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Horsies and Duckies At The Louvre

When I started this blog to record what I am learning about France, it seemed like I had such a long time to read all the books on my list, to watch the DVD’s and to create a detailed itinerary of what I want to see.  However,  the urgency of busyness and my health problems caused a lot of my plans to be shelved. Presently,  I feel like I am a student cramming for exams as I watch lectures on the Louvre, skim through guidebooks, read a few more memoirs of people living in France and watch just a few more French movies.  However, I am becoming increasingly aware that my objective to be really knowledgeable and informed needs to become more realistic as I only have three weeks before departure.

My frustration that I didn’t absorb as much about France as I would have liked stems from my ignorance when Greg and I went on an European bus tour when we were in our twenties.   It’s embarrassing to admit that I had no desire to go to the Louvre as I didn’t even  understand its significance.  At any rate, Greg and I chose to walk along the Seine River while friends of ours went to the Louvre.   Ironically, we had a really relaxing time and they returned despondent since it was closed.  It must have been a Tuesday!!  Anyways, I thought I should be a little more culturally astute this time!

Besides knowledge, I am aware that some travellers also have epiphanies about themselves as they interact with their new surroundings.  I finished reading  Traveling With Pomegranates which is a memoir by mother and daughter who described their travels to Greece and France and how each one of these women explored themes of identity.  Sue Monk Kidd reflected  on aging and looked closely at all paintings that included Anne the Virgin Mary’s mother.  Ann Kidd examined her lack of self-worth and had the epiphany that she wanted to be a writer as she reflected on paintings and icons of Mary, Athena and Joan of Arc.  Their intense journal reflections made me think of an old Charlie Brown Comic Strip that I found in its entirety on the following web-site:

Van Pelt: Aren’t the clouds beautiful? They look like big balls of cotton. I could just lie here all day and watch them drift by. If you use your imagination, you can see lots of things in the cloud’s formations. What do you think you see, Linus?

Linus Van Pelt: Well, those clouds up there look to me look like the map of the British Honduras on the Caribbean. [points up]  That cloud up there looks a little like the profile of Thomas Eakins,  the famous painter and sculptor. And that group of clouds over there… [points]  …gives me the impression of the Stoning of Stephen. I can see the Apostle Paul standing there to one side.

Lucy Van Pelt: Uh huh. That’s very good. What do you see in the clouds, Charlie Brown?

Charlie Brown: Well… I was going to say I saw a duckie and a horsie, but I changed my mind.

In other words, my reflections as I travel are not always that serious or that personal or that revelatory.   Does this mean that my holiday will not be as significant or as meaningful?  Does it mean that because my knowledge of the history of France is very elementary and my knowledge of the French language is that of a preschooler my appreciation for France is lessened?    Well, undoubtedly the answer is yes.  However, as I read the dialogue from the Charlie Brown comic strip, Charlie Brown still saw something in the clouds, didn’t he?  He may not have been able to see what the more intellectually informed could see, but had he not been intimidated by them, he could still have appreciated those clouds and the images that he saw in them.  It’s like watching a basketball game.  Greg understands all the complexities of the game and I only understand that the object is to get the ball in the basket.  My enjoyment may be more “child-like”  but it still exists.

 Therefore, when I go into  a famous building like the Louvre,  I know that my appreciation for its many paintings  will  be limited since I don’t understand those fundamentals of art such as its composition, colour distribution or the author’s manipulation of pictorial space.  And yet, like Charlie Brown, I can look at the image before me and still see something that may give me pleasure.  And fortunately for me, I have guidebooks that may also point me toward a more intellectual response so that when I gaze at the “Fete Champetre,” I will see more than two well dressed men and two naked ladies sitting outside on the grass. As I have begun watching the lectures about the Louvre through Teaching Company, I need to embrace what Professor Richard Brettell says about our tour of the Louvre and for me my tour of all of France:   “Relax, you can never know it all.”

 
 
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Posted by on August 28, 2012 in Books, France, Paris, Travel, Uncategorized

 

COCO CHANEL’S GOSPEL SUCKS WHEN YOU GET OLD!

Karen Karbo attempts to demonstrate in her book The Gospel According To Coco Chanel how Coco Chanel’s life is a template for you and me to learn  “life lessons from the world’s most elegant woman.”

We usually associate the word gospel with the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  But there is another more generic definition of gospel:  It is something, such as an idea or principle, accepted as unquestionably true.   Both definitions suggest that you have embraced a truth so big that it impacts everythng you think, say and do.

Karen Karbo focuses more on life lessons than clarify exactly what Chanel’s principle is that guides most of her life.    However, from all the stories she includes of Chanel’s life,  her main principle is demonstrated and that is you must be a survivor no matter what the cost may be.  As a survivor, she couldn’t care what others thought of her.  Therefore, if she needed to become a mistress to get ahead, so be it.  If she needed to lie, then prevaricate as much as necessary.  If she wanted to live with a Nazi during the French occupation, let the public reaction be damned.

As a survivor, she left France for almost ten years when she was spared going to jail for having a Nazi lover.  Then she returned to Paris and had a fashion show on February 5. 1954.  It failed miserably.  Undaunted, she continued and of course made a terrific comeback until her death in 1970 at 87 years old.  In other words, her survivor mentality made her strong and gave her terrific tenacity and determination.  And there is no question that each one of us must have some survivor mentality or we would never be able to overcome our tough circumstances.  However, in order to be superior to the rest of the animal world, don’t we also need to include morality and integrity in our life changing gospel?

As Karen Karbo nears the end of her book, I wondered if she too began to realize that Chanel’s life principle was inadequate since it seemed rather shallow how she concluded that Chanel’s important gospel was her truths for fashion:

“Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only.  Fashion is in the sky, in the street; fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.”
“But Coco said fashion fades, only style remains, and I am style.”

“When I speak of elegance I am speaking of luxury.  Luxury must remain invisible, but it must be felt.  Luxury is simple; it is the opposite of complication.”
“Some people think luxury is the opposite of poverty.  It is not.  It is the opposite of vulgarity.  Luxury is the opposite of status.  It is the ability to make a living by being oneself.  It is the freedom to refuse to live by habit.  Luxury is liberty.  Luxury is elegance.”

As much as many of her statements about fashion may still be true, do they convey a gospel that can sustain a person when she  gets older?  I don’t thnk so when we read about Chanel’s increasing anger as she got old.   As Karbo writes, “She was snarlier than ever.  She disparaged everyone.  . .. She said all of her old friends were witless and diabolical and merely out to use her.  She was lonely. Her comment in her interview for The New Yorker  reveals rather clearly why she lost her joy:  She could no longer look younger and therefore feel more joyous.

“Fashion is always of the time in which you live.  It is not something standing alone. But the grand problem, the most important problem, is to rejuvenate women.  To make women look young.  Then their outlook on life changes.  They feel more joyous.” . .. I am not young, but I feel young.  The day I feel old, I will go to bed and stay there.  J’aime la vie!  I feel that to live is a wonderful thing.

 Life was no longer a wonderful thng when she could no longer hide the wrinkles, could no longer take away the pain of her arthritis, could no longer sustain her when so many of her peers were dying.  It takes a much deeper and more profound gospel to be able to say that “to live is a wonderful thing” when all those things are affecting the joy in your day.  And her underlying principle to survive could no longer sustain her as she got older since she knew that that instinct could not prevent her death!

And yet, right to the end, she stubbornly held onto the belief that being fashionable was not just an important component but the only component to bring joy and fulfillment.  Therefore, very much alone   “she ascended into her small room, which was in the hotel that was the Ritz, . .. she laid down upon the bed in her suit, in her blouse and pearls, and removed her two-tone pumps, and placed them beside her bed, and then understanding that her hour had come, called out and said, “This is what it is like to die,” thereby dying as elegantly as she had lived.”

 Last night I was watching a movie where one of the characters said, “You have to find something bigger than yourself” in order to live a full life.  Some may say that she found something bigger than herself by pursuing fashion, but I think we need to find something bigger than ourselves that also carries us through old age and death.

Photo:  discounttravelcover.com
 
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Posted by on May 19, 2012 in Books, France, Paris, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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MENTORED BY SYLVIA BEACH!

When was the last time you wrote a letter to a friend or even to a business? Most of us rely on Facebook and e-mail now to keep in touch.  However, we don’t keep those messages the way we once did when we received a letter.

And think of what we would never know about prominent people like Sylvia Beach if we didn’t have her letters.  I just read Letters of Sylvia Beach which was edited by Keri Walsh.  Sylvia Beach is the woman who opened her bookstore in Paris in 1921 and made the bookstore  Shakespeare and Company famous when she published the controversial book by James Joyce called Ulysses.Much has been said about her influence in the 1920s and much has been critiqued about what happened when Joyce stopped publishing books with her. But what interested me was some of the character qualities that emanated from her letters – qualities that I was drawn to.

  • Sylvia Beach identified her passion and decided to pursue it.

When Sylvia was in Paris,  her mother suggested that she start an export business which she tried but it just wasn’t that lucrative and more importantly, that interesting to her.  She thought about how she was a voracious reader, and so she decided to open a book store that would appeal to all the English speaking people who were living in Paris.

  •  Sylvia Beach was not one to give up on her dreams.

Around the same time she decided to open a book store, a large library for the English had just opened. Rather than giving up, she realized that this library didn’t collect new fiction and non-fiction which became her focus.

  •  Sylvia  was not afraid to non-conform.

Up till then bookstores all looked the same – rather dark inside with rows of bookcases.  She decided to place her books only along the perimeter of the walls and covered the floors with rugs making  the space  welcoming and comfortable.

  •  Sylvia took risks when she believed in something passionately.

When James Joyce’ book Ulysses was being censored in United States, she boldly published it in Paris.  She also smuggled copies back into the United States.

“You probably saw in the papers the uproar cased by the trial of the Editors of the Little Review for printing some of Ulysses in it, and how they were fined $100 and their thumb prints taken.  Nine stenographers gave up the typing of the last episode here in Paris and a gentleman from the British Embassy burned a dozen pages . .. he threw ‘e, into the fire in a rage.  Ulysses is a masterpiece and one day it will be ranked among the classics in English literature.  Joyce is in Paris and I told him I would publish his book, after the publisher in New York threw up the job in a fright.

  •  Sylvia had a sense of humour.

“Have you, for example, ever read Les Miserables?  I never have till now and am at Vol 2.  It pays to read it, even if you wear out two or three pairs of glasses in doing so.”

(On a long air flight)  In the morning, I stayed awhile in the bathroom to fascinate myself with the numerous comforts that were installed there – beautiful electric razors and all that – and the poop deck in the lavatory where one does not flush – because that is immediately absorbed by the septic tank, like they make you take note, when the hostess came to ask me politely if I thought of staying there much longer “it’s that it’s that of the men you’re in”, she told me.  “That explains al those electric razors, I told her.”  (1953)

  •  Sylvia was a visionary.

Even though James Ulysse’s book was censored in United States, she believed that she was publishing the “greatest book and author of the age” !

  • Sylvia had developed loyal friends who were prepared to take risks with her.

Marion, you were such an angel to take all that trouble bootlegging for me!  As for the two copies that were confiscated, it was a miracle they were not all taken.  500 copies of the 2nd edition which appeared in ctober were seized in the States and the same number were destroyed in England about two mnths ago by the enlightened (?) authorities.  What a dark age were are living in and what a privilege to behold the spectacle of ignorant men solemnly deciding whether the work of some great writer is suitable for the public to read or not!

  • Sylvia was honest and forthright.

“I wish you would stop making those melodies thought, George.  The more you put of them in your work the more it doesn’t suit it, and they do give me slightly a bellyache.  Excuse me for being so frank dearest George, it’s for your good”.

  • Sylvia was not afraid to apologize.

(An apology for not getting to the task of publishing an author’s work ):  “It is quite unforgivable.  Adrienne was ill at the time I got the MS, and since then we have had an unbroken series of what they would call “emmerdements” ranging from a felon on my thumb and a finger cut off in the door of the car to the dog nearly dying with typhus; and Adrienne after an abscess in her tooth is now being slowly cured of a “dilatation d’estomac” which we hope will wind up the series, but I know I should have attended to the MW.  In spite of all thatYou do everything under far greater difficultiesI am sure.”

  • Sylvia wrote many letters to friends and nurtured friendships.

Just before the war when most Americans and English had left Paris, her business was greatly suffering.  Those same friends would often send her money or gifts to help her.  She sent many letters expressing her gratitude.

  • Sylvia did not give up very easily during tough circumstances.

(1932)  My time and energy are entirely absorbed in the problem of keeping my shop going in these bad times.  Since most of the English and Americans have gone away, the library terms have to be revised for the French who, I hope, will take their place.  From morning till night I am busy cataloguing and arranging the books and attending to all the rest of the work that is always accumulating on account of my headaches so often laying me up.

  • Sylvia was  brave when she stayed in France during the German occupation

Rather than returning to the United States during the German occupation of France, Beach opted to stay in France. Therefore, the Germans sent Beach  to an internment camp along with other  American and Brits who made that same decision.  Before she was captured, she closed her bookstore, painted over the Shakespeare and Company sign, and hid all of her books upstairs. (She never reopened the store).

  • Sylvia accomplished so much even though she suffered from a lifetime of migraines.

(1937)  “And then I’ve been in bed with a very bad headache which lays me down hard every week or so, in a way that would disgust anyone.  That’s why the cables from two firms who seem to be expecting my memoirs never get an answer, and never will probably unless Sylvia (her friend’s daughter) hurries up and comes over to the rescue.

(1947)  “Am working on my headaches and think have got somewhere at last.  A friend took me to a doc who does massage and has you do exercises and its not Chinese nor Swedish nor Hindu but his own invention.  I’ve had osteopathy, and napropathy and electro therapy, and pressure on the nerve centres and all the injections that have been discovered and this is the first time any one ever seemed to get anywhere near my headaches.”

  • Sylvia knew what her life purpose was until her death.

 The 1920’s were very significant years in Paris when authors like Earnest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald and James Joyce were all exploring their literary styles and interacting with other great authors.  Throughout her life,  Sylvia Beach was regarded as the guardian of the memory of 1920s in Paris.  She wrote her book of memoirs, catalogued books from her store, and kept the memory of those exciting years alive until at  75,  she died in Paris.

Initially, Sylvia Beach opened her bookstore on the rue Dupuytren, but in 1921 she moved it to the rue de l”Odeon.  Currently,  a small specialty shop called Moi Cani inhabits Shakespeare and Company’s premises at 12 rue de l’Odeon.  Only a commemorative plaque remains on this building.   However,  On the rue de la Bucherie, Whitman opened a bookstore  first called  Le Mistral, in 1951.  He later renamed the shop  Shakespeare and Company in honour of Beach’s and presently, his daughter, Sylvia Beach Whitman runs the bookstore.  
 
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Posted by on May 17, 2012 in Books, France, Paris, Travel

 

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ASK MONT SAINTE-VICTOIRE YOUR QUESTION

When I read The Provence Cure For the Brokenhearted, I was drinking lots of green tea pumping my body with its antioxidants and eating the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce and toast) as I soothed my intestinal tract after two bad bouts of flu!  This book, written by Bridget Asher, is  a story about Heidi who has been widowed for two years but is still experiencing debilitating grief, her son Abbott who has become obsessed with germs, and a rebellious   teenager Charlotte who is the daughter of the widow’s new brother-in-law who has married her sister.  Due to certain circumstances, they end up in Provence where of course, healing occurs for each one of them.

What captivated my interest was how Mont Sainte-Victoire played such a profound impact upon the story.   This mountain was depicted  in many of  Cezanne’s paintings since he could see this mountain outside his home.  Of course, it made sense that Cezanne had to paint this mountain since he was mesmerized by light and its effects on how we see things, and we learn from one of the characters who lived by this mountain  that  it  “changes colour through the day.”  One of the characters commented that  “Cezanne regarded Mont Sainte-Victoire from the front.  We see the mountain from the side.  La longueur.  A wider canvas.”

This mountain gradually assumes almost magical properties when we learn that Heidi’s mother had come here years ago and spent much time watching the mountain until she had the answer to  a life changing decision.   It is no surprise then that  when Heidi’s mother and other daughter fly to Provence to be with the rest of the family  at the height of everyone’s struggles, Heidi’s mother tells them all to sit and look at this mountain!   Of course, her daughters questioned her, (“Are you crazy?”), but eventually they responded to her order, “Get your chairs.  Pick them up.  Follow me.”

She proceeded to tell her daughters and her granddaughter, “This is how we’ll come to our answers and how we’ll find our resolve to stick to them.”  She proceeded to tell them, “We won’t talk about anything, not until sunset at least.  And then we can talk as much as we need to, but for now, quiet.” Of course, eventually, each one of them receives an answer!

This story poses an interesting challenge when I travel to Provence.  As enthusiastic tourists, we are often  chatting, discussing what we see, talking about where we are going next, and wondering where we are going to eat, can I just  quietly regard this mountain even for a short time in silence?  Ideally, I would like to view the mountain where I could see the Cross of Provence.   As a more challenging exercise, it would be lovely to find a place to sit and ask this mountain a question and then just watch it.

In our world of cell phones, computers, text-messages, e-mails, Facebook, and Twitter,  it is increasingly difficult  quiet the babble of sounds and to hear quiet.  I suspect that is why meditation is becoming more and more popular.  However, I really, like the idea of posing a question rather than emptying my thoughts completely and then sitting not in a void, but contemplating a beautiful mountain.   The power and effectiveness of such a challenge is likely divine since God tells us, “Be still and know that I am God.”   It’s just about impossible to enter His Presence and hear His Voice if we are surrounded by noise.

Currently, I have no mountain to look at, but  I have begun experimenting with quieting my mind by colouring mandalas.  So far,  I haven’t received any life changing answers, but I have experienced  stillness and quiet reassurances.  However, wouldn’t it be a wonderful memory if I could contemplate while looking at Mont Saint-Victoire and return home with the answer to a  question I’ve had for  14 years? Realistically, those kind of answers probably require the kind of time that these characters were prepared to invest since it takes awhile to rid our minds of our clutter of thoughts. However, perhaps I am minimizing the magical mysterious properties of Mont Saint-Victoire!

Mandala While Sick With The Flu

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2012 in Books, France, Paris, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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FRENCH KISS

As I was looking through my DVD library trying to find a light comedy to watch, I pulled out French Kiss that I hadn’t seen in a long time. I thought the title was rather appropriate with my project of reading and viewing  material that is French related!  It was produced in 1995 starring Meg Ryan as Kate  and Kevin Kline as Luc. It was a light heartwarming  story about a jilted woman who flies to Paris to bring her fiancé back to his senses and bring him back home. Of course she meets a French man who complicates this process.

I was particularly happy  to see so much of Paris in the movie.   I even saw the inside of  George V Hotel that I wrote about in one  my blogs when I imagined myself sitting in one its dining rooms.  Of course I wouldn’t want to lose my bag to a thief like Kate  did in its lobby!

I also enjoyed viewing the  beautiful countryside as Kate and Luc rode on a train heading to the south of France still chasing after her fiancé.  I couldn’t help think of my daughter who is joining us in Paris when Kate says, “What’s with the French and their dairy?”  It’s going to be a challenge for her to find food that won’t make her ill since so much of French food contains dairy.   Therefore, I didn’t know whether to laugh or be concerned when  on the train, Kate indulges in some cheese, claiming that she doesn’t seem to be reacting to French cheese, when suddenly she is in agony shouting, ” LACTOSE INTOLERANT!

In one  of  the scenes, when she is chatting to her fiancé, she explains that she has learned to be rude to waiters since they will respond to her wishes more that way!     Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni who wrote an essay in Paris Was Ours would readily agree:    The daily humiliations I encountered until I realized that the accepted protocol is to bite back~!  How the endless non morph into a honeyed oui when you stand your ground!  And learning to accept the acerbic humour even if it stings!  Imagine asking a middle-aged man for directions – it was my first day – and being served with “Mademoiselle, do I look like a map?”

Unfortunately, Kate, even though she was a history teacher,  portrayed an ignorant tourist not knowing much about France so that at one point, she asks Luc if France is a democracy.  He didn’t portray the stereotype French person who would have responded much more harshly than just a quiet, “Oui!”

However I did appreciate Kate’s outburst against the French woman’s pout and keeping the man on edge so that he cannot  anticipate her thoughts and feelings.  And yet, when Luc convinced her to be provocative and not crying and begging her fiancé to come home, she successfully made her fiancé apologize and want to return to her.  Maybe the French woman knows what she is doing, n’est pas?

Anyways, French Kiss accomplished what I needed:  a quiet, relaxing evening eating popcorn and enjoying a comedy that also allowed me to see more of France!

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2012 in Books, DVDs, France, Paris, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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DON’T TRUST YOUR INTUITION IN FRANCE!

I see a nice man,” she said simply.  “You want to know how I can tell?  It’s the same gut feeling I use with animals.  Somehow you just know when they are going to be okay, or you know they’re potentially vicious and going to bite.  I don’t think you are going to bite me, Jake Bronson.”  This conversation is from Elizabeth Adler’s novel, Invitation To Provence

I chose this book assuming I would read some lovely details about Provence, but the author focused more on the conflicts between relationships and of course the growing romance between some of them.  The story could easily have occurred anywhere in the world rather than specifically in Provence.  However, I did find myself wondering about this character’s intuition and how much we can rely upon that intuition especially when we are visiting another country.

I actually had  difficulty trusting Fanny Marten’s intuition since this  confident statement was  coming from a woman who recently just learned that the man she was dating was married!  And yet, Malcolm Gladwell in his book Blink, gives interesting evidence that supports the effectiveness of our snap judgments.  For example, in one study, the researcher Ambady  gave the subjects a two second videotape of three teachers and asked them to evaluate them.  Then she compared those snap judgments with evaluations of the same professors made by their students after a full semester of classes, and she found that they were essentially the same!  As Gladwell comments, “That’s the power of our adaptive unconscious.”

Malcolm Gladwell cautions his reader when he writes, “Blink is not just a celebration of the power of the glance, however.  I’m also interested in those moments when our instincts betray us.”  Gladwell may be able to explain Fanny’s   initial poor judgment when he writes about another study involving speed dating:  “Many people who looked at Warren Harding saw how extraordinarily handsome and distinguished-looking he was and jumped to the immediate – and entirely unwarranted- conclusion that he was a man of courage and intelligence and integrity.  They didn’t dig below the surface.  The way he looked carried so many powerful connotations that it stopped the normal process of thinking dead in its tracks.”

As a tourist, do we have instincts that will betray us when we interact with people of a different culture?  Gladwell explains how another study revealed how the face has a mind of its own.  “We can use our voluntary muscular system to try to suppress those involuntary responses.  But, often, some little part of that suppressed emotion – such as the sense that I’m really unhappy even if I deny it – leaks out.:  Supposedly, if we watch those facial expressions closely, we can accurately make an accurate snap judgment.  However,  as David Lebovitz writes in Paris Was Ours, “I do my best to act like a Parisian:  I smile only when I actually have something to be happy about”   Since the French don’t smile as readily as we Canadians do,  I could easily make a wrong snap judgment that the unsmiling French person is unhappy or even “suspicious looking”.

Or if I saw a mother “speak with a sharpness that is alarming to the uninitiated” as Janine Di Giovanni describes in the same book,  I might think she abuses her children at home and should be reported!    However, As Janine Di Giovanni explains, “They think they are doing their children a favour, which is to civilize them.”

Or I might conclude that the French have no morality when they are indifferent to their leader’s moral failings.  And yet, as I read Alicia Drake’s essay in Paris Was Ours, their acceptance is merely their  “recognition of human frailty.”

Obviously, it is imperative that as a tourist, we really need to be aware of some of the cultural differences to help us make snap judgments.

But as for my character Fanny Marten in the novel Invitation to Providence,  Sigmund Freud himself supports Fanny’s intuition regarding her new boyfriend:  “When making a decision of minor importance, I have always found it advantageous to consider all the pros and cons.  In vital matters, however, such as the choice of a mate or a profession, the decision should come from the unconscious, from somewhere within ourselves.  In the important decisions of personal life, we should be governed, I think, by the deep inner needs of our nature”   (Blink by Malcolm Gladwell)

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2012 in Books, France, Paris, Travel

 

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CAN PARISIAN CHIC BE TAUGHT?

Is it possible to develop that Parisian Chic and be confident that you are actually “pulled together” after decades of  having no real plan except “just hoping for the best”.  I intend to find that out as I read Parisian Chic: A Style Guide.  This book is written by someone who intimidates me but yet challenges me because she attempts to simplify how the Parisians accomplish a finished look.  Her name is Ines de la Fressange and she has earned the right to speak as she has been a successful model for Chanel and is currently a businesswoman with a chain of clothing boutiques.  And even in her fifties – she was born in 1957 – she still does occasional modelling as she walked the runway for Jean Paul Gaultier’s spring/summer collection in 2009.  And in 2011, she walked the runaway for Chanel. After learning this information on Wikipedia, I was curious to read what advice she could give that I might be able to copy!   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inès_de_La_Fressange

I think the most powerful advice occurs  right at the beginning when the author writes:  “Parisian style is an attitude, a state of mind. . . . A Parisian steps lightly around the fashion traps of the day.  Her secret?  She breathes the air du temps and puts it to good use, her way, and always with the same aim:  fashion should be fun.”My problem is that especially these last couple of decades I haven’t paid that much attention to current fashion.  I just wander into a store and hopefully walk out with something appropriate and that looks good on me.  Am I prepared to take that extra time to become more aware of current trends?  And of course, the real challenge is to take that current trend and modify it so that it is appropriate  for the older, more mature woman!  

Time will tell if this book can help me develop that intuitiveness to know how to  put  together an outfit and have that Parisian chic.  The author begins with a six point guide that wasn’t particularly revelatory to me – I know that buying a matching blouse and skirt can be overdone. I once bought a bright floral skirt and matching blouse and I learned rather quickly how I could look like one overdone rose.

And of course, the author talks about how the French woman knows how to purchase one expensive item and mix it with more affordable items.  With my husband heading toward retirement, it is rather mandatory that I skip the small designer item and create a Parisian chic with everything affordable!

I did find interesting her comment that  “black and navy are made for each other.”Could they be the two basic colors I work with as I consider what to pack to France?

I had to laugh when I read the examples given to demonstrate how we are to achieve an “offbeat chic:’  wear a tux jacket with sneakers, or wear a chiffon print dress with battered biker boots or a pearl necklace with a rock ‘n roll t shirt.    I think if my adult daughter arrived at my front door and witnessed me wearing a rock ‘n roll shirt while wearing pearls she would begin laughing and then strongly advise I return to the bedroom and try again!    And yet what I am reading does suggest a good, basic principle: Don’t just  look chic but have some fun with your look.   Certainly, I have  forgotten how once I looked closely at fashion magazines and then would begin going through my closet gradually having a collage of clothing strewn across the bed as I tried pants,  dresses, skirts and tops looking for that one perfect look before I went out on a date.

As I look at her photo above, I am challenged to set aside my running shoes or my Nike sandals and find a more feminine pair of shoes that I can still walk in!  I am challenged to experiment with colours since I wouldn’t have mixed a charcoal sweater with a brown pair of pants since I learned as a young woman not to mix browns and blacks together!   I seem to be dressing more and more casual which isn’t bad as long as it doesn’t look sloppy. Am I wearing jeans and a casual t-shirt almost as my uniform now?   Notice that Ines wears casual pants but dresses them up with a sweater that has some interesting trim on it.

Perhaps, as some of us get older, we are afraid that others may accuse us of “trying to look younger” and “not dressing for our age” so that we gradually get more and more dull and conservative.  Certainly, Ines de la Fressange even cautions us that we can’t wear what we used to when we were younger.  However, too many of us have heard that caution but haven’t heard how we can modify some of the current trends so that they still look flattering on the older woman.  I’m not sure where these reflections will lead me but she has indeed sown seeds of Parisian Chic into my spirit!

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2012 in Books, France, Paris, Travel

 

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