Hookers, Sailors, Pepper Mills, Clichés and Perceptions!
Hello everyone! I hope you are feeling fantastic!
Today marks the day when French people were mad as hell and they weren't going to take it anymore!
Today is le quatorze juillet or la fête nationale, France's Bastille day!
If you wish to brush up on your world history, check out this Time magazine link about Bastille Day.
I figured today is a great day to introduce you to Madame Riflade and kick off a new series called, The Beautiful Beings of Bordeaux .
Read time: 10 minutes
Monique Riflade is a real Bordelaise woman.
Having been born, raised, educated, worked and now retired in Bordeaux, we sat down over a cuppa, a few books, a dictionary, and in true French fashion, we chatted away on an array of topics.
We discussed the obvious - history, fashion, food, events, yet it was when she started to talk about her formative years and how the city has transformed, I listened silently and was transported to another time.
"Hookers" and "sailors", she told me.
Wait, what?! Did I hear correctly?
Hookers! Sailors! I exclaimed. It's like being back in Las Vegas!
Bordeaux is a port city and has traded wine, slaves, spices, and other goods in all of her history. It is only natural that the city saw her fair share of hookers and sailors.
Riflade tells of certain streets in the city being off limits, "from Sainte Catherine to the Quais" because of stories where pimps kidnapped young girls. Is it true? Perhaps?
That said, my imagination ran wild - which then made me realize that I watch entirely too much TV.
She erupts into laughter, "Bordeaux was not only a city full of prostitutes and sailors."
We continue to discuss all the different quarters in Bordeaux, from St Michel, "very populated with Spanish and Portuguese refugees from the Spanish civil war." to Chartrons, where the people who lived there were mostly Protestant, "bourgeois" and "business." Quartier Saint Pierre, Riflade says she didn't venture along the riverside, there were "a lot of prostitutes, for the sailors, it was forbidden for us to go from rue Ste. Catherine to the port."
She grew up in a time where there were festivals practically every weekend (imagine the ending of the movie Chocolat - Johnny Depp is so cute in that movie!) and dances organized by churches.
The open air markets were more common and it was a place where commerce met performance art. She told me the story of a man who sold dishware. After gathering a crowd, he would break dishes when no one would buy them at the lowest price.
"When I was young, on Sunday afternoons, Bordeaux was deserted, now Bordeaux is full of people!" Riflade says.
She talked about ships coming into port carrying peanuts, and sacks of coffee, cocoa beans and pepper.
"There was a pepper mill on rue de la Course, and each time I walked past, I would sneeze. Life was easier then, less dangerous and less traffic, we were more free. When I was eight (years old) I could walk to the Jardin Public and play with my friends, now, I'd never let my grandson go."
The boats started disappearing in the 1970s, Riflade said it was "because the river became too muddy and expensive to drag the channel, located at the entrance of La Gironde, in Le Verdon. The old warehouses that stood along the Quais (waterfront) began to be destroyed and the high gates were taken down, it was a slow process."
A painfully slow process that took 25 years, she said.
Bordeaux has transformed by leaps and bounds in just in the last few years.
Our city is in the process of expanding and getting another facelift.
There is construction work everywhere now, the city is adding another tram line, Place Gambetta is being reconstructed, new restaurants are popping up all over the place, Bordeaux is becoming more cosmopolitan, and a popular destination to visit.
In typical French fashion, I must complain about all the dust in the air due to construction work, or the few times I've had my heel stuck in a sidewalk grate, or the loads of cruise ships docked along the Garrone River investing and infesting my city with hoards of tourists.
"I'm not very good at imagining what the future of Bordeaux will be. I think the problem for Bordeaux is the economy. It's a real problem for the people to find work, the weather is good, nicer here than it is in the North of France. Employment is the key of living together, in harmony. What will be the evolution of our city if there is few employment offers for so many people?"
The lady does have a point. In France, the coveted CDI (similar to obtaining tenure) is the carrot that every donkey walks toward, however there are less and less carrots due to company greed and an array of other issues. The coveted CDI is like finding a pearl in an oyster, rare and time-consuming, however to rent an apartment or to get a bank loan, one must have a CDI. Finding a job that offers a CDI is so difficult, it is like failing before even starting, which makes one want to storm the Bastille all over again!
Despite these annoyances, I still feel fortunate to live in this modern-old world. Streetlamps are amber and cast this candle-like gaze about the city and it creates this ambiance of being transported. I feel like I'm am walking in the time of the Three Musketeers even though I am fully aware it is 2016.
It is the feeling of realizing that anything is possible, even if that means werewolves! (I know, that came right out of left field.) What's creepier is one of my favorite streets in Bordeaux, is named rue du Loup or Wolf Street. There are several good and trendy restaurants and bars in that area today. However, I found out the reason the name was rue du Loup is because a large wolf (werewolf?) was killed on that street.
Les trois graces statue - located at Place de la Bourse
We continued to discuss different topics, when our conversation switches to the French people.
"It's difficult to analyze one's culture, as we are living it, it's our reality, it is not a cliché." Riflade says. "I think it is a caricature of French men or French women. Every country has its reputations. For example, Swedish women are hot! When I went to Spain, I had a perception of tall, dark and handsome men. I was disappointed. I think foreigners have those perceptions too."
So, French people aren't baguette eating, beret-wearing, pervert, smokers? Welllll... there are always exceptions to the rules!
"When my husband was young, he was invited to have dinner and the host instead of giving them napkins, the napkins were women's panties," she laughs!
And what about Dominique Strass-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund and known party animal/pervert?
"DSK - please - not a typical French man," she says with the typical French sound of pffftt in her voice and leaves it at that.
Her opinion on French women?
"French women are elegant, traditional," she says. "For me, Yves Saint-Laurent and his (clothing) line, that is French elegance."
Riflade, who has traveled extensively through out the world, pretty much says there is no place like home.
I must agree, France makes me feel at home. She has taught me that to be practical and pragmatic. She is gracious and elegant, and has centuries of history and traditions. And even though my Americanisms makes as much noise as a baby crying, like a good mother, she has the ability to calm me.
France is my Mother. France is my home.
Thank you for reading.
I wish for you peace, tranquility and abundance of love and happiness!
Frenchified for Life,
self-proclaimed and crowned Queen and Mother of France
Bonjour et Bienvenue!
Thank you for stopping by for a spell!
I am a 40-something year old American woman. Born in Texas, raised in Las Vegas!
Frenchified for Life
is a fabulous little lifestyle blog about truly embracing French life!
My intent is to simply inspire you to create something unique and beautiful in your everyday life. The French have this wonderful and annoying habit of seeing the world through rose colored glasses, might as well learn something from them!
That said, I lift my glass to you!
By the way, I mention the name Cachou (or The Cash) a lot, I'm referring to her...