Thursday, May 26, 2011

From Paris to Bear Country - A series - Part 1

Our story begins in Paris, France, fifteen years ago. This is when a city girl in her early thirties, a newlywed, followed her husband to Seattle, WA, in one swift lateral move. [Paris latitude: 48 degrees 52’ N. Seattle latitude: 47 degrees 36’ N.]

As a result, she traded Parisian grey skies (“la grisaille”) for the Pacific Northwest’s ever-changing, and unpredictable, (but mostly grey) weather. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Today, this city girl lives in the Pacific Northwest in a town that, according to the local chamber of commerce website, “[offers] rural living in an urban setting.”

We need to travel back in time and go through local archives to introduce the real star of our story: Woodinville, WA.

Woodinville, population 11,000 (give or take a few souls,) is part of the Seattle metropolitan area. The first inhabitants were the native Sammamish people. They are long gone, but are remembered fondly, (mainly in the summer,) since a local lake popular with boaters is named after them. Woodinville is also nestled in the Sammamish river valley.

The first known settler was Ira Woodin. He and his wife Susan arrived from Seattle in 1871. Ira built a cabin, raised cattle, and logged timber while raising a family. Other settlers soon joined them and the town developed quickly after the railroad reached the area in 1888. For a long time, Ira’s house served as the town’s first school and post office. I imagine Ira and Susan’s house was a fraction of the size of the average Woodinville château today, so things must have been cozy chez les Woodin.

From then on, Woodinville (Woodin's town) continued growing as a logging community. It became a farming center in the early 20th century, and eventually a Seattle suburb after World War II. The city was incorporated in 1993.

The Hollywood School House, built in 1912,
is one of the oldest buildings in Woodinville

Let’s fast forward to 2011 Woodinville. “Rural living in an urban setting,” the Chamber of Commerce says.

Rural living. Check. This French girl does not have a long way to go to realize she lives “à la campagne” (in the country.) As soon as she drives out of the area commonly referred to as the town center, past the last sign of urban life [Tully’s coffee house] and comes back to her very hilly neighborhood, she finds herself surrounded by nature and pastoral scenery.

The area (like much of the Pacific Northwest) is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts. A favorite location of mine is the Tolt Pipeline trail, 12 miles long, built in 1964 to bring water to the Seattle area from the Tolt River Reservoir, located in the foothills of the Cascade mountains East of Woodinville.

Tolt Pipeline trail and the Cascade mountain range to the East

Tolt Pipeline trail and the Olympic mountains to the West

The trail is safe, scenic, quiet (at least on weekdays) and it’s a wonderful place to run, hike, ride horses, or mountain bike. Le Yellow Dog and I have been hiking the Pipeline trail together for over 8 years and enjoy our daily hour-long walks, rain or shine (rain, more often than shine.) We have our favorite routes, and after so many years, I could probably get home with my eyes closed. I know each house, each property, each dog, each fence along the way.

Hailey le Yellow Dog, my faithful walking companion

Dogs are not the only animals we encounter on our outings. This is la campagne after all. We meet sheep, horses (Woodinville is horse property Heaven,) rabbits, goats, and chicken. A lot of people have chicken. In fact, there seems to be a poulet (chicken) craze these days. Friends and neighbors collect chicken. Said poulets are pretty tame and follow people around like friendly dogs.

C'est la Campagne: The sign says it all!

Bonjour le mouton!

Des chevaux at every street corner

Des lapins (the real ones are harder to capture on camera)
Bonjour, Miss Piggy le cochon

Woodinville: land of fancy chicken coops
(notice the flowers at the window sill)

Happy poulets...

I have a couple of friends who would enjoy this cool sign! 

A popular thing to do around here is to own “a farm”.  Even though there are commercial farms in Woodinville specializing in organic produce (these use heavy machinery to grow and harvest crops in gigantic fields,) most of the properties in my neighborhood are different. Let's call them les petites farms. 

They are homes, mostly, sitting on an acreage, with animals (a horse, a dog, some chicken,) and a few raised beds to grow herbs and vegetables in the summer. Heavy machinery? Check. That shiny sit-down mower counts, doesn’t it?

This one earns point for the most creative sign

When I see these properties I am inevitably reminded of Marie-Antoinette, the French queen. While her husband King Louis XVI was at work, she loved spending time with her entourage in the private hamlet the king had built for her in the gardens of the magnificent château de Versailles (1785-1792.) The hamlet is a beautiful property complete with a farmhouse, a barn, a mill, a pond, a pigeon coop, an aviary, orchards and gardens. The hamlet was a working farm: Eggs and milk were produced daily for the queen. It has been said that in the pre-Revolutionary days, the young queen sought refuge in country life, milking cows and sheep, dressed as a peasant, and living a farmer's life for a few hours each day.

Marie-Antoinette's hamlet, Versailles,  France

Marie-Antoinette, courted by a young man,
is dressed as a shepherdess

Marie-Antoinette and her entourage in the hamlet

While in the Versailles hamlet, Marie-Antoinette used to retire alone in her boudoir (small private apartment) after an invigorating day spent outdoors. In modern day Woodinville, boudoirs have been replaced by artists’ (or teaching) studios.

Miss Piggy immortalized by a local artist
Ouila vie est [souvent] belle (life is [often] beautiful) in Woodinville.

To be continued. Stay tuned.

Monday, May 23, 2011

En Mai, Cannes fait son cinéma. [In May, Cannes acts up.]

This is a story en français, best suited for strong intermediate students. As always, you will find a translation at the end of the article. Bonne lecture!

Cannes, la Croisette, 1910

Côte d’Azur. Méditerranée. Cannes. Promenade de la Croisette. En France et en Europe, voilà des noms qui font rêver.

Chaque année au printemps, tous les yeux se tournent vers Cannes et son célèbre Festival. Pendant deux semaines, stars internationales (et leur entourage,) metteurs en scène, producteurs, distributeurs, journalistes, touristes et curieux prennent la ville (et la promenade du bord de mer, la Croisette,) d’assaut.

Cannes: La Croisette et la plage pendant le Festival

Bienvenue au Festival de Cannes. En 2011, il a 64 ans (le premier Festival de Cannes "officiel" est celui de 1947.)

Il est né il y a longtemps, à l’automne 1939. Parmi les films en compétition cette année-là: Le Magicien d’Oz et Au Revoir M. Chips. Des stars hollywoodiennes comme Gary Cooper et Tyrone Power arrivent à Cannes par paquebot transatlantique affrété par la M.G.M. (Metro Goldwyn Meyer.) Le 1er septembre 1939, le Festival ouvre officiellement ses portes, mais le climat politique est tendu en Europe.

Le même jour, les troupes d’Adolf Hitler envahissent la Pologne. Dès le 3 septembre, la France et le Royaume-Uni déclarent la guerre à l’Allemagne. C’est le début de la deuxième Guerre Mondiale. Le Festival est interrompu.

Festival de Cannes 1939

Il est suspendu jusqu’en septembre 1946. Dans les années qui suivent, il établit rapidement sa réputation comme le festival cinématographique le plus reconnu et le plus prestigieux du monde. Il devient encore plus médiatisé quand les chaînes de television françaises puis européennes diffusent en direct les cérémonies d’ouverture et de clôture dans les années 1970.

Le Festival célèbre le cinéma et la sélection est internationale, mais la majorité des films sont européens et américains. Chaque année, la Palme d’Or récompense le meilleur film. Le meilleur acteur, la meilleure actrice, et le meilleur réalisateur reçoivent aussi des prix.

La Palme d'Or

Depuis 1955, les Etats-Unis ont gagné 15 Palmes d’Or. C’est un record. Francis Ford Coppola a gagné deux Palmes d’Or, pour Conversation Secrète (1974) et Apocalypse Now (1979). Joel et Ethan Coen ont gagné en 1996 avec Fargo. Plus récemment, Michael Moore a gagné pour Fahrenheit 9/11.

Un look "français" pour le réalisateur Francis Ford Coppola

Une reconversion réussie pour le vigneron Francis Ford Coppola

La France a gagné 8 Palmes d’Or; la dernière en 2008, avec le film Entre les Murs de Laurent Cantet. L’Italie a gagné 9 fois, et le Royaume-Uni 7 fois.

Chaque année, des films sont présentés « hors compétition. » Certains réalisateurs américains (Alfred Hitchcock, Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg,) n’ont jamais voulu participer à la compétition mais sont venus malgré tout présenter leur œuvre au Festival. En 2011, Woody Allen, un habitué de Cannes, a présenté au public son tout nouveau film Midnight in Paris, avec Owen Wilson et Rachel McAdams pour la distribution américaine, et Marion Cotillard et Carla Bruni Sarkozy (oui, la première dame de France !) pour la distribution française. 

C’est un jury composé de 9 professionnels du cinéma qui attribue les prix aux différents films proposés. En 2011, Robert de Niro était Président du Jury. Jude Law et Uma Thurman faisait partie de son équipe. La sélection de 19 films était variée (mais 4 seulement étaient français, et deux étaient américains, Drive et Tree of Life.)

Robert de Niro et le jury du 64e. Festival (May 2011)

Hier soir, pendant la cérémonie de clôture du 64ème Festival de Cannes, la Palme d'Or a été remise au film américain de Terrence Malick, Tree of Life, avec Brad Pitt et Sean Penn. Certains ont été un peu surpris parce que le film avait reçu des critiques mitigées la semaine dernière après la projection officielle. Tout le monde a reconnu que le film est une oeuvre ambitieuse pour Terrence Malick, un reclus notoire. Il n'est d'ailleurs pas venu en personne chercher son prix. 

 La Palme d'Or Cannes 2011

Le Festival de Cannes passionne les amateurs de cinéma, mais il fascine aussi pour d’autres raisons. D’abord, il y a le glamour, l’élégance, les stars, leurs tenues parfois extravagantes, leurs limousines et leurs gardes du corps. Un moment favori pour le public du Festival : La montée des célèbres marches du Palais des Festivals par l’équipe des films présentés. Les stars posent. Les flashs des photographes crépitent. Moment magique pour certains ; un vrai carnaval pour les autres.

Les célèbres marches du Palais des Festivals
Les marches accueillent les stars d'hier (Elizabeth Taylor)...

.... et les stars d'aujourd'hui (Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie)

Ajoutons que scandales et controverses ont toujours fait partie du spectacle. Depuis le début, des starlettes en quête de publicité ont tout fait pour attirer l’attention des photographes du monde entier. Brigitte Bardot, une des plus grandes stars mondiales dans les années 1950-1960, a lancé sa carrière internationale à Cannes en avril 1953, en posant sur la plage dans des tenues provocantes. Elle avait 18 ans. D’autres ont suivi son exemple, avec plus ou moins de réussite.

Brigitte Bardot et Picasso - Cannes, 1953
"B.B.": Une star est née!

Ginger Rogers devant le Carlton

Tout le monde ne devient pas célèbre à Cannes

Enfin, la vie imite parfois le cinéma. En 1955, l’équipe américaine du film La Main Au Collet d’Alfred Hitchcock, arrive à Cannes. La légende raconte que Grace Kelly est invitée à Monaco par le prince Rainier. Il se marieront l’année suivante, et on connaît la suite.

Elle s'appelle encore Grace Kelly.
Elle sera bientôt Princesse de Monaco

Je n’ai pas encore assisté au Festival de Cannes, mais j’espère bien le faire un jour.  En attendant, finissons cette histoire, comme toutes les histoires à Cannes: avec un film. Vous vous souvenez? Une comédie hilarante, Les Vacances de Mr. Bean, qui se termine en beauté, au Festival de Cannes, au bord de la Méditerranée. Quel régal!

Mr Bean a Cannes
La video est ici: 

A bientôt.


In May, Cannes acts up

Photo: La Croisette promenade in 1910.

The French Riviera. The Mediterranean. Cannes. La Croisette promenade. In France and in Europe, these are places dreams are made of.

Every year in the spring, all eyes converge upon Cannes and its famous Film Festival. For two weeks, international stars (and their entourage,) directors, producers, distributors, journalists, tourists and onlookers alike take the city (and the seashore promenade, la Croisette,) by storm.

Photo : Cannes, la Croisette promenade and the beach during the Festival.

Welcome to the Cannes Film Festival. In 2011, it turned 64 (the first "official" Cannes Film Festival is the 1947 edition.)

The Festival was born a long time ago, in the fall of 1939. Among the movies in competition that year: The Wizard of Oz and Goodbye Mr. Chips. Hollywood stars including Gary Cooper and Tyrone Power arrive in Cannes on an ocean liner chartered for the occasion by the M.G.M. On September 1, 1939 the Film Festival opens its doors amidst political tensions in Europe.

The same day, Adolf Hitler’s troops invade Poland. On September 3, the United Kingdom and France declare war on Germany. World War II has just begun. The Film Festival comes to a halt.

Illustration: 1939 Cannes Film Festival, poster.

It will remain on hold until September 1946. In the following years, the Festival quickly becomes the most recognized and prestigious film festival worldwide. It gets even more publicized when French then European television channels start broadcasting the Opening and Closing ceremonies live in the 1970s.

The Festival celebrates international movies, but most are European and American. Every year, the “Palme d’Or” award goes to the best movie in competition. The best actor, best actress, and best director also get awards.

Photo: The prestigious Palme d’Or award.

Since 1955 when the Palme d’Or was introduced, the United States have won a record 15 awards. Francis Ford Coppola won two Palmes d’Or, with The Conversation (1974) and Apocalypse Now (1979.) Joel and Ethan Cohen won in 1996 with Fargo. More recently, Michael Moore won with Fahrenheit 9/11.

Photo: A French look for movie director Francis Ford Coppola.

Photo: A successful career change for wine maker Francis Ford Coppola.

France has won 8 Palmes d’Or, the last one in 2008 with the movie The Class by Laurent Cantet. Italy has won 9 awards, and the United Kingdom 7.

Every year, feature films are screened “out of competition.” Some American directors (Alfred Hitchcock, Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg,) have not wished to compete but came anyway to show their movies at the Film Festival. In 2011, Woody Allen, a Cannes regular, introduced his brand new feature film, Midnight in Paris, with an international cast: American actors Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams, and Marion Cotillard and Carla Bruni Sarkozy (yes, the French first lady!)

Movie Trailer: Midnight in Paris

Jury members belonging to the movie industry review the films screened in competition. In 2011, Robert de Niro presided. He was assisted by 8 jury members, including Jude Law and Uma Thurman. All 19 selected movies offered a wide selection (but only 4 were French, and 2 American, Drive and Tree of Life.)

 Photo: Robert de Niro and the 64th Film Festival’s jury (May 2011)

Last night, during the closing ceremony of the 64th Cannes Film Festival, an American feature film starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn won the Palme d’Or award: Tree of Life by Terrence Malick. Some people were a bit surprised because the movie was met with mixed reviews during the official screening. Everyone acknowledged that this is a very ambitious project for the famously reclusive Terrence Malick who did not even show up in person to pick up his prize.

Illustration: Tree of Life poster.

Movie lovers take an avid interest in the Cannes Film Festival but the event enthralls for other reasons. First, there is glamour, elegance, stars, their lavish outfits, limousines and bodyguards. A favorite moment for the public is when film crews ascend the famous red carpet steps at the Palais des Festivals. Stars posing for photographers. Camera lights flashing. A magical moment for some; a zoo for others.

Photo: The famous Palais des Festivals and the red carpet steps.

Photo: The red carpet welcomes stars yesterday’s stars (Elizabeth Taylor.)

Photo: and today’s stars (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.)

Let’s add that scandals and controversy have always been part of the show. Since the beginning, fame-seeking starlets have done their best to draw the attention of international photographers. Brigitte Bardot, who became one of the world’s most famous stars in the 1950s and 1960s launched her international career in Cannes in April 1953 by posing on the beach in provocative outfits. She was 18. Others followed her lead, more or less successfully.

Photo: Brigitte Bardot and Pablo Picasso, Cannes, 1953.

Photo: “B.B.” – a star is born!

Photo: Ginger Rogers posing in front of the Carlton

Photo: Everyone does not become a star in Cannes.

Finally, life sometimes imitates movies. In 1955, the American film crew for Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief arrives in Cannes. The legend has it Grace Kelly gets invited to meet Prince Rainier in neighboring Monaco. They get married the following year, and the rest is history.

Photo: She is still known as Grace Kelly. She will soon become Princess of Monaco.

I have never attended the Cannes Film Festival, but I still hope to do it one day. In the meantime, let’s end this story the way many stories end in Cannes: with a movie. Do you remember this? A hilarious comedy, Mr Bean’s Holiday, that wraps up with a bang at the Cannes Film Festival, by the Mediterranean. Delightful!

Photo: Mr Bean in Cannes

The video clip is here: 
Mr Bean's Holiday - Movie clip - La Mer (Charles Trénet)

A bientôt,

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

From shabby chic to the French Riviera in one day

Les Boys are off to their annual YMCA Adventure Guide camp-out for the weekend.  They have been building memories for the last five years with their friends (dads and sons, and dads and daughters pairs.) This year, they did things in style and flew to Orcas Island, one of Washington’s San Juan islands. I can’t imagine how much fun the gang had, sitting in the small float plane, planning an evening cook-out on the beach, games in the forest, (including a spin on the giant swing,) a skit in front of the whole camp on Saturday evening. Sleeping on the beach in door-free cabins in the chilly Northwest spring weather is only part of the fun.

This is what les Boys must have seen from the airplane  

What’s a poor girl to do in an empty house? The weather looked decent on Saturday morning when I woke up. I decided to go on a field trip. A student of mine, Kimhad mentioned on her blog that she was planning to attend a vintage flea market in Snohomish, WA. Kim loves old things, and as she travels in the area in search of treasures, she takes amazing photos of her favorite finds. I am a firm believer teachers learn from their students, and I decided to follow her lead.

Besides, Snohomish, WA is just a 30-minute drive away from my house. I know next to nothing about local flea markets alors, pourquoi pas? At 9:00am sharp, ignoring the pleading look of Hailey the yellow dog who had hoped for a morning walk, I took off.

It is unusual for me to drive inland. People who do this on weekends around here are usually headed for the ski slopes, one hour’s drive away. The ski season is over so traffic was light on Highway 9 as I crossed the Snohomish county line.  It is not what one would call a scenic drive. Flat land. Fields. Farms. Small towns that seem to exist only on the map or on a road sign. Nurseries. Gas stations. Espresso stands. A lot of espresso stands. I would not be surprised to find out the Northwest is the U.S.’s espresso stand capital (and if it was, they would probably call it “the World’s espresso stand Capital.”)  I stopped counting at 10. You might say locals have an addiction to caffeine. Starbucks was born in Seattle after all. It’s an understandable addiction. One needs caffeine if embarking daily on such uneventful drives in (predictably) drab weather. 

Snohomish area captured by a local artist (minus espresso stands)

Finally, I saw the “Welcome to Snohomish” sign, crossed the bridge over the Snohomish river, and looked for the flea market building. There was a $5 admission charge to visit the “ 2nd Saturdayz Market.”

I realize this is a traveling show and they have to rent the building, but how do you justify paying $5 to look at old things that you are expecting to buy? When in Rome, do as the locals do. I went in. It was still early and there weren’t a lot of people there. I saw hundreds of vintage objects, in the shabby chic style, a trend made popular by the likes of English-born Rachel Ashwell. Shabby meets chic. What a concept. Junk from yesteryear [shabby], tweaked and improved by the artist with soft, feminine colors and materials,  antique pinks, linen, flowers, ribbons and lace [chic]. It’s bohemian, nostalgic, different, and it is all très mignon (cute). The artist ladies all look mignonnes too, sporting hand-made jewelry, feminine vintage clothes (layers, lots of layers, often topped by a frilly apron), quirky accessories. Everyone was having a good time, chatting and admiring each other’s work. I did not buy anything (I don’t do aprons, and my hair is too short to put vintage silk flowers in it) but I enjoyed my morning visit to the Shabby Chic world.

A perfect gift for a saloon owner or
for a former Moulin Rouge dancer?

There is more to Snohomish, WA than flea markets but truth be told, Snohomish is often referred to as "the Antique Capital of the Northwest." As you walk downtown, on or around 1st street, you will find beaucoup d'antique stores and galleries. There are old fashioned ones, selling vintage housewares and furniture from the early to mid 20th century. Last year, Junior and Le Husband had a fabulous afternoon looking for old cameras and came home with treasures (the non-functioning, rusty type.) Said treasures have been collecting dust in le Den since.

There are also trendy boutiques, catering to the shabby chic crowd, gardeners, city folk in search of a country vibe, and tourists of course. Weekends get busy in Snohomish, and the upcoming Antique and Arts Faire will likely attract thousands of visitors.

I must confess I have a favorite address downtown. It is a small boutique named JoyWorks, on 1st street. Going inside is like embarking on a treasure hunt. On the main floor, customers peruse the cramped but well-stocked clothing section organized by color, as they look for the perfect accessory, pair of shoes, handbag, scarf, hat. It feels like digging through your best friend’s closet. This time, I found a scarf, a white T-shirt with a small lace trim, and a summer top “Made in Paris.” – What were the odds, n’est-ce-pas? All affordably priced, bien sûr.

Trying on the new scarf

Downstairs is home decor and gift Heaven. Everything is tastefully arranged by theme, and the owner makes the most of the space. There is something for everyone. Illustration:

A display for gardeners

A display for poulet (chicken) lovers

A display for dog lovers

More dogs, just because...

My favorite section. Quelle surprise!

I would not dream to go to Snohomish and skip my visit to JoyWorks. It is an unabashedly cheerful and entertaining little place. Give it a try next time.

Let's step outside in the street. Snohomish offers more than shopping. Several restaurants support local farms and serve tasty, organic food. I savored a fresh and delicious lunch chez Grilla Bites, the all-organic café. Other places offer more traditional fare, such as the Oxford Saloon, established in 1910, at 913 1st street.

Later on, I was not surprised to find a trendy cupcake place, Simply Sweet Cupcakes

Nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts will make the most of the Snohomish river trail where pedestrians, cyclists and dogs coexist peacefully. When the sun came out in the afternoon, I could not resist going down a few steps to take a short walk there, a cappuccino in hand (let’s not mention this to the yellow dog, ok?)

Finally, visitors interested in old places will focus on the historical district. Snohomish is listed both on the state and national registries of Historic places. The 1960s and 1970s were challenging times for the town, and over the next twenty years, it was developed for tourism. Old houses in the Queen Anne style (built in the late 1890s), were restored and are showcased in a popular annual Historic Home tour run by the Snohomish Historical Society .

Allen House, 1886

After a few hours spent exploring Snohomish and its pedestrian-friendly downtown I walked back to my car. [Note to Woodinville: Watch and learn. Pedestrian-friendly town. Quality boutiques. Attractive restaurant selection.]

Au revoir, lively Snohomish!

Tonks (le Car) and I headed back home in the sun and I had a thought for les Boys who (I hoped) were living wild and most excellent adventures in the woods on Orcas Island.

I was on a mission because les Girls were coming chez moi for a movie night around 6:00pm and I still had to get things ready for the evening. Finally, dinner was cooked (Mediterranean pasta gratin and oven-baked berries for dessert); wine was chilled; movies were pre-selected.

After my guests arrived, the sun had been replaced by ominous grey skies and chillier temperatures. I learned a long time ago that Seattle does not do spring very well. This year, it seems Seattle does not do spring at all. By 8:00pm, before the movie started, the deck looked like this:

We watched a classic: To Catch a Thief. Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. Alfred Hitchcock. The glorious Côte d’Azur (a.k.a. the French Riviera.) Les Girls kept Ooohh-ing and Ahhh-ing about Grace Kelly’s outfits during the movie. Forget Shabby Chic. Grace was one elegant lady. 

Girlfriends, good food and wine, sunny weather French Riviera style, and the ultimate romantic caper: A perfect way to wrap up the day.

A bientôt.

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