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Welcome to Armchair France

 

Armchair Uzès

la Vie Quotidienne

Holiday  2002


 
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Vive les femmes!
You go, girls!

Women top the Francophile list of who's who and what's what this holiday season. First, on Amazon.fr's recent top ten music list are six women, including two American women - Norah Jones and Diane Krall. Both americaines have chanteuse styles, both favor jazz over rock or folk, which make both wildly popular at this moment in France. Franco-canadiennes are also strong favorites, including Linda Lemay, a québecoise with an angelic voice delivering (in French) clever, devilish lyrics. Celine Dion has always been a favorite in France and regularly ranks high among best-selling CDs in France.
     On a slightly different note, French women are popular on the the biography reading list for anglophones. Antonia Fraser's Marie Antoinette: The Journey has received rave reviews because of its attention to detail and its more sympathetic treatment of the long-maligned little Austrian duchess. Just issued in paperback, you'll find it at the top of this Francophile's holiday wish-list. Add to the bio brio with a recent issue of the New York Times Book Review devoting an entire page to new biographies of  Madame de Pompadour, Louis XV's powerful and long reigning mistress. Madame de  Pompadour (by French scholar Evelyne Lever and translated by Catherine Temerson), recommended as a beguiling biography by Publisher's Weekly, is deemed the best of the bunch by the NY Times. Colin Jones has published another book on the Madame to accompany an exhibition at the National Gallery, London through January 12, 2003. Want more details on these books? Check out our Books section...
    Why the sudden fervor for les dames? It's certainly not the result of more liberal leanings on either side of the Atlantic, given this past year's election results. But we'll jump on the bandwagon, for whatever reason. There's nothing like a dame!

Les Invalides  in Paris, home of Napoleon's tomb...
but is he really buried there?


Jean-Louis David's Coronation of Bonaparte in 1804  is
currently drawing as much of a crowd at the Louvre as the Mona Lisa.



What's with the hand?

Napoleonmania? And what's with the hand?
C'est quoi, le main caché?

During this transitional period as France struggles to establish her turf with respect to the European Union, looking back to the 19th century and those who foresaw a union such as this has become quite the vogue. And in that vein, Napoleonmania has struck France, and hard.
     Napoleon, France’s first and only real emperor, has always been a popular hero for the French, who feign incomprehension of the Anglophone metaphor of a Napoleon complex. Now Napoleon rides again on a wave of television specials, standing-room-only crowds at theatre productions of his life -- he could almost be ready to be re-crowned emperor, this time of the public airwaves.
     As part of the movement, the mystery over who is really buried in Napoleon’s tomb at les Invalides in Paris rages on. Some French historians argue Napoleon was murdered in 1821 (arsenic poisoning) by his British captors, who later substituted another’s body for his when they returned his remains to Paris in 1840.
     To the rescue comes Jean Tulard, one of the world's leading authorities on Napoleon, who says that as far as he's concerned, all the talk about Napoleon's assassination or the presence of somebody else's remains at les Invalides is nothing short of crazy. Recent DNA testing confirms that Napoleon died of stomach cancer, complicated by stomach ulcers...not arsenic poisoning.
     But in spite of the ridiculous claims made about Napoleon -- claims similar to those made in recent years about Elvis and JFK -- there is no doubt that Napoleonmania is taking France by storm more than 200 years after the little emperor came to power, during a reign that saw him transform France, and Europe, in ways that none of his successors have ever been able to accomplish. Meanwhile if you want to jump on this wave, there’s a website of more than 800 pages on the subject (in English), including a discussion of Napoleon's hand-in-coat stance. Yes, there is a napoleon dot com. Worth a little look!  

 

Quick olive oil update:  We want to let you know that we've found where you MIGHT be able to get some of those wonderful Provencal huiles d'olives in the United States. Les Baux's Moulin Jean Cornille is sometimes available on the East Coast at Formaggio Kitchen on Huron Street in Cambridge MA (888-212-3224); at Zingerman's Deli in Ann Arbor MI, and for the Left Coasters, at Kermit Lynch in Berkeley CA (510-524-1524). So don't despair too much if you need a fix or a refill, just give one of these folks a call. Or, you can order directly from the mill in Maussanne from their website.  They'll ship internationally, and you can do almost as well on price if you're not in a rush. Chateau d'Estoublon, favored in many a taste test, is also available at Table & Vine (formerly Big Y Wines) in Northampton, MA. Bonne chance, et bonne dégustation!

And a very happy new year to friends and francophiles
as we look forward to 2003 and our return to Uzès.

 

Want to see previous editions of Armchair Uzès? Click here for a directory...
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