Bonne fête nationale !

Author: fraise

Posted in Journal, La France, Paris at 21:15

A short stint here

C’est le 14 juillet et il fait beau ! The photo above was actually taken a couple of weeks ago, when I had the opportunity to work in that very same EDF skyscraper.

As summer holidays approach, I’ll have more time to share my discoveries of Paris. A few days ago I saw the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit currently at the Grand Palais. I made a day out of it, walking to Concorde and the east edge of the Tuileries, then back up the Champs Elysées for window shopping and ice cream. At the Arc de Triomphe, tourists asked to take their photo with me, assuming I was a Frenchwoman. Which, technically, is correct, but nonetheless brings a smile to my originally-Oregonian face.

Now when I look at the Arc, a new memory is recalled. A colleague kindly drove me (and another colleague) around it. I do believe I’ve come full circle from driving McKenzie Pass to now having experienced the largest cobblestone roundabout in Europe. It was pretty wild… we’ll see if I ever achieve actually driving it myself someday.

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Mon petit marché

Author: fraise

Posted in La France, Paris at 20:45

Pain de campagne, cheeses and radishes

A few weeks ago, on my way home from work, I passed what looked like a miniature outdoor food market: a food truck selling cheeses, bread, fruit, and vegetables. They had a sign with a website address on it, so I checked when I got home. To my surprise, it was a sort of organic food collective that tours Paris and environs, selling local edibles. They drop by my area once a week in the evening. Best of all, you can order online, and when you request pickup at the truck, they’ll fill your order the day they’re in your area, with fresh goods!

I’ve since gotten in the habit of picking up mon panier parisien once a week. The vegetables are delicious, but best of all are the cheeses. I love Brie and buttery Camembert, as well as longer-aged, harder tomes, and hard cheeses such as Comté and Beaufort which can be aged for years. Le Panier Parisien has an absolutely incredible Camembert the likes of which I had never tasted before, and their crottins de chèvre (literally “goat droppings”, but actually soft goat cheese, you can see two above the Camembert) are also delicious. Together with authentic, freshly-baked pain de campagne, I am now a very spoiled Parisienne indeed.

Chat courbevoisien

For more local color, this is a relaxed tuxedo kitty I also spotted on my walk home.

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Your twice-yearly update

Author: fraise

Posted in Cats, Journal, Meta at 19:01

Kanoko and Susu together

Teasing with the title there. The pause hasn’t been intentional; more a collection of “later… later…” on my part. For nearly three months…!

The cats are doing great (the photo above was taken today), and I’ve been doing pretty well too. Paris holds more opportunities across the board, whether they be personal, interpersonal, career-related, cat-related. I’ve been making the most of it, so my blog has gone to the backburner in the meanwhile.

The biggest plus has definitely been for my career. I’ve finally been given long-requested promotions, ones for which work just wasn’t there in the southeast. The flip side is that, as a consultant with immediately-recognizable client companies, I’m not at liberty to talk about it in more than the most general terms. So, in the time I haven’t been writing here, I have been thinking about which direction to take my blog. I have some ideas, but they’re still fuzzy; my day job has been taking up most of my creative brainpower. Which is a wonderful thing! It’s great to have a job that asks creativity of me. I’ve always been an organic sort, so I know that when I say “we’ll see” for this blog, we actually will.

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Kitty on a chair

Author: Susu

Posted in Catnet at 23:31

Susu posing on a chair

Kanoko and I have been enjoying the sun lately. Spring has definitely arrived! Yesterday it was twenty degrees (cats use centigrade).

In the evenings I like to read blogs too. In my last post I shared our favorite music, but we also love art. One of my current favorites is Kitty In A Hut. If you like cats and have a darkly-quirky sense of humor, you’ll probably enjoy it too. My human says it’s drawn by one of her friends from when she was a kitten-human. The kitty looks just like hers! Kind of a grey version of Kanoko.

After music and reading, Kanoko and I have a nice rest together to get ready for plenty of jumpy-time fun just before sunrise.

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Cat music on the Catnet

Author: Susu

Posted in Catnet, Cats at 15:30

Susu selfie

I’ve been hanging out listening to music lately. Music for Cats, of course. My favorite there is “Spook’s Ditty.” On request of a commenter, I borrowed my human’s phone and took a selfie while pondering the meaning of life. As you can see, I am CLEARLY blue and black.

We’re all looking forward to the return of spring. A lot of humans have been tired this last month; mine says it’s a virus going around. I’ve never had a virus; I think it’s because I catch a lot of flies? Probably eating flies helps build resistance to that sort of thing. Humans should consider eating more of them. They are really crunchy.

Kanoko’s favorite song is still this one by Kraftwerk. He always purrs through the whole thing.

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Feline photog

Author: Susu

Posted in Catnet, Cats, Photography at 17:44

Susu the photographer

A chirpy hello to you! We had beautiful sunlight in Courbevoie today. After checking out the grass on our balcony and watching skylarks and crows, Kanoko and I came back inside to rest on the soft mattresses that our human also likes to use. I’ve been experimenting with photography thanks to our human. At first I thought she was just clicking a little black box with a big eye at us, but then I noticed it has pictures on a screen, like the other clicky-thing she uses to post these blog entries. She showed me that the small black box actually makes the photos on its screen!

For my first tries, I took a few shots of my best friend. This one is my favorite. Kanoko was paying a lot of attention to his fur, as usual, and the afternoon light was still nice.

Susu the photographer

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New contributor

Author: fraise

Posted in Catnet, Cats at 19:29

Susu Blogs

The end of 2014 marked my twentieth year blogging – as a human. Regular readers may also remember the Internet’s very first catblog: Malo’s, started back in 2002, with then-novel cat-captioned webcam pics. It is still around, just on a private server, because it got so many spam comments, and up until recently, blog spam filters were very hit and miss. Recently, another cat, Susu, has been telling me that she’d very much like to contribute. As if to give me a sign, today I learned that one of the early names of the Internet was “catenet“, pronounced “catnet” as a contraction of “concatenated network”. I had been looking for a category name to dub Susu’s contributions – now we have one!

Susu is a thoughtful, humorous, and expressive feline. As we all know, the Internet has contributed to the expansive growth of felis catus understanding, especially with the leaps and bounds made in cat-to-human translation. As such, I feel confident that Susu will be able to contribute a great deal here on her Catnet. For those of you wondering why Kanoko isn’t writing, he’s never much liked the spotlight. He does love watching Susu and helping her, though.

A brief look at Susu, full name Susuwatari Soot Sprite, and what she’ll be bringing us:
Birthdate: July 2011 (age 3 currently, nearing 4)
Notable personality trait as a kitten, according to her first human: “She’s a wild one!!! She never stops running around, I still haven’t been able to pick her up!”
Move-in date with Kanoko and fraise: 29 October 2011
Fun fact: It was the first time her original human had been able to pick her up.
First expression of interest in blogging: age 4 months
Tastes in wine: Susu prefers Fleurie
Design skills: A talented couturière, Susu often advises on pattern and fabric combinations.

Regarding the recent dinosaur controversy: Susu would like to state for the record that she is not, has never been, and will never be, a dinosaur. She was merely photographed at a sensitive time by a paparazzi at her vacation home on the French Riviera. While she is an obligate carnivore, she does not roar or go on rampages, and always sheaths her claws when swatting. She meows and dashes about while behaving responsibly: these are highly important distinctions that dinosaurs are incapable of making.

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Abbatiale Saint-Ouen

Author: fraise

Posted in La France, Photography, Travel at 23:14

Church of Saint Ouen

Of the multitude of Gothic churches I’ve visited in France, none has impressed me as profoundly as l’Abbatiale Saint-Ouen, known as the Church of Saint Ouen in English. If you’re wondering how to pronounce it, it’s roughly like our Owen and Ewen, which is for good reason, as they’re from the same root. Saint Audoin (Ouen) lived in the seventh century, and eventually became bishop in Rouen. After his death and burial at the original church, built in 553, the building took on his name. Three centuries later, this abbey was sacked by Vikings, which happened relatively often in Normandy. Indeed, in 911, one invader traded peace for a guarantee of his protection of Normandy… against other Viking warriors. He was named King Rollo. One thousand years after Rollo’s victory, Denmark gifted a replica of Harald Bluetooth’s runestone to the city of Rouen, where it still stands in front of the modern abbey.

Church of Saint Ouen, west rose window

Another church began construction in 1062, and was consecrated in 1126. Unfortunately, it was destroyed by fire in 1248. Today’s abbatiale construction began in 1318, and the last side, the west, was finished in the 19th century. The photo above is of a smaller rose window on this western side – you can see definite Celtic influence.

In addition to the flamboyant exterior – which is indeed mainly Gothic Flamboyant – the church’s stained glass windows are among its most unique sights.

Church of Saint Ouen, stained glass
Church of Saint Ouen, stained glass

If you’d like to see more pictures of the church, there are over a dozen in my photoset of Rouen. Our next entry on the Norman city will be about more down-to-earth buildings, namely the wonderful maisons à colombages, or woodframe homes.

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La Cathédrale de Rouen

Author: fraise

Posted in La France, Photography, Travel at 22:41

Rouen Cathedral towers

France still holds mysteries, even after nearly two decades living here. Last week I picked Rouen for a day trip, as the SNCF was offering a Saturday special to the Norman city from Paris. While I’ve been to Brittany and Paris, I had never before visited Normandy between them. My twelve hours spent in Rouen were so rich, I’ll be doing a series of posts on the city and its history.

This first entry is dedicated to an edifice that embodies Rouennais history from the twelfth century to our own: la Cathédrale de Rouen. The photo above shows the Tour Saint-Romain on the left, one of the first examples of Gothic architecture in history, and the first part of the cathedral to be built. On the right is the more modern Tour de Beurre, built in the 16th century, a late example of Gothic Flamboyant architecture.

Gothic architecture originated in France, and was in fact first named “French work”, Opus Francigenum. The term we use today was pejorative then: Goths were destructive vandals, and the new-fangled French handiwork was seen as a modern travesty, with Greek- and Roman-inspired Classical architecture held as the ideal against which it was judged. Even Molière, who lived in the seventeenth century, well after Gothic architecture had been established, had words to say about it:

« Tout s’y voyant tiré d’un vaste fonds d’esprit,
Assaisonné du sel de nos grâces antiques,
Et non du fade goût des ornements gothiques,
Ces monstres odieux des siècles ignorants,
Que de la barbarie ont produit les torrents… »

Translation (which can never equal the original):
All had been drawn from a rich reservoir of great thought,
Seasoned with the spice of Ancient graces,
Certainly not the blandness of Gothic ornament,
Such odious monsters borne of ignorant times,
Barbarism alone could produced by such torrents…

As for we contemporary visitors, if we exclaim “oh my God!” or “goodness gracious!” when approaching the legions of gargoyles, sculpted saints, ornate spires, and stained glass windows, all set on massive stonework, we unknowingly keep alive one of the style’s key purposes – which was to inspire awe for God and the Church.

Darkness, Rouen Cathedral

Skipping ahead another few centuries, seventy years ago this May, Rouen Cathedral lost many of her colorful windows, all of her chapels on the south side, and bells in the Saint-Romain tower, which went up in flames. The year was 1944, and Rouen was being bombarded during la Semaine Rouge, “Red Week”, by British and American Allied forces. In Rouen alone, 400 people were killed, many of them drowned after having taken refuge in cathedral cellars, unable to escape them after the bombardment.

Allied forces bombed nearly 1600 cities and towns in occupied France. In Rouen, the purpose was to destroy bridges and railways, although the cathedral is near neither and was surrounded by homes, which were razed. Understandably, the subject is complex and does not lend itself to facile conclusions. Unfortunately, there is almost nothing available to read on either Rouen or the more widespread bombardments in English. Indeed, as you can see in the Wikipedia article linked for la Semaine Rouge, there is not a single translation into any other language. For a nuanced analysis of it, I highly recommend this 2012 PDF from the Canadian Centre for Military and Strategic Analysis: ROUEN: La Semaine Rouge, by Stephen Bourque.

While many are familiar with the Normandy Invasion, few American, Canadian or British citizens know about the massive air campaign waged against their occupied ally. This offensive lasted four long years and targeted most of France’s population centers and infrastructure. By the time the war was over, the Allied air forces killed as many French as the Germans killed British civilians during the “blitz” and vengeance weapon assaults […] The greater French narrative is extremely complex and begins with Germany’s invasion in 1940 and the resulting occupation.

Rouen Cathedral continues to be restored today, its façade getting more work done, as well repairs to still-damaged structural elements. Another church targeted during la Semaine Rouge was also recently restored: l’église Saint-Maclou. Here you see its freshly-cleaned Gothic Flamboyant entrance framed by wood homes typical of Normandy.

Eglise de Saint Maclou

In the next post of this series on Rouen, we’ll look at the Saint-Ouen Abbey, festooned with gargoyles, light filtering through a veritable tapestry of stained glass windows, and containing one of the largest Gothic organs in France.

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Avenue d’Iéna

Author: fraise

Posted in La France, Paris, Photography at 20:09

As the weather finally cleared up a bit today, I was able to go on a much-desired walk. I took the métro 1 to Charles de Gaulle – Etoile and crossed the street to Avenue d’Iéna, which I then strolled down to the quais of the Seine. Not before stopping at the wonderful Musée Guimet, however!

koi nobori
On the top floor, they had a colorful temporary exhibition of koi nobori, carp streamers for Children’s Day, celebrated on 5 May in Japan.

The museum is filled with beautiful pieces from Cambodia, Thailand, Afghanistan, Korea (before it was split), China, Tibet, Nepal, and Japan, but my breath was taken away by a tenth-century Indian sculpture of a woman with a tree, called salabhanjika.

Salabhanjika

Goddess figures and trees were a key part of my Masters thesis on the feminine in cosmogonies. Across the world, an original goddess and tree of life are paired, from ancient Indus to Sumerian to Norse to Native American world creation myths. Both symbolize creation and creativity/fecundity, wisdom; that which is and that which can become.

After Guimet, I finished my walk to see Eiffel again, this time from a different perspective than I’ve had before. It’s a relatively famous spot for taking photos: the incredible Art Déco Palais Chaillot.

Eiffel from Chaillot

I also returned to the Louvre yesterday, this time to take in Flemish paintings. As always, more photos can be found in my 500px (favorites) and Flickr (everything) photostreams. I’ve been enjoying 500px, which has an active community that gives immediate feedback. Flickr has gotten much quieter since Yahoo removed statistics.

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