Holocaust in Paris

Wall of Names

Wall of Names

Holocaust in Paris

Monday started the Jewish celebration of Passover, the religious holidays that commemorate the portion of Exodus where God spares (passes over) the Israelite first born sons and kills the first born sons of Egypt as what you might call a last straw to convince the Pharaoh to release the Israelites from from slavery in Egypt. This event followed a long period of having tried through Moses lesser measures to obtain their release (the last of 10 plagues). It is the beginning of the long, 40 year exodus of Moses and the Israelites from Egypt to the promised land. During Passover the Jewish followers consume unleavened bread and a Passover meal, as well as observing other religious traditions commemorating the release and hasty flight of the Israelites from Egypt.

With Passover as the backdrop, look now at our neighborhood. Just across the Seine is the Marais, a traditional Jewish neighborhood in Old Paris. Even when the nobility had occupied the Marais in the 1600’s, Jewish merchants had settled in the area as clothing makers and participants in the City’s financial and banking business. After most nobility had left the area, numerous Eastern European Jews immigrated to Paris and the Marais in the 1800’s.

You may never have heard about the devastation of the Holocaust in Paris. In 1940 there were about 175,000 Jewish residents of Paris. Many fled when the Germans invaded in May of 1940, and by September there were about 150,000 remaining, including about 64,000 foreigners. In 1942 the Germans with the assistance of French police began a systematic deportation of foreign and stateless Jews. In June 1942, Jews in Paris were ordered to wear yellow Star of David badges for easy identification. In July French police concentrated 13,000 Jews in a sports area in south central Paris, and by year’s end nearly 30,000 had been deported. Many more went into hiding, so that by mid 1943 only about 60,000 Jews remained in the city. In early 1944, the Germans began to deport Jewish citizens of France as well. By the time Paris was liberated, at least 50,000 Parisian Jews, most of them foreign-born, had been deported and murdered. You can find more information from the US Holocaust Museum.

Only a few blocks from our house is the Mémorial de la Shoah (Memorial to the Holocaust). It has numerous exibits, including a Wall of Names (shown above), honoring the 76,000 French Jews (according to the description in Fodors) deported from France to Nazi concentration camps, of whom only 2,500 survived. We saw a local grade school in the Marais that listed the names of the children deported from that school (never to return) during the holocaust. These chilling events happened only a few years before I was born, and the hatreds and struggles played out in these stories of the past continue unsettled in our world today.

What’s in a Name?

Brenda and I were having our French lesson, and I asked our tutor Anna for help creating a telephone answering message for our home phone. She suggested, “Vous êtes bien chez Brenda et Hugh. S’il vous plaît laissez votre message après the bip.” Knowing that in French the h is silent, I asked about how to pronounce my name.  Anna told me it would be pronounced [EWG], that in French my name is usually spelled Hugues, which would ensure that the G was a hard G rather than a J sound. She noted that Hugh after all is a French name that came from the Huguenots. I didn’t know that. Wikipedia says Hugh is a common English name, but if you look at the list in their article, the majority of people listed come from France. Who were the Huguenots?

The Huguenots were a Protestant religious group that sprang up in France in about 1530 after Martin Luther started the Protestant movement. They followed the teachings of the French theologian John Calvin of Geneva, Switzerland. They rejected the excesses and teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and the French Monarchy, which sponsored the Catholic Church as the state religion. There were many steps in the decline of the Huguenots, but suffice it to say they were in conflict with both the Catholic Church and the state. At first there were isolated incidents of attacks on communities. Later the opposition received the support of the King of France, Charles IX, who ordered the death of all the Protestants of France. Though there was a period of relative stability for the Huguenots in the late 1500s, this changed with the ascension of Louis XIII in 1610. His regent, Cardinal Richelieu, wanted to eliminate all the Huguenot communities. We’ve seen where Richelieu lived in the Marais, and the King then lived just down the road at a palace near the Louvre. History lives!

In the mid 1600s, Huguenot men and women were imprisoned, their children sent to be raised as Roman Catholic, and a period of forced religious conversion was begun. Many Huguenots were killed. The Protestant churches were destroyed. Of about 800 thousand Huguenots at the start of the period of oppression, approximately 550,000 of them recanted their faith (under pressure). About 250,000 left the country for Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, and parts of Belgium. Others escaped to England, where they embarked for the West Indies and North America. The refugees were generally merchants, craftsmen, and weavers or skilled tradesman, including many well educated. Their flight was also France’s loss. The French King succeeded in ridding the country of the Huguenots, but the forces of unrest with the alliance between the King and the Catholic Church would continue, and within a hundred years both King and Church would fall in the French Revolution.

Though I’m not aware of having French blood, part of my family could have once lived as Huguenots in France and later escaped to elsewhere in Europe. Branches of my family, all Protestant, eventually came to America from England, Ireland, Germany, and Sweden. I’m hoping to do more with tracing the family roots in Europe while we are here.

Paris welcomes a new Pope

Wednesday night’s selection of the new Pope Francis was momentous here in Paris. At about 7 pm the single large bourden bell at Notre Dame started ringing with a low and unmistakable gong. We had heard it only once before, the night Pope Benedict stepped down. I turned on the TV and saw the white smoke at the Vatican. The church bells tell a lot.

We haven’t yet started to tour the most visited sites in Paris – haven’t been up in the Eiffel Tower, haven’t been inside the Louvre, the Musée de Orsay, or any of the other museums. We’ve been on a couple Paris walks and toured Notre Dame de Paris after stepping inside almost by accident one afternoon. The Catholic Churches are the thing we’ve seen most of in living here thus far. In addition to Notre Dame, we’ve been inside St Paul-St Louis (which was built by the Jesuits), St Gervais et St Protais, St Séverin, St Étienne du Mont, and the Abbey of St Germaine du Pres. All, not just Notre Dame, are spectacular Gothic works of art.

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France is predominantly a Catholic country (Wikipedia said between 51 and 88% – don’t know why such a large uncertainty). Nevertheless, its huge ancient gothic cathedrals were irreparably damaged during the French Revolution. King Louis XVI inherited a financial crisis as a result of years of war, including the French support of the American Revolution. In an effort to restore a bankrupt treasury, the Revolution of 1789 stripped the Churches of most of their valuables. Thus relics (such as remains of the saints) were discarded and their gold containers melted down, the bells were taken from church towers, etc, and over the ensuing centuries with the French government no longer supporting the church to maintain its enormous infrastructure, much has fallen into disrepair. For instance, only the stained glass in the east and west roses of Notre Dame is original. The stained glass replacements for much of the rest did not in any way duplicate the originals. Unlike Italy, the French cathedrals have an asterisk beside the feeling that they are ancient treasures. Still the faithful of the Church turn out to visit – thousands and thousands come to Notre Dame, rain or shine or snow. We saw a wedding couple posing in the snow and cold last weekend, just so they could have a photo with the cathedral as the backdrop.

Our guide at Notre Dame spent perhaps an hour and a half explaining in great detail the symbolism of the sculptures, art works, and carvings in the cathedral. She conveyed clearly the biblical significance of all that we saw, and how that message was conveyed through the ages to give meaning to life, and does even so today for the faithful. In addition to honoring the common symbols of Christianity, the art works and carvings document in a most personal way those individuals important to establishing the church in Paris. To me, our guide seemed to be telling us that the church had much to provide, but not as a service to the tourists but in service to the faithful. The Church is committed to finding more members who are committed to the Church. This was a young woman who sacrificed a lot to come from outside the city to give a tour in English to whomever may have stumbled into her fold that day. She represents a tiny portion of the energy of the Church, all over the world, that glides beneath the surface while much of what we see and hear focuses on more sensational problems, such as the criminal acts of a tiny minority whom the church leadership may have failed to ensure were brought to justice. Over the years, British author and former nun Karen Armstong has published work after work showing how religions have changed over the ages to adapt to changes in society, thus enabling them to remain relevant in the lives of their believers. Such may be happening now with the Catholic Church, and perhaps to other world religions.

The Catholic Church is the largest non-government provider of education and medical services in the world. With more than 1.2 billion members, it constitutes about 20% of the earth’s population. What happens with the Catholics affects us all. Now the Church has selected a new Pope, clearly with the idea of pushing out in a new direction that emphasizes to the faithful the good that the church is doing in our world and the role of its membership in continuing that good. It will be interesting to see what impact that may have for Catholic France.


Snowing in Paris tonight

It’s snowing here tonight, and it’s beautiful. I took some photos of Notre Dame de Paris and of the streets near our apartment. There isn’t very much snow, but it also appears that Paris has no snow removal equipment. Police lights are flashing everywhere. It’s slick out there. On the other hand, the metro is running on time.

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The paperless way of life

In many ways we’ve tried to “go paperless” on our sojourn to France. We don’t have a printer but do have a scanner; we’ve learned how to sign documents and send them back without printing. We’re storing almost all of our bookkeeping information electronically. Still, as demonstrated in this video I received courtesy of my friend Terry Mahony, there are limits to what one can do.

Le papier ne sera jamais mort / Paper is not dead ! from INfluencia on Vimeo.

Cut and Color at Carita


Marine, my colorist

On March 5 th, Hugh and my 24th wedding anniversary, mon proprietaire, (landlord) was kind enough to arrange an appointment for me with her colorist and stylist, at Carita Paris3 rue du Boccador, Paris. Carita is billed as the House of Beauty and has several Paris locations. They have their own line of beauty products for face and body. At the entry the receptionist takes my coat and scarf and gives me a white robe to put on. Then I am led to the back of the salon to meet Marine, my colorist. She has lovely ear length wavy hair in a very natural reddish brown color so I am relieved that I will not come out with wild blonde streaks. While Marine is examining my roots and deciding how to blend new color with old, Audrey,  a delightful young and very petite dark haired gamine gives me the best manicure I have ever had. It is swiftly and expertly executed and my nails gleam with a high gloss coating.

IMG_4330The salon has black and white tiled floors, black washing basins with white sinks, thick black towels and lots of chrome, glass and wood cabinetry displaying Carita products. Marine, wearing a shiny black vinyl apron, carefully paints color onto each section of my hair, lets me rest for about 20 minutes while the dye works its magic, then washes and rinses my hair and gently massages my scalp for at least 10 minutes. I notice that colorists from time to time lightly squeeze the tops of their client’s shoulders- maybe just a sign to let us know that we are in good hands and to relax? It is very comforting.
When the rinsing is finished, Marine wraps my head in one of those abundant black towels twisting and tucking it into a turban then leads me to the cutting station where I am introduced to Clementine, my stylist. Carita is a very busy place. My landlord has told me that it can take weeks to get an appointment.
IMG_4334Clementine and I practice French while she cuts. She has had 4 years of training to become a stylist at this salon. Eventually she may want to have her own shop. She shapes my hair very carefully but quickly, following the style that Tyson at Robert Leonard Salon in Seattle has previously cut. Maybe next visit  I will be more adventuresome. Clementine blow dries my hair into waves which look very natural.
My hair is slightly darker brown than the color that Ward Fuentes at Seattle’s Robert Leonard Salon creates. We can work on that next time. Voilà! I am ready for our anniversary dinner celebration!
 See a video on U Tube at this link: http://youtu.be/rwST0LS_Uqw
Here’s another view of the salon.

Our new apartment in Paris!

Our tiny, 450 sq. ft. apartment is located on the left bank just across the Seine from Notre Dame. We look right at that beautiful cathedral. We checked out 9 different apartments that we found on the internet, noting in the process that www.pap.fr  was the easiest site to navigate. Apartments with more square footage did not equate to better condition or better neighborhood, so we chose a smaller place with the best location and remodel job. It was surprising how few options we had for furnished long term rentals. Wouldn’t you know it the first apartment we looked at was the best one! Of course we didn’t understand how nice it was until we compared. I’ll post a gallery of photos so you can look around.

We have a small bedroom with windows opening to a non traffic street. All the apartment windows are double glazed, which is good because the road in front has heavy traffic. There is a cozy reading nook with lots of cushions, a living room with couch/pull out bed, and a wooden table that can expand to seat 6. The tiny kitchen is open to the living room. It contains dishwasher, washing machine, refrigerator, microwave (which can also be used for grilling or roasting) 2 burner electric cook top, fan with hood and cabinets for glasses, dishes, pots and pans. The bathroom is tiled with marble floors and walls, though one whole wall is mirrored, and there is tub/shower and double sinks. The heat is electric (3 separate wall units.) Water is heated with gas. We have great Internet access and a flat screen TV. Apart from the marble bath, all other  flooring is wood.

The landlord provides an iron and ironing board, vacuum cleaner, mop, swifter, toaster, coffee maker, cooking utensils, bedding-though you buy your own sheets, towels and pillow cases. Our biggest problem was where to store the suitcases-they are stacked  atop a small cabinet in the bedroom. All walls are white. Windows have privacy/sun shades.

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Open Air Market in Vincennes

Vincennes MarketOn Tuesdays and Fridays there is a huge, colorful open air market in Vincennes, our temporary home. It is supposed to be the largest market in and around Paris. We can walk a few blocks from our hotel, the Adagio Paris Vincennes to partake of the market goodies.

Brenda buying vegetables

Brenda buying vegetables

There are many blocks of vendors lining both both sides of the streets, selling fresh vegetables, fruit, meats, cheeses, seafood, clothing, including cashmere sweaters, hats, gloves, even kitchen utensils and dishware. Shoppers get wonderful fresh produce.

Helping out with the French

This woman was helping us out with the French


Authentic scallops are distinctively marked

Vendors help each other out by asking each other and even passers by the English terms for items they want to tell us about. We try to tell them any French we know. It’s a bit of a mêlée wherever we go. Today we bought fresh peas and spinach, rabbit sausages, “rumsteck” which I think is the equivalent of round steak, an aged hard cheese that reminds me of pecorino and a fresh ripe and ready to eat mango. I can cook in the small kitchen in our room. So glad that before I came I downloaded “Cook’s All Time Best Recipes.”  Tonight for dinner I made their recipe for “pan seared cheap steaks with mustard cream sauce” fresh peas, fresh spinach and boiled beets. The food tastes so good- just like when I buy at the Farmer’s Market in Poulsbo. We have tried a few red wines too-comparatively inexpensive and very tasty.

Arthur, concierge supreme!

Arthur poses for his photo

Arthur poses for his photo

We’re staying at the Adagio Paris hotel in Vincennes. Although it’s east of the city center about 6 miles, we picked it for an arrival address because it was reasonably priced and had good reviews. What we’ve discovered is that people in Vincennes always recommend Vincennes as the best place to stay. They like that it is quieter than Paris but has woods in which to walk, the Chateau de Vincennes, a Middle Ages castle (the tallest standing in Europe) under reconstruction, their many good restaurants, the largest outdoor market in or around Paris and an easy to commute to the city via the Metro- only 18 minutes.

Arthur, our friendly and informative concierge, allowed us to take his photo. We admire him and his elegant, structured suit. Arthur has answered so many of our questions so politely and carefully, always with a smile. He seems genuinely glad to give us advice and make recommendations. We are always happy to see him at the front desk. He encourages our attempts to speak French and is “astonished” when we pronounce a phrase correctly. Arthur made dinner reservations for us for next Saturday evening at “Gallopin,” a 120 year old brasserie which he frequents and thinks we and our unexpected guests from Poulsbo will too. Merci, Arthur for your kindness.

Waiting for the Super Bowl

Waiting for the Super Bowl As seen from the blimp5

The game’s doesn’t start until after midnight here in Paris, but we’re ready – all our friends are here for the big party, and it will be live on Channel W-9. Taco Bell was out of snacks so we had to make do with what was available.