A French Controversy: Who Will Sing at the Paris Olympics?

Rumors surfaced recently that French President Emmanuel Macron had invited Aya Nakamura to sing at the opening ceremony of the Paris Olympics. A firestorm immediately erupted, and it has not died down yet.

The French-Malian Nakamura is by far the most popular French-language singer performing today. Her songs have been streamed billions of times, she has 25 Top Ten singles in France and has won multiple musical awards. Lancôme, part of French luxury house L’Oréal, recently named her its new World Ambassador.

So, why the controversy? Well, it’s complicated.

Read all about it in My French Life!



Favorite Picnic Spots in Provence

Val and I live part of the year in St-Rémy, a little town at the base of the Alpilles Mountains. One of our favorite things to do is taking a picnic lunch as we explore Provence’s beautiful little nooks and crannies. Over the years, we’ve discovered many lovely places to eat outside, and nothing is better than picnicking with our friends…and our dog Mica, of course.

I’ve written an article about seven of our favorite spots, like the one on the shores of a lake created by the Romans. And the one with the best view of Avignon. And my favorite, the one so high up you look down on the hilltop village of Bonnieux, with a fabulous view of the Luberon Valley.

Read all about them at Perfectly Provence!

Northern Rhône Valley Wine Guide

I’m sometimes asked about my favorite wines, and there are a lot of them, but I always come back to France’s Rhône Valley. It’s long and skinny, going from Lyon almost to the Mediterranean Sea, and it has wonderful wines at all price points.

I’ve written a couple of guides to these wines, nothing too complicated or wine geeky, just some basic information that might be helpful to someone interested in learning more. This first guide is to the northern Rhône, because the wines are different in the northern and southern parts of this long region.

Read about some of my favorite wines in The Wine Scribes!

An American Pastry Chef in Versailles

Molly Wilkinson is a talented and popular pâstissière in Versailles, a graduate of the famous Le Cordon Bleu cooking school. She has trained bakers around the world and been featured in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. But how did someone from Texas become an expert in French pastry, living just steps away from the most famous château in France?

Molly always wanted to be a baker but didn’t pursue her passion until her late 20s. Discovering that the world-famous Le Cordon Bleu was much less expensive than American pastry schools, she headed off to Paris, armed only with a basic French vocabulary. There, she trained for a year, learning the intricacies of French specialties like Mille Feuille and Saint-Honoré cake.

Armed with her diploma, Molly worked first as the pastry chef at a château, then at a French cooking school. One of her colleagues praised her talent as a teacher, inspiring her to host her own baking courses. All was going swimmingly until Covid hit, and France shut down.

But ever resourceful, Molly began teaching courses online. Her timing was perfect, as people around the world were stuck at home, looking for something to do. Why not learn how to make French pastries? Molly’s business boomed.

Molly’s focus is on making French pastry simple—in fact, it’s the title of her cookbook, French Pastry Made Simple. As she says, “My style is all about making French pastry easy and accessible. I teach using the tools you’ll find in a typical home kitchen, along with ingredients that are easy to buy.

“I’m like my students, because I started out making cookies and cakes and pies, so I can relate to them and encourage them to try something different. And I make sure that my recipes aren’t overly complicated, but still taste really great.”

You can read more about Molly at France Today, but the article is behind their paywall (it’s a great magazine, you might consider subscribing!) Or you can learn more about Molly and her classes at her excellent website here.

The Great Women of France, Part 3

Who are the great women of France? There are so many, it is hard to list them all! But let’s start with 15 who have played important roles in the history of la belle France.

There is so much to say that I’ve divided my list into three different articles, each discussing five women. This third article covers the 20th century.

Some of the women you are probably familiar with, like the great Marie Curie, winner of not one but two Nobel Prizes. But how about Nadia Boulanger, who taught some of the century’s greatest composers? Or Simone Veil, the Holocaust survivor who became one of France’s most important political figures? And did you know that Coco Chanel, the brilliant couturière, was also a Nazi collaborator?

Read all about these and other great women of France in My French Life!

The Great French Hope Hits the NBA

A year ago, French phenom Victor “Wemby” Wembanyama was the world’s most sought-after young basketball player. His skills were so otherworldly that even the great LeBron James could not find the right word to describe him. He finally settled on “alien,” as in “from another planet.”

What makes Wemby so rare? It’s his never-before-seen mix of size and agility. He is one of the tallest players in the world, but has a 3-point shot as smooth as crème Chantilly. That gives him a one-two punch: the dominance of a center with the shooting and ball-handling of a guard.

So how is Wemby doing now that he’s in the NBA, the world’s premier basketball league? Let’s just say that even LeBron James might be at a loss for words!

Read all about it in Frenchly!

The Other D-Day

June will mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day, when Allied troops landed in Normandy and began their push towards Berlin. Today, places like Omaha Beach and Pointe du Hoc offer a moving testament to the courage and sacrifice of those who helped free Europe from tyranny.

But that wasn’t the only D-Day! There was another one as well, in the south of France near St-Tropez. It followed the Normandy landings by a few weeks, where military units with names like Camel and Garbo hitting the southern beaches.

The operation met with spectacular success, pushing German troops almost all the way to the German border. Today you can visit monuments to this “Operation Dragoon” in Toulon and other nearby towns.

Read all about it in The Good Life France!

The Great Women of France, Part 2

Who are the great women of France? There are so many, it is hard to list them all! But let’s start with 15 who have played important roles in the history of la belle France.

There is so much to say that I’ve divided my list into three different articles, each discussing five women. This second article covers the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.

Some of the women you are probably familiar with, like the author George Sand. But did you know that the mathematician Emilie de Chatelet not only corrected some of Isaac Newton’s theories, but also developed an early form of financial derivatives? Or that Berthe Morisot was considered one of the finest of the Impressionist painters? And how about the salonnières, the women who ran the famous salons of the Enlightenment, sometimes called “the cradle of the French Revolution”?

Read all about these and other great women of France in My French Life!

Art Meets Wine in Les Baux-de-Provence

Jill Barth is a wonderful wine writer with a particular fondness for Provence…which is not hard to understand! She recently wrote a very interesting article for Wine Enthusiast magazine about art and wine in the area around Les Baux-de-Provence, the stunning hilltop village that is classified as one of the Most Beautiful Villages of France. It’s just a few minutes from where Val and I live in St-Rémy.

Jill needed background information about the region so she asked me for a few quotes, which you’ll find in her article.

Read all about it in Wine Enthusiast!

Provence: Insider Tips

This past spring I was the guest speaker at a meeting of the Alliance Française of Pasadena, one of the most active groups in the US. I gave a Zoom presentation about Provence and answered questions about the life that Val and I live there.

It was a fun session, with lots of good back and forth, and you can watch the recording if you’d like. There are a few minutes of club business at the start that you can skip if you want; I come on at about the four-and-a-half minute mark.

Here’s the link!