Thursday, June 30, 2011

I Think Not...

I'm thinking this doesn't work for us English speakers... It's supposed to read, Pensée, which means thought... The verb penser is to think...

This is printed directly on the door to the lavatory in a train station in Orléans... But, at least tired English speakers will be sure they're in the right place!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Little Cultural Gaffe

I usually bring brownies or cookies for potluck events, but the other night considering the temperatures, Seven-Layer Mexican dip seemed like a better idea. Something cool and fresh to beat the heat...

But unfortunately, I had two events at the same time... So I dropped one dish off (along with my little girl) and went to my son's concert... An hour or so later, a friend dropped off my daughter for me at the music hall... with my untouched platter in hand...

"They didn't have any plates, so they couldn't serve it," she apologized.

It just never occurred to me that they wouldn't know to eat it with the two bags of chips I'd left on the table nearby. Oops! (Or ouplah, as they might say here.)

So when it was time to break into the music hall's platter, I was all prepared. As I set it out and people started asking questions, I dug in (albeit with a spoon to spread it a little more efficiently) and passed around the first chips myself... Then it caught on, and the dip was eventually all finished off....

Oh, well, the extra platter was ready to go for the next night's event instead...

If you are among my French readers and you don't know this dish, I've put the recipe on my other site (under construction) and you can find it here... Enjoy! It's easy to make!

BTW, it's June, so it's non-stop here. But school finally lets out for us on Friday....

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

C'est chaud!

It's hot! This was my car dashboard reading yesterday... It translates to 105.8F. It was all anyone talked about yesterday... Word of the day was chaud, pronounced like show. Hot.

According to, we're in for a high of just 29C (84.2F) and locally heavy thunderstorms, so it should cool off... Whew!

I lived in Texas for many years, so I can stand the heat, but there is one main difference here... Almost NO air conditioning anywhere!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Credit Lyonnais in Orléans

Founded in 1863 by Henri Germain, Le Crédit Lyonnais was once the largest bank in the world, but it almost went bankrupt in 1993. Over the years, the bank has suffered many scandals and hardships, but on a positive note, it's known for sponsoring the Tour de France...

LCL was a major Hollywood lender in the 80s and financed Italian Giancarlo Parretti's takeover of MGM. However, in 1999 he was convicted of fraud and sentenced to four years in prison and a 1 million-franc fine by a Paris court. The bank lost $5 billion on Hollywood deals.

In 1996 a major fire destroyed much of  the bank's Paris headquarters. It was one of the worst Paris building fires in 25 years, burning for more than 12 hours. It destroyed two-thirds of the building, and took out crucial bank archives and computer data.

The bank circumvented financial disaster by transferring debts and liabilities into Consortium de Réalisation (CDR), a new state-owned company. CDR's establishment was highly controversial, with many people protesting the French government bailing out the bank. In 2005 the CDR had to repay €135 million to the creditors of billionaire Bernard Tapie, after a scandal involving the sale of Adidas.

That same year, Le Crédit Lyonnais was renamed LCL to avoid references to its recent troubles.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

My Kind of Bumper Sticker

At the bottom right, it says, "In tartiflette we trust." Yes!

I'm not a "stick stuff on my car" kind of person, but I think I'd post this one if I found it. I so love this winter weather dish... It's from the Savoie department and is made with cheese and potatoes, so I was automatically hooked. Oh, it's also typically got onions and bits of fatty ham. But that's okay.

BTW, since we see the 89 at the end of the yellow license plate (I blotted some out for the owner's privacy) we know the car's from the Bourgogne region, a.k.a. Burgundy region, so not the tartiflette home, which is the Savoie in far eastern France on the Swiss border. So it's department 73... Perhaps he's an honorary resident.

In tartiflette, I trust. Even when it's not the season for it...

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Potty Talk

Until I moved to France, I'd only associated Villeroy & Boch with ultra fine dinnerware with which to set your fancy table...

But apparently, they're also the producers of another type of fine porcelaine....

Friday, June 24, 2011

Just to Confuse the Tourists

No, this subway stop will NOT lead you to "Paris'" Charles de Gaulle airport... Said facility is actually far outside the city, touching three different French departments and six communes. You have to take an RER train to get there (the ones that lead the far outer reaches of the city and beyond...)

Surely, many a weary traveler has been fooled by this setup... Fortunately, never me nor my guests, but pass the word...

Thursday, June 23, 2011

La Gare--The Train Station

This is our little train station in La Ferté Saint Aubin. Note that it's closed at 2:30 p.m. in the afternoon (on a Monday). Grrrr. But if you get your tickets in advance or from the conductor, it's fine, and the trains run in and out at various times of the day. I've gone several times to Paris and once to Bordeaux on the train, and have never tired of watching the scenery go by... It's a comfy way to travel here, but still not cheap...

I can get from La Ferté to downtown Paris in about an hour and a half for roughly 35€ roundtrip. That's not bad, considering it cost about 40€ in gas and 22€ in tolls... Plus parking (at up to 3.40€ an hour) which adds up quickly.

Trains are usually a better deal here. For comparisons, I use for the highways and for the train...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

AZERTY = #$@#)(*&!

A few months after we moved to France, we visited my brother-in-law in Grenoble, and I had my first encounter with an "AZERTY" keyboard. We didn't get along. This is the European standard. Basically, a few select keys are in different places, which enables you to look down after typing awhile and see such words as hqve, ,uch, auiet and other such proble,s.

We'd been there a few days, and I had the rare fortune of being granted an hour or so to myself for some writing... Alone. With no children. And with no one around me speaking French. Just me and my bro-in-law's computer for some quiet and solitude, where I could spill out my thoughts about all I'd taken in during the previous whirlwind days in the city. I simply wanted to check email, type my notes about the trip and send them to myself. But my email password was one that makes a pattern on the keyboard. So I wasn't sure exactly what the actual letters were... On any keyboard, my reaction to this would look like @#$@_)(#@$).

Fast forward seven years, and at my new job in January, I had the luxury of using a computer at the office, and didn't need to do any work from home. My work would be contained there. Great! Except for that little AZERTY proble, again. I teach English. Also known as qnglqis...

Six months later now, I'm bilingual in QWERTY and AZERTY, though it's taken me some time. And it's a good thing, because Bernard just gave me a mini laptop for my birthday, and yes, it's in that other for,qt, so it was really ti,e to qdjust....

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Fête de la Musique

Our House of Music...

An appropriate post for this, the national Music Festival Day... All across France there will be many free concerts today... American musician Joel Cohen had the idea in 1976 while he was working for the national French radio station France Musique. Cohen suggested an all-night music celebration to coincide with the summer solstice. A French music director and the minister of culture later took on the idea, and the first Fête de la Musique in France occurred on this date in 1982.

My kids are among about 130 students who take music lessons here at this center. There are another 170 people or so who participate in a variety of ensembles... choirs, bands and orchestras...

It's an active society, almost 130 years old, started in 1882. This center was constructed beginning in 1995, and inaugurated 12 years ago today, on June 21, 1999. Of course, the occasion was marked with a concert...

Between choir, French horn and now flute lessons we've spent a lot of time here since we moved to La Ferté in 2005... We will surely miss this place and especially the people who have worked long hours, making the music programs run so smoothly. A special thanks to Jean-Luc Geunis, the director. My kids (and I) have learned so much from him!


Monday, June 20, 2011

Steam Cleaning

This is a hammam in Olivet, also known to some English speakers as a sauna.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect when Bernard gave me a session at this place, which is located inside one of our giant grocery store complexes... After all, I only had had one reference of a hamman prior to this...

A few years ago, we were in some small village in Tunisia on one of those group trips they sell you after you're their captive in the hotel lobby... Among our stops one day after visiting a souk (an outdoor marketplace) was a hammam. The men all went one way and the women went another, bathing suits in hand. We changed, then stood like cattle in a large room with steaming rocks, and waited for our summons to another room for a brief massage. I was among the first (unsuspecting?) victims. I was told to lay on a table on my front. Now, flip over. Then, the woman actually pulled down the top of my bathing suit, gave each of my girls a rapidfire rubdown and I was sent on my way before I could even say, "Quoi?" (What?)

So I was a bit uneasy when I found out what this was on the gift certificate Bernard bought me, but totally ready to be more assertive. You can imagine my pleasant surprise when I was told I'd be completely isolated in a room with my own hammam, able to dress and change in privacy.

The hammam is basically what you see here... a modified shower that emits steam to the tune of a max of 37.3 degrees Celsius. I was afraid to look at the conversion, but just did now. Well, 99.14 doesn't sound SO bad for someone who's lived through Augusts in Texas, but when confined to a small cube, it does wonders for making you rid yourself of whatever nastiness you set up your skin for during lunchtime, as well as from last Tuesday and 15 Tuesdays ago... I sweated like... well, that's just too much to share. You'd rather I didn't go there.

It was simply a 20-minute sauna, but at first I thought I wouldn't last three minutes. I counted down the last 18 minutes. I opened the door three times. I stepped outside once, but then clumsy as I am (all my students learn this word, which in French is maladroite for a woman, so know you know too) I thought I shouldn't venture too far. After all, I'd locked the door. (No rubdown surprises this time.) BTW, sentences get awfully long when you've been melted like butter just a few hours before.

A cool shower never felt so good, and I think I sucked down a litre of water toute de suite (right away) afterwards.

There was a scale right next to the hamman, but I totally forgot to take advantage of the Before And After part of my journey. And no, had I remembered, I would not be sharing that here...

Not all of my senses got melted.

A highly recommended experience.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sacre Coeur

Translation: sacred heart...

Its full name is Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, and ground was broken for it 136 years ago this week on June 16, 1875. It was finally dedicated in 1914...

This is the highest point in Paris and can offer spectacular views... But it's several hundred steps to hike to the top, so I must confess that on my two visits here so far, I've not yet gone to the top...

Saturday, June 18, 2011

"I call upon all Frenchmen..."

On this date in 1940, General Charles de Gaulle made his famous speech over the BBC from London. It was his call to arms, an impassioned plea to his fellow countrymen to rise up against the Germans and Italians. This small excerpt, the end of his speech, hangs on a wall outside our mayor's office. There is an identical one in the next town on a war memorial.

Here is the full text of his speech, from the BBC in English. You can listen in French here:

"The French government, after having asked for an armistice, now knows the conditions dictated by the enemy. The result of these conditions would be the complete demobilisation of the French land, sea, and air forces, the surrender of our weapons and the total occupation of French territory. The French government would come under German and Italian tutelage.

It may therefore be said that this armistice would not only be a capitulation, but that it would also reduce the country to slavery. Now, a great many Frenchmen refuse to accept either capitulation or slavery, for reasons which are called: honour, common sense, and the higher interests of the country.

I say honour, for France has undertaken not to lay down arms save in agreement with her allies. As long as the allies continue the war, her government has no right to surrender to the enemy.

The Polish, Norwegian, Belgian, Netherlands, and Luxemburg governments, though driven from their territories, have thus interpreted their duty. I say common sense, for it is absurd to consider the struggle as lost. True, we have suffered a major defeat. We lost the battle of France through a faulty military system, mistakes in the conduct of operations, and the defeatist spirit shown by the government during recent battles.
But we still have a vast empire, our fleet is intact, and we possess large sums in gold. We still have allies, who possess immense resources and who dominate the seas. We still have the gigantic potentialities of American industry. The same war conditions which caused us to be beaten by 5,000 planes and 6,000 tanks can tomorrow bring victory by means of 20,000 tanks and 20,000 planes.

I say the higher interests of the country, for this is not a Franco-German war to be decided by a single battle. This is a world war. No one can foresee whether the neutral countries of today will not be at war tomorrow, or whether Germany's allies will always remain her allies. If the powers of freedom ultimately triumph over those of servitude, what will be the fate of a France which has submitted to the enemy?

Honour, common sense, and the interests of the country require that all free Frenchmen, wherever they be, should continue the fight as best they may.

It is therefore necessary to group the largest possible French force wherever this can be done. Everything which can be collected by way of French military elements and potentialities for armaments production must be organised wherever such elements exist.

I, General de Gaulle, am undertaking this national task here in England.

I call upon all French servicemen of the land, sea, and air forces; I call upon French engineers and skilled armaments workers who are on British soil, or have the means of getting here, to come and join me.

I call upon the leaders, together with all soldiers, sailors, and airmen of the French land, sea, and air forces, wherever they may now be, to get in touch with me.

I call upon all Frenchmen who want to remain free to listen to my voice and follow me.

Long live free France in honour and independence!"

June 18, 1940

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Exodus

This is the Champs Fleuri, where refugees had set up camp in the days before the bombings of June 15 and 16, 1940. Witnesses say there had been some French soliders there as well, and that they were the plane's likely targets.

After the bombings, many Fértesians decided to leave town and join the mass exodus to the south. According to an armistice signed on June 22, 1940 France was divided into two zones. The occupied zone, of which La Ferté was a part, represented two-thirds of the country. The Cher River separated made a natural barrier, but the city of Vierzon (45 minutes from here) was separated into two parts, one occupied and one a part of the French Vichy government. Although one part was occupied and one wasn't, no one was really free.

On June 18, the German troops began arriving in La Ferté and setting themselves up in abaondoned houses, at the castle or at local hotels. Shortly after midnight on the 18th, a young witness says the first Germans arrived at his house. Their helmets touched the top of the door. They asked him where his father was, and he told them, "He's a soldier. No news." The soldier replied, "The war, bad news. He'll return soon." The witness said the following days were a grand party. They played piano and sang at the top of their lungs, drinking the wine of their unwilling hosts.

Curfews were installed. No one was allowed out between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. without written authorization. German patrols were out all the time. In March of 1944, Fertésian Raymond Langlois was the canton's first civil victim. He was shot in nearby Bardon for not respecting the curfew.

Source: La Résistance dans le Canton de La Ferté-Saint-Aubin 1940-1945

For more on La Ferté Saint Aubin's historical society, click here.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

June 1940 Bombings, Part Two

This village green a few streets from my house offers me nothing but warm memories... riding bikes with the kids, picnic lunches, spring and fall festivals. A few summers ago, they held producers' markets every Friday for a month here.... Vendors brought their wine, cheese, honey, breads, etc. and sold everything at little kiosks while the kids ran around nearby with their friends. Local musicians set up a little stage and made for a rockin' good time...

I learned a few days ago that this site is called "Champ de Foire." I'd read the accounts of what had happened here in 1940, but I thought it was another field, somewhere else. Surely not on this tranquil ground. Not where we've enjoyed picking up giant plantain leaves every fall and remarking about how enormous they are. Here, where we see the remains of the Véron orchards. This is where one of our town's worst tragedy during World War Two struck.

A foire can be a fair, but it can also mean a mess. And on June 16, 1940, just a day after planes wreaked havoc on La Ferté Saint Aubin, the horror struck again. Refugees were trying to traverse National Route 20 just to the left of these greens. Others were camped out here beginning their lunch when several waves of planes launched their attack around 12:30 p.m. People hid under chariots, trucks, threw themselves on the ground. It was impossible to run, says one witness. "Grand panic."

Seventy-four victims were identified. A letter written to the La Ferté mayor said the author's mother had endured eight bombings during her exodus, but the one in La Ferté had been the worst. Some victims were buried in their place and others on the castle grounds. Many of the dead were from Paris and Orléans.

Witnesses in La Ferté say the planes were Italian, and that they saw tricolored insignia on the planes. Italy had declared war on France on June 10th... Some dispute that claim, and say they were likely German.

Fertésiens had not yet abandoned the town in droves. They were still hopeful. But following these tragic days, many joined the flow of refugees.

Source: La Résistance dans le Canton de La Ferté-Saint-Aubin 1940-1945

For more on La Ferté Saint Aubin's historical society, click here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

June 1940 Bombardments, Part One

I'm stepping back in time four years now from the events I've recounted in my previous posts about La Ferté Saint Aubin's WWII history. In June 1940, this route -- the National Route 20, but locally called rue du General LeClerc -- was clogged with refugees trying to make their way from the north out of German occupied areas. There were thousands of people inching their way along the French roads via cars, trucks, strollers, bicycles, trailers, by foot....every possible mode of transportation.

Witnesses say it was about 4:30 p.m. on June 15, 1940, when planes coming from the north of La Ferté unleashed their fury on the National 20, which was full of weary people. Whether the planes were German or Italian is disputed, but the tragedy was undeniably enormous.

Several local residents were counted among the dead. One man was killed at the Hotel de La Croix Blanche, the current site of La Sauvagine Restaurant (above). Assistant teachers Marguerite Pivet and Mureille Prieur as well as Prieur's baby were killed while at a local home. This preschool below is named for Mrs. Prieur.

Near the cinema, a woman had her legs crushed and later lost her fight to survive. Another teacher, Robert Munsch, died later of his injuries sustained in the bombings on this day. There were nine confirmed dead, but witnesses say there were clearly many more. That's despite the fact that the bombs were considered to be of a small caliber. The injured were evacuated by military ambulance to the the La Ferté Saint Aubin castle, which served as a makeshift hospital during the war.

Unfortunately, the planes returned for a second pass the following day. I'll recount June 16th tomorrow.

Source: La Résistance dans le Canton de La Ferté-Saint-Aubin 1940-1945

For more on La Ferté Saint Aubin's historical society, click here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bellefontaine National Necropolis

This is the front monument to Bellefontaine, a national cemetery in La Ferté Saint Aubin, established in 1944/1945 to honor those who lost their lives during World War Two in the Sologne. There are 78 victims buried here, including Gabriel Beaumarié and Maurice Millet, two young men from La Ferté who were shot by Gestapo at Ferme du By outside town on June 10, 1944. 

The bottom of the citation reads: "Dead for the liberty of their country."

The cemetery was created in part by individual donations and became a national site in 1984. This is the view toward the National Route 20. This past Sunday, the annual ceremony was held to honor all local Resistance victims. It's usually scheduled the first Sunday on or after June 10th. As has been the tradition since the 1940s, the names of the victims were read, and then led by members of the Liberté network, participants followed each other out to the sites of the executions in the woods of La Ferté and Marcilly en Villette to pay homage again to victims.


This inscription, on the side of the memorial in the top photo on this page, was placed here by the National Education Department, in honor of the many victims who were students.

This sign is to the right of the large memorial in the second photo. It details the history of the Resistance in the Loiret (our department ) and recounts the executions at Ferme du By and Cerf Bois. It also lists the names and ages of the victims of the farm shootings; they ranged from 17 to as old as only 23.

According to the panel here, the 41 victims were each honored posthumously with several French honors: The Cross of War, the Resistance Medallion and the Legion of Honor.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Our Town's War Memorial

Unfortunately, I've yet to find a town in France that does not have a war memorial. Some are more and less elaborate. This is ours, directly across from the mayor's office. The main section in the middle covers World War I, flanked by names of those from wars from before and after.

I'd say it's  a fairly standard memorial compared to American ones, with one main difference: in addition to honoring the dead with inscriptions of their names, they are also categorized during World War Two according to how their lives were lost. Ours lists people who were shot by Germans, killed by bombardments, died in captivity or killed in combat....

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Honoring Maurice Millet and Other Resistance Victims

Photo courtesy of L'Association Pour la Connaissance et la Sauvegarde de Patrimoine Fertésien

Maurice Millet was the son of a gamekeeper, so he knew the local woods well. In 1942 he was contacted by local Resistance members to work with the network Vengeance. He eventually took responsibility for some young members. He distributed propaganda flyers, helped with recruitment and knew how to handle weapons. However, in September 1943, his network was threatened; his leader, local garage manager Marcel Gorin, managed to escape the Gestapo. For a measure of precaution, Millet was sent to Nice.

He returned to La Ferté around the end of May 1944, and reestablished his activities, participating in military instruction, arms handling, etc. He made contacts with students in Paris whom he knew from the Sologne, the local hunting region. Then came the sixth of June, and the students received their orders to meet for a mission. Millet served as their guide. Having received word on June 9, 1944 that their mission had been jeopardized, Millet took the men to another farm to eat and sleep near the Cosson River. But under rainfall the following morning, the Germans took the group back to Ferme du By, where they were shot and executed after having been turned in by a fellow student member to the Gestapo.

Today, local townspeople and children will remember Millet and his La Ferté friend Gabriel Beaumarié with an annual ceremony at Bellefontaine cemetery where they were eventually buried. This is the town's memorial to 78 victims--those of Nazi repression in the Sologne (a local geographical and hunting region) as well as the 41 young people executed by the Germans throughout the area on June 10th and at the Cheveau woods in autumn 1944.

Each year since 1944, there's been a moving ceremony held by the Prefecture and a representative of the area's Liberté Resistance network. In ceremonies we've attended, local schoolchildren have placed flowers on each grave as the names of  victims from throughout the canton are read aloud. It's been a solemn ceremony; few words are spoken; there is subtle background music from local musicians. Following this program, the group then visits the sites of the executions.

My son has participated in The Bellefontaine ceremony a few times over the past years, and I am proud that he has done so. I think it's important my children understand the sacrifices these victims made, (as well as those made by their own ancestors in Brittany) during the War.

Here lies Maurice Millet, born March first, 1924. Dead for France. He was barely 20 years old. Like his fallen counterpart, Millet has a street named in his honor in town, Rue de Maurice Millet close to our house.

It's hard to imagine the suffering his family and friends had losing him in such a senseless way. The traitor, André Parent, lost his case at the Orléans Court of Appeals on January 16, 1945 and was executed by firing squad a few weeks later on February 7.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Executions at the Ferme du By and Cerf-Bois

Photo courtesy of L'Association Pour la Connaissance et la Sauvegarde de Patrimoine Fertésien

On June 9, 1944, about 30 students from La Ferté Saint Aubin and the Paris area gathered in and around Le Ferme du By in La Ferté to await an arms shipment that was to have been dropped by air in a forest. Unfortunately, the mission of these young Resistance members went horribly wrong. They had been turned in to the Gestapo by one of their fellow members.

At about five in the morning on June 10, a handful of Orléans-based Gestapo brusquely summoned the young men from their slumber. They were dragged to the courtyard at Ferme du By, hands on their heads, and questioned. The terrorized women who were hosting the group were sequestered. Two other men, George Barbe and a recently-escaped Tunisian forced laborer, Hassen ben Mohammed, managed to hide in straw piles in a barn. Octave Lecomte hid in a horse feeding trough, and was later able to alert fellow members in nearby Ligny-Le-Ribault about the tragedy.

Outside with the Gestapo, the traitor, André Parent, came forward before his peers and displayed his Gestapo membership card. Parent, a mathematics student from the Paris area, began explaining that the young men were to receive a parachuted shipment of arms.  He showed them a ditch that was prepared for its stockpile. The Germans asked who the group leader was, but only Claude Soreph knew. He remained silent to his grave.

The men were asked to drop their identification cards on the ground and were separated into two groups. The first group was marched to nearby woods and shot execution style. All died except for Lucien Schmandt, who was on one end of the group. His wounds were not mortal; he laid and played dead. A bullet had ricocheted on his arm without touching his head. The second group was brought quickly and the same scene followed; Schmandt heard it all. After the Germans' departure, he was nursed back to health by locals in secrecy.

 This street in an older section of town honors the 29 men shot at Ferme du By on June 10, 1944

That same horrid morning, in another nearby town, Marcilly-en-Villette, thanks to André Parent again, the Germans uncovered a second group. The Resistance leader had received word to evacuate but could not do so quickly enough. And so, another twelve young men were executed there in a clearing at Cerf-Bois (Deer Woods). 

Local authorities were asked in a letter the following day to retrieve the men's 42 bodies, the sender being unaware that Schmandt had escaped death.

All in all, 41 young men lost their lives on June 10, 1944, including two men from La Ferté, Gabriel Beaumarié (honored yesterday) and Maurice Millet.

Tomorrow, I will tell you about Millet and how he and all the others' memories are being kept alive.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Gabriel Beaumarié, Local Resistance Hero

Photo courtesy of L'Association Pour la Connaissance et la Sauvegarde de Patrimoine Fertésien

On June 10, 1944, Gabriel Beaumarié should have been spending his birthday celebrating as a young university student home on break with friends. But the brave Fertésien had joined the Resistance a few months before, so instead he was back in town to receive an air shipment of arms. He was accompanied by another Fertésian, Maurice Millet, and about 30 other mostly Parisian students.

What Beaumarié didn't know was that there was a traitor among his group. A student they'd considered as one of their own, André Parent, had joined the Resistance in June 1943. But he'd also become a card-carrying member of the Gestapo d'Orléans in March 1944. Parent had sold out on his compadres about the yet-undelivered arms shipment. The unarmed young men were shot at a farm outside town in the early morning hours of June 10th by German officers. Beaumarié and Millet were among twenty-nine men who died that day at Ferme du By. Another faked his death and survived under the care of local Resistance members.

Beaumarié had a promising future. Despite losing his father at age five, he'd been a successful student and was attending a music and choir program at l'Ecole Normale in Paris. In the beginning of 1944, he joined the local Resistance under the direction of Robert LeCharpentier, who was in charge of a group of Tunisian forced laborers at a La Ferté armaments plant.

Around June 6, 1944, a few days before his death, Beaumarié helped a Tunisian laborer, Hassad ben Mohammed, escape from the plant. Around that time, the Germans heavily bombed the facility.*** Ben Mohammed had accompanied Beaumarié to Ferme du By the night before the shootings, but managed to hide in a pile of hay in a barn and escaped unharmed after the Germans left following the executions.

I can't pass by this cross street from our house without thinking of Gabriel Beaumarié's courage. La Ferté Saint Aubin spent four years under German occupation, as we are just an hour and a half south of Paris. The war was almost at an end. The liberation had begun. La Ferté was only about ten weeks away from its own liberation on August 16, 1944.

Beaumarié had been given a note to pass to a superior at Ferme du By the night before the men were caught. The superior never arrived. Not having delivered the message, and considering how late it had gotten, Beaumarié decided to stay the night at the farm. The message was found on his body the next day. It said they should abandon the mission...

Beaumarié turned 21 the day he died.

I'll share more about this day, clearly among the worst in our town's history, in my next several posts. Thanks to help from the town's historical society, I'll provide stories of other Resistance heroes, relate the horrors the town suffered under bombings in June 1940, and show how these victims and heroes are still being remembered today. We can't ever forget.

***Side note: The French later reestablished the bombed-out armaments plant, and I worked at the site from 2005 to 2008 -- teaching English to French people who were working with German counterparts on armaments and civil engineering programs.

tags: World War Two local history, France

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Patte d'Ours

Translation: bear claw.

I had to run out to pick up kids somewhere and left this on the table, waiting for its FFDJ photo. Fortunately, my other half heard me when I shouted out breathlessly on my way out the door, keys in hand, "No, it's not for now!"

Somehow, it was still waiting, untouched, miracle of all miracles, when I got back. And since the kids had hit the swings right away, this poor bear claw didn't stand a chance against me and Bernard take our turns with it... Snoofed down in a flash...

Contents: yummy pastry with chunks of apple... From Vincent Boulangerie in La Ferté Saint Aubin, the first one upon entering town after passing the castle... This is their specialty, and I highly recommend it. But you really might want to have someone to share it with, since it is rather filling... (Not that I'm saying we bear-ly finished it. Yuk, yuk.)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

La Bibliothèque

This is the library, la bibliothèque, in the next town, Jouy le Potier. I'd like to be curled up on this bench right now with a good book, enjoying the scents of the blooming flowers and shrubbery surrounding this place...

Not sure what their hours are, or if since they're a little town if they'd be like the one where we lived in eastern France... The library there was a one-room shop, open only on Wednesdays from 4 to 6 (or from 16 à 18h, as they would express it).

It was so small, we had more books at home... But hey, to have a library is to have a window to the rest of the world, even if it's a small one, right?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Little Quiz...

...for a random Tuesday...

What are these?

Tu me fais croquer is a pun. It's normally tu me fais craquer, which is what you say when you see someone who's good looking. But here it's tu me fais croquer, which means you make me want to bite.

Ok, so French humor. I had no idea when I bought these. I just thought they were practical, because they are....

<<time to guess, then scroll down>>

French sandwich bags... think of your typical baguettes... I've never seen the traditional rectangular ones we've got in the US here...

Monday, June 6, 2011

Ivy League

I 've heard that that ivy growing like this can be really bad for the structure of a house, but I just find it to be so quaint...

This is from downtown Ardon, one of those "blink and you miss downtown" kind of places. It's between Orléans and my town, La Ferté Saint Aubin...

Happy D-Day, everyone!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

La Croix Froment

The Froment Cross...

This sits outside the back entrance to our church, Saint Michel, in La Ferté Saint Aubin. Dating back to August 15, 1881, local historians say it probably commemorates a mission by Ernest Froment. The La Ferté notaire also served as deputy mayor, founder of the music club "The Solonaise" and creator of the Dessales Orphanage.

It was originally placed on the town's Route de Chaumont, but was moved near Saint Michel in 1979.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Futuristic Mode of Transport

Well, at least it was futuristic for its time...

This is a model of a car envisioned by Leonardo Da Vinci, on display at Clos Lucé, the Loire Valley castle where he spent his last three years. Considering he was born in 1452, to say he was ahead of his time is a bit of an understatement....

Friday, June 3, 2011

Parc Pasteur

Yes, statues in France are a bit more, ahem, anatomically correct...

This is from Parc Pasteur (as in Louis) in the middle of Orléans, not too far from the downtown train station. So it made for a nice place for a picnic lunch recently when I picked up guests coming in by train...

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Porte Extravagante

The detail on this metal door was phenomenal. There was another on the opposite side of the building. Seen in Yèvre le Châtel, in the Loiret Department...

Today is Ascension, and in France, schools and many businesses and government offices are closed for a long holiday weekend...

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Special Tour de France...

Rassemblement International de Cycles Anciens, also known as the International Veteran Cycles Association will be holding its annual festival beginning today through the fifth in La Ferté Imbault, about a half hour south of us...

These are among the types of bikes that will be on display. In the front, a Grand Bi (pronounced bee) and in the far back by the wall, a German model (this is a replica) called a Draisienne, which you push with your feet. There are no pedals. These belong to a member in my town who was gracious enough to take them out one day and show them to me and my children (and hoist Ellie up on top of the Bi!)

Tomorrow, some riders will make a 100-mile trek with their bikes. Friday beginning at 2 p.m., there will be demonstrations within the village of such bikes as these. On Saturday, owners will be riding while dressed up in period costumes...

tags: antique bikes