Paris in July 2012 – Images of Provence 2

You can tell that we really loved Aix-en-Provence because I wanted it to have its own slideshow, so here it is. I would love to go back again.

This post is part of the Paris in July 2012 theme hosted by Karen from BookBath and Tamara from Thyme for Tea.

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Paris in July 2012 -images of Provence

This post is about total self-indulgence. We visited Provence for the first time in October 2010 and it remains one of our most memorable holidays….another visit is now on our bucket list. We loved everything about it -we even survived driving on the “wrong” side of the road. That is after we finally made it to our B&B late in the evening after rail strikes in Paris.

I hope you enjoy these photos taken around L’Isle sur La Sorgue, Les Baux, Gordes, Rousillon,, Loumarin etc. Aix-en-Provence might have to be another post.

And if you really want to indulge, have a look at one of my favourite non-genealogy sites, French Essence . The author, Vicki Archer, is Australian-born and lives quite near St Remy…I defy you not to feel a tiny bit jealous. I’m not into the beauty regimes or fashion, but I LOVE the scenery, the garden and the design. <Sigh>

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This post is part of the Paris in July 2012 theme hosted by Karen from BookBath and Tamara from Thyme for Tea.

Paris in July 2012 and French-themed novels

It’s ironic that July is a Francophile’s delight with the Paris in July 2012 series hosted by Karen from BookBath and Tamara from Thyme for Tea. Entirely coincidentally I’ve been reading books with French themes this month. It all started with in-flight reading on the 3 ½ hour flight from Brisbane to Darwin in early July.  I’d downloaded the new book by Joanne Harris, Peaches for Monsieur Le Curé as it caught my eye in a bookshop. I hadn’t read Chocolat (or seen the movie) which perhaps would have added to the back story in some of the book but nonetheless I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the challenges of life as a small French village comes to term with its immigrant Muslim neighbours.

Taken with the writing style I looked in the local library for Chocolat but it was already out on loan so I settled for two other Joanne Harris books: Five Quarters of the Orange and Coastliners.  After devouring these I borrowed Holy Fools which hasn’t engaged me as yet.

The three books I’ve read had some commonalities:

  • Life in small communities and the tensions and long-standing personal histories and feuds (intriguing but it did make me glad I hadn’t lived in a small community).
  • A central heroine whose central role has a significant impact on the community.
  • Hidden stories and inter-linkages that became clearer throughout the books or in the dénouement.
  • The impact of parenting, good or poor.

While some of the story lines might stretch credibility the books were very readable and I enjoyed them a lot, though I was aghast at how Framboise, an elderly widow when we first meet her in Five Quarters, determinedly abused her mother’s illness and headaches for her own interests as a young girl in the same village.

Perhaps not the most profound books I’ve read, but enjoyable reading just the same, and nicely fitting this month’s emphasis on any/all things French.

Paris in October – Monet magic and Paris moments

In late 2010 we visited Paris for the first time in 25 years…we’d waited too long and once again it was a fleeting visit. Once again we’d blown in on a train but this time it was the hyper-modern Eurostar direct from England. Monet was our motivation as there was a fantastic exhibition of his many works from galleries around the world. We’d booked our tickets before we left and scheduled our visit time but even so it was something of a rushed arrival. It really was a superb event, an indulgence of Impressionist gluttony rivalling an equally large exhibition we’d happened upon in Rome in Easter 2000.

The winter skies were grey and dreary but this time Paris truly captured our hearts. We scheme to revisit it either at Christmas or in spring (with a side trip to Monet’s garden perhaps?). To have the time to wander aimlessly enjoying the buildings, drinking coffees, and just relishing being in the moment.

Here is a slideshow of some of the images that captured our senses.

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This post is part of the Paris in July 2012 theme hosted by Karen from BookBath and Tamara from Thyme for Tea.

Paris in July – Napoleon: Revolution to Empire

Once again I’ve been alerted to some more fun by Julie of Angler’s Rest. This time the theme is to turn Francophile for July and write about something/anything French.  Paris in July 2012 is hosted by Karen from BookBath and Tamara from Thyme for Tea.

While visiting Melbourne recently we took the opportunity to see the Napoleon exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). It was quite an amazing display of art and artefacts from the Napoleonic era but, I don’t know about anyone else, by the time I reach the end of any grand exhibition my brain is quite overwhelmed. I find myself wishing for the opportunity to revisit them a little while later to fully digest the variety and content.

As I walked away I said to Mr Cassmob: what makes a man decide “I know, I’ll make myself Emperor” and why does an entire national population fall into line with that concept?  Napoleon must truly have been charismatic and a master of self-promotion. Certainly he had been successful in military campaigns but that doesn’t turn every successful general into the head of a country or an Emperor. I confess it seems weird to me but perhaps the historical nuances have been lost on me.

Below the flags and Napoleonic symbol on this Paris building are the words: liberté, égalité, fraternité.

The exhibition started, as the title suggests, with the events of the French Revolution and included portraits of a number of revolutionaries. It was interesting to see how the French patriotic cockade of red, white and blue was then incorporated into the art and design of the time, along with liberté, égalité, fraternité.  As time passed Napoleon’s rise was manifest in the objects of the era and the design elements of the swan and bee recurred. I did love the exquisite clock which represented the attempt to change how time was measured. The most impressive portrait, and the one making the grandest statement, was the painting of Napoleon on his horse: showing his power and success. Not surprisingly this was the feature image for the exhibition.  However what struck me was the simplicity of the furniture that Napoleon chose for his own use: clean lines without too much decoration (other than those swans!)

I admit that royalty and this type of flamboyance doesn’t do it for me, despite the intrinsic beauty of the ornaments, china and jewellery. What I found most intriguing was the reinforcement of how easily Australia could have become a French colony if France hadn’t more pressing matters on its hands at the time.

When I was a child we were not taught Australian history per se and the focus was all on Britain (!!). However over the years with reading and travel, and a different slant on modern history, the role of the French has become so much more apparent. The French explorers charted much of Australia’s coastline and any Sydneysider knows that La Perouse was just pipped to the Botany Bay post in 1788 by Captain Phillip with his load of convicts in Australia’s First Fleet (what would have happened to all those people had La Pérouse overturned Cook’s discovery and laid claim to the land for France?) Fortunately La Pérouse forwarded his charts and documents back to France via a British ship as the two French ships foundered on the way home with the loss of all hands though this was not known for many years.  I was impressed that even in the difficult time of the Revolution, Louis XVI continued to ask after the fate of his missing explorers.

The Empress Josephine was a keen enthusiast for Australia’s native flora and fauna.

Far fewer Australians will have heard of Nicholas Baudin’s exploration of Australia’s west coast in 1800 and his documentation of botanical and zoological discoveries. Baudin’s terms of reference from Napoleon were as follows:

You will make up this collection of living animals of all kinds, insects, and especially of birds with beautiful plumage. As regards animals, I don’t need to tell you how to choose between those intended for the menageries and those for a collection of pure pleasure. You will appreciate that it must comprise flowers, shrubs, seeds, shells, precious stones, timber for fine works of marquetry, insects, butterflies, etc. –Napoleon Bonaparte.[i]

The French ships returned with over 100,000 specimens and over seventy living animals. Can you imagine the kangaroos and emu taken from their native habitat and sailed across the wild oceans to the Old World. Poor creatures!  The art from these explorations was magnificently detailed. Also impressive was the fact that their shipboard artists painted the indigenous people and their lives as they encountered them.

Meanwhile the British had sent Matthew Flinders to follow much the same route to map the coast and discover more about this southern land. Like La Perouse and Cook, Flinders and Baudin tagged each other on this exploration, but to the victor goes the spoils and it is Flinders’ name that lives on. Names of the French explorers like D’Entrecastaux  and Freycinet survive in place names around Australia, and it would be difficult to find a more beautiful location than the Freycinet Peninsula in Tasmania.

Napoleon’s crest and laurel wreaths remain immortalised throughout Paris today.

The Empress Josephine incorporated the Australian native animals and plants brought back by the explorers into her residence Malmaison.  While many of the animals succumbed to the different climate in France, the black swans thrived and one stoic kangaroo lived until 1814. According to the exhibition website Josephine pioneered the planting of acacia, melaleuca and eucalyptus throughout France and propagated many species of Australian plants[ii], explaining in part why these plants are now seen around France. Napoleon also took an acacia with him when exiled to Elba.

On such small differences in timing, an entire pnation’s fate was determined. How easily we might all have been a French colony, perhaps with no convict history, and a completely different sense of who we are and our national characteristics.