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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Picasso Exhibit

Claude dessignant François et Paloma

A Picasso exhibit is in town and Line, Eluiza and I went to see it on a Sunday afternoon. The exhibit is called "Picasso and Maternity" and it is in the art gallery of the Hôtel Dieu, what used to be an medieval monastery.

When his wives were having children, he was quite focused on this theme. He used his children as models until they were around 7 years old. Then he went on to other themes.

The paintings show a very tender relationship between the mother and her children. Here are some samples of what was in the exhibit.

Mere et enfants jouant


Before we went to the Picasso exhibit, Line and Eluiza and I had a Chinese buffet at the 
Au Lotus D'Or, which is near the Centre. 

The food was good, although a little too fried even for me -- and a very good day for all of us!  Here is my plate.

The second line says that you can have a buffet
or ask for your vegetables to be cooked in a wok

The restaurant was well-decorated and it must be popular because there were over 100 seats available.

What was interesting was the adaptation to the French palate. For example, also available for the buffet was French bread, snails, shrimp, oysters, French cookies and cakes.

Here is a description of the Picasso and his work from his website:

Pablo Picasso is probably the most important figure of 20th century, in terms of art, and art movements that occurred over this period. Before the age of 50, the Spanish born artist had become the most well known name in modern art, with the most distinct style and eye for artistic creation. There had been no other artists, prior to Picasso, who had such an impact on the art world, or had a mass following of fans and critics alike, as he did.

Pablo Picasso was born in Spain in 1881, and was raised there before going on to spend most of his adult life working as an artist in France. Throughout the long course of his career, he created more than 20,000 paintings, drawings, sculptures, ceramics and other items such as costumes and theater sets. He is universally renowned as one of the most influential and celebrated artists of the twentieth century. 

Picasso's ability to produce works in an astonishing range of styles made him well respected during his own lifetime. After his death in 1973 his value as an artist and inspiration to other artists has only grown. He is without a doubt destined to permanently etch himself into the fabric of humanity as one of the greatest artists of all time. 

As an artist and an innovator, he is responsible for co-founding the entire Cubist movement alongside Georges Braque. Cubism was an avant-garde art movement that changed forever the face of European painting and sculpture while simultaneously affecting contemporary architecture, music and literature. Subjects and objects in Cubism are broken up into pieces and re-arranged in an abstract form. During the period from approximately 1910-1920 when Picasso and Braque were laying the foundation for Cubism in France, it's effects were so far-reaching as to inspire offshoots like the styles of Futurism, Dada, and Constructivism in other countries. 

Picasso is also credited with inventing constructed sculpture and co-inventing the collage art style. He is also regarded as one of three artists in the twentieth century credited with defining the elements of plastic arts. This revolutionary art form led society toward societal advances in painting, sculpture, printmaking and ceramics by physically manipulating materials that had not previously been carved or shaped. These materials were not just plastic, they were things that could be moulded in some way, usually into three dimensions. Artists used clay, plaster, precious metals, and wood to create revolutionary sculptural art work the world had never seen before.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Luminaries of Le Puy

Every night during the summer months, the City of Le Puy puts on a luminary display its most important buildings: the Cathedral, Mount St. Michel, the Hôtel Dieu. At 10 p.m. when it is pitch dark, lights are cast upon these buildings. Here are a few shots of what the light show looks like on the Hôtel Dieu. After each performance, the audience claps with delighted approval. It's really a clever thing for the city to do!!

Incidentally, night time in the city is gorgeous among its cobblestoned medieval streets. Here are a couple examples at the intersection located at the foot of the Cathedral. I just LOVE medieval towns for their mystical quality!!

And here is a close-up of the statue of Notre Dame near the top of the Cathedral.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Feast of the Assumption of Mary

Attendants carry a statue of the Black Madonna, who was honored in Le Puy
on the Feast of the Assumption of Mary--August 15
Today was a holiday in France--the celebration of the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, which commemorates the belief that when Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, died, her body was not subjected to the usual process of physical decay but was “assumed” into heaven by angels and reunited there with her soul.

The Assumption of Mary is a holy day of obligation for Catholics throughout the world, which means that people generally go to Mass. In the United States, that's mostly all that the day means. In Europe and South America, the people have processions like the one we experienced today in Le Puy. 

In France, businesses closed their doors today in honor of Mary and churches held special Masses, celebrations, processions, concerts and other events. People lit candles and parishes dressed up their altars.

Déjeuner at the International Centre in Le Puy
(left to right) Sr. Lilly from India, Sr. Rose Marie from Mexico
and Sr. Catherine (Mother Superior) from France.
(Not pictured is Sr. Line from the USA.)
The top three leaders from the Congregation of Lyon came to Le Puy to celebrate the Assumption, which started out with 11 a.m. Mass followed by  dejeuner (our main meal of the day) at the Centre International. 

Eluiza (left) cut the melons and setup the meal while Line (below) made chicken and zucchini. I made potato salad the night before. Our aperitif was cantaloupe with port wine. After the main meal we had a cheese plate and a dessert of creamy, fruity delicious-ness.

Our meal lasted almost two hours. Then we walked into town to attend the 3 o'clock procession that recognized and honored the Feast of the Assumption of Mary.

The Procession
I had never attended a religious procession in Europe and so I was very interested to see what it was like. I expected a parade that we would watch. Instead we were a part of a long and crowded procession that snaked through the cobblestone streets of Le Puy and ended up at the Cathedral, which is located on a hill above the city. 

The procession started out with a group of men carrying a statue of the Cathedral's Black Madonna. (The face of Mary and Jesus are made of a black stone.)

Here is a longer view of the men carrying the statue.

Groups of priests dressed in their liturgical robes followed behind the statue. 

Thousands of people took part in the procession, which included pilgrims, tourists and the local people. 

Weeks before, the town hung blue and white streamers on the procession route, the colors of the Blessed Mother, as decorations for the special day.

Loud speakers had been set up along the procession route so that everyone could hear and join in the various religious songs that were sung a cappella. At the end of each song set, priests led a decade of the rosary. 

People of all ages walked on through the streets singing, praying, and reflecting on the mysteries of the Blessed Mother.

Many onlookers watched the procession from their apartments or from the street.

Some people sat in sidewalk cafés to watch the procession--what seemed to me to be a very French thing to do!

TV cameras were also on the scene and a  France TV 3 crew stopped me for a short interview about where I was from and why I was there. 

"This is a special holiday for the Church," I said. "I have never been to a procession before, and I wanted to experience it." (Eluiza watched and waited for me to get through the interview so that we could re-join the other sisters in the procession. Unfortunately, she didn't get a photo of my first big moment in the French media.)

After the procession that had circled the city, participants made their way up the hill to the Cathedral to hear the Bishop address them with a message of peace and unity in our world today.

Le Puy has long been an attraction for spiritual pilgrims. This particular feast day has been celebrated since the fifth century--the time of the Romans! We were participating in an ancient tradition!

One of the most interesting impressions I had of this day was the silence and reverence of the crowds as a display of faith and prayer. The Blessed Mother represents a call to unity and peace, which we surely need these days more than ever.

Security was plentiful. Given the incidents of the past few years in France, Le Puy was not taking any chances. I was grateful these efforts were made, but considered for a moment what it would be like if there were a terrorist attack among the crowds. Fortunately, there were no incidents.
Gendarmes walked with the procession. They also held stationary positions in various places along the route.

Buses were used to block intersections that led into the old town so that no vehicles could enter.

Heavy equipment and barriers were also used to block traffic.

Red Cross workers (in orange) were on hand to attend to medical emergencies.

Today was a great day.  And yet, it still puzzles me how France has separated religion and the state but that many Church holidays are celebrated. "It's a Catholic country," I'm told. While I'm here, I'll continue to study and learn about what seems to me to be an odd relationship--even though it apparently works for the French.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Goofs and Gaffes with French

As a new speaker of French I am, of course, making lots of mistakes. 

Grammar mistakes are one thing. They are important but not as critical as pronunciation or use of the wrong word because they can cause confusion or offense when you don't intend it. 

Below are some examples of my goofs and gaffes in French over the past month. I'm sure this will be a regular blog post.

brie -- bruit  
One of our neighbors was getting his hedge trimmed in the morning and the noise had gone on for 3.5 hours. I commented: "Il y avait beaucoup de brie (bree) dans ce matin." 

Because I mispronounced the word for noise, which is bruit 
(bru-ee), I had said instead "there was a lot of brie cheese in the morning."

diarrhea -- la diarrhée
I was noting that the emergency sirens in France were scary to me because I associated them with the last scene in the play, The Diary of Anne Frank, where the Nazis discover the family and break down the door. The sirens were blasting in the background. 

The diary of Anne Frank came out as The Diarrhea of Anne Frank. So sorry!

Putin -- putain

Of course I would get this one wrong without realizing it. Swear words are so embedded in a language that you are bound to say them even when you aren't looking for them. I was talking about Vladamir Putin and took a stab at pronouncing his name in French (pu-tan). Say what?!? I had just called the president of Russia a whore. Well, that's not really that far off for the richest man in the world who gained his wealth by bilking his countrymen bit by bit; he is now worth around $200 billion. I should have pronounced his name as pu-teen 

Note: the French spell Putin's name Putine so they can avoid the very mistake I made.

tiroir -- terroir -- terreur
These three words are very close in pronunciation and it is important to get them right.

Tiroir (tear-woirr) is a drawer.

Terroir (tare-whirr) has to do with the place where things grow (see diagram). It is the way wine growers know where the wine comes from. 

Terreur (tare-urr) is the aim of terrorists against the people.

Dents -- dentelles

On a daily basis we all brush our teeth (brosser les dents). So in this town where they have made lace (dentelles) for hundreds of years, you have to be careful that you distinguish between "brushing your teeth" and "brushing your lace."

Droit -- droite

Eluiza is teaching me how to navigate the road--in French. This can sometimes be a problem because of little things like understanding which way to turn. For example, droit (pronounced drw) means straight ahead while droite (pronounced drwhat with emphasized T) means turn right. These two important words are not always easy for me to distinguish, especially in the heat of the moment like an approaching intersection of three possible options or a round-about with cars behind me breathing down my neck. After a week of struggling with these pronunciations, we resolved this mix-up with her saying "straight"for straight, droite for right and gauche (pronounced GOsh) for left.

Passage -- juste regarde
One day at the Super U grocery store Eluiza and I were looking at the meat. The young butcher came up to us and asked if he could help. I said, "nous regardons" which means "we are looking." He immediately switched the subject and asked: "passage?" which means that he recognized my foreign accent and wanted to know if I was traveling through Le Puy. I recognized that and explained that I lived and worked in town. He asked me what country I was from and I told him I was from America. Then there was some confusion--on his part, according to Eluiza--about what he understood I said. This confusion led to my own when I later thought that "passage" meant the expression "just looking." It sounded plausible. Things can get mighty confusing when it comes to language!!

Cuisine -- Aliments
False friends are words that we use in English that may have a French origin but which don't have the same meaning. I often use the word cuisine to mean food when I should use the word aliments. Cuisine in French means kitchen. So a translated sentence goes something like this:  "I will go shopping today for the kitchen."

Cuisiner is the infinitive of "to cook."

Truth be told, the French don't use the word, food, the way Americans do. They prefer to use repas when they refer to a meal or to call vegetables and meats by their names. This is another example of a false friend.

Then they use the word, nourriture (as in nourishment) to refer to food that they have cooked or will cook. It is distinguished from aliment, which is the food they buy at the grocery store. Mon Dieu!

Sel, Salé, Sale
Here's a tough one to get straight--especially when it comes to pronunciation.
Sel (pronounced "sell") is salt.
Salé (pronounced "sal-A") is salted or salty.
Sale (pronounced "sall") is dirty.
Salle (pronounced "salll") is hall. 

So, here's are some sentences using the first three:

Le sel est sale et salé.  
Le sel salé est sale.
Le sel sale est salé.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Sunday Afternoon in August

There was a break in our 100-degree weather today, so we had a leisurely--and spontaneous--afternoon of fun, food, nature, and exercise (turned out to be 10,000 steps). 

At dejeuner (our main meal at 1 p.m.) we had hamburgers, a packet of grilled vegetables (potatoes, red peppers, onions), Greek salad and ice cream, which we ate on the patio in front of our house.

Line at the BBQ

Anita, Eluiza and Line at table

It was such a nice day that a drive in the countryside seemed like a good idea. We went to Lac Bouchet, about 30 minutes from Le Puy. I drove and not only practiced my driving skills but learned of another get-away place in Nature. Here is the amazing countryside in a land that once hosted volcanoes in Auvergne, a region in central France. The cone-like hills were once volcanoes.

Lac Bouchet (lac = lake) is a crater lake that filled in with water in what was once a volcano. The lake is almost perfectly round and the water is as clear and clean as can be.

The area is heavily forested all around the lake. 

The 3 km pathway around the lake is comprised of reddish gravel. It is the iron left over from the lava of ancient volcanic eruptions. 

Of course, the lake attracts swimmers (even though there is no sand). It also hosts paddle boaters and hikers of all ages.

The long range lens on my new camera, didn't know what it was recording in this shot.  Oh well, this is France!

A restaurant provides visitors with a full meal, a beverage or a dessert. There is also a hotel here, which charges only 50 euros per couple. That's a good deal!

The sisters had ice cream while I had my first cappuccino in France. 

Here's a wooden walkway near the restaurant, but we took the high road--literally--back to the car.

It was a great day!!