Monday, September 20, 2010

Book Nook - French Week edition

So, I've decided to have French Week here at the cherylbach blog, as well as the Bach Haus, to celebrate the 9th anniversary of DH's & my trip to France.  Our trip was amazing & I want to share some of my photos & memories with you!

The first photo I have in our France album is of me at the Louvre:

Yes, that's me (well, my 9-years-younger-self), pockets full of tourist maps & Rick Steves guide to Paris!  Our first day there, we went to the Louvre.  And it was amazing!  So many fantastic works of art - I think if you had the time, it would be best to tackle it in small chunks, that way you can really appreciate what you are looking at.  There were many times we rushed by rooms to get to an area that we really wanted to see - but those rooms had gorgeous, priceless art in them!  I especially loved the Winged Nike of Samothrace, the Venus de Milo (I wasn't expecting a sculpture to be so absolutely perfect & gorgeous & moving - well, it didn't move literally) & the Napoleon III apartments.  The Mona Lisa was interesting - no security around it, no notices about flash photography.....we figured the real one must be stored in the basement!

That first evening in Paris, we didn't quite have our bearings down yet.  I managed to ask the hotel clerk in very limited high-school French if he could recommend any nearby restaurants.  He very kindly replied (in English, god love him) that if we just walked a block down that way, we could pick any restaurant we fancied......on the Champs-Elysees!  We were that close to it & didn't even realize it!  Our hotel was on Avenue Victor Hugo, by the way, & it was lovely!

As this is Monday, it's Book Nook day & since it's also French Week, I think it would be fitting to discuss books about France, don't you?   

Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser is thoroughly researched & very readable.  And haunting.  I say haunting because after you read this book, you will have a new opinion on this figure in history & can't help that the world has done her wrong.  I felt so bad for Marie Antoinette that I cried at the end. 

What amazes me when I read any biography, but especially this one, is the detail that has stood the test of time, and conversations that are recorded for us to read, sometimes hundreds of years later.  We learn about how Marie Antoinette disliked being watched by the court when she ate her meals, how the king had a little sexual problem (I feel embarrassed for them both that this was public knowledge then, and now) & how much she loved her children. 

This book takes us from Marie Anoinette's birth to execution, and gives us an inside look at her life at Versailles, her relationships and the horrors of being royalty during the Revolution.  We read how much she grows & matures as she becomes a mother & how she faces death with grace.  Throughout the book, the author gives us example after example of the good things the Queen said & did & how the public - and history- have distorted those things to make her fit a certain image.  Indeed, she was the first-ever celebrity!

A lighter read is found in Joie de Vivre by Robert Arbor.  I have always loved this book!  The author talks about his life growing up in France, how the French do certain things (like breakfast, for instance), he talks about walking into town from his country house - basically, it's a rose-colored view of life in France.  But France is so ideal to me, so I love an idealized version!  It's been a while since I've read this one, but I remember the author's story about how he recalls playing as a child while his mother tended the pot of stew for supper & his father read the paper.  If looking through pictures of France in guidebooks has you dreaming of going there, this book will too!

There are also many recipes scattered throughout, but I admit I haven't tried any of them.  Please let me know if you try any!

More vacation stories & pics & celebrations of all things French to come later this week!

Au revoir!

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