View from the Baignoire

Hotel Mercure Chateau Chatron, Bordeaux

Darlene and I managed to get a surprising amount of sleep Monday on the night train from Cannes to Bordeaux. When we found our couchette, a room with two beds up and two down, a man was in one of the upper berths reading. We settled into the two lower beds, and later another man joined us to fill the room. This level of intimacy with strangers did not tempt me to ask anyone how to pronounce words in French, so the eight-hour trip passed without conversation.

In Bordeaux we spent yesterday exploring the old downtown area, settling into our hotel, and taking advantage of “Épicuriales 2005,” a collection of tents set up by the restaurants of Bordeaux, offering “un voyage gastronomique et planétaire d’exception,” a worldwide dining voyage without exception. It was located along the allées de Tourny, which leads to the Grand-Théâtre de Bordeaux, the city’s highest-starred attraction in the Michelin red guide. After lunch, we stopped by “Le Kiosque Culture” near the theater to see if anything was playing.

The young man at the counter said “La Veuve Joyeuse” an operetta by Franz Lehar, was playing (The Merry Widow), and that he had several half-priced “front row” seats. This sounded good, so we grabbed two for a total of 70 euros. Under the verity that things which are too good to be true usually aren’t, it should have been no surprise that the front row seats were in a little closet at the side of the orchestra, a “baignoire.” An older couple joined us in our baignoire, which had a total of eight chairs in it, looking out through a rectangular opening into the theater. The woman raised a metal screen from the bottom of the opening and explained that the baignoire was originally where highly placed mistresses would be seated, behind the screen, so they could watch a performance without the audience being able to see them.

The acoustics weren’t terrific in the baignoire, and there was a lot of the stage we couldn’t see. But the performance was magnificent, with a huge cast of singers and dancers, strong leads, and a large orchestra. I was glad to see that the house was packed, not a seat available that we might have tried to purchase if we’d known to ask if there was anything other than the front row of a baignoire.

During the intermission, our friends from Bordeaux, whose name I never got, took us on a tour of the theater, which was built in 1780. We made our way to the dizzying top level of seats, which is called “paradise” but it’s also referred to as a place for chickens, the woman said, because frequently children sit up there and make a lot of noise. It had a good view of the beautiful round painting on the ceiling.

Much work has been done to restore the theater, all with government money from the national and regional levels. In fact, the entire theater, with its operating costs and the renovation, is supported by public funds, the Bordeaux couple told us. There was not a single corporate sponsor’s logo to be found, which was a big difference from attending a similar cultural event in the U.S., and no list of individual patrons at various levels of giving. I’m sure there are strong arguments for either model, but my first reaction was to prefer the sense of a theater supported by enthusiasts willing to donate their own resources, as opposed to a theater for which all decisions are made by cultural government officials. It is also certain that further exploration of exactly how the Grand-Théâtre is supported would provide more-solid ground for comparisons than the comments during intermission of two theater-goers, especially since I was understanding no more than about 70 percent of what they were saying.

Darlene’s take on the difference is to note that people here seem to share a strong attachment to the theater which might be less if it were perceived to be mainly the project of corporate and individual elites. The Bordeaux couple clearly illustrated this, as did a woman at the culture kiosk who overheard our questions to the young man and urged us to attend the operetta, saying, “we’re very proud of our theater.”

I understood very little of the French spoken and sung on the stage, but the romantic comedy was simple enough to follow with the help of some internet research beforehand. When the widow and her childhood love overcame all their misunderstandings, as well as the little problem of her huge fortune, their joyous embrace was followed by a riot of dancing and singing by the entire cast, including a display of circus-like acrobatics by two male dancers leaping high and landing in full splits.

Our friend Françoise used to live near the Grand-Théâtre here in Bordeaux, and she e-mailed us to say we must see La Rochelle, just north of here, which she called “probably the best small city in France.” So today’s excursion will be to use the last of the rail pass for a two-hour train trip to La Rochelle for lunch and back.

Darlene has been struck by how this city, near the Atlantic coast, seems so much more like England than has any other place we have seen so far in France. Here the colors are sober, the lines clean and elegant, creating a no-nonsense fashion compared with the bright colors and flowing skirts she has seen in Paris and the Cote d’Azur. People seem more proper here but still very helpful and friendly, especially our baignoire-mates at the theater, as well as the woman who helped Darlene buy a white (and flowing!) skirt to wear to the theater. Posted by Hello

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One Response to View from the Baignoire

  1. Anonymous says:

    Great blog. Thought you might enjoy what I stumbled across.


    emotional impairment

    Children with ADHD

    There is a perplexing state of affairs in today’s society, there lies a strong correlation between the affluence of a society and the amount of disease that is present. There is also another correlation that troubles many a people and that is with affluence comes disease at an Earlier age.

    Working with children and the parents of these children I often get asked the question, ‘Why are Children with ADHD on the increase?’

    The answer as you shall find is one that is both interesting and challenging.

    Children of today are really no more different from the children of yesterday in terms of genetic makeup. However, if you examine the issue more closely you will tend to find that many children today have been given labels. For example, ‘Oh, those are children with ADHD’ or ‘Those are the children who can’t sit still.’ Or ‘That is the kid that always gets into trouble.’

    These labels are not only destructive but also become a self fulfilling prophecy as it is repeated adnauseum.

    So as a 21st century parent or a parent with a child with ADHD or a parent with children with ADHD, what knowledge framework do you need to equip yourself with to ensure your children live out their true potential?

    Here is a quick reference list for thinking about ADHD
    ? ADHD is a source of great frustration because it is misunderstood
    ? ADHD medications are a great short term time buying device and should be avoided long term
    ? The above point goes for any sort of drug consumption. Think about it for a minute. Unless you have a biochemical deficiency in your body like Type 1 diabetes where your body fails to produce enough insulin or any at all, why would you take an external drug? A body that is in balance is totally healthy. It is only when the body is out of balance that dis-ease symptoms start to creep up.
    ? ADHD is a biochemical imbalance of the mind and body.
    ? The Head of Psychiatry in Harvard states that drugs for ADHD simply mask the effects of ADHD. It does not cure ADHD. This is an important point because a cure implies never to have to take the medication. This means that once you start on medication you will have to be on it for the rest of your life i.e. you have medically acquired a dependency for a biochemical imbalance. That is like stuffing all your rubbish (problematic behaviors) into a closet (medication) where no one can see it. But if you continue to stuff more rubbish into that closet, one day you will not have enough space and need to do one of two things. You either empty the rubbish (the natural conclusion) or you get a bigger closet (i.e. change to stronger medication to control the symptoms). The choice is obvious but sometimes when you don’t have the necessary tools to deal with ADHD you tend to think the bigger closet is the only option.
    ? ADHD children are super sensitive to the emotions around them. Often they pick up emotional cues from their parents without realizing. Many parents come home frustrated or annoyed from work, the child with ADHD picks this up and starts to ’cause trouble’ by becoming restless. Parents frustration increase because they just want some peace and quiet. They get angry which in turn is picked up by the child who then intensifies their activity. Things get way out of hand and some sort of punishment is handed down to the child who has no idea what just happened. The cycle repeats itself every so often.
    ? Our brains are wired emotionally. Positive praise is interpreted as an analytical/thinking exercise. Negative criticism including scolding, name calling, physical punishment all go directly to the emotional brain of children with ADHD. This means in order to ensure you get your message across in the most optimal way, you need to learn how to communicate with your ADHD children the way they like to be communicated with.
    ? Every negative comment requires 16 positive comments to neutralize the emotion. Save yourself the frustration and agitation by practicing positive communication.

    The list is by no means complete. In dealing with children with ADHD there are a certain set of behavioural principles to follow. I will detail these steps in the coming weeks. I’ll also build on the list as you continue to learn about what appears to be a mystical disorder known as ‘Children with ADHD’

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