Wednesday, August 31, 2016

SETTING SAIL

French school children's summer holidays end today and classes start tomorrow. But there's still time for one last turn around the basin for this wooden Paudeau at the Jardin de Luxembourg.  The toy sail boats are a Parisian classic and owe their name to an artisanal toy boat maker, Clement Paudeau, who in 1927 started making them with the idea to set up a concession stand to rent them for children to play with in the park's basin. The tradition continues.

Vocabulary

appareiller: to set sail, to cast off
prendre le mer:  to put out to sea


©2016 P.B. Lecron

Monday, August 29, 2016

AUGUST IN PARIS

View of the Jardin de Luxembourg on a golden August day from the sidewalk terrace of the very well-situated café-brasserie Le Rostand, 6 place Edmond Rostand, Paris 6éme. Edmond Rostand (1868-1918) was a dramatist and author of Cyrano de Bergerac, one of the most well-known plays of French theatre. 



©2016 P.B. Lecron

Sunday, August 28, 2016

HEAD TO HEAD

What could be better than to while away an afternoon tête-à-tête in the beautiful Picardie village of Gerberoy?



©2016 P.B. Lecron

Friday, August 26, 2016

FANCY CAT LORE

Among the elite of 18th-century French aristocrats, the exotic and elegant Turkish Angora with it's long, silky white fur and heavenly tale was the cat of choice. A sign of refinement and luxury in the French royal court, the Angora or Ankara cat is an ancient, natural breed of cats originating in the Orient. The first documented specimens of the breed were brought to France in the 17th century by a French naturalist and came from Ankara, Turkey, thus the name Angora. (Angoras might have been first introduced to Europe by returning Crusaders as early as the 14th century, however.) Louis XIII (1601-1643) and his minister, Cardinal Richelieu, owned them, as did the Sun King, Louis XIV (1638-1715). 

So did Marie-Antoinette (1755-1793). Her pet Angora cats were believed to have been shipped along with a cargo of French furnishings in a foiled plan to escape to America, and arrived in Wiscasset, Maine. Popular lore has it that her Angoras cross-bred with local cats and are ancestors of the Maine Coon cat. Another view, however, is that the Maine Coon has as its ancestral origins the Norwegian Forest cat which would have been introduced into the New World by 11th-century Norseman. But the Norwegian Forest cat's long-haired origins get tangled up, too, with the Turkish Angora breed. Still another hypothesis is that an English sea captain named Charles Coon kept long-haired cats aboard and when docked at ports in New England, his cats would jump ship and mate with local short-hairs. Unless the Maine Coon is a natural breed of cat native to the northeastern American seaboard, then one could surmise that the Angora, being the first long-haired cat to arrive in Europe, could be the granddaddy of them all. The Maine Coon today is the most popular purebred cat in France.

The great French decorative artist and painter, Jean-Jacques Bachelier (1724-1806), immortalized an Angora in the above painting, Le Chat Angora Guettant un Papillon. The portrait hangs in the Musée Lambinet in Versailles. A favorite painter of both Louis XV (1710-1774) and his mistress, Madame de Pompadour, Bachelier was revered for his animal portraits and still lifes.

Vocabulary
guettant:  lying in wait for, watching out for
un mythe culturel:  a cultural myth, lore

©2016 P.B. Lecron

Monday, August 22, 2016

KUDOS

Bravo, les enfants

Believe it or not, these sophisticated and eye-appealing "mandalas" currently on display at the Musée des Beaux Arts d'Orléans are the work of 14 local primary and kindergarten classes. The children, whose ages range from 5- to 8-years-old, used stamping and stenciling techniques for the creation of the grouping. Kudos, kids. 

©2016 P.B. Lecron


Sunday, August 21, 2016

RELIGIOUS STYLE


The crowning glory of the Cathédrale Sainte-Croix in Orléans, of which reconstruction began in the 17th century, are its elegant twin ornamental towers, rich in openwork. The upper level columns give the cathedral its uplifting charm, especially on a bright blue summer day. The original Gothic cathedral had been heavily damaged by Huguenots in the 16th century and was rebuilt in the Gothic and Neo-Gothic styles rather than refashioning it to reflect the more modern architectural trend of the day. These three-story towers were completed in the 19th century but damaged during WWII and restored.

Vocabulary
ajouré:  openworked (adjective)

©2016 P.B. Lecron

Thursday, August 18, 2016

FRIEND OR FOE

Ami ou Ennemi
Who goes there? It's a mante religieuse, a predator of insects as well as small lizards and frogs. Friend Sylvia crept up on this young praying mantis to snap a photo in her garden in the south of France. The mantis is native to the Mediterranean basin and owes its name to the fact that its large forelegs fold into a seemingly praying position.

Vocabulary
un religieux, une religieuse:  (noun) a person who takes a vow to follow a religious order
religieux, religieuse:  (adjective)  of or relating to a religion
prier:  to pray
chasser:  to prey upon, as of a predator
une proie:  a prey

©2016 P.B. Lecron

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

HEARD BUT NOT SEEN

La cigale grise
Blending perfectly in with the tree bark is the noisy, gray cicada of the south of France. Contributing photographer and friend Sylvia spotted this one in the Gard. 

Expression
se fondre dans le décor:  to blend into the background

©2016 P.B. Lecron

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

POINT OF VIEW

It was fun coming home after a visit to Gerberoy to discover that I had taken this photo from practically the same point of view that Henri le Sidaner had painted "Table sur la Terrasse," below. It's not the same angle, but it's close enough. Le Sidaner (1862-1939) was a post-impressionist painter who purchased property in the Picardie hill-top village and created a multi-terraced garden in which he found inspiration for many of his intimist paintings. The scene here is from an upper terrace which has a commanding view of hay fields in the distance. This village with a thousand years of history and sitting on the ancient frontier of Normandy and France, was a strategic outpost in the Hundred Years' War. 

Vocabulary
à peu près:  not very different from; roughly; just about

For another photo of Gerberoy's ancient houses and splendid flowers, click here. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

MELODY IN ORIGAMI

It's highly unlikely that the above graffiti was stenciled with permission on the historic building which houses the city of Versailles music conservatory.  If it be an act of vandalism, and although I don't condone that sort of activity, it is the most enchantingly sweet defacement of public property I've seen yet.

Vocabulary
un battement de coeur:  a heartbeat
defacer:  to deface


©2016 P.B. Lecron

Sunday, August 14, 2016

THE ARABLE WEED

Hélas! For French wheat farmers the poppy is a weed, but for the summer wayfarer an inspiration. Wild poppies once flourished sprouting up heavily among cereal plants in fields of grain, but the use of herbicides in intensive wheat production has largely eradicated them from the cultivated tracts, relegating them to uncultivated edges of planted fields, fallows, and roadsides. 

Poppies are still present in this wheat field in Picardie, but are sparse in comparison with harvests from days gone by.

Vocabulary
un coquelicot:  a poppy
une mauvaise herbe:  a weed
une plante messicole:  an annual plant which grows in fields of cereals
la moisson:  harvest
les terres arables:  farmlands (also les terres cultivables, les terres agricoles)
hélas:  alas

©2016 P.B. Lecron

Friday, August 12, 2016

WARM FUZZIES


Only a medieval craftsman could carve on a gravestone such an expression as that on the face of the lion, above. The important dalle funéraire or plate-tombe represents the French chevalier Pierre de Chantemelle de Flavacourt and his wife, Isabelle de Hardelieu, circa 1352, and is on display in the Musée de Cluny. To the casual observer of this detail of the gravestone, it would appear that the knight is standing on the lion; however, because on monumental slabs and effigies sculpted during the Middle Ages animals placed at the feet of the defunct represented the terrestrial world, the image can be interpreted to symbolize the knight's gradual leaving of the earth and rising up to heaven. 

Vocabulary
la béatitude:  beatitude, bliss, the warm fuzzies (familiar)
un chevalier:  a knight

©2016 P.B. Lecron

Thursday, August 11, 2016

WORK IN PROGRESS

We like the novel and cartoonish character of the temporary construction site fencing around an old haunt, the Musée Cluny in Paris. The National Museum of the Middle Ages is undergoing a three-phase restoration and renovation project. The first phase, restoration of the chapel, is to be completed in October 2016. Following that will be work on the ruins of the Gallo-Roman thermal baths in 2016-2017, and finally the construction of a new visitors' entrance projected for the end of 2017.

Vocabulary
une clôture sur le chantier de construction:  a construction site fence


©2016 P.B. Lecron

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

BANANA HAIR

There's a French name for the sort of over-combed hair style depicted in the ensign above. It's called une coiffure banane. The sign is one among many that dress up the ancient fortified French Brittany village of Moncontour, classified as one of the most beautiful of France, as well as a Petite Cité de Caractère

Expression
Coiffer quelqu'un sur le poteau:  to win a competition by a hair;  the word coiffer here means to depass someone just at the finish, the expression having its origin at the race tracks where the winning horse's head is the first to pass the finish line marked  by a post


©2016 P.B. Lecron

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

FERRETING OUT A COOL SHOPPING BAG


The most "branché" reusable shopping bag yet is this one from one of Europe's largest booksellers, le Furet du Nord. The store, which first opened in Lille in the north of France in 1936, owes its name to the fact that its founder decided to keep the name of the preceding boutique, that of a furrier, which had occupied his storefront.

Don't leave home without a shopping bag: from July 2016 on, disposable plastic shopping sacks having a thickness of less than 50 microns are forbidden in France, with the exception of bags used to wrap and weigh fruits and vegetables. Also forbidden are oxo-fragmentable plastic bags, which are biodegradable but not compostable. In July 2017 the interdiction will be expanded to include all non-compostable plastic sacks less than 50 microns in thickness. The movement is toward compostable, vegetable origin wrappings...but the phase-out of the plastic bags seems too slow. For the governmental announcement and schedule, click here

Vocabulary
un furet:  a ferret
les écouteurs:  headphones
branché(e):  hip (familiar)
un cabas:  a shopping bag


©2016 P.B. Lecron

Monday, August 8, 2016

A CLOTHESLINE

En zig-zag
No, this is not a conceptual art project, but a very real clothesline strung up in a nook and cranny on French Brittany's Pink Granite Coast in Ploumanac'h.

Just one snapshot of the many dramatic formations along the Côte de Granit Rose lying between Trébeurden and Perros-Guirec. There are only three such coast lines in the world, the other two are in Corsica and in China.

Vocabulary
une corde à linge:  a clothesline
une pince à linge:  a clothespin
un recoin:  a nook
une fissure:  a cranny

©2016 P.B. Lecron

Saturday, August 6, 2016

LIKE A HARP


Spanning the Loire River at Orléans is the unusual Pont de l'Europe designed by Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava. The inclined arc suspended bridge with its cables reminiscent of bowstrings, was achieved in the year 2000.

Vocabulary
un pont:  a bridge
une harpe:  a harp

©2016 P.B. Lecron

Thursday, August 4, 2016

ALL THAT'S NEEDED

Si vous possédez une bibliothèque et un jardin, vous avez tout ce qu'il vous faut. -- Cicéron
If you have a library and a garden, you have everything you need. -- Cicero
The above photos were taken in the Potager du Roi, the king's kitchen garden originally planted for Louis XIV in Versailles. Depicted is a detail and the statue commemorating August Hardy, the first director of the École Nationale Supérieure de Paysage which was established in Versailles in 1873.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

HIS NIBS

Playing king and lording over his band of friends is le Roi des Moutards. The painting is the work of Orléans native, Alexandre Antigna (1817-1878) and hangs in the city's Musée des Beaux Arts.

Vocabulary
un moutard:  a kid
son altesse, sa majesté:  his nibs (here in the sense of a self-important person)


©2016 P.B. Lecron

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

MORE DESIGNER TREES

The city of Orléans has taken straight and narrow architectural pruning to new heights, making Versailles' tree pruners look like pikers. These highly pruned hornbeams make uplifting punctuation marks in the city which was liberated in 1429 from an English siege by soldiers led by Jeanne d'Arc.

Vocabulary
un pingre:  a piker; someone who does something in a small way


©2016 P.B. Lecron