Tag Archives: Paris

RDS Visits Chateau d’Anet

RDS Visits Chateau d’Anet

I laughed out loud when I got to the end of the photos sent by Bob DeStefano, who I worked with at Grey Advertising in the 1960s.

RDS visits Anet, France, Home of Diane de Poitiers

Bob and his wife love to travel in “places where we don’t need inoculations or health insurance” referring to my recent visit to Morocco. He said:

We drove west from CDG airport and our very first stop on our first day was the très charmant village of . . . (drumroll) . . . Anet! Yes, a real typically French charmer about 45 miles due west of Paris. And it’s even pronunced with the “t” . . . Ah-Net. It has all the small village amenities . . . cafés, boulangeries, restaurants, quaint houses, hôtels, and a street-level, mostly-ruined château.

We planned for it to be our first stop and we were immensely pleased when we saw it. We stayed over in the hotel shown on the road sign. Needless to say, you MUST go there. Attached are some of the reasons why. You’ll love the last photo.

Diane de Poitiers in Aix en Provence

Chateau d’Anet was the location for the opening sequence in “Thunderball” and Bob and I had a lively Email exchange about Diane being a pistol. I shared that, about six weeks earlier, when I was in Aix-en-Provençe, I discovered this portrait of her, donated in 1860 as part of a private collection from Bourguignon de Fabregoules. It is of Diane as an “allegory of peace” and shows her holding the dove of peace in one hand and an olive branch in the other. Notice the shadows that the nipples create… The name of the painter is unknown.

Bob said, “There is a small museum across the street from the château where we got the full lowdown on Diane & Henri.”

Aix-en-Provence was Hot!

Aix-en-Provence was Hot!

Anet in Aix

On Friday, the 7th of July, the Berkeley Folk Dancers trip came to a close and most of the dancers returned home but I headed for Aix-en-Provençe, only 40 minutes and 7€ away by bus but I had to take a 10€ cab ride through a seedy part of Marseille to get to bus/train station Gare Saint-Charles at the top of a hill.

Departing from Gare Saint-Charles, Marseille








Aix is a city of fountains. In 123 B.C., when the Roman consul Gaius Sextius Calvinus wanted to lay siege to the walled city (oppidum) of the Celtic-Ligurians on a plateau about 3 kilometers inland, he chose a site with plentiful springs, some of which were hot. The camp was called Aquae Sextiae, the waters of Sextius, shortened to Aix in the local language.

The camp eventually grew into a Roman city with thermal baths, ponds and fountains to cool the narrow lanes. Some fountains today still bear the Roman markings. The old town now has 27 public fountains within the ring roads.


The fountain in the main circle (rotonde) is referred to by the locals as Place Charles de Gaulle



Main rotonde marked by big central circle in this map

Bus Station on far left corner next to Hotel Rotonde where I sweltered for four nights

Place des Augustins has water squirting from all four sides of the base

Place des Augustins is ringed by pubs

The water is warm in this fountain called Mossae by the locals


Restaurants surrounds this soothing and cooling fountain


Saturday I visited the big market on Cours Mirabeau but it was really hot so I skipped the tour of the nearby lavender fields. I walked back to the hotel to the music of the cicadas. Sunday was predicted to be even hotter so I got up early and visited the obelisk-fountain Place des Augustins and the “architectural masterpiece” Place d’Albers before 10 a.m. when the Granat and the Granat XXeme museums opened. It was already 90° by 10 a.m.

Renovation in Progress of Place d’Albers on left. Right side not yet renovated.

When the museums opened at 10 a.m. and I was so overheated that I was little disoriented. I had to get directions down Rue Clovis Hugues to get to the Granat Museum.

Rue Clovis Hugues

I had been standing in front of the Granat Musuem to take this picture but because the museum was not open, and it was 90° outside, I did not recognize it. I was mesmerized by the parishioners arriving for 10 a.m. Mass at Saint Jean of Malta.

Saint-Jean-of-Malta Parish Church

I really loved the Granat XXeme Museum and it merits its own post. I was looking forward to lunch at the bistro near my hotel but was dismayed to discover that, because it was Sunday, the cafés were closed. It was also wicked hot, 37° Celsius (close to 100°) with 38°C. predicted for tomorrow so I spent another afternoon in my hotel room taking cold showers. I did not have in-room temperature controls and I was too torpid to realize that I needed to call the front desk and negotiate a room temperature in Celsius. My coconut oil, which melts at 78°, was liquid the entire time in Aix.

Monday, another really hot day, I visited the Tapestry Museum and was delighted to be charged only 4€.

Tapestries from about 1650 in the Bishop’s Palace

Back to the hotel for Monday afternoon to hide from the heat and to contact the bank to make sure my credit card transactions worked for hotel in Aix and the following night in Frankfurt. Frustrated that I have to use insecure networks to reach my bank because I can’t rely on them honoring the travel plans I filed. I ventured out for dinner around 7 p.m. but the restaurants were filling with groups of couples and families with two small, beautifully dressed, well-behaved children. Sitting my myself, sweaty, seemed undignified and poorly-planned. Aix is a place for love and connection, not solitary adventure.

On my walk back to the hotel, the air was filled with the squawks of tiny conures, a deafening din that rivaled the jungles of Guatemala. I learned that the SCNF train arrives in the middle of town but the TGV requires a bus connection that runs every 30 minutes. The airport bus stops at the TGV station.

Lyon – 2023

Lyon – 2023

I was excited to visit Lyon because my Sierra Club kayaking/artist friend, Isabelle, had moved to the area about a year ago. We made plans to meet for lunch and I arrived a day before the rest of the Berkeley Folk Dancing group to spend some time with her. My agenda was to see the Lugdunum Roman Museum, to see how the famous Lyon silk damask is made, to enjoy some of Lyon’s famous food, and to get a picture of this beautiful footbridge (passarelle) which is officially named after Abbé Paul Couturier, a pioneer of ecumenism in the early 1900s but, because it goes to the church of Saint Georges, most people refer to is as Pasarelle Saint Georges.

Stock Image of Passerelle Saint Georges with Fourvière Noted

Isabelle and I met at the fountain facing the Museum of Fine Arts and had lunch after visiting the museum. After lunch at Le Bouchon des Filles, we walked for more than an hour in the hot sun to try to reach the passarelle but we gave up and retreated to the cool underground metro where I showed her how to buy a single ticket using the tumbler-cylinder to select. She visits Lyon rarely even through it is a short train ride away.

Bronze fountain commemorating the four great rivers of France

Lyon City Hall in the Square with Museum of Fine Arts which I visited with Isabelle

Lunch at Le Bouchon des Filles with Isabelle

The next day, the tour group took a bus tour of Fourvière and the old part of the city. The level of embellishment inside the church is astonishing! The arches! The mosaics!

It wasn’t until I got back to Lyon at the end of the cruise in early July that I was able to find the Passarelle Saint-Georges, early on a drizzly Sunday morning.

As the rain got heavier, I ducked into Église de Saint-Georges where I discovered high Mass going on, in Latin! When the congregation genuflected, I took this shot of the altar.

Mass was just getting out at the Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste, just a little further on in Vieux Lyon, so I could visit the stained glass windows and get a good look at the famous horloge clock which could calculate Easter. (It doesn’t work anymore.)

Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste in Vieux Lyon


Finding Cherif, the Canuts and the Celts

To prepare for this trip, I tried to train my ear to hear French better by watching a lot of French police procedurals on TV. I watched four seasons of “Cherif” because it was shot in Lyon. I was fascinated by the exterior location for the police station which was across the street from Cherif’s apartment, just steps from a cliff overlooking the Sâone river. I researched until I discovered the little park on Place Bellevue in the Croix Rousse district, seen near the top of the map below. I had to take a tram from the hotel to the Perrache Train Station (that Isabelle used) where I transferred to the Metro to take me to City Hall (where the fountain is). At City Hall I had to transfer to another Metro line that went up the hill to Croix Rousse.

Croix Rousse at the top, Old City on the Left, Hotel near Bottom, Airport on Right

If silk worms are native to China, how did the silk industry get to France? When King François I conquered Milan in 1515, he was amazed at the work of Leonardo da Vinci and persuaded him to move to France. The “Mona Lisa” was purchased by Francis I for 4,000 gold ducats, probably from da Vinci himself. François I also envied the Italian silk trade so he invited the first two Italian silk weavers to Lyon and supported them, giving them privileges including the right to create silk fabrics, and to extrude gold and silver to make thread to embellish the silk. He purchased their output and kept their taxes low. This, in turn, attracted the best foreign workers. The silk and silkworm-growing business thrived in Lyon and the heavy silk damask curtains, wall coverings and upholstery for Versailles came from Lyon.

The silk workers, Canuts, lived North of City hall, up the hill in the Croix Rousse district. The big technological breakthrough of the French silk industry was the development of punch cards to speed the accurate hand-looming of images woven into the silk, like the tapestries in the residence of the Archbishop in Lyon. I was very interested in seeing how they loomed silk using this Jacquard process.

On my way to find Maison Des Canuts, I passed the Croix Rousse neighborhood farmer’s market on a Saturday morning.

Croix Rousse Saturday Morning Neighborhood Farmer’s Market

I was at the door of Maison Des Canuts when they opened at 10 a.m. so I could buy a ticket for the demonstration. Too bad — the only demonstration was at 2 p.m. and I had to buy the ticket online, I couldn’t buy it in person. This meant I had to go all the way back to the hotel, because I don’t have the skills to buy something on my phone in French! I was dejected, but on my way back to the metro I took a detour to find the Cherif location, Place Bellevue. It made me so happy to find a location that I had only seen on my computer screen. The Hollywood screenwriter part of me is not dead, I guess.

Cherif’s Police Station was in the building on the left. Many exterior scenes were shot here.

I got back to the hotel and when I tried to buy the ticket online, my credit card refused to go through! I tried to contact the bank, but with the 12 hour difference, it was midnight in California. I was out of luck. Dejected, I went back to Maison Des Canuts at 1:45 and pleaded with them. “I have come such a long way, from California, and this is my only chance to see the demonstration. Isn’t there any way to fit me in?” They said no, sit over there, but it felt like a weak “no.” Eventually, they put a yellow dot on me and collected the admission price. The tour and demonstration of the authentic 19th century Jacquard hand loom was mostly in French, the yellow dot indicated English speakers for the guide (about 20% of the group).

The Weaving Studios Required 12-foot Ceilings to Accommodate the Jacquard Punch Card System

The design to be woven into the silk is programmed onto the cardboard punch cards. When the weaver moves a certain part of the loom, it advances the instructions one line and the punch cards pull up the correct threads so the shuttle with the correct color thread can be woven through. It is loud, noisy and heavy. The canuts were paid little even though the silk merchants became wealthy and we learned about labor unrest history during the tour. I loved learning about the history and the silkworm production (astonishingly, Louis Pasteur was involved in silk worm hygiene), but the silk available at the end was outrageously expensive. Even though later I also toured the museum of the competing silk maker Brochier Soieries, near the banks of the Rhone River, my entire silk budget was gobbled up by the purchase of a single 75€ scarf from Cath-Am in the old city.



One of the highlights of Lyon is the Lugdunum Museum and Roman Theaters. On the map above, you can see that Fourière and Lugdunum make a V-shape pointing to the old city. The V represents the two prongs of the funicular that carries passengers up the steep hill. This hill is the site of the Roman theaters and the museum on one side the the big Fourvière church on the other. The first thing I saw in the museum was this magnificent bronze chariot from 700 BC, before the Romans arrived. The wheels are bronze, too. The central bronze vessel is believed to carry something ceremonial and venerated by the Celts, whom the Romans called Galli (derogotory), even though the Gauls sacked Rome in 390 BC. Around 50 BC, Julius Caesar drove out many, but some assimilated.

Celtic Bronze Chariot 700BC Lugdunum (now Lyon)

The mosaic floors in this museum were MUCH better than what I saw in Sicily. This is just one of them, and we could walk on them!

I loved Lyon.

Granat XXeme – Aix

Granat XXeme – Aix

I love visiting art museums and I found a gem. It is the annex of the main art museum in Aix-en-Provence which is to Marseille (second largest city in France) what Healdsburg is to San Francisco. The main museum is amazing with unbroken marble busts going back to Roman times that have come from private collections. Aix was founded by Romans because of its plentiful water including hot springs. It is a city full of fountains.

Granet XXeme is the “annex” and is a repurposed church built in 1649 for the “white Carmelite” brotherhood. The vaulted ceiling creates a lot of space over walls scrubbed clean after the building was used by the city for hay storage. Many religious buildings were forcefully decommissioned during the French Revolution.

Jean Planque worked in a Swiss art gallery which enabled him to meet and befriend up-and-coming artists. He had a wonderful eye but not much money. In the 50’s and 60s he struck up a friendship with Picasso and eventually received five of his paintings from that era. Here are two. There are photos in the exhibition of how Jean Planque’s collection looked hanging in his modest house, including Renoir, Monet, Van Gogh, Braque and Dubuffet works.

Jean Planque died about 10 years ago and a foundation was formed to try to keep his collection together for exhibition as a whole. For me, it really works because I can feel his point-of-view on what makes a painting great. There was a coherence to this show that I rarely experience.

Jean said he learned a lot from Dubuffet and his collection includes paintings by him that look like something, some that sorta look like something, and a few striking ones that look like squid-ink spaghetti. Here’s a link to 3 of the works:

Picasso Man & Woman

Paris Rental Turned Out Great!

Paris Rental Turned Out Great!

I was very nervous about renting this Paris apartment through HomeAway.com. There were no reviews, and the landlord required my deposit via bank transfer to a French bank, nearly half up front, and for the remainder to be paid IN CASH, in Euros, on the first day of rental. Plus, I had to provide a check for 500€ for the security deposit when I got the keys. I leave tomorrow morning and I am thrilled to report that the apartment was just as promised, and I have now received back my check for the security deposit! I am a very happy traveler. It was much less expensive and more fun than a hotel or AirBnB. I saved a fortune by preparing all my own meals with the gourmet foodstuffs available all around.

I didn’t have to drag my luggage up any stairs because the apartment was in a ground floor courtyard behind a heavy, locked door to the street and I felt super safe. The room was quiet, with no one above — skylights on the roof of the little unit which is essentially an enclosed porch of an 18th century building. While there are three floor-to ceiling French doors with arched transoms looking out to the cobblestone courtyard, as in the picture, all are protected by locked steel doors which can be opened in the daytime to let in light.

There is high-speed ethernet access and I could stream Netflix. There is switched wi-fi which I could to turn off at night. The cellular signal is strong for both voice and data.

The rusted, slanted, noisy microwave is designed to make sure you don’t microwave French food. There is no oven, no disposal, no freezer, no ice cubes. The glass cooktop works like a charm if you read the manual that is buried in the cloth napkins. Hint: “Lo” means Locked.

The two electric heaters keep the tile-floored room snug. There is plenty of hot water and the water pressure is good.

The studio is well-designed and well-maintained. I couldn’t be happier.

France: high fat diet, lowest heart disease

France: high fat diet, lowest heart disease

quicheAccording to Healthline, the French have the lowest heart disease rate in the world. This quote is from my friend RDS who just returned from two weeks driving around the provinces of France:

Much of the time it was just us and the cows. And the food really reflected that. Lots of meat, cheese, and cream. The only way to get a veggie in a restaurant was to order a meat or fish dish and get a veggie side dish. But as always, everything was beautifully prepared and presented, even in the smallest rural towns.

On the week-long boat ride from Paris to Normandy and back, we got very few salads or vegetables — meals were pretty much as RDS described them. Now that I am at the end of my ten days solo in Paris, I can say that it was a challenge to include salads in my diet, and forget cooked vegetables! But really confuses me is that 99% of the French are thin, many smoke, and based on what is in the stores, sugar must account for 40% of their daily calories.

Yet Americans get heart disease and the French don’t. What is different? For one thing, the French walk everywhere. I am planning to drag my suitcase for 20 minutes tomorrow morning along Rue de Opèra to the Roissybus stop because it is easier than dragging it DOWN into the subway and UP 3 stops later. I could take a cab, but it would still take 20 minutes from start to finish and I am afraid I would get pushback from the cabbie about such a short trip.

Shall I tell my no-oil Vegan friend, a heart attack survivor, that her strategy might be the opposite of what leads to a healthy heart.

No. My new resolution is to stop trying to improve others. Okay, I think I will just go eat some quiche now and wait for the nice French lady to pick up the key for my Paris rental.

I am so happy. It has been a great 10 days.

Martin Walker: Bruno, Chief of Police

Martin Walker: Bruno, Chief of Police

brunoIn Sept, 2012 I read book three in the Bruno Series, The Dark Vineyard. It has taken me this long to get to the first book in the series: Bruno, Chief of Police. It is a quick read and I love the way Martin Walker writes.

As a working journalist, 13 of his books have been non-fiction, with many about the Soviet Union. When he retired to the Périgord region of France, he embarked on his first fiction book, The Caves of Périgord which was very ambitious with three intertwined story lines. The first, in the prehistory of the area, described how the caves may have been created. The second story line dove deeply into the French Resistance in the Périgord region during WWII and the third story was set in present-day London and Périgord. It was very interesting but complex and sometimes hard to follow.

His next fiction book, Bruno, Chief of Police, is much lighter and more playful. The caves get only a few paragraphs and we meet Bruno who embodies the world-renown charm and discretion of Frenchmen. It also touches on the horror of war and the toll it takes on the bodies and souls of men, women and children. In this book, it is Bosnia as well as WWII. Martin Walker really has a reporter’s eye for detail and he moves us quickly through the mystery, but it is the charm of the people we meet through Bruno’s detective work that is the real pleasure in this book.

I am really looking forward to the next one. Thanks for loaning it to me, Russ!

Martin Walter: The Dark Vineyard

Martin Walter: The Dark Vineyard

The Dark Vineyard

by Martin Walker

Martin Walker is a senior editor and columnist for United Press International who has turned his clear, journalistic writing to creating absorbing mysteries set in the French countryside — Perigord to be exact. Classmate Russ McCracken from the SRJC class recommended his books and the library lent me book three in the series. I am looking forward to tracking books one and two: Bruno, Chief of Police and The Caves of Perigord

Traveling With Others Is Challenging

Traveling With Others Is Challenging

Paris Bus 69I was talking with some French classmates and Russ recently returned from a 3 week trip with his partner, Claire, and her brother and his wife from Des Moines. Claire is fluent in French and plans carefully, as do I. Russ said, “I just drive. She tells me where. It works out.” So my hypothesis is that planners typically pair with spontaneous people because, as Russ said, it works out.

I am lucky that my first trip to Paris was 50 years ago. It was a gift from my very devout Godmother who took me to every church in Paris. And London. And Rome. And then we went to Lourdes for the Feast of the Assumption on August 15. Along with every other devout Catholic on five continents. But I was 15 and I learned a lot.

My second trip was when I was 21 and I spent my time shopping. Spent every penny I had. It was great but just a few days because I didn’t have many pennies.

Nine years ago I went back to Paris with my sister Peggy who is an artist. We spent all our time in the museums. Four days. Louvre, d’Orsay, Pompidou, Rodin. plus another four days in London just seeing art (Peggy used to live in London). I was finally satisfied with Impressionism. It is fun going to museums with someone who loves and understands art and is enthusiastic about hiking to one more gallery.

It is a drag going to museums with someone who wants to be “on vacation.” Because the art in the Louvre is mostly naked ladies, I made sure my husband saw Venus deMilo and the ancient Roman and Greek (naked) statues and the magnificence of the palace. But he was brain dead after six hours. The crowds and jet-lag were hammering us.

Paris Musee de l' ArmeeI kept it down to one museum a day and made sure he got plenty of good food (easy). He got one “free” day while I went shopping so he went to the Army Museum. He just paid the day rate because it was cheaper than getting a Museum Pass that spanned our whole visit. The lines are not long at the Army Museum. Where the pass really comes in handy is skipping the lines at the Louvre, Pompidou, etc. He really liked the Army museum, especially learning that “Detail” is the name of the artist who painted battle scenes in what we now call “great detail.” [Or maybe that’s what the museum put under the images and he misinterpreted it as the artist’s name. You never know.]

I guess Russ and Claire were guiding her brother and his wife on their “big trip” and Russ was exasperated by their Des Moines attitude. He said, “They didn’t understand why everyone didn’t speak English!”

Frankly, I was afraid my husband would be the same way, but he plunged in with enthusiasm, buying “billets” at the metro as soon as we arrived. So I will plan a longer trip that includes Versailles and the Dordogne. Russ went to the Dordogne and saw the caves. I have not seen any of his pictures and I am eager to hear the details of his trip. He loved Bruges.

People who have been subjected to the Devout Catholic stuff may be less enthusiastic about the religious grandeur of some sites. Howard climbed the steps at Notre Dame. His photos of the gargoyles and the roofs of Paris are breathtaking. I skipped it because I thought the climb would be breathtaking. [huff-huff]

My idea of “spontaneous fun” in Paris is getting on a bus and seeing where it goes, especially at rush hour when you get to see what people wear to work. You have time to look in all the shop windows when traffic is slow. If you have a Pass Navigo, you can hop off and hop back on. Do lots of window shopping from the comfort of your bus seat.

Was French Class Worth It?

Was French Class Worth It?

A friend from New York asked about the French lessons I was taking to prepare for our trip to Paris. There is a myth in the US (I heard it again while we waited to board the plane) that all French people speak English, they just won’t because they are stubborn.

Sarkozy Election PosterThat’s as nuts as saying all Texans speak Spanish. According to Wikipedia, about 35% of French people speak English but the statistic is misleading. International business people (like Christine LaGarde, head of the IMF) speak English, so do upper class intellectuals in France (just as the upper class in the US speaks French). Nicholas Sarkozy could not speak English well when he was elected President of France. I don’t know if the newly elected president does either. He only spoke French when I saw him on TV exulting in his victory over Sarkozy. Oh, wait! I was watching TV in Paris… on their Election Day 6 Mai.

It is important to remember that the French HATE the English. Remember the Hundred Years War? It lasted 300 years — that’s how long they were fighting. Napoleon was planning to invade England until the battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

I didn’t meet Christine LaGarde (though I would love to — I copy her hairdo) I mainly spoke to waiters, passers-by on the street and security guards. I needed to ask directions and understand the answers like how to find the correct bus stop, or where Howard would exit Notre Dame after he visited the towers. I could get a recommendation at the wine shop and buy delicacies. For example:

Rue Cler is lined with cafes, bakeries, chocolate confectioneries, ice cream parlors and what New Yorkers call “appetizing shops.” Each has a different specialty such as pâté or thousand-leaf pastries filled with delicate ham and cheese. They are bustling in the late afternoon and filled with the local people.

One we visited had an aisle down the middle with the cashier at the end. The prepared food was in a case on the left and ingredients were over a counter on the right. I asked for a slice of cheese, a couple of thick slices of country bacon and some olives from a big French guy rapidly serving people over the counter on the right. My hands full, I was propelled by the press of people to the cashier at the back, a well groomed woman in her fifties. She asked in French if this was everything I wanted.

I looked longingly at the little quiche in the case on the left. She said “La quiche?” I nodded. She was already out of her chair and heading for it when she said, “Combien?” “Une,” I squeaked.

She wrapped it up and returned to her chair as the line pressed behind me and I churned through my mental rolodex. “Je suis desolee de votre derangement,” I stammered, knowing it wasn’t quite right. “Je vous en prie!” she scoffed and rang up the purchase. I was so relieved that she thought it was natural to help people get what they wanted. I realized that is was probably her family store and the men slicing ham and cheese were her sons.

The food was sensational and it was really nice to have something to eat in the apartment when we came home wet and tired.

Knowing some French really makes a difference. In Paris, yes, and even more in the countryside. And the difference it makes is the quality of your experience. You will have SO much more fun if you can understand the waiter when he says, “Oh, don’t have that. Everyone has this.” Just know that he will say it in French.