Post Card From Cherbourg

Just a quick hello from the northernmost reaches of France, where everyone smiles and wears hats just like this.

And a quick update on the A-to-Z Challenge – my contributions will have to remain on hold until I return home on Wednesday. I began this exercise the best of intentions, but a little bit of down down has to take precedence.

Hope you’re enjoying your weekend,

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Lille Quickie

Here’s a 2min 30sec Lille video notebook, the latest in Piran Cafe’s City Quickie series. There’s plenty of grit, a bit of charm, a few drunks, some chocolate, a young girl picking her nose, a Gypsy caravan, a beggar or two, and even cameos by Bob Marley and Marilyn Monroe. And a terrific soundtrack by the Swedish surf band, The Pharaos.

These shots were collected early last month, the second time I was in France on the Fourth of July. (It felt much more traitorous during the Bush years.) It was also the first time I visited the extreme northeast of France and was struck by how Lille had more in common with Brussels, where I flew into, than Paris, just 200 kilometers, or 125 miles, away. Architecturally it’s much more Grand Place than Place de la Concorde.

The principal city of the Lille Metropole, France’s fourth largest after Paris, Lyon and Marseille, I got the impression that Lille has seen better days. A colleague who spent his student days there, underscored my assessment. “I don’t come back very often,” he said. “I find it too depressing.” He’s an extremely bright, witty and well-traveled man whose judgement I trust, but a Parisian through and through.

I don’t characterize it quite so harshly. It looks a bit worn and rough around the edges, with new life desperately trying to break through. I hope it succeeds.

You can check out my small (but growing!) collection of City Quickie shorts on the Piran Café City Quickie channel on vimeo.


3quarksdaily: The Accidental Parisian: A Conversation with David Downie

3quarksdaily: The Accidental Parisian: A Conversation with David Downie

Great wide-ranging interview with the author of Paris, Paris: A Journey Into the City of Light. What most sparked my interest was his profound desire to walk, wherever he may be. That’s always been my preference when traveling, in places new, or those seemingly familiar.

Your feet seem to merge with the soil at times. Sometimes you think you can’t move. Sometimes you feel like you’re flying. But you’re always aware of your physical presence as a human — an animal — and as an element in the landscape.


Until I’ve paced out a walk, until I’ve gotten into the landscape or cityscape, I can’t know it. After 25 years in France, I still have to hoof it around to get what’s going on. This must be some extremely primitive reaction to the external world, something that wells up in my caveman soul.

3quarksdaily: The Accidental Parisian: A Conversation with David Downie.

Wilde Tomb

I was in Paris for five days last week – mostly work, little play – but did make the time to finally visit Père Lachaise, the cemetery where Frederic Chopin, Gertrude Stein, Jim Morrison, among other luminaries, are buried. The most interesting tomb is that of Oscar Wilde, whose fans really know how to pay their respects. Here’s a quick slide show I pieced together of the Wilde Tomb.

Dig it! Paris Considering ban on SUVs


An idea that needs to spread throughout Europe. Although given Slovenia’s collective car fetish, I can’t imagine anyone in Ljubljana with the cojones to propose it.

Via Inhabitat and Autoblog Green:

Denis Baupin, an environmental official in the mayor’s office, told RTL Radio that if you’re a Parisian with a gas guzzler, you should “sell it and buy a vehicle that’s compatible with city life. I’m sorry, but having a sport utility vehicle in a city makes no sense.”

You don’t have to own a really big brain to realize that most European cities weren’t made with big cars in mind.

Details are still pretty sketchy, but the ban could go into effect by late this year or early in 2012.

From Montmartre, originally uploaded by pirano.

Magnum Gallery Opens in Saint Germain des Prés

Via Artdaily:

On Friday, Magnum, the legendary photo collective founded by Henri Cartier Bresson, Robert Capa and others, will opened a gallery in the heart of Saint Germain des Prés, in the former exhibition spaces of Robert Delpire, one of France’s most distinguished publishers and photography connoisseurs. The opening exhibition, “Demain/Hier” (tomorrow/yesterday) will be curated by Robert Delpire himself and will focus on the ‘new generation’ of Magnum photographers, set against the backdrop of those who founded the photographers’ collective decennia ago.

‘A Moveable Feast’, menu revised

Sticking with the Paris theme:

Should publishers significantly rework new editions, in this case the ‘restored’ version of the Hemingway classic, A Moveable Feast?

Hell no, says A. E. Hotchner, a friend of Hemingway’s and author of the biography Papa Hemingway, in a piece in yesterday’s NYT.

This new edition, also published by Scribner, has been extensively reworked by a grandson who doesn’t like what the original said about his grandmother, Hemingway’s second wife. The grandson has removed several sections of the book’s final chapter and replaced them with other writing of Hemingway’s that the grandson feels paints his grandma in a more sympathetic light.

Hotcher, who was intimately involved with the manuscript and met several times with publisher Sribner prior to its initial posthumous publication, argues that such liberties dangerously misrepresent the book’s “actual genesis” and raises serious questions about the ethics of publishing.

A great read and interesting background on the book.

From Montmartre, originally uploaded by pirano.