Other Recent Articles

Queen for (more than) a Day – Part One




The story of the Queen For More Than a Day is a unique slice of French History. Which, as you may remember from THIS POST pretty much takes the cake(with the cherry on top) in the  Historical Uniqueness Sweepstakes.

The Queen in question was able to accomplish something no other lady of her day was able to do. Become Queen of France, twice. And, unusual (and unique) as that historical milestone was, she did it in the usual way. Marrying two Kings. (Seperately, bien sur.)

The lady’s name was Anne de Bretange. And our riverting drama begins when Anne, at the tender age of 14, marries King Charles 8. (can you say: “King’s have more fun?”)

As you’ll recall from “expanding your empire 101” the quickest way to..well…expand you empire, was to have a female of your family – or your cousin’s/uncle’s family…or barring that….your gardener’s family…marry someone noble with lotsa land.

The preferences in order of star rating being a duke, a prince, and, at the top o’ da ladder – a King.

So – no flies on Anne de Bretange!

While not implying that love did not bloom in Anne’s union with Charles, the “arranged marriage” concept was pretty much the “business as usual” m.o. of (royal, and wannabe royal) matrimony back in the day.

However, Anne’s situation was somewhat, DA BG doth say,(again) “Unique.”

Anne became the Duchess of Brittany(Bretagne) following the death of her Father, Francis, who fell from his horse.

This resulted in a second war between France and Brittany. So, Job no. one for Anne was obviously to marry someone (preferably anti-French) who could help hold her Duchy(the territority of Brittany) together.

Maximillian the first of Austria was recruited. Anne’s marriage to him(by proxy…which means they probably never slept in the same bed) wasn’t received positively by the French. As you can well imagine.

More blue meanies: Anne’s presumed allies were too busy with their own wars to lend a sword or two.

The French, led by Charles 8 were banging on the gate.The turning point came when Anne, having received no aid from Hubby Max. saw her captial of Rennes fall into French Hands.

Those of Charles 8, to be precise.

Anne became engaged to Charles there. Despite the howls from the Austrians – because she was already “married” to Max. – and because Charles was supposed to hook up with Max’s Daughter, Margaret.

“tant pis” (too bad) for the Austrians.

Charles and Anne were married in the Chateau de Langais on December 6, 1491

Part Two of   Queen For More Than a Day – next time.

’til then.you might enjoy this slice of “Anne-o-rama”



What are ya thinkin’?

Famous French Pie – Part Five

(Author’s Note: This Famous French  Pie – Part Five will (I think) be the final installment in this wine-soaked saga. Catching up on the previous scribblings – they being parts One, Two, Three, and Four could enthrall, inform, entertain, or depress.  Depending on your mood, bein sur.)



DA BG’S  moment of “Wine Glory at the Vigneron’s tasting, like most moments where the “big G” is involved, was a total suprise to everyone. Particularly me.

Here’s how it went down: That evening’s theme was : “The wines of Spain.” Now, while I did live there for almost two years, know all the words to via condios, read Lorca in Spanish and adore Serrano ham, I don’t “know” any more about Spanish wine than your average campesino. But, as you might have guessed, I do know what I like. And lucky for me. Because (suprise,suprise) one of the wines selected on this here evening, was a favorite of mine.

As I inhaled the familiar aroma and took a nostalgia sip, mass frustration reigned among my wino expert table mates. They couldn’t find a label to describe the main “note” or principal sensory characteristic of the wine. (translating) “It’s..it’s….like…..almost ..bermamot….” “Yes,..yes…close, of course…but not quite…” “For me….I have an image of cinnamon and cloves…….but…very faint…..”Yes, yes…certaintly…but, as you say…more like….like…”Fortunately, during all this “palate scratching” all eyes were not on me. Noting their befuddlement, I again sniffed my familiar fav., then innocently blurted out: “Caramel.”

Suddenly – all eyes were upon me. “Yes, yes, of course…Caramel!! -the assembled multitude chimed in. At the other end of the table, Jean was beaming like a Papa seeing his new born for the first time. I don’t remember if he said anything. But I wouldn’t have heard anyway, with all the harp playing angels circling my golden wine halo.

All too soon our Indian Summer, and the grape pickers of all Nations were gone. Jean’s grapes were now juice in his vats. And I had juiced up my artistic creations to a respectable degree. Jean’s, and future proprietor Maroussia’s work now was to stuff the van with last year’s vintages, and head out onto the “wine salon” circuit. Bringing their tasty juice directly to da people.

Which meant,sniff,sniff, there was nothing more their Artist- In- Residence to contribute. Another factor not to be sneezed at – Winter was definitely on it’s way. And, as you are well aware dear reader Californian’s do not “DO” Winter. (Hint: that’s why there’s San Diego)

And here in France, that’s why there is a “South of France.” I went there. To a tiny village ringed by vineyards. Virtual inches from the Spanish border.

I don’t see Jean and his family as much as I’d like to these days. But isn’t that always the way?


What are ya thinkin’?


Famous French Pie – Part Three

(authors note : checking out parts ONE and TWO will enable you to be more “hip to da trip.”)

There came a time in the life of the exotic stranger from the far away lands, when he was obliged to take a pause in his French Travelling adventures. A Long Pause. For the understandable reason of translating his unique experiences into words and pictures. Otherwise, he would be the only one enjoying them. (never the concept!)

To accomplish these feats of daring do (or is that daring “do-do?”) he needed not to worry about those mundane, yet essential daily “life elements” such as food, shelter and internet access. Having no deep pockets, or friends with the same, and not elegible (or prepared to wait) for a grant from the “we-help-exotic-strangers-from-the-far-away-lands-with-their-life-changing-artistic projects” foundation – a sound could be heard. The sound of one hand clapping.

The answer to this zen riddle was provided by (you’re ahead of me already, aren’t you?) – Jean Tatin.Here’s what happened : It was early September. Jean was preparing for “le vendange.” The grape harvest. In not one, but two vineyards. They would be consecutive, but not concurrent. (as my English teacher would have said) ie-one after the other. With tons of prep. needed to house, feed and transport them thar grape pickers.

Would not a promotional video of le vendage be helpful to Domaines Tatin?

And were there not many ocassions where music would take tastings and other vineyard functions to – yes, I must say it – “The next level?”

And would it not also be advantageous to have a “go-fer” at the ready for additional, instanteous assistance? (“go-fer” being not the small furry animal that digs up yer garden, but an “errand person” – as in go-fer this, go-fer that.)

Verily, so it was, I proposed to Jean that he do what Universities and Colleges have done for countless eons. Welcome an “Artist-In-Residence.” He agreed. And Wine making history was made! (that is, unless, some other wino already had an “A.I.R.”)

I was “installed” in a tiny, but every so cozy “mother-in-law” apartment at the end of the gite closest to the house. One windowless room – bed and table. (but windows in the door) With an even tinier rectangular kitchen/shower adjacent. In Hollywood-ese: an “efficiency apartment.”

It was there I toiled with writing and editing. An internet connected portable in the house was available when needed.

I ate with the family. And was, as agreed, pressed into whatever service Jean needed.

Part Four of my A.I.R. experience at Domaines Tatin – Next Time.


What are ya thinkin’?