French Country

My life in France is not what I expected.


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Opera Comique

So I am between a tour of the Opera Comique, my favorite theater in the world, and the actual performance. My Christmas wish is that in my next life I will be as attractive as our tour guide. I won’t be around to see if the wish was granted, but no harm in putting it out there. My few snaps don’t give you much idea of the whole but this theater is a Belle Epoque gem and was almost torn down to make way for a parking structure. Obviously it was saved but from what I could tell the major donors for the restoration were Americans. Good for us.

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Christmas already?

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So here is my little Jacques, stressing  because he just had a bath — yes, this is about as clean as he gets — and is pretty sure a good brushing is sure to follow. He doesn’t know I’m going to let him off the hook. That anxious face gets me every time.

It’s almost Christmas. I have plans but I don’t have a Christmas ritual over here, so it is kind of taking me  by surprise. I hope you are all well and well prepared for the holidays. The contractors are off for a couple of weeks. They’ll return in January and so will I. See you then.


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Lampshades

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Okay, here are the lampshades. I bought them at Barbotine,  in St. Martin on the Ile de Re. It’s a charming shop; I should be showing you a photo of that. It is packed full, as in don’t even think about bringing in kids or dogs, of things that either are old or, as with these babies, go with things that are old.

I love the Middle East, at least the dwindling number of safe places there. I’m afraid these shades out
me as being firmly in the romantic Orientalist tradition of David Roberts, Gustave Flaubert and Pierre Loti, among others. Not bad company: I think I’ll stick around for a while.


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Ile de Re

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I had some questions about how to do the lighting at the house, so I wanted to see how actual professionals light buildings like.mine. I knew I would find good examples on the Ile de Re, which is basically the Martha’s Vineyard of France.

I figured out the lighting thing easily. Generally the trick is to install spot lighting. Fixtures are accents, used for task or mood lighting. If you have to light a space with beams, where shadows could cause problems, you rely more on wall sconces and table and floor lamps.

It was easy to look around. The photo above is the main tourist street in St.Martin, where home prices rival those in Paris. As you can see, no one was there. Apparently some 60% of the homes on the island are holiday homes; I think in St.Martin the number must be closer to 90%.

This brings me to my shopping tip. If you want high – quality goods, fashionable casual clothing, and you want them at half off, come to St. Martin in December.

In the course of my research I was forced, forced I say, to stop into a few stores. The selection was excellent. The shops were packed with goods, if not people. Some time,  maybe I’ll show you what I bought.


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Stonehenge in my living room

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Not many people have asked why I am getting rid of the fireplaces. Maybe you have secretly wondered. Just in case, I now share with you a photo of the fireplace in the house where I am staying. If that thing had a damper it would help, to be sure, but not enough. Also, the birds out here can be huge. Their nests are huge, too, and they love to nest in chimneys. No California sparrow built a nest like the ones my guys hauled out of the one unscreened chimney. I should have taken a photo of that.

So we will position skylights to allow views of the chimneys. The ashes, soot, drafts, the bird debris and merciless space – hogging,  we’ll leave that to your imagination.


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Walls in progress

Well, my Internet connection went out. Welcome to the countryside. So no photo but I can tell you that changes are being made. The first layer of cement has hardened and is looking good. The wall between the kitchen and dining room is down. Light now pours through what will be a beautiful space. The walls are being framed for insulation and drywall. I have a landscape plan that looks very much a grownup’s garden. The onsite crew has increased to four, a new record.  We have a roof plan that will increase the number and size of the skylights.

Mud is everywhere and it can get very cold but so far there is no frost.

Plenty is still missing but I don’t feel like going into it. It’s a good day to be positive.