Tag Archive | Paris

French Friday #16: Faisons la Grève!

Today, I’m going to write about something dear to the hearts of the French people. No, it’s not wine. Or cigarettes. Or even racy billboards. This is something particularly revered and even perfected in French society. It’s… the strike. After the recent teachers’ strike here in Tacoma, I knew I’d have to dedicate a French Friday to this most cherished Gallic right.

First, a little history and etymology. When you visit Paris today, you’ll notice the nice walkways built along the river Seine (and folks, let’s just get this out of the way: It’s pronounced “sehn.” Not “sin” and most definitely not “sain.” Don’t hurt my ears). These are a fairly recent addition to the city considering that the banks were left in their original sandy state for centuries. Wikipedia gives a convoluted explanation of the origin of the name Seine, but, ignoring all that mess, there is the basic fact that the word seine in French refers to a fishing net, which gives some indication of activity on the Seine in times past. There are still a few brave souls who fish from the river within Paris, but most people won’t touch that water or anything that lives in it. The second bit of word-learnin’ goes back to those formerly sandy banks, which are called grève in French.

The city seal of Paris features a boat indicating how important river commerce was to the city's livelihood.

In front of the Hôtel de Ville (city hall) was a particularly wide area opening down to the river. Boats often unloaded here and dayworkers would gather in the hopes of finding a job or two. To this day, it is called Place de Grève, although there’s not a trace of sand left and you can barely see the river from there anymore thanks to the road and walls along the banks.

View of the Hôtel de Ville from the Ile de la Cité

But, way back when, it was an ideal meeting place. The Ile de la Cité — the geographical and emotional heart of the city — is directly across from the Place de Grève, which, as we already know, was a great location for unloading shipments from river traffic straight into the center of the city. Naturally, several city functions would take place here, establishing the seat of city government since 1357. Everything from customs to executions occurred in the Place de Grève, including the airing of grievances by labor unions and guilds, otherwise known as a strike (“grievance” and “grève” have no etymological connection, but the similarities may help you remember what it’s all about!). Eventually, the phrase “faire la grève” became standard linguistic shorthand for that idea of laborers joining together to demand better pay or working conditions. In fact, it has nearly supplanted the original meaning of the word: when the French hear “grève,” they don’t think of a sandy strand on the river.

My brother and me at the Place de Grève, where the Hotel de Ville plead the city's case for both the 2012 Olympics and the release of Ingrid Betancourt

Off and on throughout the varying regimes of the 19th and 20th centuries, striking was made illegal. Finally, after WWII, a law was passed ensuring the right to strike and the French make ample use of that right. There are even entire websites devoted to the strike du jour so that you’ll know how your life will be affected. We experienced a few transportation strikes during our time there. It always amused us how strikes mysteriously occurred on sunny days. And even funnier was when a completely unrelated industry went on strike because they wanted a day off too as a show of solidarity. Striking truly is a way of life in France. Often the demands were more akin to grumblings and little negotiation was required. After a day or two, everyone would be back at work and the general populace never really heard the outcome of the strike. And I would venture to say that most people didn’t care, just so long as their train was running and their garbage was getting picked up.

The Place de Grève is still multi-functional. We watched a Euro Cup soccer game with thousands of other people on large screens set up at either end; we were there again when a collective groan of disappointment swept over the crowd when London was announced as the site for the 2012 Olympics. In the summer there is a double-decker carousel set up on one end. In the winter, they ice over part of the place to form a skating rink. And yes, people still meet there to faire la grève.

Winter wonderland is the antithesis of the beheadings that used to take place here.

 

French Friday # 14: The castle that don’t get no love

Paris is flanked by two small forests, often referred to as “the lungs of Paris.” On the West is the famous Bois de Boulogne. There is all kinds of activity there, from horse-racing to a small amusement park to… other… “activities.” Its lesser-known counterpart is the Bois de Vincennes on the Southeast corner of the city. Most visitors to Paris never have a reason to go that far. All the “good stuff” is in the center and towards the West. Or is it? Tucked into the woods is the royal residence aptly named the Château de Vincennes.

One year for my birthday, Mr. Gren and I took the long train ride from Rueil to go visit this castle where we had registered for a guided tour. The castle now has an excellent website, which I encourage you to check out to learn more of the history. The site was originally home to a hunting manor for the king in the early Middle Ages. That was eventually razed and the castle erected in stages through the 1300 and 1400s. We arrived on a beautifully clear and crisp October afternoon.

Tour de Village on the north curtain wall

We entered through the gate in the tower you see above, crossing the moat which had been filled with water up until the 17th century. We went to the information desk and the woman there told us our tour guide would be along shortly. We were surprised at the quiet and peacefulness of this place. We kept waiting for other people to show up for the tour, but no one else came. A few minutes later, our guide came in and was visibly disappointed that his last tour of the day would be for just two people, Americans, no less, who probably wouldn’t understand a word he said. He composed himself quickly, however, and led us back outside to the site of the original manor and started his tour. I began asking him questions and he immediately perked up, realizing that this wouldn’t be such a waste of his time after all. And he was courteous enough to pause occasionally so that I could translate for Mr. Gren.

Niches for statues on the facade of the Châtelet, which was the entrance to the donjon

We hit it off with our guide and he seemed to truly enjoy telling us the history and stories that he knew about this castle. The donjon was swathed in scaffolding. He explained that the foundation was sinking and that they had actually consulted the engineers who had worked on shoring up the Leaning Tower of Pisa to come help them restore the donjon at Vincennes. I hope we can go back someday when it is accessible to visitors. One of the funny things about our tour guide was his little phrase, “Bien sûr, bien sûr, bien sûr,” rattled off more quickly than anyone I’ve ever heard. He said it almost any time I asked a question, just before he would launch into an explanation for this or that. Mr. Gren and I still try to replicate it and laugh when we get tongue-tied right away.

Prisoner graffiti

During the various Revolutions, political prisoners were housed in the castle. They left their mark quite literally, carving messages, poetry, rants and prayers. I would have loved to have stayed longer in this room to make out more of the writing. I wonder if it has been transcribed anywhere?

Sainte Chapelle de Vincennes peeking between the western curtain wall and donjon

One of the more well-preserved features of the château is the Sainte-Chapelle. If you’ve ever been to Paris, this building may look familiar to you, but it’s most likely that you saw its sister on the Ile-de-la-Cité. They were both built by the king known as Saint Louis, who split his time between the Palais de la Cité and Vincennes. At the time, it really was a considerable distance to travel and Saint Louis, being very pious, would find it only natural to have a chapel at his rural residence. The two chapels are not identical, but they are very similar. This chapel houses the tomb of the Duc d’Enghien, a prince of royal blood who was unjustly executed in the moat by order of a jealous and prideful Napoleon.

Tomb of the Duc d'Enghien

I wish I could remember more of the symbolism. An hour or so search on the internet has yielded only the sculptor’s name (Louis-Pierre Desseine) and the title of the monument: “Power of courage supports the Duc in his last moments.” If you look closely, you will see certain elements that were later used in the Statue of Liberty — the diadem, the torch. I seem to remember our guide telling us that the torch being held down (as opposed to up by the Statue of Liberty, lighting the way for all to see) was a symbol of grief and oppression. The dagger was treachery. Unfortunately, I don’t remember anything about the snake or the woman on the left.

Le Vau's portico

The Château de Vincennes is a treasure that I wish more people would take the time to discover, especially now that so many of the renovations are done. But it was a special day having the place to ourselves with our own personal tour guide, bien sûr.

French Friday #11: The Doors

When I made my first trip to Paris in high school, there was a guy in my class whose name was Kenny Rogers, but he looked like Jim Morrison. He carved my name on a safety rail overlooking the gardens at Versailles because he thought it would be funny. Thanks, Kenny. And on our “free” day in the city, he chose to go to the cemetery Père Lachaise on the east side of Paris to visit Jim Morrison’s grave. Maybe it’s because he looked like Jim or maybe that was just a coincidence, but he was a fan of The Doors’ music. And that was the first I knew of Jim’s inglorious end and burial in Paris. But, those aren’t the doors I’m going to talk about today.

Once upon a time, architects designed buildings for quality and permanence and with the future in mind, they made sure that their buildings were as beautiful as possible. All sorts of artisans were employed to enhance these edifices — carpenters, masons, sculptors, painters, tile workers and more. Every part of the building received special artistic care, knowing that generations and generations would admire their work. In our young United States, a door is rarely a decorative feature, so enjoy some of these stunning works of art.

Portail St. Etienne at Notre Dame de Paris

This door is exclusively for the use of the bishops. This door is dedicated to Saint Stephen and the sculptures represent his martyrdom.

Interior doors in the Napoleon III apartments in the Louvre

Check out the gilding on those doors! They practically glow.

Main doors on a church in Dijon

Note how all the shapes on the door are raised.

Doors on the Palais de Justice in Grenoble

I like the waffle effect on this one.

Doors into an apartment in Grenoble

Around the corner from the apartment where I lived in Grenoble, was a tiny little street called Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau. For such a short and unimportant little road, it had some of the most interesting doors in the whole city. This set was one of them and the next is my very favorite.

Ancient mystery on a door

It features a Sator Square or magic square. It is a palindrome in all directions, reading Sator Arepo Tenet Opera Rotas. The Latin words mean, roughly, Sower Moves towards Holds Work Wheel. No one knows for sure what that signifies, but theories abound! One idea is that it was a code for early Christians to find safe houses during times of persecution. The phrase Pater Noster can also be found in the square leaving AO for Alpha Omega. Alchemists and folk magicians have also laid claim to the Sator Square. Whatever it is, it’s fascinating!

How many interesting doors have you seen around town lately? It’s probably more likely that you’ve been listening to The Doors.

 

French Friday #9: Paris When It Sizzles

This week’s French Friday begins in the U.S. Washington State, then through Idaho and Wyoming on the way to Colorado, and back up through Utah and Idaho (again) to end in Olympia, WA. This was the summer of 2003 — July to be exact. That summer, the Western United States experienced a heat wave like the one that the East Coast has currently been suffering under. The temperatures were hitting record highs for that early in the summer: 99F in Spokane, WA; well over 100F in Wyoming; 14 days of record setting temps in Pueblo, CO, topping out at 109; even the normally mild Olympia was hovering at 100 degrees.

Mr. Gren and I moved out of our duplex at the end of June and spent three weeks traveling to see family before we made our trans-Atlantic move. The first problem was that our ’87 Camry had no air conditioning. The drive from Olympia to Spokane (about five hours) was unpleasant, but still tolerable. We roasted in Spokane for a week before continuing the journey to CO. I have never known misery like that two-day drive. Even being pregnant through the summer three times cannot compare to the utter wretchedness we felt. We had two options to cool ourselves: The first was our pseudo-AC. We had bought two small, battery-powered fans that we set up on the dash board of the car. Mostly they just blew hot air in our faces, but we each had a squirt bottle of water that, if sprayed into the fan, gave momentary relief lasting about 2.5 seconds. The second option was to roll down the windows. On the freeway. Going 75 mph. This obviously increased the flow of hot air (but at least it was moving air!), and greatly increased the road noise to the point where Mr. Gren and I couldn’t even hear ourselves, much less each other, resulting in two nearly wordless, sweltering, tormented days. Made even worse by the chocolate milkshake that spilled in the front seat because an incompetent McDonald’s employee couldn’t find a lid to fit. It was a ghastly stench.

We reached Pueblo with no end in sight to the punishing heat. Fortunately, my mom’s steam vac got out the worst of the milkshake accident. When we left there, my parents sent us off with a cooler stuffed with two sopping wet t-shirts. The relief they provided was amazing! Until the suffocating heat in the car forced us to roll down the windows once again. “Surely,” we thought, “we’ll be able to cool off a little once we get back to Washington.” Instead, our friends greeted us with exclamations of, “It has been so hot here, it’s crazy!” Hardly what we wanted to hear. But we only had one full day in Olympia before flying to Paris and once again we told ourselves, “Paris has mild weather; we’ll cool off there.”

August 3rd, 93F. The view from our bedroom window.

You see where this is going, don’t you? Paris registered 93F the day we arrived in the middle of July. In a city built largely of concrete and asphalt — not to mention devoid of air conditioning — the buildings were literal ovens, retaining and even increasing the heat within. You probably remember hearing of the tragic number of deaths caused by the high temperatures in France that summer. It was a horrific summer.

The fountain in front of our apartment building looked very inviting.

The first couple of weeks after Mr. Gren and I arrived, we were not yet registered to drive the car given to us to use, nor did we have a way to purchase bus tickets at that time as all of the tabacs were closing down for les vacances. But, we needed to stock our cupboards. On our first bleary day, I had seen a blue arrow sign not far from the apartment with the name of a grocery store on it — LeClerc. I told Mr. Gren about it and we set out walking. We found the sign and followed the direction it pointed. We were a little surprised after walking another ten minutes to find another sign pointing us on. And a few minutes later, another. Where was this store?! We ended up walking about an hour, dragging ourselves up hills with the blistering sun beating down on us and the heat radiating back up from the pavement. Finally, we saw the store. It looked big; it looked promising; it looked like the kind of place that might have air conditioning.

“Find the LeClerc closest to your home!” Too bad we didn’t have internet, either.

Hallelujah, it did! We stumbled through the doors and saw a sign pointing to a cafe upstairs. Mr. Gren declared, “I don’t care how expensive it is, we’re going up there to sit for awhile.” He got no complaints from me. Disheveled and dripping in sweat, we slumped into a couple of chairs and ordered the best Cokes we had ever had in our lives. Eventually, we regained enough strength to go do our shopping. We couldn’t get too carried away, however, because we still had to lug those groceries home on another hour-long walk.

Living in a house without air conditioning in 90 degree weather is bad enough. Living in a 4th floor apartment without air conditioning brings an entirely new meaning to “les misérables.” The nights never cooled off below 75 outside and the air was dead and still, so the buildings never got cool enough to be comfortable. We flung open the three sets of French windows in our living room and dragged a mattress right up to the iron grate, hoping to catch even just a wisp of a breeze. For 29 more days, Paris suffered, and we along with it. During that time, the temperature went down to 77F for a couple of days, but then spiked up to 98, 100, 104, for eleven days. Mr. Gren and I had come with just one week’s worth of clothes each (the rest of our belongings we had shipped in June, but they still hadn’t arrived) and we were always soaked in sweat.

Our living room - you can see two pairs of windows, the third out of frame to the left.

I will always remember the night that the temperature finally dropped, that we weren’t being swallowed in an overwhelming heat: In the summer, Paris shows classic movies at a variety of outdoor locations. It’s free to attend and people often pack a picnic to enjoy before the show starts. On 15 August, “An American in Paris” was scheduled to show at Trocadero, the plaza that provides such a great view of the Eiffel Tower. A group from our church was planning to go and Mr. Gren and I jumped at the chance to go, too. We enjoyed the company of our new friends, ate a simple but tasty meal, and settled in to watch Gene Kelly dance and sing as night fell around us.

Big screen (on the left) set up at Trocadero

About halfway through the film, the crowd murmured with excitement. A breeze was blowing through! We hadn’t felt the slightest courant d’air in weeks, so this was a truly momentous occasion. As the night went on, we could feel the heat dissipate, that welcome wind carrying it away. The relief, oh, the relief was immense. Late that night, well after we were in bed, it even rained.

Our group had chosen a great location for the movie.

It was our first best day in France.

French Friday #8: What I like about you

Five years ago this week we returned to the States after three years in Paris. Three wonderful, infuriating, amazing, heart-wrenching years. And not a day goes by that we don’t miss it! This is not an exhaustive list, by an means, but, just for fun, here is a little album of things that we miss about living in France (all pictures are mine).

Mayonnaise in a tube. Seriously, the best mayonnaise ever.

 

Reliable public transportation (as long as they aren't on strike, that is).

 

Annual pass to the Louvre. Makes for great dates!

 

Quirky cars. Yes, that is fur on the wheel wells.

 

Finding history on every corner (plaques optional)

 

Amazing views. Sunset over Mont Valerien.

 

Hanging out in Napoleon's digs

There are lots of other things we miss that I don’t have photos of (but now that I’m looking, I wonder, Why not?!): good baguette, cheese, wine for 3€ a bottle, of course the markets, being able to walk anywhere we needed to go, plenty of interesting things to do or look at for free, wonderful little restaurants, fresh crêpes just to name a few more. We’re always scheming ways to get back. One of these days, we’ll make it, and then I will take pictures of all the things I missed the last time. 🙂

 

French Friday #4: Speed Slug says, “Slow down.”

When you move to a foreign country, there are plenty of things that you expect to be different: the food, the clothes, the architecture. But you don’t usually think of the mundane things like street signs. Most of Europe has standardized their traffic signs with color, shape, and helpful symbols. They look different from the signs in North America, but most aren’t so out of the ordinary as to cause consternation. (Usually, said consternation was caused by the decided lack of signs, at least in France. A popular proverb among ex-pats living in France was, “You can’t get there unless you already know how to get there.” Even born-and-bred Parisians carry maps of the city in their cars.)

We did, however, find a few signs that made us laugh. We enjoyed the digital signs spanning the French highways that gave driving tips in the form of pithy little rhymes. We liked the Ausfahrt signs in Germany because, well, sometimes our brains revert to 9 year old humor. We liked this sign in England because, what the heck is a bollard, anyways?!

!!!

(It’s ok; you don’t have to tell us. We know now).

This sign in Wales was just too good to pass up without a photo:

How many points are they worth? *snicker*

 

But our very favorite was this masterpiece of government-commissioned art back in France:

As Pacific Northwesterners, that symbol calls to mind just one thing.

Remember, Speed Slug just wants you to be safe.

French Friday #2: Finding the Phantom

I blame 10th grade band. For our fall concert, we played a medley of tunes from Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera.” I found the music intriguing and could tell that there was a story to all this, but I didn’t know a thing about it. I was curious, so I went to the library and found the book by Gaston Leroux. Fascinated. Enthralled. Riveted. Yet another book that I couldn’t put down. And there began the obsession with all things Phantom and Opéra. Living in Idaho at the time, I knew a big production like the musical would never come close enough for me to see it, so I bought the soundtrack and would listen to it while doing my homework. I watched old movies; I studied the building itself. It was Phantom immersion.

Copy of the book in French that I bought in Paris

During 12th grade, I was thrilled beyond belief to get to take a trip to Paris with my French teacher and other students during Spring Break. Just going to Paris was a dream come true, but to get to see the Opera, too? Euphoria!  One of the first places we visited was the Musée d’Orsay, across the Seine from the Louvre. In addition to beautiful works of Impressionist art, there is also a cutaway scale model of the Opéra Garnier revealing one of its most interesting features — the many sub-basements that play such a critical role in the story of the phantom.

This building is huge! The center of the photo shows the auditorium.

A couple of days later, our group made its way to the Opéra. Once we had our tickets, our teacher told us to just meet back at the front in about an hour and let us go. I absorbed as much of the red velvet and gilded opulence as I could. The staircase: magnificent! The chandelier: impressive! The Marc Chagall ceiling: eh, I could have done without it.

I was frustrated, though, by the few places we were allowed to tour. Most staircases were blocked with velvet ropes. After I had wandered around everything twice, I heaved a sigh and headed back towards the foyer. But, just before I passed the Point of No Return (fellow Phantom-philes should like that!), I noticed one set of stairs where the rope was down. The rope was down! That’s fair game! I went down the few steps and found myself in a long, narrow antechamber with a door on each end and a set of double doors in the middle. Behind me was a large vase with an electric flame atop it.

These are the kinds of pics you get with a 110 film camera fifteen years ago.

I tried the door on the left. Locked. I could see lights on underneath the double doors, but they were locked, too. Man! I moved on to the door on the right and jiggled the handle. To my utter surprise, it opened! I glanced around and then poked my head in. Ah, zut. It was a janitor’s closet. It was full of paint buckets and mops, even a section of scaffolding. With another sigh, I closed the door and lingered for just a moment more near the flame lamp. But wait! In my mind’s eye, I saw something else in that closet. Wooden stairs leading down to a plain wooden door. To verify that it wasn’t just wishful thinking, I scurried back over to the closet and peeked inside one more time. Yes! This was not a dead-end! I slipped inside the closet and pulled the door closed behind me, leaving just a crack. I’ve watched enough Scooby Doo to know how these things work.

Picking my way around paint buckets, I made my way to the worn, wooden stairs and tried this next door. Astonishingly, it was unlocked as well, and through it I went! Blinking for a moment to adjust my eyes, I saw that I was in a long, concrete corridor, lined with low archways and an occasional wall sconce to shed a feeble glow. The silence was all-encompassing, like being wrapped in a blanket. I wasn’t brave enough to go through one of those dark arches, but there was a set of concrete steps to my left that didn’t seem too frightening. I went down. And down, and down. Six half flights, each with a landing in between running into more arched corridors, until finally I was at the last set of stairs. To the right was an open doorway that appeared to open into a large room with more light. I don’t know now whether my ears were playing tricks or not, but I thought I heard voices coming from inside. I was afraid of being found and afraid at how much time had passed. Was my class all waiting for me, many stories above? I snapped a quick picture from the top of that last staircase and then ran back to the surface as quickly as I could.

Note the footprints! And the dust!

I met one of the teachers sitting in the foyer with a few students, waiting for the rest of the group. I wasn’t the last one there, after all. When they heard where I had been, they all exclaimed that I should have kept going, even if I kept everyone waiting. Unfortunately, at that point it was too late; I would have had to buy another ticket to get in.

I left this brilliant light for near darkness.

Eight years later, Mr. Gren and I made our first visit to the Opéra since moving to Paris. Of course, he had heard my story and was excited to see whether we could go exploring under the Opéra. First, we discovered that they had installed a coat check right in front of that little antechamber. Mr. Gren and the friends who were with us made a screen while I slipped under the rope to check my magic door, portal into literature, history and frisson.

They had installed a keypad lock on it.

French Friday #1: How it all began!

For most of the week, the topics here will be craft-related, but on Fridays, we’ll (see how I included you there?) have a little feature on France or French-themed things. Why France, you ask? Well, it’s a good thing you’re reading today then, because I’m about to tell you. It’s like instant gratification! And if you really want to get into the spirit of things, kick back with a pain au chocolat and play a little accordion music in the background. I’d recommend some good wine, but some of you might be underage. 😉

Park behind the Hôtel de Ville in Grenoble

The summer before my sophomore year of high school, I was in a funk. We had moved to a new town just six months before, I didn’t have any friends and I had nothing to do. My mom decided that, if I was just going to hang around the house, I may as well get something out of it and handed me a copy of The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. I sat out in the backyard under the big shade tree and read. I wasn’t expecting much at first. The last time I had had a parent-initiated book assignment, I was underwhelmed (Sorry, Dad, I still don’t like The Red Badge of Courage). But this book was different. The swashbuckling appealed to my romantic imagination (yes, Dad, I know there were swords in the Civil War; it’s not the same), it opened up an entirely new world to me, and I learned lots of fun words like sacre bleu and carte blanche. And that, my friends, is the key. I had already taken three years of Spanish at this point in my education, plus, I had memorized the “Ape-English Glossary” in the back of my Dad’s boyhood Tarzan book (there, Dad, that was a winner!). The little light bulb blinked on and I realized: “I love learning languages!” So I signed up for Spanish and French in 10th grade.

Hôtel Sully in Paris

Aside from a few funny moments at the beginning when I answered my French teacher in Spanish (not helped by the fact that I had Spanish class just before!), I was quickly picking up the new language. I continued taking both French and Spanish concurrently through high school and, by my senior year, it was obvious that French was the stronger of the two, so I chose it for my college major. My philosophy was, “Do what you’re good at.” And I was very good at it. (It’s ok, I’m allowed to brag a little: it’s my blog. Besides, very few people know this about me). There is a National French Contest for high schoolers called Le Grand Concours. The first year I took it, I placed second in the state. The next two years, I placed first in the state and was just a couple points shy (ie. perfection) of winning outright. When I got to college, I tested out of the first year and a half of classes. They had to invent classes in order for me to have enough credits to fulfill my major. I graduated magna cum laude.

Inside our apartment. I loved the sun coming through in the late afternoon.

And what did I do with all that fabulous French knowledge? Not a lot, at first. But a year and a half after I got married, an opportunity came up for my husband to pastor at an English-speaking church just outside of Paris, where we stayed for three years. It was just right for us — he got to speak English, and I got to speak French to my heart’s content and live in a country that I love. And not a day goes by that we don’t wish we could be back there!

This is not the church he where he pastored. 😉 Interior of Notre Dame de Paris.

I have plenty of stories from our time in France (and photos!), plus the semester I spent in Grenoble, and the week-long trip I took with my high school class to Paris. Plenty of things to share on French Fridays! In addition to my love of the language, the history, culture, architecture, and art all fascinate me and all play a role in my aesthetics. So even when I’m not directly talking about France, it’s likely that it has somehow influenced what I do. I hope you will enjoy hearing about my other home. And don’t worry: I got all the bragging out of my system this go ’round.

Crocheting Nemo

Before my girls had even seen “Finding Nemo,” they were already in love with him, thanks to seeing his little fishy face on Rana’s sippy cups. When the July/August 2009 issue of “Crochet Today!” came out, I saw the Nemo {ahem} “Flippy Fish” pattern, I knew it would make two little girls extremely happy.

This issue is apparently hard to find nowadays!

These little guys worked up much more quickly than I expected with all the color changes. They made sweet little Christmas presents and the girls still love them! I made the fins different so the girls can tell them apart, and it works really great. I can never remember whose fish is whose, but they sure know!

On my Facebook page, I have a photo album of different things I’ve made and added Nemo x2. This past fall, a friend of mine, who lives in Paris, saw the picture. He, too, could not resist the cuteness and asked if I would make him one in exchange for something from France. Heck yeah! Deal!

We used to live just outside of Paris for three years (more on that to come!) and one thing I’ve always regretted not bringing back with me was some Provençal fabric. It’s outrageously expensive to buy here in the U.S. and I never could bring myself to spend $30/yd on it. So here, I saw my chance! I asked my friend if he would send me one meter of Provençal fabric in blue; I didn’t even care what the print was! He agreed wholeheartedly and pretty soon, we both had packages in the mail. He was delighted with his little fishy friend and I did an exuberant happy dance in my living room when I opened the box he had sent me:

Not one meter of one print, but 2 meters of three different prints! They are gorgeous! The sunflower fabric is a little heavier and will probably be destined for a tablecloth. The other two are lighter cottons and I can see them as fabulous cafe curtains. We are looking at a move soon, so for now, these fabrics are tucked away in my sewing room until we end up in a more permanent place. Every now and then, I get them out to touch and daydream. I would have made a whole school of crocheted fish for these beautiful fabrics! Thinking I definitely got the better end of that deal! (Gio, you rock!)