Catherine Thorpe is a native Parisian, born in the Momartre area of Paris just below the Sacre Coeur. She was taught at an early age to love the English language, and took many trips to England and the U.S. to learn English. She teaches French at the University of Utah, and directs her own French School and Travel agency from her home; which she has done for over 18 years.  She speaks almost perfect English so her students don't get confused. She has five children, one of whom was a Sterling Scholar in French, and taught French at the University of Utah.

AN EXPATRIATE NATIVE PARISIAN
CATHERINE THORPE'S BLOG

 


This is not a typical blog, because it doesn't provide all the interactive whistles and bells of many blogs; although I would welcome comments by email -- just send them to  catherine@vivelafranceschool.com.  Generally the newest entries are at the top and the oldest entries are at the bottom. I hope you enjoy reading my blog and seeing some of the images. 
 -- Catherine.Thorpe

Click on the yellow highlighted text, and you will be taken to a page or image that represents that subject. Click on a photo to see a larger view of it.


MY LINKS:
DON THORPE PHOTOGRAPHY
VIVE LA FRANCE SCHOOL

  A CHILD'S MEMORY OF BASQUE
When I was about five years old, my mother took me to the beach in the Basque region of France. I had such fond memories of that trip that I convinced my husband to spend a week in St Jean-de-Luz and the surrounding area. But the highlight was a visit to an old hotel where my mother and I stayed many years ago. It overlooks the beach and is a grand example of Art Deco from the 20's. The Basque influence is everywhere in the area. It is different from the frantic lifestyle of the Riviera and Paris. We enjoyed it so much that we determined to bring our next travel group here in May of 2018.

GUETHARY HOTEL

PARIS TEMPLE
A TEMPLE IN PARIS
Nineteen years ago it was announced that a temple would be built in Paris. And finally it was completed this year. The location is actually in Le Chesnay, a suburb of Paris, but everyone calls it the Paris Temple. It is a beautiful building inside and out with an unusual decor accented with a rose flower motif which adds to the gentle and peaceful ambience of an edifice built to honor God. We visited the temple as part of our 2017 French tour, and will make arrangements for our future tour guests to see visit it.
 
  TERRORISTS IN PARIS
My husband and I traveled to Paris just a week after the infamous ISIS massacre. Many of our friends in America said that they would be afraid to travel to France so soon after the attack. But what we saw in Paris surprised us. We felt as safe as if we were at home in the U.S. People were in the streets and in the shops as though nothing had happened. The French Gendarmes were everywhere and very efficient. The French truly are amazing.
 


Galleries Lafayette Christmas

MY COUSIN AND ME
 
FACEBOOK AND A LOST COUSIN
Recently I got reacquainted with my cousin, Pascale, in Paris whom I haven't seen for over 40 years. It happened thanks to Facebook and my daughter in Washington. My cousin, Pascale, and I were good friends when she was a pre-teen, but then we lost touch. Six months ago, Pascale looked for me with my married name on Facebook, but she only found my daughter, then through my daughter she got my email address and contacted me. We've been emailing back and forth ever since. Then the first of December, my husband and I visited her and her family in France. It was wonderful to catch up on our lives. We both hit it off just as if we had never been apart.
 
 

Strasbourg Christmas Market
STRASBOURG AT CHRISTMAS
We visited Strasbourg for a couple of days during the Christmas season. And we learned why many call Strasbourg the Christmas capital of Europe. Christmas markets were scattered throughout the old district attended by crowds of people in a festive mood. The old half-timbered houses from the 17th century were a wonderful middle-ages background for the festivities. We sipped hot cider nibbled hot chestnuts as we walked along the chilly streets and among the many market booths. We watched the mechanized 12 Apostles march around the clock of the Cathedral of Strasbourg, and took a boat ride around the city at night. It was a nice break for just the two of us, without any appointments or duties. We highly recommend it once in awhile.

 

Strasbourg Boatride
  FRENCH ANCESTORS FOR AN AMERICAN FARM BOY
My husband was born in Southern Utah, and grew up on a farm. His great grandparents crossed the plains and settled in Beaver. Nothing unusual, but I've discovered that he has more French royalty in his ancestry than I do. Figure that. It's not fair. But it must be in his blood, because he loves France, and wouldn't hesitate to take up residence there for a few years.
 
 
 

POOR ECONOMY CURE
I keep telling my students that they shouldn't let the poor economy get them down. They could get a new lease on life by learning French. They could make new friends and enjoy the culture of France and forget their financial problems by getting involved with the French language of culture and love. Of course, that wouldn't change finances, but it would give them a different and brighter out look. Vive la France.
 


 
  INTEREST IN THINGS FRENCH
I am amazed by the interest in French classes during hard times. It seems people want to hang on to culture and refinement as sort of a substitute for stability in these precarious times. It is comforting to see my students laugh and joke about the peculiarities of the French language, and to see them grasp the nuances of meaning in French. I remember when I came to America and began using my British English in that setting. There were times when the two "Englishes" were confusing -- like the American phrases, "back up" and "pull over" which have a totally different meaning in both countries. Not like my native French which never confuses anyone <smile>.
C'est la vie!
 


Abbaye de Font Froide
 

IN THE NEWSPAPER
Well, it finally happened. Fame and fortune arrived at my doorstep. Actually it was really the Deseret News delivered un-ceremoniously to my front porch with an article about me by Cathy Free. In her weekly FreeLunch column, Cathy wrote a colorful article about me and my French Heritage. It does provide some interesting and sometimes humorous information about my past. You might want to read it.

 CLICK HERE TO SEE THE ARTICLE ON-LINE.


 

D-day re-enactors & Catherine

D-DAY IN FRANCE
My husband and I attended several D-day commemorations, and drove from beach to beach surrounded as it were by dozens of restored WWII army vehicles -- mostly jeeps. It felt like a throw-back in time as we followed jeeps being driven by men and women in WWII uniforms with U.S. insignia patches and flags. Bands in several locations played swing music from the 40's, and on one occasion we stood on a high out-cropping overlooking Arromanches and listened to the faint echoes of swing music with vocals in French. For some hardly explainable reason this was a comforting experience reflecting on a time when the world was clear in its directions. Yes, there was the horror of war and death, but people clearly knew what they were doing, and the unity of allies and the French underground was inspiring. I've mentioned before my grandfather who helped allied airmen to freedom over the Pyrenees into Spain. Perhaps that is one of the reasons I connect to this era in such a positive way.
 


 
 

YOUNG PEOPLE IN PARIS
My husband, Don, had an enlightening experience on the Metro in Paris. He sat in front of a group of standing teenagers, obviously cocky and full of themselves. As he watched them an amazing feeling of understanding came to him and he realized that they really feel fragile and insecure and are reaching out to each other to find a feeling of belonging. As they talked loudly and laughed, Don slyly photographed them, was discovered, and then he smiled showing them the photograph and winked. They connected to him immediately and smiled timidly, and for a short moment he was one with them -- they knew it and he knew it. Then the metro stopped and they were gone leaving Don with a feeling of warmth for them that surprised him. As a wise old Arab in Jerusalem once told Don, "Children, the same everywhere." And aren't we all just children trying to find our way?
 


 

B&B WINDOW

PARIS TODAY
Paris -- the City of Lights never changes, yet there is something different about it in recent years. Paris seems more "down-to-earth" and busier than before. Perhaps it seems that way because we are older and more easily tired. The drizzling rain doesn't promote the "Paris in Love" kind of feeling, either. This time, my husband arrived two days before me in the middle the early morning rush. He managed to catch the RER from the airport to Gare de Lyon with the help of a Frenchman from San Francisco who was friendly and was going in the same direction, so they talked about France and America and rode the RER to Chatelet. He got off and my husband stayed on for Gare de Lyon.
      Even though he had a satellite map of the station and the street where the B&B was located near Gare de Lyon, he still managed to get "turned around" and wandered in the wrong direction for about an hour. Oh, well, such is life.

 


 
 

ESCAPE AND EVASION
My husband and I spent a week in Dayton, Ohio attending the AFEES reunion -- WWII Airforces Escape & Evasion Society. This organization was founded by airmen who escaped from Nazi occupied France. The founders wanted to remember and honor the brave French people who risked their lives to help them escape. They gave the group their motto: "we will never forget." Each year the group sponsors a dozen or so passeurs or "helpers" as they are often called, to come to the reunion from France. My grandfather, who died before I moved to the U.S., was one of the helpers that guided 8 allied airmen over the Pyrenees into Spain, and that is why we were invited.
      The Air force Museum opened an exhibit honoring the escapers and their French helpers, and we attended the opening ceremony. Most people don't know that for every allied airmen that escaped there was an equal number of French helpers who gave up their lives. The French paid a high price for their willingness to help the Allies. They truly responded to persecution with faith and courage.
  
    This year's reunion saw some big changes in the group, as there was a major shift from the older members to the younger members -- so called "First Generation" to "Second Generation." Although, amazingly, our new president is 91 years old -- and still mentally sharp and physically active.
      As we listened to some of the old airmen tell their stories we realized that those experiences were totally different than anything we experience today. There was a feeling of sacrifice and dedication by both the airmen and the French and Belgian "Helpers" that risked their lives to help total strangers. 
      We toured the National Air Forces Museum and saw many of the old and illustrious airplanes of the last century -- including the original "Memphis Belle." There are some photos and information about the reunion on the
AFEES website
which my husband designed.
 



US AIRFORCE BAND
 

LIFE IS NOT FAIR
One of our good friends told us the other day that she has been suffering for months without a chance to enjoy life. Sometimes life isn't fair, and the more I get to know about life the more I realize that we have to take things the way they are and still find some fulfillment and happiness in spite of circumstances -- or maybe it's because of the hard circumstances that true peace and happiness are possible. I remember a line from the movie about C.S. Lewis (Shadowland) when his sweetheart tells him, "You don't understand, pain is part of the joy." Lewis said, "The pain I feel now is the happiness I had before." But I think life is more than happiness, it is discovering who you are and what you are capable of doing. And perhaps I could restate what Lewis said, "The happiness I feel now comes from the pain I felt before."
      One of the pivotal points of my married life was about 25 years ago when my husband and I stood on a hilltop lawn in front of the old Primary Hospital high on the Avenues in Salt Lake City. We had just been told that one of our children had a serious brain disorder and that the doctors needed to do more tests to decide what to do about it. We waited outside on the lawn looking out over the city and realized with clarity that this was not a dream or an artificial situation, it was reality. As we stood there with our arms around each other in tears, we felt a certain feeling of peace, "This is real, there is no turning away from this, it won't go away any time soon, but we can handle it." As the years have passed, we often look back on that moment with joy -- don't ask me why, I'm not sure I fully understand it myself. But there was something about that experience that made us feel like we were standing taller and were becoming what God wanted us to become, and that the pure love we felt for our child and each other transcended any suffering we might experience.

 


 

Light of Moroni

INTERNATIONAL ART EXHIBIT
One of my husband's Impressionist photos was accepted in the LDS International Art Competition
this year. There were over a thousand entries and we were happy that his photo was one of the 197 that was accepted. His photo is entitled, "Light of Moroni" and it represents an angel's visit to a humble farm boy in New York. This photo was part of his special exhibit at the Springville Museum of Art commemorating Joseph Smith's 200th anniversary in 2005.
 


 
 

THE CHARM OF LAGUNA BEACH
My husband and I took a short break at Laguna Beach in California. It was our second visit to this charming coastal city. The warm breezes and quiet days were a welcome respite from the gray cold of Salt Lake City. We took a side trip to San Juan Capistrano and visited the old mission. Don had a strange deja vu experience as he entered one of the rooms in the compound. There was a painting of Spanish cowboys that made him feel the personality and presence of his Great Grandfather, James Munro Puffer who lived in California for many years before marrying a pretty Mormon girl and following her family to Beaver in Rural Utah. He was a handsome man and recklessly charming. Don's Great Grandmother thought he was a Spaniard when she first saw him, and asked, "Who is that handsome Spaniard?"
 



A lone tree at Laguna Beach
 

HALLOWEEN SURPRISE
We had an unusual Halloween surprise this. After a night of unbearable pain the day before Halloween, which my husband thought was acid-reflux; I drove him to InstaCare in Sugarhouse to get some relief. However, within minutes he was aboard an ambulance with sirens screaming headed for the University Hospital with a full-blown diagnosed heart-attack. The University Hospital staff wasted no time, and that evening he had an artery stent in place and was joking with the hospital staff.
     "Trick or Treat" in that setting had a whole new meaning. Fortunately, his heart sustained only minor injury – which was a miracle given the circumstances – and he was reassured that there will be full recovery. In fact, the doctor said that he will probably be healthier than before, because he will be forced to change his life-style – more exercise, fat-free food, etc.
     This has been and will be a life changing experience for all of my family, as we change our diet, physical activities and attitude about life. But Don seems to be doing very well, and is almost his usual self again with, of course, a much different outlook on the fragility and mortality of life. We thank God for His obvious help and for the prayers, visits and kindness of all our friends and family during a trying experience. Needless to say, it was the scariest Halloween in our memories.
 


 

Colmar of Alsace

STOLEN CHERRIES
While we were driving through the Alsace countryside, the women drivers stopped their cars, and ran over to a large cherry tree overloaded with huge cherries. They rushed around picking cherries and laughing mischievously. Later I felt a little guilty until that evening when we saw a French car stop and do the same thing. France
has a way of affecting your behavior and bringing a gentler feeling to your soul.
 


 

Gilbert Ramognino

SEARCHING FOR A WWII HERO
My husband and I joined AFEES, the WWII Airforces Escape & Evasion Society, to see if we could fine information about the clandestine activities of Gilbert Ramognino, my grandfather, and his experiences during WWII, including his taking 8 allied fliers over the
Pyrenees into Spain during the Nazi occupation of France. We attended the AFEES annual reunion in May and made several contacts with veterans who had been smuggled out of France during the war. One of them, Bruce Bollinger, later went to the National Archives in Maryland and discovered the original escape and evasion report made by my grandfather. Wow! Reading the report sent chills up and down our spines as we reviewed Gilbert's personal account of the harrowing events during their escape over the rugged mountains of the Pyrenees and how he hid the airmen in the snow, and kept curious French towns people from talking to them while they were at the train station with the Gestapo and police everywhere. We were transported back in time, and were filled with respect and awe for those brave French men and women who risked their lives to help the Allies during the war.
 



Gilbert and his children
 

FORTY THREE YEARS AND STILL GOING
Here is a milestone in our lives -- our 43rd wedding anniversary. I guess that doesn't mean much to the casual blog reader, but anyone who stays married for that long has accomplished a minor miracle. You might think I am proud of the feat -- well I am, but I also realize that staying married for that long is a trial of faith. My husband and I have been self employed for almost all of those years, and have been in each other's company for 24 hours a day most of the time. Try that sometime for over a month or two and you'll begin to see why we are amazed at ourselves. Oh, it helps to be "madly" in love, but that wears thin without a real measure of endurance and dedication. We congratulate ourselves <smile>.
 



A photo of me when we met

Gate at the top of the hill

LIGHTS AT THE TOP
The passing of years
seems like a breeze across your face, felt for a moment then gone. My husband recalls when he was a boy on his grandfather's farm, laying in the dark watching the passing lights of cars reflected off the old wooden pole gate at the top of the hill, and wondering where the cars were going and if any of them would stop for a visit. He remembers it as a magical time of hope and expectancy.
     The gate has long since fallen down, and as we stand together looking out the window of our big city house and hearing the sounds of thundering buses and sighing cars, my husband sometimes think about the old gate, and in his heart he still looks for the lights at the top of the hill.

 


 

ITALIAN FAMILY REUNION
So here I am boarding a flight for France once more. But this time I am meeting my husband in Italy to attend a family reunion in Sassello, the little mountain village where my great grandfather Nicolas Ramognino was born. Sassello is also the home of my ancestors before some of them became French. My husband and worked for over a year to organize this family reunion, but we were soon all laughing and talking in three different languages as we stood together on the lawn of the only hotel in the village. There were over 30 relatives from all over Italy and France, and most of them had never met one another. There were tears and smiles as we got to know each other.
     We had dinner in the hotel main dining room -- on a table about 40 feet long. One Italian lady came late because she had a difficult time getting a bus. She came up to me with tears in her eyes and thanked me for organizing the reunion. Then she did an amazing thing. Holding my arm she took my hand and put a ring on my finger. She said she wanted me to have something to remember her by. We later discovered that the ring was an old family ring with diamonds. Such were the feelings of love and family ties we felt.