The Independent Traveler's Newsletter                                            PAGE TWO

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  Striking workers,  protesting, among other things, government economic policies and the possibility of abolishing the 35-hour work week, may have created a problem for Paris in its bid to win the hosting rights to the 2012 Olympic Games, despite the fact that police tried to keep the visiting IOC committee out of the path of protest marchers.  Transportation stoppages on March 10 included railway and urban transport, walk-outs at post offices, many teachers staying away from school, strikes by air traffic controllers, and a mass protest march in the afternoon ~ all during the visit of the IOC evaluation team in the city to inspect potential venues for the games ~ and caused major traffic snarls and problems for Parisians and tourists alike. Although demonstrations took place in 55 other French cities, those in Paris may mean it is no longer the front runner to host the 2012 games.

o  Mondovino -  much talked about and highly acclaimed after private viewings, this film by Jonathan Nossiter (2004) is called "a celebration of wine in its infinite variety" and was filmed in countries across three continents (including France), over a three-year period. The Film Forum says that  "With an insider's access and an artist's eye, Nossiter weaves together multiple family and multi-generational sagas, and uncovers a complex tapestry of rivalries, alliances, conflicts, and conspiracies -- all stemming from the production, distribution, and consumption of wine."  Film Forum. New York, NY. March 23 - April 5, 2005, and later nationally.

Crisis in the vineyards. . .  The French find themselves having to come to terms with the growing competition from the rest of the world in the wine trade.  A combination of better wines being produced in the southern hemisphere and North America, added to the steep decline in the value of the US dollar, has brought the wine producers of France to the realization that they don't have a corner on the market anymore, although experts say that the finer French wines will still maintain their prestige and pricing because no one else today can come close to their quality.  As an agricultural crop, grapes account for 12% of all that is grown in France and $9.9 billion of France's gross domestic product.  Part of the problem may be that everyday wine drinkers are looking for fruitier flavors and sweeter wines, foregoing the more complex and subtle wines of France.  In any case, the industry is seeking ways to regain its market share from redesigning wine labels to indicate the grape variety on the bottle (not just the region), to truly aggressive marketing of their wines in the US.  Wine producers are requesting that the French government loosen its incredibly tight regulations on wine production to assist them in their plight.  There will always be those of us who appreciate the terroir, the nuances and the history of the old vines and the superb wines that result . . . but currently there may not be enough of us to sustain this important part of French culture, tradition and the French economy!

o  Huyghe +  Corbusier: Harvard Project -  through April 17 at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University.  This exhibit focuses on a new multimedia exploration of Le Corbusier's work by Pierre Huyghe's using marionettes and film, as well as showcasing the Center itself.  The Carpenter Center is appropriate for this exhibition as it is the only building in North America designed by the architect, Le Corbusier.  For more information:

o  Theater, Dance and Porcelain -  is an assemblage of 40 creations by European porcelain factories fashioned after theatrical productions, including sculptures by Vincennes-Sèvres based on the 1752 ballet 'La Vallée de Montmorency'.  Through April 10 at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut.

o  Airbus Industries,  80% owned by the European conglomerate, EADS, recently unveiled its 'super jumbo' passenger plane.  Although EADS is showing a 60 per cent increase in net profits for 2004 (primarily due to the successes at Airbus), they are concerned that their break-even point for the new super jumbo will mean they will have to sell far more than the 250 - 270 planes formerly predicted primarily due to the weakened US dollar.  They now expect that if the dollar were to remain at 1.30 to the euro, 300 or more planes will have to be sold before they begin showing a profit.

o  Passion for Drawing:  Poussin to Cézanne, Works from the Prat Collection - through April 3 at the Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio.

o The Chicago Symphony Orchestra - celebrates the 80th birthday of its principal guest conductor, French composer Pierre Boulez, with a series of concerts featuring the maestro at the podium, and programs of his music. Chicago, IL through  May 16, 2005. 
Castle Keep, Rocamadour - Art copyrighted by Cold Spring Press 2005
o * * PREHISTORIC & MEDIEVAL FRANCE TOUR  * *  - the web site, au Château
and Le Prieuré au Château de Biron present three new tours, planned for April 11 -18, June 20-27 and September 26 - October 3, 2005.  The Prehistoric & Medieval Southwestern France Tour begins and ends in Bordeaux.  Guests on the tour will stay at the magnificent Prieuré au Château de Biron in the Dordogne, pay visits to the many sites of early man in southwestern France, and will explore medieval villages such as Rocamadour and Sarlat, bastide towns such as Monpazier and Domme, art museums and historic sites.  Accommodations, breakfasts and evening meals will be enjoyed at the priory, and all ground transport and entry fees are included in the price of € 1225 per person (single surcharge175).  Each tour can take a maximum of ten people, and each is organized to allow some free time for participants and to be enjoyed at a comfortable pace. For other details, current US dollar or other currency cost,  or to book your reservation please contact

o  Berthe Morisot:  An Impressionist and Her Circle - The National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC through May 8 presents the work of the artist (the world's first female Impressionist painter) and some of her male counterparts such as Monet and Renoir.  This is part of a series of art and culture events entitled, "Paris on the Potomac" (see below)       Castle Keep at Rocamadour             to celebrate the historic connection between Paris and Washington.  Details at

o  Paris on the Potomac - until Memorial Day  - offers 80 French themed events and exhibitions, performances, concerts and tours.  For example, Toulouse-Lautrec and Montmartre at the National Gallery, March 20 to June 12; City of Lights, City of Angels Film Festival from the French Embassy and the American Film Institute through April 30; and the Berthe Morisot Exhibit mentioned above.  For a schedule of events visit

o Cézanne:  The Dawn of Modern Art - is an exploration of the artist's technique and use of colors and abstractions that laid the foundation for both the Fauve and Cubist movements which followed in the 20th century.  The exhibit emphasizes the artist's influence on such painters as Matisse, Braque, Léger and Picasso.  Through May 8 at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City.  Details at

o  Fauve Painting in the Permanent Collection - The National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC presents an exhibit to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the movement named by art critic Louis Vauxcelles in 1905.  The bold work, both in color and style, was so named 'fauve' meaning 'wild' as in the animal kingdom.  Through May 30th.

o  Drawn with Light:  Pioneering French Photography - until June 8 at the Cleveland Museum of Art in Ohio, this show presents the work of 19th and 20th century photographers such as Atget, Le Secq and Baldus, who created exact replicas of real life, both staged and candid, in photography's earliest days.  More information at

o  Hector Berlioz's La Damnation de Faust - will be presented by the New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center, New York on March 31, April 2 and April 5, conducted by Charles Dutoit.  For details:

o  Decoration in the Age of Napoleon:  Empire Elegance versus Regency Refinement is the title of an exhibit of books exploring the empires of Napoléon I and King George IV of England regarding the styles of décor in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.  The exhibit, at the Humanities and Social Sciences Library in New York City, ends on  April 2.

Le. . .uh, Menu
                                                                                                                      by Marcia Mitchell

I enter the restaurant. I say "Bonjour, monsieur…une personne, s’il vous plaît?" Lovely Saignon

I am seated at a nice table and presented with a handsome leather-bound bill of fare.  Yessss ! I study it soigneusement [carefully],  running my polished nails over the choices. When I'm ready, I signal the waiter, with an elegant tilt of my head. Then I order ~ and blow everything. 

Well, not really.  But, when you haven't learned the difference between le menu and la carte, or think the entrée is the main dish, or stick to steack frites because you're afraid what the other stuff might be ~ well, as Mom would say, it could spoil your dinner. 

Here's the scoop. What we call the menu, they call la carte.  So, when the waiter brings you la carte, you order…the menu!  See how easy it is?   Consider the menu as the meal ~ start to finish ~ at a fixed price.  The restaurant has chosen dishes that compliment each other and offers them to you at a package price. You could order each dish individually, (à la carte) but why pay 8 bills for salade composée, 20 bills for navarin d’agneau, and 10 bills for soufflé maison when you could get the whole shebang for 30,  and they'll throw in the coffee? 

And,  by the way, here's the order of the courses: starter, main dish, cheese, dessert, coffee.  In more spectacular restaurants you may have both fish and meat courses, and the chef might send out an amuse-bouche before the show and an après-déssert as a curtain call.  Just grin and bear it.  You'll have a choice of menus at graduating prices, from three to six or more courses (steady there). Some have descriptive names like Menu du Marché or Menu Gourmand, which speak for themselves. 

A dégustation menu will give you lots of little goodies to sample and something to do for the rest of the afternoon.  If you're an "I'll just have a salad" person, go to a café or bistro.

Okay, they've left the room ~ let's roll out the big guns. Who's afraid of getting fish with a head? Brains or kidneys? Pork cheeks? Nobody? Good! Put your finger on that menu and fire away. Bon appétit!

    Marcia Mitchell lived in nine of the United States plus the District of Columbia before she
                  discovered Provence and settled in the Luberon village of Saignon. Marcia and artist/painter
                  Andrew Petrov invite you to visit their village for charming accommodations, good food,
                  painting, cooking or French lessons, or just to say “bonjour”. 
               Her Maison des Remparts offers all the comforts of home.
               Look for more of her witty essays in future issues of FRANCE On Your Own. 

            Visit their site at

    [Photo of Saignon copyrighted by Marcia Mitchell 2005.  All rights reserved.]

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