Archive for April 8th, 2018

April 8, 2018

The story of an American in Paris, Baker!

On a rainy cloudy and cool humid what have you Sunday evening, and my game already , something in my blog. From a story by fame French presenter on the history secrets that I like, Stéphane Bern. Let me tell you a story about a lady not so much mentioned now but worth it in gold.

The story goes from Cabaret to Resistant fighter, as she was, let me tell you a bit about Josephine Baker. She was born very poor in Saint Louis ,Missouri on June 3rd 1906, her mother a laundry lady and her father never knew him, some says he was white. Her mother Carrie put her to work in rich families who mistreated her and exploited her. However, by 13 yrs old she gets into the spectacle virus and gets her first job in a small theatre., where she makes a sensational impression.

She even accepts to follow the troop of performers in exchange for menu services ,and dresser of the group Shuffle Along, a group of black performers on a musical comedy. One day a dancer is hurt ,and she replaces her, the rest is history as it is said.

By 1921, she marries here first husband Billy Baker and therefore keeps the last name, even if she divorced him to continue her dancing career. In New York she is hired by a cabaret at Broadway, the Plantation Club. It is there that Caroline Dudley finds her and brings her to Paris. There is great curiosity in Paris for black performers and there is even an exposition on Black Culture at the Museum of Decoratif Arts . In October 2 1925, it is shown the first of the Revue Négre (black review) and she plays on doors closed with some famous entrepreneurs in the place. It is also played at the Théatre des Champs-Elysées ; these shows are a complete success for her;

The queen of the wild dance becomes a star. By 1926 she plays at the Aux Folies Bergére in the review of Folie du jour or crazy day, and brief change to Vent de folie or wild wind she stays there from 1927 to 1931. She was an eternal lover and marries several times , at least five times with several lovers in addition. She married Jean Lion that allows her to become French citizen even if the union did not lasted too long,she kept in good relation with the inlaws as well as protected them during WWII. She marries orchesta leader Jean-Claude Bouillon, from which together they adopted 12 children, and also married briefly an American artist Robert Brady. By 1933 she hands out food in Montmartre in charitable organisations.

During the review La Folie du jour she encountered Giuseppe di Abatino aka Pepito, and becomes her manager,who advised her to open a nightclub and negotiates publicity contracts making the figure of Bakerfix, a lotion that does the hair as hers, and women love it. She opens at the Casino de Paris in leopart outfit with the theme Chiquita with a song calle J’ai deux amours ( I have two loves) and a cigar the show lasted 421 days! She does some cinema such as Zou Zou next to Jean Gabin in 1934 and later Princess Tam Tam in 1935 with Albert Préjean, as well as the operetta de Offenbach, La Créole receiving advise for the role from Sasha Guitry ,and becomes another success.

By 1935, Pepito obtained a contract for the Ziegfeld Follies on the great cabaret of New York. They are both disappointed with the stay of discrimination there, and the relationship with Pepito weakens.   Joséphine decided finally to open her own cabaret, Chez Joséphine that opens full while separating from Pepito. He fell sick and eventually died in 1936, so Joséphine decided to come back to Paris.

She finds a new contract at the Folies Bergére in the show En Super Folies, that became another success! ; and this is where she meets Jean Lion in 1937. With him she discovered the Dordogne region and the dream of her life,Château des Milandes; she has found her house. She retires from showbiz to concentrate on family life and sadly could not have babies, causing the divorce in 1940.

As WWII starts she find herself French from her marriage to Jean Lion, and chose to be at the service of her adopted country joining the French resistance. She was on a world tour and returning to Paris was preparing her review at the Casino de Paris. In agreement with the management she makes a visit to the front lines at the Maginot line with Maurice Chevalier to give support to the troops. A French information agent contacts her and ask for help, which she enthusiastically accepts. She refused the title of spy for the honorary correspondant and with her fame and contacts becomes an useful tool for the French resistance.

She was informed of the resistance directed from London by a Gen de Gaulle and with a spy Abtey aka Jacques François Hébert, with the title of Choreographer she makes the illusion of a tour of South America and return via London , but first Vichy where she gathered information on the nazis positions and hides on the theatre scenes sections where they find the ink to write their finds. Finally, London decide another way and she goes into Algeria, Portugal, Morocco and Spain . To disguise all this she takes the job at the Opéra de Marseille playing La Créole of Offenbach. By January 1941, and with fears of the South of France fallen to the Nazis she departs for Algeria. There she participate on a gala for support of the troops and later to Portugal with full luggage of information to the resistance and then onwards to Morocco and quickly to Spain,with fears of the invasion of Morocco, she gathered full information again.

Even sick she stays on the resistance trail of support for her adopted country. Peritone, intestinal occlusion, comas, fever, embolias, and others spending 19 months in the hospital near death. Even with this she goes into the scene in Morocco then Algeria, Egypt, Libya, and the middle east to support the troops and benefits the Red Cross. In Algers, Algeria she finally meets Gen Charles de Gaulle that pins on her a small Cross of Lorraine in gold to thank her for the services rendered to her adopted country. She put in auction this and other belongings to raise funds for the troops and do so for 300K FF at Beirut which goes to the Resistance movement. In 1943 at the Oran hospital she sings the national anthem in front of the American troops!

In 1944 ,she received the title of Sub Lieutenant of the women auxiliary corps. Upon returning to Paris she is received in great aura and she again swear to be at the service of the French army giving concerts in liberated zones, this is the period where Jo Bouillon accompany her and later becomes her husband. As such, she helps motivate the French air force out of London given a big check to the commander of this troops out of London, Alla Dumesnil-Gillet to help the resistance. Her actions are publicly thanks by De Gaulle and Churchill; thereafter receiving condecorations such as the Knight of the Legion of Honor, Cross of War. She visited the wounded of the war prisioners that were rescue and received treatment at Shenley hospital in London.

After the war, she continues to work and raise funds and also for her dream of buying the Château des Milandes in Castelnaud-la-Chapelle, Dordogne 24. As a renter, she creates there a world village as the world capital of fraternity. She is sorraunded by several children she helped raised . She is ,also involved in the civil rights movement in the USA and lents support to Dr Martin Luther King, she is the only women to speak on the March to Washington on August 28 1963, the same scene where Martin Luther King proclaims his famous I have a dream…

Château des Milandes , the current owners have setup a museum on part of the castle to perpetuate the memory of Joséphine Baker, with photos, documents and the life of the artist with period furniture of JB, And I knew it finally found me an old pic from a paper pic to show here very timely. Quality may not be good but worth it for the souvenir of our brief stop by many many years ago.  The official webpage:  Château des Milandes and JB

Milandes Chateau des Milandes front JBaker

Joséphine Baker spent all her fortune on the Milandes project and does all kinds of work, without accepting financial help even at the insistance of Jo Bouillon, her husband. He left the project but stays taken care of the Children. By June 1964 she calls upon the newspaper men to show the situation of the castle and ask for help finally. The first ones to come forward are the French actress Brigitte Bardot given a donation to the mama of the world (as she call joséphine). Joséphine wanted to make a college of the world to educate the children but the lawmen are knockning on the door for lack of payments and finally expulse her of the property in 1968. After this event she is force to leave the castle and comes to the Yvelines at my well known place of Roquebrune where for raising funds for the Red Cross ,the Princess Kelly of Monaco offered her a house there by 1969, but Joséphine refuse. By 1975, she goes into a retrospective of her work entitled Joséphine à Bobino in Paris, and all of Paris is there! She did owned another property that she lived partially too at Le Vésinet at town on the limits of Saint-Germain-en-Laye in the Yvelines dept 78 well known to me. The house was the Villa Beau-Chêne and she used it from 1929 to 1947.

The story of her Vésinet property in French and a nice picture of the house here: Le Vésinet home Villa Beau-Chêne

A park on her name near the Chateau des Milandes: Parc Josephine Baker

After the 14th show she entered sleepy in ther house and the next day April 10th she is transferred in coma to the Pitié-Salêtriére hospital in Paris where she dies on April 12 1975. After receiving military honors and thousands of Parisiens present in ther tour to the burial. The last farewell to the well known artist but especially to the resistance fighter.  The first American woman to receive full French military honors at her funeral, Josephine Baker locked up the streets of Paris one last time before being laid to rest in Monaco.

One of her adopted children, Jean-Claude Bouillon who is the author of a book on her story call Un Château sur La Lune ( a castle on the moon) edition Hors collection. He describes his mother as a woman of eternal energy that lived   without retreating and extraordinaty generous putting all equals, humans and animals, she was carried by a mythical aura on the savage state, a human being of the sunshine. Her mother wanted to give to France what the country has given her and always sorry of the state of her native country civil rights. She adopted 12 children coming from the four corners of the world and teached them to be together as one family without differences and as well showing them their cultural roots. He said, they are still very much together as a family.

A very special lady and an inspiration by the thousands of Americans coming and living in France even today. Thank you Mrs Baker, RIP.

I have to remind you all that at this moment Josephine Baker is entering the Panthéon of Paris France! For her artistic and even more her resistance efforts for a free France in WWII. Honor where credit is due. Welcome Baker we are all proud of you!  More news! The metro station Gaîté, in the 14éme arrondissement and on the line 13 has a new name: Gaîté-Joséphine Baker!

Her official site in English: Official Josephine Baker

Enjoy your week wherever you are, and remember, happy travels, good health and many many cheers to all !!!

April 8, 2018

Our home and work in the Morbihan!

On a leisurely lazy Sunday afternoon glue to the TV to watch my Madrid derby Real Madrid (my team for life) vs Atlético de Madrid the sidekids , (ended 1X1 ),I sat to think for my blog. Well, so much travels , vacations, and historical bits of me and my life. One thing was missing where did I work? It’s a sensitive issue as better not to give too many details in case my boss is reading lol!

When I first came to France in August 2003, (because my French wife asked me move to France lol!!) ,I needed to have a job before the move. So ,already a French citizen (since 2000) , and many trips to France/Europe; decided to go on the job hunt with the help of the internet and some colleagues from my profession in French high posts.

The search began by making my resumé as the French would like it , their curriculum vitae or CV. And of course , a letter of candidate or introduction. A photo is essential in French CV. And started posting in the normal well known sites of the times like Monster, Cadremploi, profession webpages, and the APEC a site link to the unemployment office for management positions. The search took 9 months and found my job.

The CAC 40 big French company, had me go thru 3 telephone interviews before inviting me to the Val d’Oise dept 95 site for meeting the CFO and the director of Human Resources worldwide. It was a typical formal French interview , where after about 10 minutes they gave me an offer I could not resist. Now you need to know the standard of living and cost of living to make sure the package was at least same or better than what you had at home. It was much better ,thank youuu!!!

We prepare for the move ,and we had it as well easier than most as my French wife was already working in the freight forwarders industry with a French company part of the Groupe Bolloré entities by Miami international airport. The French manager in Florida, gave us an unbelievable price for a 22 foot container to move all our belongings over , it was 1853 USDollars door to door move!!!

Shortly ,after our arrival, I told her to contact another French contact who was a VP of the company in the USA, and he recommended a friend at Roissy CDG in the same field as hers. In about a month and a half ,she found her job with a major worldwide freight forwarder at the cargo section of Roissy CDG airport!!!

Roissy CDG

happy camper pickup by yours truly at Roissy CDG cargo

Our boys were in school at the nice Collége John Zay in Vernueil sur Seine in the Yvelines dept 78, near our apartment that I had rented in August 2003, shorly we purchase a house there in July 2004. And on we move to our wonderful French life, a decision that ranks as the best ever for us.

My boys went on to high school at Lycée Bel Air in Le Chesnay near Versailles and we purchase at Versailles by the Notre Dame neighborhood! Life move righ along fine, la vie est belle !!! My wife continue to work in Roissy CDG with same outfit, and I moved on to better and more exciting places with a major luxury Hotel chain with properties in Paris and Cannes (I was working  very near the Jardin des Tuileries…shhh). And I, in charge of the accounting department reporting to a CFO group.

Life move along quite nicely, and my friends and family back home were amazed of how happy we were. And of course, we kept it low key not to make them too jealous ::)  The moment we started telling them all our perks and benefits here and our five week vacation they just drop in amazement. We had visitors from our other life in Florida USA here and they were just stunned of the things we had here;even visiting and staying in our house.

Life went along fine, and the boys went on to preparatory private schools right in Le Chesnay and one in La Verriére just south of Versailles. They were experts in public transport , lol!! Better than me, they knew all the routes of trains, buses, tramways in the Paris western part, Yvelines, and Hauts de Seine as well as Paris of course. My wife continue with the same outfit of which she worked a total of 9 years before moving to Brittany.

Me ,the globetrotter always looking for opportunities, as my old university professor in Florida always told me ,keep your antenna up, for opportunities, never stayed put. Therefore, after several colleagues advice , I would do better in consulting on my own, did just that with an outfit in rue de Départs Montparnasse and working all over  France on missions as well as Switzerland, Nigeria and Brazil!!! Life was great moving along and always improvement that standard of living.

My wife had a car accident in Florida that lost her left eye,and continue working under the American system and initially in France. However, she was told here you can get an incapacity recognition and still continue with your salary. So , short of it ,she got it under Category II and was discharge from the Roissy CDG outfit with full salary, 50% by the French social security or Cramif services and 50% from her disability insurance carrier at work, Mercer. So sitting at home making the same salary as working!! Vive la France!

Then, something happened that will make our lives better nicer and happier. I was told to contact someone who was looking for a top ,lets just say accounting professional for a multinational company in the international market. I, of course, with my antenna ,contacted the person and the job was indeed good looking but in Brittany , the Bretagne west of France. Well, I have been on a business trip to Rennes , a factory, and with the family visiting Nantes for the castle of the dukes of Brittany that was not actually now in Brittany ;; tell it to the French psych!

The job turn out great, I was in charge of 18 countries and 28 branches all over the world; travel was a big part of the package. All the trimming, better salary and perks and la vie en rose of France continues. Of course, I took it after a family discussion. I moved to an apartment in Brec’h near Auray in the Morbihan Breton dept 56 by June 2011. We had our twin boys followed for their schooling in Lycée Kerplouz between nice Auray and Le Bono, and later our house was sold in the Yvelines, and the rest move in to the apartment. A four bedroom 2 bath apartment about 30 minutes from my job by car.

Afte settling in with my father who after my Mom passed away in the Yvelines continue to stay with us. He is Retire with American pension so very much independent and still do all his things except the French paperwork as a carte de séjour visiteur ,that as he does not speak French (very hard to do at 83) needs to renew every year on a routine basis, we know all the staff and takes 15 minutes with an appointment here. My oldest boy came in on an alternate work study basis and doing all kinds of jobs as in the French system of stages and interim, CDD etc as well as my twin boys. All in different fields, one sales, other in wood craftmenship, and the last in gardening/paysagiste type ready for back to Versailles! My wife continues with her wonderful French pay system at home, and good deal as her health is a lot more sensitive than mine.

I continue in my multinational international French/Breton company here ,near Vannes ,already 7 years in it, time flies when having fun, the saying goes. It is true. I have an excellent group of people where I am the only non French born in our services and very human and nice bosses, CFO and Director as well as the President who always talks to me and emails me for direct advice sometimes. I participate or rather invited to all the Directors meetings and Finance get together which I choose to come or not if pertinent. I am on the list for trips to Asia, Americas, and Africa thru June 2018, end of our fiscal year. Actually,  it’s a castle property in ruins from 1504, all modernised, the only remaining parts are the the foundations and the outer west walls with a guard house and the old bakers oven outdoor.

In the meantime, from the apartment, we purchase a home in the nice country town of Pluvigner. 1000 square meters (about 11K sq feet) of land on a 255 square meters (about 2800 sq feet) of inhabitable home. 3 car garage, five bedroom or four as we used one for the game entertainment room, 2,5 baths, a open air terrace and an enclosed glass veranda. We had made the back on lawn or green grass and the front in Breton stone, pebbles with decorative real plants. OF course, now we have our puppy Rex almost 5 months a Borador!!! (cross pure border collier mom,and pure black Labrador dad). He is a charmer, and already well behaved in his manner: oh yes he is a boy!!! Poor wife ,she is spoiled as the only women in the family now. Update: My dear wife Martine passed away from pancreatic cancer on April 30 2018 19H.

Pluvigner is a small town of about 7K folks on a vast area of single homes stuck between Auray and Pontivy along the road D768 that connects to the beaches with the N165 and up to the N24 national roads to Rennes. About 1h30 to Nantes Atlantique airport and 15 minutes to the TGV line at Auray train station or sometimes for scheduling use the bigger station at Vannes which is about 35 minutes away. We have a regional TIM bus line 5 that can connect to Auray, Vannes, Baud, and onwards to Pontivy or Lorient. The town has about 8 bars and 5 bakeries, several restaurants and all the living services you need; the nurses come home to do all,and the doctor, pharmancy, etc are walking distances from home. In all ,we love it. Glad to be in the Morbiha, Brittany.

Now ,all is left is to get good health for some and continue for others and already thinking of retirement which will know officially to do it by 2020 at the latest. Right now planning the retirement place, either we stay here, or go to Bordeaux area, or Toulouse area or south of Madrid, Spain in Castilla la Mancha. Only time and good continuous good  fortune will tell. (update my retirement was august 2021 and we are staying put in Pluvigner:!)

I have given a general view without been too positive,hope my friends do not get too jealous; it has been a wonderful experience, our best so far. Wherever the future brings, we can say we had our way and glad of all we have done as a family together, or as one famous Muskeeteers once said, One for all and all for one!!!

Enjoy some of the pictures of our new town .  Have a great week ,happy travels, good health and many many cheers to all. Kenavo!!

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