28 May 2012

Jour du Souvenir

U.S. soldiers of Pennsylvania's 28th Infantry Division march along the Champs Elysees, the Arc de Triomphe in the background, on Aug. 29, 1944, four days after the liberation of Paris.

I tend to "remember" World War II more than the others. I wasn't actually alive at the time, but in some ways wish that I had been. So many men gave their lives for so many. Of course, I tend to be more knowledgeable about the occupation of Paris and more importantly, the liberation of Paris. To think how close they (we) came to la Tour Eiffel's destruction, along with numerous other treasures of this city magnifique, literally makes my stomach turn.

I spent most of yesterday watching war movies, teary-eyed and being ever so grateful.

Since I don't have any war-related tales of my own, thought I'd share quite an interesting and poignant story that I came across recently. How did I miss this? Some of you may already know of this story; Parisians more so than the rest of us.
(watch the video of the Marseillaise - so moving)

French war flag, 'liberated' from Arc de Triomphe, returned to Paris by remorseful U.S. veteran

Published: Sunday, September 19, 2010, 7:39 P

ANGELA DOLAND, Associated Press Writer

PARIS, France — On the day Paris was liberated from the Nazis in 1944, a young American soldier nabbed a souvenir of epic proportions: He took home the French flag that hung from the Arc de Triomphe, a symbol of the end of four years of struggle and shame. Six and a half decades later, the aging veteran has given the flag back to the city of Paris.

Officials from Paris City Hall took possession of the 12-meter (13-yard) tricolor flag Saturday in a ceremony in southern France, a step in its unusual journey from New York state back home to Paris. The American veteran remains anonymous, too ashamed to come forward.

French officials have no intention of scolding him: They have only thanks and kind words for him, pointing out that he once risked his life for France.

"I'm infinitely grateful," Catherine Vieu-Charier, deputy to the mayor of Paris, told The Associated Press. French historian Christine Levisse-Touze insisted his act couldn't be considered a theft.

"If an American GI wanted to take home a souvenir, I'd say there was nothing reprehensible about that, it's an act you can easily understand," said Levisse-Touze, director of a Paris museum with exhibits on the city's liberation.

Levisse-Touze is studying the flag to verify its authenticity, but she said it appears to be the real thing, based on comparisons with archive footage and based on the straps used to tie it to the monument. The cotton flag is still in excellent condition and has been carefully preserved.

Paris firefighters in the Resistance hung the flag on the Arc de Triomphe on Aug. 25, 1944. After Gen. Philippe Leclerc's 2nd Armored Division, backed by the Americans, rolled into Paris, the occupiers surrendered, ignoring Hitler's order to demolish much of the city.

The flag quickly disappeared, and its absence was barely noticed during the tumult. Levisse-Touze believes a different, larger French flag was hanging under the Arc de Triomphe the next day, when Gen. Charles de Gaulle led a victory parade down the Champs-Elysees.

The flag didn't resurface until 2008, when Armand Lourdin, a French chef who has lived in the United States for three decades, was cooking for a group of U.S. veterans he had gotten to know in his job at a private club in Chappaqua, New York. After dinner, the veterans sent for him.

"Everybody was standing up, they had opened up the flag and they were all singing the Marseillaise in French - they had learned the words," Lourdin told the AP by telephone from his home in New York. One of the men told him that he had taken the flag as Paris was liberated, and asked Lourdin to carry it to France on his upcoming vacation.

Lourdin turned it over to the town where his relatives live, Chandolas, in southeastern France, sparking the long process of checking its authenticity. In Saturday's ceremony, French firefighters hung the flag from the town hall.

Afterward, local mayor Alain Mahey entrusted the flag to Paris officials. There is no official protocol for folding a French flag, Mahey said, but this one was sent back to Paris folded into a small triangle, American-style. 

In this Aug. 25, 1944 handout photo made available by Memorial Leclerc/Musee Jean Moulin City of Paris, a French flag is displayed on the Arc De Triomphe on the day Paris was liberated from the Nazis. On the day Paris was liberated from the Nazis in 1944, a young American soldier nabbed a souvenir of epic proportions: He took the French flag that hung anew from the Arc de Triomphe, a proud symbol marking the end of four years of struggle and shame. Now, six and a half decades later, the aging veteran has given it back.

04 May 2012

This Weekend - Ponies and Presidents

The Big Race...J'adore Derby Day!

I realize that the Kentucky Derby does not take place in Austin, but there are many Derby Day parties around town. Check out the HighBall and don't forget your hat!
Have you picked your ponies yet?
Here are my faves: 

#1   Daddy Long Legs
#19 I'll Have Another
#4   Union Rags
#8   Creative Cause

The Other Big Race...The President of France Will Be Decided on Sunday

No class tomorrow - Madame Didnee will be voting!

And Now For Something Completely Different: Les Bal des Vampires
My timing is a bit off on this one, but I had to tell you about it nevertheless.

Les Bal des Vampires
"The meeting of a Venetian Masked Ball and a Court of Vampires, with the energy of a rock concert and the elegance of a burlesque cabaret."  Yes, it's in full swing at Le Manoir de Paris, a famous haunted house in Paris. The recommended dress code is circa 1912. How freaking merveilleux is that?! French vampires in the early 1900s - can't get any better than that. read more:

bon week-end!

03 May 2012

Bicycles Everywhere!

Vélos en francais.
First thing this morning, I came across a fantastic picture (below) of a Parisienne peddling down des rues de Paris in high heels. How apropos since it's National Bike Month here in the US. I then remembered seeing an excellent picture of my friend Faith atop a bike (not in high heels) on her Facebook page. Moments later, another friend, Louise Marie who actually lives in Paris, posted pictures of bicycles on Facebook!

My friend Faith, cycliste extraordinaire - Austin
photo by Louise-Marie Jane Giselle Morin

I'm out in the country for the next couple of days with only a laptop, and it has taken me forever to figure out how to type the accents français since the ALT codes won't work on a laptop. What a pain in the derrière. Speaking of French, I just began the 5th session of my cours de français. Can you believe it? There has been much improvement - slowly, but surely. I continue to have stage fright when asked to read or "say something in french". I've decided to embrace it for now and hope it dissipates over time.

My classmate Alanna and I have been meeting each week for happy hour homework sessions. Ingenious, I know.  It certainly helps to have someone to practice with (wine also helps). A couple of weeks ago, we discovered homework with brunch was très fab at Blue Dahlia. $2 mimosas, baby! We're going again this Sunday.

Can you believe my last post was Easter weekend? I've been busy, but really, a whole month has passed? Never again mes amis.

Best French Word of the Day so far: se tordre de rire = to writhe with laughter. Now that's a side splitter...

devoirs avec brunch à Blue Dahlia  

adieux pour le moment ~