Monday, June 30, 2014

Danseurs de la bastide

We made a quick stop in a nearby bastide town on our way to a vide greniers (rummage sale) and were delighted to come upon an impromptu dance recital in the covered market square. Not sure if this is a regular Sunday morning event; I may have to find myself in Villeréal again next week.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Singer, dancer, mother, spy: Château offers rich history of Josephine Baker

Our recent trip to Castelnaud-La-Chapelle (24250) included a visit to Château des Milandes and the nearby Éco-Musée de la Noix.

Château des Milandes

The longtime home of legendary jazz singer Josephine Baker is a popular tourist destination for visitors to the Perigord Noir. For those like myself who don’t know a lot about Baker, I’d recommend some advance research; visit the museum’s website here or allow time at the beginning of your visit to read the very thorough Château des Milandes visitor’s guide.

Baker is famous for her comedic singing, sensual dancing, and splashy sequined and nearly nude costumes. The American performer arrived in Paris at the ate of 19 in 1925. Paris was hungry for “colored” performers, and Baker soon gained fame (and fortune) while performing in the Revue Nègre at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées.

Her desire to help France during World War II, led to her stint as a spy for which she was awarded the Medal of the Resistance, the Legion of Honour and the Croix de Guerre.

Baker was a notable voice for civil rights. She also adopted 12 children of various races and nationalities, whom she referred to as her “Rainbow Tribe.”

Baker first visited Milandes in 1937 and purchased the 15th century château 10 years later. She lived there until 1968, and she died in Paris in 1975.

Today, visitors to Château des Milandes can see a sizable collection of her costumes, a dozen authentically decorated rooms, and countless photographs and memorabilia from this fascinating woman’s career and life.

The château grounds include a chapel, gardens, gift shop and brasserie restaurant.

Château des Milandes

Visitors can also check out the chambres of some of Milandes’s other residents: majestic birds of prey including an American eagle named Cheyenne. Hawks, falcons and owls appear several times a day in a 30-minute spectacle de rapaces dans le jardin.

A falcon performs at Château des Milandes.

An eagle resides at Château des Milandes.

Château des Milandes is open April through 11 November. The 9.20 euro admission for adults (less for youth and disabled) includes the birds of prey show and gardens.Visit the chateau’s excellent website,, for more information.

View from the garden of Château des Milandes

If you’re planning to picnic during your visit to Castelnau-la-Chapelle, you may want to bring along some food, as the small boulangerie in the village ran out of sandwiches. But we improvise with quiche and fruit, and head to our next stop, the Éco-Musée de la Noix, where we eat our makeshift lunch at a shaded table before we begin our visit.

Éco-Musée de la Noix

I’m a sucker for small family-owned museums or working farms that showcase food production. (Well, everyone needs a hobby or two.) Hence, I was eager to visit Éco-Musée de la Noix or eco-museum of walnuts. The setting is idyllic: a restored farmhouse adjacent to rolling hills and a lovely walnut grove. Our visit began with a well-produced documentary about the Ferme de Vielcroze and its all-natural production of walnut products, particularly its organic walnut oil, or d’huile de noix bio.

Éco-Musée de la Noix

The rest of our visit was somewhat less entertaining. Although pleasantly appointed, the museum itself is a series of displays and posters that require a proficiency in French and a desire to read, rather than merely enjoy, the exhibits. Outside, however, the mill is interesting and the walnut grove is a pleasant place in which to stroll.

Éco-Musée de la Noix

Éco-Musée de la Noix

Éco-Musée de la Noix

Éco-Musée de la Noix is easy to find; just follow the signs in Castelnaud-la-Chapelle. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day from April through 11 November. Admission is 5 euros for adults, 4 euros for ages 10-17 and free for children younger than 10 years old. For more information, visit

Summer of (motherly) love

Yes, readers and friends, there is life after Paris, although it may not seem so if you rely on this blog to track what I'm doing. (Ooh ... that sounds a little stalky. Hopefully you are following me, but not "following" me)

Now that we're a whole week into summer, here's a synopsis of what I've been up to. One of our sons is visiting this summer and Ken and I are thoroughly enjoying having him here. Not only is he a great excuse for touristing and a terrific walking and biking partner, but he also gives us someone else to talk to about poltitics, pop culture, and other American stuff.

Château de Milandes
Last week, we spent a day in the Perigord Noir region, about 90 minutes from home. Our first stop was Château de Milandes, the longtime home of legendary American expat jazz singer, dancer, comedian and spy Josephine Baker. I'm ashamed to admit that I knew next to nothing about this fascinating woman's life prior to my visit to Milandes. Luckily, the attraction has an excellent website and provides a hefty tourist guide to visitors upon arrival.

Château de Milandes

Next, we popped over to the tranquil, but underwhelming, Éco-Musée de la Noix, a family-owned farm and museum dedicated to all-natural walnut products including d'huile de noix bio (organic walnut oil).

Our third stop: Les jardins suspendus de Marqueyssac.

The hanging gardens of Marqueyssac

In addition to the whimsical topiary-art hedges (there are 150,000 boxwoods in the garden, all hand-pruned), the winding garden trails lead to an amazing panoramic view of the Dordogne valley.

View of the Dordogne valley from the gardens of Marqueyssac

Rather than repeat what I've written on another of my blogs, Lot of Livin', which I write for the AngloINFO Dordogne website, I invite you to take a look:

Bon été!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Ceci et que: Away to Visit Paris part 10

Ceci et que  = This and that

I love this picture of Ken taken on the Île Sainte-Louis.

It should be clear from the 10 posts of the past month that j'adore Paris. For two weeks after we returned from our vacation, my dreams were set in Paris. And although Ken and I have many other places to explore, I'll know I'll be back in Paris someday. I have to go back, because a little piece of my heart is there, waiting for me.

Thanks to my friends and blog followers for indulging this multi-part series. This is the last of the Away to Visit Paris series. I hope you enjoy this photo-centric, mash-up memory album.

The first thing we did when we arrived in Paris on a Sunday
afternoon was to walk along the Avenue des Champs-Élysées
where many stores were open.

I like how this subtle message is displayed in a store window
on the Champs-Élysées.

Sepia cityscape near pont de Bir-Hakeim

Nos chers amis Dave and Linda admire a
peak-a-boo view of the Tour Eiffel.

Musée Jacquemart-André, located on Blvd.
Haussmann, houses the collection of Paris power
couple: banker/politican/soldier Édouard François
André and society painter Nélie Jacquemart.

Ken seems happy with the view of the Seine, or maybe
Dave just told him un bonne blague.

Chillen on the Seine

Les maisons flottantes on the river

This photo shows the large crowd of tourists at Cathédrale
Notre-Dame de Paris. But, check out the next picture ...

... Just around the corner at Notre Dame, no
crowds and even benches to sit on.

Miscellaneous statues

An unusual statue in the Square du Palais-Galliera

Monument de la France Renaissante on the
pont de Bir-Hakeim

La Grisette stands on Rue du Faubourg du Temple
where the Canal St. Martin heads underground.
No one is sure who she is.
I wish I had noted what and where this statue is.
Yep, I wish I could identify this one too. I'll give
due credit if any of you fine readers can help.

And then some other stuff happened

'Does standing on this ledge make me look tall?'

This concert was before our visit, but I'm impressed
with how young James Taylor looks on this poster.

Paris police patrol park. 

Just like you can rent and return bikes around
the city (unless you only have an American
credit card), there also are stations to
rent cars for a short periods. Autolib' 
(self-service car) is the first rental system of
this scale in a European capital. 
Stairs or escalator? Will I walk or ride?

Those who know me well understand why this picture is included.

Et si elle se termine, pour l'instant ...

And so it ends, for now. Now on to our next adventure!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Arts Asiatiques: Away to Visit Paris part 9

I steal away for a few hours of solitude and head away from the decadence of Pigalle toward the exotic wonders of Musée Guimet. Here I find the largest collection of Asian art outside of Asia. The exhibitions, spread over four floors, are divided by country: India and southeast Asia are located on the ground floor; ancient China, central Asia and Buddhist China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Himalayas are on the first floor; classic China and Japan are on two; Quing China occupies the top floors. The collection encompasses nearly 5,000 years.

I wander, admiring but not exactly comprehending what I'm looking at. I find some comfort in my museum guide and map, which says,
"While it is possible to feel acquaintances and vibrations with the works very quickly, it is nevertheless difficult to understand their historical and religious significance so fast."
Well, that makes me feel a little better about myself, but I wish I had done some homework before my visit. Tant pis, next time ...

I didn't make a note about this, unfortunately,
but for some reason, I can relate.

The Dancing Siva (India)

Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara (Vietnam)

Arhat Tamrabhadra (China)

The Thousand Flowers Vase (Qing China)

I don't mean to complain, but look closely ...
... could use a bit of dusting. (Sale means dirty in French)
Art students sketching the Asian artwork