These are the writings of Ellen, an American in Paris. She's lived there for more than 20 years and she writes for a Parisian newsletter. She's married to a tall, dark, sexy, shy Frenchman Dominique :-) Oh, and she also happens to be my Mom!
The following articles are in order starting with the most recent.


Winter 2006, My Lucky Stars

My golden paper crown rests tentatively on ma tête (head) as I drink my café au lait and mange (eat) ma deuxième galette des rois for 2006. I continue thanking mes bonnes étoiles (my lucky stars) for both the Magi, wise men that they were, and the wise boulangers français who continue making Les Galettes des Rois to celebrate each Nouvel An (New Year). Although it's now available in beaucoup des parfums (lots of flavors) ma préférence remains le fragipani/almond flavored galettes. While les traditional galettes des rois are eaten all over France, I have learned that other pastries typical to a region are also de rigueur (the norm) to start Le Nouvel An if you want to make certain of health, wealth and happiness. Since I'm big on all three, I decided I should research which other regional delights guarantee my future happiness, tasting as I go. For the health category, I discoverd Le Kouign Amann. It guarantees a good New Year if you're from Bretagne. It's origin dates back to the late 1800's when an enterprising boulanger didn't want to throw out some of les pains ( bread) that didn't rise. He used lots of butter and carmelized sugar to coat the tops of pieces of dud bread and voilà, c'est déliceux. He quickly found that this treat could be taken to sea by les pêcheurs (the fishermen) because the dud bread was so hard it lasted longer and bien sûr (of course) les pêcheurs loved the sweet taste. I figure it covers the health category because these guys must have lived or we wouldn't know about it today. It probably helped the wealth category for the baker too. I haven't found the origin of the name. Maybe the dude with the dud bread was named Kouign?

Happiness abounds if you're from the Pays Basque where les Madeleines are an important beginning to Le Nouvel An. They help you keep the faith through the year, I suppose, since their roots come from le pélérinage (pilgrimage) de Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle. A jeune fille (young girl) prénommée Madeleine was the first to bake these gâteaux in a coquillage (shell). I like to imagine her year brought her wealth and fame as she sold the treats to the tourists along the path. Fauchon is selling coffrets des madeleines (boxes) with an assortment of flavors; citron, framboise, pistache, pain d'épices (spice), orange, café, and even champagne rose. (Probably helps their wealth quotient for the year too.)

In Provence, les boulangers make a brioche in the shape of a wreath, which is called La Couronne des Rois (Kings crown). La brioche is glazed, covered with fruits confits (sugared, preserved fruits) and also includes a fève or surprise in one of the pieces which guarantes a good year to the person lucky enough to get that particular piece. I figure everyone gets wealthy in this scenario : le Boulanger for selling the final product, the fruit growers, the guys who confits les fruits, les fabricants des fèves (feve or surprise manufacturers) and the local dentist from all the sugar and the broken teeth from biting into the fèves.,

Since 1756, the Fossier family of Reims in the Champagne region of France have been making Les Biscuits Roses Fossier (family Fossier). The light, crusty, sweet biscuit is dipped in your Champagne at the stroke of midnight and hopefully many more times during the year so the family can continue to live in the style to which they have been accustomed. They get their rosy color from something called carmin which is suppose to be a natural red coloring. The idea was for the carmin to stomp out the dark particles left from the crushed vanilla beans used to flavor the delicate biscuits. La recette (receipe) is a secret, bien sûr, but it is known that the biscuits are baked twice. The first time rapidly in a very hot oven and the second time very slowly dans une étuve (something like a sauna). Because of the method, the word biscuit literally meaning bis-cuit or cooked two times. They are also know as Biscuit Boudoir, yes as in your bedroom but I haven't found that story. My imagination runs wild with the possibilities for researching this story which might include all of our magical properties of health, wealth, and happiness while drinking champagne and eating biscuits in your boudoir. ~Ellen


Spring 2005, CAFÉ AU LAIT

It has been a glorious spring, so far, in Paris. The bright, lemon-yellow forsythia, creamier jonquils, tulips, and the delightfully scented, purple, pink, and white hyacinths seem to be everywhere in my quartier. The Parc Monceau is alive with chirping oiseaux (birds) in the pink cherry and magnolia trees. La neige (snow) of l'hiver (winter) didn't fool Mother Nature because les couleurs du printemps (springtime colors) are deeper and more vivid than ever.

As I sip my café au lait, dehors (outdoors) in my sidewalk café aujourd'hui (today) this fool has been watching les étudiants (students) et les enfants (the children) from l'école maternelle chasing anyone, trying to place colorful, cut-out, construction paper, Poisson d'Avril (April Fools day fish) on each others' dos (back). Since the naissance (birth) of Velcro, it happens much more quickly and easily these days. Even a couple of the regulars standing at the brasserie counter drinking their espresso's have un Poisson irrationally placed on their lower back sides. They've obviously been fooled around with by some children who had hit their mark.

Pappies et Mammies (Grandpas & Grandmas) have already purchased enormous amounts of chocolate bells, les poules et les œufs (chickens & eggs) from les maisons du chocolat and patisseries during the early Easter weeks. However, no fools themselves, les patisseries, les confiseries, and any local boulangeries have fabricated les poissons en chocolat (chocolate fish) to celebrate the day.

C'est le roi de France (It's the King of France) Charles IX who is credited for April Fool's Day in France, maybe dans tout le monde (all the world). He was born at the Chateau of St. Germaine-en-Laye in 1550. His mother was the powerful Catherine de Medicis. After the death of his brother, he comes to the throne in 1560 (age 10) with his mother serving as Regent.

At the Cathedral of Rouen in 1563(age 13) he is officially declared to be major. History indicates that he was influenced by his strong mother but occasionally under the tutorage of the most powerful French Huguenot leader, Admiral Gaspard de Coligny. Because the nation had been torn by the Wars of Religion, it is also know that this young King (and at the time his mother) were trying to find ways to bring peace to the both sides.

Mama, being no fool herself, decides that she, Charlie the King, and Henri de Navarre (future King Henri IV) should travel throughout France (1564-67) to recreate a sense of national unity and reconcile the Catholics and Protestants after so many years of war. Any fool can see it didn't hurt to reinforce the monarchy either, especially to the Huguenot population. It's during this trip, King Charles IX, now under the influence of the Protestant Coligny, issues the important Edict of Roussillon (1564) which reforms the annual calendar to the Gregorian Calendar we still use today. One of the most important changes was New Year's Day from April 1st. to January 1st.

This came as a great shock to the French who had traditionally used New Year's Day festivities as a time to exchange gifts with family and friends. The French , instead of un grève, decided to make a mockery of April 1. Instead of the usual New Years cadeaux (gifts), people sent gag gifts and silly messages to friends. Many of les cadeaux were fish because at that time a fish was considered a foolish thing which would strike at any bait during the month of Avril. And, for years, thereafter, anyone still celebrating April 1st as the true New Years Day became the butt of jokes and pranksters known as a Bouffon d'Avril or April Fool.

Désormais (now), if you think that you're a bouffon taking my bait from the sunshine of Paris, you'll just have to come to Paris, eat your poisson d'avril and ask the locals. They'll probably think you're a un farceur (prankster) because I doubt many of them know pourquoi on mange les poissons d'avril en chocolat (why we eat chocolate fish) either. And, when the French to to the USA they probably can't imagine how the chocolate retail industry missed this opportunity to sell chocolate fish!

Bon Printemps………Ellen


Winter 2004

SITTING IN MY SIDEWALK CAFÉ…..with café au lait, eating my galette des Rois celebrating Epiphany remembering those Wise Kings (Magi) who brought gifts to the bébé Jesus and thankful for whoever that enterprising boulangère (baker) in the Middle Ages was who thought about merchandising les galettes d’Ephiphany.

During the Middle Ages a cake was made for the Epiphany feast with one piece of the cake reserved for the poor. Later the tradition evolved through Pagan and Christian rituals with the insertion of a fève (or fava bean) into the cake. The fève was the first vegetable to appear in spring so the idea of renewal and sharing were the important aspects of the ritual. By the late 19th century the traditional round, buttery, almond-filled puffed pastry began having small porcelain figurines inside replacing the beans but still called les fèves. Whoever received it in their portion of the cake was King or Queen of the day. And, eventually paper crowns arrived with the purchase of les galettes to ensure that the King or Queen was suitably crowned. (Guess the poor were forgotten).

Aujourd’hui, c’est le gros business (big business) and, bien sûr, last week the 17th annual competition of the Confederation of Bakers in the Paris region rewarded the pastry chef who produced les meilleures galettes des rois (the best) for the season. Strict rules ordered the size and decoration to conform to what was able to be produced regularly in any bakery shop. The 91 person jury looked at five criteria: baking perfection (golden in appearance), decoration, the taste of the almond paste (not too excessive), flakiness of the crust (must not stick to the palette) and the proportion of paste to pastry.

François Vacavant, who had finished 19th last year, rose to win this year, weeping as he was awarded his certificates and brass galette topped trophy. He was the All American success story, French style, when he announced that he had been brought up in a foster home and had to fight his entire life for anything he had ever gotten and stated that this was the apotheosis of his career. He announced it was the quality of the products he used that made the difference including a special butter from the Charentes-Poitou region and California almonds. (Amazing he didn’t lose points for those California almonds!) He should be happy. The IHT reports that last year’s winner doubled his galette sales from 3,500 to over 7,000 after having won the competition. M. Vacavant weeps for joy at the prospect of selling 7,000 galettes.

Martine Specialties, an industrial baker from the Dordogne region reports having sold 3.5 million frozen galettes to 15,000 bakeries throughout France. So much for the myth of your neighborhood baker staying up many nights to make certain your galette is perfect.

In southern France the galette can be purchased in the shape of a crown garnished with candied fruits. At Fauchon, you may buy a chocolate & praline filled galette while The Bon Marché is selling a celery, carrot and hazelnut vegetarian version. Laduree added strawberry pulp and cotton candy flavors to its almond paste while LeNotre has a 6 serving galette stuffed with foie gras, black truffles & the filling used in boudin blanc sausages on sale for $60 each. (Who eats it?) Needless to say the Confederation Chefs are outraged at the less than “galette” spirit of the culinary sacrilege being offered by les gros garçons (the big boys)!

Then there is the wonderful secondary market of “les collecteurs des fèves.” Last Sunday more than a 1,000 collectors held their annual congres buying and selling the precious collectibles. Some of those little “watch out or they may break your tooth” concoctions sell for les gros Euros (big bucks)! A retired train conductor, President of the Association of French Fabophiles, a (collectors of fèves) says he has more than 60,000 of them. He wrote a 126 page guide which divides them into hundreds of categories. They include symbols of royalty, masks, animals, historic buildings, articles of clothing, foods, paintings, professions (like geishas, Napoleonic soldiers, jazz musicians), objects such as coffeepots and radios, modes of transportation like Mongolfiere balloons, classic good luck fèves of four-leaf clovers and horseshoes as well the unlucky fèves of the guillotine. The most unusual have to be the set of twelve porcelain tiles showing sexual positions from the Kama Sutra. (Vive la France!)

Most of these collectors report eating 35 or more galettes in a season and confess to having a large network of les amis (friends) on the watch for them. Think about all of the galettes I could eat, if you, mes amis would want to start a collection! Bonne Annee!


Spring 2004, My Gentleman in Paris

Tulips, Primevera, Jonquils et oui chestnuts in blossom are everywhere in Paris for the last couple of weeks. They’re so beautiful from my sidewalk café that I’ve been spending more time than usual reading my paper, writing notes and drinking café au lait! Or maybe, I’ve been sitting much longer because of the gentleman watching me daily from across the street. There he is each morning when I arrive and still there when I leave. He’s been peering around a corner always with a pipe in his mouth that seems to give him a gentle look. He’s definitely middle-aged, with wavy hair and a very determined expression. I wanted to go over and invite him for a good chat and café au lait until I realized that he was everywhere looking at me as I wandered around Paris this week.

Wanting to report to you the latest changes in Paris, I wandered down the Champs-Elysee past the refurbished Drugstore at the top by the Arc de Triomphe. There He Was Again peering out at me. Perhaps, like me, he was just fascinated at the tubular, metal grasshopper shapes reaching several stories high on either side of the glass-paned Drugstore. They definitely dominant the building especially when they light les Madames Sauterelle (grasshoppers) at night, so you won’t miss seeing them.

Further down the avenue, across from Fouquets restaurant, on the old Air France building space, I stood in amazement looking up at the new Louis Vittuon building. The entire building has been designed to look like a 5 story high Louis Vittuon, brown and gold valise, unmistakably with the LVH pattern, brass rounded corners, and light brown leather handle. And, again, unmistakably on the corner watching me was my pipe smoking gentleman.

I hurried down the avenue noticing that the beautiful Guerlain building is closed up with a large A LOUER (for rent) sign marring the exquisite façade. It is a glaring “sign” of our down turned economic times in Paris on the left hand side of Le Champs and LVH must be doing something right on the right hand side of la rue. Les Cinemas all seem to continue to do good business as does McDo and Quick. But, other boutiques and restaurants come and go so fast, I can hardly keep up with them especially at the Gallerie 56 near the Rond-Point.

Les Fleurs des Printemps are amassed on the gentle hills on Le Rond Point. My gentleman was strategically placed, peering again, between Le Rond Point and the renovation taking place on the Grand Palais. While a portion of the Grand Palais has been opened for exhibitions, most of it remains closed while the roof is still being installed. The web-like metal arches of the open Grand Palais have given photographers a wonderful new artistic look at the Grand Palais. They’re daily on the site recording the sunrise, sunsets, misty fog, bright sunlight or dark shadows produced through the open rooftop.

Dominating the streets of Paris are now double decker, open-top (English style) tour buses. They’re everywhere in Europe and I admit enjoying them when I travel to other cities. I suppose they were fated to become part of the French landscape but somehow they don’t fit “le look” Parisien. Maybe, if they had insisted they were all painted “Wallace Fountain Green” or given an impressionist look but alas they’re red or yellow with lots of ads on the sides.

On avenue de l’Opera, Starbucks opened kitty-corner to Brentano’s Bookstore. Starbucks has taken Paris by storm as les branchers (literally plugged in) place to be! Les queues, c’est longue. (long lines) The locals love the fact they can emporter (take-away) their coffee in a paper cup. Most astonishing to most French! And, the tourists love sitting as long as you like in the Paris environment, sipping your coffee and buying a Starbucks – Paris mug to take home.

I bought my café au lait and looked for a spot to enjoy it when I saw Him, on the far wall toward the back. I spotted a place next to Him and decided it was time for le verity (the truth). As I approached, sat down and drank my coffee it became evident that He wasn’t watching me. It was himself he was looking at as He peered around the side of his canvas looking into a mirror, painting his self-portrait. Norman Rockwell is everywhere in Paris highlighting the Exhibition of “Auto portraits du XXeme Siecle” at the Musee du Luxembourg. While somewhat disappointed it wasn’t me he was stalking, I felt a certain pride that this American in Paris, for the moment, was dominiating the Champs-Elysee, the buses, and every corner sidewalk café. Vive L’Amerique!!!


Winter 2003, Red Hot Blvd in Paris

Sitting in my sidewalk cafe not believing snowstorms raging in the USA and we're still sitting outside ...well...at least sometimes. L'ete chaude (hot summer) slowly diminished to a very warm autumn, mais toutes le chaleur (but all that heat) is certainly not finished. Galeries Lafayette opened a new lingerie shop, inviting guests to sip champagne (bien sur) , stroll down a "street of temptation" named Le Red Hot Boulevard (don't you just love it??) and browse about at 80 different "strings" (the french word for thongs) and various other bustiers, garter belts, etc. To assist les femmes fatales they offered free, half-hour lessons by professional, striptease artists who were there to familiarize le monde (the world) with the art of revealing their new lingerie. (No, I didn't see Monica Lewinsky) The playful strippers enjoyed "the heat" and le presse of the moment immensely, not to mention the hot Euro's they got paid for their original performance.

To entice femmes fatales hopefuls, there has been a grande , sexually explicit advertising campaign which enflammed the feminist groups and even a few lawmakers got a little hot under the collar for a change.. A few cool, elite, aristocratic types were quoted with various "this is Paris chic?" or "what has Paris come to with strippers in Galeries Lafayette?" but their friends, and neighbors (of all ages) were hot to trot down to Galeries and enjoy the lessons! Remember those hot mamas you see in their fur coats, high heels, and mini skirts at les marches in the !6th arrondisement? Don't think for a moment that they didn't miss this event.

One of the more "hotly" contested ads showed a young woman removing her skirt, revealing her "string". Turning towards the camera she asks "Je suis un Vierge, et vous?" (I'm a virgin, and you?) The word Vierge is also the world for the astrological sign Virgo, so the manufacturers insist this is a really fun, play on words. Enter the Advertisement Verification Bureau, the French government advertising watchdog agency (I never knew they had one but somehow I'm not surprised) who have carefully examined all of the ads and probably the product, drank some champagne, held their meeting, listened to the femminist groups, and declared that they believe the anti-strings are going to far in calling it "porno chic" While they can curb what is shown on the tele, their recommendations to the print media have no force so it's c'est la vie all over again. Drink some more champagne and we'll calm the tele a bit. Malheursement, (unfortunately) , the subject changed quickly to the fact that the new boutique was name Le Red Hot Boulevard -- not at all acceptable to the academia.

Galeries insists that the rest of the world is "banal" when it comes to understanding that Lingerie is now a fashion statement. Last year French females (?) spent 18% of their clothing budget or $2.9 billion on lingerie, and their polls show that 87% of French men and women believe lingerie is a very important part of their life.

I couldn't help wonder if any of those women jamming the corridors of Le Red Hot Boulevard for their lessons with the painted ladies had a mother like mine.....the cross your legs, pull down your skirt, and don't paint your toenails red type.

I think I should start taking orders for the $29 string that comes in a see through plastic ball you can wear around your neck -- probably for emergencies or maybe to let guys know quickly that you didn't have one of those mothers!! I can't imagine why they shouldn't outsell those pet rocks I use to sell years ago. (I wonder if pet rocks wear strings???)

Les flammes (flames) of "les strings" were doused quickly (never to be heard of again) when le nouveau scandale erupted at L'Academie Francaise. The very pinnacle of the French literary world is heated up over whether or not Valery Giscard d'Estaing, the former French president, is an acceptable candidate for the Academie Francaise. Monsieur Maurice Druon, esteemed member of the elite society, wrote a poisonous article in Le Figaro newspaper accusing Giscard of being condescending, regal and worse, a bad writer. Maurice was particularly upset that Giscard spoke in English to the international news media after being elected as Presdient in 1974.....a mortal french sin.

The Academie was founded in 1635 and members of the group call themselves the Immortals. Needless to say, they take themselves very seriously and their position of keeping France, well French. Maurice explains that while President, Giscard when he was hosting dinners in the Elysee Palais never allowed anyone to sit across from him, taking his meal in front of an empty space, like a king at Versailles.....alas, another mortal sin, "royal tendancies." It's alright to be arrogant in France but not to have "royal tendancies."

Concerning Giscards poor writing, Maurice cites as an example from Giscards book of reflections on his presidency the fact that he wrote that " the sight of the partly revealed thighs of a female minister did not trouble him."

Poor Maurice, he must have had a mother like mine. Let's hope that Giscard was not one of the invited guests for the opening of Le Red Hot Boulevard, sipping champagne and buying a royal blue "string" for his femme!

Hugs to everyone!!!! I didn't have Dominique edit this yet but hey it's "hot" off the press!! Love Ellen


Fall 2003, Scandals in Paris

I’m sitting in my sidewalk café enjoying the beautiful fall sunshine while the men in their green YSL designed overalls are sweeping the falling leaves. The dying leaves symbolize " un été chaud" ( hot summer) that dies hard for France. The anti-war demonstrations were all but forgotten when "les vacances" began. But, summer started badly when Bernard Loiseau one of Frances beloved top chefs committed suicide after the Guide Michelin revealed that his restaurant had lost one of its coveted stars. Lots of speculation concerning the arbitrary manner in which these stars are awarded became the hot topic. Then Marie Trintignant a young movie star from a beloved family of directors and actors was killed during a domestic fight with her boyfriend Bertrand Cantat, a French singer, while on location in Lithuania. Domestic abuse, hardly ever discussed here, became the next hot topic with surprising statistics being revealed to the nation.

France was already in economic problems regarding lack of tourists due to its position concerning the War in Iraq and the SARS, virus when the entertainment employees of the nation decided to go on strike (en grève) shutting down summer festivals all over France; which in turn further hurt the local economies. The entertainers were upset because the government had decided to cut back their unemployment benefits from 1 year to 8 months, requiring them to work an additional 40 hours per year to qualify for benefits. Again, a surprised nation couldn’t believe how little they had to work to gain a full years unemployment benefits. Of course, the strong debate still continues on the importance of so many of these artists in our midst.

Then, the hottest summer of record in Paris (many days more than 100 degs.) started questioning not only the Parisien emergency plans but also its morals. Too many doctors, nurses, and emergency workers on vacation in August left too few to handle the huge influx of elderly people found dying in their apartments. Overworked Emergency workers were so slow that many of these dead people were left in their apts. for days until the workers could catch up with the demand. The media began to report that families were not coming forward to claim the bodies, obviously preferring to stay on vacation. The government is pointing fingers at families and the people are pointing fingers at the government. C’est the vrai scandale!!

In addition, local shopkeepers started coming on the news hot under the collar that factories and distribution centers were shut down in August preventing them from ordering additional fans, and air conditioning units that would have saved the French (and obviously helped their sales).

Alas, each "scandale" doesn’t last long until the next one comes along so now the French are caught up in the fact that another movie star becomes the governor of California. Arnie the Terminator is really a mystery to the ever-political French. They love the fact that his wife is "un Kennedy" but (mais) for him to govern the 6th largest economy in the world right behind them at number 5 is beyond belief (étonnant)! And, with Hillary Clinton’s book doing well here, the other politically hot topic is whether or not she will be the next President of the USA.

Thankfully, the film "Le Divorce" hit the theaters this week. Finally we can all have a good laugh at the Franco-American stereotypes. For any of you that loved living in France this is a must see. Some of you will recognize Mary-Louise Sillman (the lady that makes jewelry) included in a bit part in the film. She speaks to Glenn Close during a book signing in the film. "Le Divorce" by Diane Johnson has been a best selling book here for sometime along with the sequels, "L’Affaire," and her latest one is "Le Marriage."

Another top seller for the Franco-Anglais crowd is "Almost French" by Sarah Turnbull. It’s lots of fun too with a down to earth look at the realities of a Franco-Australian couple. She has the additional insight of a journalist who is able to get in to some interesting interviews.

Mon café au lait is cooling down and so is summer…..let’s hope winter doesn’t freeze the French, Ellen


Spring, 2001, SPRINGTIME IN PARIS...DRIP, DRIP, DRIP

Il tombe des cordes (it's raining ropes) à Paris.It's been so drippy all winter that tout le monde had been predicting un beau printemps and then it rained 24 days in the mois d'Avril. Les quais on the Seine were closed more than open and the mood of the Parisiens got drippier chaque jour!!! So to cheer things up Jose Bové, a French farmer in the SW became a cult hero for his anti-globalization protests which included rounding up des amis and throwing things at a McDonalds'. Soon after, the press rained on his parade when they reported that the increased sales at McDonalds-France this past year far surpassed any other European nation; really soggy news for les gastronomes....Then TF 1 bought the rights to create a French version of the TV series " Survivor". The Loft Story became the top TV show of the year (oui en anglais - l'histoire is : 11 single persons locked up in a loft, TV cameras on them "jour and nuit" et chaque semaine one of them is voted out) ; and le film "Shrek" was a big hit at the Cannes Film Festival : it was the first time an animated film had been allowed since Peter Pan in 1953 ......so, bien sur, all of this dampened l'esprit of the film industry qui pleure big time tears over anything English invading the culture.

Politics got a little drippy when M. Bertrand Delanoe, the premier homesexuel, was elected mayor of Paris. La droite et la gauche were all heading for leurs parapluies when reporters tried to interview them for their reactions after the election.

To handle all of the stress, j'imagine, la nouvelle mode this season is easy listening music (musique facile). There's a new radio station playing it with top ratings..the magazines refer to it as "cool, destressee and slow funk" C'est partout! It's the "in" thing for les soirées garconnières (bachelor parties), les vendredis de L'Alcazar (Paris top nightclub), or anytime at the famous Buddha Bar where pink Martinis and Remy Cointreau reign .

Remy-Cointreau has been one of the hot spots en bourse (stockmarket) this year. Seems not only the French but the rest of the world has rediscovered it! The rest of la bourse has been as damp as the weather, malheureusement.

The most interesting exhibition this spring was an open door at l'Institut de formation des restaurateurs d'oeuvres d'art (IFOA). C'est l'ecole where the best art students from all over the world chaque annee compete for 25 apprenticeships to learn from the French masters les techniques of fine art restoration..only drippy thing here were the drops of paint!

Et, le scandale of the saison is "La Vie Sexuelle de Catherine" un livre de Catherine Millet. It's been topping the best sellers chart for weeks and along with The Loft Story , the election of M. Delanoe, and porn on l'internet, the presse has declared 'le triomphe du voyeurisme'!! L'Express magazine has an interesting article comparing it all to les scandales of the paintings « Olympia » de Manet , « Bain turc » de Ingres, « La Maja nue » de Goya or les dessins érotiques de Rodin. Mais, they conclude nothing, but comme d'habitude the French have something new to debate .art or voyeurism?

Je pense, I will let les intellectuels debate while I take my copy of "La Vie" to the Buddha Bar, order a Remy, and let the musicque facile destress me until the rain stops!!!!!

A bientot.......Ellen


Winter, 2001, CAFÉ AU LAIT FROM A SIDEWALK CAFÉ

I'm sitting in my sidewalk café, drinking café au lait, eating galette des rois, and watching all of the Smart Cars outmaneuvering everyone else. Ces petites voitures se faufilent partout dans les rues de Paris! They're made by Daimler-Chrysler, designed by Swatch teams et le nouveau phenom ici a Paris!

Tout va bien pendant Noel in Paris except no one's eating beef. The vache folle disease is a reality and the only ones that are happy about it are the boucheries parce que leur business is great..seems the supermarche meat departments have been abandoned for the trusted butcher who is selling more rabbit, lamb, and various indescribable delicacies, helping their bottom line.

The city was magnificent , comme d'habitude, and with the beautiful lighting of tous les ponts it has become even more the Ville Lumiere. One of the fountains on La Place de la Concorde has completed its "magnifique" regilding and the other is in progress. Au Printemps feted Le Noel of "glamrock"! The streets in front were filled with pinkish to purplish stars in the trees, les mannequins (Barbie inclus) in the windows promoting the same colors-le nouveau look! Only thing is Pere Noel must not have delivered because everyone I see is still in black!!

Galeries Lafayette opted for the more traditional sapin de Noel vert in the center atrium and outside aussi AVEC crystal chandeliers from Baccarat used as ornaments. They paid homage to the glamrock fuchsia pink color on the front cover of their catalog with a seductive model in satin long dress and a pink LAPIN. They've got Halloween down to a tee but haven't figured out yet that rabbits are for Easter!!

Speaking of Baccarat, I went to buy another piece of the Baccarat Nativity set and was told they've discontinued "le produit" ! Quelle horreur!! Mary and Baby Jesus were going to be left without Joseph mais merci a Dieu my belle soeur in Lyon a trouve the pauvre Joseph for me.

Et, the icing on the cake for the holidays was once again La Tour Eiffel. The city had decided to leave the 22,000 sparkling twinkle lights on this past millennium year. They come on for 10 minutes at the top of the hour. For New Years Eve they needed a nouveau spectacle so Le Figaro reported some brave frenchmen spent quatre jours climbing all over the tower putting "les condoms bleu" over each twinkle light!! Oh the blessing of paying "les impots francais!"

A bientot.......Ellen


Summer, 2000, CAFÉ AU LAIT FROM A SIDEWALK CAFÉ

Nous avons eu un mauvais été à Paris..Printemps Haussmann sold 4,500 parapluies in the month of juillet et 3,500 "paires de mules." Yes, the open backed shoe "mule phénom" is big here too but wouldn't you know it, not as many comfortable looking ones..more stiletto heels. J'Adore, the new parfum from Christian Dior is selling at the rate of 600 bottles a month at the same store."...so we smell adorable walking in the rain, getting our feet soaking wet!!!

"Qui veut gagner des millions?" was the most popular summer show --you got it.. "Who wants to win millions". Same idea as its English and American counterparts but top prize is only $500,000..the most popular exhibition has been "La Terre vue du ciel" presented on the grilles of the jardin du Luxembourg.

Bien sûr, les Français are intrigued with our politicals..interestingly Gore seems to be getting the most coverage. He's reported as an intellectual because of his book, his friends, "l'internet", his education mais "the Tipper kiss" at the convention has them shaking "leurs têtes"!! Former President Bush was well appreciated in France and his son is "la dynastie" but beyond that they don't understand a Texas Oilman anymore than they understood a Hollywood Actor. It's just beyond their comprehension of who should be a politician ! Also, Joe Lieberman discussing his faith so openly is a real "mystère" too but any discussion of him is quite "guarded".

"L'internet" is playing catch-up in France..companies/entrepeneurs are scrambling to make alliances with "les Américains" .Amazon.com has announced a new "centre" for Europe locating in France..les académiciens are howling about the infiltration of English words like "business angel"..even stuffy Le Monde has blazing headlines about "les start-ups"...they are having a difficult time inventing "tous les mots" needed for this "phénomène"..can you imagine how many bottles of wine need to be consumed while you're inventing a "nouveau mot" for dot.com?? (You can ask my daughter, she probably knows as she loves wine and is also writing an Internet Dictionary!)

All of Europe (France is no exception) has been enchanted with "le petit Leo" the surprise son for Tony and Cherie Blair. Et le prince Charles Napoléon, 5th generation descendant of Jérome the brother of The Napoleon, is running for mayor of Ajaccio, the capital city of Corse..even though titles and privileges were thrown out with the French Revolution, it intrigues me how the journalists love to recount his lineage etc. and even call him "le prince" ...these tidbits are important for me as conversation starters in a sidewalk café. If you want to get the french a-going just ask them why they still call him "le prince Charles Napoléon?" ... Et "le roi " du cinéma francais, Gérard Depardieu, has successfully recovered from his "quintuple pontage coronarien" ( heart by-pass surgery)..

Harry Potter hit France aussi.. 3 million "d'exemplaires" vendus le premier weekend...pour moi "Chocolat" by Joanne Harris (en anglais) is the fun book of summer... et oui "les scooters" craze est ici.... "les trottoirs" de Paris are ideal for "leurs moteurs" but dodging tourists is the challenge....time to take "mon scooter" et roule!!!!

A bientot.......Ellen


Spring, 2000, Bonjour from Egypt!!

Just back from our Holy Land and Egypt trip and full of thoughts on Egypt. Since I had visited it in 1981 I was excited to revisit to see what has changed. The country still remains one of the poorest I've ever seen outside of Haiti but then I've never been to India. People are still living in the cemetery known as the City of the Dead in Cairo and in the countryside and most of Cairo is dirty, dirt patted, with trash everywhere and people still digging through the trash for an income.

We still had to be careful of what we ate due to the use of every kind of fertilizer in the fields....no fresh veggies for example, and only fruit that you could peel. Since we stayed in a top hotel our meals were wonderful but still had to be careful.

On the bad news side the pollution is hardly tolerable. You can smell it and see it in the brown haze. It does mean that more people can afford cars. The infrastructure of roads has increased dramatically. We still saw lots of donkey carts and water buffalo in the fields but 2/3 less than before. The hordes of children begging at the busses did not happen this time. You can easily see that the entire country is now aware of how important the tourist business is to them.

The children are dirty, run barefoot, but look well fed and definitely happy as do most people. Before, 90% of the women I saw between 12 and 50 was pregnant but not so this time. I guess the Peace Corps finally got the birth control taught as they were trying to do then. This time we even saw many beautiful young girls in western dress and make-up but less than 10% of the population.

There were far more Papyrus factories and now several hand made rug factories. We stopped for a tour at one and they explained that a group of business people have come in with these factories teaching the young children the craft along with their education. They only work (the children) 3 hours a day at the loom in return for their training which seemed on the face of it a good program. As they said, it's better than having them run loose in the fields with no hope of a future. The factories were clean and the children bright eyed, happy, and well fed.

In 1981 the Museum was a chaotic place crammed full and not well identified. It has taken a big step forward with much better professional displays in better thought out space and another museum opened to take some of the load of artifacts. The only problem now is that its crammed with people and difficult to see everything. The entire King Tut display has been redone and very worthwhile. Wonderful in fact!!!

The area near the 3 pyramids and sphinx has been redone with a road running through it and parking areas for the buses so now the tourists can actually go up and touch the pyramids. They're not suppose to climb them but of course some do. There are police on camels everywhere near there and lots of armed police around. Our bus (and every tourist bus) is given a guard since the bad tourist incidents but I'm not sure what he could really do except make us feel better, I suppose. Despite all of that I felt safer than before. However, you would never want to walk away from your group or you may never be found again....especially western women, I'm sure.

The Americans with us who had never been there were appalled at the conditions people were living in etc. but I can actually see a change for the better in most part. It is still always unnerving to see such horrible living conditions and yet a tv antennae on the roof.

We had one lunch at a local place on the Nile. As we entered the area on the ground, outside the kitchen sat 2 ladies making the bread. Both were barefoot and in long traditional, black, Muslim attire with scarves on their heads, in the heat sifting flour, kneading dough and putting it on wooden shovels to through in hot, open stoves. Yummy bread though!!!

It's still a great experience to see the pyramids and this land along the Nile and imagine Moses basket in the water; Joseph and Mary riding into town and seeing those same pyramids, and a country that moves so slowly in its progress.

A bientot.......Ellen


Winter, 2000, bonjour from the Holy Land, here's my "not so humble opinion epistle"...Ellen style

First I say....go, go, go and go to the Holy Land soon before they build over every square inch of that little country. It's so amazing to see the already overbuilt areas and how they are extending everywhere. It's really sad to see the Shepards Hill near Bethlehem as it is almost disappearing into highrise apartments. Still a few hills and very few shepards watching their sheep but it won't be long.....

We started in the north and worked our way toward Jerusalem which was ideal for me because I think I would have been somewhat discouraged only seeing the overbuilt, almost tourist trap examples of Christian tradition around Jerusalem. By starting in the north, where it is not yet overbuilt (but encroaching) I was soon in the "spirit" of being in the holy land.

We daytripped out of Tiberias on the Lake of Galilee which is still much the same as when Jesus walked the hills and crossed the lake, for the moment, only the small towns exist and thankfully not resorts and rollercoasters on the lake, but rolling hills and pathways and natural environment which hasn't changed in centuries. We were fortunate to be there in the best of mild spring weather with the fields full of wildflowers....the brightest red poppys I have ever seen as well as flowers and thistles of yellows and purples etc. It was one of my most pleasant surprises. It was easy to see how Jesus spoke of the lilies of the fields and the birds and the fish, etc. as the whole area is alive with all of those. The birds sing endlessly.

We were at the Mount of Beatitudes toward the end of the day which was such a pleasure as the area has been preserved in its natural state. More of a rolling hill than a mountain as I had imagined with a beautiful view back to the Lake. It's almost an idyllic setting. The church built on the site is small and up the hill from the cave area where it is believed Jesus sermon was given. The simple church is octagonal, its sides corresponding to the eight Beatitudes. It has rectangular windows at eye level with a superb view back over the lake.

We had lunch of local fish(St. Peters fish, what else?) from the lake at a Kibbutz on Lake Galilee and then crossed the Lake to the Mount. In the middle of the lake the pilot turned off the engines and we had a small service and enjoyed the silence of the area.....just lapping water and singing birds....amazing feeling of centuries of the same. I was constantly taking pictures of unusual flowers, or vegetation in the area...lush, colorful, and often different.

Nazareth is still quite a small town and the church built over "Mary's House" is believable due to its location to the city well and the fact that excavations have found hundreds more oil lamps there than in other buildings in the town. The early church was, tradition says, meeting in her house which makes sense.....thus all of the oil lamps. Just down the hill lays the still small village of Cana where Jesus first miracle took place. In those days if there was a wedding anyone and everyone could come...no invitation needed and our guide told us it is still much the same today. It was why the best wine was usually served first to the known guests and the people passing by as the festivities continued got the "left-overs." Therefore, the surprise at the good wine being saved for last. The roads (which aren't many) are built over the old roads or paths so it was easy to imagine Jesus and his mothers walk from Nazareth to Cana.

Capernaum was fabulous and so unexpected. A fishing village on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee where Jesus was known to have lived after being "thrown out" of Nazareth. The walls of the synagogue of Jesus day exist but a newer, now excavated synagogue had been built on top. This town has been somewhat excavated near the city center around the synagogue and Peters house. Again, Peters house was used for worship by the early Christians and so many more oil lamps found in the excavations than in other houses or buildings. Jesus called some of his first disciples at the lakeside here and taught in the synagogue.

There is a site with a small church (Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes) at the area of the lake where it is believed Jesus fed the 5000. Again, a simple site thought to be correct because of the continuing worship by the local Christians in the area. But, the most impressive, for me was along the lake not far from there where the simple Church of St.Peters Primacy had been built at the spot where Jesus appeared to Peter after his resurrection and asked him "Peter do you love me.....feed my sheep." Anyway, they're fairly certain of this area because the early Christians had carved three large stones in the shape of hearts. When they couldn't or didn't use the sign of the fish they used the heart. A simple, quiet, but moving place on the lake.

Another moving spot was Caesarea Philippi (Banyas) where Jesus was known to have visited when he asks His disciples "Who do people say that I am?". From here he began his journey toward Jerusalem and began preparing his disciples for his ultimate destiny. It's at the foot of Mt Hermon and is the abundant spring which is the chief source of the Jordan river. Again, such beautiful vegetation.

In the north we also visited Mt Carmel where you can see from the Mediterranean to the Jordan river over the Jezreel Valley. Quite a majestic setting and easy to see the old caravan trade routes (which are now highways) and how they crossed the valley and why they were so easily seen from here. It is the traditional site of Elijah's contest with the 450 prophets of Baal. This was really fun for us as we've been deeply studying the Old Testament this year and just seeing the area is fabulous. Again, the verdant valley, wildflowers, thistles, etc. was remarkable.

Caesarea on the sea is the most expensive city to live in all of Israel. The smallest house begins at 1 million dollars; it has the only golf club in Israel and the President of the Israel lives here as did Pontius Pilote in Jesus time. He only went to Jerusalem for the feasts . It's 23 miles south of Mt Carmel and was one of Herod the Great's major triumphs. Between 22 and 9 BC he turned this minor coastal station into a major Mediterranean port. Excavations have uncovered brilliant engineering feats which created the 3.5 acre harbor. Along the sea Phoenician glass still washes up...small broken pieces well rounded by the sea. It was the provincial capital of Judea. It was the home of Herod Agrippa and if you read Acts 12 you get the account of his death in the citys theatre. It also has impressive remains from the Byzantine and Crusader periods. It was one of Pauls missionary journey spots (Acts 18 and 21) and he was imprisoned there for 2 years and then sent from there by ship to Rome for trial.

We traveled up through the north section on the Golan Heights. Our guide was a Palestinian Christian who gave us the insight on the culture, traditions, early church and Roman Catholic sites, some politics of the land while our senior pastor gave us the Protestant/Christian perspectives as well as devotional moments throughout the trip. We appreciated so much our Palestinian Christian guide and came away with some very different perspectives about the entire country. On the Golan Heights, for example, it is easy to see why Israel is so reluctant to give that back without very definite agreements. It's simply too easy to toss bombs, missles, or what have you from those ridges into the country......on the other hand it was easy for us to see the political unrest of the Palestine peoples. As we went through Israeli villages, the homes are beautiful, well built, landscaped, finished etc. In the Palestine villages, most homes aren't finished but are works in progress and there is trash everywhere. We were told while the Palestine peoples pay the same taxes as Israeli's they do not enjoy the same services; roads not finished, no trash pick-up, not enough schools etc. So their cry becomes "no peace without justice." For them justice is being treated the same. They cannot get mortgages like the Israelis so they must finish their homes in pieces, for example.

It's evident that none of them trust the other and probably with good reason. The three factions, Jews, Palestine Moslems and Palestine Christians all have different agendas needless to say but my concern has certainly been heightened for the the Palestine Christians. Their plight is the most difficult as they aren't in agreement with Yassar Arrafat and don't feel he is at all looking out for their situation and of course the Jews aren't either so more and more of them leave. At one point they were 16% of the Palestine population but are now down to 2%. As Wisam (we-sahm) our guide points out, if the Christians leave there is no one to protect the Christian sites, etc. and he means against the Palestine Moslems as well as the Jews. For example, Bethlehem is in the Palestine domain but the Shepards Hill is fast disappearing. They're building everywhere and the hillsides are almost gone with just a few small shepards pastures left for the sheep etc. Hebron and Jericho are also on the Palestine side and the Christian sites there are needy as well.

The illegal settlements that Netanyahu illegally built on the Palestine side outside of Jerusalem sit on those hills provoking the ill will each day. They really do seem like a slap in the face and now that I see it, I began to wonder why "the world" wasn't more outraged that he did it and then moved Jews in there, for example. Why didn't we stop it in the middle of the construction etc. Couldn't we have done something?

Anyway, I've gone on enough.....coming from the north to the south toward Jerusalem is a vast change of landscape from verdant valleys and hills to wilderness. On the Palestine side people are still living in caves in some areas. Our most interesting lunch was on the hillside in Bethlehem in a Bedouin Tent. It's obviously been set up for tourists but very well done in showing the traditional way the Bedouins live and eat.

While Jerusalem was interesting for me spiritually it was not as moving because of the vast overbuilt situation on the Christian sites. The MT of Olives and Garden of Gethsemane overlooking the Kidron Valley toward Jerusalem was probably the most inspiring although the Mt of Olives and Garden are such small remains of what they most probably once were. Thank you to Rome for holding tight to these areas so we can get a small glimpse at least of them. Also, a big thank you to the Brits for buying and maintaining the Garden Tomb area near the hill called Golgatha which seemed more logically to be the site of Jesus crucifixion, outside of the city wall, than the site at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre which was a most unappealing structure. The really horrible thing about that church is that it is possessed by 5different Christian groups + the Moslems who put strict rules on each other and basically can't get along;the Ethiopians, Armenians, Coptics, Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholics and Muslims. Now just imagine adding Protestants to the mix. What a deal. If Christians can't get along (much less Moslems) how is it ever going to work?

Another interesting thing I learned, that puts new light for me on the Moslems rights; the Dome of the Rock is where the old Jewish Temple of Jesus Day once stood and is now the area fought over by the Jews and Moslems. The Jews rightly date the area to King David and Solomon's temple destroyed in 587BC then the 2nd temple rebuilt and finally completed under Herod the Great. His huge retaining walls are what define the Temple Mount today. It was completely destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD and for the next 6 CENTURIES was abandoned and used as a rubbish dump by the Byzantine Christians. The Muslim conquest meant that they took it over believing Mohammed had visited there. They built a shrine and later their mosque and have held it ever since. So come on.....how ya ever gonna justify taking it back from them without WWIII????

Anyway, you can see we were stimulated, moved, educated and have a huge desire to return? Anyone wanta go with us????

A bientot.......Ellen


Summer, 1999, Bonjour everyone, Ellen's Latest Epistle

We're back in Florida after our 6 weeks on the road in America and in France, and I must say we're happy to be home. We left here the first of June and had a wonderful trip up the east coast stopping at Ken and Janet Friedman in the Washington DC area. I can report they look great and are back to being Americans again, especially caught up in "auctioning-bidding" for things on the Internet. It's a natural for Ken with his stamp collection etc.. but Janets caught the bug with bidding for things French and has already had some nice finds!!!

We also visited Monticello for the first time and will report more about that on an epistle....but loved it, of course! Also some other civil war historically sights along the way which we love to absorb!

Then on to Philadelphia and visited with Jim and Jan Donlevie in their beautiful new, huge, home which is showing off very prettily all of their French purchases. We had a lovely day at the heart of our country in Philadelphia, touring the historic district. The city has really been working on that over the last years and doing a beautiful job. We want to go back and spend more time in the area; it's so rich with history and beautiful spots!!!

Then to France and a quick 2 weeks mainly spending time with Mama Soret, our kids, and getting baby Lea baptized. Unfortunately, I got sick and didn't get half as much done as I wanted to and slowed down the visit for Dominique as well. Took me a good week back in the states to feel really human again. So much for my reputation as a jetsetter--and as you all know I don't even drink the wine! (Did imbibe in some of the yummy,stinky cheese though so suppose the FDA would say that was my problem.)

Bill Witherell took us to a great new restaurant that I hereby recommend to everyone on your return visits. It's on the left bank, directly on the river with waterside tables looking back toward the small statue of Liberty (right now on a visit to Japan) and the Eiffel Tower. Great menu, well priced. excellent food and view, of course, and valet parking!!!! It's called Pavillon Panama; Reservations 01 44 37 10 21. It's at Port de Javel-Haut in the 15th. Acces par le Pont de Grenelle. Good idea to call for reservations, I suspect. (Their creme brulee was on par with Thoumieux!)

Back to the states, we stayed a couple of nights with the DeLuryeas catching up on their news and pictures of their new "villa" at Hilton Head, as well as news and photos from their recent Berlin-Paris-South of France trip. Now there's the jetsetters!!!

Then on to Boston to David Witherells wedding which was just lovely.....very New England charming. It was in his wifes' small New England White Steepled, stained glass window church near her parents family compound. They had a 5 piece, do you say orchestra (?), and wonderful weather for the day. The bride beautiful and the groom very dapper! The reception was under a large white tent at the family compound in a beautiful setting high on hills overlooking the lake below. Lots of decorative touches, beautiful flowers and even candles in the trees. The bride and her mother had worked on all of the planning for more than 2 years and it showed.

Tom Duggan assisted with the wedding. It was great fun to catch up with Gail and Tom and their kids too. Chris' little Liam is a delightful child. Very curious stage and roaming everywhere.

On to my mothers in South Dakota for the 4th of July, a good visit and then on to KC to see Erin and her new love Mike. We loved Mike and so happy to have him in her life and ours. Erin stays really busy with all of her freelance Internet work. She has a new client out of England so that just gave her an all expense paid trip to England for a few days, which she loves.

We had a really fun "catch up with Ellen's old friends potluck" while we were in KC. Most of the people I hadn't seen in 14 years, since I left the states and none of them had ever met Dominique. So they got us all at one shot.....Dominique, Mike, Erin and me! It was great fun to catch up on their lives and their children. Many of their kids had been in my children's choir, even years before, at the Methodist church and now they're all grown and many with children. Had to find out all the Royals Baseball catch-up too as I hardly know anyone left on the team. Good thing some of them go on to be part of the management. It really made us reflect again on the BEAUTY OF FRIENDSHIPS. What a joy these people had brought to my life and even after 14 years it was as if we'd never been apart.

We were anxious to get home and on with life in Florida. We intend to stay "planted" here for awhile as Dominique has just agreed to a position as the sales rep to France for a Florida based Canadian company selling electronic components. All of France is his territory but he'll work mainly here by phone, fax and the Internet just keeping up for the moment with their existing clientele. Down the road it might involve some travel. Anyway, he won't mind some travel to France as that gives him more opportunities to see his mother and the boys.....and of course baby Lea!!

This is going to be a new experience for Dominique in many ways. Not only learning about the sales end of business but after his interview the CEO said, "by the way Dominique, here in the office you don't have to wear your suit and tie. You can dress like me." ...which was shorts and polo shirt. New twist for a Frenchman but Dominique loves it. He's a real beach bum at heart! He'll work from 7am to 3pm because of the time difference to Europe. He loves that idea too because it gives him beach time and our long evenings.

So thats our news.....we love it here. All the sunshine does me a lot of good....definitely not as "moody" as Paris!

It's warm here but many days not as hot as the temperatures we see up north. Inland here gets stifling hot but here at the beach we're in great shape with lovely afternoon and evening breezes.

Hope this finds everyone having a great summer. I'm sure you found, as I did, with the news of JFK Jr.. death that I just wanted to reach out and touch/love/hug our kids even more. Such a reminder that we need to do that often not only with our kids but each other. I've been profoundly moved by it all this past week!

A bientot.......Ellen


Winter, 1999, Bonjour everyone, Election Fever Heats Up, Ellen for President!

I wanted you, my dearest understanding friends to know that I am ready to announce that" I'm going to announce " my candidacy for President of the United States of America. That's right....I'm throwing my beret in the ring!! I've already gotten caught up in the pre-election selection media hype and talk show circuit repartee because I was so sick of hearing about Y2K and I made a startling discovery. THE AMERICAN DREAM IS STILL ALIVE ---- I TOO COULD BE A CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT.

Here's how I see it stacking up: My biggest problem is going to be which party will have the privilege of me running on their ticket. I'll probably wait until I do the "Larry King Live" show to decide. I'll just be coy until then. When both of them see what a front runner I'd be.....well, we'll just wait for the offers to come in.

I've thoroughly evaluated the competition and can easily see where I'm the consensus candidate.

Elizabeth Dole: She's already bowed out but I figure that her ground swell came from the fact that she gave such an endearing speech about how much she loved her husband and, of course, the fact that she'd be the FIRST woman president.....well, here I am your token woman and I've been giving the most endearing speech (ad nausea) for years about being married to such a wonderful tall, dark, handsome, sexy, shy Frenchman....endearing me to hundreds of American Bloomies for years...so imagine when I get on OPRAH with that line!!! Only obstacle here is that Dominique refuses to do VIAGRA commercials.

George W. Bush: Gotta admit this is gonna be a tough one---he's the candidate to beat with all that money in his war chest so I'm counting on you folks to help me financially and give a few tea parties and invite your friends in for $1000 a pop.....once we get over that hurdle he's no match for me. I don't know who the prime minister is of ANY country except France (and I wanna forget that one) and England and besides I couldn't pronounce half their names anyway even if I could spell them. I could easily stir up an international scandal on my opinion s of the French government and how they do things and try to get even for all those nasty "asides" they sling our way. We'll use France as our new perceived enemy --- trade wars over infiltrating us with all those Louis Vitton bags while at the same time refusing our hormone injected meat. (See I got the issues down.) That should go over real big since most Americans seem to think the French don't like us anyway. I'll look strong when I prove them right!!!!

As far as a scandal in my past, well I never tried cocaine but got lots of witnesses to how much wine I've consumed in 14 years in Paris not to mention fermented Cider, Champagne, cognac and other such demon juices. No, more importantly my scandal is going to rival his sister-in-law, our governor Jeb Bush's wife. She went to Paris and bought a lot of designer gowns and foolish woman forgot to take off the labels, etc. and then somehow forgot to declare them to customs when she came back to the states. Our pork barrel politicians in Fla really had a field day with that one and poor woman ended up in front of the state legislature publicly apologizing. I thought they were going to make her wear a scarlet S for smuggler!! I'll have to admit, probably on the Jay Leno show, after the press ferrets out a line up of airline passengers who got whiffs of my, smuggled in continually over the last 14 years ,non-pasturized cheese....camemberts, livarots and the like. Even though I've wrapped them in cellophane and placed them in American ZipLoc bags....I've had a few strange looks over the years so know they'd find someone to report it. Careful out there....a few of you have eaten the contraband and could be accessories to the fact!

Then there is John McCain to deal with. Well, he's formidable too I admit and I certainly (thankfully) can't compete with his POW status. I did wear a POW bracelet for one of his collegues so that might get me some brownie points and did live in Taiwan during the VietNam War, off base on the economy while my first husband was an Air Force officer and YES another scandal, I'm sure the press can dig up someone that might remember that I bought some things from the commissary for our neighboring bakery so he could make chocolate chip cookies and sell them to "zee G I's"!

Anyway, I figured I have John McCain beat when the news leaked out that he's stubborn and has a temper!!! W E L L..... no problem. I can find an army of witnesses starting with my daughter as to just how stubborn I am.....my mother will attest to the fact too I'm certain......then the temper, well I hate injustice....so have been known to more than sizzle under the collar over my perception of injustice........and without a doubt I can leak a few names to the press that will be all too happy to give an interview about my "benevolent dictator" tendencies!!! John your done!!!! I Gottcha beat!!!

Then there's Al Gore! He's a cinch since I learned that he hired a woman to help him be an alpha man! When I was in business in Kansas City, I used to have a personal shopper at my local department store that clothed me (not in righteousness) but developed my executive female image.....well, anyway, she picked out some clothes when they came in that might fit me and my budget and called me up....but I'm sure this little fact could easily be embellished into something more sinister as "just because I dressed the part" didn't mean I WERE ONE!!!! And, I went to a couple of seminars, and listened to a lot of Zig Ziglar type tapes to help me increase my I CAN DO ANYTHING attitude and look less wooden!!!

Al's been a stand by your man type friend to his boss not YET writing a tell all book about him but if he ever writes a tell all or gives a tell all interview, well, no problem, I have a couple of former bosses that might make Bill Clinton look like a mild child!

Now Bill Bradley.....this one might be my toughest foe! Hard to get to know this one.....he smiles a lot and stays cool....smiling I got no problem with.....staying cool a little more difficult while at the same time I want the world to know that I've got a temper to match McCain. But since living in Florida, I've learned a lot about getting laid back. Don't play basketball which seems to be, so far, the most mentioned thing about him on any media event but have cavorted with a few "sports" in my days and recently found an old picture of me riding in a caravan with the baseball players for a tickertape parade in downtown Kansas City after the Royals won the World Series.....course I was 50 lbs lighter and 15 years younger so it takes a little imagination. I could always pull out (notice I didn't say wear) my old HighSchool Cheerleading Outfit and red/white pom poms, show up for a college football games and yell "First in Ten Do IT Again" a few times just to let the media know I've still got it!

Then there's that other sport---Jesse Ventura! No problem. My younger brother will gladly come forward and tell how many times I beat him up(until he got bigger than me) so he'd do his share of the work I wrestled with him more than once I tell you and I did it for nothing. No big television contract and I didn't have to wear face make up and grease my body. Course it mighta been more fun! And, after Jesse's latest I figure I can beat him with the foot in mouth disease - no problem.

Donald Trump, I figure, will blow himself out of the water when some new blonde bimbo with plastic boobs and under 21 passes his way. If not, well, he can't put more than 2 ideas together at the same time and I've got Dominique behind me to give me at least 4 more than that. Who's he got left?

Steve Forbes is never going to make it past Iowa. The east coast might "get" him but poor guy doesn't seem to have much more than his intelligence going for him. Since I'm not heavy on that (more tabloid I am) I'm going to rely more on "she could be fun and interesting press" to get me through. I figure the press has gotta think you're worth a lot of stories or you're never gonna get elected and boy do I have the stories to leak.

No, I think the ONLY possible potential candidate that might just beat me is if Hillary Rodham Clinton decided to give up the senate race and go for president. I can outnumber her name, with Ellen Kuper Jansen Soret, she's got more degrees but I"VE LIVED IN PARIS. She's only got Slick Willy...I got Dominique. I figure the tabloid crowd is going to love my "I looked Shy Di Right In The Eye While Charles Stood By!" better than her Yale dissertation.....I figure though what might do me in here is when Barbara Walters slyly gets Dominique - the future first husband--on an interview and at the last moment hits him with THE RIGHT question and honest as that man is he tells the World that I'm no stand by your man when he plays with the help....."No, remember my Ellens got a temper she's no Hillary.......she's definitely Lorena Babbitt."

SEE YOU AT THE POLLS!

A bientot.......VOTE FOR ELLEN!


Winter, 1998, vagabonding across Europe and the U.S.

Bonjour from Aux Etats-Unis! - After she lived in Paris for 13 years, her and her lovely French husband, Dominique, decided to retire early in the States and are now in South Florida!

Learning about French history in America

Dominique and I have been roaming around aux etats-unis since July and have some fun "French Finds" to relate. Besides New Orleans there are many-a francophile moments. L'etat dakota du sud -- home of where les bison fute roam --- has The Verendrye monument standing on a hill overlooking their capital, Pierre. In 1920 some school children found an engraved silver plate firmly emplaced in the gound, dated 1743 claiming the land for the King of France by an expedition headed by Verendrye.

Down river in St. Joseph, Mo. is a small museum dedicated to Joseph Robidoux III, a french immigrant, fur trapper and trader who had traded independently until John Jacob Astor's American Fur Co. bought him, getting rid of the competition and writing the first 3 yr. "non-competitive clause" contract in the history of the country. He went to St. Louis trades with Jean Lafitte, the french privateer during the 3 years and then returns to the Missouri River area. He opened his Roubidoux landing and began trading again. He set up his brothers in the business and soon controled a chain of posts (including Fort Roubidoux near Fort Laramie)all along the Sante Fe Trail, the Colorado area, Utah, New Mexico, Yellowstone and up and down the river from Kansas City- Council Bluffs, employing hundreds of trappers and scouts. Joseph coordinated the entire enterprise. When Lewis and Clark purchased must of the are (the Platte Purchase) from the Indians, Robididoux gained his own settlement. The Indians loved and trusted Roubidoux insisting 160 acres of this deal be given to him. He eventually, took part of his property, plotted it out and named his new town St. Joseph after his favorite patron saint. By 1848, the new town was a jumping-off place for California and Oregon bound settlers. It is known that he had 7 white children and at least 60 papooses. These french!! (Bet that's a fun geneology).

In Kansas City, at the top of the hill in old town, overlooking the river below, is a historical marker describing the original city as entirely french speaking with it's citizens determined to have beauty and planning to their new frontier home. The result was that Kansas City had wider streets, more parks and fountains and trees than any other city of it's time. Today, it still boasts more fountains than Paris.

In St. Louis, founded in 1764, property was set aside for the Basilica of St. Louis, which was built in 1831. It's original diocese was the entire west. Set on the riverfront, it is close to LaCledes Landing...another french fur trappers trading place. St. Louis was the home of many french immigrants; the most notable was Chouteau, another employee and partner or Astor. The town has a rich history of french business men making their fortunes with the settling of the west.

South of St. Louis, following the river on both the Missouri and Illinois side is the region known as 'Coloniale Francaise." or french corridor. The French fleur-de-lis flew over the area from the late 1600's until 1763. Today, it's worth seeing the partially restored Fort de Chartres, Prairie du Rocher and most importantly the charming river village of Ste. Genevieve. There are 5 restored french homes from the late 1700's showing a combined French and American architectural style of the era. A shortways down the road is another must see -- the Pierre Menard Home. The entire region hosts "French Events" throughout the year and carries on traditions of les chansons francaises, fetes and bals.

Chicago, Minneapolis, Old Fort Niagara, Fort Ticonderoga, and Newport Rhode Island are just a few more places with lots of french influence, traditions and intriguing stories. The french troops coming to help Washington during the Revolution landed at Newport and were housed in homes in the village. A statue to Rochambeau commerates the era which the town history records as a gay time because of the marvellous parties for the beautiful young french officers.

A bientot.......Ellen


Fall, 1998, Paris

American Perspectives in Paris

La rentree est finie......yes, it's that time again in Paris. Rentree is finished, life is back to the fall pattern and the wonderful sounds of "On a gagne!" (We won!) are but echos over a pastis or cafe au lait in the sidewalk cafes. It was a wonderful summer for France; winning the World Cup was one of the most uniting factors for the French that I have seen in all my years here. Trade Unionists and government officials, students and faculty, transportation workers (and the clients they strand so often), partied together in the streets - everywhere!! All over France. Oh, that life could remember those moments and take them more to heart ......as the students already have mounted their first "manif" and since it's October.....the transportation workers can't be far behind.

To prepare for the world at their feet, Paris got off to an early scandal! They topped the point of the obelisk in the middle of the Place de Concorde with gold - just the point, mais bien sur tres cher! As the debate rattled back and forth about whether or not it was like that originally, the government began to surround "le meme" obelisk with a tinker toy looking structure that finally became a soccer ball. Oh "le discours" about cet objet! Mais finalement, les taxpayers once again paid, everyone had something new to legitimately use for dinner conversation and in a couple of months it was passe.

The one conversation that is not passe is "l'affaire Clinton." It confounds their intellect unless you happen to be my newspaperman at the corner kiosk. He has had it all figured out from the first hint of scandal and grins with perverse delight when I arrive each morning. I never needed CNN to tell me there was breaking news, M. Boulard gave it to me daily. His take goes somewhere in the general neighborhood of "You Americans are too serious because the Brits founded your country and they were full of those Victorians who became Puritans and were more strict than the Pope. On top of that Bill is from Arkansas and that's the south and those southern machos lay around in the sun and think of women all the time. It's normal! Meme chose here in France! This rainy Parisien weather dampens the mood but oh la la when we're "dans la soleil du sud!" He then commences to hum Serge Gainsbourgs famous song about sun, sea and sex! Voila, c'est la France!

Les vendanges and the grape stompings are almost over with the usual "questions" about the harvest. La grande rumeur everywhere is the "nouvelle" that huge orders for champagne are arriving from all over the world. Les distributeurs are buying up all the champagne because they know the demand is going to be high for "les fetes du nouvel an" for the year 2000! So every weekend les routes to the Champagne countryside are filled with pariesiens buying cases of the bubbly. I'm off to buy my cases and already counting down the days to Beaujolais Nouveau......a la sante!


Spring, 1998, Paris

Oui, c'est deja le printemps à Paris! I'm already taking my morning café allongé in my favorite sidewalk cafés. . . .wish you were here! I have a new hangout on Avenue Victor Hugo with a waiter who sings to me as he serves my morning coffee and croissant. Is this bliss?

The weather has been unseasonably mild (if you don't count the political climate) and the "chestnut trees" are budding but not yet blooming. In the countryside, and places around town, the forsythia is bright yellow and the apple trees in full blossom. . . .Bagatelle is in it's glory. . . .and jonquilles sprouting everywhere. Les enfants are selling the 10F bunches of daffodils on sidewalk. Les marchés and roundabouts are full of tulipes and primevères!

Les Poissons d'Avril are prominently displayed in pâtisseries and most boulangeries now have various versions of " pain" in shapes of fish. The latest are large, sugar cookies with "têtes en chocolat"!

Chocolate bells, bunnies, and chickens filled with chocolate eggs are peeking out of les vitrines des confiseries et pâtisseries. This year I notice many more ribbons of la mode de patchwork around the tummies of les lapins!

A new boutique (Americaine) in the Centre Commercial de Passy (the old Inno store) called Arts et Loisirs opened. It's a large craft store that is de rigueur for les mesdames et les enfants. You remember les mesdames that shop for their veggies in their fur coats. Now they're shopping for do-it-yourself crafts. . .patchwork etc. in those same fur coats and Channel sacs à main. Anything avec "le look" patchwork is a big seller.. .. counted cross stitch too. This store is doing great business. They give ateliers on painting on silk, porcelaine, wood or metal; jewelry making, stain glass, paper crafts, as well as the usual oil, water, acrylic painting or encadrement. They're selling franchises throughout France. Anyone interested in opening a shop in Provence? How about the Côte d'Azur? The French are loving it. The old Phildar knitting shops are closing and these are coming!

Another new look in Paris is painted buildings. Many buildings, after their sandblast regime, are being painted the creme de la creme ivory color. The former Coquelin Ainé on the Place de Passy, which is now a clothing store, has been painted a buttery yellow with lemon yellow trim on its balconies and window decor -- the entire building. I read somewhere that DuPont had invented a paint that resists (washes off) pollution so am assuming that's what is happening. If it continues, Paris will have a very different look in the next decade.

Bicycle paths have been extended all over town; seems to be more cyclists even with car drivers just as reckless and pollution rampant. With a warm winter we also had more pollution alerts, malheursement, and still no "new" solutions from the government.

The french are loving "Titanic" (most going more than once) and "Good Will Hunting". . . Bistro 17ème has a new menu, just as excellent, and the place is always packed, Alain Delon has announced he's going to quit making movies (his last three flopped and his newest one with Belmondo has just hit the theaters so I suppose this is a plea to see his last), they've recently dug up the remains of Yves Montand because of another paternity suit against him, and Johnny Hallidays American born wife just celebrated her 23rd birthday, with great fanfare. Paris Match ran a 2 page spread on the "Oscars" but only showed pictures of "les etoiles" who were enrobed in French or Italian Haute Couture!

There is a wonderful exhibit at the Musée Carnavalet of the bijoux from the Maison Chaumet on Place Vendôme. They must be taking advantage of the publicity surrounding his imprisionment for tax evasion or maybe this is a fund raising effort to stave off bankruptcy. Anyway, most of it is from turn of the century and early 1900's and coincides with "le look" Titanic as well. The extravagant, elegant jewlery pieces are from collections of a Pope, the robber Barons of Newport Beach USA, Princes of India, Russian Aristocracy, courtesans, and other European Aristocracy. I would have loved to been une petite souris in le coin of that shop through the years!!

Oh well, I'll put on my pearls and head for mon petit déjeuner with mon garçon chanteur. The only hiccup is when I stop for my International Hearld Tribune at the corner kiosk, le vendeur is sure to tell me about the latest on President Clinton. Avec great glee, he daily assures me that "mon president est juste un homme comme les autres!"


Winter, 1997, Paris

It’s Ephiany in Paris and the aroma of galette des rois is floating through the air. I’m drinking café nibbling the almondy, flaky, galette reflecting on 1997. The new treasures inside are .. . . Princess Diana pieces and characters from Hercules and Hunchback. Mais, mes favourites are Les Santons.

We’ve just returned from New Years in Bordeaux - St. Emilon where we feasted on foie gras, “les huitres” and wine tasting . In the Haut-Medoc region we found Chateau Margaut, La Tour and Lafitte de Rothschild through the maze of vineyards only to see “sur rendez-vous” on their signs. When you’re that good, I guess you can afford to be snooty. We stopped at a couple of small vinters for “le degustation.” and learned more about Les Grands Crus, Les Crus Classé et Les Crus Bourgeoisie. Les Grands Chateaux have “le look” of feudal landlords.

Touring the St Emilon, Pomerol, and Sauterne regions, we found that the Pomerol region is surprisingly small. . .even Chateau Petrus, but such an “esprit” in the area , even in winter. The Medieval village of St. Emilon was sleepy in winter but always delightful..

Paris glistened for Christmas with the white lights in the trees on Ave Montaigne and Champs Elysées; a white and green forest land, sparkling with white lights at le Rond Point. Blvd. Haussmann, was the most beautiful I've ever seen. Printemps , Galeries Lafayette, and Marks & Spencers, combined their looks, using hanging evergreens and red and fuchsia pink tiny lights filling the evergreens, the huge tree on the side (and inside) of Galeries Lafayette and the naked trees along the "trottoir." They hung thousands of red foil stars in the naked trees to reflect the lights and promote Noêl Anglais. Really stunning!

"Les grands magasins" active windows were gyrating with Barbie Angels decorating a florist shop, et "la pièce de résistance" were the brown, terry towel fabric, alley cats on the roof tops of Paris decorating and preparing "leur maison extérieure" for the holiday feast. Several of "les chats" sat in one corner roasting skewered "souris" over an open fire much to the glee of "les petits garçons" and the horror of "les petites filles".

Le scandale this past year was when the public drugstore across from Les Deux Magots announced that it was closing . . . .Armani is moving in! And, the musty, old bookstore on the corner by l'église St. Germain des Prés was closing down for another fashion house. Movie stars staged a sit-in about how le quartier is losing its' identity. They got lots of publicity. I can’t help but wonder if any of them had purchased a book from the shop in the last year?

The other “scandale” was when “le club de cent” who, for decades, have met for dinner and discussion at Maxim’s voted to change location and left. They said that since Pierre Cardin became owner it is just too tourist-y! He opened a boutique next door with ashtrays, wineglasses, etc. with Maxims logo and “les intellects” are fachés! .

The Eiffel Tower has a horrible huge, lighted, digital sign that says “J-738 avant l’an 2000”! It faces the Seine and dominates la ville. The daily countdown gives the impression that the end of the world is only 738 days away. There should be a law against disfiguring the Eiffel Tower!

At la pont de l’Alma tourists lean over the over-pass trying to get a glimpse of where Diana was killed. The flame that the International Herald Tribune placed there several years ago has become the place where, daily, people leave flowers and tack up messages to her memory.

The Spice Girls, high platform shoes (even tennis shoes), mobile phones, cyber cafés, velour scarves, and "Le Salsa " are “in”. The Latino Craze is so popular that even La Coupole is giving Salsa lessons. The affordable Los Latinos restaurant is très populaire with learn-a-dance dinners. . Cuban jam sessions at many clubs , Salsa soirées, and even ads have taken up “les choses Latines” A new “Paris” perfume ad shows a South American model reaching up from the top of the Eiffel Tower to kiss her lover who is hanging off the rails of a helicopter. (I noticed they didn't choose to show the J-738 side of the tower!) A bientot.......Ellen



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