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Mysteries of France- Part III

December 9, 2010
DECEMBER 9, 2010 8:20AM

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MONT ST. MICHEL

Location, location, location.  That’s the most awe-inspiring thing about this world-class tourist establishment. I get none of the spine-tingling vibes as at Chartres.  But what a location.

And what a place to play with the camera:

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From below

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From above

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Outside

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Inside.

I did wonder as we slogged up the road to the church, my thighs screaming, whether I’d be ale to get out of bed the next morning. And I wondered how in the world they got the stones up there. The answer was inside:

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Four guys marched in this thing, pulling the stones up with that rope.

ETRETAT

This was a popular site for Impressionists to paint.

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The mystery here is entirely natural – how did those huge holes get in the cliff? Perhaps another of Merlin’s spells, or those druids, man…no, the cliffs are made of chalk, the same as across the channel in Dover.  It’s a form of limestone,  subject to caves, which collapse into holes.

But knowing that didn’t lessen my awe  viewing a site I’d seen so many times on canvas. In an instant all those dabs of paint, those impressions of the Impressionists snapped into sharp, prosaic focus.

Monet must have felt the awe of this scene, for he painted it often.

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This plaque reproduces his painting of the cliff with orange sardine boats in front.  Behind the plaque you can see kids in orange kayaks – consciously? – re-enacting the scene of a hundred year old painting.

back to CHARTRES

I almost forgot.  Here was our view from the restaurant where we had lunch:

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A final mystery of France:  Why does all the food taste so good?

 

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Comments

These dang slowspeed dialups make me want to jump into the blue sky or refreshing cool water. Believe Ya/me. Baby it’s cold outside. I say I`

believe none are perfect.
I like a great Ale like you.
I had blue mood at morn.
Hearts can get real ailing.
Pain. Wow ay awakening.
`
Painful awareness poke deep inward and sometimes a human gets inwardly sore. Heads get bumps, and why does a http:/ blue line keep crossing rapidly across the top of this dang-gone mechanical contraption?
`
I traveled throughout Europe and have many thoughts about those community buildings.
Peasants had guilds.
Work was to Worship.

I had a Friend who worked in the Vet Center Outreach Program` John Stuart hired me. He’s a cathedral fanatic, and gave me a book ref those old rural agrarian communities contributing their unique artistic Gifts. He gave me a beer stein with the book one Holiday Season.
He’s dead.
He was a jolly guy.
The era we live is sadly tech.
People may not know survival.
?
I am really fascinated ref the past.
Eastern and Western = the USA`
Times have gotten quite good/bad?
Westerners judge, jail, and pilfer.
In those days the ill were exposed.
America is ailing big time. Dooms.
I am going off on private critique.
I may bum a coin for a cold Ale.
Giggles.
Let’s go to Notre Dame. Bum?
See the buttresses and aspire.
See all the people sip. Cheers.
See cultural background. Yes!
(not Jon Stuart)

Great picture of (I’m assuming) your wife. The food? Yes. Next post: wine?
Another place to visit next time I’m in France (if I manage another trip…)

The food in France is fantastic. I suspect no mystery at all, just the result of centuries of attention to taste… Whatever it is, I sure miss it back here at home.

Muse, I think there are a lot of reasons French food just tastes better.

1. They don’t mess with it. Seriously. There’s not a whole lot of “stuff” in classic French food. It’s about things they have on hand – meat, veggies, wine, whatever is ready and good and fresh. Basic ingredients, not too much of them.

2. The French know how to cook. This only sounds simple. They don’t overcook their food – which Americans do on a routine basis – because they know that respecting the ingredient means that you have to TASTE it and not the “stuff” that goes around it. Peas don’t taste like peas if they’re boiled to mush, as an example.

3. I was reading an essay by Anthony Bourdain in which he posits that the best food in the world originated with poor people. Seriously poor people. People who had to take what they could afford (like sweetbreads, or bones, or turnips, or mysterious bitter leaves) and make it delicious.

If you’re reduced to eating the snails out of other people’s gardens, then you had better figure out how to make them palatable or you won’t be a very happy camper. Making things like THAT taste good is something that all the great culinary traditions do, and do well.

4. Add to number 3 that the French have had well over a thousand years to learn this stuff. They’re pretty good at it by now.

One of my ultimate favorite meals in Paris is cassoulet night at Restaurant Champs de Mars. It’s only served on Tuesdays, and you’ll need a reservation. Very helpfully, they do have a couple of English-speaking staff that will help you with that.

Cassoulet is an example of poor people’s food raised to the heavens. There’s not a lot to it. It’s a mixture of beans, onions, garlic, sausage, maybe a few lamb chops and other things that everyone has around the house, poured into a cast iron casserole that’s been lined with pork caul fat, the lid sealed and cooked at a low temperature for a minimum of 12 hours 24 is best.

I make a point of having a reservation before we leave for Paris every single time. It’s high on my list of last meal selections. When the waiter opens the pot and serves, the scent is like an offering to whatever Deity you care to name. When it finally cools down enough to eat, I want to savor every little morsel…slowly. It’s a transcendent experience.

You have to go there, if you can. You’ll see.

I hope it’s a long vacation Luminous. These posts are great. Aunt Messy has some good observations about the food. When I was working in France (mostly Paris), I always jumped at the chance to go out for dinner. And it was near impossible to find a mediocre house wine. You’re giving me wanderlust.
Sooo cool. I need to get out more. As for the French food tasting good: the secret is heavy cream. I think.
What a cool trip! Thanks for the Mont Martre pics…it occurred to me that if Monet and other Impressionists had lived in the Pacific NW coast of America, our coast would also be so beautifully captured in oil paintings and feted all over the world…
sorry, Mont St. Michel….ooops.
I can see why the impressionists were inspired to paint these beautiful scenes, and after a good lunch, who could blame them for fervently contemplating their work, eyes closed!
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