29 12 2012

My French Quest

Joyeux Noël from Paris!

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From all outward appearances, Christmas is not that much different in Paris than it is in the United States.

Decorating begins around Thanksgiving, the malls and shopping districts are crowded with shoppers, and Bing Crosby’s White Christmas can be heard in just about any restaurant, café, or store in the city.

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Cathedrals are full on Christmas Eve, families gather for meals, presents and fellowship and most businesses are closed on Christmas day.

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So why should Christmas have the same meaning for me this year as I am on a different continent, separated from the ones I love dearly and miss terribly?  As I was sitting in the Notre Dame Cathedral today for Christmas Eve Mass, it became very clear to me. It is because I can still celebrate the birth of my Savior, Jesus Christ, who came to this world, the WHOLE world, so that…

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29 12 2012

My French Quest

Impressionist’s Exhibits in Paris

In 1863 Louis Napoleon III decreed that the citizens of Paris should be allowed to judge the quality and standards of art for themselves.  For the previous 100 years, the content and style of French art had been judged solely by the Académie des Beaux-Arts.  They preferred historical subjects, religious themes which were “finished” images.  Therefore, Napoleon III established the Salon des Refusés to allow the public to view the more modern artist’s work of landscapes and contemporary life.  Artists such as Pierre-August Renoir, Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Édouard Manet Alfred Sisley, and Paul Cézanne submitted their works to this exhibition.  Many of their works won prizes, garnered commissions and developed a following.

Ten years later, Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, and Sisley organized the Société Anonyme Coopérative des Artistes Peintres, Sculpteurs, Graveurs (“Cooperative and Anonymous Association of Painters, Sculptors, and Engravers”) in order to exhibit their works…

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29 12 2012

My French Quest

I first saw Les Miserables on Broadway in 1995.  I fell in love with this story, cried all the way through it and even chased Jean Valjean through the streets of NY after the play trying to get his autograph (He just kept running!!!).  True story!

Consequently, the first thing I did when I moved to Paris was to start reading Les Miserables , noting the boulevards, houses, monuments that Hugo details in the story and walking through them recreating this incredible homage to Paris.  To my surprise and fortune, I walk down these same streets every day to class, through the jardins, boulevards and houses of Les Mis.  I am still chasing Jean Valjean!

Victor Hugo’s famous novel, Les Misérables, chronicles the history of France from 1815 through 1832.  This 1500+ page tome examines the harsh consequences of breaking the law tempered with divine grace of redemption.  Weaved into…

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6 12 2012

My French Quest

Paris never ceases to amaze me.  Just when I think I have discovered all of the great places, Voila! I have a new favorite: la librairie de Shakespeare and Company !

Shakespeare and Company  is an English-language bookstore located right across from the Notre Dame Cathedral, 37 rue de la Bûcherie. It has little reading nooks, sleeping facilities, a library full of classics that were donated by the original owner Sylvia Beach, and new books for purchase.

Originally opened in 1919 on rue Dupuytren, it has been visited over the years by such famous writers as Henry Miller, Anais Nin, Richard Wright and was a gathering placeof the “Lost Generation” in the 1920;s for: Hemingway, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Man Ray and James Joyce who had an office there.  The original location was closed during the German occupation of Paris and never re-opened. The current location was opened in…

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2 12 2012

My French Quest

“On My Way to Class through the Latin Quarter”

This week marks the half-way point of My Parisian Journey and I finally feel like a part of my neighborhood.   This sense of belonging includes getting to know the people behind the faces that I see every day.  There’s Gabriel who owns my boulangerie with cannolloni crepes that  melt in your mouth, Bruno who owns my patisserie with the best flan-natural in the city, Mou Mou who makes my Friday night nutella crepes, and Kayser who makes an eggplant-fromage quiche that I have to say “no” to as I pass by each day!

As I walk down the streets of the Latin Quarter, I am reminded daily of the reason that I chose this particular arrondisment to live in while I study abroad.  This area gets its name from the latin language which was once widely spoken here around the universities…

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28 11 2012

My French Quest

“Giving Thanks in France in Aix-en-Provence”

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I took a trip to Aix-en-Provence, a city in the south of France which was founded in 123 BC.  The three hour train ride took me through the beautiful countryside of Provence complete with wine vineyards, rows of lilacs, medieval fortresses, rolling green hills bordered by hedgerows, and sunshine (which I don’t see much of in Paris!!) As the train pulled into Aix, I could see Montagne Sainte-Victoire, one of the famous landmarks which was also the favorite subject of Paul Cezanne’s works.

In the 4th century, when Aix was the capital of Provence, a Merovingian baptistery was built in what is now the Saint-Sauveur Cathedrale.  This baptistery is situated in an octagonal basin surrounded by marble columns and Roman frescos dating back to the 5th century.  On Sunday morning, I had my own private worship time complete…

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23 11 2012

My French Quest

” Voltaire in Paris”

One of my favorite books in French literature is Candide, a short humorous novel about an optimist, Candide, and his mentor, Pangloss, who travel the world and experience many tragedies, but maintain a sense of optimism throughout. Candide , written by Voltaire in 1762, is a work of historical fiction based on the actual world events such as: the Seven Years’ war, the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, and the resulting fires of All Saints Day.  After witnessing the brutal murder of his love, Cunégonde, Candide and Pangloss spend the next few years traveling to such places as Holland, Lisbon, Buenos Aires, Paris, Constantinople, and Turkey. Finally when they return back home Candide  marries his love Cunégonde (she was actually not murdered) and ends the story still an optimist, telling Pangloss, “come we must cultivate our garden”!

The name Voltaire is actually the pen name of

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