Barcelona 2023

Barcelona, 3-5 March 2023

Barcelona is a city with strong Catalan roots in northeastern Spain. We think of Barcelona, if not also all of Catalonia, as Spanish, but it is similar to Corsica for the French – a distinct culture and language even.  Historically, Catalonia has an anti-Franco and Republican reputation, while recent political movements have been oriented to increasing its independence from Spain – or at least increasing its regional autonomy within Spain. And, in contrast to Corsica which has no urban center but lots of coastal towns, Barcelona is clearly the urban center of Catalonia, a bustling port city with over 40% of the Catalan population.

But the city is also a major tourist attraction year-round – probably the top tourist attraction in all of Spain.  For most tourists, the Catalan influence is most evident in the street and transport signs which typically appear in both Catalan and Spanish. Otherwise, it’s as though the tourist is in a part of Spain – a predominantly Catholic county, home to one of the two top soccer teams in the country (and probably in all of Europe if not the world), and filled with restaurants featuring “las tapas” (a unique style of appetizers) and night clubs featuring flamenco dancers. If one had the time to dig more deeply into the historical influences on this culture, it would also include Moorish, Roman, Mediterranean and even Jewish traditions – all of which we were vaguely aware as we wandered through the historic Gothic Quarter of the city.

We were there as tourists, to be sure.  And for a weekend adventure – no more.  Besides the tapas and the castanets, what did that mean? Well, first and foremost, it meant absorbing the uniquely Spanish atmosphere of an urban setting. We were fortunate to have booked a hotel somewhere along the main boulevard – La Rambla de Catalunya. Most importantly, it was in walking distance from the Placa de Catalunya, where airport buses drop you off and where tourist buses pick you up for their “hop-on-hop-off” tours around the city.  We subsequently learned that this main boulevard actually has several names along its full length and thus is known more in the plural form “Las Ramblas” than in the singular.  Lucky for us, the hotel was conveniently located on the part of the boulevard known as La Rambla de Catalunya.

On our first day in Barcelona, we made a point of familiarizing ourselves with this broadly laid out boulevard of Las Ramblas. It has a central pedestrian walkway all up and down the full length of the multiple “ramblas”. It has craft stalls and street performers in the daytime and outdoor cafes in the evenings. We learned that this walkway was originally a river (and eventually a sewer) with various structures on either side of the river. And it ran along the exterior of the walled-in Gothic Quarter of old Barcelona. The name rambla is derived from an Arab word meeting sandy riverbed , and this one apparently dried out (or became an open sewer) and was eventually covered up. (This is very similar, by the way, to one of the main streets of Grasse – originally a stream that was eventually covered up – except that in Grasse we understand that the stream is still there underneath the cobblestones.)

We understand that once the dry riverbed (aka sewer) was covered up, the boulevard became a popular place for the well-to-do of Barcelona to build their mansions. We were duly impressed with the architectural appeal of these buildings along each side of Las Ramblas – mostly nineteenth century in style, with charming architectural finishes – gargoyles along the rooftops and elaborate mosaics along the entryways. Today they contain the shops and restaurants on the ground floor that attract both locals and tourists.  We noticed the elegant specialty shops for fine leather goods, elegant attire and home furnishings, including the well-known Spanish brands like Zara, etc.

For dinner, we chose a restaurant near our hotel.  It had both the outdoor tables along the boulevard but also a bustling indoor setting that we preferred because it was still quite chilly outside. Kathy indulged in a sampling of tapas – each one complemented by a different craft beer! Peppy, too, had a taste of a more generously-sized tapa plus a main course of meatballs accompanied by the  spicy “patatas bravas” of Spanish cuisine – no beer, though.  One final touch of our evening stroll that first day was this statue.

Later in our visit, we absorbed the daytime characteristics of Las Ramblas. We were truly astounded by the atmosphere of the vibrant and crowded pedestrian traffic up and down this central pathway.  We came across the famed Miro mosaic – actually walking across it before realizing it was THE Miro mosaic!  And then suddenly realized that it was also the marker for the entryway to the famous Boquéria market. So off we went to explore the noise and smells of this bustling covered open-air market. It was comparable to the markets we have explored in Lyons and Ventimiglia, each filled with local specialties in a crowded market setting. This one was clearly a distinctly Spanish (or Catalan?) array of meats and fish, fruits and vegetables, breads and desserts. The vendors shouted out their bargains over the din of the shoppers as we worked our way through the crowds in search of a dining opportunity.  Although we did find one, we neglected to capture it photographically. But we did capture Kathy indulging in her after-lunch dessert – a delightful stick of chocolate-covered strawberries!

The Park Güell

The central touristic feature of Barcelona is the prevalence of the works of the architectural genius Antoni Gaudi. There are, to be sure, other artistic attractions – especially the links of Barcelona to both Pablo Picasso and Joan Miro. Each artist has a Barcelona-based museum in his honor, and we encourage visitors to check them out if they have time. On this particular visit, we did not include them mainly because our focus was on Gaudi. In fact, there are plenty more about Gaudi sites than we had the time to visit – seven buildings in Barcelona are officially listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites. We only went to the two main ones – Park Güell and Sagrada Familia. We saw a third one from a distance – the Casa Mila (see photo below). But our main interests were in the Park Güell and the Sagrada Familia.

Antoni Gaudi was an architect associated with the late ninetheenth century movement known as Modernisme, but he was constantly evolving in his architectural styles. Most significantly, we understand that both neo-Gothic and oriental influences can be seen in various phases of his remarkable career.  He was, furthermore, a devout Catholic which explains his interest in designing churches, monasteries and other religious institutions. He was also passionate about linking what he built to nature itself, drawing inspiration from geometric shapes in geologic formations and such.  This contributed to his interest in including sculpture, carpentry, wrought ironwork, stained glass work, landscaping, acoustics, ventilation, lighting and overall spatial sensitivities in his varied projects.

The Park Güell is associated with his Modernist phase, emphasizing the vision of a park. And it was financed by one of Gaudi’s leading patrons, the industrialist Eusebi Güell. Our walk around the park was somewhat atypical. We first walked up and around a variety of stone structures and even walked past the one obvious home that was intended to be replicated by other wealthy Barcelonians. They apparently weren’t persuaded to move up the hill to this relatively isolated park. And the home that we did walk past was in fact a home that Gaudi himself had occupied for a time.  It now operates as a museum in the park.

It was only after we had enjoyed the park-like setting of ramps and terraces and lookouts that we finally came upon the famed colonnades and trencadis of Gaudi fame.  It was clearly an example of appreciating Gaudi’s essential love of nature before coming to appreciate his genius in adapting nature to serve different functions of an urban population.  This eventually included our finally coming upon the open square that Gaudi had intended as a community setting for outdoor cultural events. The main appeal here was the undulating and unusually mosaic-trimmed seating round the square. We subsequently  learned that this was the prime example of his “trencadis” style of working with broken and colorful tiles to create interesting mosaics.

We then moved on to the “hypostyle” hall, a covered space with fluted columns and circular panels. It was intended to be the covered market for the residential community that never took off.  It provided yet another stunning view of the Barcelona skyline before leading us to the monumental staircase that is the central attraction of Park Güell today. It’s here that one comes across the famed mosaic “dragon” of Park Guell fame. But the staircase also features a fountain in the shape of a snake’s head and other mosaic wonders.

We were, indeed, duly impressed by the variety of Gaudi’s skills and interests.  His landscaping skills were evident in the paths and viaducts to negotiate the sloping terrain;  his urban planning sensibilities showed in his incorporation of  markets and cultural events into the ideal community; his architectural skills were clearly exhibited in the porticos and pavilions; and his whimsical talents with colors and shapes and different materials simply made it all come alive.  We enjoyed our afternoon in the park and could have come back for more.

The Sagrada Familia

This has to stand out as the ultimate, the central feature, and the main magnet for tourism in Barcelona. It is a unique and massive structure. In fact, once it is completed, it will be the tallest church building in the world.  (There is a German church that currently holds that title.)  What’s more, it is more dramatically different than any other church building – or any other building generally, for that matter  – that we have ever seen or heard about.  One can hardly describe the full panoply of its unique features without writing a book about it, but here we focus on the features that caught our fancy.

First of all, the Sagrada Familia is a church that has been under construction since 1882 and is still not finished.  The long-range vision that Gaudi had for this structure came to dominate his work in the last years of his life.  Financed entirely by voluntary contributions, the fairly substantial entrance fee operates as the major source of ongoing revenue. A completion date had until recently been targeted for 2026, inspired by this being the hundredth anniversary of Gaudi’s death.  But the pandemic seems to have pushed that back to 2030 or even 2032. Although many famed architects, sculptors, and other skilled craftspeople have been involved in interpreting or adapting his vision to the mammoth project, it is Gaudi’s vision and plans that drive the ongoing construction, The “work-in-progress” aspect of this structure has reinforced the intrigue with which it has operated as such a major tourist attraction for Barcelona.  This work in progress is evident both externally and internally., but one can marvel at what is already there. It is well worth the price of admission. (Just be sure to book it well in advance!)

External Features of the Sagrada Familia

Externally, the Gaudi plan was essentially his interpretation of a neo-Gothic style, in size and grandeur comparable to the Gothic cathedrals that took centuries to build in years gone by.  Well, he probably had in mind something even more magnificent. He planned the structure to have three entry facades, each with its own religious theme, and  eighteen spires for further inspiration.  . Eleven of the 18 spires have also been completed – four each above the Eastern and Western facades and three of the spires intended for the center (over the nave itself). The tallest steeple symbolizes Jesus, followed by an unusual star-topped spire honoring Mary. Next are (or will be) four spires for the four evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and then 12 spires for the 12 disciples. (I remarked about this that I guess Judas has to have a spire even if he did supposedly betray Jesus.)

The spires do make an impressive site along the skyline of Barcelona, and they all seem to have a visible neo-Gothic style to them.  Peppy took photos of some of the spires close up, but it was especially striking to view the spires from afar – both from the Park Guell looking to the sea and from the rooftop of Barcelona’s own Gothic (and neo-Gothic) cathedral  looking inward.

As for the facades, two of the three have been completed. We entered the Sagrada Familia through the Eastern facade featuring a nativity theme. And we exited the structure through the Western one featuring a passion theme. The main facade on the Southern side (with a “glory” theme) is still in the works.  Gaudi’s plan was quite elaborate – a grand staircase and doorway, and one wonders what it will eventually look like.

The two other facades are, in themselves, quite different. The Eastern facade was apparently on its way to completion before Gaudi died and is identified as his work. It is this facade (plus the nave) that is included in the list of Gaudi’s architectural contributions to UNESCO’s designation of world heritage sites attributable to Gaudi.  The Western facade does seem to be more contemporary. In fact, I was quite intrigued by how different some of the statuary on this facade appeared in comparison to the Eastern facade. I subsequently learned that the main sculptor for this facade, Josep Maria Subioachs stirred a bit of controversy in his style. See for yourself.

Interior Features of the Sagrada Familia

The variety of impressions/images filling the interior space of the Sagrada Familia is mind-boggling.  There are no flat surfaces or straight lines in the interior. The central nave is magnificent in its height and spaciousness. If one knows advanced geometry, one can appreciate the “hyperboloid” shapes in the windows and naves; the “paraboloids” linking columns and vaults with the roof; the “ellipsoids” forming the rounded tops of the columns that branch out to a polygon or star at the base;  the the”helicoids” in the spiral staircases.  Gaudi applied these geometric shapes from his observation of nature and to infuse the structure with religious significance of natural shapes. Thus, the columns were designed to convey the impression of being in a deep forest. They reach up to support the vaulted ceiling of the nave in all its splendor of shapes and colors.

Another aspect of the interior that was especially striking for us was the stained glass windows that lit up the eastern and western aisles.  On the eastern side that houses the Nativity portal, the brilliant colors are yellow, then green and then blue. The interior light that comes through these different colors is stunning to behold.  From the literature describing their purpose, we learned that the colors symbolize poverty, light and the birth of Christ. Then, on the Passion portal, the colors are red, yellow and orange – symbolizing water, resurrection and light.  Everything has its religious meaning, to be sure. I was enraptured by how the gradation in colors flowed through the light as one walked from one end of the nave to the other.

One could go on and on about the design of this or that, and we are inspired to read more about what we saw. We’ll definitely be interested in a return visit. Just to close on this part of our Barcelona tour, just take a  look at the crucifix above the altar that seems to be floating like a hang-glider under its canopy.  On closer examination, the canopy (or “baldachin”) is decorated with shafts of wheat and different colors of grapes (symbolizing the “body” and the “blood” of Christ in the Eucharist) and 50 lamps symbolizing the fifty days from Easter to Pentecost.  Apparently, Pope Benedit XI celebrated mass at this altar in 2010 when he declared the Sagrada Familia a “minor basilica”.

The Gothic Quarter and Cathedral

Our whirlwind weekend tour of Barcelona concluded with a stroll through the famed Gothic Quarter where we came upon the original – well, the official – Barcelona Cathedral – aka The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia.    This Gothic Quarter is the oldest part of Barcelona, with parts of the ancient Roman walls still visible where one enters into quarter.  We ambled through the charming alleys and narrow winding streets. And we came across a lovely sunlit square with a fountain, cobble-stone streets, stalls selling crafts and open-air cafes under the colonnades encircling the square.  We paused here and there to listen to a street musician or two, and to watch a polyglot parade of Hare Krishna supporters dancing by.

At the end of our walk through the Gothic Quarter, we happened upon the cathedral with its neo-Gothic facade.  We only learned this after the fact – the original facade having been rather plain, in contrast to the interior.   We were just in time to purchase entry tickets before the late afternoon closing – no need to have booked this one in advance.  But it proved to be a delight in its own right – a truly Gothic cathedral built in the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries. We appreciated looking up at the lovely vaulted ceilings of the nave, the choir stalls with its decorations from knights of the Order of the Golden Fleece, and the chapels along each side covering the flying buttresses that Gothic cathedrals required to support the height of the main structure.  It was instructive to compare the light in this cathedral with our impressions of the Sagrada Familia. Having passed on the option to climb up the circular stairs to the roof of the Sagrada Familia, we also took advantage of the access to the rooftop of the cathedral with an elevator!  From there, we had a lovely view of the seaport (and a distant statue of Christopher Columbus) and of the Sagrada Familia itself.

Planning for a Future Trip

Barcelona is definitely a city that we will want to revisit. We enjoyed the conviviality of the people as we walked leisurely along Las Ramblas and in the Gothic Quarter. We definitely want to return to the Sagrada Familia. Gaudi’s influence on the city was evident here and there, but we can do a whole lot more to learn about his works and his heritage. Other famed artists have Barcelona connections – visits to both the Picasso and Miro museums were set aside for our return. And then there’s that Christopher Columbus statue and the seaside area, just to mention a few of the things we missed. We’ll definitely be back!







An Awesome Visit to the OCA Observatory on the Plateau de Calern

My partner and spouse Ralph Doggett and I are living the idyllic life in Grasse, France, where we enjoy exploring the region for the cultural and photographic opportunities it brings us. These opportunities are often an unexpected combination of adventures. On one recent occasion, we accepted an invitation that surprised us in a variety of ways – starting rather unexpectedly with one of those hikes that the French call a “rando” along the “Plateau de Calern” near Grasse on an unusually hot day in June.  Our hiking adventure, however, was only the beginning of several surprises – discovering a chapel inside a cave, for one, but most especially seeing for the first time a laser-driven telescope. This was, after all, an invitation to visit the famed Observatory of the Cote d’Azur (OCA) – an awesome learning experience for us in and of itself. But the visit proved to be a fabulous combination of unexpected adventures.  Here is a brief commentary with a photo collection  of the hike (“rando”) on the plateau, the cave and the observatory(plus a delightful dinner in the middle of it all). Continue reading “An Awesome Visit to the OCA Observatory on the Plateau de Calern”

Doggett Sibling 10 Years After Reunion

We (six Doggett siblings and four spouses) gathered at Villa Ndio during the first week of July 2022 to commemorate our mother Trudy Doggett and father Clint Doggett on the tenth anniversary of their death in 2012. We reminisced and traded stories, and honored them in the garden at Lou Baguié and at Villa Ndio. It was a bittersweet time that gave us a chance to catch up as well as to review and divvy up archival materials left at Villa Ndio.

Here are some photos from our time together, taken by Kathy, Marti, Tony, our neighbors Caroline and Sandrine, and me. The thumbnails are in a random order that changes each time the page is loaded. Scroll down to start background music (optional; click on the right pointing arrow) then scroll back up to click on any thumbnail image to enlarge it and start a slide show. Use controls at the center bottom of the image to enlarge images. Each image shows for 10 seconds. Use the left and right arrows to reverse and advance overriding the slideshow automation. Click on the x in the top right corner to exit the slide show.

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PJ and Sarah Wedding 2022

PJ and Sarah were married on 23 April 2022 at the Upper Shirley Vineyards near Richmond Virginia.  Many Doggetts were in attendance as were many members of Sarah’s Boddy family and friends.  Peppy served as Best Man, Julian was a groomsman, and Kristina was one of the bride’s maids. Click below to see some photo collections.

  • Photos by the Professionals — Sarah Mattozzi Photography

(Scroll down to activate optional music background.  Click on any image to enlarge it.  Note the controls at the bottom of the enlarged image.  Activate the slideshow by clicking on the right pointing arrow. Click on the large X to go full screen.  Click on the x at the top right of the screen to exit).

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Vienna Philharmonic Haydn Symphonies
  • The Rehearsal Dinner and other Peripheral Events
  • Candid photos by and of family and friends on the  wedding day

The Importance of the Battle of the Capes to the Sharing of a Franco-American History in Grasse

As Americans living in France since the 1990s, we have long had an interest in observing  where the parallel histories of the two countries converge, and especially where they have a distinctly local connection.  A prime example of this happens at an annual event very close to our home at Villa Ndio.  World War II memorials to fallen soldiers and resistance fighters can be found in every village in the area, and one of these happens to be on the edge of a traffic circle at the entry to the village of Peymeinade. The traffic circle itself happens to be named the “Carrefour de la Liberté”!

Every year in mid-August, we appreciate participating in the commemoration at this memorial of the liberation of France in August 1944. As we have come to learn, the liberation of this part of France by the Allied forces (US, Canada and Britain) with the Free French, was complementary to the major Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944. This second invasion, launched on 15 August 1944 from the Mediterranean Sea, is known as  “Operation Dragoon”.  As Peymeinade, the village closest to Villa Ndio, was liberated on 23 August 1944, there are typical wreath-laying ceremonies at Peymeinade’s memorial , carried out by various elected and other local dignitaries, accompanied by a festive parade of historic American jeeps, trucks and tanks – and lots of flags.

Check our separate reporting and photographic displays on this Peymeinade event here. It also includes our coverage of a similar event each 24 August, the date when the Allied forces liberated the town of Grasse itself. (Other events, by the way, are held along the coast and in neighboring villages, but our focus has been on the events in Peymeinade and Grasse, where we have a personal connection.)

Another prime example of our shared Franco-American history is  something the American participants call Grasse Naval Day or, as it is described in French, “la Journée Franco-Amàricaine de la Marine”. This uniquely Grasse-oriented  Franco-American  commemoration has also become part of our annual repertoire.  It is typically held on a wide, open plaza, known as the Place Honoré Cresp, overlooking the Mediterannean Sea on the third Sunday in September. The purpose of this event is to honor the French role way back in history – in support of the American Revolution that led to the formation of the United States of America. As it so happened, there is a direct link to Grasse in this long-ago event.

It was a naval battle in the Chesapeake Bay that clinched the defeat of the British in the Battle of Yorktown, ending the British resistance to American independence. The Battle of the Capes, as it is commonly known, was between French and British naval forces (no Americans there at all), with a definitive win for the French side on 5 September 1781. This guaranteed that the British were ultimately encircled by a combination of American and French land forces in Yorktown, with no avenue to retreat. The British were obliged to surrender, thus ending the military resistance to American independence..

As Americans, we have come to know about the military prowess of the French at Yorktown, primarily through historical accounts of the remarkable exploits of the Marquis de Lafayette – who has acquired particular historic renown through the years, most recently in the popular Broadway musical of “Hamilton”. This may well be due to the fact that Lafayette happened to live longer than any of the other major French figures in the American Revolution. He is, of course,  known for more than his military exploits, since he was instrumental in drafting the Declaration of the Rights of Man during the French Revolution as a direct adaption of the American Declaration of Independence. And perhaps more notably, he was the only surviving French hero of the American Revolution to return for a glorious tour of the United States 50 years after independence. We surmise that more American towns and streets and parks are named in his honor than any other French historical figure .

But it was another Frenchman, the Amiral de Grasse (aka François Joseph Paul, Comte de Grasse) who commanded the French naval forces in a battle leading up to the Battle of Yorktown. And it is this fellow, the Amiral de Grasse, that George Washington himself came to recognize as the “artisan” of American independence.

Yes indeed, right here in the town of Grasse, France, the Amiral de Grasse is honored every year (along with all the other French sailors and soldiers, of course) for delivering the fateful defeat of the British in the Battle of the Capes. Grasse itself might not be a naval town, although one does have a stunning view from the  plaza overlooking the sea (described by the French as the “balcon” of Grasse). And it has produced its share of naval heroes, with the Amiral de Grasse at the top of the list. To that effect, there is a magnificant statue of the Admiral at the Place Honore Cresp, situated right where one has that stunning view of the sea.  One should note that there are two copies of this statue, one is prominently displayed in Grasse and the other can be found nestled in town square in Bar sur Loup, a small hillside hamlet just to the east of Grasse, where the Admiral was born..

Every year, then, usually on the third Sunday in September (instead of the 5th of September – or even the 11th of September, which happens to be the day in 1722 when François Joseph Paul was born), presumably because everyone is back from their summer holidays by then, there are speeches and naval bands and wreath-laying ceremonies at both locations. The more elaborate ceremonies – or at least the largest number of participants – are in Grasse, where the event is typically preceded with a mass in the local cathedral. (Choosing in our own secular American way, we have not attended the mass for this or any of the other memorial events in Grasse. We think it is a bit odd, that the French secular tradition (“laicité”) doesn’t apply here, but that is another subject.) The statues serve as focal points for celebrating the Battle of the Capes but also the history of Franco-American cooperation over the years.

The most elaborate  Franco-American Naval Day that we have experienced was in 2019.  As noted in the photo below, this one attracted the head of the US Sixth Fleet (based in Naples, Italy), the Rear Admiral, along with a US Navy band which played in parallel with a French navy band.  We welcomed the canopies protecting us, the bands, the crack troops and the speakers from the chilly and rainy day. Note the photo of dignitaries here, and see a complete photo essay of this 2019 event here.

On this latest Grasse Naval Day of 19 September 2021, the main weather effect was a strong wind sweeping up from the sea and across the open plaza of Honoré Cresp. The blue carpet laid out for dignitaries to lay wreaths at the statue of the Amiral de Grasse was repeatedly blown into disarray. It was eventually brought under control by positioning heavy planters along the corners and edges of the carpet. But one of the specially erected canopies to protect the French naval band (no American one this year) and French crack troops from the hot Riviera sun (no rain this year) simply collapsed in the strong wind. So all of the canopies were quickly dismantled before the beginning of the official ceremony. No one seemed to suffer, though, since temperatures remained quite mild in the wind.

We hesitated to attend the event this year because of a recent malfunction in Franco-American diplomacy. In fact, a similar event honoring the 240th anniversary of the Battle of the Capes at the French Embassy in Washington, DC was abruptly cancelled in protest to American bumbling of a surprise announcement indirectly affected the French. This was the announcement by President Biden on 16 September launching a new Indo-Pacific strategic alliance between the US, Britain and Australia with the abbreviation of AUKUS. The main feature of this announcement was the sharing of American nuclear technology for the development of some 12 Australian nuclear-powered submarines.

Not only did this new alliance exclude the European Union, which had announced its own new Indo-Pacific strategy on the same day without any advance warning of the AUKUS announcement. It also excluded the French in particular – with a simultaneous announcement from the Australian Prime Minister cancelling a previous multi-billion dollar contract with the French Naval Group for a set of diesel-powered submarines. The first notice to the French of this catastrophe came from a Politico article published on the day of the announcement! Ouch! More commentary on the impact of this diplomatic blunder is available here, but suffice it to say here that the French were angry and embarrassed enough to cancel the gala event – AND to call back its ambassadors from both Washington, DC and Canberra.

So we wondered whether this major diplomatic crisis would have any bearing on festivities in Grasse. But we decided to go ahead and check it out. While we did notice that public participation in the event was more sparse than previous events, the full colorful regalia was on display. The strong winds could even be identified as a reaffirmation of the commonly shared winds of liberty, peace and justice that continue to serve as the foundations of Franco-American friendship. And our conversations with the two American representatives on the program confirmed that the disruptions from the crisis were not penetrating to this local level. Fortunately, the crisis has passed even if the underlying issues will continue to fester in the ups and downs of Franco-American relations generally.

We enjoyed the reaffirmation by the several speakers at this event that there is a strong history of shared values. We joined in the singing of both the Marseillaise and the Star-spangled Banner as the French and American flags were hoisted into the windy sky to join the flags of Bar-sur-Loup, Grasse and the European Union.

Crack troops displayed their skills. (Notice the French capacity to include men and women with diverse backgrounds in their arsenals.)

And, of course, multiple wreaths were delivered to the foot of the statue of the Amiral de Grasse by different clusters of dignitaries (representing the city of Grasse, the conglomeration of the Pays de Grasse, the Department of Alpes-Maritimes, the region of Provence-Alpes-Cote-d’Azur, and many other local units).

Group photos in front of the Admiral de Grasse concluded the festivities before the sharing of an aperitif with the iconic tapenade pastries.

Note: Kathy has written a few “musings” about the Amiral de Grasse with a focus on the search for statues of the Amiral de Grasse in the US. Read about our search for his statue, reportedly near the Old Cape May Lighthouse in Virginia Beach.  We weren’t able to access it since it was in the middle of a secured US military base. But we’ll try again.  We did find another one in Yorktown, Virginia, which shows him in a strategic exchange with General George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette. We think this is a bit odd since the main French commander in Yorktown was General Jean-Baptiste Rochambeau, not Lafayette. But we do understand the historic elevation of Lafayette in American history books. So it is no surprise that statues of both Lafayette and Rochambeau are featured in Lafayette Square in front of the White House in Washington, DC, but not the Amiral de Grasse.

Grasse Naval Day September 2021

As Americans living in France since the 1990s, we have long had an interest in observing  where the parallel histories of the two countries converge, and especially where they have a distinctly local connection.  We have become acquainted with two annual events – one of which occurs just down the street from Villa Ndio in August, and the other of which is a September event called “Grasse Naval Day”. This is a photo essay on the September event, but first a few words about the August event. Continue reading “Grasse Naval Day September 2021”