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WHO ARE YOU PRETENDING TO BE ON YOUR TRIP?

At the beginning of the film The Closet, a photo is being taken of all the people working at this firm and the photographer keeps asking everyone to move in more tightly in order to get everyone in the picture.  Eventually, one man , Francois, just steps out of the picture, revealing his ” non-existent” personality,  and the photo is taken.  Shortly after, we learn that this man whose personality is incredibly bland,  will be fired.  Not only is he ignored by the employees and management, his son refuses to see him also.   Extremely depressed, he considers suicide.    However,  a psychologist who lives in the same building,  interrupted his suicidal attempt and told him how to get his job back:  he must pretend he is homosexual.

When a photo of him dressed for a homosexual party is mysteriously passed around the office,  the employees are soon regarding him no longer as a boring person but someone who has been leading a rather daring, private life.  And he is employed again since the boss didn’t want to look politically incorrect and fire a homosexual!

There were many humorous situations as one of the employees who was “homophobic” has been ordered to befriend this “homosexual” so that now he won’t be fired!

What I found fascinating was how  this timid man became more assertive even approaching the boss  to defend his manager.  He became more mentally tough since he didn’t step out of his homosexual role even after he was beaten by some men because they thought he was gay.  His son wanted to see him again because he began thinking his father was a more interesting person than he thought!

After I watched this film, I began to wonder if many people like to travel because they can pretend to be someone other than what they are at home.  Is it possible to be quiet and shy at home and be gregarious and verbose when travelling?  I speculate that this is possible only if we are travelling alone and not with people we know since we would be hindered by what others typically expect us to do.

And yet, if we follow life coachs’ instructions to make a list of the type of character qualities we would like to possess, travelling may still be a perfect opportunity to practice those qualities.  Where else would you be placed in a variety of situations in a short period of time to practice character-building qualities?  A typical list of qualities would probably include being assertive, patient, observant, relaxed, adaptable, and happy.    It just takes one day of being jet lagged, hungry and lost to necessitate applying those qualities!

Unfortunately, rather than allowing travelling to transform us, too many people allow traveling merely to reveal their weaknesses.  If a person is already impatient, you can assume she is the person losing her temper with a sales lady  who has been too slow  serving her.  If she is intolerant, she is the one insisting that her salad be served first rather than after her entree.  If she is not flexible, she is the one shouting at the hotel clerk when she discovers that her room only has a shower and not a bath.

In the movie The Closet, the film concludes with the yearly photo outside.  This time when the photographer is trying to get everyone into his frame, our hero does not allow himself to be pushed out of the photo.  Our hero must have embraced Cary Grant’s comment about transformation:  “I pretended to be somebody I wanted to be until finally I became that person. Or he became me.”

Perhaps, whenever we travel, we need to ask ourselves, “Who do I want to pretend to be on this trip?”  I know I am not like Cary Grant whose comment infers that he met his goal of becoming the person he pretended to be. The problem is that age and circumstances continually challenge my transformation.  My husband and I have been discussing how we keep seeing people as they get older become  intolerant,  impatient and quick to anger.  As we are now becoming that older person, I need to challenge myself on our trip to practice tolerance, patience and humour!

I know that my greatest weakness is requiring a very clean and presentable place to stay in when I am traveling.  Can I pretend to be adaptable in this area and respond accordingly if I am disappointed by our rented apartment.  I imagine myself entering  our  rented apartment taken aback by how small it is.  I walk into this bachelor suite and notice  that our kitchen table must be unfolded each time we use it,  that any bread crumbs that  slip onto the floor is  right beside our bed so that quickly we will have bread crumbs inside our sheets. I walk into the bathroom and gasp as I see black mold in the shower.  As I look at this dreary room,  I wonder what we missed when we saw these photos on the internet.  However, rather than cast blame on anyone or cry and wish I was back home, I remember that traveling is an opportunity to develop character and so I swallow hard  and begin to laugh!  And as I imagine this scenario, my inner voice is saying, “Please don’t let this really happen!!”  Apparently, I need a lot more practice pretending to be someone different than me!!

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2012 in DVDs, France, Paris, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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MASOCHISM ON AVENUE MONTAIGNE

I suppose if I am having a particularly masochistic day I could suggest that we wander down Avenue Montaigne.  If I am longing for even greater judgment and condescension from the sales people, I might even wander into one of the fashion stores.  Or if I am wondering if I have any acting skills and could dress the role so that I fit into the melee of the people most comfortable on this street, I could choose to see Avenue Montaigne.

When my husband and I were in Vegas with my daughter , I enjoyed her teasing me when we walked past such stores as Jimmy Choo, Prada and Louis Vuitton.  She knew that I hadn’t even been familiar with those names until I had watched the movie The Devil Wears Prada. I think I sometimes think I am from the “working class” rather from the “middle class” since I recall my family and most everyone else in my childhood neighbourhood struggle with finances. I My kids have often teased me for buying most of my clothes at the end of season clearance.  If I buy something that I think is excessive, I don’t want anyone to know how much I paid for that item – so I definitely don’t need logos ton my shirt to advertise that I did.    And yet, here I am planning a holiday to a very expensive city.  As you can see, I live in that constant tension of how to spend our money and save our money and give our money  wisely.

That schizophrenic confession about money explains why I would have been more drawn as a tourist to walk down Avenue Montaigne when it had been first named “Allee des Veuves (Widow’s Lane) because ladies in mourning found solace in its leafy shadows.  I have had lots of personal grief and so I would contemplate all the grief and perhaps solace that people had received on this Widow’s Lane.

However, in 1723, the street was renamed Avenue Montaigne and illuminated fountains and 30,000 gas jet lamps were installed.  I would still have been drawn to the energy of people entertaining themselves without a lot of expense by playing playing Chinese billiards, ring toss games and listening to bands playing polkas and waltzes.

Unfortunately, I am too late to participate in that fun while ambling down Avenue Montaigne.   By the turn of the last century, it was transformed into a high fashion street which has since become more important than rue du Faubourg Saint Honore for its high fashion.  Even our Canadian singer Celine has invested in this lucrative street.

And so I thought I would just settle for watching the warm hearted French movie called Avenue Montaigne. It was a wonderful story of  a young  woman from the province who comes to Paris and waits on tables in the midst of this entertainment and high fashion street.  I really enjoyed the movie and I got quite used to reading the English sub-titles..  As if the universe wanted to laugh at my decision to avoid Avenue Montaigne, I learned one alluring fact about this area:    Guess where the Canadian Embassy is located?!!!  Avenue Montaigne, No. 35.

First Photo by fififlowers.com
Second Photo by panoramio.com
 
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Posted by on May 9, 2012 in DVDs, France, Paris, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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HIGH FASHION, WIDOW’S LANE OR POLKAS?

I suppose if I am having a particularly masochistic day I could suggest that we wander down Avenue Montaigne.  If I am longing for even greater judgment and condescension from the sales people, I might even wander into one of the fashion stores.  Or if I am wondering if I have any acting skills and could dress the role so that I fit into the melee of the people most comfortable on this street, I could choose to see Avenue Montaigne.

I remember when my husband and I were in Vegas with my daughter and she helped me try to be impressed by some of the higher fashion stores like Louis Vuitton and Prada.  My problem is that no matter how middle class I am now, I was raised in a working class home and neighbourhood.  People were often laid off from their jobs and even when working, often had a running tab at the local store since there wasn’t enough money to cover the month’s expenses.   When I look at a $1,00.00 pair of shoes, I think of the groceries it could buy for a family.  Even when I cross the line and buy something that from my point of view is expensive, I don’t want others to know what I paid.  I have no need to advertise high fashion lines with their logos on my t-shirt. However, I am also a hypocrite since I am going on this great holiday rather than donating those savings to the homeless!

Regardless,  I would have been more drawn as a tourist to walk down Avenue Montaigne when it had been first named “Allee des Veuves” (Widow’s Lane) because ladies in mourning found solace in its leafy shadows.  From personal experience, I understand grief and I would have found my own solace remembering people whom I have lost.

However, in 1723, the street was renamed Avenue Montaigne and illuminated fountains and 30,000 gas jet lamps were installed.  That addition would also have drawn me there to watch people playing Chinese billiards, ring toss games and listen to bands playing polkas and waltzes.

Again, I am too late to watch that kind of energy on a street.  By the turn of the last century, it was transformed into a high fashion street which has since become more important than rue du Faubourg Saint Honore for its high fashion.  Even our Canadian singer Celine has invested in this lucrative street.

And so I thought I would just settle for watching the warm hearted French movie called Avenue Montaigne. It was a wonderful story of  a young  woman from the province who comes to Paris and waits on tables in the midst of this entertainment and high fashion street.  I really enjoyed the movie and I got quite used to reading the English sub-titles.

Ironically, just when I concluded that I had been given enough overview of Avenue Montaigne as I watched this movie, I  learned one fact that may alter my decision.  Guess where the Canadian Embassy is located?!!!  Avenue Montaigne, No. 35.

fififlowers.com



 
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Posted by on May 4, 2012 in DVDs, France, Paris, Travel

 

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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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WILL TANGO MEET US IN PARIS?


I saw my first foreign film and appropriately, my first French film, when I was in Junior High. Those were the days before Flixter, Rotten Tomatoes and movie trailers on the web.  Instead, we relied upon the very short “blurb” about the movie under showtimes.  This nostalgic piece of information is mentioned to explain how my sister, my cousin and I found ourselves sitting in a dark theatre, looking at each other bewildered when we read on the screen the title “Un Homme Et Une Femme”. We expected a romance called “One Man and One Woman.” I’m sure the more serious film enthusiasts sitting there became a little disturbed when they heard an eruption of dismayed laughter.  However, it didn’t take long for the three of us to slip into a sedated stupor and nearly needed to be awakened when it was over.

I have progressed since that first show and have read subtitles from various films but none have been as memorable.  Anyways, last week I watched another French foreign film but this time I stayed alert and even chuckled at the right time.  It was the story of Amelie who was reared as a recluse with two very eccentric parents whose mom eventually dies leaving her with a father who barely acknowledges her.  Once she leaves him and begins working, she has an experience that reveals to her that she needs to “get involved” in other people’s lives helping them.  However, she doesn’t ever show herself and remains reclusive.  Eventually, she learns that she must take a risk in relationships in order to live fully.

What I will remember the most from this film is when Amelie steals a large yard gnome from her father’s yard and begins sending her dad  postcards of the gnome in various countries.  Eventually, it convinces her father that he too should take a                        risk and follow his great desire to travel.

I don’t have  a large gnome that travelled around the world, but during my past two trips, a small beanie animal who was once called Trouble but has been renamed Tango, surprised me by popping out of my purse on the airplane.  Okay, I admit it, I am the one who put him there, but do my grandchildren have to know that?

 I plan to create a book for my grandchildren about this adventurous  little animal who wants desperately to see the world.  And when he saw my large purse sitting open on the floor at the airport,  he jumped in and slept until we were safely flying up in the air!  Since our trip to Palm Springs, he has shown up in Vegas and then again in Palm Springs!  He isn’t as large and doesn’t create quite the same presence that a large gnome would, but he fits quite nicely into a purse and will have as many fun adventures as any old gnome!
 
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Posted by on April 13, 2012 in DVDs, France, Paris, Travel

 

CHARTRE: MASTER OF SACRED GEOMETRY

I recently watched a beautiful documentary called Chartre: Master of the Sacred Compass, a cathedral that was built to create an earthly palace for the “heavenly Queen Mary” in the 12th century.  The  cathedral’s  sacredness and holiness was beautifully depicted through lovely music,  beautiful photography and through the sincere comments of those interviewed.     I am so glad that I watched this DVD since it has helped me plan how I want to see the cathedral and it has given me some information that will deepen my appreciation of this beautiful 12th century cathedral.

As I approach this cathedral,  I intend to stop at a distance in order to see its full height and then as my eyes slowly progress downward, I hope that I will be able to visialize how the cathedral is built in the proportions of the human body since a human is made in the image of God.   And as I look at the two towers, it will be helpful to remember the words of the commentator who said that they remind us to never give up, to stand up and keep on! As I focus on the taller tower, I will marvel  that its 365 feet reflects 365 days in a year and as I look at the shorter tower I will marvel that each foot of  its 28 feet represent one night of a moon cycle!

Because I am an information gatherer, my first instinct is to open my guidebook and to walk through the cathedral busily locating what I am reading. Therefore, I felt quite convicted when one of the pastors in the documentary commented that the cathedral is designed to open us up as persons, but often  tourists  miss having a spiritual experience   because they are watching the time, or talking too much or reading their guide books or they are looking through their camera lenses. I believe information about the cathedral is helpful but I plan on reading much of it before I get there so that I can be more sensitive to what I may be experiencing as I slowly walk through the cathedral.  It would be a shame to miss the opportunity for self discovery and perhaps discovery of my relationship to God that one person spoke of in this DVD because I wasn’t paying attention.

I have decided that one of the first things I will do upon entering the building is to  sit in one of the pews and pretend I am one of the pilgrims who cannot read or write and who interacts with God through the Bible stories created in stained glass. I will try to set aside my written knowledge of these stories in order to better experience what I as an illiterate pilgrim would be  thinking, feeling and experiencing.

Later,  I will remember to walk quietly, perhaps even prayerfully through the cathedral recalling the words of a narrator who  said that  this cathedral is a “microcosm of the universe and a metaphor of our own life journey.” I will begin at the north portal which starts with Adam and Eve to the last judgment on the south portal so that I will experience the whole history of humanity. Interestingly,  the last judgment isn’t seen with horror but  instead, God’s Love is apparent.  And as I walk, will I see glimpses of my life journey and perhaps Gods love for me on that journey?

Recalling this documentary will certainly elevate my sense of wonder when I try to comprehend how this massive building could have been built without our standard measurements – but with a compass!  And perhaps I will better appreciate what  the Chartre’ scholar of 35 years was trying to convey when he said  that no one knows where these men got the courage to build these high arches which provided more light, where they got the courage to install all these stained glass windows without fearing that the flying buttresses couldn’t sustain the weight of the  walls. And then he provides his answer professing that even though some people may not like this answer,  there is a strong likelihood that they were confident of their mastery of the compass and they were confident that they were being  guided through Divine Inspiration!  Well!  That is certainly  a different perspective from our scientific and rational age.  When I walk through this sacred building, I want to be reminded that science and rational thought isn’t the be all and that sometimes we need to take that “leap of faith” that Kierkegaard phrased.

As I walk outside, I hope that I can find the statue of Saint Gregory who is listening to a small bird whispering to him.  Some believe the bird was revealing to him the  chant named after him.  And as I stand in front of it, I will softly repeat Saint Gregory’s wise words,  “God is both one and the same, and holy everywhere, imminent with in everything, without everything, above everything and below everything “.

Finally, as I prepare to leave, I will remember how this project must have been divinely orchestrated since I learned that this project inspired people so that “all hearts were united and each man forgave his enemies!” One pastor commented on the DVD that “It’s our forgetfulness about sacredness – so that these buildings are reminders.”  Therefore, I will look one last time and whisper my gratitude to the men and women who enthusiastically supported this building project so that I could step on holy ground.

This documentary also increased my desire to know more about labyrinths  especially when I learned that this labyrinth has the same number of stones as the days an infant stays in his mothers womb.  In this way the cathedral shows man that life is a gestation, a preparation for life in heaven!  I have already reserved books from the library to learn more about the Chartre labyrinth.

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2012 in DVDs, France, Paris, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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