Head of State

Eureka! They've found it...

...the head of the Good King Henri!

Henri de Navarre is famous for bringing a period of great prosperity and peace to France.  Originally a Protestant, he famously said, "Paris vaut bien une messe!" (Paris is worth a mass) when he converted to take the thrown.  His Edict of Nantes granted religious freedom and saved the country from self-destruction.  He also is famous for promising his people they would have the means to have a chicken in their pots each Sunday.

Dr. Philippe Charlier and twenty of his scientist buddies have verified that the skull belongs to him because of the following characteristics:
  • A small dark spot under his right nostril
  • Evidence that his right ear was pierced, which was the fashion in the Valois court
  • A lesion indicated a slash above his lip that he sustained in an assassination attempt
How, you may ask, did the head part company with the body?  Well, Henri IV was buried with the other kings of France after he was assassinated by a religious fanatic in 1610.  Then the French Revolution hit; things got crazy.  Some people who were rather less than happy with the system of monarchy broke into all the tombs of the king of France, dragged out their moldering remains and burned them in the Commune.  Henri's head got cut off and kept while his body got tossed.  So since, 1793(ish) the head's just been bopping around, passing from one antique collection to the next.

Isn't that deliciously bizarre, gruesomely awesome?  Where can I buy a skull?!

"Alas, poor [Henri]! I knew him, Horratio"

P.S. Here is the article about the discovery in Le Monde, if you want to practice your Franch.


That Time of Year

"I have never let my schooling interfere with my education."
Mark Twain

I generally try to follow the example of Mark Twain, but unfortunately my schooling has to take the front seat for a bit.  I may not post much this week, but I'm still alive. Finals period is as un-fun in French as it is in English.  Who'd have thunk it?

Gros bisous,

La Comédie-Française

Title: La Comédie-Française, aka Le Théâtre-Français or La maison de Molière
Location : Place Colette, Paris 1er
Theatres : La Salle Richelieu, le Vieux-Colombier, le Studio-Théâtre
Motto : Simul et singulis

The Comédie-Française is the national theatre of France.  It plays the "repertoire," that is to say all the French classics. The goal is to keep alive France's rich theatrical heritage and to bring it to the French people. 

The main theatre, the Salle Richelieu, is an enormous, beautiful salle a l'italienne that has been located in the Palais-Royal since 1799.  There is a lot of gold and red velvet involved ; according to a teacher who worked at the comedie-francaise, the chandelier is practically a historical landmark in and of itself.

I'm always in the nose-bleed section...
Sometimes called "La maison de Moliere," this theatre was where the great French playwright played before aristocrats and royalty.  He died there, too, during a not so imaginary turn in "La Malade imaginaire."  The green chair in which he died is displayed at la Comedie.  The color green, considered a harbinger of bad luck, is now rarely used on French stages.

La Comedie-Francaise is made up of sociétaires and pensionaires, all of whom are technically government officials.  It is run by an administrateur général who is elected by his or her peers ; the sociétaires also vote to determine who moves into the company, who stays, and who get kicked out.  All the actors must come from the Conservatoire national supérieur d'art dramatique, which takes about thirty pupils per year.  They are the best of the best, and watching them is a class in acting unto itself :

Les femmes savantes


La grande magie

Standing in line for 5€ last minute tickets,

P.S. Stole all these pictures.  Thanks internet!


Happy Hanukkah!

You may or may not know this about me, but in a previous life I was Jewish.  So last night I celebrated the Festival of Lights by meandering over to the Marais (the Jewish quarter/gayborhood of Paris) to poke around a little. 

I went to Chez Marianne for sweets - they have the whole schmeer.  All of the bakeries in the Marais are mushuggah good.  I don't think what I got was actually Jewish, but it's the thought that count's right?
Chez Marianne
Is baklava Jewish?  Maybe a little?  'Cause that's what I had.  I also got dattes fourrés à la pâte d'amande.  I don't know how to translate that other than "Almond-Date Cookies," but they are scrumptious.  They're Moroccan pastries that come in rose and pistachio flavor, and I can eat about one before I've reached my sugar quota for the week.

The French spell it "Hanoucca" - weird right?

P.S. Paris is a blizzard.


A Table Chez Isabelle

My host mother often tells me, always in a slow voice, "Tonight I'm making something that is traditionally French.  I don't know if you'll like it..." I tell her every time that I will like it and I always do.

Les choses qu'on mange qui sont typiquement françaises :

Le Hachis Parmentier - ground beef and mashed potatoes, kind of like shepherd's pie
Le Cassoulet - white beans and sausage
Le Pain Perdu - "French toast!"
Le Croque Monsieur - a sandwich invented in Paris: ham and cheese topped with sauce ; if it's a cheval, or topped with an egg, it's a croque madame
La Blanquette de Veau - veal in a white sauce with vegetables
La Racquelette - from the mountains, a dish where you melt cheese to eat with charcuterie and potatoes

In France, lots of people eat yogurt or yogurt's delicious cousin "fromage blanc" after dinner as dessert.

Bon appétit!


Un Froid de Canard

Paris is the coldest place on earth.  Okay, probably not, but this week, it's felt like it.  The temperature has been hovering around 0° C and it's been snowing quite a bit.

When I woke up this morning, it was sticking to the ground, which doesn't happen very much.  Here are some pictures of the Parc de Passy in the 16th arrondissement:

Il fait un froid de canard is an expression that means "It's damn cold."  I don't know what that has to do with ducks, but I rather like the saying.

Almost a popsicle,


A first time for everything

As a rule, I don't give money to beggars, street performers, or métro musicians.  You may find I'm unfeeling, ungenerous, tight-fisted, an enemy of the arts - call me what you will (I call myself "broke"), but it's just something I don't do.

However, last night I broke my rule.  When I got on the line 4, a man used the two poles that stand in the open part of the car to hang a black backdrop that had two green cactus-cutouts and a yellow moon sewn to it.  Then the music started (Pat Boone's Speedy Gonzales) and Speedy himself appeared in puppet form, complete with poncho, sombrero, and guitar, to "sing" to us.

All of the riders were surprised but amused.  One girl pulled out her camera to film the show.  We all made tickled eye contact with each other.  I had a front row seat and got special attention.  The most remarkable part of the performance was this : I laughed!  Normally the métro performers makes me want to change cars or crawl into a hole and die.

Anyway, j'ai craqué (I gave in) and gave Speedy a euro.  I figured a good unexpected giggle was worth that, at least.

Getting off at Vaugirard,