The Independent Traveler's Newsletter                                                                    PAGE TWO
This column is intended to advise you about cultural events, news and happenings
in France or France-related events taking place in the United States & elsewhere
 between now and the publication of our next issue.

In France. . .


o  The London-based publication The Economist named France its Country of the Year citing President Emmanuel Macron's efforts at sensible labor reforms and an open society that have made the country change for the better and "made the world brighter".   And, France announced better-than-expected full-year growth of 2% in 2017 ~ quite an improvement from 1.1% in 2016.  [AFP]

o  CEO
of sportswear maker Boardriders, 54 year-old Pierre Agnes, was lost at sea after an early morning fishing outing on his boat in early February.   The empty boat washed up on shore in the Atlantic beach town of Hossegor, France, and an immediate search began by deploying boats and helicopters but to no avail.  A paddle out was held in his honor in Australia on March 13, another in Huntington Beach, California, on March 16, and one will be scheduled in France later this spring.

o  A wild truffle was discovered in Paris for the first time ever just before Christmas in December.  It was in an organic roof garden of the Mercure Paris Centre Hotel in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower at the base of a hornbeam tree.  Found by researcher from Paris' Museum of Natural History, Frederic Madre, it weighed in at 21 grams ~ truffle prices are about $6000 per kilo ~ but this one was turned over to the Museum for analysis in the hope that more Paris roof gardens will surprise people in the future.  [AFP]

Count Hubert du Givenchy.  Wikipedia

o  Fashion icon Hubert de Givenchy
died in his sleep on Saturday, March 10th at his home, the XVIIth century Château du Jonchet in Beauvais, France at the age of 91. 
Born into aristocracy in Beauvais on February 21, 1927, his full name and title was Count Hubert James Marcel Taffin de Givenchy.  Perhaps best known for his forty-year friendship with actress Audrey Hepburn, he was also the first couturier to design a ready-to-wear line.  When Hepburn died in 1993, she bequeathed all her Givenchy dresses to the designer (including the famous 'little black dress' she wore in Breakfast at Tiffany's).  He also sent Jacqueline Kennedy a black dress to wear at the funeral of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. 

o  Crowd funding saves a French château.  1.6 million euros have been raised to restore a château in western France, the Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers with turrets, a moat and an elderly owner who could not maintain it.  Some 25,000 people from 115 countries are now shareholders in the 19th-century building allaying fears that a developer would buy it and tear it down.  The fundraising site, a local association Adopte un Château and a joint venture have been established to manage the site.  The cost was 51 euros per person:  50 euros donation to buy and restore the property and 1 euro to buy a share in the company.  There has been a château on the site since the 13th century, it was pillaged after the French Revolution in 1789 and badly damaged by fire in 1932.  The current owner bought it in 1982.  It is believed that a total renovation cannot be completed with the funds raised as it may cost at least 3 million euros, so another round of fundraising may be in the future.  Stay tuned!  [AFP]

Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers.  Courtesy web site.
Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers

  Landmark consumer legislation is being used by French prosecutors probing printer maker Epson for alleged planned obsolescence of its products, and this may extend to Apple as well.  This follows a complaint by Halte a l'Obsolescence Programme which filed a case against printer makers Epson, HP, Brother and Canon last September alleging they were tricking consumers into replacing ink cartridges before they were empty.  The complaint against Apple was in regard to their slowing down of older models of its iPhones.  Planned obsolescence is widely criticized by consumer groups as unethical and particularly prevalent in the electronics industry which produces mountains of unrecyclable waste every year.  A law passed in France in 2015 (Hamon's law) makes the practice illegal and obliges retailers to say whether replacement parts are available. 

o  Peter Mayle, the British born author who was greatly responsible for making Provence the place to visit in France with his 1989 book A Year in Provence, died on January 18th at the age of 78.  Mayle began his career as an advertising account executive in New York City in the '60s and '70s.  Tired of the hectic pace, he returned to England and wrote a series of children's books, but France was calling.  He moved to Menerbes in the Vaucluse and A Year in Provence was born.  The unexpected success of the book and the resulting hordes of strangers around his home became too much for him and his wife.  They moved to Amagansett, Long Island, where he had the peace and quiet to write several more books.  But, the lure of France called him back once more, and he returned to Provence in 1999 to a secluded home near Lourmarin where he wrote several successful novels.  He passed away in a hospital near his home and is survived by his wife and five children from his earlier marriages.

o  The suspected mastermind of France's "heist of the century" is on trial nearly 50 years after robbers tunneled through sewers to take the equivalent of €29,000,000 from a branch of Societé Generale in Nice.  Only one person was ever charged and most of the money never found, but in 2010 a career criminal wrote a book portraying himself as the robbery's mastermind.  Jacques Cassandri, a key mafia figure in Marseille, is now on trial.  He thought he was safe, not knowing that France has no statute of limitations on this type of crime.  His children testified that he had bragged to them about the crime.   Now 73, he claims to be a simple pensioner, and said he only got the equivalent of two million euros and five other people were involved.  However, after being broke in 1976 before the crime, he now has a real estate empire including several businesses and properties.  He bought furs and was known to have used seven gold bars as collateral.  He and his family members are facing prison time and will be questioned about social security fraud and a real estate scam in Corsica.  His earlier brushes with the law include an arrest when French police broke up the 'French Connection' in Marseille in the early 70s.  The person arrested when the bank heist was first discovered jumped from a window at the Marseille courthouse where an accomplice was waiting on a motorcycle.  He was never caught again and died of cancer in 1989.  

o  France
returned three Flemish paintings by Joachim Patinir in February to the descendants of a Jewish family who had been forced to sell them as they fled the Nazis in late 1938.  They were trying to go to the United States by way of Switzerland, and their paintings were in unclaimed French state collections for seven decades after being recovered in Munich after World War II.  The Louvre has put some 30 looted paintings on display since December to bring awareness to the issue.  The French government is using genealogical experts to locate the families instead of waiting for people to show up and ask for restitution according to Audrey Azoulay, the former culture minister and now head of UNESCO.  

Alan Geaam in his restaurant kitchen.  Wikipediao 
Homeless Lebanese dishwasher becomes Michelin-starred chef!   Alan Geaam arrived in Paris twenty years ago penniless, beginning his career as a dishwasher, sleeping in the park, working part time on construction jobs,  and he now owns an acclaimed restaurant, Restaurant Alan Geaam, a stone's throw from the Arc de Triomphe [photo left].  His story from his birth in Liberia to his parents return to Beirut, his fascination with food and television cooking shows, his luck at filling in for the chef at his dishwashing job when the chef had to go to the hospital with a cut hand, and his culinary talent are all worthy of a movie, but he is just grateful for his parents and the opportunities he found in Paris.    [AFP]

o  Lawmakers in the EU are considering abandoning Daylight Savings Time so that no one will have to change their clocks every six months.  Members of the European Parliament point out health risks associated with the time changes the last weekend of March and the last weekend of October each year.  They voted to urge the European Commission to do a thorough evaluation, but proponents of DST say the longer daylight hours bolster productivity and help save energy.  Northern European countries are especially opposed to Daylight Savings Time.  There are increases in road accidents and sleep disorders during that time change that proponents of the measure want taken into consideration.  Russia has already changed to standard time when, in 2014, President Putin had a failed experiment to put his nine time-zone nation on Daylight Savings Time year 'round.  Citizens in far northern climates complained of late daybreak in winter months.  [AFP]

o  A French soldier left behind after the Battle of Verdun in World War I has been identified by DNA and was returned to his relatives for a proper burial in late February.  Sergeant Claude Fournier is the first WWI soldier to be identified by DNA.  His remains were found in 2015 near the Douaumont memorial which contains the remains of soldiers who died during the 10-month battle between French and German forces.  A military tag with his name was found near the remains of Fournier who was 35 at the time and the father of a teenage daughter.  It took time to be sure of his identity and help came when  Colombier Mayor Jean-Paul Malatier heard that a local man who died during the war may have been found.  He tracked down a 75-year old grandson, Robert Allard, to the Riviera and a woman in her 80s who thought she was related to Fournier.  DNA samples from both people matched the soldier.  Fournier's daughter passed away in 2011 at the age of 101 with only a vague recollection of her father, and all the photos and records she left to her son, Robert, were destroyed by floods that engulfed his cellar in 2015.  Fournier was laid to rest at Douaumont in his own tomb in February with his grandson in attendance.  [AFP]

o  Denmark's French-born Prince Henrik dies. 
Prince Henrik of Denmark, 83, died in February and his ashes will be spread in Danish waters and on the grounds of Fredensborg Castle north of Copenhagen.  The Prince had stated that he did not want to be buried next to his wife, Queen Margrethe ~ who survived him ~ because he was never made her equal by becoming King.  His two sons attended the private funeral with their mother and other family members.  He was born Henri Marie Jean André de Laborde Monpezat on June 11, 1934 near Bordeaux, and died of a pulmonary infection on February 13.

o  France will allow wolf packs to grow despite the objection of French farmers.  Hunting wiped out grey wolves in France in the 1930s and they were returned by way of Italy in 1992 before spreading to Germany and Switzerland.  President Macron said this will allow the 360 wolves to increase to about 500 by 2023.  Farmers in the Alps and Pyrénées complain about attacks on their livestock, so they will be permitted to kill 10% of the population every year.  The Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot says this proposed culling makes him sick to his stomach, but he will accept it as a necessary measure to take the farmers' concerns into account.  A coalition of groups including the World Wildlife Fund and France Nature Environment criticized a 'lack of political courage' to stand up to farming lobbies.

o  Disneyland Paris will receive a 2.5 billion euro upgrade and expansion and add a new Star Wars-themed zone to its huge site.  The work, to begin in 2021, will include a new artificial lake that will become a hub for its live entertainment shows.

o  Lacoste temporarily suspended the use of its world-famous crocodile logo for 10 of the world's most endangered species for a charity fundraiser in conjunction with the Save Our Species conservation group.  These limited-edition white polo shirts were immediately sold out at a price of €150 each after the Lacoste Paris fashion week show, the quantity limited to the number of each threatened species surviving in the wild.


o   Mona Lisa, the Leonardo Da Vinci masterpiece that has spent its last 500 years in Paris, may soon venture out to tour France.  The Minister of Culture, Françoise Nyssen, is seriously considering including it in a traveling exhibition of France's most prestigious artworks.  The painting draws millions of visitors each year to the Louvre Museum and has not left its home for fear of damage and security.  In 1911 it was stolen from the Louvre only to be discovered two years later in Florence, Italy.  In 1963 it had been to Washington DC and New York for a few months, and was sent to the US for safekeeping during World Wars I and II.  It's last official trip abroad was in 1974 when it was in shows in Tokyo and Moscow.

   DID YOU KNOW?   You might get a 'fish' stuck to your back on April Fool's Day.
If you're in France on April 1st, don't be surprised if children try to stick a paper fish to your back and call you a
  Poisson d'Avril (an April Fish).  This tradition began when King Charles IX (1560 - 1574) changed the calendar
 in the 16th century, moving the start of the New Year from Easter to January 1.
 Anyone who continued to celebrate the New Year at the end of March was ridiculed. 

o  Picasso 1932 - Erotic Year.  The Tate Modern is collaborating with the Picasso Museum in Paris to present a year in the artist's life  through his work and archives.  Through February 11.  Information at

o  April 13 is the opening day for Atelier des Lumières, Paris' first Digital Art Centre, modeled after Carrières de Lumières in Provence which draws more than 600,000 visitors each year.  The Atelier will open its doors in the 11th arrondissement and offer exhibitions from 120 video projectors scattered across the 2000m² space with a state-of-the-art sound system.  Visit atelier-lumiè for more information and to buy tickets online.

Mary Cassatt's La Tasse de Thé.  Courtesy Musée Jacquemart-André web site.
  Mary Cassatt, An American Impressionist in Paris is the first retrospective in 100 years of this American artist who lived in France for 60 years.  Photo at left is her painting La Tasse de Thé (1880-1881) in the permanent collection of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.  This exhibit is now until July 23 at Musée Jacquemart-André in Paris.  More details at their web site,

The Art of Pastel from Degas to Redon is the exhibition at Paris' Petit Palais until April 8th.  Among a rich collection of more than 200 pastels, the Petit Palais presents for the first time a selection of nearly 150 of them offering an exhaustive panorama of the main artistic currents of the second half of the nineteenth century, from Impressionism to Symbolism.   The exhibition presents the jewels of the collection with works by Berthe Morisot, Auguste Renoir, Paul Gauguin, Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas, symbolic artists such as Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer, Charles Leander, Alphonse Osbert, Émile-René Ménard, and a particularly remarkable ensemble of works by Odilon Redon.  From the simple colored sketch to the great works, the pastel is at the crossroads of drawing and painting. The vast majority of exhibits dated between 1850 and 1914 illustrate the renewal of pastel during the second half of the nineteenth century. Details at

Aqueduc Romain du Gier, Lyon.  Wikipedia
                                                             Lyon's Aqueduc Romain du Gier

Somme American Cemetery
  In 2018 France will commemorate the 100th year anniversary of the end of World War I.  Some events in the next few months are:

Until August 2018 - Exhibition "LA BEAUTÉ SAUVERA LE MONDE" ~ Beauty will save the world ~ at Verdun, Meuse, Lorraine.  This monumental photography exhibition delivers a strong message of humanity and optimism through the presentation of huge pictures of wonders of today's world.  The moving views lead the visitors from the Verdun Memorial Museum located on the WWI battlefield to the town center of Verdun like a symbolic itinerary to celebrate the end of the First World War, 100 years after. A cultural event based on the work of Thierry Suzan, famous reporter for GEO magazine,  recognized for its high quality and in-depth investigated reports on the great aims on Planet Earth. More information at: and

April 2018 - Opening of the Sir John Monash Centre located at the Australian National Memorial near Villers-Bretonneux.  The Centre is named for General Sir John Monash who led the Australian Corps with outstanding success on the Western Front in 1918, including the famous July 4, 1918 victory at Le Hamel which became a template for operations that followed.   The Centre will be the hub of the existing Australian Remembrance Trail along the Western Front that links WWI sites of significance to Australia.  It will be open to the public on Australia's Anzac Day 2018 (Wednesday, April 25).  Visitors will be invited to follow an inspiring, emotional and educational journey.  An interactive zone will provide information about the history of Australia, the reasons why the country become involved in the First World War, and the battles fought.  One highlight will be provided through photos and films, with new technologies presenting an innovative and significant view of the past.   Picture at right is an artist's rendering showing how the Centre will look when it opens to the public.   Details available at


Photo at right is the Somme American Cemetery so named because, in addition to the graves of American soldiers who fought from
September 24th 1918 on the very site of the cemetery during the battle for the Hindenburg line, it also holds the graves of soldiers who fought
 on the Somme during the great German offensive of March 1918.  There are 1844 war graves, and this cemetery is one of eight
American WWI military cemeteries administered by the American Battle Monuments Commission.

Throughout 2018, we will continue to apprise our readers of other commemorative events planned for 2018 in France.

in addition to the graves of American soldiers who fought from 24th September 1918 on the very site of this cemetery, during the Battle for the Hindenburg line, it also harbors the graves of soldiers who fought on the Somme during the great German offensive of March 1918. There are 1,844 war graves. This cemetery is one of the eight American WW1 military cemeteries administered by the American Battle Monuments Commission.

Read more at:
It is so named because, in addition to the graves of American soldiers who fought from 24th September 1918 on the very site of this cemetery, during the Battle for the Hindenburg line, it also harbors the graves of soldiers who fought on the Somme during the great German offensive of March 1918. There are 1,844 war graves. This cemetery is one of the eight American WW1 military cemeteries administered by the American Battle Monuments Commission.

Read more at:
It is so named because, in addition to the graves of American soldiers who fought from 24th September 1918 on the very site of this cemetery, during the Battle for the Hindenburg line, it also harbors the graves of soldiers who fought on the Somme during the great German offensive of March 1918. There are 1,844 war graves. This cemetery is one of the eight American WW1 military cemeteries administered by the American Battle Monuments Commission.

Read more at:

In the US . . .

Degas:  A Passion for Perfection is an exhibit of more than 100 works by this multi-faceted French painter/sculptor/artist until May 20 at the Denver Art Museum.  For more information visit

o  PIAF ! THE SHOW  is a musical celebration of the life and music of the legendary French chanteuse Edith Piaf.  The show returns to America as part of its extended world tour.  Starring Anne Carrere, a young French performer hailed as Edith Piaf's 'legitimate musical heiress', the show premiered in 2015 as a tribute to the "Swallow of Montmartre" on the centennial of her birth, and was inspired by the award-winning movie La Vie En Rose. Monday, April 16 and Tuesday, April 17, 8PM to 10:30PM at La Maison Française, 4101 Reservoir Road NW, Washington, D.C..  General Admission $65 + taxes.  Seating on a first come-first served basis and reservation can only be made on EventBrite: Monday, April 16, 2018 / Tuesday, April 17, 2018

o   The Frick Pittsburgh will present Van Gogh, Monet, Degas:  The Mellon Collection of French Art from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts until July 8th. Covering more than 150 years of French art, the exhibition includes a beautiful and intimate group of Impressionist paintings by Edouard Manet, Pierre August Renoir, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Alfred Sisley and Camille Pissarro, as well as iconic works by Romantic and Modernist masters.  Information and tickets at

o   The Santa Fe Art Institute in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is exhibiting the work of visual artists and photographer Sabine Mirlesse until August 31, as her year-long residency comes to an end.  She teaches at the Paris College of Art on rue Fénelon in the 10th arrondissement and you can visit her web site at to learn more about her.   For further information about the Santa Fe exhibit, please visit

 And elsewhere . . .

o  The Tate Modern in London will present The Ey Exhibition: Picasso 1932 - Love, Fame, Tragedy, the first solo exhibit of Picasso's work ever at this museum.  This show takes visitors on a month-by-month journey of 1932, an important time in his life, as it was over the course of this year that he created some of his best-loved work and established himself as the most influential artist of the 20th century.  Until September 9th.  Visit the Tate Modern web site at[adapted from France Today].

Napoleon:  Art and Court Life in the Imperial Palace  will run until May 6 at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.  Organized and circulated by the MMFA, with the participation of Château de Fontainebleau and the exceptional support from the Mobilier National de France, the exhibition recreates the sumptuous ambiance of Napoleon's court from his coronation in 1804 to his exile in 1815.  Over 400 works of art and objets d'art are on display, many of which have never before been shown in North America.  The museum thanks the distinguished lenders including the Louvre, the Château de Fontainebleau, New York's  Metropolitan Museum of Art, the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston among others.
  More information at


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