s spirit of place and deep mapping, two of Linda’s writing philosophies, where poet Cecilia Wolloch, Jeffrey Greene, author of ”French Spirits” and Linda herself  have guided so many writers. “Bird by Bird” by Annie Lamott and Sue Kidd’s, “The Secret life of Bees” rested among the old friends welcoming us  on the smooth wood writing table. Jim and I slowly exhaled. Chablis sniffed around and settled down for a nap Yes, we were really here.

Next- Sergio’s cuisine and Beyond Vitorchiano and photos

Travelers instead of tourists

Linda Lappin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Six times in Paris-What’s old, what’s new?

November 27th, 2012

Something purple, something new, Michael Leavy tried and loved Moutarde Violette, one of the many varieties of French mustard.

The 49 year-old Silicon Valley software engineer was in Paris to visit family, his sixth venture to the city of light.
“Everything is still to love; the architecture, museums, cafes, the people, I never tire of it. I could walk around this city all day, everyday and not get bored.” Michael did notice some changes, maybe bad, maybe good and encouraging. “Perhaps there are more closed storefronts than in the past and a lot more Starbucks than there used to be; I can remember only one Starbucks in Paris; There are a lot more office buildings in the La Defense area. There seems to be a lot of construction going on right now.” And yes, less hot smokey air. ”In  restaurants people don’t smoke, they go outside to smoke. I remarked about that the other day to my friends.”

Popular social networks made it easy for Michael to meet-up with friends.
“I met Facebook friends in Paris,  I met a lot of people; more than before. People I knew were in Paris at the same time. With the advent of Facebook you can meet up with people in the real world.”

“I helped prepare a private dinner party for a group in Paris. It was a more of a challenge to get everything arranged and get everyone seated in a small area.” A guest at that party invited the bilingual Michael to speak at her English class for French engineering students and Michael said yes. At another gathering, he also met a couple from Guadelupe.  “I enjoyed speaking French to Max and talking to them about some of the things they like in the French West Indies; Mangos, Beaches, the sunshine.”

His recomendations to first timers- walk instead of taking the Metro- you see so much more of the city.”I recommend that you see some of the smaller museums; the Rodin, the Picasso, soon to open in 2013. I recommend that you walk around the Marais. It has those little cobblestone streets, no cars, good for people-watching.

Why six times in Paris ? “I guess I like it, I never gt tired of seeing Paris-the most photogenic city in the world. Every corner you turn around there is somehing intersting, the store windows, buildings, the people. There is a lot of visual interest in Paris.”

Sometimes the food can be a little rich to my more subdued American diet. The first couple of days I think it was  overwhelming me- I balanced it out with salads, got used to it.”

The thing that tasted the best- his Dad’s homemade turkey.

Other challenges- “I had found I had forgotten a lot of French and commuication was a challenge. The French are vey acomodating if they see you making an effort and being friendly. They will start speaking in English even if you want to speak French.”

Will you always have Paris? “Yes much like Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca. It is comforting knowing that Paris is here, somewhat timeless, that you can come here and experince it- it has this quality of timelessness.”

A tale of two hometown cities,Paris, France and Savannah, GA.

August 15th, 2012

To borrow from Gertrude Stein, Savannah is my USA birthplace yet Paris is now my hometown. The similarities are striking. My grandmother lived her life in Savannah, hopping an open-air trolley when the tourist spirit moved her. Visitors to Paris call out “bonjour” to me from the open-top double decker buses, thrilled to be here as Savannah tourists love that beautiful city.

My Mother and I lived in the historic Sorrel Weed house in Savannah when I was a young child. I walked alone to Independent Presbyterian Day School, stopping at a corner cafe for a cup of tea and a cake donut. Now I live in an old Boulevard Saint Germain apartment building, converted from horse stalls into dwellings between the two World Wars. Around the corner stands the petite French coffee shop where I go for coffee and a little cake.

Turning left on the downtown Savannah corner by the Chatam Club and entering historic Savannah, friends oohed and awed over the striking sites that to this day never fail to move me. Arriving in Paris from Charles De Gaulle airport, taxi drivers delight in taking the long route home, not for the extra fare, but to showcast the Eiffel Tower and Louvre at daybreak.

Food used to take center stage in Savannah before chain restaurants invaded the city, the white-tablecloth Anton’s of my youth, Hester’s for a great steak, Gottlieb’s Bakery for a date-nut pastry. I still go straight to Johnny Harris’ for a pit barbeque sandwich when home, to Carey Hilliard’s for Brunswick Stew, River Street for a praline,  and to Mrs. Wilkes for a boarding house-style southern meal.

In Paris I head straight to the 13th arrondissement for an Asian meal at the renowned Lao Lane Zang, to favorite creperies near the Eiffel Tower and Montparnasse, to Kaiser for a hot Almond Croissant.

Tourists still come here in record numbers as they do in Savannah. Recently a woman from Russia asked for directions to the Musée d’Orsay, thrilled to be in Paris. I remember being asked directions to the Juliette Gordon Lowe birthplace in Savannah, Girl Scouts young and older, overwhelmed to be on a Daisy’s house sojourn.

A college friend told me she got goosebumps in Savannah when she sat where a famous person had held court.

Here’s to never-ending goosebumps in both of my hometowns.