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


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


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.