violence against women, ELLE magazine, the Weinstein affair

au nom de marie

Front cover of this week’s French ELLE magazine –

(translation) – On August 1, 2003, Marie Trintignant died under the blows of her companion, rock musician Bertrand Cantat. Today she is a symbol. With singular grace, her face has become the face of all women who find themselves victims of men’s’ violence. Her face has become the face of the one hundred and twenty-three women killed by their spouse last year.

Every day, thirty-three women denounce a rape in France. In 2016, 216,000 complaints were filed by harassed or assaulted women. To all of these women, like the actresses against Harvey Weinstein, this takes courage.

Marie Trintignant, we do not forget you. It will take more than the obscene media coverage of Bertrand Cantat (cover of “Inrockuptibles” magazine of October 2017) to extinguish your flame.

“A light here requires a shadow there,” writes Virginia Woolf.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, TO BE SILENT IS TO PARTICIPATE. call 3919 (advertising campaign)


Who was Marie Trintignant?
The daughter of France’s famous actor, Jean-Louis Trintignant.


How did she die and how old was she?

She was 41 years old (and the mother of four small children) and she died from a cerebral edema (brain swelling) after being repeatedly punched by her boyfriend Bertrand Cantat, lead singer with the French rock group Noir Désir (Black Desire).


Marie as a teenager

Murder of Marie Trintignant, arrest, and imprisonment
In 2003, Cantat began an affair with French actress Marie Trintignant. On July 26 of that year, Cantat and Trintignant got into a fight in a hotel room in Vilnius, Lithuania, following a dispute over a text message. Seven hours later, Trintignant’s brother called emergency services to go to the couple’s Lithuanian hotel room, as Trintignant had slipped into a deep coma. The postmortem suggested that Cantat had inflicted nineteen blows to Trintignant’s head, causing irreversible brain damage. In court, Cantat claimed he “slapped” Trintignant four times before putting her to bed. He claimed he had flown into a jealous rage after she received a text message from her ex-husband.

In March 2004, Cantat was sentenced by Vilnius Regional Court to eight years in prison for murder, committed with indirect intent. In September 2004 and at the request of his lawyers, Cantat was moved from a Lithuanian prison to a French prison. Cantat served four years of his eight-year sentence in prison. According to French law, after half of a prison sentence has been served, a criminal with good behavior can be released to serve the rest of his sentence on parole.

Cantat was released on parole in October 2007, after serving half of his sentence. His early release aroused the anger of female rights activists and the victim’s parents, who had failed to persuade French President Nicolas Sarkozy and French judges to block his early release.

In September 2003, Cantat’s house was burned down.
In October 2017, French rock music magazine, The Inrockuptibles, glorified Cantat by gracing the cover with his photo while promoting his new album. Indignation swiftly ensued.


Marlene Schiappa, the Secretary of State for Equality between Women and Men, reacted on her Twitter account, “And in the name of what must we endure the promotion of this man who murdered Marie Trintignant with his fists? Do not let anything pass.”

Actor-director Mathieu Kassovitz tweeted. “Very rock and roll your cover. Isn’t that the son of a bitch who killed my friend’s daughter with his fists?”


The Harvey Weinstein debacle is sending wide and wonderful ripples across the ocean. It’s all two decades too late, of course, but better late than never. What can I possibly say that hasn’t already been written, tweeted and decried other than when I came to France from Canada in the early 1990s, I was stunned and appalled by the blatant machismo and sexism that ruled in this country. It needs to be said that France is not and never has been a trailblazer in the feminist department. (Do not confuse emancipation with equality or empowerment.)

Growing up in Canada and coming of age during the turbulent 1970s, I took it for granted that Europe would be as enlightened as Canada in terms of gender equality. I was wrong. I found French women mysteriously meek and French men chauvinistic and entitled. In England the women were always apologizing (why? for existing?) and I was shocked by The Sun’s page 3 girls (A page 3 girl is a woman who models for topless photographs published in UK tabloids, specifically page three of The Sun and The Daily Star.) Page 3 girls still exist in Britain in 2017.

But the most glaring reality, in France specifically, was this: the complete and utter lack of solidarity between women. I didn’t understand – and still don’t – why this was so. (I’m talking about the 1990s; the situation has changed today, but not entirely.)

As I see it, this lack of solidarity and absence of sisterhood insidiously aids and abets the deeply entrenched sexism here. The consequence is that when you do speak out against harassment, you find yourself terribly alone. No-one supports you. (I speak from personal experience.) So it’s true: in order to combat this thing, this sickness, you need to be strong. You need to believe in yourself and have a deep sense of worth. Because you’re taking it on alone.

I’ve read many times a comment from women harassed or molested in the workplace which baffles me. They say “I didn’t want to hurt his feelings”, or “I didn’t want to do or say anything that might lead to him losing his job.”

Know this: that man that you’re talking about? He has no compunction about you losing your job. None whatsoever.

Why be polite in the face of lecherous behaviour? Why be a “good girl”? What is a “good girl” anyway?

The Weinstein affair? It’s poetic justice. Qu’il crève ! 

Way back in 2013, I wrote a post about the DSK scandal here in France, or rather in New York City. You remember: Dominique Strauss-Kahn – French politician and former managing director of the International Monetary Fund – slated to be the next president of France but who ended up in Rikers Island prison for allegedly assaulting a hotel chambermaid. No-one could have written a better movie script. Here’s the post here –


homage to Nice and the French Riviera


Raoul Dufy, Bay of Angels

Throughout the 1990s I used to head down to Nice often. Nice, and other towns strung along the Côte d’Azur like hedonistic ports of call, was my pleasure station, my secret destination, my sybaritic delight. From Paris I would escape to it on the night train, and it was always thrilling. Another thing I love about Nice is its close proximity to Italy.

It saddens me profoundly to read that since the monstrous July 14, 2016 terrorist attack, hotel reservations, the Nice jazz festival, and other concerts have all been cancelled. I said in an earlier post ‘Do not come to France’, but that was wrong. I was angry. Now I’m saying ‘Do not stay away.’

Below is a travel piece I wrote a decade ago. It is my Nice. For no other reason than I’ve been travelling hither and yon to other cities, I haven’t been back for a decade. I must go back soon, I will go, on my way to Italy.


NICE, a multitude of pleasures

I don’t know who said living well is the best revenge, but as I savoured a mouthful of succulent grilled fish served on a bed of roasted vegetables and washed it down with a swirl of chilled Puligny-Montrachet ’93, I felt inclined to agree with this maxim. I was lunching on the beach in Nice where only the French can turn this otherwise commonplace act into a sybaritic event.

Ahhh, the Côte d’Azur in early June … (July and August are to be avoided. May, early-June, September and October are the best months.) The obliging waiter removed my empty plate and brought me a crème caramel for dessert, a tiny cup of steaming espresso at its side. I sat and surveyed the turquoise sea that gently lapped twenty yards from my table. The sun shone from an azure sky. Parasols as white as ship masts fluttered in the gentle breeze. Shading my eyes, I peered across the Mediterranean for a glimpse of North Africa beyond. All was right with the world.

After lunch, I strolled over to my rented lounge chair – which can cost anywhere from 20 to 40 euros for the day, depending on what private beach you’re on – and flopped down with the intention of burying into a good novel, but somehow those tantalizing waters, rippling and sparkling in the sun, stole my attention away. After an hour or two of utter relaxation lying inert on a thick, white-towelled mattress, I ran to the sea and plunged into its cool, therapeutic waters.

I like the Sofitel Splendid Hotel because of its central location, comfort, and stunning rooftop terrace, a perfect place to enjoy cocktails during aperitif hour, or l’heure de l’apéritif, as the French say. The whole of Nice is spread out below from sea to mountains behind. As twilight descends, the panoramic view becomes bathed in a blue haze signalling that it’s time to descend into the streets and find a good restaurant for dinner. On the roof of this hotel there’s a small pool. When my sister and I were teenagers we used to swim race in it (while my parents sat further away and sipped cocktails.) The pool’s still there and completely unchanged … here it is –


Eclectic, elegant and extraordinary is how I would describe the Windsor Hotel located in the middle of town. Its 60 rooms are decorated with murals or designed individually by modern artists. There’s a lush, tropical, enclosed garden with small swimming pool where you can have your meals, a lounge bar with open fireplace, gym and sauna.  Links to both hotels are at bottom of page.

hotel windsor nice

La Trattoria, located at 37 rue de France at the corner of rue Dalpozzo is a cheerful, casual restaurant serving up large pizzas cooked in an open oven, pasta dishes, seafood, big salads, steaks. Sit on the outdoor terrace or in the spacious, rustic interior.  Nice abounds with pizzerias. There’s a huge Italian influence in this city.

Old town of Nice:


Plunge into the ancient, twisting, bustling streets of the old quarter and drink in the intoxicating atmosphere of this exuberant, southern French city. This is where I spend most of my time wandering happily, getting lost in the maze of ruelles and stopping frequently for an ice-cream, glass of chilled rosé, lunch or espresso, depending on the time of day.

Great lunch spot:

Lou Pilha Leva, 10 rue du Collet on Place Centrale

Stand in line and place your order through a window then carry it to one of the large wooden tables outside. Taste the local specialties – socca (a thin, chick-pea pizza crust); pissaladière (pizza with onions and anchovy topping); salade nicoise and other savoury dishes.lou one

L’Art Gourmand, 21 rue Marché

An establishment worth visiting for its divine home-made ice creams and sorbets offering the following flavours: licorice, violet, rose, fig, melon as well as conventional flavours. Home-made sweets such as marzipan, nougat, chocolate, calissons, sugared rose petals, candied fruits and caramels. Upstairs is a tea and coffee salon.


nice-muse-chagallMarc-Chagall-museumchagall_museum_nice_paradisechagall bis

If you only have time to visit one museum during your stay in Nice, I recommend the dazzling Musée Chagall, located high above the city in the residential district of Cimiez (take bus no.15 direct from the centre of town below – check this bus number.)  I love the name Cimiez which is derived from the French word, cime, which means summit or mountain peak.

This is such a special place.  Marc Chagall’s sumptuous paintings are based on the Old Testament and the depicted theme is entitled The Biblical Message. The canvases are complemented with sculptures, engravings, a tapestry, mosaic and stained glass window. The cool, modern building sits in a peaceful park-like garden containing wild lavender and rosemary bushes, cyprus and olive trees. 

Small snack-bar outside and small gift-shop Inside.  closed Tuesdays


While in Cimiez, there’s also the Musée Matisse to visit.  Located in a 17th-century Genoese villa that houses the personal collection of the painter who settled in Nice in 1917 and died there in 1954. It comprises works from all periods, from the very first paintings made in the 1890’s to the gouache cutouts of the end of his life. There’s a unique collection of drawings and engravings, most of his sculpture and personal possessions.

Bus no. 15, 17, 20, 22 (better double-check these bus numbers)   closed Tuesdays


Train: I used to take the night train from Paris in a First-Class couchette (air-conditioned cabin, free bottles of mineral water and only 4 couchettes to one cabin, as opposed to 6 couchettes in Second-Class), but, sadly, they don’t exist any more.

Night trains used to leave Paris’s Gare de Lyon around 10:30 p.m. and arrive in Nice the following morning around 8:30 a.m.

The SNCF has phased out night trains with sleeping compartments down to the Coast.  Sleeping cars, it seems, have gone out of fashion. Too bad, because I used to love the romanticism of old-fashioned train travel.  

Air France has 15 flights a day from Paris to Nice starting at 7:10 a.m. and ending at 9:10 p.m. The duration of the flight is 1 hour and 20 minutes.  There’s also Easyjet and Ryanair.  And the fast train, the TGV, during the day.  I’ve just looked at the SNCF website.  There are night trains, but they’ve abolished couchettes and sleeping cars.  Instead they offer a reclining seat (très uncomfortable to sleep on.) A one-way ticket costs 44 euros.  Leaves Austerlitz station at 21h22 and arrives next morning in Nice at 08h37.

Excellent day trip from Nice to a market in Italyon Fridays there’s a huge outdoor market in Ventimiglia, Italy, only a 40-minute local train ride from Nice. (It’s very crowded, so keep an eye on your personal possessions.) “Every Friday all year round, French residents and tourists from across the border flock to this popular street market along the lungomare (seafront). They also come for the daily indoor fruit and vegetable market, for which the town is justly famous.”

the legendary YSL


The new Yves Saint Laurent museum has opened in central Paris and I can’t wait to go. For fashion and design students, this place will be a must-see mecca and learning center.

Born on 1 August 1936 in Oran, French Algeria to Charles and Lucienne Saint-Laurent, the young Yves grew up in a villa by the Mediterranean Sea with his two younger sisters. He liked to create intricate paper dolls, and by his early teen years he was designing dresses for his mother and sisters. At 17, he moved to Paris and enrolled at the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture where his designs quickly gained notice. The editor of French Vogue introduced Saint Laurent to Christian Dior, a giant in the fashion world. “Dior fascinated me,” Saint Laurent later recalled. “I couldn’t speak in front of him. He taught me the basis of my art. Whatever was to happen next, I never forgot the years I spent at by his side.” Under Dior’s tutelage, Saint Laurent’s style continued to mature and gain even more notice …

St. Laurent was one of the foremost fashion designers of the 20th century.

Here are some famous quotes from the designer that I’ve translated –

Je ne suis pas un couturier, je suis un artisan, un fabricant de bonheur. (I am not a fashion designer, I am a craftsman, a manufacturer of joy.)

Le noir est mon refuge, le noir est un trait sur la page blanche. (Black is my haven, black is a line on a white page.)

Quand on se sent bien dans un vêtement, tout peut arriver. Un bon vêtement, c’est un passeport pour le bonheur. (When one feels good in a piece of clothing, anything can happen. The right garment is a passport to happiness.)

Dior m’avait appris à aimer autre chose que la mode et le stylisme: la noblesse fondamentale du métier de couturier. (Dior taught me to love something other than fashion and design: the fundamental nobility of the craft of couturier.)

J’ai toujours cru que le style était plus important que la mode. Ils sont rares ceux qui ont imposé leur style, alors que les faiseurs de mode sont si nombreux. (I have always thought that style was more important than fashion. Rare are those who impose their style, whereas fashionmakers are so numerous.)

Dans la haute-couture, il n’y aura plus rien après Coco Chanel et moi. (In the haute couture world, there’ll be nothing after Coco Chanel and me.)


The famous lace dress, 1970. “What is important about a dress is the woman wearing it,” he said.


Iconic photo of “Le Smoking” tuxedo-style pantsuit, shot by Helmut Newton for French Vogue, 1975

“Paris was that mythical place that he wanted to be a part of, the epicentre of French culture.” And if the museum gives an insight into YSL’s work, you can also trace his life in the city too. He had grown up by the sea – in Oran, in then French Algeria – but by his early teens, his sights were firmly set on Paris; his evenings were spent designing dresses for his paper dolls and drawing up orders for the atelier he dreamed of opening on the glittering Place Vendôme.” (Hannah Meltzer, The Telegraph)

“Three letters – YSL – synonymous with luxury and glamour, glimmer in the sunlight above the entrance to a three-storey Second Empire mansion house just across the river from the Eiffel Tower. For almost 30 years, this was the couture house of Yves Saint Laurent, the charismatic prodigy who took Paris by storm in his teens and went on to redefine the way women dressed for decades to come. After almost 18 months of renovations, it is now opening as a museum dedicated to his work.” (Hannah Meltzer, The Telegraph)

Here is the museum link, you can buy advance tickets on-line –

gun sense in America

The United States of America is exceptional. Exceptional in the sense that the death rate from gun homicides is roughly 27 people shot dead every day of the year, that’s an annual body count of 9,855. (This figure does not include casualties from mass shootings.)

In other high-income Western democratic countries, gun homicides are unusual events. The Paris attacks in November 2015 killed 130 people, which is nearly as many as those who die from gun homicides in all of France in a typical year. And even if France had a mass shooting as deadly as the Paris attacks every month, its annual rate of gun homicide death would still be lower than that in the United States.

Assault weapons and certain types of firearms are not banned in America. So I guess the idea of banning guns in movie posters is a lost cause.

Here’s the new movie poster plastered all over Paris right now.


See my June 2015 blog post entitled Guns in my face

The 1898 Post Hotel, Belgium


Is it possible to fall in love with a hotel (and a city) just by looking at photos?

The answer is Yes!


I took one look at the photos, read the blurbs, and said, “I’m going.”


The truth is, I’ve been wanting to visit Ghent (Belgium) for awhile now. Last year I had booked a trip with the kids. We were going to stay in a hostel. But the weather was bad, so I cancelled.

And now? Forget the hostel, forget the kids … I’m going to this place in December. I’ve already booked (and cancelled Venice.) Then onwards to Antwerp.

Ghent is called “the best kept secret of Europe.” The hotel is called 1898 The Post because it was built in 1898 and it was a post office. Closed in 2001, the building now hosts a shopping centre and this gorgeous hotel, right in the center of town.

Take a look at these beautiful photos –

Sunday – one woman’s throat slit, the other stabbed; both dead

Today, in broad daylight in front of Marseille train station, two young women – 21 and 20 years old – were murdered by a solitary man armed with a knife. 

“Allah akbar!”, the man cried, before slitting the throat of one woman and fatally stabbing the other. He was shot dead by patrolling soldiers. Swiftly identified, it turns out that he was known to police for “common crimes.”

The two young women were cousins and students to become qualified nurses. They had gone to Marseille to celebrate a birthday with friends.

Since 2015, more than 230 people in France have been killed in terrorist attacks.

After the Charlie Hebdo massacre of January 2015, followed by the November 2015 attacks in which 130 people were killed and hundreds of others wounded – both attacks occurred in Paris – France is under a nationwide state of emergency.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe in Edmonton, Canada, another terrorism attack occurred on this same day.



  • 7-9 Jan 2015 – Two Islamist gunmen storm the Paris offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 17 people. Another Islamist militant kills a policewoman the next day and takes hostages at a Jewish supermarket in Paris. Four hostages are killed before police shoot the gunman dead. The other two gunmen are cornered and killed by police in a siege
  • 13 Nov 2015 – IS jihadists armed with bombs and assault rifles attack Paris, targeting the national stadium, cafes and Bataclan concert hall. The co-ordinated assault leaves 130 people dead, and more than 350 wounded
  • 13 Jun 2016 – A knife-wielding jihadist kills a police officer and his partner at their home in Magnanville, west of Paris. He declares allegiance to IS, and police later kill him
  • 14 Jul 2016 – A huge truck mows down a crowd of people on the Nice beachfront during Bastille Day celebrations, killing 86. IS claims the attack – by a Tunisian-born driver, later shot dead by police
  • 26 Jul 2016 – Two attackers slits the throat of a priest at his church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, in Normandy. They are shot dead by police.
  • 3 Feb 2017 – A machete-wielding Egyptian man shouting “Allahu akbar” attacks French soldiers at Paris’s Louvre Museum – he is shot and wounded.
  • 20 Apr 2017 – A known terror suspect opens fire at police on the Champs Elysees in Paris, killing one and wounding two. He is shot dead – and the assault is claimed by ISIS.