Style de Vie
our page about French lifestyles.
It is here that we will present vignettes
gathered from many sources for
your enjoyment. Expatriates living in France have
interesting stories to
tell; part- or full-time residents of Paris give their perspective
on what's new, intriguing or
unexpected in the City of Light; and the many
unique and adventurous
people living their dreams in France will share their
experiences. The lifestyle
of the French native, often the object of envy elsewhere
in the world, of course will
not be overlooked . . . so come along for a glimpse into the
daily life and often fascinating
lifestyles of people in France.
Café Sitting is a Full-Time Job
The American 'Frog' in Sologne
Edgy Delights in Paris' Twelfth
A Glimpse into Provençal Village Life:
Saignon: Built on Rocks and History
Burgundy on a Plate
Sitting is a Full-Time Job
by Jill Butler
everyday in the corner café, not just any café,
but rather the famous Salon du Thé, Ladurée, on the
rue Royale, numéro 16.*
priority was un double express et un croissant aux amandes. Next
came the reading of the newspaper, not just one, but three: the International
Herald Tribune, The International Edition of the Wall Street Journal, and
Le Figaro. For survival at a dinner party or social conversation,
it is imperative to be on top of the news both in France and in the US.
I had a lot to learn.
moved from New York City, I'd taken up the habit of eating breakfast out.
It seemed the perfect way to connect with the still somewhat sleepy world,
to see people, to be alone, but not lonely. I could ease into my work as
the caffeine did its job.
wrote my first book, Paintbrush in Paris, sitting in Ladurée.
I went daily for nearly 14 years. Paintbrush was my American cat that immigrated
with me. He was my English-speaking friend and voice in telling our story
of moving to Paris through this first illustrated book.
day came, a year and half later, when the first copies of Paintbrush
in Paris arrived. I held my breath and slowly let it out as I read
it through. It wasn't embarrassing!
next morning, I tucked a copy into my bag and headed out for breakfast.
I shared it with Anick, my usual serveuse, and she shared it with
the manager, Monique.
a convergence of the stars, the new owners of Ladurée, Francis Holder,
and his son, David, were sitting next to me at one of those miniature tables
~ meaning we were practically sitting elbow to elbow. So, Paintbrush
in Paris was again shared by Monique, but this time with the Holders.
Mr.Holder Senior ** turned to me and said, “Charmant, Madame, bravo!”
He asked me who I was, what I was doing in Paris and suggested I should
illustrate something for the salon.
pounding, I spontaneously proposed a series of postcards that could be
sold to other Ladurée and postcard enthusiasts like myself. He took
to the idea and immediately passed me and the idea to his son, David, with
whom I negotiated our agreement. I was then introduced to their design
and interiors director. With the details of our project concluded, it was
time to begin.
love to draw food but this felt like an exam. Being a self-taught artist,
I hoped I would pass the test. On Monday morning, I was "installed" upstairs
in the newly renovated, smoke-free dining room and for three intense mornings
silver trays filled with “samples” of every patisserie, Viennoisserie,
et dessert was placed before me ~ to draw!
making preliminary sketches, I choose to work with two illustrative styles:
one a cut paper style (the façade and coffees ) and the second a
more classic pen and ink watercolor style (the map, macaroons, Viennoisseries
and pastries) as well as a mix of both (the salon interior). Things like
capturing the whipped cream or the layers of a mille feuilles were
tricky as were les macarons, Ladurée’s signature product.
cherubs painted on the ceiling of the ground floor room alone are worth
the visit. If you look closely you can see they are baking the bread by
the rays of the sun. I choose to use the cherubs throughout the series
of six cards. They also appear in the Ladurée logo.
every drawing was checked by the design director for accuracy and the text
was bien regardé for spelling errors and inaccuracies. The
last look was with David and the printer, and off to press it went.
smiled when I saw customers discovering the cards as they paid à
la caisse. The enthusiastic mid-westerner that I am wanted to jump
up and introduce myself ~ but I contained myself with being happy that
they were being purchased.
sure now, I knew that café sitting was ~ if not a full-time
job ~ it was a job!
JILL BUTLER'S POSTCARDS (SMALLER THAN ACTUAL SIZE)
a final note, what I learned was to go ahead and speak up in my less than
perfect French, to enjoy the moment, to be slightly outrageous by French
standards and to go ahead and put forth an idea when given the opportunity
because who knows who's sitting next to you waiting to respond in the positive?
tells us, "At age five I had a dream. I was standing on the Left Bank looking
across the Seine to the backside of
Notre Dame Cathedral. Years later, I found my myself living next to Notre
Dame on the rue du Clôitre. Notre Dame and the bells
awakened me daily. Fourteen years of living in Paris and Normandy
have given me an abundance of experience and design
inspiration for The Jill Butler Collection of travel guides, dinnerware
and tabletop accessories."
reach Jill by email at email@example.com or visit her lively web
site at http://www.jillbutler.com.
illustrations ©2006 by Jill Butler]
'Frog' in Sologne
by Kristi Anderson
first fell in love with France in the late 70s when I went work as a model
in Paris. But, being slightly too short to make the « big bucks
», I returned to New York and found a very nice career for myself
I remained in love with France, and in the fall of 1988 I arrived in Paris
to, you guessed it, marry a Frenchman. At the age of 36 not only didn't
I know one word of French, but I barely knew how to use a microwave!
Six months of Alliance Française and a few cookbooks later,
I felt I was well on my way.
1990 I opened Tea and Tattered Pages, a used English bookstore and
tearoom which, in spite of its small size, became internationally known
for the reasonably priced books and the charm and ambiance of a bookstore
offering the first of what became the fashionable combination of serving
« comfort food » and tea in a bookstore. Borders and
the rest came after! My press book attests to the store's success with
appearances on Telematin, Paris Premiere, and Jimmy. Articles about
and Tattered Pages appeared as far away as Iceland!
1998, my husband and I divorced and, having stayed in love with France,
I sold my Parisian bookstore and bought a delapidated auberge in
the tiny but charming Solognot village of Ligny le Ribault.
five long years to completely renovate Auberge Saint Jacques, it
has become une maison d’hôtes where themed weekends focusing
on falconry, cooking, or biking are becoming well known. But, all
that was not enough for me. I have turned the orignal bar into what
can be compared to as an English club and named it Le Coin Perdu.
I have found various artists to exhibit their works there, and one never
knows what one will find: watercolors of a sublime Sologne, charatictures
of European soldiers, or modern oil paintings. Each exposition changes
the ambiance of the « club ».
addition to the Auberge Saint Jacques are themed dinners once a
month. Past dinners have included Thanksgiving, Russian New Year
and Saint Valentines. Each menu and history is well reseached so
that when a guest leaves, he or she is not only extremely well fed but
more informed as well! My cooking classes are also just as diverse
~ Indian, Chinese, Tex-mex, as well as foie gras, and even a "gôuter
en anglais" for children from 7-12.
is well worth a weekend trip to enjoy the beautiful sights of Sologne,
and I promise to welcome you with warmth and good humor to my little village
and Auberge Saint-Jacques!
proprietor of l'Auberge Saint Jacques, has established herself
in the small
of Ligny le Ribault just south of the Loiret département capital
weekends, cozy guest rooms and dynamic art exhibits will entice you to
visit her web site at http://theamericanfrog.com
or to contact
her, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Saint-Jacques is located at 15, place de l'église - 45240 Ligny
le Ribault - Tél : 06 83 18 42 31
by Helen Vaughan Simpson
about it. Most of us who have been to Paris more than once or twice
are past the Eiffel Tower-Notre Dame-Louvre tourist circuit. Not
that I don’t relish one more trip to the Louvre and the Musée
d’ Orsay each time I go, but, in my passion for Paris, after the first
few visits I wanted to know more about this beguiling city.
hunger drove me beyond the city center and the tourist tracks that Fodor’s
and Rick Steves have ensured are familiar and fully known. What
dedicated Francophile isn’t already familiar with the rue Cler in the 7th
arrondissement, or the rue Mouffetard in the 5th? I wanted
something more, something different. In looking for that something
different, I found the edges of Paris and the edgy delights
she yields up only to those who seek to know her in all her depths.
eastern edge draws far fewer visitors than the more celebrated west.
It was years of visiting the city before I ventured into exploring the
formerly artisan and working class 12th arrondissement -- the very
heart of radical and revolutionary Paris. This seldom-explored district
offers a great deal beyond the now popular and trendy Bastille area.
You have to push eastwards, even past the périphérique,
to the very edge of the Bois de Vincennes to find one of the city's
fascinating corners and the Palais de Porte d’Orée.
former Museum of African and Oceanic Arts, this extraordinary building
is now the official headquarters of France’s architectural patrimony and
in its own design a unique architectural treasure. It was built to
celebrate France’s pride in her colonies -- it proclaims in a post-colonial
world -- and now, in an embarrassing sort of way, France’s civilizing
imperial mission. Erected in 1931 for the World’s Fair, it
shouts France’s pride in her colonies and her success in shouldering the
white man’s burden. Politics aside, the medium’s message here should
not keep anyone from admiring an art-deco artistic masterpiece.
from the Porte d'Orée métro exit, the visitor approaches
the building past a towering golden figure of Civilizing Marianne, her
image glittering in the reflecting pool, lined with palm trees, stretching
at her feet. The palms are the first note of a colonial song that
rings more loudly as the building, covered with monumental carvings, rises
square columns surrounding the square building pull the visitor around
complex images of ships, tropical trees and flowers, native populations
in exotic dress, elephants and other fauna alien to France but not to her
colonies amid a roll call of the names of the colonies.
the western side, shadowed at times by the filtered light of the trees,
is a list of the names of the architects of France’s empire.
Colbert is there, de Lesseps is there — even Iberville and Bienville,
the “organizers of Louisiana.” All of France’s colonies are
there, even the least important.
in the vast central hall, colorful frescoes in the style of the muralists
of the 1930s continue the celebratory song. The room is beautiful
and the frescoes do as they were intended to do — inspire awe. A
towering figure of blind Justice, French justice clearly, stands in Michaelangelo-esque
majesty in one niche, while above the entrance door a flotilla of sailing
ships carries French benefits to all the corners of the world.
complete the introduction to the wonders that colonial exploration brought
to the homeland, the basement aquarium shelters the only alligators to
be found in the city along with illuminated windows of colorful tropical
fish that glow eerily in the darkened corridors. Not far away, near
the Paris zoo and the Lac Daumesnil, is the Buddhist temple.
trip to the edge of the city is a visit beyond the borders of France --
even beyond the borders of the Francophone world. Marianne,
holding high her torch of civilization and light, lingers in the mind’s
eye. To know Paris in all the facets of her richness, a visit
to the Palais de Porte D’Orée is de rigueur.
It is more than a visit to a monument — it is a visit to the edges of the
French experience, to the world and mind of the early twentieth century,
to the iconography of the 1930s, to a time when western culture was seen
to shine like Marianne’s torch. And it will introduce you to
the fascinating edges of a city in a constant process of self-transformation.
So don’t stay in the center — go to the edge.
Simpson, a director of Paris Dream Tours, has worked and lived
part-time in Paris
mid-1980s. She is passionate about Paris’ history, artistic heritage, and
about Paris Dream Tours visit the web site at http://www.parisdreamtours.com
or to contact
her, send an email to email@example.com
in this article are the copyrighted property of Helen Vaughan Simpson]
glimpse into Provençal village life
Built on Rocks and History
by Marcia Mitchell
in the distance it looks like a medieval fortress standing watch over the
valley. Up close you can see that it’s actually a cluster of huge
rocks, formed by time in layers of limestone. But, along the rim
of the flat top, you can see sections of a wall of hand-hewn stone.
It is what’s left of the defense wall for the three châteaux that
once stood side-by-side on top of that mammoth rocky outcrop.
is Saignon, one of the perched villages of the Luberon region of Provence.
It doesn’t boast the fame (or the tourists) of a Gordes or a Roussillon,
but it has the distinction of having once been rich, or important, or crazy
enough to have had three châteaux at one time, back in the Middle
Ages when the average per village was just one, and noble neighbors never
in a guidebook that Saignon is one of the “as yet undiscovered villages
of the Luberon.” That must be wrong, because I am an American, and
even I know about it. In fact, I left everything behind in Washington
DC and moved to this rock fortress. It looked safer.
house is in the Place de l'Horloge ~ the clock tower place.
Believe me, living next to the clock tower makes you acutely aware of time’s
passage (even when you’re no longer billing by the hour). A thousand
years ago, longer than I can remember, our building was part of the ramparts
of the village. Along the west wall runs a chemin de ronde,
where soldiers kept a lookout for invaders. In one corner, you can
see the exposed stone base of the ancient signal tower. Saignon,
it seems, derived from the Roman word signum, for signal.
The giant rocky promontory above our village was apparently the message
center for this part of Provincia Romana.
rocky promontory is like a balcony attached to the Plateau des Claparedes
on the northern face of the Grand Luberon. To prehistoric people, tired
of their dark, damp caves in the Aiguebrun valley, it must have looked
like a great place to live, because it soon became an oppidum, or fortified
refuge. Then in 976, documents show Saignon as a castellum,
with a castle and tower of wood, given by the bishop of Apt to brothers
Robert and Varacon.
where the Saignonnais took a characteristic turn off the straight and narrow
one-castle-per-village path. By the beginning of the 12th century,
the tiny village had not one, not two, but three castles standing elbow-to-elbow
on the rock ~ Château de la Roche, Château de Crugière,
and squeezed in between them, Château de Tortamolle, or Méjean
can only imagine the feudal turf wars.
do know one example. As the 14th century dawned, one Bertrand Rambaud de
Simiane ~“Rambo”, I call him ~ was lord of the runty middle castle.
Next door, within spitting distance, was the gigantic castle-with-the-best-view,
owned by his cousin, the bishop of Apt, who was also his seigneur and landlord
and to whom he had sworn fealty.
“Rambo” got fed up and told the bishop just exactly what he could do with
his outrageous rent bill. Then he got a bunch of his men together
and tore down part of his chateau along with some of the neighbors’ houses.
The bishop promptly excommunicated “Rambo” (which in those days meant devastation)
and made him rebuild everything at his own expense.
came the Revolution, and without nobility to occupy them, the three castles
started falling to ruin. The people of Saignon, knowingly or not,
took their cue from “Rambo”. They climbed up onto the rock, knocked
down most of what was left standing, and carted off the stones to build
houses of their own.
you visit Saignon, as I hope you will, pass through the medieval portal
and follow the signs to Le Rocher, The Rock. Take your camera, maybe
even a baguette, cheese and a bottle of wine. Enjoy the spectacular
360° view, from the limestone cliffs of the Claparedes, across the
Calavon Valley, over other perched villages, to Mont Ventoux, the Vaucluse
mountains and in the far distance, on a clear day, even a smidgeon of the
while you’re up there, imagine those three châteaux rising even higher
above you, surrounded by massive walls, guard towers, and a treacherous
moat ~ accessible only through a forbidding iron gate. Then look
down at the village houses of everyday people, their open shutters and
flowering window boxes, alfresco tables set for lunch. Their walls are
built of the stones those ancestral villagers retrieved from the noble
like to think that, in a way, the three châteaux are once again standing
side by side, in a new and more peaceful neighborhood.
lived in nine of the United States plus the District of Columbia before
Provence and settled in the Luberon village of Saignon.
invites you to visit their village for charming accommodations, good food,
cooking or French lessons, or just to say “bonjour”.
by Marcia Mitchell. All rights reserved.]
on a Plate
by Sue Boxell
on a Plate, my
wine and gastronomy tour company based in Burgundy, is the eventual flowering
of a seed planted long ago while I was working on floating hotels on Burgundy’s
inland waterway network. Working as a chef in the region had been
a revelation to me. I delighted purchasing my ingredients from the wonderful
outdoor markets ~ a riot of colorful fruits, vegetables and flowers ~ and
I was astonished by the sheer variety of cheeses and the quality of the
meat and fish. In addition, the wonderful vineyards where we would
take our passengers for tastings were the icing on the cake. I developed
a real passion for the region, and I vowed that one day I would return
to create my own business.
However, ‘life is what happens
while planning other things’ as they say ~ and one day I woke up in London
and realized that my long-held dream was looking unlikely to be fulfilled.
It suddenly came to me that not pursuing my dream was going to be far more
painful in the long run than simply throwing myself into action and going
for it! So after a period of research and several visits to Burgundy,
I set a date for departure.
My first step was to actually
get to France, which I did by crossing the English Channel in my Dutch
ex-sailing barge. With the help of friends, I navigated for
three long weeks through the waterway network going through, what seemed
at the time, hundreds of locks to get to St Jean de Losne in Burgundy where
there was a mooring awaiting me. In France there are not that many
suitable employment opportunities for foreigners, so I knew I had to get
straight in there and get my business up and running.
confident that I had the skills necessary to offer a truly special experience
for my clients, and my nine years working for Eurotunnel had honed my business
and language skills, both essential in my future undertakings.
Now, I’m delighted to say
that my company Burgundy
on a Plate offers a taste of the real Burgundy, as it’s experienced
by the people who live here. The pride in its cuisine, the magnificence
of its vines and wines and the quality and variety of its produce makes
Burgundy a perfect region for a wine and gastronomy discovery tour.
These private, guided tours
will bring participants a deeper knowledge and understanding of the history,
wine, and gastronomy of this region, enabling them to meet wine producers
in family-owned vineyards, to taste artisanal local specialities in some
remote locations, and to dine in some unusual restaurants, such as a ferme
auberge run by local farmers' wives or a restaurant in a wine cellar.
In addition to our week-long
tours, there are eight one-day themed tours to choose from ~from wine and
cheese to Cassis, Cooking, and Côte de Nuits ~ for those people with
limited time in the area. We also offer custom-made tours,
and whether one's interests lie in wine, gastronomy, history, art, architecture,
golf or cooking, we can design and create a tour especially for those interests.
At last I am doing something
in my life that I love, and I hope that some of this love of Burgundy
rubs off on my clients. Judging by their reactions ~ it’s working!
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