Archive for July, 2016

Franco-American Hopes for Tomorrow

July 27, 2016 @ 8:05 am
posted by Sandra Sheridan

Breakfast in America near the Sorbonne – for great breakfasts, burgers (including French Mustard!) and movie memorabilia

The high-profile violence in France over the past year prompts some to declare a doomed future for this magnificent country.  In truth, years ago even a taxi driver in Paris lamented the school shootings we were … and are … experiencing in America.  How easily we can slip into a fatalistic outlook about France and about America.  Let’s choose, instead, to celebrate all we have meant to one another and all that we hope for tomorrow.  Just a few of the many thoughts one could express follow.

We are all cognizant of broad-brush misconceptions on “both sides of the pond.”  That the French hate Americans.  That Americans are arrogant.  The French are rude.  Americans are loud, brazen.  Within the comfortable confines of our insular thinking, we are wary of customs, work ethics and world views that are different from our own.

In these trying times, it is especially important to remember our strong common historical, financial and cultural bonds.  The French support of the American Revolution enabled America to gain independence.  France fashioned its Republic after our own constitution with Liberté, Egalité and Fraternité as cornerstones of the rights of man.  Our capitol was designed in 1791 by Pierre L’Enfant.   The biggest gift of all – our beloved Statue of Liberty.  And not for one moment do the French forget the support and sacrifices of America during two World Wars.

On both sides of the Atlantic, we offer unique experiences and a boundless treasure of values to share.  American culture permeates France – our music, books, movies, and television (except for the emphasis on violence).  The French have embraced everything from McDonald’s and Levis to Disneyland® Paris and Starbucks – in the land of cafés, where coffee is the social bracer!  Three Breakfast in America cafés attract huge crowds in their left and right bank locations.

Americans embrace croissants and crepes, chic fashion, French fabrics and many of those distinctly French expressions – rendezvous, soiree, esprit de corps and more.  In the world of medicine alone, remember that blood transfusions, pasteurization, the stethoscope and understanding of radioactivity all started with the French

Cafe de France, Winter Park, FL – one of thousands of American restaurants devoted to French cuisine

In our comparative youth, America has enjoyed decades of growth and innovation, power and progress.  The French admire our entrepreneurial spirit and envision the frontier history that spawned such a vibrant people.  The youth of France take to American cowboys, blue jeans and the infamous hamburger and long to mimic our ways and visit our country.

Yet, in a country with an aging population, a deep reverence for culture and a demonstrable social conscience; the French fear diluting their unique heritage.  They reject the “my work is my life” notion and continue to fight for the balanced life – with strikes, marches and measures we have only begun to discover with the “Occupy” movements and, ironically, some of the rude and crude tactics on the political front.  France manages to blend unimaginable history, art and architecture with innovative technology and a universally-admired flair for style.  Their people couple intense pride and bureaucratic ways of thinking with joie de vivre and reverence for family.

France and America have much to be proud of, but we have everything to gain from looking toward one another with an appreciation of our differences and with a coordinated partnership to protect the ideals we all cherish.  I particularly love a piece written for Travel and Leisure by Richard Reeves, a Senior Lecturer at the Annenberg School.  In “An American in Paris”, he wrote,

“We speak with an air of detachment, even distrust, of the pursuit of happiness.  The French just    go ahead with it – and they’ve organized a country and a great city to make sure they catch what they’re chasing.”

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Benjamin Franklin – Mission in France

July 4, 2016 @ 7:20 am
posted by Sandra Sheridan
 Paris Print shows Benjamin Franklin standing with a man and a woman outside building.

The Reception of Benjamin Franklin in France – by Charles Brothers, ©1847

As we celebrate Independence Day, how appropriate to remember how dependent we were on the help of others to gain our own freedom.  Through the years France has given America far more than the Statue of Liberty.  In fact, the Revolutionary War would have been a lost cause, without the financial and military aid that Benjamin Franklin almost singlehandedly secured from the French.

A perspective of that time demonstrates the brilliance of Franklin’s diplomatic success.  America was made up of a fledgling group of colonies sick of “taxation without representation”.  England and France were the superpowers of Europe, each a monarchy but separated in general beliefs and forms of government.

England’s parliamentary form of government allowed some representation by commoners.  France’s monarchy left absolute power to the king; who presided over a world of idle luxury, while the average French person lived in abject poverty.  That’s a little too reminiscent of some of the world today!

Benjamin Franklin – Enter Stage Left

In December, 1776, Franklin arrived in Paris to a city of narrow streets, open sewers and homeless, starving people. In Tuileries Garden mansions, the upper classes gathered for soirées in opulent fashions and elaborate wigs.  The scenario could hardly have been comfortable for Franklin, who cherished the democratic beliefs of the Americans and might easily have championed the cause of poor French peasants.

But Benjamin Franklin understood his mission.  He could not insult the French court from who he sought aid. Instead, he dressed in humble style and exhibited his extraordinary intellect.  He learned French and spent all of his time with intellectuals and members of the upper class.

Can you imagine how enthralled they were with this scientific and literary man from New England, this printer, inventor and politician?  The aristocracy embraced Benjamin Franklin as the embodiment of New World Enlightenment.  His remarkable political and persuasive talents led one scholar to proclaim Franklin “the most essential and successful American diplomat of all time.”

And it was due to his success that French financial support for the war would aid America in the American Revolution.  Through Franklin’s skilled negotiation, the French signed a Treaty of Alliance with the Colonies in 1778.  America received continuing military, financial and political aid French that helped the colonies win the War for Independence.

One man understood and accomplished his mission, and our Nation was born.  One can only hope that American politicians one day will again set aside personal and party agendas, in order to provide the genuine leadership and accomplish the vital missions before us.

Happy 4th of July!

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Flea Market – Marché aux Puces, Paris

July 1, 2016 @ 12:00 pm
posted by Sandra Sheridan
Marché aux Puces St-Ouen de Clignancourt

Copper and brass, baskets and buckets – Marché aux Puces

Often the brocante or flea market rivals the most famous of Paris museums for fascinating and historic objets d’art, and this flea market offers the most abundant selections in the city.  Paris’s most famous flea market groups hundreds of open stalls and shops in the 18th arrondissement selling every imaginable object, from grand vintage antiques and elaborate costume jewelry to simple home décor accessories and toy collectibles.   Once  is never enough, when it comes to visiting this renowned Marché!

Unfortunately, first you have to endure somewhat of a running of the gauntlet along avenue de la Porte de Clignancourt, as you thread your way through stalls of touristy, cheap clothing, shoes and trinkets.  Voila! – arrive at rue des Rosiers, turn left, and you will begin your real discovery tour.

Monday is one of the best days to visit, as the crowds are less and the bargains better.  Set aside worries about getting ‘stung’ by bad deals.

You will discover so many appealing stalls and fascinating treasures.  One offers only unusual vintage costumes and clothing.  You’ll see, perhaps, a charming felt hat of soft turquoise and imagine the glowing face that wore this lovely chapeau.  Or a whole stall of antique brass and copper, another of under-sized oil paintings.

Flea-market decorated Paris apartment, Marché aux Puces St-Ouen de Clignancourt

Flea-market decorated Paris apartment

For a top experience, dress comfortably, speak French, linger over goods that interest you and show your respect for items; and you’ll begin to have success negotiating with dealers.  Take time for lunch at one of the little cafes in the market.  You will enjoy watching fellow flea market visitors, as they work their way through a ‘yellow brick road’ of treasures.

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Copyright © 2005-2016, LuxeEuro, LLC. Photo and text, all rights reserved

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

Autographed copies with notecard gift