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PASSION FOR FRANCE
Other nations might well envy the steadfast loyalty with which the French speak of their country, to say nothing of the admirable manner in which they guard a cultural heritage enriched by a plethora of artistic talent. For they make no secret of their love for family, affection for pets, and fervor for France, let alone suppress fierce commitment to preserving fragments of centuries past. Finding boundless inspiration in their vibrant history, it is not surprising, then, that they contend you are what you know.
Truth is, in an exam-orientated country, where even three-year-olds must attend École Maternelle in readiness for competitive grades, education lies somewhere near the very heart of identity. Approximately seventy-five daily newspapers-influential Le Monde, Le Figero, and Libération among them-never fail to remind readers that it is important to have a deep knowledge of France, far-reaching views of the world, and substantive opinions about the montage of issues dominating the press. A cultural legacy that piece by piece is disappearing is widely reported by the media and a topic on everybody's minds, though hardly news.
With a wave of tourists, architects, and decorators-speaking English and Japanese, Spanish and Italian-clamoring for French heirlooms, concern leads many habitués to canvas narrow cobbled streets in hope they can prevent their national symbols from being shipped to the United States or elsewhere in the world while still within reach.
Dashing from Left Bank antiques shops on the Rue Jacob, the Rue-des Saints Pères, and the Rue de Seine to bustling sales in the Hôtel Drouot, where more than three thousand auctions are clustered annually, the French routinely bargain over rock-crystal chandeliers, chairs wearing original leather, and blurry mirrors that look as if they stepped out of the eighteenth-century works of art lining noble walls; albeit back then, mirrors often cost more that the finest paintings.
By all appearances, it seems unlikely that France will run out of stone garden statuary or other testaments to its storied history anytime soon. But even with all the splendid antiques gathered about, most quarters are neither intimidating nor fussy. Indeed, French people equate elegance with restraint. For them, comfort and tastefulness are paramount, not belongings that cost a queen's ransom or unwelcome attention to extravagant ways.
Nearly all are bought up with the cardinal rule "Wealth and discretion go hand in hand," which means care is taken not to trample tradition by flaunting vain indulgences that are showy trappings of success-much less break the age-old cultural taboo of appearing that living stylishly is a preoccupation in itself.
Despite the grandeur in which the Sun King, Louis XIV, resided in the magnificent Palace of Versailles, grande mâisons with seldom-used rooms, flawless jewels, or, for that matter, fancy cars that reflect privileged upbringing simply do not appeal to the sensibilities of French aristocrats. Or even to those the French call the jeunesse dorée-the young and moneyed-who choose to make do with smaller accommodations, independent of high birth. But then, ostentatious
Passion for France
Art of Living
Sidebar: Table Matters
Sidebar: Le Chocolat
Sidebar: Resting Places
Sidebar: Fine Linens
Sidebar: Shedding Some Light
A World Away
Posted February 23, 2009
Posted August 30, 2005
This is a large book 10' x 12' so it contains a lot of big beautiful pictures. The text is fun to read it gives you a lot of background on the French mindset and approach to decorating. Also, some good information on the details.
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Posted February 9, 2010
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