AFGR Chapter News August

Members and Non members!

Our new membership year is beginning. This is an excellent time to consider renewing or joining Alliance Française de Grand Rapids.  Members should have received a Renewal of Membership Invitation recently, by email or postal service. If you haven’t, contact Ellen VanderMey at ellenvandermey@aol.com.  We look forward to joining us in sharing the many facets of French culture and language in the coming year.

If you’re not yet a member, please join for a year and see what it’s all about. The membership fee is $25 for one person and $35 for a couple. Go to the "Join" page on this website where you’ll find the link for downloading the membership application. We hope to see you at our next gathering.

French classes starting in September

Refresh starts Tuesday, September 25 and Converse starts Thursday, September 27. Check back to the French Classes page for details coming soon!

Petanque Tournament August 19!

Remember to check the calendar for information on the August 19 Petanque Tournament at Sövengård's bocce court on Grand Rapids West Side. Remember, the food and drink are available through the restaurant only. For more information about what they offer visit their website right here.

And if you need to brush up on your throwing skills, check out the training video below!

French Book Club at Schuler's Bookstore September 18

Our next book club selection is the last book by Peter Mayle, My Twenty-Five Years in Provence: Reflections on Then and Now.  Peter Mayle passed away in January of 2018.

Many of you have probably already read or heard about his many books and films starting with his first, A Year in Provence.

We hope you get a chance to enjoy Peter's memoir and join us Tuesday, September 18 for our next discussion. 

Bastille Day 2018 Photos

Click on the image to see the entire album on Flickr - merci!

Bastille Day 2018

Petanque Training Video

AFGR Chapter News July

La Conversation d'été!

Come join us for wine, cheese and conversation on Tuesday July 10 from 6:30-8:00 pm.  All ability levels are welcomed and encouraged to join in.  

Weather permitting we will be on the deck, if not, then indoors.  Wine and cheese is provided but if you have a tasty treat you would like to share, please feel free to do so!  

We will be meeting at Linda FitzGerald's house - 1825 Weymouth Dr. SE, Grand Rapids.  RSVP to linfreniu@juno.com or text to 616-970-8260.  Je vous verrai en juillet!

Bastille Day in Grand Rapids

Bastille Day or Quatorze Juillet, as the French call it will be celebrated in Grand Rapids on Sunday, July 15.

Alliance Française de Grand Rapids members will receive an invitation with more details about the festivities in their inbox or mailbox.

Are you not a member? Please click on "Join" at the top of this page to learn how to become a member so we can send you an invitation.

Let's honor France's National Day together!

AFGR Book Club at Schulers!

Our next book club selection is Renoir's Dance by Catherine Hewitt.  This 2018 published in 2018 this biography of Suzanne Valadon reads like a novel.  Suzanne started out as a model for the impressionist painters and under the mentoring of Degas became a painter herself. She also was the mother of Montmartre painter Maurice Utrillo. 

July 24 5:30pm, Schuler's Bookstore Grand Rapids.

Petanque Tournament 2018!

This year's competition will be held August 19 at the bocce court at Søvengård Restaurant on Bridge Street in Grand Rapids.

More details to follow soon!

Bastille Day in Grand Rapids!

Bastille Day or Quatorze Juillet, as the French call it will be celebrated in Grand Rapids on Sunday, July 15.

Alliance Française de Grand Rapids members will receive an invitation with more details about the festivities in their inbox or mailbox.

Are you not a member? Please click on "Join" at the top of this page to learn how to become a member so we can send you an invitation.

Let's honor France's National Day together!

AFGR Chapter News for June

Detroit River Cruise and French History

AF Detroit chapter is offering a cruise along the Detroit river focusing on French history in eastern Michigan on June 24. The commentary is in French and English. For details visit the Alliance Française de Detroit. More information.

AFGR chapter news

The 2018 recipient of the AF Grand Rapids Scholarship is Lukas Isenga. You can find out more about Lukas right here.

Our next book club selection is Renoir's Dance by Catherine Hewitt.  This 2018 published in 2018 this biography of Suzanne Valadon reads like a novel.  Suzanne started out as a model for the impressionist painters and under the mentoring of Degas became a painter herself. She also was the mother of Montmartre painter Maurice Utrillo. July 24, Schuler Books, 5:30pm. Contact Marijke Wiersema for more information.

Suzanne self-portrait:

suzanne-valadon-self.PNG

News for the week of May 27

NOTE: Beginning next Sunday, June 3, the newsletter will be sent to your inbox monthly. 

Detroit River Cruise and French History

AF Detroit chapter is offering a cruise along the Detroit river focusing on French history in eastern Michigan on June 24. The commentary is in French and English. For details visit the Alliance Française de Detroit. More information.

AFGR chapter news

Our next book club selection is Renoir's Dance by Catherine Hewitt.  This 2018 published in 2018 this biography of Suzanne Valadon reads like a novel.  Suzanne started out as a model for the impressionist painters and under the mentoring of Degas became a painter herself. She also was the mother of Montmartre painter Maurice Utrillo. July 24, Schuler Books, 5:30pm. Contact Marijke Wiersema for more information.

Suzanne self-portrait:

suzanne-valadon-self.PNG

News for the week of May 20

Video of Renoir painting

Even though he was confined to a wheelchair and his arthritis required someone place brushes in his hands Renoir continued to paint. Video is 3:00 minutes.

Detroit River Cruise and French History

AF Detroit chapter is offering a cruise along the Detroit river focusing on French history in eastern Michigan on June 24. The commentary is in French and English. For details visit the Alliance Française de Detroit. More information.

AFGR chapter news

Our next book club selection is Renoir's Dance by Catherine Hewitt.  This 2018 published in 2018 this biography of Suzanne Valadon reads like a novel.  Suzanne started out as a model for the impressionist painters and under the mentoring of Degas became a painter herself. She also was the mother of Montmartre painter Maurice Utrillo. July 24, Schuler Books, 5:30pm. Contact Marijke Wiersema for more information.

Suzanne self-portrait:

suzanne-valadon-self.PNG

 

 

Travel in France

News for the week of May 13

Video of Monet painting at Giverny

This incredible video clip from 1915 allows you a brief look inside how this man made such fabulous works of art. It's about 2:45 minutes long.

Letter from France: Eating in Paris can be cheaper than eating in Grand Rapids, Michigan

At one point early on in our latest trip to Paris I had a revelation.  When I received the dinner bill at Iovines on rue de Bretagne I figured it came to about $72. Since the meal consisted of fairly basic components that we had eaten many times in the USA I thought it would be interesting to do a cost comparison with a place that served similar food. I chose Licari’s, a pizza place in Grand Rapids where we have eaten from time to time. This is not a scientific study and I urge you to try this for yourself.

Here’s what I learned.

  • Licari: 2 cocktails, medium pizza, bottle of pinot noir = $74
  • Iovine: 2 cocktails, similar size pizza and a bottle of Valpolicella = $72

While both meals appear to be comparable the US version doesn’t take into account the tip. And at 20% that adds another $14 to the Licari bill. Therefore, eating a similar meal in Grand Rapids costs $88 to the Paris version of $72. 

This comparison doesn’t take into account those attributes that can’t be quantified: 

  • location (Paris vs Grand Rapids), eating in a bistro-like setting versus a large, loud room with TV monitors everywhere;
  • the quality of the service: the wait staff at Iovines spoke Italian and were clearly professional "waiters" while the manager at Licari’s didn’t even know what a digestivo was. 

Of course there are many places in Paris where it would cost several body parts to eat a meal. And there are many other restaurants where the service is lousy and the food mediocre. 

But it is has been our great, good fortune over the years to have successfully steered away from such dens of culinary iniquity. In fact, we have found many other places like Iovines which simply reaffirms our belief that American food is no cheaper than eating in Paris and often more so since you’re often getting a lower quality of service.

~ Steve Soper, Lille, France, 11 May 2018

AFGR Book Club

Our next book club meeting is May 15 at 5:30pm at Schuler Books on 28th Street in Grand Rapids and the selection is The Mistress Of Paris: The 19th-Century Courtesan Who Built an Empire on a Secret by Catherine Hewitt, the story of  19th century Parisian courtesan Comtesse Valtesse de la Bigne. For more information contact Marijke Wiersema.

According to The New York Times Book Review, “A gorgeous, smart, ambitious, hard-working, steely autodidact and businesswoman whose product was herself, Valtesse would be totally at home in our self-branding society.” 

Detroit River Cruise and French History

AF Detroit chapter is offering a cruise along the Detroit river focusing on French history in eastern Michigan on June 24. The commentary is in French and English. For details visit the Alliance Française de Detroit. More information.

How well do you know Paris? Today we look at the 20th arrondissement.

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1. For what reason were the remains of Moliére, La Fontaine, and the lovers Héloïse and Abélard transferred with great pomp to the Père-Lachaise cemetery in 1817?

A. The church refused to welcome these sordid characters in a parish cemetery or chapel.
B. Parisians wanted to see their favorite celebrities resting in the most prestigious of cemeteries.
C. To promote the new cemetery and attract “clients.”

2. What invention did Claude Chappe test on July 12, 1793, on the Belleville Hill, the highest point in Paris?

A. The bicycle brake.
B. The hot air balloon.
C. The telegraph.

3. What is the address of the Père-Lachaise Cemetery?
 
A. Passage d’Enfer (Hell’s Passage).
B. Rue du Paradis (Heaven’s Street).
C. Rue du Repos (Resting Street).

4. What was the nickname of the Parisian thugs who made the law on the streets of Belleville at the start of the 20th century?

A. Apaches.
B. Redskins.
C. Sioux.

5. What small-time occupation was practiced, at the beginning of the 20th century, at the gate of the Père-Lachaise Cemetery?

A. Dog-sitting.
B. The sale of tissues.
C. The recitation of prayers on demand.

Answers can be found at the end of the newsletter.

Travel in France: The Old Gothard Pass

Answers: 1. C, for promotional reasons; 2. C, telegraph; 3. C, rue du Repos; 4 A Apaches; 5. A, dog-sitting. 

News for the week of May 6

Letter from France

If anyone is going to Paris between now and early July and French Impressionist or 19th century French painting is your thing these three major art exhibitions should not be missed:

Mary Cassatt at the Jacquemart-Andre from 9 March to 23 July.
Jean-Batiste Corot at the Marmottan-Monet -- focuses on his figure work, most of which was little seen during his lifetime or since, 8 February to 8 July; and
Eugène Delacroix at the Louvre from 28 March to 23 July.


I wanted to share this incredibly cute -- and very short -- series of videos from some creative folks in Paris: Alice in Paris. You can stream them all, two seasons' worth, on Amazon Prime if you have that service or you see them for free on Youtube. 

How well do you know Paris? Today we look at the 19th arrondissement.

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1. What is the name of the small temple that dominates the parc des Buttes-Chaumont from a atop a rock?

A. Temple of Aphrodite.
B. Sibyl’s Temple.
C. Temple of Galatea

2. What contemporary artist created the 4 m-high, multicolored plastic character that has livened the terraces of the Robert-Debré Hospital since 1988?

A. Richard Baquiê.
B. Jean Dubuffet.
C. Niki de Saint-Phalle.

3. In what train station did Claude Monet pose his easel on numerous occasions, in order to paint its different aspects?

A. Gare d’Austerlitz.
B. Gare d’Orsay.
C. Gare Saint-Lazare.

4. When was the term “banlieu” (“suburb”) coined?

A. 15th century.
B. 19th century.
C. 20th century.

5. In what year did the main slaughterhouse of Paris leave its La Villette site?
 
A. 1970.
B. 1974.
C. 1978.

Answers can be found at the end of the newsletter.

Travel in France: Les Gorges du Verdon

Answers: 1. B, Sibyl’s Temple; 2. B, Dubuffet; 3. C, Gare Saint-Lazare; 4. A, 15th century, with the extension of the city; 5. B, 1974.

News for the week of April 29

Letter from France

Susan and I arrived in Paris last Monday morning and on Wednesday we went to the Musée Jacquemart-André to see the Mary Cassatt exhibition.

The space itself, the museum, is in the former home of the J-A family and it's pretty clear they had a keen eye for art and style, at least in 19th century terms. Our only complaint was the interpretative signage and narrative was in French only. While the paintings certainly spoke for themselves, we thought that considering Cassatt was an American bi-lingual signage would've been more appropriate. 

The museum is located at 158 Boulevard Haussmann, 75008.

How well do you know Paris? Today we look at the 18th arrondissement.

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1. What artist is the creator of the curious Passe-Muraille, a sculpture that seems to emerge from one pf the walls of the place Marcel-Aymé?

A. César.
B. Jean Marais.
C. Jean Dubuffet.

2. Why is the stone of the Sacré-Coeur Basilica still so white, in spite of pollution and bad weather?

A. Because it is cleaned every week.
B. Because the height of the hill puts it outside of the range of exhaust fumes.
C. Because the limestone from which it is made whitens with even the slightest rain.

3. To what divinity was the temple standing on the Montmartre hill, then isolated from the city, dedicated in Gallo-Roman times?

A. Mercury.
B. Jupiter.
C. Mars.

4. When did the hill of Montmartre first go back to its wine-producing past by replanting vines on its slopes?

A. 1933.
B. 1955.
C. 1978.

5. To what painter do we owe the painting titled Le Moulin de la Galette?

A. Édouard Manet.
B. Auguste Renoir.
C. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

Answers can be found at the end of the newsletter.

Travel in France: Barge cruising on your own

Answers: 1. B, Jean Marais; 2. C, the limestone; 3. A & C, Mercury and Mars; 4. A, 1933; 5. B, Renoir.

News for the week of April 22

AFGR News

Une soirée de conversation - part deux! Fluent or beginner - like to talk or just listen - everyone is welcome.  Come for conversation, wine and light hors d'oeuvre on Wednesday April 25 from 6:30 to 8:00 pm.

Chez la Porte Rouge
1825 Weymouth Drive SE
Grand Rapids  49508

Please RSVP by Mon. April 23  to Linda FitzGerald at linfreniu@juno.com or 827-7214

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How well do you know Paris? Today we look at the 17th arrondissement.

1. What woman’s face did Bartholdi first use as a model for the Statue of Liberty?

A. His mother’s.
B. His mistress’s.
C. Sarah Bernhardt’s.

2. What do the names of the Villiers, Monceau and Courcelles metro stations recall?

A. Old villages and hamlets.
B. Marshals of the Empire.
C. Victories of the Napoleonic army.

3. Where did Nana, the Zola heroine, live?

A. Rue de Tocqueville.
B. Avenue des Villiers.
C. Boulevard Malesherbes.

4. How many avenues open onto the place Charles-de-Gaulle?

A. 11.
B. 12.
C. 13.

5. What is the official name of the square in which the Arc de triomphe stands?

A. Place d’Étoile.
B. Place Charles-de-Gaulle.
C. Rond-Point des Champs-Elysées.

Answers can be found at the end of the newsletter.

Travel in France: Dordogne 

Answers: A, Bartholdi’s mother Augusta Charlotte; 2. A, ancient villages annexed to the city in 1860; 3. B, Avenue des Villiers; 4. 12; 5. B, formerly the place de l’Étoile it was rechristened place Charles-de-Gaulle in 1970. 

News for the week of April 15

AFGR News

Une soirée de conversation - part deux! Fluent or beginner - like to talk or just listen - everyone is welcome.  Come for conversation, wine and light hors d'oeuvre on Wednesday April 25 from 6:30 to 8:00 pm.

Chez la Porte Rouge
1825 Weymouth Drive SE
Grand Rapids  49508

Please RSVP by Mon. April 23  to Linda FitzGerald at linfreniu@juno.com or 827-7214

Letter from Brittany (France)

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Just before Easter, I had the pleasure of spending four days in Brittany, the northwest section of France. As with all of France’s regions, Brittany is almost a country within a country. It wasn’t until 1532 that the Duchy of Brittany was permanently reunited with France. Brittany is known as Breiz in Breton (a Celtic language). While few people still speak Breton, street signs and place names are in both Breton and French and many of the traditional songs are performed in Breton. The weather and the beautiful and rugged scenery also has more in common with Ireland than southern France.

On this short trip, I visited two areas of Brittany. The first was the coast of the English Channel (La Manche). Highlights in this area of Brittany included—

Cancale—a picturesque fishing village famous for its oyster “farming”. On a clear day, you can see the outline of Mont St. Michel.  Food is important in every region; besides oysters, another specialty is Breton butter cookies. If you want to have a “hands on” experience, I suggest taking the class at la Maison Guella (located just on the outskirts of Cancale). You can learn to make the type of Breton butter biscuits known as le palet Breton.  After making them in the class, your biscuits are boxed up to take with you. These are almost more like a buttery biscotti vs. other types of Breton biscuits that are equally delicious but taste more like Scottish shortbread. 

No trip to Brittany is complete without one lunch or dinner at a crêperie. At La crêperie Breizh Café in Cancale you can watch the chef preparing traditional sarrasin (buckwheat) crêpes. These delicious crêpes can be filled with a huge variety of toppings accompanied by traditional cidre (cider) from Brittany or Normandy. 

St. Malo and Dinan—are two other charming towns with fabulous views, fortified walls and winding medieval streets. Much of St. Malo was burned in August 1944 (one of our former AF book club reads was the 2015 Pulitzer Prize winner, All the Light We Cannot See takes place in St. Malo). The town was lovingly restored after the war. My visit to Dinan was far too short—but there was time for a wonderful dinner of beautifully prepared local specialties at the highly recommended Restaurant Les 3 Lunes.

The second part of my trip was the Golfe of Morbihan along the Atlantic Coast. Highlights included:

Golfe du Morbihan—A cruise with Vedettes Angelus is a great way to see this area which has about forty islands—some of them inhabited.

Carnac—With a total of over 3,000 menhirs dating from 4,000 BC, this is a “must see”. There are three impressive megalithic sites-the Alignments of Carnac, Megaliths of Locmariquer and the Grand Cairn of Barnenez. 

Vannes—Known as a “City of Art and History”, this is a true gem along the Golfe du Morbihan. There is a charming harbor, medieval ramparts and half-timbered houses (and great shopping). This is the perfect city to use as your base for exploring this area. When you are ready to go back to Paris, the TGV from Vannes is only 2 ½ hours.

~ Jane Larson, AF de GR

How well do you know Paris? Today we look at the 16th arrondissement.

1. How many lakes are in the Bois de Boulogne?

A. 1.
B. 2.
C. 3.

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2. In what year was a gilded bronze flame placed n the place de l’Alma?

A. 1934, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty.
B. 1987, for the centenary of the International herald Tribune.
C. 1998, one year exactly accident in the tunnel that killed Princess Diana.

3. What memory does the word Trocadéro evoke?

A. The taking of an Andalusian fort.
B. A battle won by Napoleon’s army in a Piedmontese valley.
C. The name of the architect who built the palace (since demolished) for th 1878 world’s Fair.

4. What 624-square-meter painting occupies a whole room of the Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris?

A. Claude Monet’s Water Lilies.
B. Henri Matisse’s The Danse.
C. Raoul Dufy’s The Electric Fairy.

5. What country is particularly favored in the place names of the 16th arr.?

A. Italy.
B. The United States.
C. Brazil.

Answers can be found at the end of the newsletter.

Travel in France: Top Ten Tourists Attractions

Answers: 1. B, 2 lakes linked by a waterfall; 2. B, 1987; 3. A, a fort situated near Cadiz, Spain; 4. C, The Electric Fairy; 5. B, the US. 

News for the week of April 8

AFGR News

Une soirée de conversation - part deux! Fluent or beginner - like to talk or just listen - everyone is welcome.  Come for conversation, wine and light hors d'oeuvre on Wednesday April 25 from 6:30 to 8:00 pm.

Chez la Porte Rouge
1825 Weymouth Drive SE
Grand Rapids  49508

Please RSVP by Mon. April 23  to Linda FitzGerald at linfreniu@juno.com or 827-7214

Letter from Paris

One more night in the environs of Paris: Dan and I are stopping overnight near the Charles De Gaulle‎ airport on our way home from Crete. 

Once, years ago, I did the same, but my hotel was on the other side of the airport. Then, I was delighted to find myself near an old village, half-decayed, half alive, in which to walk and look at small, ancient houses of stone next to barns with collapsing roofs, old hay still in them, as well as spruce, newer houses with geraniums in the window, and around it fields being plowed. There was a restaurant there, too, that looked good. I believe I've finally recovered the name of the village: Le Mesnil-‎Amelot, and I hope to stay there next go-around to see how things are now.

This time, though,  we stayed very near the "Centre Ville"of Roissy-en-France, at the Marriott. I love finding a village or town within walking distance to explore ‎while staying near the airport. We crossed the street next to the hotel and entered a  park where trees were in pink bloom, a thrush was singing, and then came upon several streets with interesting houses and gardens, even a remaining ancient wall of the now-destroyed chateau Roissy's stable, to admire. We spied a few bistros, too, and wished we'd known of them before we dined at the hotel. Not that we were displeased with our dinner at the airport Marriott-it didn't offer the "Pigeon Rouennais" we marvelled over at the restaurant Gill in Rouen- but a delicately piquant boeuf tartare with crisp, hot pommes frites and lightly dressed salad was to be had. We felt very fortunate.

Now we're on the plane home. Nine cooped-up hours to experience. The excellent French bread didn't make it on to the flight.‎ Alors, we have home to look forward to.

~ Ellen VanderMey

How well do you know Paris? Today we look at the 15th arrondissement.

1. Like all of Paris’s arrondissements, the 15th consists of four quarters, which are: Necker, Grenelle, Javel and. . . 

A. Saint-Lambert.
B. Sainte-Marguerite.
C. Saint-Victor.

2. The sculptor Bourdelle has his museum on the rue Antoine-Bourdelle. He had people call him Antoine rather than his given name Émile. Why?

A. Out of admiration for Antoine Rodin, who he considered his teacher.
B. Because he hated the nickname Mimile.
C. Because his wife’s name was Cléopâtre.

3. At 91 rue Lecourbe a minuscule Russian church is hidden at the rear of a backyard. What natural wonder is found inside this place of worship?

A. A tree trunk, planted in the ground, that shoots through the roof of the church.
B. A trodden-earth floor, to “elevate the soul while keeping the feet on the ground.”
C. Interior walls covered in ivy.

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4. What contemporary artist is the creator of l’Oiseau lunaire, a 2m—high bronze sculpture placed in the center of the square Blomet?

A. Paul Landowski
B. Joan Miró
C. François Pompan.

5. Where does the name of the Bir-Hakeim metro station come from?

A. From an Arabic form of address.
B. From the headgear worn by French colonial troops.
C. From an oasis in the middle of the Libyan desert.

Answers can be found at the end of the newsletter.

Travel in France: Montpellier

Answers: 1. A, Saint-Lambert quarter; 2. because of his wife’s name Cleopatra; he was the assistant of Auguste (not Antoine) Rodin; 3. A, two trees are in the church, one is thriving, the other is a trunk; 4. Joan Miró; 5. C, named in memory of a battle fought at this oasis in the Libyan desert in 1942.

News for the week of April 1

Letter from France

 the Seine

the Seine

An early-spring day in Rouen, Normandy this Monday, March 26: Sun lighting up the stunning stone lacework that is ‎the front facade of Rouen's cathedral, neatly planted yellow and purple pansies and crocuses in a municipal flower, and, moments later, pavement cobblestones dark with rain. More rain was predicted for the following day, but that didn't stop Dan and I from driving to Honfleur, an extremely attractive coastal town. Because Easter was approaching, one saw Easter bunnies everywhere in Honfleur: in ceramic, painted in the faïence  style of Rouen, in chocolate, in pastry, in antique shop windows and "Joyeux Pacques" signs in the shop windows. 

A rainy day is a good day for taking a driving tour along the meandering Seine from Honfleur, especially when the wonderful Musée des Beaux Art of Rouen is closed (aargh). Using secondary roads through the valleys and plateaus along that wide green river, we saw moss-painted villages, tall trees hung with balls of mistletoe, the greenest grass one could ever see, and, between Azier and Hauville, many fields headed with big piles of cow manure waiting to be spread on them. Not many apple trees in bloom yet. At La Bouille we wound down the steep road to the promenade along the Seine, hoping to have tea on a terrace, but as the photos show you, the weather discouraged it-no one was out and about, except the car ferry and its passengers.

We were delighted with our excursion until we hit the traffic on the outskirts of Rouen, but a dinner that included Pigeon Rouennais, a truly marvelous dish, restored delight. 

At the moment, we are going through nail-biting morning traffic on our way to fly to Crete from Aéroport Charles de Gaulle. ‎This trip to France was far too short.

                                                                                        ~ Ellen VanderMey

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How well do you know Paris? Today we look at the 14th arrondissement.

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1. Why does rue Émile-Richard, which runs a respectable 382m, include only one street number?

A. Because it crosses a cemetery.
B. Because it runs along a railroad track.
C. Because it borders the bleak walls of a prison.

2. How many stories in the Montparnasse Tower?

A. 48.
B. 59.
C. 64.

3. In the Montparnasse Cemetery, the grave of the Pigeon family is surmounted by a life-sized bronze sculpture of a scene from the conjugal life of the honorable bourgeois couple. What is the scene?

A. The spouses are in their bathroom.
B. The spouses are lying side by side in their king-sized bed.
C. The spouses are in their living room.

4. What is the ratio of remains contained in the catacombs to current inhabitants of Paris?

A. Three times as many skeletons as living Parisians.
B. Equal number of Parisians above and below ground.
C. Three times fewer skeletons than living Parisians.

5. What is peculiar about the architecture of the Paris Observatory?

A. The walls of its laboratories are perfectly round, without interruption.
B. Iron and wood were shunned during its construction.
C. It rests on oil-filled caissons so that earthquakes don’t skew scientific readings.

Answers can be found at the end of the newsletter.

Travel in France: Perpignan

Answers: 1. A, rue Émile-Richard runs through Montparnasse cemetery; 2. B, 59 floors; 3. B, husband and wife in bed; 4. A, three times more skeletons than living Parisians; 5. B, Iron and wood were shunned in construction.

News for the week of March 25

AFGR chapter news

Our next book club meeting is May 15 at 5:30pm at Schuler Books on 28th Street in Grand Rapids and the selection is The Mistress Of Paris: The 19th-Century Courtesan Who Built an Empire on a Secret by Catherine Hewitt, the story of  19th century Parisian courtesan Comtesse Valtesse de la Bigne. For more information contact Marijke Wiersema.

According to The New York Times Book Review, “A gorgeous, smart, ambitious, hard-working, steely autodidact and businesswoman whose product was herself, Valtesse would be totally at home in our self-branding society.” 

Valtesse was fictionalized by Émile Zola in his novel Nana and painted by Édouard Manet:

 Metropolitan Museum of New York

Metropolitan Museum of New York

How well do you know Paris? Today we look at the 13th arrondissement.

mitterand.jpg

1. How do books at the François Mitterand Library circulate from one tower to another?

A. On a conveyor belt.
B. Propelled by compressed air in a network of PVC tubes.
C. Transported in carriers that glide on rails affixed to the ceiling.

2. In what year was the Biévre river totally covered?

A. 1912.
B. 1937.
C. 1954.

3. What does the name Tolbiac evoke?

A. A victory.
B. A pigment prized by dyers.
C. An ancient convent.

4. What film recounts the true story of a spectacular escape attempt from La Santé Prison?

A. La Grande Évasion (The Great Escape).
B. La Trou (The Hole).
C. La Belle (The Deciding Game).

5. What is peculiar about the rue du Disque?

A. It’s an underground road.
B. It’s circular.
C. It houses the Museum of the Microgroove at number 3.

Answers can be found at the end of the newsletter.

Travel in France: Marseille from the air

Answers: 1. C, carriers fixed to the ceiling; 2. A, 1912; 3. A, a victory of the Franks over the Alamans in 496; 4. B, Le Trou; 5. A, entrance to the subterranean road is at 70 avenue d’Ivry.

Readying for Rouen

by Ellen VanderMey

My husband and I are preparing for a trip abroad and our first stop is Rouen, in Normandy, France. 

Aside from the questions of which footwear and clothing to pack, a question of primary importance is which books to pack (no, I’m not a Kindle user). Michelin's Green and Red Guides always go with us. And of course, something on Rouen's history. Reading about Jeanne d'Arc would be apropos because she was martyred in Rouen's Place de Vieux Marché. And I would certainly profit from re-reading Madame Bovary and A Sentimental Education by Rouen’s native son Gustave Flaubert.  

I realize I want to add the weight of the present to the weight of history, so I chose The Elegance of the Hedgehog and one of John Banville's latest "Mrs. Osmond" novels for reading before going to sleep. Neither of them are set in Rouen, but both are set in Europe.  

Don't let me mislead you, though; I spend much more time figuring out which clothing to pack.

Stay tuned!

News for the week of March 18

Our next book club selection for March 20 at Schuler's was is Billie, a story about a unique friendship between two young people. The book was the  number one best seller in France by French author Anna Gavalda.  For more information please contact Marijke Wiersema.

How well do you know Paris? Today we look at the 12th arrondissement.

1. What Luc Besson film contains a scene shot in the gare de Lyon’s Le Train Bleu restaurant?

A. The Big Blue.
B. Nikita.
C. Subway.

2. What is the parc de Bercy’s “canyonaustrate”?

A. A 10m-high robot.
B. A waterfall.
C. A multiplex cinema.

3. The group of sculpted figures adorning the center of the place de la Nation is entitled The Triumph of the Republic. What is the feminine figure symbolizing the republic perched on?

A. A throne.
B. A globe.
C. An arc de triomphe.

4. What is the width of the narrowest Parisian way?

A. o.35m
B. 0.87m
C. 1.15m

5. Where does the name Picpus, used by a road, a boulevard and a cemetery, come from?

A. From a property owner whose land the road goes through.
B. From an epidemic of itch.
C. From a train company that had its headquarters in the quarter.

Answers can be found at the end of the newsletter.

Answers to last week's quiz on the 11th arrondissement: 1. B, associates Richard and Lenoir; 2. A, one vine and live in Paris; 3. B, Jules Verne; 4. A, a chapel painted entirely in a trompe-l’oeil; 5. B, foundations for supports of the guillotine near where the Roquette prison once stood. 

Travel in France: Strasbourg

Answers: 1. B, Nikita; 2. B, water cascades into a naturally formed canyon; 3. B, a ball or globe; 4. B, o.87m wide; 5. B, epidemic of a skin rash.

News for the week of March 11

Join the Friends of the Opera on a trip to the Lyric Opera in Chicago

Sunday, March 18, 2018 join the FOTO to see the 2pm matinee performance of Gounod's Faust. 

  • Travel to and from Chicago by comfortable Motor Coach
  • Departing 9:30 am, sharp, and returning 10:30 pm, approximate
  • Conveniently meeting at the Jenison Meijer, 550 Baldwin St, Jenison, MI 49428
  • Dine in one of several Lyric restaurants
  • Enjoy excellent, first balcony seats for the performance
  • Price: FOTO Members:  $150 adult/$75 student; non Member: $175 adult / $100 studentPrice includes your ticket to the performance and round-trip bus fare.

"An Opera Worth Your Soul" is the title of Barrymore L. Scherer's "Masterpiece" column about Gounod's "Faust" in the March 3-4, 2018 Wall Street Journal. After describing passages of "tender melodies"  and "magical interplay of voice and instruments", and how "Gounod's soaring theme returns in the full orchestra", he writes, "It is the opulent melodic warmth and color of this music--together with extroverted numbers like the Kermesse waltz, the soldiers' chorus, and the impassioned final trio--that have enabled "Faust" to endure after a century and a half. " A must see, must hear opera.

Act Now – Seating is limited! Reserve your seat today and arrange payment by contacting Peggy Barber at 231-740-8200, or email: trips@fotogr.org


Our next book club selection for March 20 at Schuler's was is Billie, a story about a unique friendship between two young people. The book was the  number one best seller in France by French author Anna Gavalda.  For more information please contact Marijke Wiersema.

How well do you know Paris? Today we look at the 11th arrondissement.

1. Whose memory doe the metro station Richard-Lenoir evoke?

A. A deputy Lenoir, whose first name was Richard.
B. Two associates, M. Richard and M. Lenoir.
C. A certain Richard, an artist, nicknamed "le Noir" (the black).

2. Any Parisian can, under certain circumstances, join the Association of Winegrowers of Paris. What are the required conditions?

A. To have at least one vine and live in Paris.
B. To successfully pass an enology exam.
C. To prove ownership of a wine cellar anywhere in France.

3. To what 19th century writer do we owe the novel Paris in the 20th Century?

A. Honoré de Balzac
B. Jules Verne.
C. Alexandre Dumas.

4. What curiosity can be seen on the interior of the église Sainte-Marguerite, on the rue de la Roquette?

A. A chapel painted entirely as a trompe-l'oeil.
B. A group of contemporary stained glass windows.
C. A wax statue of a reclining Sainte-Marguerite.

5. At the intersection of rue de la Roquette and rue de la Croix-Faubin you might notice five paving stones set in the asphalt. What are they?

A. Vestiges of Thiers's fortifications.
B. Foundation slabs which supported the guillotine.
C. Stones from the north tower of the old Bastille prison.

Answers to last week's quiz on the 10th arrondissement: 1. B, Éventaillistes who collaborate with artists to care for the "residents" of the musée de l'Éventail at 2 boulevard Strasbourg; 2. B, 9 locks climbing 25m over 4 km between the Seine and La Villette pond; 3. B, the infamous Montfaucon gallows stood not from the lock; 4. A, 1.2m wide and 5m tall; 5. B gare de l'Est. 

Travel in France: The left Bank in Paris

News for the week of March 4

Our next book club selection for March 20 at Schuler's was is Billie, a story about a unique friendship between two young people. The book was the  number one best seller in France by French author Anna Gavalda.  For more information please contact Marijke Wiersema.

And speaking of books. . . 

My pick this week is The Streets of Paris: A Guide to the City of Light Following in the Footsteps of Famous Parisians Throughout History by Susan Cahill noted author of the Hidden Gardens of Paris. I know, the title is a mouthful but this is not only fun and informative to read but comes with lots of handy tips and information about not-so-common places to visit.

France in America

There's still time to get to the Speed Museum in Louisville, KY to see the "Women Artists in Paris 1850-1900" exhibition. Eighty paintings by thirty-seven artists from 13 countries truly spectacular. . .  like this work by Louise Abbéma (that's Louise on the right right with Sarah Bernhardt in the white dress):

P9540159.jpg

How well do you know Paris? Today we look at the 10th arrondissement.

1. What are artists who make hand fans called?.

A. Éventiers.
B. Éventaillistes.
C. Éventailleurs.

2. How many locks are there in the canal Saint-Martin?

A. 5.
B. 9
C. 12.

3. Why is one of the canal Saint-Martin locks called "the lock of the dead"?

A. It is bridged a high gangway popular among those attempting suicide.
B. It evokes memories of an old gallows.
C. The locks name actually comes from a corruption of the French word for "Moors."

4. How wide is the narrowest building front in Paris, at 39 rue du Château-d'Eau?

A. 1.2m.
B. 2.3m.
C. 3.2m.

5. Which of the following is spanned by the rue de l'Aqueduc?

A. The canal Saint-Martin.
B. The tracks of the gare de l'Est.
C. The gardens of the Lariboisière hospital.

Answers to last week's quiz on the 9th arrondissement: 1. C, Greek-inspired architecture; 2. A, Anvers; 3. B, crossed by plasterers’s carts; 4. C, one-way traffic; 5. A, Cave of Thieves.

Travel in France: Provence

News for the week of February 25

Our next book club selection for March 20 at Schuler's is Billie, a story about a unique friendship between two young people. The book was the  number one best seller in France by French author Anna Gavalda.  For more information please contact Marijke Wiersema.

And speaking of books. . . 

Steve's pick this week is the wonderful 111 Places in Paris that you shouldn't miss (2017) by Sybil Canac, Renée Grimaud and Katia Thomas. Two examples of this well-laid out and informative book are the Chocolate museum in the 10th arr. and the Chen Zen fountain in the 13th. Both are on our list for our next trip in April.

Oh, and the book is available at the Grand Rapids Pubic Library, main branch.

Culinary treat: steak frites

From Clothilde Dusoulier of chocolate and zucchini blog fame, here's a little something to whet your appetite on your next trip to Paris:

"The epitome of the bistro dish, this simple pairing of a grilled steak (with various optional sauces) and fries is elevated to serious heights when the meat is well selected and carefully matured, and the potatoes are fresh, hand-cut and double-fried.

Order your steak cooked to your liking, from saignant (i.e. rare) to à point to bien cuit (i.e. well done). French chefs typically prefer to serve it saignant, as it is considered the optimal stage at which to enjoy the flavor of the meat.

I am personally all about the excellent steak frites served at Bouillon in Pigalle, right in my neighborhood!"

How well do you know Paris?

Today we look at the 9th arrondissement.

1. Where does the name Nouvelle Athènes quarter come from?

A. Paris's first Olympic pool was built there in 1932.
B. From its proximity to a theatre called "The New Athens."
C. From the architecture of the apartment buildings, inspired by the ancient Greek repertoire.

2. In what metro station was François Truffaut's film Le Dernier Métro partially shot?

A. Anvers.
B. Pigalle.
C. Blanche.

3. Why is place Blanche so named?

A. Facing directly south, it is always very bright.
B. It used to be crossed by plasterers' carts.
C. Its real name is Blanche de-Castille, but was shortened in usage.

4. What Parisian speciality first appeared in 1909, simultaneously on the rue de Mogador and the rue de la Chausée-d'Antin?

A. Roasted chestnuts.
B. The jambon-beurre sandwich.
C. One-way traffic.

5. What was the name of the first wax museum, which opened to the public at the end of the 18th century on the boulevard du Temple?

A. The Cave of Thieves.
B. The Illusory.
C. The Human Menagerie.

Answers to last week's quiz on the 8th arrondissement: 1. A, racetrack; 2. there is no consensus so all are correct; 3. B, wheeled urinals; 4. A & B, there is no bell tower and it is oriented south toward the rue Royale; 5. A, Venetian beach.

Job posting

Office Team, a Robert Half company, is working with a company in Grand Rapids who has an employment opportunity for someone who is fluent in French. If you know of anyone who might be interested, please contact Lauren Naveaux, OfficeTeam Division Director, at  lauren.naveaux@officeteam.com, 616.774.9500 or by fax  616.454.4508.

Travel in France

Culinary curiosities: poulet de Bresse

bird.jpg

Consider this bird. Isn’t it spectacularly ugly? See its blue legs, its lead ring (on the right leg near the body)? It’s a poulet de Bresse, famous for its delicate flavor, and it came to mind again recently when reading that famed chef Paul Bocuse had died in January. He was known for creating many delectable dishes, Volaille de Bresse en Vessie being one of them. This particular bird was cooked by Anne-Lise Whitescarver, cherished member of Alliance Française, to celebrate the Christmas of 2016, and it’s thanks to David Whitescarver that we have this photo to share. I wonder how many of us have eaten a poulet from the plains of Bresse….

News for the week of February 18

Our next book club selection for March 20 at Schuler's was is Billie, a story about a unique friendship between two young people. The book was the  number one best seller in France by French author Anna Gavalda.  For more information please contact Marijke Wiersma.

How well do you know Paris?

Today we look at the 8th arrondissement.

1. What did the Champs-Élysées look like from 1833 to 1860?

A. A racetrack
B. A battlground
C. A fairgrounds

2. What are the inhabitants of the Champs-Élysées called?

A. Élyéens
B. Champélyséens
C. Élysiens

3. What type of urinals did early 20th century Parisians see appear along the Champs-Élysées?

A. Urinals for women called "dalmatiennes."
B. Moving urinals with wheels
. Art nouveau-style urinals

4. In what way is the Madeleine different form other churches?

A. It lacks a bell tower
B. It isn't oriented to the east
. It has no altar

5. Where does the cabaret du Lido get its name?

A. From a Venetian beach.
B. From a Roman goddess
. From a Sicilian singer.

Answers to last week's quiz on the 7th arrondissement: 1. C; 2.  B, teaching of the blind; 3. C, rhinoceros, a horse and an elephant; 4. A, Dante; 5. C, Saint Vincent de Paul

Travel in France

News for the week of February 11

Spring 2018 class schedule is online!

Women Artists in Paris, 1850-1900 traveling exhibition and catalogue

"Paris was the epicenter of art during the latter half of the nineteenth century, luring artists from around the world with its academies, museums, salons, and galleries. Despite the city’s cosmopolitanism and its cultural stature, Parisian society remained strikingly conservative, particularly with respect to gender. Nonetheless, many women artists chose to work and study in Paris at this time, overcoming immense obstacles to access the city’s resources.

Women Artists in Paris, 1850-1900 showcases the remarkable artistic production of women during this period of great cultural change, revealing the breadth and strength of their creative achievements." Read more

The exhibition recently finished in Denver last month and heads for the Speed Museum in Louisville, KY before ending the tour at the Clark in Williamstown, MA.

Chapter news

Reminder: This year's Mardi Gras celebration will be held at 6:30pm on February 13, at the Villas of Ada Clubhouse, 830 Bridge Crest Drive, just off Ada Drive.  

Our next book club selection for March 20 at Schuler's was is Billie, a story about a unique friendship between two young people. The book was the  number one best seller in France by French author Anna Gavalda.  For more information please contact Marijke Wiersma.

How well do you know Paris?

Today we look at the 7th arrondissement.

1. In 1800 the Parisian sewers essentially consisted of a 20 km network. Over what distance doe their passages run today?

A. 651 km
B. 1877 km
C. 2389 km

2. What do the collections of the musée de Valetin-Haüy evoke?

A. The saga of the gold rush
B. The teaching of the blind
C. Progress in the field of biochemistry

3. What animal sculptures greet visitors to the musée d'Orsay?

A. A unicorn, a sphinx anda dragon
B. A giraffe, a lion and a peacock
C. A rhinoceros, a horse and an elephant

4. Among the most famous of Rodin's works shown at his museum is the renowned Thinker. Who is he and what is he thinking about?

A. Dante, thinking of his poem, Inferno
B. Balzac, fine-tuning the psychological profile of one of his heroes
C. Apollo, asking himself how to seduce the nymph Coronis

5. Two steps form the metro Vanneau, a small chapel houses a mummy. Whose?

A. Henry IV's
B. Jean-François Champollion's
C. Saint Vincent de Paul's

Answers to last week's quiz on the 6th arrondissement: 1. B, 5; 2. A, sculpture; 3. C, a room where one sings; 4. A Benedictine monk 5. B, ice cracking.

Joyeuse Saint Valentin!