Final picture post from France!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! We’re back in the Land of AZ.

We landed in Phoenix late on Saturday night after a weird layover in Washington D.C.; the power had gone out in the terminals at the Washington-Dulles airport. We waited on the plane until a bus came to take us to the main terminal… and by “us,” I mean not just everyone on our flight, but everyone on ALL the incoming flights… and from there, all of the connecting flights were delayed, also due to the ripple effect of the power outage. In the end, though, we were only two hours late getting home. Not bad!

So believe it or not, that was my sixth trip to Paris – seven if you count the Paris part of last week’s agenda as two separate trips (we stayed in the same hotel in Montmartre before and after the Côte d’Azur) – and I still haven’t visited Jim Morrison. It was my decision. At the last minute, I suggested skipping it because we had very little time, and I didn’t want to go to le Cimetière du Père-Lachaise just to see one grave. I would have wanted to also visit the likes of Chopin, Victor Hugo, Edith Piaf, etc., and for that we would need a good half-day, at least. But we’ll be back, and it’s really kind of funny… my Extreme First-World Problem is still my Extreme First-World Problem.

Since we didn’t go to le Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, we were able to take our time moseying around Montmartre, where we were staying. It was the perfect way to spend the day. We had some errands to run, and it was great to just be relaxed and enjoy our favorite quartier in Paris without rushing around. (Montmartre is actually one of my favorite neighborhoods in the entire world.) We also got to enjoy having dinner with a friend of mine who lives there, and that was delightful.

Overall, our week in France was the opposite of relaxing, as we were generally crazy busy up until that last day in Paris. We averaged zero to three hours of sleep per night, and by the end, we were seeing double from sleep deprivation. But it was hella fun. Great times with family and friends!

One thing that struck us, though, was how the mood in France has grown even darker in the short time we’ve been gone… dark as in ominous, kind of, and spooky. The general feeling in the country is different than when we lived there, and we haven’t even been gone for two years. We saw a trio of heavily armed soldiers stalking the picturesque little streets of Vieux Nice, for instance… a surreal sight, and one I never would have imagined there before. We noticed police officers standing expectantly with their police dogs in the Metro stations in Paris. When we lived in France, I never saw police officers at all… just the random gendarmerie… now, they’re everywhere, their presence presumably connected to the “Je Suis Charlie” signs we also saw posted widely from Paris to Nice. And there are the new ebola information/warning posters prominently displayed at Charles de Gaulle airport.

On a lighter note, I’ll share another smattering of pics from our last days there….

From la Côte d’Azur:

 

A street in Châteauneuf de Grasse.

A street in Châteauneuf de Grasse.

 

Our favorite boulangerie in Nice. BEST PAN BAGNAT IN TOWN, hands-down.

Our favorite boulangerie in Nice. BEST PAN BAGNAT IN TOWN, hands-down.

 

Some of the bread inside the best boulangerie in Nice.

Some of the bread inside the best boulangerie in Nice.

 

An artist's gallery in le Vieux Nice.

An artist’s gallery in le Vieux Nice.

 

Socca - a traditional food in Nice.

Socca – a traditional food in Nice.

 

With friends at the Big Ben pub in Nice.

With friends at the Big Ben pub in Nice.

 

We had lunch with Callaghan's Grandparents and Dad in le Port de St. Laurent du Var.

We had lunch with Callaghan’s Grandparents and Dad in le Port de St. Laurent du Var.

 

And from Paris:

 

One of hundreds of  cafés...

One of hundreds of cafés…

 

Pointing the way to le Sacré-Coeur - my second-favorite monument (after la Tour Eiffel)

Pointing the way to le Sacré-Coeur – my second-favorite monument (after la Tour Eiffel)

 

Le Sacré-Coeur. Beautiful Roman-Byzantyne architecture on the hill of Montmartre.

Le Sacré-Coeur. Beautiful Roman-Byzantyne architecture on the hill of Montmartre.

 

Bronze sculpture on le Sacré-Coeur.

Bronze sculpture on le Sacré-Coeur.

 

Gargoyle on le Sacré-Coeur.

Gargoyle on le Sacré-Coeur.

 

More gargoyles on le Sacré-Coeur...

More gargoyles on le Sacré-Coeur…

 

View of Paris from the hill of Montmartre.

View of Paris from the hill of Montmartre.

 

Parisian street art like this is becoming more and more common. Love it!

Parisian street art like this is becoming more and more common. Love it!

 

Walking in Montmartre...

Walking in Montmartre…

 

French flag at the Metro station on Boulevard Barbès.

French flag at the Metro station on Boulevard Barbès.

 

Hot chocolate at café la Virgule in Montmartre.

Hot chocolate at café la Virgule in Montmartre.

 

And here’s a selection of some of our pastry indulgences (!!):

 

Galette des Rois... actually, a "Pithivier," according to Callaghan. The traditional King's Cakes are this, but thinner... quite different from the King Cakes Americans have at Mardi Gras.

Galette des Rois… actually, a “Pithivier,” according to Callaghan. The traditional King’s Cakes are this, but thinner… quite different from the King Cakes Americans have at Mardi Gras.

 

Une Madeleine au Nutella at the SNCF (train) station.

Une Madeleine au Nutella at the SNCF (train) station.

 

Tarte au citron

Tarte au citron

 

Chouquettes

Chouquettes

 

And then we went home. I took a picture of the signage that greeted us at baggage claim. Welcome to Phoenix!

 

It was 77 degrees when we landed at 10:20pm Saturday night... and it's going to be 90 today!

It was 77 degrees when we landed at 10:20pm Saturday night… and it’s going to be 90 today!

 

Happy Tuesday, All! =)

The Plot Thickens.

Last spring, I wrote about how the City of Nice chose a Frenchman’s drawing featuring a practically naked, obese woman to represent the United States in a parade float for their annual world-famous Carnaval celebration. The drawing was, shall we say, handily fleshed out with stereotypes of cavalier gluttony and general tackiness in a rather simple and tasteless mockery. This is an image that matches a popular French conception of Americans. Just to make sure there was no mistaking the float’s nationality, the artist put a Statue of Liberty crown on the woman’s head, a bottle of Coke in the hand of her upraised torch-bearing arm, and stood her atop a gigantic cheeseburger.

Here’s the winning illustration:

 

The fat woman on a cheeseburger pedestal towers over the first astronaut to land on the moon.

The fat woman on a cheeseburger pedestal towers over the first astronaut to land on the moon.

 

Here’s the whole drawing:

 

"C'est L'Amerique!" - all kinds of America.

“C’est L’Amerique!” – all kinds of America.

 

Callaghan, who was raised in Nice and carries dual (French-American) citizenship, was also taken aback by the selection of that drawing.

Now, a year later, the City of Nice seems to be having some sort of identity crisis, the main symptom being its 2014 “Greetings to Nice” poster campaign featuring a variety of images of its inhabitants… a self-promotional campaign that blew up in the faces of its creators when an article came out busting them for using… wait for it… photos of Americans.

So much for municipal pride.

What makes this especially ridiculous is that the City of Nice made sure to announce that the folks in the images were “All Nice!” because last year it generated controversy when it used “different” (i.e. non-French) faces to represent itself in a similar campaign.

Feel free to check out the article here. (You can probably gather the general gist of it even if you can’t read French.)

Understandably, the phony campaign has outraged many people of Nice. When the ad copy claims that the creators specifically and exclusively “sought out people of Nice” for their poster images, it must be disheartening to realize that the images were actually harvested from the French version (copied and pasted from the original with a French search engine) of an American photo image bank (Thinkstock), and that none of the models used are even French, much less inhabitants of Nice.

We can’t decide if the people of Nice are more upset by the fact that they’ve been lied to, or by the fact that they’ve been represented by (gasp!) Americans.

On my part, the deception is disturbing not as a misled person of Nice, but as an American who witnessed the City of Nice’ selection of that questionable drawing for last year’s parade. My French isn’t perfect, but hypocrisy does not easily get lost in translation. In this case, it’s coming through loud and clear.

It was an irate Callaghan who brought the article to my attention.

“The City of Nice,” he grumbled as he hung up the phone with one of his friends on the French Rivera, “created a ‘Happy New Year’ greeting card for Nice using images of people from Nice, except they’re not, because the pictures were taken off an American photo bank website! It’s bullshit.”

Callaghan has often said to me that the French regard Americans with disdain and mock them because they secretly want to be them. I never knew what to think of that theory, but now the actions of the City of Nice are giving credence to it.

Americans. Make fun of them in public. Pretend to be them in private.

I’ll tell you what… if I was working on a promotional campaign for the City of Nice, I’d cover the posters with photos of pan bagnat (the traditional Niçoise tuna sandwich) and call it a day. It’s the best tuna sandwich in the world. That’s something to be proud of.

 

Happy New Year from the City of Nice!

Happy New Year from the City of Nice!

 

(The City of Nice Wishes You a Happy New Year 2014 original drawing by Callaghan. Text taken from the article.)