The Independent Traveler's Newsletter                                     PAGE TWO

The Fontaine St. Michel

Fontaine St-Michel, Copyright Cold Spring Press.  All rights reserved.When in the mid- 19th century the Pont St. Michel (Saint Michael's Bridge) was built joining the Ile de La Cité with the Left Bank (Latin Quarter), it “disembarked” facing some rather ugly architecture. To beautify that spot, the St. Michael Fountain was erected, designed mainly by the architect Gabriel Davoud.

Depicting «good winning out over evil», its main sculpture shows St. Michael slaying the devil/dragon. At the time, some people found the whole thing a bit overdone. And one wit anonymously circulated this rhyming jab:

Dans ce monument execrable

Il n’y a ni talent ni goût.

Saint Michel ne vaut pas le diable,

Et le diable ne vaut rien du tout.

(In this despicable monument
There is neither talent nor taste.
Saint Michael isn't worth the devil
And the devil isn't worth anything at all.)

This article is Part One  of a mini-series on selected – because intriguing – public fountains in Paris.
 Look for Part Two– on the bizarre contradiction of the  Fontaine des Haudriettes
and an elephant fountain (!) from Napoleonic times – in the next issue of 
FRANCE On Your Own.


This column is intended to advise you about cultural events, news and happenings

in France or France-related events taking place in the United States & elsewhere
 between now and the publication of our next issue.

In France. . .

o  French Business News:  - Airbus Industries, the European producer of jet airplanes, will open its first US production plant in Mobile, Alabama.  The $600 million facility will eventually employ about 1000 workers.  This is seen as a cost-cutting move for Airbus in a state with one of the US's  lowest minimum wages and a rarity of strikes.  Employment benefits are about 30% lower than those in Europe.  Airbus will also be free of the variations in euro to dollar exchange rates.  The plant will be on the former Brookley Air Force Base where WWII planes were built.  -  General Electric will move production of 50-hertz heavy duty gas turbines to Belfort, France, along with 400 jobs.  -  The Ban of Uber in France has been upheld in France's top constitutional court.  The panel upheld the French ban on UberPop, and a trial for two senior European managers was on schedule.  - Air France announced job cuts in early October, perhaps up to 2900 jobs, as part of its restructuring plan after pilots refused the airlines proposal to work longer hours - 100 more hours per month at the same salary.  Ground personnel had a one day strike on October 22, but there has been no news since that time.  -  France's "love affair" with diesel is set to end with the government announcing a rise in the price of the fuel just weeks ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference scheduled for Paris from November 30 to December 11.  The government will increase taxes on diesel while lowering taxes on gasoline to bring the two fuels to roughly the same price level.  Over time more cars ran on diesel causing many citizens to have legitimate concerns over air quality levels. Without proper controls, diesel emits harmful levels of nitrogen oxides and lung-clogging particles.  The recent scandal at Volkswagen have increased the focus on this issue.  - Weakness of French economic growth is surprising to the European Central Bank's chief economist, Peter Praet, and he urged France to proceed with its reforms.  He stated that France has not had any serious banking or debt crises like other countries, but he understands that they have substantial barriers on the labor front.  - No merger will take place between Renault and Nissan according to the French Economy Minister, Emmanuel Macron.  He said France wants "operational integration" but not a merger.  Renault owns 43.4 percent of Nissan's capital with voting rights, the French government will decrease its 19.7 ownership in the company to 15 percent.  Nissan has a 15 percent stake in Renault with no voting rights.  The two became a joint venture in 1999 when Nissan was on the verge of bankruptcy.  Today, Nissan vehicle sales outpace sales by Renault.  - Some EU lawmakers want to stop subsidizing those farmers who raise bulls for fighting.  Critics say the sport is cruel and archaic and that budget appropriations should not be used to finance a blood sport.  Animal rights campaigners welcome this attempt which seems to have a better chance of passing than when it was suggested in the past.  The interest in bullfighting has waned in recent years.

o  UNESCO listed the historic vineyards of Champagne and Burgundy as a World Heritage Site on the 4th of July.  Champagne's rolling hills in the north of the region contain some of the most expensive agricultural land in Europe.  In Burgundy, the uniqueness of the Côtes de Nuits and the Côte de Beaune south of Dijon was noted.  The 'Grand Crus' from this region are some of the most expensive.  France now has 41 World Heritage sites.

o  French farmers stopped trucks brining food in from Spain and Germany in late July at checkpoints on six roads between Germany and France while other farmers carried out similar actions to prevent produce from coming into France from Spain.  This was in protest of falling French food prices which farmers blame on foreign competition.  This was a week after farmers blocked cities and access to tourist attractions such as Le Mont St-Michel by dumping manure on the roadways.  In fear of France's strong agricultural lobby, the government unveiled an emergency package worth €600 million in tax relief and loan guarantees, but this did not stop the unrest.  The Russian embargo and slowing Chinese demand has also pushed prices down.  President François Hollande declared to the farmers that "protest or no protests, we are by their side."

o   The Farmers  returned in early September by bringing more than 1000 tractors into Paris to once again protest plummeting food prices.  They came from all regions of France, driving at the average speed of 22 miles per hours, an additional burden on traffic.  People were advised to use public transport wherever possible. The farmers said again that the governments offer of tax relief and loan assistance was inadequate and that many farms are going under, and in extreme cases, there have been suicides.  The agricultural minister said that about 10 percent of French farms (there are about 22,000), are on the brink of bankruptcy with a total debt of about one billion euros.  France is a land of agricultural above all else, and this is a very, very sad situation.

o  The Musée Rodin reopened to the public on November 12 after extensive renovations.  Over 300 precious works of sculpture are on display.  The Museum is open daily from 10AM to 5:45PM, on Wednesdays until 8:45PM and is closed Mondays.  More information at

In March  France passed a law making rooftop solar or gardens mandatory on all new commercial construction.  They must be completely or partially covered by plants or solar panels.  Environmental activists had wanted green roofs to cover the entire surface, but the government convinced them that the scope of the law had to be limited.

o  The Grand Palais in Paris is the venue Picasso.Mania an exhibit that looks at Picasso's career chronologically and features works from the Musée Picasso, the Musée National d'Art Moderne and the artist's family.  Until February 29, 2016.  The museum is open daily 10AM to 10PM, and Sundays and Mondays until 8PM.  It is closed Tuesdays.  More information at

o  Travelers on the Eurostar train from London to Paris on November 11th faced a 12-hour delay when the train hit a wild boar on the tracks as it traveled through the forest near Calais.  A rescue train had to be sent to take the passengers on their way ~ a trip that normally takes 2 hours and 16 minutes.  Award-winning opera singer, Jacob Bettinelli, got enthusiastic applause as he entertained his fellow travelers at the train's bar during the delay.  The wild boar population has exploded in France in recent years despite efforts by hunters.  The boars (sangliers) number over 2 million in France alone, invade suburban gardens and villages, and wreak havoc on farms.  They are the cause of over 60% of the 40,000 car accidents involving wild animals each year.  When driving in France, take notice of signs indicating deer crossings, and most especially those through wooded areas indicating wild boars.  The boar will not sustain as much damage as the car that hits him!

o  The Musée d'Orsay will host Splendor and Misery - Pictures of Prostitution 1850 - 1910 until January 17, 2016.  Paintings include Manet's Olympia, and Degas' L'Absinthe to Toulouse-Lautrec and Munch's forays into brothels.  Open daily 9:30AM to 6PM, Thursdays until 9:45PM and closed Mondays.  The €12 entry fee includes the Musée de l'Orangerie. Details at

o   Economist and Nobel Prize winner, Joseph Stiglitz, said that France was being intimidated by Germany into pursuing an economic policy to continue austerity.  He pointed out that to cut taxes and expenditures contracts the economy and doesn't make it grow.  He said evidence of that is throughout Europe.  Stiglitz feels that the center-left government has lost confidence in its own progressive agenda, and that the leaders of the US and former leaders of the UK and Germany support deregulation and trade agreements that are bad for ordinary workers with the policies of austerity "at the heart of the increase in inequality".  [credit: Agence France Presse]

o  Until January 25, 2016  the Musée Jacquemart-André is the setting for Florence, Portraits at the Court of the MédicisThe sixteenth century saw portraiture become very popular among the elite of Florence.  The century was very important in both cultural and religious aspects, and was captured by painters of the time.  The museum is located at 158 Boulevard Haussmann and is open daily 10AM to 6PM, and on Mondays and Sundays until 8:30PM.  Learn more at

o   Georges de Paris, French tailor to US Presidents died at the age of 81 in Arlington, Virginia.  He arrived in the United States, lost his life savings of $4000 and ended up homeless.   He was hired by a French-Canadian tailor as a cutter for $70 per week, saved his money to buy a sewing machine, and the rest is history.  He made suits for Lyndon Johnson, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama and all those in between.  Born in Marseille, his tailor shop was just a few blocks from the White House.

o   The Collection of the Prince's of Liechtenstein is an exhibit worth seeing in Aix-en-Provence through March 20,2016.  These great art lovers amassed a fine collection of masterpieces including those by Raphaël, Rubens others.  At the Caumont Centre d'Art.  Open daily 10AM to 7PM and Tuesdays until 9:30PM.  Read all about the exhibit at

  French descendants of art collector and heiress, Peggy Guggenheim, lost in French court on September 17 in their fight to move her collection, now housed in an 18th century palace on Venice's Grand Canal, where they claim the collection is not properly displayed and is diluted by the presence of lesser artists.  Her collection includes work by Picasso, Miro and Matisse.  The Simon Guggenheim Foundation in New york manages the collection was the defendant in the case.

o   Bordeaux wine producers are ecstatic over their magnificent 2015 harvest.  This largest wine-producing region in France blends Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon to produce their world-famous blended wine.  Commenting on the dark juice and great flavor, they predict that 2015 will be a great vintage. They compare it to the vintages of 2005 and 2010, with one vigneron saying that all those years ending in 5 have been superb.  Increased yields were in other western regions of the country such as the Loire and good news for the vintners.  Weather was not as good in the Burgundy and Beaujolais regions with a heat wave that led to a sixteen percent drop in the harvest.  [credit: Agence France Presse]

o   Early October brought devastating floods to the French Riviera, with many deaths and people missing.  The tourist towns of Cannes, Nice and Antibes were inundated with people trapped in their cars in parking garages.  Electricity was lost to 9000 homes and rainfall brought 7 inches of rain to Cannes in three hours.

o   A test of robot Pepper saw French shoppers being assisted by the friendly companion in a Carrefour grocery store in a northeast suburb of Paris in October.  The friendly robot, a 'new species' of robot from Paris-based  Aldebaran Robotics, is said to engender happy emotions in shoppers, going as far as giving high-fives and hugs to shoppers and, in keeping with French custom, shake hands.  It's not able to give pecks on the cheek yet!

o   Musée de l'Homme  reopened to the public on October 17th after a six-year transformation.  The exhibits tell the story of humankind's biological, cultural and social evolution in greater detail than before.  It focuses on quality rather than quantity, using media and interactive tools to bring the story of humanity to life.  Open daily 10AM to 6PM. Wednesdays until 9PM.  For exhibition information

o   Singin' in the Rain will be on stage at the Théatre du Châtelet from November 17 through January 15, 2016 with the marvelous Orchestre de Chambre de Paris directed by Gary Valentine.  Tuesdays to Saturdays at 8PM.  Matinées on Saturdays on 3PM and Sunday at 4PM.  Tickets €15 - €130.  Information at
o   Getting the Last Word:  St
éphane Charbonnier, the slain editor of the weekly Charlie Hebdo, will have his manifesto about free speech published.  Open Letter: On Blasphemy, Islamophobia and the True Enemies of Free Expression was completed days before the attack on the magazine's offices in Paris.  It will be published in January by the Hachette Book Group (parent of Little, Brown).  The company's chief executive, Michael Pietsch said he was proud to publish this book. 

o   FILM:  L'Aventure Hermione.  This film, by Pascal Vasselin ~ in cooperation with France television, the Département de la Charente-Maritime and of La Région Poitou-Charentes ~ tells the story of the Hermione's voyage across the Atlantic this past spring and will be released on December 18th.  Click here to see a 'teaser' for the film on YouTube.  And, click here to see L'Hermione returning to her home port, Rochefort, France. 

In the UK . . .

o   The National Gallery in London will host Monet: The Water Garden at Giverny  until December 31.  The Water-Lilies, created after the 1918 Armistice, continue to captivate visitors.  This is the first exhibit of the Museum's Monets together in 17 years.  Details at

In the US . . .

o    Gustave Caillebotte:  The Painter's Eye, perhaps one of the lesser-known Impressionists because most of his work remained in his family for a century, was a master painter of landscapes, cityscapes, portraits and still lifes.  This exhibit runs through February 14, 2016, at the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas.    Information available at

o   LACMA, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, presents a Franco-American retrospective of the work of renowned award-winning architect, Frank Gehry, until March 20, 2016.  It offers the opportunity to reflect upon the work and understand the processes of this great architect.  Some of his more well-known designs include the Guggenheim Museum (Bilbao, Spain), the Walt Disney Concert Hall (Los Angeles) and the stunning Louis Vuitton Foundation for Creation (Paris). Details available at

o   Cézanne and the Modern  is the title exhibit at the Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, New Jersey, until January 3, 2016.  These Masterpieces of European Art from the Pearlman Collection, is of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist sculpture and art which hasn't been seen in its entirety since 1974.  Information at

o   Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse will be at the Cleveland Museum of Art in Ohio through January 5, 2016.  The show presents 120 works of artists such as Renoir, Cézanne, Monet, Matisse, Kandinsky and others using the garden theme within the larger context of the politics and society of the times.  Information at

o   As the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC undergoes renovation, some 70 masterworks of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings are on tour.  The Seattle Art Museum hosts Intimate Impressionism from the National Gallery of Art through January 10, 2016.  See the great works of Degas, Cézanne, Renoir, Money, Gauguin and Bonnard, among others, will be on view.  Visitor will also see renderings of the artists' studios, their families and themselves.  More details at


Paris Apartment.  Copyright E.Bonner.  All rights reserved.

The owners of the beautiful Château de Courtomer in Normandy
have recently made their elegant Paris apartment available for rent in
the upscale 16th arrondissement. This is un grand appartement familial, a
spacious family home that can be yours for a few nights or longer.
Send an email for a reservation or with your questions.

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