Tag Archives: France

Angelique–God’s Messenger

She came among us.

A group of ex-pats, on assignment in Paris, we met each day at a sidewalk cafe near Montmartre to commiserate, and she came among us.

At first, we didn’t notice.

“I’ll have the foie gras,” my friend said. “I’ll have the croque-monsieur,” my other friend said.

“I’ll have the jambon-beurre,” I said. “I don’t have much time, today,” I said.

“Come on,” they said. “A French meal is a cultural experience.”.

We laughed. They said this every day. Three-hour lunches were not uncommon. I would often sit and watch the afternoon light soften into postcard Paris evenings.

“Alms,” she said, her voice soft, barely audible above the noise of traffic and street musicians.

My friends did not hear, or pretended not to hear. They continued their tales of exploits and conquests, stories not yet written, not yet published.

“Alms, she said again, closer.

I lost the train of conversation as I watched her slowly shuffle over the cobblestone, her cup held out, rattling the few coins she had collected, her cane tapping out of rhythm.

“Votre nourriture, les messieurs.” A waiter placed our food on the table and hurried away.


“Allez-vous en,” my friend said, “Go away.”

“Je ne parle pas français,” my other friend said, as if not speaking french would relieve us of guilt.

The woman looked up. She looked at me.  She was old and bent, crippled, and dirty.

“Homeless,” my friend said.

“Smelly,” my other friend said.

Our eyes met. Suddenly, I could not tell how old she was.

“What is your name?” I asked, not sure why.

“Angelique,” she said. Her eyes sparkled. “It means…God’s messenger.” Her voice was light, airy, tinged with a french accent, but with no hint of age.

“Do you have a  message for me?”

“Oui,” she said.

“What is it?” I asked, feeling this moment held deep meaning.

She kept my gaze, then her eyes traveled down over my Columbia shirt and pants and she looked at the cobblestones. It was as if the full moon had set. I could no longer see her eyes.

“Alms,” she said softly. “L’aumône pour les pauvres.”

The moment was gone.

I’m not sure what I was expecting, maybe some great insight from deity, delivered through Angelique, God’s messenger. Perhaps an answer to the perplexing question of what I should really do with my life. I don’t know. I did not receive the grand message I was hoping for.

Gypsy beggar.
Amidst the plenty of Paris, an old woman begs for alms.

The old woman held out her cup, expectantly.

I took a coin from my pocket and dropped it in. It clinked against  the other coins. She looked up again.

“Merci beaucoup,” she said. “Dieu vous protège.” Once again, her eyes were bright, blue. I nodded and she ambled away, clinking and tapping.

“I think Paris should do a better job with the homeless population,” my friend said.

“I agree,” my other friend said.

“Alms,” I heard her softly say. “L’aumône pour les pauvres.”

The Eiffel Tower
A vintage rainy day in Paris.

Woman In Paris

Cedar City Art Walk Image 5.

Her eyes speak volumes.
A woman rests from her burdens.

It was raining in Paris that morning as I sought shelter beneath the balustrades and terraces of the Louvre Palace. My timing was off. The museum was closed. I was not alone in my disappointment as I watched a woman trudge beneath our columned shelter and sit, wearily, against stone. She was not present with the host of tourists surrounding this space. She looked beyond, focused on something my eyes could not see. Trouble, sadness, sorrow, suffering. I could not know. Yet, in her eyes I could see the reflection of ghosts in Paris. On this day, I would not see the Mona Lisa smile.

For more info on my show check out a June 11th article in The Spectrum.



Magic in Marcy en Beaujolais, France

First of all let me say, I don’t drink wine. I don’t drink alcohol. However, I do love grape juice.

_MGL7969_70_71_FarmlandOn assignment, I was staying in a bed and breakfast in Marcy en Beaujolias, a tiny village in French wine country, not far from Lyon, France. Not wanting to miss out on seeing the country side, I went for a walk early one morning. I only had an hour before I had to leave, so, as usual, I was in a hurry.

_MGL8018_Rock Wall WindowThe morning was beautiful. The late September sun was casting long morning shadows on stone walls and stone balconies built in the twelfth century. I was transported in time. As I walked, I quickly ran out of village and found myself in the midst of a gorgeous, hilly vineyard countryside. _MGL7916_7_8_wine country vineyardThe grape harvest was in progress. _MGL7943_Red GrapesThe vines were heavy with rich, red grapes, dripping with morning dew. Some of the leaves on the vines were changing from  brilliant green to autumn red, indicating the close of another season.

_MGL7949_Vineyard MasterAn old man, carrying a bucket hand picked and tested the grapes, while a modern, somewhat out of place, harvester, striped the rows of luscious fruit.

On the harvester, another man sorted grapes and plucked the leaves from the harvest, in preparation for processing. The scene was magical, beautiful. I lost track of time as I walked a narrow lane through the vineyard. _MGL7926_7_8_Vineyard RowAs I walked, a truck filled with grapes pulled up next to me. An old man beckoned me to “come, come.” I approached him and he motioned for me to get in the truck. He spoke as much English as I spoke French, next to nothing. The old man’s face was lined with wrinkles, leathered over the course of many seasons in the sun. His hair was gray. His beard was gray. His eyes twinkled. I climbed in the truck. He smiled as we drove through the vineyard. He would point to things as he talked. I enjoyed the view and the lilting sound of his voice, but I had no idea what he was saying.

_MGL7975_Country RoadAfter about fifteen minutes, he backed into an ancient stone building. We got out of the truck as the old man pointed out important parts of his winery, talking non-stop. _MGL7985_Grape offloadingAnother man, younger, shorter, but just as weathered, joined us with a smile. The younger man held a pitchfork in his hands. They pressed a lever and the bed of the truck rose, dumping grapes and juice into a vat below the truck. As the younger man forked the grapes from the truck the older man pointed out a large vat with a spinning mixer, turning and mashing grapes. _MGL7979_Grape VatThe rich fragrance of grape juice was intoxicating. I could tastes the juice in the air it was so think and delicious.

As I took pictures, the old man motioned me to follow. We went down a stone staircase into darkness. He flipped a switch and I was surrounded by gigantic wooden wine barrels. IMG_3422_Wine VatI think he was telling me that this was where they aged the wine. We went further underground into a wine cellar with an arched stone roof. Here, he showcased the Beaujolais wine he was so proud of._MGL7999_Wine Cellar Entrance

After looking around, he led me back up the stone steps into the light. The truck was empty, time for another load. We got back in the truck and he drove me back to the village.

_MGL8000_PierreBefore I left the truck, I asked his name. “Pierre”, he said, “Peter, in English.”  We shook hands and I climbed out of the truck.  Pierre drove away with a smile.  _MGL7925_Vine StakeI stood there, basking in the morning sun amidst the fragrant vineyard of a magical valley deep in the heart of France.  I marveled at the unexpected adventure I had just experienced. Pierre, like his father before him, and his father’s father’s father before them, has been making wine his entire life.  _MGL8083_4_5_Beaujolais Wine CountryOn this day, perhaps unremarkable for him, yet most remarkable for me, Pierre offered a magical glimpse into a tradition that crossed the ages, jumped the stone fences  and bridged our cultures through kindness.  I will not forget his friendship.

So, if you happen to be in Marcy en Beaujolais on a sunny morning during grape harvest season, be sure to take a walk through the vineyards. Look for a gray-haired man with a twinkle in his eye. While I don’t drink wine, I can, wholeheartedly recommend the grape juice.  And, I can say from first-hand experience, there is still magic in the world and kindness without fear.

Versailles, what’s it like inside?

I think you could spend days inside. We rented an audio device with a recorded digital audio tour. Each room had a number. The number corresponded to the program on the audio device. It was interesting and fascinating. I felt compelled to move on after the short room history ended. I finished my tour of the Palace in an hour. I could have, and should have taken longer.

Château de Versailles, A View from the Palace Grounds

Whether or not Marie Antoinette actually said, “Let them eat cake,” is up for debate. What isn’t up for debate is the fact that the French Aristocracy of the 17th century had lost touch with the plight of the common folk. In 1682 King Louis XIV moved the center of political power in France from Paris to Versailles. His heir, Louis the XV and his heir, Louis the XVI, expanded the elaborate and exquisite palace in a decadent game of one-upmanship, each seeking to outdo the extravagance of the last. The Château, or Castle, or Palace of Versailles represented the system of absolute monarchy in the divine right of kingship.

The people had no bread. Yet the Kings inlaid gold throughout their palace and threw elaborately expensive balls. For this very reason, it may be possible to understand why, on October 6, 1789 the Royal Family was forced to leave Versailles for the Tuileries Palace in Paris as a result of the Women’s March on Versailles and the erupting revolution. Not long after, in spite of lofty ideals, the people’s French Revolution removed the heads of those who ignored the basic humanity of their subjects instead choosing art and architecture over liberty and life.

As I visited the marvelously decadent and brilliantly ostentatious palace, now a historical museum, I felt that traditional photographic images did not rise to the same level of ornate excess demanded by the creators of Versailles or by the palace itself. So, I look through the lens wishing it were canvas and brush, hoping that the images could transcend the common and rise, with the ghosts of Versailles, to the courts of Art.

Things in Paris

People, places, things–I think I’ve pretty much covered it. This will be my last post from Paris–a collection of random stuff–shapes, lines, designs, stuff–much of it transportation related–since we were running, literally, around the city. The city of lights, the city of love, good food, great architecture, interesting people–Paris has it all. Some may wonder, then, why shoot this–stuff? Storytelling, for me, begins with the wide shot and gets more specific. I am fascinated by shapes, lines, interesting stuff. It is so easy to miss the interesting stuff. It is even more difficult to see the interesting stuff, in interesting ways. The story of my visit to Paris–a story I will never forget–and, one I hope to visit again–concludes with the specific, yet random–from my treasure box of stuff.

Places of Paris, Volume 2

So much to see, so little time. With so many sites, the challenge was to really see, to look for the commonplace and see the unique vibrance hidden beneath the rush. Judge for yourself. I was inadequate, overwhelmed, rushed. A feast before me, I had little time to decide of what to partake. Yet, I came away filled.

The Metro was our friend and we walked, and walked, and walked…and the sun went down.

Places of Paris, Volume 1

Paris is a vibrant city,rich in tradition, culture and history. As I spent time, not nearly enough, in the city, I felt the stories, written in the walls, stones and walkways. I couldn’t help looking through my lens to capture, not what I saw, but what I felt. High dynamic range photography seemed to be the only way I could bridge the gap between my dreams and my abilities. HDR images provided some relief from the need to capture the singular light of this marvelous city on canvas. I have no skill with the brush. I must rely on pixels to form the images I can only imagine amidst the landmarks which call to me in my sleep.

People of Paris, Volume 2

Paris is a city in motion. Cars, motorcycles, scooters, bicycles, the Metro and people. People everywhere, constantly moving. It was easy, shooting motion pictures. Not so easy to capture stills. And the stories–in every face–I want to know them all. I have my own stories, but I want to know theirs. They won’t tell–easily. All I can do is stare–at their faces–and wonder.  I will just have to imagine their stories.

People of Paris, Volume 1

One day in Paris is not enough, but that’s all I had. The city is beautiful and overwhelming.  French architecture stands as a witness to the genius minds of grand tradition meant to last through the ages. However, it was the people of Paris that fascinated me, fun, friendly, aggressive and rude. I could see stories in their eyes, in their faces. I took pictures of the places, but, the people in the places were just as interesting–perhaps more so. They all have stories. I tried to capture them, in the moment, as many as I could, as fast as I could. The places will last, the people in motion, their stories changing, these photographs holding them for just a moment.