Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Les Mis To Be Filmed

If you haven't heard before now, Les Mis is currently being developed into a major motion picture by Cameron Mackintosh, and a few key decisions about casting and production have recently been announced.

Daily Mail

The only confirmed cast member is Hugh Jackman who will recreate the role of the central character, Jean Valjean. It has been leaked that Paul Bettany and Russell Crowe are both being considered for the role of Javert, but that announcement has not been made.

Broadway World has announced that according to reliable sources, Anne Hathaway will take on the role of Fantine, but that has not been confirmed as of yet. It would be an interesting combination, and supposedly, Jackman has pushed for Anne Hathaway to get the coveted role.

The film will be directed by Tom Hooper who most recently won an Oscar for "The King's Speech" this year. Filming is to begin in February, 2012 in the UK, so you can bet that I'll keep my ear to the ground to see where any action might be taking place and report anything I see.

Is Les Mis one of your favorite musicals of all time like it is mine?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Taste of Texas

I've been taking a little grief lately from my Texas friends, that My Tale of Two Cities blog is more than a little lop-sided in my extended coverage of life in England. Guilty as charged, and so I set out this past weekend to try and give you a slice of life--Texas style.

Let me introduce those of you outside of Texas to the unbelievably popular Buc--ee's, a glorified gas station/convenience store that has been growing by leaps and bounds across the southern and central parts of Texas since its first store opened in 1982.

In Texas, we do things in a big way, and Buc--ee's is no exception. With a huge cult following now and, and its 25 stores being more of a destination than just a stop-off along the road,

guests are greeted when they enter the door by the iconic Buc--ee Beaver

and reminded at every turn that "Beavers Rule." Buc--ee's shirts are seen everywhere across the state, and the Texas teens have embraced the little guy with the overbite into their own wardrobes.

How many other gas stations have their own Facebook page and are celebrated on You Tube?

One of their more popular billboards scores of miles from the store is
You Can Hold It!
Because you see their early claims to fame were their immaculately clean restrooms,

"oops" not these,

which are decorated with Texas art-work,  offer roomy private stalls,  and have been featured on the national ABC evening news as seen here. They're "worth the wait!"

Many plan their meals while traveling, around their Buc-ee's stops, where you might choose from the deluxe samples of jalapeno cheese stuffed pork tenderloins,

the free Dippin Dots on this 100+ degrees day,


BBQ sandwiches,

kolaches and cinnamon rolls,

a few healthy choices,

any candy you could dream of,

the ever popular Buc-ee's Nuggets,

or something from their own line of gourmet items.

You can shop for most anything in the main store, or their adjacent hunting/outdoors shop, including a chandelier for your home,

some Texas style furniture,

your animal skin rugs,

cowboy hats,

or "other" styles,

as well as your Texas souvenirs.

Kids love their own section,

where they can find their own line of clothing, pop guns

or horses to make their way around the state.

And for those of you with more intercontinental interests, you might even find something with an international flair such as this Lait à Chèvre-Goat's Milk lotion.

Our visit last weekend to the Madisonville store, midway between Houston and Dallas, was an entertaining break in our drive, and even though it wasn't quite lunch time, we managed to grab a few snacks on our way out the door, and I managed to check out those restrooms so that I could be accurate in my reporting!

You never know who you might bump into.

Maybe Willie Nelson?

And so off we rode into the sunset, with snacks and drinks in hand, knowing that our very first visit had turned us into Believers!

We'll be back!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Time for a Castle Visit

This summer we had the chance to go back for my second visit  to the Château de Vaux le Vicomte located just southeast of Paris. It had been so many years ago when I first visited, that I was anxious to return.

The history of the château centers around its builder Nicolas Fouquet, who at the age of 26 was the superintendent of finances under Louis XIV.

The day we visited, there were several children's groups all dressed up as princes, princesses, and musketeers. Made me want to play dress-up again!

The baroque château was built at an incredible pace, using 18,000 workers during 1658-1661. Fouquet used an amazing trio of artists to build his home, including

Oval Salon

Louis le Vau, the architect,

Le Nôtre, as the gardener,

and Charles le Brun as the decorator 

and painter. It was a masterpiece of design intended to impress his boss, Louis XIV,

who was invited along with many illustrious guests to the "party of the century" so that Fouquet could show off the finest design of the time.

His plan, however, backfired, because Louis XIV was led to believe that Fouquet had only managed such an accomplishment by misappropriating funds, so he had Fouquet arrested, and he was sentenced to life in prison.  Louis XIV was extremely impressed with the beauty of Vaux le Vicomte, and subsequently hired the same trio of artists to create his own palace of Versailles, along with removing many of the tapestries and statues to use in his own home.

A tour through the castle gives you some idea of just why Louis XIV was a bit jealous and desired all the beauty for himself.

I fell in love with this child's chair in the Duchesse de Villars' room. She was the wife of the second owner of the castle,

and her bathroom, modern for the time, adjoins her room.

One can only imagine the excitement in the kitchens down in the basement,

the night the King came to visit.

Vaux le Vicomte website

Today, Vaux le Vicomte is the largest castle in France owned by a private citizen. In addition to special events and parties, it is sometimes used for wedding receptions and filming. Eva Longoria and Tony Parker had their wedding reception here, and parts of Sofia Coppola's movie "Marie Antoinette" were filmed here.

Often when I leave a place, I wonder if I'll ever come back, or if I'm seeing a place or a location for the last time. Having seen it twice, I really thought this would be the last time I would want to go, but then I was reminded when I visited, that Candlelight Evening events are held on Saturday evenings during the spring-fall. Two thousand candles illuminate the castle on those nights, giving the château a completely different atmosphere.

Wouldn't that be a magical way to experience the story of Vaux le Vicomte? 
I'm thinking now that my "bucket list" just got a little longer.
I'll be back....

Monday, August 8, 2011

Hot Time in the City

Leaving the south of France by the speed train to Paris, we found the hottest weather of our trip. Definitely the "dog days of summer," the temperatures the week we were in Paris hit 95 degrees.

Very unusual, considering today in Paris, the high is 70 degrees and we're now into the month of August.

Parisians headed to the River Seine

doing a little sun worshipping and cooling off their feet in the flowing river.

The streets were packed with action: an impromptu jazz band,

a mobile piano inspiring Parisian girls to dance

away their troubles.

Sweet little girls and boys filled the playgrounds,

bikers took to the streets, making their way through the long lines waiting for Berthillon ice cream

at several spots on the Ile de la Cité.

Of course, a "boule" of strawberry helped cool us off,

as well as plenty of bottles of water at every food stand across the city.

Well, aren't these little shoes just as hot as they can be?

Just how do you manage the streets of Paris in those?

Open topped cars were a hit,

as well as open air buses.

And of course, summertime in Paris = tourists,

and more tourists,

and more tourists.

I'd wait till September to go, if I was you....