Wednesday, July 14, 2010
A magical hour in an ancient town: Ovada
l'heure bleue (leuhr bleuh, listen to MP3 or wav) noun, feminine
1) the blue hour, the magic hour... crepuscule, twilight... the hour between daylight and night when the sky's luminosity draws artists out of their studios to see light's last glimmerings.
2) the hour (between 5 and 7) in which one meets their lover before returning home from work, to one's spouse
L'heure bleue, the blue hour of twilight when the sky and the earth are at the same level of luminosity, when well-to-do gentlemen throw open the shutters of their mistresses' rooms and stretch and yawn and think about returning home. -Michael Bywater, The Independent
And, from Wikipedia: "The phrase is also used to refer to Paris immediately prior to World War I, which was considered to be a time of relative innocence." (The Blue Hour)
Because French often places its modifiers after its nouns, there is a kind of poetry that English cannot, because of how it works, achieve. So, for example, there is the French expression, l'heure bleue, which refers to that often shimmering time between the hours of daylight and darkness. We say “the magic hour” for that concept. It's sort of sad to write that next to l'heure bleue. French knows what to do here. French knows that the concept of “blue” is critical; that time of soft, subtle waning is about hue. French knows that emphasis should be on the idea of blue, but also that sufficient strength is given to the idea of the hour, to l'heure. L'heure bleue sounds like subtle magic. From The Soul of Creative Writing, by Richard Goodman. Order a copy.
A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse
Happy Bastille Day! Just like firecrackers streaming through the air... here and there... the following story veers offtrack (I was supposed to reveal the fashion victim of our latest story. You'll just have to "patienter"... meantime, here is an episode that took place just before the fall from fashion grace.)
Following the usual routine, having stepped out of the shower (so as not to say "douche"), I rifled through my husband's trousse, snapped up the stick of Mennen Musk. Summer in the canicular South of France requires an extra-strength solution! Not that that should keep a woman from using un déodorant d'homme in wintertime.
Having applied a generous coat of protection optimale, I reached into my overnight bag for the pretty bottle of L'Heure Bleue, the one I had selected years ago, as some choose books or lovers: by their covers. My neighbor and friend, D, had helped me pick out the perfume during a crash course on French fragrance, there in a little beauty boutique in Draguignan. How I had hesitated between "The Blue Hour" and "Coco" by Chanel, choosing the former for its name, as some choose entrees on a menu. L'Heure Bleue... it spoke to the supposedly suffering artist inside of me. She was in there somewhere, wasn't she?
L'Heure Bleue won out. The cut glass flask and its little flourish of an étiquette spoke of art nouveau, transporting the scent-wearer to fin de siècle Paris, over 100 years ago... the Paris of the past... alas!
But here, in 21st century Cassis, the air in the cramped hotel bathroom was now redolent with manly musk: a cause for hesitation.... With my finger posed on the perfume pump, I began to doubt. Might these scents clash somehow?
The muse answered as she is wont to do in situations which call for an artist's hup two...
Here, here, a suffering artist must start somewhere! Give no thought to the outcome. Spray it on—and with abandon. Remember—the idea is to continually risk rejection!
Fortified with fragrance, I stepped out of the little loo, sporting strong musk and a feast of florally feminine dew. I could have sworn my husband wavered as he walked ever so unsteadily toward me. He looked a little faint, mind you. And his face, the color of it, was... sort of... bleue.
la douche = shower
la trousse (de toilette) = toiletry case
une étiquette = label
The perfume l'Heure Bleue by Guerlaine. Introduced in 1912. Fragrance notes: a floral blend of orientals with powdery undertones. Order it here.
Savon de Marseille (Marseille Soap) with Pure Crushed Local. Gentle and moisturizing. World-Famous Since 1688 Flowers. Click here to order.
Coco Before Chanel
Audrey Tautou shines in this intriguing portrait of the early life of Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, the orphan who would build a fashion empire and be known universally by her nickname, Coco. She journeys from a mundane seamstress job to boisterous cabarets to the opulent French countryside, possessing little more than her unwavering determination, unique style and visionary talent. Click here to order this film.
Interviews, photos, videos from our farm and beyond!
=> See a video interview from our kitchen at Scott's Alaska TravelGram!
=> Visit Pat & Lew's blog and see photos of their visit to our farm, Domaine Rouge-Bleu
=> Bonjour Paris scroll down to Counting Cicadas: naptime in the South of France
cicada photo by Dave Prout (married to one of our dear Dirt Divas, Doreen.)
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety
What a lovely expression; just as beautiful as "etre fleur bleue"; again the poetic blue!
We chose la fleur bleue as the name for our restaurant because we have a lot of french china with a fleur bleue on it. And later we learned the expression etre fleur bleue: to be naive or sentimental. And after this to find out there is a song from Charles Trenet...
Posted by: Fiejet | Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 01:14 PM
Happy Bastille Day to all. I am often delighted and confused by the way French can put the adjective either in front or behind the noun and get different meanings depending on where the adjective is. The French can often get around the confusion caused by a phrase such as "an old friend".
The phraase "l'heure bleue" perfectly conjures up that special time when evening merges with night, a special but so short a time.
Posted by: Bill in St. Paul | Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 01:19 PM
First off, your l'heure bleu reminds me of a phrase I often use, the "mauve hour". I learned this phrase in a book about a young woman living with a family in France, and I thought this was the title (in fact just recommended this to a friend). Now when I do a search, the title is nowhere to be found. It refers to the time just after sunset when everything is glowing pink from the setting sun. Do you know the book I am referring to?
I "borrow" Old Spice Sport myself....why don't they make deodorant for women that works? I have often toyed with whether to just smell "manly" or have it clash with a more feminine scent.
I really enjoy your stories Kristen. Keep them coming!
Posted by: Beth Vosoba | Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 01:28 PM
What a beautiful expression! I have only heard the expression "twilight". I love l'heure bleu!
I love Coco Mademoiselle!
Happy Bastille Day!
Posted by: Eileen deCamp | Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 01:38 PM
Bonne Bastille Jour! votre amie, gail
Posted by: gail bingenheimer | Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 01:56 PM
Merci Gail et ami(e)s!
Eileen, twilight would have been a good word to add to the definitions.
Beth, so you're an Old Spice girl? I'll have to try that one. P.S.: reading your words reminds me how much I missed seeing you and the lavender ladies this year!
Fiejet, what a gorgeous place you have! If I were looking for a place to stay in Provence, I'd know where to go!
Bill - so true about the placement of adjectives.I loved what Richard Goodman said in his book and, of course, the "l'heure bleue" example!
Posted by: Kristin | Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 02:59 PM
Once again, you evoke so many memories. In the 1960s, my mother used to use an inexpensive but lovely perfume in a little blue bottle. "Evening in Paris" was its name. I have looked in vain for that scent over the years.
English-speaking prose writers do sometimes manage to pull off the reverse noun-adjective order, but never without stirring up a French flavor in my mind.
Posted by: Julie Dufaj | Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 03:22 PM
L'heure bleue is such a strong photo. The blue contrasting with the orange of the buildings. Someone might even think that it was a photoshop manipulated photo, but I know that those are the colors which the Impressionist loved so much as they painted in Provence. The lighting is unbelievable in the south of France.
I, myself, am a Shalimar person - it has a vanilla scent.
HAPPY BASTILLE DAY. We are going to our second Bastille Day party tonight (one was on Sunday with the Alliance Française.)
Posted by: Kathleen | Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 03:35 PM
L'heure bleu also refers to the hours between 5 and 7 when French men visit their mistresses before going home to dinner.
Posted by: Sophia | Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 04:13 PM
We can use lots of that smelly stuff out here in Phoenix these days. The monsoons have started. A high of 112 degrees is predicted for today. Nighttime lows recently have been above 90 degrees. Humidity is rising. We need gallon-sized bottles of “parfum qui sent le ciel“ (perfume that smells to high heaven)!
Just a passing thought triggered by today’s theme. . . .The l'heure bleue” of one’s live can be a pleasant and rewarding experience.
Posted by: Herm Meyer in Phoenix, AZ | Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 04:22 PM
Tonight in Ohio, as the l'heure bleue descends, I will be celebrating Bastille Day eating a traditional French dinner at my local Restaurant/Cafe. It certainly is not the same as a picnic at the base of the Eiffel Tower, as last year, but I get what I can when it comes to French culture here in the States. Bon Apetit!
Posted by: Jeanne | Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 04:54 PM
To Julie who is looking for "Evening in Paris" perfume -- The Vermont Country Store carries it.
Posted by: Jeanne | Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 05:33 PM
As usual a lovely story with a beautiful photo to accompany.
I have to say though I love the photo of the cicada. I am fascinated by these creatures!
Merci and Bonne Bastille Jour! :)
Posted by: Kristine, Dallas (hot and sunny) | Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 05:43 PM
Happy Bastille Day to you, and how funny! Would like to see the bottle of l'heure bleue, sounds so beautiful.
Have a great week Kristin...xxoo
Posted by: Mona | Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 05:47 PM
I learned new words and new meanings from your story today, I laughed right out loud as your discription wafted through my minds eye. And once again am plaeased to tell you your post was great!
Posted by: Missy | Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 05:55 PM
Kristin: I say, if men will be fainting as you pass by - WHO CARES what the real reason might be. Keep any possible onlookers wondering.
Bonne fête nationale!
At least "bleu" is one of the tri-colors of the country so I think your post is quite fitting for the day!
Posted by: Karen (in Towson, Md) Whitcome | Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 06:03 PM
You chose well. The Chanel perfumes were created for Coco Chanel and Chanel No 5 certainly outsold L'Heure Bleue, but L'Heure Bleue was created by Jacques Guerlain, one of the family "noses" at Guerlain, one of the greatest french houses of perfume ever. He was in Paris at the end of a summer day and he stopped on the banks of the Seine to watch the light of day change to evening. He tried to capture that in 1911 with oriental flower, carnation, anis, iris and vanille. Guerlain is still around although their last 2 or 3 perfumes have been weak. Still, they are still selling Shalimar and many other of their famous scents. My personal all time favorite is Mitsouko by Guerlain. Excuse the detail, but I collect perfume miniatures for a hobby!
Posted by: Suzanne, Paris | Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 06:04 PM
Beth - The title of the book you were trying to remember is The Pleasing Hour by Lily King. It's a heart-achingly beautiful and haunting book. Here's a quotation:
"Out the window the sun burnished the sky from below the earth, and as the purple dark rushed in, the world glowed eerily. 'The mauve hour' Marcelle said.
Kathryn in San Antonio
Posted by: Kathryn Winslow | Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 06:16 PM
I have not thought about "Evening in Paris" since I was a little girl! (And that was QUITE some time ago.) Growing up in South Dakota, that beautiful blue fluted bottle was the most exotic thing on the planet to me.
Sitting here in Seattle, happily listening to French music and looking forward to checking out this website once it's dark in Paris... http://www.paris-live.com/paris_webcam/eiffel_tower_cam3.htm
Happy Bastille Day to all!
Posted by: Gwyn Ganjeau | Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 06:20 PM
Thank you so much for the L'heure bleu story today! I was so intrigued by the description of the bottle, so I googled it!
The next time I am in Sephora I will seek out L'Heure Bleu!
Merci beaucoup et Bonne Fete Nationale!
Posted by: Cecily | Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 06:40 PM
Hi Krisitin- I love the phrase "l'heure bleue"! We have a poetic word in English which means the same thing, it is "the gloaming." I always loved the mystery in that word, as now I do "the blue hour." :) I think either one would make a swell Stephen King novel-- haha! Happy Bastille Day!
Posted by: Jaylee | Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 08:38 PM
Delighted by today's post! Such a magical hour it is, the in-between hour, when I find myself drawn to being outside in the midst of it.
I especially liked “a feast of florally feminine dew” and your description of how you chose L'Heure Bleue "as some choose books or lovers: by their covers", smart and lovely, Kristi!
Just followed the link Cecily posted for Sephora and the fragrance sounds heavenly…
Posted by: Stacy, Applegate, Oregon | Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 08:57 PM
Kristin - I learn so many new french words and expressions from your blog! I enjoy your stories and the photos. I especially enjoy any stories regarding the cuisine!
Posted by: [email protected] Tarte du Jour | Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 08:57 PM
Hi Kristin ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow also recognized that magic hour. As a preteen who generally couldn't care less about poetry I loved and still remember the first verse of his poem "The Children's Hour" -- "Between the dark and the daylight, When the night is beginning to lower, Comes a pause in the day's occupations, That is know as the Children's Hour".
We hope you had a glorious Bastille Day! We're off now to our favorite French cafe where they promised to sing the Marseillaise every half hour this evening!
Posted by: Bob and Angela | Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 09:40 PM
I especially enjoyed your story today; I have been doing fragrance promotions for different companies for over 10 years and I love to hear which fragrances people like. I have about 50 "favorites" and so does my husband so every day we try to choose a different one. Today I'm in a Carolina Herrera mood and like Suzanne in Paris, I also collect perfume miniatures.
Posted by: Devra Long | Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 09:43 PM
You have named two of the fragrances that remind me most of Paris. Coco's oriental floral stands up well to the less appealing scents of Paris streets and Metro, with a rich blanket of scent that surrounds and protects the wearer. L'Heure Bleue is most like a summer night in Paris. Its floral minerality releases the very essence of a French garden in the evening. These are not scents for the tentative or shy. They are as expansive and moving as the night sky over the Seine or a Van Gogh's starry night.
Posted by: Mary Pace | Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 10:14 PM
This reminds me of Van Gogh's painitng "Cafe Terrace which is now renamed "Cafe Van Gogh'. In the painting are the first of his night stars above the cafe. Van Gogh did not like the yellow hue of the artificial light being used to keep the cafe open late. Possibly he was searching for l'heure bleue within a world corrupted by lanterns of yellow hues. When you look at the painitings you feel l'heure bleue around the cafe in Arles. Bon Soir! Jacqueline
Posted by: Jacqueline in Lake Oswego | Thursday, July 15, 2010 at 03:50 AM
The link to the sound (MP3 or wav) didn't work.
All the comments are bringing back various memories. Yes, my mother used to wear "Evening in Paris," too, and had the dark blue bottle of it on her dresser. I used to have a cologne called simply "Paris," but I haven't seen it in years. The reference to "Shalimar" recalled my French French teacher (that is, a French woman who taught us French) in high school; she wore it all the time. I think scents are very evocative.
I think l'heure bleue and twilight aren't quite the same. I've noticed that at twilight, there is a thin space between the light and dark that's almost white.
When I stayed for a while with a French family in 1972, including July 14, they told me that les Francais are more likely to call it "le quatorze juillet" than "Bastille Day."
Has anyone noticed that in the USA, our flag is described as "red, white, and blue," with the colors in that order, whereas the French flag is described as "bleu, blanc, rouge"?
Hope you had a chance to enjoy some feux d'artifice!
Posted by: Marianne Rankin | Thursday, July 15, 2010 at 04:44 AM
So delightful to find people using L'Heure Bleue by Guerlaine. I too, like L'Heure Bleue, but i LOVE Shalimar. When I was in my twenties, I began a search for a fragrance from my past, not knowing the name of said perfume, but with the scent lingering in my mind. I found it, and yes, it was Shalimar. Some time later, my sister Mary Jo and I were discussing my find, and she told me that Grandma Ruddy's favorite perfume was Shalimar, with L'Heure Bleue coming in a close second. It blew me away! I was so elated to have found that the source of my beautiful Shalimar had been many happy moments sitting in my Grandma's lap. How sweet it is! And the nights in the south of France are so dreamy at L'Heure Bleue. Summer is lovely, and now out to enjoy a glass of wine as the sun sets. Toute a ' LHeure Bleue!
Posted by: patty | Thursday, July 15, 2010 at 05:02 AM
I love your rhymes
And remember the times
I wore Shalimar
so long ago
Posted by: Jan | Thursday, July 15, 2010 at 06:03 AM
On m'a dit il y a longtemps que "l'heure bleue" signifie en plus le moment ou un homme se rencontre son amoureuse a la fin de la journee et avant sa rentree chez lui. Qu'est-ce que vous en pensez? Moi, aussi, j'adore Shalimar et L'Heure Bleue.
Theresa, Portland, OR
Posted by: theresa farrens | Thursday, July 15, 2010 at 07:10 PM
Alas, I cannot enjoy perfumes because of allergies but I did enjoy this post and how words can evoke emotions when recalling times of day when one turns introspective. Both l'heure blue and mauve heure conjure up lovely memories.
I remember as a child in the 50's fingering my mother's bottle of Evening in Paris. And guess what? She still has that little blue bottle. Everytime I see it I remember being a child and wondering if I would ever travel to Paris. I have, many times so my wish came true. Thank you, Kristi, for bringing those memories back. Writing from Bruges ...
Posted by: Suzanne in Monroe Township | Friday, July 16, 2010 at 09:33 AM
I wonder if a bas-bleu could ever enjoy l'heure blue... :)
So often for me a word triggers the memory of a song, in this case "L'amour est bleu" ... And "Bleu, blanc rouge" by Philippe Clay... "de bleu, de blanc de rouge, il est vêtu, mon matelot"... Both chansons from the sixties... my teenagehood, in Belgium.
So now I'm feeling blue... :(
Jacqueline in grey, wintery Brisbane
Posted by: JacqBrisbane | Tuesday, July 20, 2010 at 07:23 AM
I love that you mention L'Heure Bleue by Guerlain. It has always been my favorite winter perfume. It reminds me of crisp nights and my wonderful Aunt Tenie...that was so long ago.
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