The SNCF (Société nationale des chemins de fer) is France’s national train network. I love train travel. As you know, I recently took the SNCF from Paris to Barcelona, a seven hour journey. In 2019, the year before COVID, I travelled from Rome down to Lecce (Puglia) and back up again to Bologna on Italy’s excellent train network. From Bologna I travelled up to Milan, changed trains and journeyed onwards to Nice where I stayed for 3 days. From Nice, back up to Paris. All by train. A great and memorable trip that I’d do all over again in a flash.
Back in the 1990s, I travelled from New York City to New Mexico on AMTRAK. The first leg was NYC to Chicago whereupon I boarded the Southwest Chief and settled into my sleeping cabin. After crossing Iowa, Missouri, Kansas and Colorado, I arrived in Santa Fe two days later where my friend, Lori, and another friend were waiting for me. I remember seeing beautiful sunsets and coyotes on the Kansas plains.
Taking the train is the most environmentally-friendly way of traveling. I’m a seasoned train traveller, and I approve this message –
Who doesn’t like seersucker? Last year in the June sales I went everywhere trying to find a seersucker blazer. I found one in a Gérard Darel boutique in Lille, but it wasn’t my size. So I gave up looking. And then this morning, my colleague blithely strolled into the office and I gasped.
“J’adore!” I exclaimed.
“What?” she replied, surprised and looking around her.
“Your blazer. Seersucker!”
And guess what? The French actually say “seersucker”, but with a cute accent. I asked if I could take a photo.
Le seersucker est un tissu gaufré en coton d’origine indienne. Seersucker is a cotton waffle fabric of Indian origin.
But it wasn’t just the blazer, it was the whole look. This, ladies and gents, is the quintessential Parisian look, known as BCBG (bon chic, bon genre). But not anywhere Paris. From the chic districts: the 6th, 7th, 16th arrondissements. Maybe the 12th. Or further out in the western burbs: Neuilly-sur-Seine or Saint-Germain-en-Laye. The silk scarf artfully wrapped and tied around the neck. The upturned sleeve cuffs. The jeans always worn with a belt. The open blazer – if you must button, NEVER close the bottom button!
Here’s the three-button rule: top button, sometimes. Middle button, always. Bottom button, never.
This was the song at the top of the charts when I arrived in France. Vanessa was 14 here. She became an overnight sensation and France’s darling. Eleven years later she’d meet Johnny Depp and have a relationship (and two children) with him. She’s had a super-interesting life.
The other day I stumbled across a YouTube video entitled “Why so many people are fleeing Canada”. Intrigued, I watched these videos and learned a few things. For those who don’t know, I was born and raised in Canada, so the topic particularly interested me.
Here’s a Canadian explaining why. Below, is a Ukrainian émigré standing in his backyard in Calgary, Alberta explaining why.
From what I learned, the main reasons are as follows:
HIGH COST OF LIVING AND HIGH TAXES.
TOO COLD IN WINTER.
- employers not recognizing foreign credentials and experience,
- employers not helping them integrate into the workplace and not providing job-related learning opportunities,
- outright discrimination,
- employers demanding that new immigrants have “Canadian experience”.In a 2003 report, Statistics Canada identified a lack of Canadian experience as the most common barrier for newcomers looking for meaningful employment in Canada. This research showed that this barrier continued to exist two years after their arrival.
A recent University of British Columbia study found that Canadian employers value Canadian work experience over international work experience.
Designed by Frank Gehry, this dazzling arts centre is to be found in the Bois de Boulogne on Paris’s west side. The iconic structure resembles a ship with billowing sails, what Gehry calls “from nautical to natural”.
Here’s what Mayer Rus wrote in Architectural Digest –
Commissioned by LVMH chief Bernard Arnault to design a signature arts center for the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, architect Frank Gehry conceives a radiant tour de force wrapped in swirling glass sails
An eye-popping center for contemporary art and culture, the project is the brainchild of Bernard Arnault, chairman and CEO of the French luxury-goods conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy–Louis Vuitton, and was brought to life by that most lyrical of architectural conjurers, Frank Gehry. With its shiplike exterior of billowing glass sails, the 126,000-square-foot, 2.5-story building suggests an avant-garde update of the Jolly Roger, gracefully piloted by Peter Pan through the Bois’s verdant sea of centuries-old trees with a trail of pixie dust in its wake. Bewitching and majestic, the structure alights in the park with the delicacy of the Winged Victory perched at the head of the Daru staircase in the Louvre. Suffice it to say, it’s the kind of place that invites ecstatic odes and mixed metaphors.
” When kids come to the Foundation Louis Vuitton
I want them to elevate their imagination,
so they grow up thinking of architecture differently “
Had I not recently watched the excellent Netflix documentary film, “The Andy Warhol Diaries”, I might not have been interested in this exhibition. But now that I know about the struggles and successes of both Warhol and his talented younger friend, Jean-Michel Basquiat, I will go.
Here’s the link to a well-written review in The Guardian about the Warhol documentary, and below that, a link to the Louis Vuitton Foundation.
Another beautiful flight back to Paris on an early Saturday evening. Thank you again, Air France, for transporting me safely back to my home destination. The crowds arrived (in Valencia) on the Saturday morning. For that reason alone, I was glad to be leaving. As mentioned previously, the day before (Good Friday) was very quiet and I practically had the streets and squares of that beautiful city to myself. Many shops and sites were closed. So when I went to the famous covered market, re-opened on the Saturday morning, there was an explosion of people, both locals and tourists.
It’s the start of the long Easter weekend, and I’m so glad I’m here and far from the cooler clime and political unrest of France. Today was a perfect day, and it’s not yet over. I spent a few hours at the Silk Museum and it was super interesting (more on that below). I just wanted to say again, because I’ve said it before: sunshine makes all the difference. I no longer want to live in a gray, drizzly climate. There are multiple health benefits of sunlight.
As for air-conditioning, this compact and powerful AC unit is to be found in every hotel room, restaurant, apartment and shop in the country. I’ve never seen them in France, or anywhere else. Why not?
I snacked all day and tried some local foods.
The city is very quiet, I don’t know where everyone is on this long Easter weekend. I made my way to the Silk Museum and spent an enjoyable two hours learning about the 15th-century silk trade originating with Arab and Jewish merchants and spreading west through Genoa, Florence, Spain and France. I also learned about silk worms, mulberry leaves and the making (and dying) of silk thread from cocoons. France, it turned out, was the pre-eminent leader of the silk industry. King Louis XI set up a national silk trade in Lyon, consisting largely of Italian workers from the region of Calabria, known for its master silk weavers. By the 16th-century, Lyon was the capital of the European silk trade, and by the middle of the 17th-century, over 14,000 looms were operating in that city.
It was an enjoyable and enlightening two hours. Afterwards, thirsty and hungry from all that learning, I sauntered into the museum’s garden courtyard (near empty) for a glass of wine and lunch.
Like I said, I’m in paradise.
I’ve just returned to my rental apartment (it’s 9:45 pm) after eating a delicious dinner at a nearby brasserie. Simple food, but darn good. As I walked home in the dark (two short blocks), I was grateful to be in a country with a low crime rate. One feels relaxed in Spain. As I type this, I can hear shouts and yells from the street. There’s a soccer match on, not sure who is playing. (Barcelona and Real Madrid, I think.)
I ordered this delicious bottle of Rioja because I knew I was going to eat two nights in a row in the same brasserie. Truly excellent. Followed by a simple steak and roasted vegetables.
When I had finished, I asked if they had any cheese (and bread) with which to finish off the wine. This is what we do in France. The smiling waitress brought me this cheesecake. Did I say “cheese with bread” wrong?? Queso con pan? Lost in translation, I guess. Anyway, it was delicious.
You would think that a fluent French speaker would be able to pick up Spanish easily. But that’s not my case. I recognize many (similar) words, but stringing them together into a coherent sentence is a challenge. And when they speak to me in rapid-fire Spanish, my face goes funny with an expression that says, “Huh?”
But the kindness of the people compensates for my linguistic lapses. Invariably, at some point, you will come across a person who speaks English or French (less so in smaller cities and towns).
Sunshine makes all the difference. And freshly-squeezed orange juice. This is my most favorite machine in the supermarket. Oranges are everywhere here. Valencia’s coastline is covered in groves, and the orange is regarded as a symbol of the city.