Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sun-less in Seattle... but the days are getting longer!

(photo credit unknown)

The Christmas tree is down. Holiday decor has been carefully tucked away in the attic: Bienvenue, January. If you live in Paris - or in Seattle - this means you will be wrapped in la grisaille (grey skies) for the next ten to twelve weeks, maybe longer... 


M. Connor (New York Times)

(photo credit unknown)

Some will argue that Paris remains Paris, even when it is cold, even when it rains, and that there is enough to keep you busy in the French capital to help you forget the drab weather outside. All true. Yet I lived, worked and commuted in Paris for ten years before we moved to Seattle, and I can assure you I got tired of living under grey skies.

Ah, Paris! Si romantique... si... gris!
(photo credit unknown)

Seattle is not Paris, not by a long stretch. Sorry, Seattle. But you earn points for trying. I am very grateful for the upcoming Paul Gauguin exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum. Gauguin in Polynesia. The S.A.M. website mentions Gauguin's "constant yearning for an exotic paradise." I bet a lot of locals will relate. I know I do. Tahiti sounds pretty good right about now.

Paul Gauguin

Over the next few months, Seattleites will be spending a lot of time indoors, hibernating, wistfully pining for exotic vacations. Coffee shops, like Monsieur Starbucks, will help fuel and shelter these dreams, of course. For some, Visa and American Express will help finance them.

(photo credit unknown)

Ok. I hear you in the background. Snow buffs. Outdoor enthusiasts. The Brave. The Restless. You want me to write that not everyone hibernates in Seattle during winter months. Point taken. Each week, you all answer the call of the mountains. like Junior, his dad, and their friends. 

The young, the brave, the restless

Désolée. I can't relate. I was born in Southern France. I love the sun. I never learned how to ski, not even when girlfriends dragged me to the French Alps years ago, and I tried to impress a [potential] boyfriend [it did not work.] I suppose I could snowshoe if snowshoeing were required. But I don't see the point of driving for almost two hours, schlepping ten pounds of gear, just to freeze my city-loving derrière all day. Pardonnez-moi for exercising my right to be different. 

Fortunately for me - the big city is far away - I enjoy the outdoors. As soon as ski season is over, this family lives part-time on an old sailboat - at least it often feels that way, especially in the summer months - as we explore coastal waters in the Puget Sound area. We don't wait for the sun to cast off and often make good use of our foul weather gear. Besides, ominous Northwest skies provide unique photo opportunities Le Husband can't resist.

When we are not cruising, the Yellow dog and I walk/hike the neighborhood hills and trails at least five times a week, one hour a day, rain or shine. And let me tell you, the trails may be packed in the summer and early fall, but we sure don't meet a whole lot of locals out there, in the rain and mud, the rest of the year. The Yellow dog and I may not be that young anymore; but we keep up a good pace; we sweat; we log in the miles. We are the Brave and the Restless too, darn it!

Doing what we do best... near Port Townsend, WA some time ago

Now if you look at the above photo, and notice the cute handbag, you may think: "I bet French Girl always looks very chichi, perfectly coiffed and accessorized when she goes on those daily walks." Nah. This is the Pacific Northwest, friends. The land of fleece, R.E.I., and the North Face. I am a firm believer that when in Rome, one must do as the Romans do. After all these years, I think I blend in pretty well, non?

Don't get me wrong. I could really, really see myself wearing the following, as I walk around my Estate with the Yellow dog. 

Walking the grounds, English-style: The Barbour collection

Rain boots... by Burberry, England

Rain boots by Chanel,  France

Pretty, but unpractical. I confess to a strong liking for Australian outdoor wear on rainy days.

The Australian-ized French girl and Junior,
a few [Seattle] springs ago

And so we endure, through the winter, and the long, wet, chilly spring.  We do our best to boost troop morale while ignoring the dismal weather outside. We disregard the corny and rehashed local saying: "Rain is liquid sunshine!" [insert the mandatory French shrug.]

Ten years in Paris. Fifteen more in Seattle. I know I am long overdue for my time in a sunny locale. I am lucky I can keep visiting until a more... satisfying solution can be found.

Nissa la Bella

For in Seattle, as the locals say, you can't stop living when it rains. You learn to live in spite of the rain and clouds.

We joined a very soggy St Patrick's Day parade last March
A drenched French gang doing the Garden D' Lights,
 Bellevue, WA (December 2011)

In fact, come to think of it, January is the perfect time to slow down, relax indoors and enjoy some of the great Christmas gifts Santa was kind enough to leave under the tree for you. In 2012, I am planning to learn more about photography, and I started building a book collection with these classics by iconic photographers.

They arrived with a mysterious card...

It read...

Merci Santa! It looks as if I, too, will be going back to school.

Santa has obviously decided my Chanel book collection (six titles and counting) would look much better with this brand-new book, written by Mademoiselle's surviving relatives. As I flip through the pages, I can't wait to sit down with a cup of coffee and start reading it. 

Oh, and color. We need more color to fight all that gray-ness. There is none in the garden at the moment, unless one counts the ubiquitous evergreen?! Well, I can't use my new Upla "besace" (modelled after the fisherman's canvas bag since the 1970s) quite yet, but it certainly cheers me up every time I see it hanging in my bedroom.

Upla, Paris Rive Gauche (Left Bank)
The Upla bag looks great on a bike too!

I could also bake a traditional "galette des rois" (king's cake), pour some Normandy sparkling cider and celebrate the new year with friends. Everyone secretly hopes to get the golden slice that includes the sought-after collectible "fève" (trinket) so they can become the new king or queen! This year, I found a brand-new collection of "fèves" through a French company and could not believe my luck: La Galette will taste so much better if Harry, Ron and Hermione are hiding inside it!

French Girl, a few "galettes" ago...
Will there be magic spells involved? I hope so...

Yes, there are things to do in Seattle to fight the winter blues. Whining about the weather is not one of them. Clearly, there is nothing we can do about the weather. This little story enabled me to get it out of my system. I feel much better already and promise I will not say another word about the rain. Not one. Nada. Rien. Zilch - at least until July.  By then, if large puddles are still on the ground (and they very well may be, seeing how everyone has been raving about our "exceptionally dry fall,") this French Girl is definitely getting out of town! 

Bring it on, Seattle. I am ready for anything you throw at me, and I will keep smiling [or at least keep my mouth shut.] I may not be able to muster enough enthusiasm to sing in the rain...

['sides, this was shot in a Hollywood studio,
 as I am pretty sure Gene Kelly lived in sunny California year round]

But I am certain my friends and I will be able to seize the [fun] moment when it presents itself. Carpe Diem, les amis (I knew those seven years of Latin in French public schools would come in handy sooner or later.) It is true what they say: The days are getting longer!

Merci, Dani!

Bonne année 2012. Happy New Year!

A bientôt!

Afterword: I found this fun story online a few days ago. It was written by an [exiled] Seattleite. I so enjoyed the part about the weather: Apparently, grey skies are digitally added on all Seattle photos so out-of-towners will not be tempted to move here. Cute. Obviously, a good sense of humor helps when you live in the Pacific Northwest (or in this case, Denmark!) year round. Am also guessing the author took most of his photos during the brief Seattle summer, roughly July 20-August 10.


  1. Ma chèrie,

    Comme tu es belle, radieuse et gentille. Paris, Nice, Gene Kelly, ton sourire...toutes ces choses sont les elements vifs de la vie qu'on DOIT cherir et fêter. Merci pour tes mots de tendresse et n'oublie pas de:

    LOVE ON.

    Bises. Anita

  2. I can't ski either Veronique! So I too struggle to find some winter activities to keep me busy! A lot of indoor time...

    Our skies have been pretty blue here in Philadelphia. No snow yet, but I'm sure that's coming!! Sometimes I like rainy days (if I don't have to go anywhere!), but I'm sure several weeks of it gets tedious!

  3. C'est dimanche soir et je suis un peu "à la bourre"(tiens, traduis ça en anglais?..).Je reviens demain , ton post est TELLEMENT riche , pas possible de commenter trop vite, je serais frustrée! :o) A dem'!

  4. Une publication formidable... De la vie, du bonheur concentré...
    Je suis heureuse de vous revoir après plusieurs jours d'absence.
    La pluie... grrrrrrrr, je viens de la retrouver ! A Marrakech j'ai eu la chance de profiter du soleil +++ et de sa grande douceur.

    Dans ta publication ces belles bottes nous permettent de vivre les journées pluvieuses d'une manière plus agréable et avec élégance.

    Un grand merci pour ton gentil commentaire... Je te fais de gros bisous.
    Pardon si je te tutoie, ce n'est pas un manque de respect mais plutôt un attachement...

  5. You. Can't. Ski? ;) I'm from southern California where, when we were kids, we were sandwiched between orange groves, the snowy mountains and the azure sea. Where one must drink OJ, surf, ski--con gusto--while playing 'I Spy Movie Star' on the side. ;)

    Another seriously great post. You can just pop all of them in an ebook--and voila--great book. Honestly. So fun, entertaining, and informative.

    Sorry to's very sunny here in Carmel-by-the-Sea....but you have a hubs, sons, a dog, and a sailboat. That makes you a Lotto Winner!!


  6. Je vois que tu as ete tres busy ces derniers temps ~ ces photos de Paris gris sont superbes...oui ici on oublie la grisaille puisque le ciel est d'un bleu impeccable et que le soleil estival a jete son devolu sur le decor mais le coeur possede un certain 'pang' un 'craving' constant....c'est etre comme un arbre que l'on a deracine et replante dans un pot qui de temps a autre semble trop etroit....Ah la France! en reves edulcores, les galettes de rois, Chanel...
    bisous du Land Down Under

  7. Oh I so relate about the weather as we are just north of the Canadian border...
    I think Ines de la Fressange popped into Urla on her last episode of Ines' Little

    Your new Chanel book looks interesting, perhaps you'll give us a review when you have finished reading it.

  8. well v- this is an E-X-C-E-L-L-E-N-T post-i just can't even comment on all the elements for fear i will have a post to your post-so in short i am severly influenced in mood, body and spirit by lack of sunshine....i adore the summer and all it haves to offer,i did ski and one day just decided i really do not like the cold, although i still want to try snowboarding-might break my neck but it is like winter surfing-i need sunshine-LOVE LOVE LOVE your books on photography-all of them are my favorites-truly and chanel well as you already know-adore her and like you cannot read enough about her!i like the surprise of the sunday post oh and are the mercury votives your prize from french essence-looking good....stay well and as you say-- spring will be here before we know it-and your posts will CERTAINLY make the seasons WAY MORE enjoyable! (pour moi anyway!)

  9. Dear Véro, as I got further and further into this monumental post I think I actually thought at one point that winter was going to be well over by the time I got to the bottom of this epic... :-) Ah, you do have a flair for keeping us fully entertained for long stretches, and always wondering what else you are going to pull out of your hat... So, did Santa bring you a new camera to go with the lovely photo books ??? I do agree that sitting in on a grey afternoon in a comfy chair with a big photo book to contemplate is a lovely way to spend an hour or two, or three, while digesting the galette des rois and cidre... which is exactly what we had this very afternoon. La grenouille is très talented for cooking up galettes, with a ton of butter in them... yum. Some of my favorite photographers to look at books full of photos from are Gerry Winogrand, Elliott Erwitt, Eliot Porter, Peter Beard, Willy Ronis, Patrick Dumarchelier, oh, and let's not forget Yann Arthus Bertrand. And I also couldn't help thinking of Tom Robbins novels as you expanded on just how gray and wet Seattle can be...

    Am entirely with you in spirit though, am already thinking of where to go for some sun with the two weeks remaining congés from 2011 that I still need to take soon... Reunion ? Cape Verde ? Azores ? Namibia ? Martinique ? Cuba ? Bahamas ? Choices, choices !

    In any case, thanks a million for your visits, and for your lovely long posts. I've been a bit absent, as putting together a second book of photos now on the site... it's lots of fun but lots of work too.

    Bonne galette !

  10. Veronique, merci pour le commentaire sur mon blog. It was a great way to find yours. Oh, I so enjoyed this post especially because I love Mademoiselle Chanel. And this book you presented, I must find :) I look forward to reading more posts in the future.


  11. -- Anita -- Merci de ta visite, mon amie. Je suis toujours ravie de te recevoir et en français en plus!
    -- Katelyn -- Snow, quelle horreur! i would take the rain over the white fluffy stuff ;-)
    -- Malyss -- Tu reviens quand tu veux! Oh, et pour la traduction, que penses-tu de "I am in a rush!" "I am in a hurry!" ?
    -- MartineAlison -- Toi et le Toucan êtes les bienvenus, et nous pouvons nous tutoyer, pas de souci!
    -- Suzanne -- Ok. Got it. You are one of the Brave and the Restless. An E-book? Pourquoi pas? I will keep you posted...
    -- Malou -- Eh oui. Il y a des jours, comme ça, où les plantes bien françaises s'agitent dans leurs petits pots... ;-)
    -- Hostess of the Humble Bungalow -- Thank you for the tip about Inès. Will look her up. As for the Chanel book, I will definitely write a short review soon (or a long one if I really liked it!)
    -- g -- Welcome back mon amie. Thank you for your kind words, as always. You have a great eye lady, for spotting Vicki's votives on the mantelpiece. I love them! Come back soon.
    -- Owen -- Thank you for staying me until the end of the story. You know how it is. I get carried away when I spin my little tales and have entirely too much fun writing them ;-) One day, one day, I will be taking photos as good as yours - well, almost! - in the meantime, I will look up all the great photographers you listed while munching on a fragrant slice of Galette. A bientôt, and congrats again on your new book!
    -- Veronique

  12. ah, i feel your pain. as a texan relocated to england- i recognize the greyness quite well. :) will be in paris for the spring though.... hoping for a bit of early sunshine. :)

  13. What a thoroughly entertaining post Veronique, I'm thrilled that you love the Aussie outdoor wear, is it Drizabone you are referring to, excellent gear for keeping warm and dry. How funny you should say your days are just starting to get longer here ours are getting just a tiny bit shorter, that means sun up at 4.30 instead of 4.15, and this makes me so happy! We have the same attitude here (but for the heat as opposed to the cold), even if it's 40C we slip, slop and slap (slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat haha!!) J'adore your photograph book collection, I too have Doisneau and Cartier Bresson on my table, they were brilliant! I hope you have an excellent week ahead!

  14. I think Paris is always attractive, even under the rain. It is just another perspective!Came back to the UK luckily under the sun after three weeks on the snowy pistes so it is not too bad for us!
    Hope your year started well. Best wishes, DeeBee :)

  15. Another fascinating post - you so often bring back memories of my wonderful times in France and today it was your reference to the galette des rois. Some years ago when I spent a year in France as an English 'assistante' in a lycée, I was lucky enough to find the fève in my piece of cake and wore the crown. I remember the fun evening and this lovely tradition.

  16. Aww Seattle....i lived there for 9 months. Lots of coffee and good eating during those gray days. Some of these photos made the rain seem almost romantic. ;) Maybe it seems more romantic in the desert since we don't get much here. You know that song -Like the deserts miss the rain. Fun post. Have a nice week Veronique. =)

  17. the days are getting a bit longer! love those chanel rain boots. so chic!

  18. My goodness! Why did it take me so long to find your blog? It's absolutely charming. I'm a follower from this point on!

  19. Me revoila apres un too busy lundi!
    - tes premières photos de pluie, magnifiques et qui me font rever! si, si! ici, pas d'automne ni d'hiver cette année, une grosse frustration pour moi.Paris reste certes tres romantique sous la pluie, mais d'apres mon fils qi y vit , on y "manque de lumière".
    - L'expo Gauguin me rappelle le temps où j'ai habité à Moorea, juste en face de Tahiti; là, coté lumière, on etait servi!
    -Chanel et Doisneau, deux icones parisiennes peut-être plus que françaises. La France est si riche de ses regions et provinces, de la beauté de ses paysages, il ne faut pas l'oublier.
    -Le refuge dans les livres quand il pleut, avec une tasse de thé, je comprends et j'adore.
    -Ici, on a eu des fèves de Tintin cette année
    -j'adore ta besace, j'adore toutes les besaces, j'aime même le mot, un peu bizarre;
    -Comment faisait Mademoiselle Chanel pour sortir quand il pleuvait?!ta tenue australienne me plait bien, c'est plus mon genre; un bon ciré , il n'y a que ça de vrai quand il pleut!
    - quelle chance d'avoir un bateau! j'ai grandi avec celui de mon grand-père, mais maintenant ici les prix sont prohibitifs, ceux des bateaux comme ceux des anneaux de port;
    - Merci pour la photo de Nissa!crois-tu qu'en y ajoutant un ciel gris nous aurions moins de touristes?Bientôt Carnaval(une periode que je deteste..)et les rues vont se remplir..
    -Bon , j'arrête là! Sinon je bloque la boite à comments! :o) a bientôt!

  20. Six years in Dublin was enough grey skies for me! I need sun!
    Hope the sun shines for you soon :-)

  21. oh when it rains, it pours. ^0^
    me, i don't hate it but i'm not loving it either.
    lovely foto of you with the scrumptious galette btw.
    oh! thanks for the tidbit info on the Upla,
    i like the bag.
    would you believe i have never heard of that brand before?! haha. ^0^

  22. Oh the rain, the rain, the rain. By March I am about ready to move to an island in the Pacific like Gauguin. I actually think that getting out into the mountains to play in the snow is key for surviving the season - we grabbed our snow shoes on Saturday and it was so much better than being cooped up in the gym! And I think that dressing one's best to face the elements is so good for morale! Happy week, Veronique!

  23. -- Aspiring Kennedy -- Welcome chez French Girl. I started "following" your blog as well. England. I remember the sky in England. Beautiful country though.
    -- PerthDailyPhoto--Drizabone it is indeed for this French Girl! I am sure you don't need our rain gear right about now. Send us some of your light and sun, will ya?
    -- DeeBeeL -- You sound like a Parisian. Are you from Paris? ;-)
    -- Miss b -- One can never eat too much Galette des Rois!
    -- Sandy -- Yep. I am sure the rain and dark days seem a lot more romantic when one lives in the sun year round ;-)
    -- Rebecca -- Welcome! Come back soon.
    -- Natasha -- Welcome. Thank you and Ditto. Not necessarily in that order.
    -- Malyss -- Merci d'avoir pris le temps de faire une longue réponse. J'ai noté quelques excellentes observations au passage: Mon blog a tendance a être un peu trop "parisien" peut-être. Est-il temps pour moi de retourner en Province? ;-) J'y travaillerai... Ton fils a raison, nos latitutdes "nordiques" (Paris, Seattle, Londres) manquent de lumière, et la lumière, c'est très important. Représenter Nice avec des nuages pour décourager les touristes? En voilà une excellente idée, mais c'est trop tard pour moi. Je ne me décourage pas facilement ;-)
    -- I dream of -- Another one of the Brave and the Restless. Good for you, and I understand. My therapy is to go on long walks, and I agree that one feels better afterward.
    = Veronique

  24. Oooh those Chanel rainboots are so pretty. Sigh.

    I can't imagine living in a city where its almost always grey skies and rainy. I often visit Portland, and just being there for a week messes with my moods. Lol.

    But I can relate to this post a bit. I spend a large chunk of my childhood growing up in Tampa, so now, as an adult, I cannot handle the cold. I yearn the warm days of southern Florida and the beach. I'll never stop aching for that kind of weather...

    I need to add that Chanel book to my list!

  25. Paris can be one of the coldest places on the planet in my experience - it must be the chill Seine that goes right through you...
    I've yet to experience Seattle griseille..
    I would almost bet my paintbox that is not a real Gauguin...ahem Too pretty, pretty IMHO

    Paris grey skies makes for lovely lighting (preferably without the chill bien sur).

  26. -- Sara Louise -- One day I will visit Dublin-- but for a short while. I am glad you found the sun, in the end.
    -- Arabesque -- I am pretty sure Upla is not that famous outside of Paris, but I may be wrong. Mine is the small version, perfect for travel.
    -- Jennifer Fabulous -- Funny you should mention Portland, Or. I am headed there in a few days. It should be grey, but I don't care. It's a fun and friendly city.
    -- Paris Breakfasts -- Thank you for the comment, and the lovely post on Paris "grey." I am glad you forwarded this. Come back soon!
    == Veronique

  27. I have been in Seattle three times and it did not rain while I was there but I think if I saw grey skies a lot it would make me very sad. I am used to the sun of the Southern United States – we have so much sun here in Georgia – our sky does not stay grey very long. I enjoyed looking at all your pictures. I wish we had had a Galette des Rois, but this is not a tradition here unfortunately.

  28. We feel your pain in the Eastern US - rain, rain, rain. If I could have those Chanel rain boots, I wouldn't mind it nearly as much...

  29. La pluie... Mais, quelle pluie?
    Ici, à Antibes, on ne connaît pas. Sinon, la vie s'arrêterait...
    Bonne journée, Véronique!

  30. Here Here I agree whether Seattle or Paris I think we deserve a sun filled January next year although I think you have well and truly paid your dues to the Grey Sky Gods, I am a novice along side you Veronique.
    Carla x

  31. I've been indoors a lot too (although the weekend was warmish). I'm enjoying my decoration-free house that feels so big and unlcuttered (and clean)..getting back into our routines, as tough as they are. I love those Burberry rain boots!!!

  32. Hi Veronique. Love your rainy pictures through the diamond drops. Beautiful. Grey skies are not reserved in Paris for January or winter.
    I remember end of May 2007 when we had to put on all layers, and umbrellas due to wind were useless, we were completely drenched and ... completely happy nevertheless...le grisaille was a classy backdrop and a thunderstorm caught up with us at Place des Vosges, it is unforgettable.
    Even the gris in Paris is , well... different...

  33. Sigh...I would live in rain for months straight if it meant that I was in Paris. My boyfriend and I even visited in February last year! I miss France so much.
    I too love the sun! I spend nearly a month in Toulon in '09 and I loved it. The sun, the pebbles (not sand!), the food...I love the south of France so much.

    And those Chanel rainboots! Oh mon dieu! I would feel so chic wearing those!


  34. Oh my gosh that article on "My Hometown is Better Than Yours" had me LMAO!! What can you do? If the gray bothers you, you'd go out of your mind here!...Which does explain a lot about the freeway, but I digress....Loved your post! I welcome the rain so lattes taste better *winks* And hats can cover up my less than fabulous hair....It ain't all bad *winks* Vanna

  35. Some great images of grey - gaugin will bring some tropical warmth to seattle I am sure - the SAM gallery is a wonderful place - greetings from the riviera...

  36. Some years the long rainy winters in even get to people that are born and raised in Western Washington.
    It doesn't rain as much in Eastern Washington since much of it is arid. Have you been to cities in the Idaho Panhandle like Post Falls or Sandpoint. The area around Sandpoint looks somewhat like Western Washington. It doesn't rain as much there but they do get a lot of snow. It is a dry cold there, I think. Sandpoint is on Priest Lake which is very big.



Bonjour! I love hearing from you, my readers. To quote a fellow blogger, my friend Owen, "Comments are the icing on blogcake... Comments are the UFO in the twilight sky bearing news from other planets... Comments are raspberry vinegar in salad dressing... Comments are the cool balm of after-sun moisturizing lotion... Comments are the moment the band comes back out onstage to play an encore... Comments are the gleam in the eye across the room in a smoky bar... Comments are the rainbow after the rainstorm..." Merci for your comments! French Girl in Seattle