Monday, June 15, 2015

Paris in the Spring part 3: Party all night at the Moulin Rouge!

Everybody likes a party!  Dancing girls on stage, wine and other drinks flowing freely, and lively music.

Henri Toulouse Lautrec

In Montmartre, a village above Paris, there were plenty of nightclubs in 1889.  The men flocked to them, some wealthy, some less prosperous.  There was a reason for this dedicated patronage: Show Girls!  Yeah, sort of like Las Vegas, but without the electricity everywhere.

There were several of these popular clubs in the area.  Amid the Absinthe drinking crowds, there was an appreciation for the leggy dancers who whirled onstage in red skirts and lifted their legs to reveal the black stockings beneath those skirts. This may seem tame by today's standards, but in Victorian society, where fashions kept women laced up tight from ankle to neck, believe me when I say the men were titillated to see a little bit of thigh!  And, as a grand finale, sometimes the girls would line up and bend over to lift their skirts, revealing their scantily clad bottoms. Yeah, it was heaven for a man in that time period.
Poster by Toulouse Lautrec
The Moulin Rouge was the place to be. It opened in October of 1889, and became the most famous dance club of the time. Amid the glittering lights, as the club was illuminated by both gaslights and electric, there were many sights to see.  It was sort of like a circus atmosphere, with various stages holding amusements for the crowds.  And there were crowds, upwards of 2,000 a night.

Moulin Rouge 1898

The Moulin Rouge had a sensual appeal, with walls painted red, and showgirls making appearances on stage to lift their skirts for the patrons, who were at eye level with the stage.  Dancing girls, kind of like Las Vegas without the lights and machines. There were magicians, vaudeville acts, and singing women dressed in pink tights. And beneath the glittering lights excitement and sensuality ruled the evening.  Tables were laden with beverages such as Cherry Brandy, Champagne and Absinthe, and lively music was played by musicians. Think of jaunty piano music, loud crowds, heavy drinking, and nearly nude women, and you get the picture.

The back of the Moulin Rouge, in the garden, was a place for secret assignations and stolen kisses. The garden had a large stucco Elephant that had been rescued from one of the world's fair exhibits. It was hollow inside. Patrons could go up the winding stairs to the belly of the beast to admire female belly dancers who performed to a 'gentleman only' audience.

Add to the allure, the bare breasted women riding donkeys in the garden, the illuminated fountains, a stage with someone singing, and you get the picture, it was a gentleman's paradise.

The Moulin Galette was a competitor.  They had been established years earlier in Montmartre. Moulin, by the way, means mill. The area boasted many windmills in the 19th century, and a few, such as the Moulin Galette and the Moulin Rouge, were converted into Dance Halls.

The Moulin Galette was a popular place as well. It was on the outskirts of Montmartre, and had an open garden area where people could dance, sip wine and hang out away from prying eyes of society. Renoir painted this alluring place. You've probably seen this painting before.

Bal du Moulin de la Galette by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

This is the back garden, where people could meet over drinks and enjoy the summer nights. Note the balls hanging above the dancers. Those were electric lights. So, this is still 'Victorian' society, but as you can see, the French were less rigid than the English at this time. You'll note women lounging and drinking with men in this scene, enjoying the evening air.

The Moulin Galette
Here from the outside, a street view.  Van Gogh was a frequent visitor here, as were other artists such as Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec and Gauguin.

The dance clubs or cabarets, were there to make money, to entertain men as serve as a place for wealthy men to meet lower class girls. The biggest draw of all was the women who danced at these places. Men came to see long legs clad in black stockings, and swirling skirts that enticed their every fantasy.  At one such club, the Reine Blanche, you could see Nini of the Beautiful Thighs.

The grandeur and the greed is staggering. And yet, if you're like Dan Wilson, a character in Some Enchanted Dream, a man from the future, you'll find these places a veritable paradise. He falls for a dance girl, and a little romance ensues. Being from the future, Dan will be more accepting of her profession than the men of Gisele's own time.

If you would like to see more images, go to my pinterest board to see more of Paris.

Lily's Pinterest Board on Paris in late 19th century

Next time, I'll talk a little about the Paris Expo.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Paris in the Spring 2; Absinthe, have you met the Green Fairy?

La Fee Verte', or the Green Fairy is associated with Absinthe.  In the late nineteenth century, in Paris, artists, poets, musicians and writers were known to chase the Green Fairy to gain inspiration. She was their muse, their goddess, whom they believed imbued man with increased creativity if they drank her special cocktail--Absinthe! Writers, Poets and intellectuals hailed her as the reason for their ability to produce great art and literature. Men drank the potion with a near religious fervor to try to entice the Green Fairy to pay them a visit and give them the talent they sought.

The depiction below shows it diluted with water. Some drank it straight up, resulting in a deep green drink.

Van Gogh's Glass of Absinthe and Carafe

The time between five o'clock and seven o'clock in the evening was called the Green Hour, or l'heure verte. It is said that the smell of Absinthe was carried on the early evening air in the Paris boulevards. Sounds exciting to me, to stroll the boulevards in the evening and meet the artists we all adore today, back when they were struggling to gain recognition in the art world. Can you imagine sitting down to a glass of Absinthe with Van Gogh or Toulouse Lautrec!

Absinthe Drinkers, by Degas

The Legend of Absinthe: 

According to the book Absinthe: a Cultural History by Phil Baker, legend says that "Absinthe as it's known today appeared at the end of the 18th century, around 1792. Dr. Pierre Ordinaire was fleeing Paris during French Revolution, and settled in a Swiss village of Couret. He supposedly found it growing wild and cooked up his own recipe for the drink. When he died in 1821, his highly alcoholic concoction was already known as La Fee' Verte, and regarded by locals as a tonic." page 105

The 'real' story, according to Baker, goes like this:  The Henriod sisters were were already making Absinthe before Dr. Ordinaire arrived in the Alps region. A Major Dublied discovered the product, bought the recipe from the sisters Henriod, and started manufacturing it himself. Dublied moved his production company from Switzerland to France to save on import duties. He set up the Absinthe factory in Pontarlier, near the Swiss border. His daughter married a man named Henri-Louis Pernod in 1797, and the Pernod Fils brand of Absinthe was born.

A Writer's Paradise! 

When researching Some Enchanted Dream, I took the legend of how Absinthe was discovered, and the belief in the Green Fairy and ran with it, using it as a plot point. That's what writers like to do, take a legend and create a story around it. In Some Enchanted Dream, the Green Fairy, Artemisia, married a man escaping the French Revolution (fictional person, not Dr. Ordinaire), and gave him the recipe for Absinthe. He then imprisoned her in a garden, and produced the magic drink that inspired artists and poets. He died, leaving her stranded in her garden prison on his estate for several decades. Tara, my heroine, is also of the Fey race. She hears Artemisia reaching out to her in her dreams begging for aid in gaining her freedom.

What's the stuff made of, Really? 

Absinthe is made from an herb, wormwood, also known as Artemisia Absinthium, hence the name Absinthe.  The recipe typically is made from steeping various herbs in alcohol overnight--wormwood, anise, fennel and sometimes lemon balm. This mix is further boiled to produce the distillate of alcohol to combine with steam distilled terpenoids from the herbs. For more refinement, more herbs could be added like hyssop and petite absinthe (Artemisia Pontica).  Recipes varied, but the main kick was the wormwood steeped in Alcohol. It's not fermented like whiskey or brandy, instead, it's made quickly through steeping and steaming for refinement. Even so, Pernod Absinthe was 60% alcohol, so it was literally 120 proof, twice the strength of whiskey. The idea was to just have one glass in the evening.

It was the drink in Montmartre during the 1880's up through the early 20th century. Later, as the effects of too much wormwood ingestion via Absinthe became known, France and other countries started to restrict it's use and to ban it.  Others embraced it as a tonic for melancholy and as a mood enhancer.  Either way, it is a mysterious green liquid that can bring on visions and dreams, also known as The Green Eyed Muse. It is described as being the genius of those didn't have any genius, but the death of any real genius for those who did (possess genius).

Some drank it diluted, as I mentioned above, and it became fashionable later to also use an Absinthe spoon and light a cube of sugar aflame over the glass and let it drip into the drink. My husband and I have enjoyed a glass of Absinthe on many occasions with friends or just the two of us. I do admit to feeling a bit of a creative buzz from it. Not drunk, just mind kind of expanded and serene.  I see why the famous artists and writers sought the Green Muse!

Today, you can buy various brands of Absinthe again. Some are available for purchase in Europe via the internet, and some brands, like Lucid, can be bought here in the United States. The absinthe for sale in this century is not a true Absinthe as the old artists drank. It's been a little toned down to protect consumers.  Some people speculate that Absinthe was responsible for driving Van Gogh mad, and also Henri Toulouse Lautrec. Both spent time in mental institutions. Van Gogh killed himself after being released from one, and Toulouse Lautrec died in one.  I'm not sure if this is true or more urban legend, but some believe the heavy use of the drink can cause depravity and madness.

English writer H.P. Hugh called Absinthe a "Deadly Opal Drink"

And yet, by these labels, you don't get that idea about the vibrant green drink, do you.

Here is a youtube video of Johnny Depp, in From Hell, drinking Absinthe, using the popular method of sugar cube and flame.  It's a wonderful video with vocals by OnlyMandy87 singing Alice Cooper's classic song "Poison".  From Hell depicts the time of Jack the Ripper, circa 1889 in London, not Paris. Even so, you can see that Absinthe was a popular drink in not just France at this time, as Oscar Wilde and many other great English writers imbibed in the brew as well. It was a popular drink for those suffering melancholy or trying to forget their pain as well. But hell, I'm just a huge Johnny Depp fan, so hence the video....... enjoy.

Next Time: Those wonderful night clubs in Montmartre and Paris--the Moulin Galette, Moulin Rouge, and more!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Release Day for Some Enchanted Dream: The Belle Epoque Adventure

Wonderful news to announce today.

My 10th Romance Novel, and 9th Historical Romance, has just been released.

Amazon buy link

iTunes buy link

I'm celebrating, and taking a day off from the writing cave.

What's it all about: 

It is the Belle Époque; the beautiful time when Western Europe is at peace;
Adrian and Tara escaped arrest in Dublin nearly a century earlier through a time jump. They arrive in Paris of 1889 when the world's fair is in full swing. The newly completed Eiffel tower is the centerpiece of this gathering of nations celebrating the pinnacle of human achievement.

The newlyweds take lodgings in Montmartre, a village on the edge of Paris known for artists, absinthe and an avant garde lifestyle . . .

He's from the past: Adrian's privileged existence has crash landed into a sobering reality. He's time-jumped into the future with his lovely bride, only to find his wealth is locked up in a bank account he cannot access because he's legally dead. Adrian struggles to overcome his aristocratic airs and survive without his wealth. As a vigilante in his prior life, will he rise to the occasion on the back streets of Montmartre when Tara challenges him to make a difference? 

She's from the Future: As a 21st century woman, Tara is discovering marriage to a man from the past has its difficulties. She's awakening to her fey powers and learning how to use the magic within to survive among mortals. Can she balance her new, empowered existence with her love for a man who believes it is his duty to care for her? When the Green Fairy visits Tara's dreams, she realizes she's been drawn to this time and place for a reason--and it isn't to admire impressionist art.

Beneath the gaiety and celebration in the City of Light, a cruel darkness lurks. Tara and Adrian must blend their strengths to vanquish an ancient evil seeking to enslave mankind. 

This book was so much fun to write, and research. I've always been fascinated by this era, with artists haunting Montmartre and creating new, exciting art for the world to enjoy. This is the time of Van Gogh, Toulouse Lautrec, Monet, and other impressionist and post impressionist painters.  My minor in Art History helped some, but I still had to research the Paris Exposition of 1889 and the use of Absinthe, and so on.  Loved every minute of it, and now its out in the world!   

Buy Links:

This story is a sequel to Some Enchanted Waltz, A Time Travel Romance.
In the first book, Tara O'Neill is thrust from our time into Ireland of 1798. She is rescued from British soldiers by a masked man, Captain Midnight. He's also a wealthy Irish Lord, known as Viscount Dillon.  He convinces her to marry him for her own protection, and the adventure ensues.

You won't need to read book 1 to be able to enjoy book two, but if you like time travel stories, romance mingled with history, you might like this one as well.

Thanks for your patience in waiting, my deadline got bumped from an April release to May (31) release on Some Enchanted Dream. Hopefully, the wait was worth it. If you are looking for Some Enchanted Waltz, click the picture of the book on the sidebar and it will take you to the Amazon page.

Today, I'm in my gazebo, drinking coffee and enjoying the spring flowers.