L’heure bleue

Heure bleue

Blue was never my favourite colour. Perhaps everyone else just loved it too much. I preferred green — for nature, for hope and for something else, maybe the bit of Irish blood that runs in my veins. Also, it was my mother’s favourite colour.

Lately I’ve come to appreciate the vast talents of blue. I love its myriad shades that mark the seasons here in our corner of Lake Geneva. The skies, of course, but also the mountains and lakes. No two blues are ever quite the same. There are so many variations on its theme, from bright and promising to dark and menacing. It is steel and intensely teal and sometimes it is just impossibly bright.

Lac Léman

And then there is ‘l’heure bleue’, the blue hour. I only just recently learned what this expression means. That magic twilight hour before the sun sets in the evening and rises in the morning, when the entire horizon is somehow infused with blue. It is a light that highly appreciated by artists and has inspired songs.

Blue is also the colour of cold. It describes, at least in English, a quality of sadness that often accompanies these cold months. And what other colour has an entire genre of music named after it? Am I blue? Perhaps not, but I already feel the need for a fresh infusion of spring.

As winter reaches its snowy crescendo and the north wind blows at its coldest, we have some truly amazing blue hours. There is something about the light in January, especially when there’s snow, that is bluer than anything.

Yet during this coldest of winter months, I find myself thinking about those wonderful ‘blue hour’ sunsets over the lake in summer. That first one, when we sat outside by the lake one April evening, that convinced us that this was the place we wanted to come home to.

What is your fondest memory of blue? Or blues?


  1. francetaste · January 31, 2019

    I have heard of the golden hour but not l’heure bleu. Beautiful writing.

    • MELewis · January 31, 2019

      How interesting to learn there is also a golden hour…did not know of it. Clearly we have a lot to learn from each other! Glad you enjoyed it. 😌

  2. phildange · January 31, 2019

    A moment of poetry, thank you . All my life I spent hours silently immersed in the sky, at any time and in any country . My being seems to melt in the sky .
    I never heard blue being associated with cold here but you duly recalled us the music most deeply ingrained in my heart, the eternal blues . Speaking of l’heure bleue let’s not forget what music lovers called the “blue notes”, these notes that are not played on the exact tone which of course bluesmen made their regular basis .
    Other funny “blues” : the mark left on our body by a stroke is in French ” un bleu”, there is the famous sort of cheese called “le bleu” (d’Auvergne for instance) and the French translation for newbies in any activity, community or profession : les bleus . Not long ago you were une bleue in France .

    • MELewis · January 31, 2019

      As usual, Phil, such instructive comments! How could I have forgotten about the of blue of bruises — especially as I so often encounter them! (Less adept in physical space than on the keyboard…😫) And the blue notes: of course I have heard this expression in the names of clubs but did not know what it actually described. Yes, those are some of my favourite musical notes, a tiny bit off key! And who knew that ‘les bleus’ described novices? I always thought the French called their teams by that name because they knew actually what they were doing!!! 😜

      • phildange · January 31, 2019

        The fact you didn’t know that any beginner is always called “un bleu” shows are bleue you still are in France . And about sport teams I’m not sure this is the reason …
        There are not only clubs called Blue Note . The great and famous jazz label, Blue Note Records founded in 1939 was one of my all time favourite providers .
        Oh, I happened to play for 10 minutes on the stage of the illustrious Blue Note Jazz Club in NYC ! (Not because I was worthy of this honour but because of unexpected circumstances which happened when life was more free and fun than now) .

      • MELewis · January 31, 2019

        Sad but true. I am still blue on so many levels. 😂
        As for playing onstage at the Blue Note — wow! You should write about that memorable experience one of these days.

      • MELewis · January 31, 2019

        And now it just occurs to me: in English, we say that a newbie is ‘green’! 😊

      • phildange · January 31, 2019

        Hey, another divergence between our two sibling cultures . Actually to be complete, all Germanic tongues use the green as slang for newbie, German, Flemish, Scandinavian, and imagine that, even Hebrew ! Bleu seems to be another French excentricity, I heard that even our Quebec cousins under barbaric influence use “vert” .

  3. bitaboutbritain · January 31, 2019

    Wonderful – I’ve never hear of ‘l’heure bleu’ – but it is very apt. And you’re right – there’s something clean about winter light. As for ‘golden hour’ – well that’s a feature on the radio where they play the hits of yesteryear…

    • MELewis · January 31, 2019

      Ha, ha…’golden hour’ could also sound like a theme song for retirement! Glad it spoke to you and thanks for chiming in!

  4. Colin Bisset · January 31, 2019

    Ah, the romance and the wistfulness so beautifully expressed. I think I read that Oliver Sacks was a great fan of the blue hour. It’s that wonderful meeting of busy day with soft night, a time for thoughts and great decisions, as yours was to set up home in such a lovely place.

    • MELewis · January 31, 2019

      You are right, Colin: there is that crystallization of time and place that seems to happen just then. This inspires me to imagine: what a wonderful idea it could be for a book to capture the ‘blue hour’ in different places around the world. 🤔 I have not read Oliver Sacks but he is now on my list!

  5. Liz · January 31, 2019

    Once again, I can say that you have just described me as well! At least as far as the thoughts on colour!
    Sisters unite!

    • MELewis · January 31, 2019

      We share Mom’s good taste! x

  6. ann bayliss tgrtranslation · January 31, 2019

    One of Eric Rohmer’s Quatre Aventures de Reinette et Mirabelle is called L’heure bleue – a must see for artists!

    • phildange · January 31, 2019

      Hey, a Rohmer’s fan . Hey, someone who even knows Rohmer …😉

    • MELewis · January 31, 2019

      I must check that out – merci!

  7. midihideaways · January 31, 2019

    Love the blue hour – especially in the summer, when the sky is an inky blue and it’s wonderful walking around and enjoying the light!! As for winter blues, I’m doing pretty well this year, we’ve had enough sunshine hours, and not quite enough rain… 🙂

    • MELewis · January 31, 2019

      You are too far south to get the winter blues! 😅 Of course, it’s all relative… Here’s hoping you get the rain you need with plenty of sun showers in between!

  8. Yeah, Another Blogger · January 31, 2019

    When I was young, yellow was my fave color. Somewhere in my 20s or 30s, blue became my favorite. And it still is.

    Neil Scheinin

    • MELewis · January 31, 2019

      Interesting how our tastes evolve over time. I think we become more and more ourselves as we age. At least that’s what I tell myself…

  9. Heide · January 31, 2019

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful, wistful meditation on the color blue! As Phil said, this post is poetry. And since you asked: My fondest memory of blue is from a particular summer night on Vashon Island, in Washington state. I was maybe eight or nine years old, so my parents sent me to bed at about nine — before the sun had fully retreated. Through the crack in the curtains I could see the sliver of sky turning from robin’s-egg blue to cerulean to an inky almost-black, all the while listening to the laughter and carrying-on of the older children who had been allowed to remain outside. I think it was the first time in my life I watched an entire sunset. Such a simple thing … but it was magical.

    • MELewis · February 1, 2019

      Thank you for sharing a beautiful memory, Heide. There is something very magical about those long summer evenings. I love the image of watching the sun set from behind the curtain while listening to others outside. It called up similar nights as a child at the cottage. Oh, the injustice of having to go to bed before dark! Yet as adults I remember putting the kids to bed early with a mixture of relief and envy.

  10. Heide · January 31, 2019

    PS: I should mention also that your photos are GORGEOUS.

    • MELewis · February 1, 2019

      Thank you! I can’t take credit for the snow plow (borrowed from Normandy) but the rest are mine. It is amazing what you can do with an iPhone when nature does most of the work!

  11. Dale · February 4, 2019

    L’Heure bleue is particularly beautiful in winter, don’t you think? One of my favourite times of the day…even in this arctic-like temperature that we are experiencing in Montreal.. sigh…

    • MELewis · February 4, 2019

      I do agree, Dale, there is something special about l’heure bleue in winter. I can only imagine how beautiful the blue hour can be in Montreal, although I do have some wonderful memories of your city in the winter. But bitterly cold. Brrrr! Bundle up!

      • Dale · February 4, 2019

        Especially this year… maudite hiver!

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