Archive for the French Music Category

Awaken to my La Vie En Rose Quilt

Posted in French Music, French Quilts, Therese Waddell's Quilts with tags , , , , on June 8, 2011 by Therese Waddell

Bonjour everyone,

‘La Vie en Rose’ is one of my favourite French films and the signature song of the legendary singer Edith Piaf, whose real name was Edith Giovanna Gassion. The film is the incredible journey of her life and rise to fame, told with great sensitivity by Marion Cotillard.

It was the first French film to win more than one Oscar award- one for Marion’s Make Up artists, responsible for transforming Cotillard into Piaf’s double with sheer brilliance, the other for Cotillard as the superb Best Actress. Edith Piaf”s spirit comes to life within Cotillard’s delicate skeleton and Edith’s dynamic voice is behind her impeccable lip synching.

I have always been inspired by Piaf. I feel her story needs to be heard.

She was born in Paris in 1915 but spent a sickly childhood in a brothel, having been abandoned by her parents- her father, a French circus acrobat who later disappeared into the French Army and a mother, an Italian singer.

As a little girl, Piaf fought many battles, one was temporary blindness but her singing talent was undeniable even then. She earned money by singing on the streets of Paris like a million others- afterall, this was Hemingway’s Paris! A time when artists and musicians were all desperately seeking fame. (Gertrude Stein used the name, “Lost Generation” to describe them at the time.)  It wasn’t long before the talented Piaf was discovered by a night club owner.

However, tragedy and popularity went hand in hand for Piaf. By 16 she had married and had a baby girl who died at two of meningitis which broke her heart.

Not long afterwards, her popularity escalated on the stage as she became the main attraction at Paris music halls, cabarets and radio stations before touring internationally with soaring fame. During this time, Edith Piaf showed such strength of character and remained fiercely passionate about her beloved country. She defiantly supported the work of Jewish musicians during the Paris occupation by Nazi Germany and she worked tirelessly for French prisoners of war.

Finally, the love of her life however was killed in a plane crash which proved too much for her to bear.Her spirit was finally crushed and she sought refuge in morphine and alcohol to which she finally fell addictive.

The French film, ‘La Vie En Rose,’ encapsulates the pure passion of this diminuitive French girl (standing only 4’8in) lovingly referred to as “the little sparrow.” She could belt out songs with such raw emotion and amazing talent that it comes to no surprise to discover that Edith Piaf has been named one of THE voices of the twentienth century. Just take a listen to the final scene of ‘La Vie en Rose’…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6Dz3-k1d9I

Her rise to stardom as a world class  performer from an origin so gloomy is captivating. She reminds us that anything in life is possible as long as you have the passion. My french awakening to Piaf inspired me to design a quilt in her honor and I hope she would approve in some small way.

My quilt pattern and color choice is bold and of course, in shades of pink! Why? Because using supremely bold floral fabrics and dazzling stripes in shades of pink and cherry red, serve to emphasise the translation of “La Vie En Rose” which means “To See Life In Pink.

Take a look…

I love her voice. I believe in the motto. Optimism rules.

If you would like to buy the quilt pattern go to www.quiltingthejourney.com

Au Revoir,

Best Wishes, Therese Waddell

copyright@ Therese Waddell 2011


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Awaken to Limoux, France

Posted in French Cafes, French Music, French Travel, South of France with tags , , , , , , , , on May 4, 2011 by Therese Waddell

Bonjour my friends,

With all this recent quilt talk I seem to have put aside the real treasures in life, such as the little French village of Limoux. So we’re going there today if you’re not doing anything else in particular.

Limoux is located in the south of France- nestled in the beautiful Langedoc Rouissillon area on the river Aude, about twenty miles from Carcassone. You will recall this beautiful walled city in

https://myfrenchawakening.wordpress.com/2010/08/31/awakening-to-carcassone-france/

From Carcassone it’s a quick train trip through some of France’s most beautiful countryside so why not travel by train and enjoy the breath taking scenery?

Now Limoux  does not have the imposing fortifications and heavy structured double walls of its neighbouring Carcassone, but it remains tough and resilient enough ( like some of us) as you would expect being located smack bang in the heart of  Cathar fighting territory. Home to toughened inhabitants like the brawny hard as nails rugby team for instance who take great pride in being affectionately known as the ‘Limoux Grizzlies’!

Even the tough know how to celebrate though and you can see Limoux in its true playful form during France’s longest Carnivale -the Limoux Carnival which lasts for three solid months of the year. This is when everyone (big and small) gets into party mode, dancing and singing and generally parading around in a eclectic mixture of medieval and modern garb. Check out the lengths that some Limoux entertainers go to as these glamorous and creative costumes are worthy of any opera house you’ll agree.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OuBk9iyAeT8&feature=related

Limoux residents have been doing this for centuries, but over time they’ve forgotten why they party for this long during the Winter months and that’s the real beauty of it all. The confetti throwing parade enters the main square and weaves its way in and out of shops and cafes, led by a wand carrying pierrot (or clown) and accompanying musicians, all set to involve onlookers and entertain all. Good ol’ fashion fun is contagious. Take a look..  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3gWMO8Il7k&feature=related

Fun is definately a memory worth keeping so if you land in Limoux on some cold Wintry day, anytime from January to Easter, you’l be in for a real treat. Be warned though, wear your party dress!

Yes, Limoux and its surrounds  has its own unique appeal worthy of any tourist or local alike. In the south, Limoux’s valley is enriched with forests. It offers plenty of walking and cycling trails, skiing, horseback riding, canoe, rent a houseboat and so on. Further south, a town called Esperanza has not only a great Sunday market but a quirky hat museum known as the Musee de la Chapellerie. It was Europe’s largest producer of felt hats in the whole of Europe and it’s modern website is found at:

http://www.audecathare.fr/musee/musee_chapellerie.htm

One and half hours further south from here, you’ve hit Barcelona! There’s a lot to see and do around Limoux. My French awakening discovered that the oldest production of French bubbly originated in 1531 in the bowels of the stony Benedictine Abbey of St Hilaire just outside Limoux…

A visit to the Abbey is a must. Their sparkling wine (lovingly known as ‘Blanquette de Limoux’) was produced way before champagne in Burgandy and was actually rediscovered by President Thomas Jefferson in 1794, who was so taken with the bubbly (as one does) that he kept his cellar stocked with Blanquette for years later. Obviously a great French wine connoisseur, he alone was charged with the responsibility of selecting these French wines for the White House at the request of George Washington!

Today you can douse yourself with Blanquette de Limoux for only $14 per bottle- a fraction of the cost of the champagne houses of Burgandy which you may recall here… https://myfrenchawakening.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/awaken-to-french-champagne/

Arhh Limoux, you’re sounding better all the time, don’t you think?

Au Revoir,

Best Wishes, Therese

copyright@2011 Therese Waddell

Awaken to a New Year in Colmar

Posted in Food and Recipes, French Affair, French Music, French Travel, North East France with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 2, 2011 by Therese Waddell

Bonne Annee mon amis,

A New Year! No mistakes as yet. Are you ready to indulge in some New Year resolutions which may involve getting out of your routine and experiencing something new? See it as doing a good deed for yourself. You know you deserve it!

Well then, my french awakening instantly puts France on your see and do holiday list for the New Year. Let me give you a taste of things to come my darlings…and follow me through the many villages and cities of France one by one- to gorgeous regions where you will be hard pressed to find better gastronomic, cultural and scenic visions and where you will want to return again and again.

Today we’re going off to the north east of France, towards the German border. In fact, this place was occupied by Germany for such a long time, so Germanic influences are evident in its cuisine and half timbered architecture. Where am I talking about? It’s Colmar!

Getting us to the very pretty capital of the Alsace white grape region is dead easy.A direct train trip from Strasbourg or Basel (Switzerland) or from Gare de l’ Est (in Paris) will do the trick! We’ll be on foot after that (some of you may choose to cycle) but either way, were not going to miss anything…

Like all these fabulous iron shop signs made mostly by the local caricaturist Jean Jacques Waltz, who mastered the art of forging squiggly iron work and a great sense of humour!

The whole place is adorable. It’s not just a museum town (as indicated on the road sign before you arrive). Yes we can visit the Unterlinden Museum and there’s also the Museum of Bartholdi, you know, the guy who sculpted New York’s Statue of Liberty in 1886. We are told that Bartholdi used his mistress as the model for the body but the face was that of his mother. Of course.

Colmar is so much more than museums and is very much alive. It’s cultural, not delicate. Homey and comfortable. The things REAL people like. (did I just say that?)

With a sprinkling of fancy boutiques like the French linen house of  Yves Delormes…

and exquistely expensive pen shop (Mont Blanc) and classic millinery…

Colmar’s Old Quarter has a casual ambience which is created more by patisseries reeling with the smell of good gingerbread (pain d’epices) while accompanied with the occasional home made bunny family decorating shop front windows like any good fete stall…

and restaurants wafting with grand mothers’ recipes of sizzling sauerkraut (which is basically the same as the French choucroute but with a German twist!), oniony quiches and the unforgettable aroma of mouth watering sausages and potatoes (baeckeoffe) with baked ham and munster cheese. Arh! One can never get enough of the delicious aromas of Colmar!

Now what do we see? We look up and above our heads hang pure shots of mediterranean red and orange geraniums spilling from wrought iron lacework balconies and again along the bridges of the canals of the Lauch river, in the Old Quarter known as “Petite Venise” (Little Venice). Strolling along is so pleasurable here.

We can choose to kick back in one of the chairs of any restaurant along the quayside…

or in the cafe terrace of the Anciennes Duoane Square (The old Customs House) just to absorb the atmosphere and perhaps some foie gras. Fancy a drink? Let’s sneak behind the statue of the Schwendi Fountain…

and nestle into one of those gorgeous heavy wooden chairs under century worn beams in a cosy Alsatian winstub (bistro). Colmar, famous for its Reisling, is a must here!

Sounds good to you? …

Some of us could venture a little further (by following our noses in the general direction of meat pie and creamy pastries) and ooze into the treats of the single minded. Enter one of eight (after counting) very casual Salon de’ The’ rooms…

A chair is waiting for you…

You’re gonna like it here! How sweet it is! Hanging bretzels on sticks above counter tops will tempt the strongest of wills but this is also the time to try Colmar’s kougelhopf- a cake/bread with a magical concoction of almonds and raisins, sugar and cinnamon baked in a traditional ceramic Kugelhopf mold and dusted with a dash of snowy icing sugar. You can always take away petite kougelhopfs and other sweet jewels to have on the way home too. Generally, they won’t make it home…How easy it is to unwind (and unfasten) in Colmar.

Much later, wander the long maze of winding streets to admire the architecture or have a play in any of the souvenir shops selling good quality iron cooking utensils and tableware.

Gaze upon the embellished roof treatments…

and the grand wooden gallery of the Renaissance built Pfister House…

(which was once residence of the bourgeoise), while standing in the footprints of famous Alsations like Marcel Marceau or Mozart. It’s possible. They both came from neighbouring Strasbourg so I’m guessing it would be a manageable trip to Colmar. (Marcel would do it silently I’m sure!)

Above it all, Colmar is friendly and unpretentious. If we arrive around Christmas time, Colmar in time honoured tradition, will entrance you with her beautiful twinkling lights and magical Christmas markets. We could build upon our decoration supplies! Being surrounded by friendly locals and warming Christmas cheer might not be all that bad for some of us!

For more information, check out the Colmar Office de Tourism at:-

http://www.ot-colmar.fr/

Happy New Year once again everyone! Let’s begin the New Year with our dreams firmly placed under our arms. I hope to see you Colmar!

Au Revoir,

Best Wishes, Therese Waddell

copyright@2011 Therese Waddell

Awaken To Historic Avignon

Posted in French Affair, French Music, French Travel, South Central France, South of France with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 17, 2010 by Therese Waddell

Bonjour mes amis,

When in the south of France, staying in or around beautiful Avignon is a must. You’ll be very impressed by this city, which is only two hours and forty minutes by high speed TGV from Paris (to the new ultramodern Avignon Gare TGV) or thirty minutes from Arles.

There’s so much to see and do here. Include in your itinerary, the World Heritage Site, Palais des Papes ( The Palace of The Popes). This fourteenth century massive stone structure, Gothic in style, has assured the safety of seven Popes who have resided there over time…

On entry, a very friendly Swiss Guard may insist upon having his photo taken …

And once you’re inside, you can peruse the maze of solid archways leading to inner courtyards and beautifully adorned frecso walls…

If you’re lucky enough to be in Avignon this July, take part in the Avignon Festival in and around the Palais des Popes-but book you’re seats early because this fabulous non profit making event attracts  up to 150,000 revellers of theatre, dance and music to the city to watch wonderful street performances and productions of sheer joy.

The artistic programme and full information for the Avignon 2010 Festival can be found at:

http://www.festival-avignon.com/en/Prog

If you miss the event there’s always next time. Meanwhile, buskers enliven the ancient streets of the walled city and will leave you wandering for more.

My french awakening was amused to come across unexpected pleasures like detailed trompe l’oeil paintings on buildings…

And intricate architectural embellishments of a fascinating history..

Avignon is enriched with abundant Museums, shops, a fabulous Les Halles marketplace and galleries and plenty of space to get about by car, bike or even tourist ‘train’- the latter can take you to popular sites to walk the remains of the famous Pont d’Avignon Bridge over the Rhone river for instance…

and be reminded of the little French children’s song, “Sur le Pont d’Avignon’…

On the bridge, step inside the tiny chapel of Saint Benezet…

where legend has it that Benezet (or Benedict) a young shepherd, was instructed by an angel to build the bridge and was given the power to lift enormous stones. The people of Avignon were so impressed that they helped construction and although Benezet died before it was completed, but not without founding The Friars of The Bridge Order of monks.

Great things happen in Avignon. Trust me.

Au Revoir,

Best Wishes, Therese Waddell

copyright@2010 Therese Waddell

Awakening To Notre Dame, Paris

Posted in French Affair, French Music, French Travel, Paris with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 5, 2010 by Therese Waddell

Bonjour mes amis,

Notre Dame Cathedral on the Ile de la Cite, beckons you with it’s opening arms of flying buttresses and succession of welcoming apostles above the entrance door into a dark, serene holy space.

You can’t go to Paris without visiting ‘Our Lady of Paris’ at least once, next time you’re in the City of Light. It’s a walk across the Seine from the Latin Quarter and in fact- all distances in France were measured from Notre Dame.

Pure Gothic in design, you can easily imagine the Hunchback, made famous in Victor Hugo’s play, ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’, swinging from the spires high above a darkened street.

Cathedrale Notre Dame de Paris took about one hundred years to build and  many historical events have taken place inside its walls- such as the numerous weddings of french Kings, the self crowning of Napoleon and Josephine, the canonization of Joan of Ark, the requiem mass of Charles De Gaulle and Francois Mitterand and even Papal visits by John Paul II.

My french awakening widened to hear that stranger things have occurred in Notre Dame. When some forty or so Parisiens were terrorized and mauled to death by a pack of starving wolves in the bleak winter of 1450, the wolves were eventually hauled up at the front of  Notre Dame and killed by the locals.

Things have settled down since then thank goodness and calmer thoughts will occupy your mind when in Notre Dame.

You can have a prayer request at the end of the evening mass if you like or sit in a pew and listen to the grand peal of fifteenth century bells in the most beautiful rhythmic unison from the towers and spires.

If you’re lucky you’d  have come on the day of the monthly organ recital or better still, a concert given by the choir of angels known as the ‘Children’s Choir’. Locals tell me this is something truly special to hear. Children come from as far as Australia to sing here.

For details on these concerts, check out:

http://www.cathedraledeparis.com/Programmation-musicale-du-mois

If the mood takes, climb the three hundred and eighty seven steps of the northern tower for an eye to eye contact with terrifying gargoyles in stone and search the panoramic view of Paris at great heights.

Or, you can visit the treasury which holds many religious items including the Crown of Thorns which was placed there in 1239. Also there are remains of Saints and Bishops’ attributes such as mitres, crooks and rings and items donated by other countries and even by the Emperor of Ethiopia!

Opening hours is 8am to 6:45pm (and 7:15pm on Saturdays and Sundays). There are vesper services and International masses as well.

As for me, I just like hearing the simple gesture of marking the sign of the cross by the locals, in the shadows of glowing chandeliers above.

“Au nom de Pere, et du Fils, et du Saint Esprit.  The language and the reverence lulls me into submission every time.

It’s Amen to Notre Dame. Do visit.

Au revoir,

Best Wishes, Therese Waddell

copyright@2010 Therese Waddell

Awaken To Musee D’Orsay, Paris

Posted in French Affair, French Music, French Travel, Paris, Paris Shopping with tags , , , , , , , on January 22, 2010 by Therese Waddell

Bonjour mes amis,

I hope your all enjoying my Paris blogs. Come with me and we’ll go to Musee D’Orsay, Paris today. Step inside the Central Nave…

The layout of Musee D’orsay provides abundant space and flooded light from the original glass roof of what was once the Gare D’Orsay railway station.It’s the ambience of the place which continues to inspire me and it will for you too!

There is  an RER stop right outside the Museum and you’ll meet the famous iron Rhinoceros by Henri Jacquemart before you go in!

The entry is just behind it and one handy hint is to purchase the Paris Museum Pass to help you bypass any queues on entry. Let’s not  forget to pick up your free map once you’re inside, then wander till your hearts content!

Walk in and be thrilled with plenty of  room to amble. It’s much smaller than the Lourve and you won’t be overwelmed with the numbers of tourists.

There is a huge range of nineteenth and twentieth century artworks to admire within a very unique setting.

What will you find here? A glorious Impressionism and Post Impressionism display as well as Art Nouveau and Oriental Art and so much more!

One of my favourite rooms is The Salle des Fetes. It’s beaming with crystal chandeliers and mirrors and was once the ballroom of the Hotel D’Orsay. Walk with me will you…

And look at this…

Against a backdrop of gold and reflection, there stands on honey coloured parquetry floors, many all- white marble statues in various stages of emotion.

I was enchanted to hear the whisperings of a delightful little  group of French school children ,who were making up stories about the sculptures on which we gazed.

While you’re at musee D’Orsay you may feel like attending a fabulous lunch time concert or recital by some up and coming music sensation,  (on level two) or even a film in it’s own cinema!

If you’re really lucky, go up to the roof terrace and catch an artist sketching the views across Paris. Now, that’s a treat!

You will find Musee D’Orsay at number 1 Rue de la Légion d’Honneur and for all events and acquisitions, films and recitals,  check the  details at:

http://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/collections/overview.html

Opening times from 9:30am to 6:00pm (except later on Thursday evenings until 9:45pm). Remember that it’s closed on a Monday!

There are renovations of level 5  being carried out at present to  March 2011, but the collections on this floor can still be seen in another newly designed area of the Museum. The best part about this is Paris is always trying to make things better and more beautiful for everyone!

The Musee D’orsay has to go on your list of  Places To See In Paris!

Au Revoir,

Best Wishes, Therese Waddell

Awakening To Sacre Coeur, Paris

Posted in French Affair, French Music, French Travel, Paris with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 20, 2010 by Therese Waddell

Bonjour everyone,

The beautiful white Basilica of  Sacre Coeur is now a Pilgrimage site and stands high over Montmartre, Paris. It lulls my french awakening everytime I walk into it when the nuns are singing their vespers – a stark contrast to the cries of St Denis before he was beheaded on the very same site back in the third century!

The high pitched  harmonious sound of choral nuns in this sacred space takes my breath away and it echoes over the foothills below. I was told by some locals that you can actually listen to their vespers live with Radio Notre Dame !

The walk through the gardens around Sacre Coeur is lovely and the view from the top across Paris is sensational. Take a look at this. You can even climb the spiral staircase at the top of  Sacre Coeur to get a more spectacular vista.

Follow down the back of  Sacre Coeur where fewer tourists go and you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find some great inexpensive restaurants and cafes.  By the time you’ve eaten, go back up to Sacre Coeur and take a final look at dusk. It’s just superb!

To approach Sacre Coeur, you can  take The Funicular or cable car if you don’t fancy the steps. It runs from Place Suzanne-Valadon to the Place Willette just below Sacre Coeur. It’s magic to experience, especially with children who will be doubly excited when they finally set eyes on the swirling carousel at the bottom. (or perhaps you can use your child as an excuse to go on yourself!)

I’ve only ever had great days here in this very bohemian part of Paris, but I do suggest you be prepared for sometimes forceful  sellers of junky souvenirs at the bottom of the stairs.

Montmartre holds such an array of quirky shops and great experiences. You can do what I do and go fabric hunting as well.  Fabric houses three storeys high will keep you occupied for hours. (Go with a girlfriend!)

It’s a sewing and quilting paradise around here and you’ll find all sorts of gorgeous fabrics including toiles and also beautiful French tapestries.

Be wary though that you’re buying’ ‘Made in France’ and you’ll be so pleased to show it all off to your friends back home!

For night entertainment, there are plenty of bars and bistros and the famous Moulin Rouge is under the Moulin de La Galette,the last windmill in Montmartre- painted in bright seductive red. You can’t miss it!

Contact: http://www.moulinrouge.fr/home-flash-gb.html

for prior bookings to a fabulous show of dancers- a feathers and sequins extroadinaire!

Visit also the Place du Terte  near Sacre Coeur, filled with some very fine enthusiastic artists ready to sketch your portrait.  Albeit the Place is filled with tourists but that doesn’t deter their artistic talent and creativity! Take it all in. Nothing beats the smell of conti pastels in the hands of struggling artists!

Postcard shops also are in a frenzy for very good reason. Many here have a huge range and I  bought some wonderful vintage ones for friends back home.

Walk the cobblestone steep streets (with flat shoes of course) and get yourself lost through the maze of side streets and alleyways of Montmartre. Get yourself lost for a while.

It won’t happen for too long as you can always look upwards towards the hill of Sacre Coeur and it will lead you home!

Enjoy your day,

Au revoir,

Best Wishes, Therese Waddell