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Posts tagged ‘Holiday Getaway’

No. 291: Boudin and Monet in Trouville

Mentor and student and life-long friends Eugène Boudin and Claude Monet captured holidaymakers and the extreme weather on the beaches of Trouville during the late 1800s. Monet honeymooned in the town with his beloved Camille and his snapshot paintings painted en plein air have grains of sand from the windswept beach mixed in.

No. 289-290: Deauville and Trouville

deauville.jpgWe are wrapping up our quick getaway to the “Normandy Riviera”. It has been a lovely sojourn to celebrate Button turning 18 and the visit of a very dear friend and her 4-year-old fille. While the weather has been cool and grey, we have had a few hours of bright sun showers and sandy beach excursions followed by ominous, Armageddon skies, massive rain fall, and mad dashes across the notoriously wide strand in search of temporary shelter.

deauville_beach3.jpgdeauville_beach2.jpgdeauville_beach4.jpgStill it has been well worth taking the quick (and inexpensive) hop to the fashionable seaside town of Deauville and the funky and family friendly beach town of Trouville. Separated by a tiny inlet that depending upon the hour and the tide, can be traversed by a wooden footpath or accessed exclusively by a water taxi, these sister cities are a perfect pair.


Deauville is the glamorous sister frequented by film stars, polo and horse-racing enthusiasts and high-stakes gamblers, while Trouville is the hip, but retro sister—a working fishing port, eulogized by artists and writers. Both towns offer the visitor a chance to lose themselves in the days of la Belle Époque. A Woody Allen movie in the making, the seaside towns are bursting with over 600 buildings protected as historical monuments. The lovely half-timbered houses so common in Normandy are complimented by the grand Art Nouveau casinos and Baroque-style buildings.


It is easy to imagine the Paris smart set roaring into town in the 1920s and strolling Deauville’s famous boardwalk, disrobing in the individual beach cabanas and sunbathing in their scandalous swim costumes under the expanse of multi-colored parasols. How I would love to go back in time and walk the wooden-planked promenade or sit among the deck-chairs and umbrellas and admire the spectacle.


Coco before she was Chanel (as you may remember from the movie) came to Deauville with her lover in 1913 and was so taken with the possibilities for dressing the beach, yachting, polo and racecourse crowd, that she was inspired to design a line of easygoing and wearable vêtements which she would eventually sell at her famous boutique in town. These days, Deauville is still considered a sophisticated shopping destination and continues to be a chic town packed with haute couture boutiques and stylish diversions.

Trouville, as I mentioned, is the more laid back sister, less expensive and super groovy, frequented by families and colorful bands of primary students exuberantly enjoying their first day ever on the long swaths of soft golden sand. The maritime town radiates the energy of the daily life of fishermen and sports one of the most interesting fish markets I have come across in France.



The connection to Trouville’s past can be seen in the many en plein air Impressionists painting inspired by sunbathers, dinghies, sailing boats and seascapes. Impressionist artist such as Boudin, Monet, Sisley and Pissarro flocked to Trouville (and Deauville) to capture the holidaymaking, harbor and stormy skies and Proust, Flaubert and Marguerite Duras all found inspiration in this fisherman’s village.

There are still plenty of artistic offerings in each town and I loved them both. If you are planning a trip to Paris and are the nostalgic sort fascinated by the Golden Age in France, I would highly recommend taking a detour to these sister cities.


No. 277: mille-feuille


It seems like it has been awhile since I did a post on food, but I was reminded yesterday evening when I attended a dessert party (so much for the ole regime, encore), of the sometimes underrated mille-feuille, or thousand leaves pastry.

Also know as the Napoleon, it consists of two layers of crème pâtissière sandwiched between three layers of pâte feuilletée traditionally glazed with a white icing and chocolate stripes. The even more delicious versions are filled with whipped cream and/or jam and lightly dusted with confectioner’s sugar or cocoa, or both.

If you are lucky enough to live in France, comme moi, there is no need to ever attempt to make a mille-feuille chez vous, but for those of you who don’t live in France, here is a très instructive recipe video (complete with happy French café music and crackling puff pastry sounds), so you can taste this yummy French dessert at your house.



chez vous: at your house

comme moi: like me

crème pâtissière: pastry creme

pâte feuilletée: puff pastry


No. 273: Spectacular Lightning

Lightning strikes the top and to the side of the Eiffel Tower in Paris Photo: BERTRAND KULIK/CATERS

Lightning strikes the top and to the side of the Eiffel Tower in Paris Photo: BERTRAND KULIK/CATERS

We have had two crazy storm here in Paris over the last few nights. I was too chicken to go outside and photograph them, and the photos I took from my windows did not do the storms justice, so I grabbed this gorgeous picture off of google images (source: BERTRAND KULIK/CATERS).

I am a sucker for thunder and lightning storms. I love them and I fear them, and these past two nights have been spectacular–with snarling roars and jagged streaks striking the tip of my beloved tower.

No. 258-261: Monet, Giverny, “en plein air” and l’Orangerie


It is difficult not to develop an affinity for Claude Monet when you live in France, especially in Paris. One of my favorites of the Impressionist’s movement (along with Renoir, and Boudin, bien sûr), M. Monet’s works can be found in numerous museums in Paris, as well as at his beloved Giverny, where you can walk among his self-designed and hand-planted gardens that inspired so much of his work, and oggle at the reflections in the pond of his famous water lilies and Japanese footbridge.


Claude Monet was a man with a vision and visionary friends who rejected the old school approach to landscape painting and looked to nature herself as his teacher. He was a patience observer of the natural world, and found solace and pleasure in watching the play of light, timing and seasons on his subjects.

Supported by his parents, he attended the Le Havre School of the Arts and was befriended and mentored by Eugéne Boudin himself. It was Boudin who introduced him to the idea of painting “en plein air” (outdoor).


Every spring I steel myself to face the throngs of tourists who gather at Giverny, and every year despite the crowds, I’m always glad I’ve made the pilgrimage. Even with what seems like thousands of Russian voyagers snapping thousands of photos, Giverny still offers a flavorful feast for the senses.

His gardens at Giverny are like his paintings—gaily colored patches that are sometimes a bit muddled and cluttered, but at the same time perfectly composed. His estate is split into two gardens. The first is the walled garden laid out in stunning symmetrical flowerbeds with a splendid path running down the middle, sheltered with iron trellises and climbing blooms. The second garden is the water garden—home to the famous Japanese bridge and water-lilied pond reflecting the blue sky, white clouds, wisteria, and weeping willows that line the shore.

Monet spent more than 40 years planting and painting at Giverny. I find it fascinating to think about him and his family meticulously planting their gardens first – creating a tangible, living piece of art—while at the same time envisioning what he would produce on the canvas. I am enchanted by this man who essentially created his artwork twice—first shaping it in nature and then sitting among it and putting it forth on the canvas.

As fond as he was of painting his garden, pond, and water lilies, Monet was also inspired by the banks of Seine and frequently painted en plain air. He traveled throughout the Mediterranean and was especially inspired by Venice, and continued his outdoor works in London, but at Giverny, his famous paintings literally come to life. It’s pure magic.

If you don’t have enough time (or patience) to make the trip to Giverny in the spring or summer, I highly recommend stopping by l’Orangerie in Paris where you can see his famous nympheas (water lilies) in a gorgeous space built specifically for them blooming all year long.

monet_orangerie.jpg monet_orangerie2.jpg

Other places to see Monet in Paris:

The Musée d’Orsay and the Marmottan-Monet Museum which has a wonderful permanent Monet collection and is currently hosting what I have heard is an amazing expo: Les Impressionnistes en privé: Cent chefs-d’oeuvre de collections particulières. (The Impressionists in private: One hundred masterpieces from private collections.)



No. 255-257: French Mother’s Day: Repopulation, Advice from Vichy France and Cake

“L’avenir d’un enfant est l’oeuvre de sa mere.” (The future of a child is the work of his mother.)

                        -Napoleon Bonaparte


While Mother’s Day in America was first officially celebrated in 1914 after Anna Jarvas campaigned for six long years for a day to honor “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world,” Mother’s Day in France came to be celebrated with slightly more practical and economic intentions behind it: the necessity to repopulate a country distressed by its declining birth rate.


In fact, French Mother’s Day was first instituted with an award attached to it for producing a high number of children. In 1906, a medal of haut mérite maternel (high maternal merit) was awarded to mother’s who had more than nine children. By 1918, some cities in France had established les Journée Nationale des Mères de Familles Nombreuses (National Day for Mother’s of Large Families), and in 1920 it became an official national holiday celebrated on the last Sunday of May. From the 1920s through 1940 the French government continued to support the holiday to help officially promote and reward large family policy and honor those mothers’ with the ability and desire to pop out baby after baby.

During the reign of the Vichy government, in an attempt to win favor with all mothers, the occupational government (while still actively promoting large family policies), extended the holiday to honor all mothers, even those with smaller families. After the war ended, Mother’s Day gradually became less attached to politics and nationalism, and became more of a day to celebrate your fabulous do-it-all mom.

While I was researching the history of French Mother’s Day, I came across this poster from 1941 Vichy France offering advice on how French children should behave on Mother’s Day and throughout the year, according to the field marshal, no less…


Ta maman a tout fait pour toi, le Maréchal te demande de l’en remercier gentiment.

Invente la surprise la plus belle que tu pourras, celle qui lui fera le plus grand plaisir.

Offre-lui des fleurs que tu auras cueillies…

ou un cadeau que tu auras fabriqué exprès pour elle…

Fais-lui un dessin aussi beau que tu pourras…

Fais un effort en classe pour rapporter de bonnes notes…

Ne te dispute pas avec tes frères et sœurs…

Va faire les commissions sans qu’elle te le demande…

Aide au ménage en souriant…

Apprends une jolie récitation…



(Your mom has done everything for you, the field marshal asks you to thank her kindly.

Come up with the most beautiful surprise you can that will give her the greatest pleasure…

Offers her flowers that you picked …or a gift you have made especially for her …

Draw her the nicest picture you can …

Make an effort in class to make good grades …

Do not fight with your brothers and sisters …

Run errands without her asking …

Help with the household with a smile…

Learn a beautiful recitation …

(Remember) Work-Family-Homeland)


…and finally in France, fête your lovely mother with a gorgeous cake from your kitchen or pâtisserie that looks like a bouquet of flowers or something too delicious to be true.

source: Meeting the French

source: Meeting the French

 Bonne fête des mères!


No. 236: Signs that les berges is opening soon


One of my favorite things in Paris is les berges, the new boardwalk along the Seine, just a few minutes from our apartment.


My darling ex-Mayor was responsible for closing off a few ramps and a riverside road and dreaming this pedestrian friendly Paris into existence. I love this place so much that I’m sure I can squeeze two or three more posts out of it before my time is up. But for the moment, let me just tempt those of you not yet in the know with a few signs that les berges will soon be up and running again and in full summertime swing.






les berges: the riverbanks