The Independent Traveler's Newsletter                              PAGE THREE

L'Abbé Pierre 
                                                                                                                                                           by Kristin Espinasse

Just A Day in a French Life . . . January 23, 2007

The day before yesterday, I watched and listened as the French mourned the death of their favorite personage: l'Abbé Pierre, voted third greatest Frenchman after Charles de Gaulle and Louis Pasteur.

L'Abbé Pierre was the short priest with the long beard, the white-haired legend in the black beret, the former resistance fighter in a dark cape who now clutched a bleached wood cane.

Abbé Pierre, photo courtesy of www.lexpress.frLike his appearance, Abbé Pierre, who once broke his vow of chastity yielding to the force of desire, was a man of contrast. Humble and soft-spoken, he was driven by a 'holy anger' and known for his passionate outbursts when speaking for the homeless.  He once told Jean-Marie Le Pen to "shut up!" after the president of the National Front implied that all of France's ills stemmed from immigration.

His beliefs were sometimes unorthodox, as he felt that priests should be able to marry, gays should be able to adopt, and women to be ordained. Above all, Abbé Pierre believed in the homeless and their unspeakable living conditions; caring for the sans-abri would be his life's mission.

While President Chirac was said to be bouleversé by Abbé Pierre's death, it was the thoughtful words of a homeless man that touched the most as I listened to the mid-day news: "Sa mort, ça me fait plus mal que la morsure du froid,"..."His death, it hurts me more than frostbite."

Frostbite and hunger were on Abbé Pierre's agenda, made famous in 1954 when he stole into a radio station demanding the microphone.  It was a murderous winter for the homeless in Paris, and an old woman had just been found frozen to death on the Boulevard de Sebastopol, an eviction notice still in her hand.  Reaction to Abbé Pierre's outcry was overwhelming and the French, both rich and poor, responded with blankets, coats, heaters and money as well as rice, pasta, bread, chocolate and canned food.  Charlie Chaplin (exiled in Paris at the time and made famous for his character the 'Little Tramp') handed over thousands of francs, explaining, "The money belongs to the vagabond I portrayed".

It was in 1949 that Abbé Pierre founded the Emmaus Society with the idea to "travailler avec des pauvres pour des pauvres" to work with the poor for the poor. The poor that followed him were also known as the 'Ragpickers' for the junk they collected, organized and now sold in open-to-the-public warehouses throughout France.  For this, Abbé Pierre was sometimes referred to as the 'ragpicker's saint'.

Activist for the poor for over five decades, at 5:25 am on January 22nd, at the age of 94, Abbé Pierre's light went out when he died in Paris after being admitted to the hospital for a lung infection. The feisty yet humble Frenchman had requested that the following words be written on his tomb: "Il a essayé de aimer."  ~ "He tried to love." 

[Editor's Note: A funeral ceremony was conducted at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris
for Abbé Pierre, who died on Monday, January 22, 2007 at l'hôpital du Val-de-Grâce at the age of 94.
L'Abbé Pierre was France's leading champion of the destitute and homeless.
He was to be buried in a private cemetery in the Normandy village of Esteville on a day of 'national homage'.]

Provence-based Kristin Espinasse is the American author of Simon & Schuster's
Words in a French Life, married to a Frenchman and mother of two French-born children.
She publishes her thrice-weekly French Word-A-Day free newsletter intertwining her daily activities
with her children, husband, fellow-villagers, friends and, sometimes, her in-laws, with her selected French word of the day.
Order her book with a click on the link above or the photo below, and be sure to visit her web site
to subscribe to her newsletter.  We thank her for this insightful article about l'Abbé Pierre.

Words in a French Life

Le Musée de l’Assistance Publique – Hôpitaux de Paris
                                                                                                                            by Bryna C. O'Sullivan

When visiting the City of Light it is always rewarding to make a discovery 
~ to find a place or attraction seldom seen or, perhaps, unknown to tourists. 
It is our good fortune, therefore, that we were contacted by Bryna O'Sullivan 
who is associated with this interesting museum, and she told us its story.
We'll bet few of you knew about it before!


Musee de l'Assistance PubliqueOpened in 1934 and situated in the handsome seventeenth century Hôtel de Miramion in the Latin Quarter near Notre Dame, the Musée de l’Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris spans the history of hospitals in Paris from the Middle Ages to the beginning of the twentieth century. The collection numbers nearly 10,000 items: paintings, sculptures, drawings, and medical instruments among others. Some of these works and objects are put on display during regularly occurring special exhibitions focusing on different aspects of the hospital, while a part remains on permanent display. 

Located on the ancient grounds of the Cistercian community, the Hôtel de Miramion dates to 1630. It was constructed by Christophe Martin, Counsellor of State, Attendant and Controller-General of the Royal Stable. The Hôtel was purchased by Madame de Miramion in 1675. 

A young, fortunate widow, she made her home the center of a lay community consecrated to religious education, the service of the poor and sick, and the instruction of girls. The community was dissolved in the 1790s, with the buildings being transformed into an arms workshop. In 1812, the General Pharmacy of the Parisian hospitals was transferred onto the site. The last laboratories were moved to Nanterre in 1970, permitting the museum to expand to a larger portion of the building than it had previously occupied.

The diverse collections of the museum reflect the changing societal conception of the role of the Hospital in the city.
The expectations for hospitality in the 7th century Hotel-Dieu are reflected in the imagery of that period and in that of the Middle Ages. Prime examples are the Book of Active Life (15th century) and more clearly, the portrait of Saint Jean de Dieu washing the feet of a beggar who has taken on the traits of Christ. 

The specific needs of the abandoned child become an issue in the seventeenth century as reflected through imagery of the “tower,” a device that ensured the protection of an abandoned child and the anonymity of the parents. 

During the same period, the desire to isolate societal problems, such as beggars and the insane, is shown through the documents and images of the General Hospital (17th century), which housed thousands of individuals during its existence. 
Finally, in the late eighteenth century, it is possible to glimpse for the first time the medicinal nature of the hospital through the museum's extensive collection of medical instruments and artistic evocations of medical developments such as vaccination, anesthesia, radiology... The origins of the modern hospital have appeared. 

The Musée de l’Assistance Publique – Hôpitaux de Paris is open from 10 am to 6 pm, Tuesday to Sunday. It is closed on Mondays, public holidays, and during the month of August. The normal entry fee is €4; half-price entry is available for students, youth from 13 to 18 and groups of more than 10. Entry is free for children up to age 13 and on the first Sunday of each month. For groups or guided visits, a reservation is necessary, which can be made by calling More information is available by email at, on the web site, or by phoning  The museum address is:  Hôtel de Miramion, 47, quai de la Tournelle, 75005 Paris.



FREE brochures on France and Europe!

 Traveling to Europe?

Here is a web site offering  free travel brochures ~ just for the asking.

Yes, click on the above photo and request the brochures that you want today!

FRENCH WINE REPORT  ~ The Bordeaux Wine Experience

                                                                                                                          by Ronald Rens

Just imagine yourself visiting Bordeaux and tasting wine at the world's most famous chateaux like Margaux, Latour or Haut Brion.  Picture yourself in the famous round aging cellar at Lafite Rothschild or visiting the private wine museum at Mouton Rothschild and tasting their most recent vintage direct from the barrel. Every wine lover in the world would like to visit those places although getting into them is not easy. 

One company that offers Bordeaux wine experiences in a number of different lengths and styles is The Bordeaux Wine Experience.  Based near the city of Bordeaux at Château Coulon Laurensac, The Bordeaux Wine Experience is a highly rated winery guide company that allows visitors to the area to enjoy the different wine regions around the city, and it is the only company offering these tours that is run by real wine professionals who actually live in Bordeaux. They offer a 'local' Bordeaux experience that non-Bordeaux based companies can't offer,  and you will tour Bordeaux like an insider!

Leave your tuxedo, suits and ties at home! A wine tour is a vacation and you are on vacation to have fun! With The Bordeaux Wine Experience you'll taste the good stuff, the best Grand Cru Châteaux in an informal relaxed atmosphere. These wine tours are truly gourmet and wine experiences, but they are definitely not stuffy. Sure, you'll dine at Michelin-starred restaurants, but at the good ones, not the formal ones.

Stay at Chateau Coulon Laurensac

Château Coulon LaurensacYou will be staying at the private 18th century Château Coulon Laurensac where the founders of The Bordeaux Wine Experience, Ronald and Margaret Rens, have been living for years. Guests will not stay in hotels but at this privately owned château. It just doesn't get more personal than that. The château is a proud member of au Château, and you'll have all the comfort and luxury you can possibly need, but you won't pay for facilities you are not going to use. This is one of the reasons the prices can be so competitive. We think you can better spend that part of your budget on wine...

The Bordeaux Harvest tour 2007

In September 2007 you can participate in The Bordeaux Harvest Tour!  This tour is really without equal as everything in and around Bordeaux just buzzes with action and anticipation.  Bordeaux, never very open to visitors, closes like an oyster at harvest time. Fortunately, The Bordeaux Wine Experience can get you into châteaux that usually keep their gates firmly locked to visitors, especially during harvest. You will visit and taste at First Growths Château Latour, Mouton Rothschild and Haut Brion! 

Picking grapes in Bordeaux
                                                                                                                               continued on page 4 

page twoprevious page                            next pagepage four