The Independent Traveler's Newsletter                                          PAGE TWO

Gifts from France 

At one time or another, we are all faced with the dilemma of what gifts to buy for friends or family when visiting France.  We have some suggestions that won't add weight to or take up too much space in your already over-stuffed luggage, won't break your travel budget, and which are unique enough to please almost everyone.  So, forget the T-shirts that say 'Paris' in sparkling letters or the bottle of French wine that has to be carefully tended while in transit and can possibly be found in a good wine shop back home.  Look for useful, enjoyable, easy-to-pack and carry, often inexpensive items.  By the way, these make great remembrances of France for yourself, too!  Here are some suggestions:
  • CDs of French Music:  CDs are universal (unlike video tapes) and vocal or instrumental music from France is abundant and very much appreciated by recipients.  Consider CDs of chants that you will find at abbeys in various parts of France such as the set of two CDs from the Abbaye de Solesmes or Classique Métropolitain, one of several recorded and sold by a very talented group of young classical musicians who can be found performing in the Paris Métro!
  • Pashminas:  These soft and lovely long scarves and large wraps in almost any color (Pashmina is the Indian name for cashmere) are seen on every Parisian woman from September on...they can cost a fortune in an upscale shop or you can buy them from Paris street vendors (as we saw in the 8th arrondissement) for about 30 euros -- and, even those felt like cashmere!   Some are blended with silk, and the choices seem endless!  Although they weigh very little, they will, however,  add bulk to your suitcase because of their size.
  • Art Museum Catalogs:   Inexpensive and the perfect gift, especially if the recipient has a favorite painter or sculptor and you've just seen his or her best work!  Some are prepared by the museum and some by art publishing houses for the exhibit.  In either case, they are in the gift shop and are of high quality.  A thoughtful gift.
  • Linens & Fabrics:  Although Provence conjures up pictures of bolts of brightly colored fabrics on long outdoor market tables, you can find excellent buys in Parisian discount shops and open-air markets throughout France.  If you select table linens or even lengths of silk for sewing later, packing them will be no problem at all. 
  • Lace -- French lace prices range from the very reasonable to a tiny Alençon lace flower worth many hundreds of dollars.  French lace curtains are available in many shops -- you will need the measurements of the window and a measuring tape from home.
  • Soap:  Hard-milled French soap has been treasured since the early 20th century for its long-lasting quality and subtle fragrances.   Shops are everywhere selling this pastel-hued, exquisitely wrapped delight. It packs so well -- in all the little gaps and corners of your luggage -- while imparting its fragrance!
  • Marseillaise Soap:  Without colorants or fragrances, these specialty soaps from Provence are made from olive, copra and palm oils.  One fabricator, Marius Fabre, has been in business since 1900.  The richness of these oil soaps makes them great favorites of people living in dry climates, so bring some home for that friend in Arizona!
  • Perfume: Although not an original idea (unless you made your purchase while touring a perfume factory in Provence!), a small bottle of parfum or eau de toilette is still never a bad idea.  What is most important is that you purchase in line with the fragrance preferences of the recipient.    Duty free shops are always a good place to buy perfume, but we prefer small parfumeries that still offer superior prices to those you will find outside of France.  This is another gift that fills those empty spaces in the depths of your luggage.
We hope we've given you some good buying ideas for your next trip to France!

Ici et Là

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 
between now and the publication of our next issue.

o  Renoir and His Circle:  Works on Paper, Paintings and Sculpture from an Intimate Private Collection - a special exhibit of August Renoir's social life and art including, in addition to well-known subjects of the artist, portraits of his family and friends.  This exhibit will continue through July 11, 2004 at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, California.

o  Gauguin in Tahiti  -  through June 20 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts.

o  Van Gogh to Mondrian:  Modern Art from the Kröller-Müller Museum  May 29 through September 12 at the Seattle Art Museum, Washington.

o  Monet to Matisse:  The Triumph of Impressionism and the Avant-Garde - through December 2004 at the Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio.

o  Cyrano - A world premiere adaptation of the famous romantic tale,  this play will run through June 27 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.  For details

o  Club France - Club France is a network of travel partners wholly committed to providing a personalized welcome and special service to its card carrying members. That includes offering members discounts of up to 50%, gifts and other  bonuses.  With more than 1000 partners, from hotels and car rentals to museums and cultural institutions offering members VIP treatment, Club France is sponsored by the French Government Tourist Office.  Available to residents of the United States, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Canada, Brazil, Spain, Ireland and Italy, joining on line is easy.  Click here to learn how to become a member for only $25 a year and to read about the special benefits of membership. 

o  The Caen Memorial -  Members of Club France will receive a 15% discount on its combined ticket for the Memorial visit and a guided tour of the D-Day landing beaches. The regular price is 67 euros the Club France member rate is 55.20 euros.  Click here to visit the Memorial's web site in both French and English.

o  In Paris - the Spring Menu at Alain Ducasse highlights flavors and fragrances from garden or woods around genuine products such as the green asparagus of Pertuis, the purple Provence artichoke and the brown or blond morel.  Alain Ducasse and Christophe Moret feature traditional French cuisine and plats à partager, or dishes to share.  The Cour Jardin, the summer restaurant of the Hôtel Plaza Athénée, opened its terrace on May 25th to all sun worshipers and Mediterranean cuisine connoisseurs.  For more information on Alain Ducasse visit or call the restaurant at +33 (0)1 53 67 65 00.   Alain Ducasse is located at the Plaza Athénée at 25, avenue Montaigne. The restaurant is open for lunch on Thursdays and Fridays from 12:45-2:15 pm and from dinner Monday through Friday from 7:45-10:15 pm. [Courtesy French Government Tourist Office]

o  So French - is a personal shopping service in Paris if you are looking for fine and decorative arts.  Elizabeth de Kergorlay, formerly of Christie's Paris [and whose close relative owns the magnificent Château de Canisy in Normandy] or an expert on her staff will take you to all the places only the insiders know.  You could come away with finds from out-of-the-way art galleries, flea markets and antique stores.  Spend a half or whole day with someone from So French who can haggle sellers down to the best price on your behalf -- and have lots of fun along the way!   To contact So French, please visit their web site at

o  Art Deco:  The French Aesthetic -  presented by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts through October 2004.

o  Airport Tragedy - It is predicted that Terminal 2E at Charles DeGaulle International Airport will remain closed for up to one year with the possibility that the entire structure might be torn down, especially after more cracking sounds were heard in the days following the tragic collapse of part of the structure killing four people.  As a criminal inquiry gets underway, the investigators' goal is to determine whether the collapse was caused by design flaw or faulty construction.  The terminal was used by Delta Airlines and Air France whose flights will be redirected to other terminals at the airport. 

o  Wine in the News -  Château d'Yquem, considered the best Sauternes in the world, has lost the man at the helm -- and the vineyard had been in his family since the late 1500s.  After a brother and other relatives sold 63% of Château d'Yquem in 1999 to LVMH (Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton) after a dispute with Chief Executive Comte Alexandre de Lur Saluces, things did not go smoothly.  The Board of Directors lowered the retirement age to 70 to force the Comte out  -- he turned 70 in May.  He will retain the title of "Honorary Chairman", but the dynasty has certainly ended.  The French wine community is debating whether quality will be maintained in the hands of a conglomerate and under the chairmanship of Bernard Arnault of LVMH.  Only time will tell.  The first owners had over 400 years to prove themselves!

o  Renaissance Art Investigation -  The Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University, California, presents "Finding Sellaio:  Conserving and Attributing a Renaissance Painting" from August 4 through November 28, 2004, revealing how modern analytical technologies, providing evidence not visible to the unaided eye, enhance traditional art historical research methods.  The case study focuses on Virgin and Child with Saint John (c. 1480-85) attributed to the Florentine artist Jacopo del Sellaio (1441-1493).  Using techniques such as infrared reflectography, X-radiography, and paint sample analysis this study demonstrates what may be learned about a work of art when augmenting the use of stylistic analysis developed during the late 19th century.  Included in the exhibit will be a display of Renaissance painting materials.  While at Stanford, please be sure to visit the Rodin Sculpture Garden and exhibitions in their 24 other galleries.  On the web at

D-Day Thanks and Remembrances

The French Government Tourist Office Director included this message in their May newsletter:

"Dear Friends, On the eve of the 60th Anniversary of D-Day, I wish to express our gratitude and thanks on behalf France and the French people to the brave American soldiers who liberated France and Europe. We extend to veterans, their families and fellow Americans a warm and heartfelt welcome to France for this very moving event. If you can't make it for the anniversary we hope to welcome you very soon. We will always say "Bienvenue en France et merci."     Jean-Philippe Pérol, Director, Americas - Maison de la France/French Government Tourist Office

We appreciate Monsieur Pérol's kind words, and thank the French Government Tourist Office for providing us with the following  -- also in connection with this important anniversary.

In the year 2000, Patrick Daudon and Charles Valot launched a project to create in Normandy a replica of the Liberty Bell from Philadelphia.  The Normandy Regional Council through «Normandie Mémoire » (the association coordinating all events regarding 60th Anniversary), commissioned this project at the end of 2003. 

The Cornille Havard Bell Foundry suggested creating a sounding replica of the Liberty Bell, which because of the crack it suffered in the 1830s could not produce its original sound.   So, in February of 2004, the Foundry took precise measurements of the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia using laser scanning technology to create a 3-dimensional "map" of the original bell.  Following the re-creation of the original cast of the Liberty Bell to render the bell's original sounds, the Foundry began the traditional molding process using clay, goat hair and horse manure as Pass & Stow from Boston had done in 1753.

After two and a half months of work, the bell was cast in bronze on May 19th in Cornille Havard's historic workshop in Villedieu-les-Poêles, Normandy, France.  By using one of the most important symbols of America's heritage, the project underscores the importance of exchanges between America and France.  Americans are invited to come and discover or rediscover France -- especially Normandy, Land of Freedom,  thanks to the bravery and sacrifice of its soldiers.

The Normandy Liberty Bell will be dedicated on June 6th 2004 in the Normandy Regional Council by a representative of Philadelphia who will ring the bell 12 times for I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-CE and 7 times for L-I-B-E-R-T-Y as Bernard Samuel, the Mayor of Philadelphia did on the Liberty Bell on June 6, 1944, the morning of the D-Day Landing. 

** To view a 20-minute film, Operation Open Arms, on your computer, just click here.  The French Government Tourist Office/Maison de la France and the Normandy Tourist Board have produced the film to honor the veterans of the D-Day landings and invite Americans to Normandy. 

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