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Viva la France: A salute to baguettes, beignets, berets, and bears! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Stephanie Finnegan   
Friday, 03 May 2013 08:08
Available at the Anna Bean website, “Monsieur Le Squeak” and his “Blanket Fantastique” are billed as a perfect pairing for a mom or her babe.
“French Roast” is an avant-garde bear hand-made by Greenie Marie.
Direct from Paris, France, this dollhouse-sized teddy bear personifies a “French Marquise.” She was available (and there are more like her) at La Boutique de Lea, an artist’s studio space that specializes in miniatures and decorations.
“Miss Blue Bunny and Her Trousseau” hails from the talented artist known as Lea. Her work can be found on the Internet by Googling La Boutique de Lea or L’atelier de Lea.
Sharon Hale, of Shaz Bears, is physically based out of Melbourne, Australia, but her heart and soul are definitely residing in beauteous Paris.
Credited to Bubs Bear, and found on Britain’s Folksy site (their version of Etsy), this very chic creation was created from 1930s vintage French fabric.
Kösen (Koesen) brings a touch of whimsy to the legend of the sword-fighting Three Musketeers. Here, they are a trio of “chats” (cats).
“One for all, and all for one!” Can’t you almost hear the Three Musketeers shouting this in unison? This bear trio is courtesy of Hermann Spielwaren.
The flair and flavor of France wafts from the La De Da website.
The artistry and the “bon vivant” attitude of the website makes La De Da a delight to visit.
Pollock-Smith’s handiwork can run the gamut of bawdy, like “bears in bustles” to …
absolutely blissful, like “Sir Franco de Cuteness,” wearing his jaunty beret.
Available at the Anna Bean website, “Monsieur Le Squeak” and his “Blanket Fantastique” are billed as a perfect pairing for a mom or her babe.
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Ooooh, la la! My good friend, Joan, just mentioned to me how she shall be jetting off to Paris for a two-week vacation at a flat (“apartment” for us Yanks), nestled at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. I must admit, if it were anybody else, I might be “vert” (green) with envy and “un peu” (a little) jealous. Because it’s Joan, and she’s such a good “amie” (friend), I am nothing but “heureuse” (happy). And, there, my dear readers, is my “coup d’essai” (first foray) into a bilingual blog!

Yes, I, too, love Paris; and French films, music, food, and fashion make me giddy and dizzy. When I was much younger, I went to France for two weeks and had an absolute ball exploring all of the museums, cafés, shops, restaurants, and nightclubs. Every day (“jour”) and night (“nuit”) was filled with excitement and “joie” (joy)!

One of the reasons why I remember my trip to Paris so vividly is that I bought a teddy bear in one of the antique-vendor booths and named him “Monsieur Jean Hughes.”  (Jean Hughes was the character in my high-school conversational language primer who got into all kinds of linguistic scrapes and snafus because he never knew whether to use “tu” or “vous” when he made new acquaintances.) My bear was a gift for my then-newly born nephew, but until I got back to America, that Teddy sat upon my bed, rested in my overstuffed paisley armchair, and rode silently in my suitcase as I embarked on a side trip to a Parisian suburb.

Yes, “Jean Hughes, the bear” was a prime example of a “nounours” (pronounced “noo-noors”) or an “ours en peluche.” Either of these phrases is the way a French collector would describe her prized ursine ami. (Interestingly, “ours en peluche” actually translates as “bear in plush” or “bear in fluff.” It’s sometimes described as a “fluffy bear.”)

When I think about Joan going off on her trip, I’m immediately filled with nostalgia and a sentimental journey of how much fun I managed to pack into those 14 days I spent in that cosmopolitan city. Because I was very young at the time—just 23—everything I encountered was incredible and memorable. I can close my eyes and actually recall the faces, places, and lyrical moments from that very sweet holiday.

If you’ve never been lucky enough to visit France, you can always rent a movie to try to capture that inescapable “je ne sais quoi” that makes it such a must-visit destination. Seeing the sights, hearing the language, experiencing the lifestyle—even through a DVD—will transport you to that brilliant City of Lights.

Apparently, the allure of the French culture and Parisian panache isn’t just swirling around me these days. It’s also a spell that has touched many American and international bear artists.

From Australia, where Sharon Hale has made bears that are oh-so “jolie” (pretty) to Germany’s Hermann Spielwaren, which has immortalized the dashing Three Musketeers in cub form, Francophiles can find a collectible to sate their desires.

One of the best at creating teddy bears that just sing out their French-ness is Brenda Pollock-Smith of La De Da Artisan Bears. Take a cyber stroll to her website ( and it’s like flying into Charles de Gaulle Airport without the hassle of updating your passport photo or having to arrange for a house sitter, babysitter, and/or cat & dog sitter.

Brenda’s website has music that greets you, and it immediately sets the tone with “C’est Magnifique,” a classic Cole Porter tune that is playful, sassy, and sophisticated. Even though the song was written by a fellow who hailed from Peru, Indiana, the melody and the attitude bespeaks France!

The same with Brenda’s bears.  Even though they begin their life in her studio in Southern California, each and every one is imbued with a definite Gallic air. They appear to be French through and through. Somehow, Pollock-Smith has managed to take the jazzy rhythms that float through her website—coy and coquettish songs like “C’est Si Bon”—and has breathed them into her artistry.

If you don’t have the time or the francs for a trip abroad, you can definitely grab that French flavor by buying a La De Da bear or one of the others pictured in this blog. Consider them cyber postcards from my heart. Happy Viewing, and “Bon Voyage”!