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Creative Genius

Each and every time I am in France, I am amazed at the creativity and beauty in things large and small. On a big scale in Paris, you have of course les grands travaux, the great works that French presidents have sponsored like les pyramides of I.M. Pei in front of the Louvre and the Bibliothèque nationale (National Library) on the eastern end of the Seine.

I, however, am partial to the tiny touches of creative design that illuminate la vie quotidienne (daily life) and make strolls through most corners of France endlessly interesting. From the decorative air vents of Haussmannian apartment buildings in Paris to simply elegant park benches all over France to interesting door knobs and knockers in village and city, the French esprit créateur (creative spirit) reminds me that a little focus on creativity can go a long way.

For the past few weeks, French Affaires has been on a "creative sabbatical" where we have been brainstorming wonderful new ideas for events, classes, gourmet activities, wine programs, newsletters and travel to France. We also have pulled together a dynamic advisory board who is dedicated to French Affaires and its mission. Look for the results of our creative labors in the coming weeks and months.

In the meantime, here are a few more photos of the genius of French taste and creativity from my recent sojourn in Paris...

An Invitation to sit a while in the Tuileries gardens

French Take-Out ~ La France à emporter™

When writing this week's article, I was reminded of a beautiful passage in Thomas Merton's The Seven Storey Mountain where he attempts to describe the je ne sais quoi of French taste and creative genius. A monk and gifted writer, Merton was an American who was born in France and considered it his intellectual and spiritual home:

"How did it ever happen that, when the dregs of the world had collected in western Europe, when Goth and Frank and Norman and Lombard had mingled with the rot of Old Rome to form a patchwork of hybrid races, all of them notable for their ferocity, hatred, stupidity, craftiness, lust, and brutality-how did it happen that, from all this, there should come Gregorian chant, monasteries and cathedrals…?

How does it happen that even today a couple of ordinary French stonemasons, or a carpenter and his apprentice, can put up a dovecote or a barn that has more architectural perfection than the piles of eclectic stupidity that grow up at the cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars on the campuses of American universities?

When I went to France, in 1925, returning to the land of my birth, I was also returning to the fountains of the intellectual and spiritual life of the world to which I belonged…it was France that grew the finest flowers of delicacy and grace and intelligence and wit and understanding and proportion and taste. Even the countryside, even the landscape of France, whether in the low hills and lush meadows and apple orchards of Normandy or in the sharp and arid and vivid outline of the mountains of Provence, or in the vast, rolling red vineyards of Languedoc, seems to have been made full of a special perfection, as a setting for the best of the cathedrals, the most interesting towns, the most fervent monasteries, and the greatest universities.

But the wonderful thing about France is how all her perfections harmonize so fully together…"

Merton's book is available at bookstores and at

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