Xmas lights, Champs-Elysées

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The weather here is glorious – cold, dry and sunny. Unfortunately there’s an air pollution spike and as a result all public transportation was free today … as well as free resident car parking. So I took advantage of the free metro to go home for lunch and fetch my camera. For my dessert, I picked up this religieuse from the boulangerie. After work I jumped on the free metro again and headed over to the Champs-Elysées to see the Christmas lights. Here are some random shots.

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Night photography isn’t easy. It entails long exposures, a tripod, and lots of fiddling with your settings (aperture and shutter speed), which I can’t be bothered to do. So, again, I apologize for the less-than-sharp images. Here, I’m basically strolling down the “Champs” at 7 pm tonight and enjoying the cold, clear weather.

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WATCH OUT FOR PICKPOCKETS!  I can’t stress this enough. The Champs-Elysées is a pickpockets’ paradise. Here are two of them here below, Romanian gypsies walking in front of me. They turned around, saw me taking a photo, and demanded money. “In your dreams,” I said and walked on. They are quite brazen. Be even more brazen. Show them who’s boss.

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It’s important to wear your handbag with the long strap crossed diagonally across your chest. Or a short-strapped one with the purse tucked under your arm. The worst is to walk with your handbag dangling from your hand as it could be snatched by thieves on a scooter.

  • Keep your wallet at the bottom of your purse.
  • Never hang your purse on the back of a chair in a public place, where it’s out of your sight. Keep it on your lap. If you must put it on the floor, tuck the strap under your thigh, or at least put the chair leg through it.
  • Be sure your purse is in front of you as you enter revolving doors, board trains, etc.
  • Never set your purse down in a shop and turn your attention elsewhere.
  • In public restrooms, loop your bag’s strap around the hook and keep your eye on the bag. Dropped coins in the stall beside could be a distraction ruse.
  • To prevent a drive-by bag snatch, walk far from the curb, on the side of the street towards traffic.
  • Don’t be fooled at outdoor cafes, where the space is bordered by potted plants. Thieves can reach in between the plants and grab your bag.

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Richard Avedon at the BNF

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From October 18th, 2016 to February 26th, 2017, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BnF) is presenting an exceptional exhibition of vintage prints made by the famous American fashion photographer, Richard Avedon (1923-2004). Contact sheets and other works reveal his special relationship with France. The documents are for the most part loaned by the Richard Avedon Foundation in New York, and for some, are exposed for the first time.

What’s funny about the above glamour photo of Audrey Hepburn on the number 63 bus is the advertisement for bug spray (Néocide). Not very glamorous!

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Interesting that Jacqueline’s gaze here is on her husband, and not directly into the camera, which puts her in a secondary role.

This exhibition brings together some 200 pieces by Avedon and explores the unique relationship that the photographer built up with France. Famous and celebrated throughout the world for his fashion photographs but also for his celebrity portraits, Avedon had close ties with France. The exhibition focuses on the signs of this deep affection, from the 1940s when he came to photograph the fashion collections in Paris for the magazine Harper’s Bazaar.

The exquisite black and white photos (with a few colour shots as a bonus) are currently on show at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France on their François-Mitterrand  campus, gallery n° 2 (link at the bottom of this article).

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What a ravishingly beautiful woman Liz Taylor was. I miss her. I miss all of the beautiful, talented, generous celebrities now gone.

The venerable fashion photographer and portraitist had a deep love of France, where he was able to immortalise a huge number of the country’s celebrities – Jean Cocteau, François Truffaut, Yves Montand, Coco Chanel, Catherine Deneuve, Jean Genet, Jeanne Moreau, Isabelle Adjani …

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Coco Chanel

If you do go to this exhibition, I suggest that you also visit one of my favorite spots in Paris called Bercy Village, located just across the river from the BNF via a beautiful wide footbridge called the passerelle Simone de Beauvoir. Bercy Village is where I’ll be going sometime in December to take photos of their Christmas fairy lights. I’ve written many posts on this blog about the delights of Bercy Village and Bercy Park. (link below on the Village as well as the Park and the footbridge crossing the river). The 12th arrondissement, located on the east side of the city, is not well known to tourists (and should be.) If I were to move, I’d move there.

a perfect summer’s day, Sunday

http://www.bnf.fr/en/cultural_events/anx_exhibitions/f.france_davedon_new_look_eng.html

Xmas lights – December 2016

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I’ve decided to do a series on Christmas lights in Paris this year. Here are the lights at La Défense, the tall-towered business district just west of the city. I work at La Défense and this is my route home. I like the long, pedestrian-zone Esplanade because it’s car-free.

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I took these photos walking home from work this evening at 6:15 pm (if I had a tripod, they would have turned out better.) The weather right now is perfect: cold, dry and sunny. I hope it lasts.

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I’m particularly excited about Christmas this year. Don’t know why. The view in the photo below is facing due east towards the Champs-Elysées. You can see the illuminated Eiffel Tower in the bottom right-hand corner.

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Here’s a similar post I did in December 2013 entitled La Défense Sparkle. It’s interesting to see the difference in the decorations.

La Défense sparkle

Friday night, bread, flamenco, politics, a house in the Médoc

My last post on home-made pizza received an overwhelming number of hits and I’m astonished. Maybe I should just do a food blog, I said to a friend.

It’s Friday night here in Paris, my favorite moment of the week: time to kick back, forget the office, crack open that bottle of wine I bought mid-week and have been eyeing ever since (an earthy Chinon), crank up Stan Getz on the hi-fi and chill. I’ve selected an old, favorite movie from my DVD collection for later: Sweet Smell of Success with Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster (1957). Love that film.

Went to my neighborhood supermarket after work to pick up a loaf of bread called Belledonne pain intégral. If I had to, I’d cross town for this bread (fortunately I don’t have to.) The man slices it for you on the machine. Belledonne is an artisan organic bakery and their pain intégral is a scrumptious combination of wholemeal wheat flour and sourdough. It almost has a nutty flavor.

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Toasting it for breakfast slathered with sea salt butter is a highlight of my weekend. Then I’ll have another slice, maybe with a smashed soft-boiled egg on top (sprinkled with salt, pepper, a drop or two of olive oil and ground cumin – my Anglo-Moroccan friend, Sherry, showed me this), or spread with goat cheese. All washed down with strong, black coffee of course. Or…here’s another great breakfast idea: smashed avocado. If you haven’t done this before, you’ll find a million variation recipes on the internet. P.S. you can only do this with really good bread (or bagel). If you’re gonna buy crap industrial commercial bread, forget it.

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The weather’s been unseasonably mild here, but today the temperature dropped and is forecast to drop even more over the weekend. That’s a good thing coz I like it cold. It’s not even December yet, but Christmas is in the air. The Xmas lights were officially turned on last week along the Champs-Elysées (and elsewhere). I’ll take some photos next week and post them.

As for Christmas shows, a fabulous flamenco dancer called Sara Baras is coming to town. I saw her a few years ago at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées and I’ll be seeing her again this year. She’s performing there from 21 December to 8 January.

http://www.theatrechampselysees.fr/saison/danse/sara-baras-ballet-flamenco

Other than that, the entire country is in the grips of pre-election fever. The other night, the two heavyweight candidates of the right-wing party engaged in a two-hour debate on television. François Fillon and Alain Juppé. Since then, there’s been nothing but discussion, analysis, dissection and predictions in this highly-politicized country where the lines between politics and entertainment are indistinguishable.

It should be known, for anyone interested in French politics, that Fillon is backed by the white, conservative Catholic community: strongly nostalgic and desiring a return to “traditional French family values”. Personally, I was disturbed by Fillon’s comment regarding France’s identity. “No, France is not a multicultural nation,” he said, adding that foreigners who came to France must assimilate. “When you come to someone’s house, by courtesy, you don’t take over.”

Juppé, on the other hand, said France’s identity comes from its rich diversity which should be celebrated. He said he wanted to bring people together. Absolutely! Personally, I would vote for Juppé, only there’s one problem: he looks old. As I watched him standing for two hours behind a podium, I was actually worried for him and wondered if he needed a stool to sit on. He has the intellect, but does he have the physical stamina to run a country at the age of 71? Next August he’ll turn 72.

And finally, here’s someone else’s blog devoted to food, family, and country-living in the wine region of southwestern France called le Médoc. Enjoy. The photos are gorgeous.

http://mimithorisson.com/

pizza weekend

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I’m on a pizza kick, pizza that I make myself. It’s so easy! And fun because each pie is different depending on what ingredients you have in the larder. I may never buy frozen ready-made pizza again.

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This one is vegetarian with red onion, garlic, tomato sauce, rocket (arugula) and grated gruyère cheese. Delicious!

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I use Jamie Oliver’s pizza dough recipe, it’s real easy (link below).

My tips – don’t go wild (like I did the first time) and overload your pizza. Keep it simple and light. I mix two different flours: white and wholewheat. If you have an organic supermarket near you, buy organic flours…so much better than industrial. I use either a round cake tin (lightly oiled on the bottom with olive oil) or a flat baking tray (oiled).

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Two other tips – go easy on the tomato sauce (I use ordinary spaghetti sauce from a jar). Too much will bog the crust down and ruin it, a super-thin layer of sauce is all you need. Slide your pie into a super-hot oven (230°C / 446°F). That way it cooks faster and crustier.

Here are some pizza topping ideas:

shrimp, tuna, anchovies, chorizo, ham, bacon, pancetta, ground beef or bresola

artichoke hearts, red onion, red or yellow peppers, garlic, olives, rocket (arugula), fresh basil leaves

thinly sliced potato, rocket, yam, mushrooms, basically any vegetable

mozzarella, goat’s cheese, ricotta, pecorino, parmesan, gruyère, cheddar…basically any cheese

If you can figure out the measurements, you can halve this recipe –

http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/recipe/pizza-dough/

Emmanuel Macron, man of the moment

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Will this 38-year old outsider be the next President of France?

Yesterday, when Mr. Macron officially announced his candidacy to run for the office of President (as an independent), my first thought was of that idiom “to throw the cat among the pigeons.” In French, that translates into “laisser entrer le loup dans la bergerie” (let the wolf into the sheep pen). Because his presence has seriously caused upset among some of the heavyweight contenders: 71 year old Alain Juppé, 61 year old Nicolas Sarkozy and 62 year old François Fillon. The elders view him not only as a young upstart, but worse – un traître, a traitor because he stabbed President Hollande in the back (not literally.) Hand-picked by Hollande in 2012 to be a senior presidential advisor, he ended up being Hollande’s protégé. In 2014 Hollande then appointed him Minister of Economy, Industry and Digital Affairs. For two years Macron “served his country” before quitting the government this year to run against Hollande for France’s highest office. Many people are calling him disloyal.

In his campaign speech, Macron attacked the elites without naming them, calling them people who “insult and exclude.” The problem is, Macron is one of those elites. The son of two doctors raised in the Picardy town of Amiens, he studied at ENA (École nationale d’administration), the elite postgraduate school that grooms civil servants. He then went on to become an investment banker for Rothschilds earning around €2 million a year.

Macron’s role model is…are you ready? Tony Blair.

My personal opinion is that the French are far too traditional and orthodox to vote for an unknown firebrand, especially someone so young and politically inexperienced. Rattled by BREXIT and the mind-boggling ascension of Donald Trump, voters will turn to security and a familiar face, someone they know and trust. I’m putting my money on Alain Juppé or François Fillon.

You’ve got to admit, Mr. Macron has got a fine French head. A great nose. Elegant jawline and look at that strong brow ridge.

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Emmanuel Macron will run as head of the centrist En Marche movement he created in April (En Marche translates into Forward). The movement advocates “new ideas… neither of the right nor the left”.

Yesterday on TV, Macron repeated his theme, saying: “The challenge is not for me to bring together the left or bring together the right. The challenge is to bring together France.”

“Well, good luck with that.” says Juliet in Paris.

Leonard Cohen dead

Leonard Cohen dead and Donald Trump in the White House.

I want to curl up into a ball and cry.

Canadian compatriot from Montreal, Leonard Cohen’s soulful, bewitching songwriting was a part of my growing-up years. Goodbye, you beautiful man. Thank you for the grace you gave us in this crass, sometimes ugly world.

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