Friday, October 24, 2014

Film Review: (Mr. Morgan's) Last Love with Michael Caine

I watched "Last Love" the other day with high hopes.  It is newly released on Netflix and entirely worth watching just for the main character's HUGE apartment in Paris and his house in Saint-Malo -- both the stuff of dreams.  The film is also peppered with French and takes place mostly in Paris.  Now that the important stuff is out of the way -- have a look at the trailer:

This film got terrible reviews (here and here) and even though I was brought to tears several times when Caine's character interacts tenderly with his wife's ghost, I was generally uncomfortable through the entire film. I felt like I was sitting through a sales pitch.  The only character I really liked was Pauline (Clemance Poesy -- excuse the lack of accents).  Gillian Anderson does play an excellent shallow, crass and selfish daughter -- a great performance, so much so that I hated this woman.  Caine (normally one of my faves) was bland and the entire story line was unrealistic and felt contrived.  What do you think?  Let me know in the comments below. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Paris Fashion Week -- Fall 2014

Paris Fashion Week is wrapping up and (hearts a-flutter) I would have given my right arm to be there... one day....
Ahem... Here are a few peeks from my favorite designers' collections: ethereal Valentino, dramatic Elie Saab and boho Burberry.  I love these Fall looks -- especially the Burberry handbags (I swoon).  
Have you picked up your September Vogue yet?  It's not too late!  Best issue of the year!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Happy Birthday, Madeline!

This week, our beloved Madeline turned 75 years old! The book series debuted in 1939.  Bemelmans, an artist, started sketching the spunky redhead after a stay in a French hospital, where he met a little girl who insisted on showing off her scar from an appendix operation (Madeline has her appendix removed in the first book.) View Bemelmans's drawings at the New York Historical Society exhibition "Madeline in New York: The Art of Ludwig Bemelmans," which runs through October 13.  Or just crack a book: "In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines..."

So begins Ludwig Bemelmans's beloved children's story, Madeline. First published in 1939, Madeline and all five of its sequels have become classics, spawning toys, games, dolls, and even a motion picture. The original Madeline was named a Caldecott Honor Book, and the first of its sequels, Madeline's Rescue received a Caldecott Medal. What is it about this character that has endeared her to readers for more than 60 years? The answer is—attitude.
Madeline has been described as charmingly impetuous, irrepressible, mischievous, and precocious. She may have been the smallest of the 12 little girls in two straight lines, but she certainly was the feistiest. Wearing their flat sailor hats and identical coats, Madeline's unnamed classmates all look alike except for their hair. But Madeline stands out, not because of the way she looks, but because unlike the other girls, she is utterly fearless. When she boldly tells the tiger in the zoo, "Pooh-pooh," you wonder if what she is really saying is, "I'm not afraid of you or anything else in this world!"
No doubt about it. Madeline is a gutsy little girl, and that's what makes her such a unique role model in a time when storybook princesses defined femininity for girls. Madeline gave young girls a reason to explore who they were as individuals, even if that meant being a tad disobedient. She gave girls the courage to speak their mind and showed them that there was nothing unfeminine about being smart and strong.
Madeline inherited her spunky personality from her creator, Ludwig Bemelmans. Like Madeline, Bemelmans was a free spirit and a man of strong opinions. His list of creative talents was considerable—a novelist, muralist, nonfiction writer, screenwriter, and oil painter. He was a regular contributor to The New Yorker, Vogue, Holiday, and Town & Country magazines. He painted murals in a bar named for him at the Carlyle Hotel and sold a screenplay to MGM. Austrian-born Bemelmans lived in New York and surrounded himself with a rich variety of people, places, and personalities. At one point, he planned to collaborate on a book with then First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy.
Bemelmans always considered himself more an artist-illustrator than a writer, and later in life he became a serious painter. His work is on display in the Metropolitan Museum in New York and the Museé National d'Art of Paris. That isn't to say he did not take his writing seriously, for he was careful never to insult his young audience. "We are writing for children, but not for idiots," he once stated.
A dashing nonconformist with a footloose lifestyle, Bemelmans took Madeline's readers on whirlwind adventures in Paris, London, and the French countryside. No wonder that Madeline has become a worldwide phenomenon. "And that's all there is -- there isn't any more."

Credits:  Real Simple Magazine, - the official Madeline site.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The 100 Foot Journey

My husband Brett and I saw a wonderful film this last weekend, The 100 Foot Journey.   Here is the synopsis from the film's official site:
  1. Hassan Kadam is a culinary ingénue with the gastronomic equivalent of perfect pitch. When Hassan and his family, led by Papa, move to a quaint village in the South of France with the grand plan of opening an Indian restaurant in the picturesque countryside, they are undeterred by the fact that only 100 feet opposite stands a Michelin starred classical French eatery. However upon encountering the icy proprietress, Madame Mallory, the Kadam family realise they may have bitten off more than they can chew. Outraged by the new arrivals, Madame Mallory is determined to have their business shut down. As cultures clash and food flies, an all-out war escalates between the two establishments -- until, that is, Hassan's passion and talent for French cuisine begin to enchant Madame Mallory and even she can't deny this young chef could have what it takes to garner even more acclaim for her beloved restaurant. This, along with his new-found friendship with her beautiful sous chef Marguerite, starts to weave a magic between the two cultures and, despite their different tastes, they discover an unlikely recipe for success that surprises them all.
The setting is beautiful and the movie playfully pokes fun (for the most part) at the clash of cultures.  If you love French food or if you love to cook, this film is a joy to behold.  It's a relaxing treat for the senses.  Helen Mirren and Om Puri are fantastic.  Let me know what you think of it.  --Gretchen

Saturday, August 23, 2014

I've discovered the best magazine!  It's called AFAR.  AND it features perspectives from Paris local, Lindsey Tramuta.  You can also see more tips from Lindsey in AFAR's comprehensive up-to-date destination guide to Paris here on their website.  I'm so glad I have this for my next trip!!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Bastille Day, the French national holiday, commemorates the storming of the Bastille, which took place on 14 July 1789 and marked the beginning of the French Revolution. The Bastille was a prison and a symbol of the absolute and arbitrary power of Louis the 16th's Ancient Regime. By capturing this symbol, the people signaled that the king's power was no longer absolute: power should be based on the Nation and be limited by a separation of powers.

Etymology - Bastille
Bastille is an alternate spelling of bastide(fortification), from the Provençal wordbastida (built). There's also a verb:embastiller (to establish troops in a prison).
   Although the Bastille only held seven prisoners at the time of its capture, the storming of the prison was a symbol of liberty and the fight against oppression for all French citizens; like the Tricolore flag, it symbolized the Republic's three ideals: Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity for all French citizens.
It marked the end of absolute monarchy, the birth of the sovereign Nation, and, eventually, the creation of the (First) Republic, in 1792.
Bastille Day was declared the French national holiday on 6 July 1880, on Benjamin Raspail's recommendation, when the new Republic was firmly entrenched. Bastille Day has such a strong signification for the French because the holiday symbolizes the birth of the Republic.   Marseillaise
La Marseillaise was written in 1792 and declared the French national anthem in 1795.
As in the US, where the signing of the Declaration of Independence signaled the start of the American Revolution, in France the storming of the Bastille began the Great Revolution. In both countries, the national holiday thus symbolizes the beginning of a new form of government.
On the one-year anniversary of the fall of the Bastille, delegates from every region of France proclaimed their allegiance to a single national community during the Fête de la Fédération in Paris - the first time in history that a people had claimed their right to self-determination.
The French Revolution

The French Revolution had numerous causes which are greatly simplified and summarized here:
  1. Parliament wanted the king to share his absolute powers with an oligarchic parliament.
  2. Priests and other low-level religious figures wanted more money.
  3. Nobles also wanted to share some of the king's power.
  4. The middle class wanted the right to own land and to vote.
  5. The lower class were quite hostile in general and farmers were angry about tithes and feodal rights.
  6. Some historians claim that the revolutionaries were opposed to Catholicism more than to the king or the upper classes.
Le Tricolore  The bleu, blanc, rouge French flag took shape during the French Revolution. The colors represent the Republic's three ideals:  Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.

All information courtesy of Laura Lawless at

Friday, June 20, 2014

Tahiti and New Caledonia

Standard procedure for every person setting out to learn a new language is knowing where that language is used.  In my first French class, I was told about exotic places like Martinique, Ivory Coast, Quebec, New Caledonia and Tahiti where the French had colonized and the language is still spoken.  Never in a million years did I think that one day I would be visiting these places!

Some of you may know that my daughter Mary is on an LDS mission in New Caledonia and comes home at the end of July.  Sometimes parents "pick up" their missionaries and many return a year or more later to show their loved ones where they spent 18 months to 2 years immersed so deeply in a culture that it becomes a part of their lives forever.  My husband, Brett and I just booked 3 round-trip tickets to Tahiti this week for an April 2015 departure.  We'll spend 5 days there and then another 5 days in Nouméa where our Mary has spent the last year and a half of her life.  More than half of the missionaries she has served with have been Tahitian, so we decided to spend some time in both places.  To say that we are excited is an understatement.  Watch this space for more information about the trip and please send me a message if you have any information on things to do and see!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Welcome to my new blog -- Bonbons and Berets -- a fun place to come and talk about French stuff, but also life in general as people -- you and me -- who love adventure, learning and personal growth.  Check in and see what's happening, join the conversation and take a trip with me.