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Two Unique Paths – Cézanne & Verne

April 19, 2016 @ 4:51 am
posted by Sandra Sheridan
musee-jules-verne-jules-verne-museum-Nantes France

The Jules Verne in Nantes

A little musing today about famous French men who followed their own dreams.  I suppose parents run the gamut in guiding their children in career directions.  The child’s interest.  Financial rewards.  Respected professions.  Family traditions.  Two renowned French men (among many others, I’m sure) disregarded their fathers’ guidance to seek entirely different career paths than those desired by well-intentioned Dad.

Paul Cézanne, for example, initially followed his doctor father’s wishes by attending the University of Aix law school from 1859 to 1861, but he also continued with drawing lessons. Ultimately, with the encouragement of his friend Emile Zola, Cézanne left Aix-en-Provence in 1861 to pursue painting in Paris. His prolific body of work casts an affirmative final vote in favor of the son’s interests and wishes.

Who else chose to turn his back on father’s plan for his life? Like Napoleon, his name appears everywhere in France, on streets and museums, on statues and restaurants. And that man is Jules Verne, the renowned French writer, who pioneered the science fiction genre.  Many of Verne’s traveler tales included inventions considered far ahead of his time. Through his life of writing, he completed 54 major novels about life in the future.

Verne’s fascination with the sea began early in the sea port of Nantes, where he was born. Though he later was caught and returned, he even ran away at one point to be a cabin boy on a merchant ship. Bowing to his father’s vision, Jules Verne studied law in Paris, where he also discovered theatre. After finding that his son had published a play and left his legal studies, his father cut him off and forced Verne to earn his way by selling his written works.

After intense study in geology, engineering and astronomy; Verne expanded on the inventions he had seen and imagined future inventions. In his novels, he created a world that really would not come to fruition until the twentieth century.

La Maison_de_jules_verne, Amiens France

Jules Verne’s home in Amiens, 1882-1900

He introduced the idea of long voyages by air in his first novel (1863), “Five Weeks in a Balloon”.  Well before anyone could imagine space travel and moon landings, Verne wrote “From the Earth to the Moon” in 1866. His predictive writings really were uncanny, such locating the l splashdown point in his novel just a few miles from the actual site of Apollo 8’s splashdown.  The launch point of the moon capsule also was close to Cape Canaveral. And he learned … or imagined that from visiting Parisian libraries to study science and engineering?

How about the fact that his capsule included three astronauts – two Americans and one Frenchman? Verne seemed to mix powerful doses of knowledge and imagination to produce an astounding number of on-target, futuristic novels. And we haven’t even touched “20,000 Leagues under the Sea”, “Robur the Conqueror” or the acclaimed “Around the World in 80 days”.

Who is to say how he might have fared as a lawyer, had he listened to his father? We do know that Jules Verne died in 1905, a very popular and rich man and one who has mesmerized readers throughout their ‘journeys’ with him.  There’s certainly no mystery to the presence of his name throughout France.

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Maugham’s Villa to the ‘Bucket List’!

April 14, 2016 @ 11:05 am
posted by Sandra Sheridan
Somerset Maugham's Villa

Breakfast by the Mediterranean

I really need to get moving on the fulfillment of my many “Bucket List” desires.  Heaven knows, a visit to Maugham’s Villa is a wonderful addition and, no doubt, would inspire more writing!  Now a boutique hotel, Somerset Maugham’s former villa on the French Riviera overlooks the enchanting Bay of Saint Tropez.

Movies, television, and – mais oui – books whisk us to that era of the 1920s and 1930s along the Riviera.  ‘Twas an age of inspiration for writers, artists and party hosts – probably the latter stimulated the former!  To learn more about this fabulous Villa Mauresque – along the Cote d’Azur.

 

Bay of Saint Tropez

Villa on the Cote d’Azur

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Dining Al Fresco in Aix-en-Provence

April 11, 2016 @ 12:50 pm
posted by Sandra Sheridan
Aix en Provence, France

Dining al fresco with background music

I would not hesitate to strongly recommend a visit to Aix-en-Provence – one of our favorite cities in France.  Walk in the footsteps of Cezanne, wander the city to enjoy the many fountains in “The City of Water” and take in the festive marketplace and  wonderful cafes.  Choose a real people-watching gem along the expansive main thoroughfare – Cours Mirabeau – or pick your way through appealing little lanes, until you come upon a series of outdoor bistros and cafes.

We stayed a few nights and were able to chose a few cafes for the pleasure of gallettes, salads and little pichets of wine, Italian fare, croissant and coffee breakfasts – every choice a pleasure!  We especially loved sharing the outdoor dining with pleasant background music from the strolling guitarist.  Is it any wonder that it’s so easy to fall into the 2-hour lunch rhythm?

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Adventurous Driving in France

April 9, 2016 @ 10:09 am
posted by Sandra Sheridan

Overlooking Lac Saint-Croix and the Verdon Gorge

Oh the wonder of being naïve!  You can jump on into the water with the belief you will somehow float.  And so it is with driving in France.  I have complete confidence in my driving capabilities, and it’s not like I’ll be driving on the “wrong” side of the road like the Brits!

Don’t be intimidated by driving in France, but I do suggest you  check out a few “signs” and rules of the road.  For example, any notion you might have about negotiating rond-points (roundabouts) should be shelved.  Take the time to learn about this particular non-logical highway ballet.  No, we never had an accident; but an irate La Poste driver purposefully honked at us, as we intruded on his territory.

When my daughter and I were driving around Provence and the Hautes-Alpes, we did experience a couple of adventurous moments.  We enjoyed a picnic along the shores of Lac Saint-Croix, before driving up to the Route de Napoleon overlooking the Verdon Gorge.  Let us say that the road became very interesting with twists, turns and overhanging rocks that made us mentally duck.  As we approached a petite tunnel, we did not know what a blue and white road sign indicated.  In one of those hmmmmm… moments, I simply guessed that the narrow tunnel required us to honk the horn in warning to oncoming drivers.  We made it through the tunnel without incident.

Hmm – What does that sign say?

Driving anywhere outside of your own comfort zone presents challenges that are magnified in a foreign country.  In Lyon, my husband offered us quite an eventful 5 minutes, when he turned into a bus-only lane.  To correct himself, he made a quick right, only to discover we were going the wrong way on a one-way street.

Who’s to criticize?  I did the same thing in Amboise – correction, almost did the same thing.  I began a left turn in Amboise only to face a lady driver simply wagging her finger at me to warn me off.  I could imagine a sort of tsk-tsk to go along with her gesture.

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Please take a moment to browse through … and order … my book:

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