At 18 months, I want to remember that you still love, love, love music and dancing to it. You sing Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” all the time by humming ‘oh, oh, oh.’ You learned how to say squirrel when you were on your second trip to the U.S. You say ‘de l’eau’ (water) in French; and ‘te tu’ (thank you). It’s becoming harder and harder to put on your clothes and diaper as you try to run away from us. You still have a huge appetite. You ate your first slice of pizza, hot dog, waffle and bagel with cream cheese when you were in the U.S. and met your new cousin. You know how to smell flowers. You understand most anything we say in English and French. You are starting to understand the concept of going to bed and are currently trying to fight it. It’s exciting to see you grow from a baby into a little girl.
I hope 2013 has started out well for everyone and for those in my family who I know have had a rather hard start, my thoughts and prayers go out to you!
For the New Year I decided to refresh my blog a bit and give it a new name. You can now find me at mylifeinlyon.wordpress.com with the appropriate name of “Pardon My French,” since after living here for a little over a year now my French is still la merde.
If you’ve already signed up to receive my blog updates via email you don’t have to do it again. If you haven’t done that you can do so by clicking here and scrolling down to where it says “Follow My Blog” on the right-hand column. It’s an easy way to get my posts as soon as they are uploaded.
I’ll also be launching another blog in the coming months, so keep your eye out for that.
I hope you enjoy the new look!
Happy New Year!
Je vous souhaite des rêves à n’en plus finir,
et l’envie furieuse d’en réaliser quelques-uns.
I wish you dreams to no end,
and the furious desire to make a few.
Je vous souhaite d’aimer ce qu’il faut aimer,
et d’oublier ce qu’il faut oublier.
I wish you love that has to be loved,
and forget what should be forgotten.
Je vous souhaite des passions.
I wish you passions.
Je vous souhaite des silences.
Je vous souhaite des chants d’oiseaux au réveil
et des rires d’enfants.
I wish you silences. I wish you the songs of birds in the morning and children’s laughter.
Je vous souhaite de résister à l’enlisement,
aux vertus négatives de notre époque.
I wish you the strength to resist against laziness, indifference, and the negative virtues of our time.
Je vous souhaite surtout d’être vous.
Above all I wish you to be you.
– Jacques Brel (& The Debreuille’s)
Just a few things I’ve been up to in the last few weeks….wrapping gifts (how cute is that paper), making my holiday biscotti and then personalizing them for everyone, a tree out of books I made for my book-worm husband, and our holiday cards, which I decided to make this year. We hope your holidays are full of fun an joyful memories…
I’ve never thought myself to be traditional. I remember my mother always telling me I had my own style for just about everything. It was only when I began to start my own family that tradition got the best of me. So now that my husband and I are settling down in France I have begun to think about the future. What traditions do I want to start for my own family? What will my kids one day remember fondly? For example, I can remember my father when he made a Star of David out of wood and then dressed it up with garland and blue and white Christmas lights which we then hung up on the wall every Hanukkah. I always thought it was a cute way to allow my mom (who converted to Judaism) to still keep a piece of her holiday alive. Or the stuffing my grandmother used to make every Thanksgiving, which was super good and which my mom still makes. Or, when we would all go to my aunt and uncle’s house in Miami on the 24th of December in order to decorate their tree and exchange gifts. They may not know this, but it was one tradition I longed for every year and is one I began to miss when they moved away and we grew up. Or, the award ceremony my aunt and uncle in Virginia would have between their family of six every Christmas to award each family member for something they accomplished that year…the best hole in one…even if it was the only one! In any case, it seems the traditions I most remember typically involve the holidays and so it is this time of year that I begin to think of my own.
I’ve already started one last year when I made my holiday pistachio/cranberry biscotti for everyone. This year I added to that by hand making my holiday cards. Also, my husband and I started our own tradition of a happiness jar, each time something good happens we write it down and put it in the jar. We’ll unlock all of this year’s happiness on December 31. I think it will be a nice way to end the year…Instead of resolving to do something you likely won’t keep up with this year, think about something you can do every year that will put a smile on you and your family’s face!
Happy Holidays & Bonne Annèe
(traduction en français)
Personnellement, je n’ai jamais pensé être quelqu’un de traditionnel. Je me souviens que ma mère me disait tout le temps que j’avais mon propre style pour toute chose. C’est seulement lorsque j’ai commencé à construire ma propre famille que j’ai commencé à me laisser surprendre par le respect des traditions. Ainsi alors que mon mari et moi sommes en train de nous installer en France, j’ai commencé à penser à mon futur. Quelles traditions veux-je commencer pour ma propre famille ? De quoi mes enfants se souviendront un jour ? Par exemple, je me souviens lorsque mon père a fait une étoile de David en bois et puis a mis des guirlandes de Noël et des luminaires bleus et blancs que nous accrochions sur le mur à chaque Hanoukka. J’ai toujours pensé que c’était une mignonne façon de permettre à ma mère (qui est convertie au Judaïsme) de garder en vie un peu de sa propre fête. Ou la super bonne farce que ma grand-mère faisait chaque Thanksgiving et que ma mère a continué à faire. De même quand nous allions chez ma tante et mon oncle le 24 de décembre pour décorer le sapin de Noël et échanger nos cadeaux. Ils ne le savaient peut-être pas mais c’était la tradition que je préférais chaque année et que j’ai commencé à manquer lorsqu’ils ont déménagé. Les traditions dont je me souviens sont souvent relatives aux fêtes et c’est la raison pour laquelle j’ai commencé à penser à créer mes propres traditions.
J’ai commencé l’année dernière lorsque j’ai fait mes gâteaux aux pistaches et canneberges pour tout le monde. Cette année je fais mes cartes de Noël à la main. Mon mari et moi avons commencé notre propre tradition du pot du bonheur ou chaque fois que nous pensons à quelque chose de bien nous l’écrivons sur un morceau de papier que nous mettons dans le pot. Nous ouvrirons toutes ces bonheurs de l’année le 31 de décembre. Je pense que ce sera une agréable façon de finir l’année. Au lieu de prendre d’impossibles et toujours décevantes résolutions, n’est-il pas préférable de s’attacher à faire de simples choses qui vous apporterons joies et bonheur ainsi qu’à vos proches.
Meilleures Vœux et Bonne Année !
I can’t say I like moving. Actually, it’s annoying. I’ve done it plenty of times (12 times in 17 years to be exact) to now know the art of packing and unpacking. However, one of the great things about moving is that you get to purge your old self and find things that had been hidden from the last move. Like maybe your favorite coffee mug, or a shirt you had buried, or in my instance a book that I never got around to reading. It’s called How to Be Good by one of my favorite authors Nick Hornby and no, it’s not a self-help book, but a book that helps you think about yourself. You know, like all that you have and to be grateful for what you have, which speaks to me now because amongst all the boxes sitting in two rooms that we truthfully don’t need (currently) I feel the need to buy more things. Some things we need, like a new heater (it’s bloody cold here now), but there’s a list of other things that really we don’t need, but wow, wouldn’t it be nice to have. Then, as I sit at my kitchen table, I start to think how much I have and the list of things I don’t have seems ridiculous. Because I already have the one thing many people long for and that thing is a whole lot of love to fill up the place…I’m happy to be moved in to our first nest in France, but more importantly I’m happy to have what I have and that is more than a lot of people can say they have…
Today I went to the dentist in Lyon for the first time, and I don’t think I’ve stopped talking about it since I got home. My dentist, Benoît (sorry François), is actually one of four dentist friends we have and the only one who speaks English (Laurianne a bit too, but she works in Marseille), which was a bonus for me when I had to explain to him that the reason my back teeth are destroyed is no, not from eating enormous amounts of jawbreakers as a kid, but because I did another childish thing in my mid-twenties and had a tongue ring. But I digress, doctor’s/dentist’s offices here in the city are often in regular apartment buildings and Benoît’s office is no different. After my walk up to the third floor, I arrived to what could have been mistaken for a small modern art museum. It was a far cry from my former dentist’s office which was inside of a 1970’s mall in Miami and which I can say was nowhere near the level of decorated or clean that Benoît’s office is. After I filled out a small questionnaire on my health, I was ushered into a waiting room where I sat for no more than five minutes before Benoît came to get me (a nice change from the yelling and screaming I used to do with our long time family dentist when he would make us wait at least 30 minutes before he even came to get you and then sometimes left you in the chair for another 30 while he finished up with another patient). He guided me into his office and the first thing I thought was “holy poshness batman!” It was a huge room, I would say three times the size of any American dentist’s room, with sparkling white pieces of equipment that looked like they were just taken out of the box yesterday. I sat down in the chair and as I looked up I saw my chart displayed on the screen in front of me, which was controlled by Benoît from his computer just alongside me. It’s hard to explain completely, but the level of dental technology in that room far surpasses any dentist I had been to in the U.S. The biggest difference was when my nettoyage (cleaning) only took 20 minutes! I was literally in and out in less than 30 minutes and 10 of those were spent chatting about the rentrée (the beginning of September when everyone goes back to work after the long August vacation). Before we said au revoiahah (sorry, couldn’t help it), Benoît’s wife Benedict, who is also a dentist in the same office, came out to say hello.
Note: If you live in Lyon and are looking for a dentist who speaks English you can find Dr. Bach’s information here.
Sometimes I feel like a snail under a rock when my husband, who is a walking encyclopedia both in French and English, says to me, “oh, you didn’t know that.” It’s always laced with that oh so charming French way of making you feel utterly stupid (honey, I love you anyway)! Well, in an effort to enlighten those you aren’t familiar, France was actually the forerunner of the Internet with its Minitel which debuted in the 80’s and allowed people to chat 15 years before the chat room was actually born.
Mais (but), then an English dude stepped in and invented the World Wide Web to make the American Internet work anywhere and thus, killed France’s beloved invention.
Other French inventions you may not know about:
- Discovery of natural rubber/latex (hmmm…..)
- Neon lighting
- Metric system (the what?)
- Hot Air Balloon
- The LBD (aka little black dress)
- The bikini and the pencil skirt (F U France!)
- And then, basically anything good that has to do with cooking (THANK YOU FRANCE!)
Well, now you know….
When I was young and returned from school each day the first thing my parents would ask me when I walked through the door was, “how was school today?” I remember always being annoyed by this question, I mean it was school, how do you think it was? Some days I would have stories for my mom while she was making dinner, but mostly they would be about which boy(s) I liked. I think my mom was just happy to hear what was going on in my life outside of the house. It was a way to check up on us kids without being too pushy. It would usually continue until we sat down for dinner and discussed real school subjects like math (which I hated) and English (which I excelled at). It also continued through my early adult years when I came home from work and was still living with my parents for the first year out of college. “So, how was work?” my parents would say the minute the door opened. I would respond with a hushed “ok” under my breath as I made a beeline for my room. And yet, still today my parents ask me the same question, so mom and dad, after my first week in school last week, I can tell you it was super! Of course, we learned a lot of grammar, but this semester I’m also taking classes like civilisation, théâtre and chanson française (French music). Now that I understand most French and feel a tiny bit more at ease to actually speak up in class it’s a bit more interesting this time around.
In my civilisation class we learned the difference between l’éducation and l’enseignement. L’éducation is performed by the parents where they teach their children manners, etc…whereas l’enseignement is performed by the school teachers where they teach the regular school subjects. I thought it was interesting that the French have made a point in pointing out that there is a difference in what is taught at home and what is taught in the school and so puts the responsibility on parents to teach their children right from wrong, or more importantly here to teach their children to be sage (well-behaved).
In my quest to always analyze the cultural differences, this is one I tip my hat to the French for. All too often I believe American parents are waiting for the U.S. school system to do their job, which means we have classrooms filled with misbehaved kids and ultimately means a lower level of education with the teachers acting more like babysitters and less like educators.
Le System Scolarie in France is serious stuff and spits out children who can do math, have a chronological and comprehensive sense of history, know the teachings of Western civilisation’s key philosophers, have a decent understanding of how the immune system works and of course, they have a deep and extensive knowledge of French literature. The reason for this is that from the age of six, they are burdened with crazy amounts of homework and hardly any sport or art and no drama. If they want to practice that they can do it in their free time on Wednesday when there is no school here in France.
I can’t yet say if I think this rigorous system is a good one, but what I can say is that it doesn’t leave much room for imagination, for dreaming, or for creativity, all of which were my strengths. And, although we as Americans haven’t distinguished the difference between home and school education what we have done is brought up a country of children who can dream and sometimes even make those dreams reality.
Some light reading I’ve consumed since I’ve been here with books about or taking place in France.
- The Paris Wife by Paula McLain: captures a remarkable period of time and a love affair between two unforgettable people: Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley. (“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” — E.H.)
- Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman: Former Wall Street Journal reporter has a baby in Paris and recounts the differences in bringing up a French baby versus an American one. (Interesting and insightful although no mother I speak to here will own up to it)
- Sarah’s Key by Tantiana de Rosnay: Sarah, a ten-year-old girl, is taken with her parents by the French police as they go door to door arresting Jewish families in the middle of the night. Her story later intertwines with an American journalist investigating the roundup. (Touching story that will never leave your mind!)
- French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano: Why French women don’t get fat, even though they enjoy bread and pastry, wine, and regular three-course meals. Unlocking the secrets of this “French paradox” – how they enjoy food while staying slim and healthy. (In other words, a “diet” that didn’t work for me since I’m not French!)
- The Secret Life of France by Lucy Wadham: British woman marries a Frenchman, puts her children through the French educational system and divorces in a French court of law, supposedly making her perfectly placed to explore the differences between Britain and France. (Reading this now thanks to one of my Aussie mates Jayde; it’s humorous and relatively insightful so far)
In an effort to really not speak French, I’ve joined an English club! It was actually sort of an accident, although a good one. It’s a story a bit too complicated for the blog, but let’s just say it’s your average six degrees of separation paradox. In any case, the first event I was a part of was Act4’s July 4th party, which I posted about here, and after that the head of the club asked me if I wanted to be a bit more involved in the organization. I was flattered and of course said yes, so now I’m one of the 12 organizers. This week we celebrated the club’s fifth year anniversary with une grande fête (a big party) where more than 160 people attended and was held in Lyon’s Hôtel de Ville, aka the city hall, with four really prestigious speakers: Jean-Michel Daclin, Deputy Mayor of Lyon and the Vice-President of Greater Lyon, in charge of international relations and attractiveness of the territory; Jacques de Chilly, the Executive Director of Aderly, Lyon’s development agency; Mark Shapiro, U.S. Consul in Lyon; and Mathieu De Armey, America House Director.
This is the main ballroom where we had the party. Not your average American city hall, huh!
That’s me trying to use some sort of French technique to make the napkins look fancy…those French!
You can see all of the photo’s Emily took here.
Sometimes you just need a weekend together and I’m lucky enough to live near one of the most romantic places in the world. So, when my husband asked me if I wanted to join him in Paris, where he’s currently working, of course I said, oui, bien sûr!
This time in Paris I wanted to see all the little details of the city that I hadn’t seen before. Our first stop was the Jardins du Luxembourg, where the Senate is located. Nothing like D.C., hey…I really could have spent the whole day there. I’m not sure how the government gets anything done. It’s breathtakingly beautiful…
Just a few little details on the way to lunch… For me Paris is definitely in the details (and the food). It’s the random flowers all around the city, the fountains, the architectural details, the romantic side streets and the hidden pieces of art on the walls.
After some walking down Rue Mouffetard, one of the oldest streets in Paris, discovering fine épiceries and shops, we found this cute and oh, so French brasserie where we ate mussels and fries (one of our favorites). Powered up from lunch, we took a walk to the Eiffel Tower to see if we could go to the top. It was a beautiful day, so of course the line was a little brutal. Instead, we walked across the river to the Trocadero and then strolled back to our hotel to get ready for dinner at L’Estaminet, an adorable restaurant on Rue Oberkampf
Finally, on Sunday we took a short trip out to the Paris horse races. It’s a big thing in France. Actually, they have entire bars here dedicated to PMU. I’m not really a gambling woman, but I put my first bet on an American horse who disappointingly came in nearly last. After our big winnings (5 euros) we decided it was time to head back. Our hotel was located near the Jewish area in Paris and so we explored Rue de Rosiers and when I say explored I mean culinary speaking…I wanted to eat everything I saw in the windows…we settled on something that was a mix between a pretzel and challah bread from Sacha Finkelsztajn (pictured below) and then we had a feast of Israeli fallafel. The line to get one is no joke, it’s that good!
And there it is, 48 hours in Paris…I can’t wait to go back for more exploring. Next time it will be the gigantic mandlebread I spotted down the street from chez Finkelsztajn.
I’m not really one to get political, but it’s 8:30 a.m. and the first thing I did was get onto my computer so I could watch President Obama’s DNC speech. I actually watched Michelle’s speech and Clinton’s too. I don’t remember a time in my life when I was this interested in the rhetoric of the Convention, maybe it’s because I’m living abroad and don’t see the ads on TV everyday, or maybe it’s because I’m getting older and the issues of my country really do matter to me, but then I thought yes, yes, it’s those, but then I thought more importantly it’s because I actually believe in Obama. So, not to get political I’ll just say one thing: VOTE!
I was lucky enough to be invited to Monaco recently by a good friend to spend three more days in the sun before it’s back to school for me. I had heard about Monaco and of course seen pictures, but what I encountered was nothing I could ever imagine. You would think that being on the Mediterranean Sea you could smell the fresh sea breeze, but instead all I could smell was the money. It’s dripping out of every orifice of that city state. I guess it’s no wonder since the place has the lowest poverty rate and the highest number of millionaires and billionaires in the world.
However, it’s a petite little city (only 0.76 sq miles) with a little more than 36,000 people making it the second smallest and the most densely populated “country” in the world (it’s more like the relationship the U.S. has with Puerto Rico). Monaco is a principality governed under a form of constitutional monarchy, with Prince Albert II as head of state.
Needless to say it is simply beautiful with not an ounce of trash on the floor – think the streets at Disney World. There is a wonderful view of the sea from almost every place you stand. The friend I went with, Stephanie, was actually raised there and so she took me for a quick tour where I jumped in and out of the car taking pictures. The highlights are pictured below….
(click on each photo strip to see them bigger)
A big thank you to Stephanie and her mother Martine for hosting me. Bisous!
I don’t know how the rest of the world vacations except us Americans, but I would say the French get the gold medal in vacationing. First, they train all year by taking short trips to countryside manors to explore new wine, mountain chalets to go skiing, beachside bungalows to get out of the cold or simply to other French cities like Paris to visit friends. Then, when the big summer arrives they’re ready to make the leap of faith and actually leave France, but most hit the roads and explore other areas of France – mostly the south and west, close to the beach. The biggest decision in life to make is when to vacation, but most are brought up from childhood vacationing in the same month every year, or in my instance married into my vacation month. For example, July (juillet) vacation-goers are called “juilletistes” and those who vacation in August (août) are called “aoûtiens.”
Ever since full-time workers in France were first granted holiday entitlement in 1936, they have seen their two-week vacation allotment increase generously to five weeks. Most families opt to take that time off when their children are out of school. But instead of the mere stampede to the beach or lake that U.S. domestic vacationers might notice, here there is a mass exodus. Most businesses close and roads become predictably jammed around the beginning and middle of July and August.
As aoûtiens, we departed for our vacation to the south of Spain on August 1. We were graciously invited by some good friends to spend 13 days in a house on the beach where our biggest decision was what we were going to make for lunch and dinner, and of course what we were going to drink, but since our friends had more than two dozen cases of rosé wine shipped to the house from France that wasn’t really a question. We were initially 10 adults and six kids, so at times it was like a family friendly version of Paradise Hotel. We spent the days lying around the pool or taking the kids to the beach and of course planning and cooking what we (and the kids) were going to eat. Our biggest excursion was going to a market in a nearby town to pick up some fresh fish.
When my husband initially proposed this vacation I have to say I hesitated. I had seen pictures of the house, so I knew that it was going to be awesome, but did I really want to vacation with that many people and no less six kids. I also did a bit of research and found out that there was really nothing to do where we were going except lay on the beach. I need activities, at least a few, I thought. However, I gave in knowing that my husband needed a do-nothing vacay after a long year of hard work. So, off we went.
We took a train from Lyon to Geneva, Switzerland where we boarded a plane to Madrid and then on to our destination of Alicante. It was sort of one of those bad bar jokes when we boarded the plane in Geneva, I mean how do you greet the stewardess on the plane when you are coming from France, but are an American and in Switzerland, but boarding a plane to Spain – Hello, Bonjour, Hola…I had to laugh.
When we finally arrived to the house, all of my doubts subsided. I found my spot on a cozy couch overlooking the beach and settled in with a cold glass of rosé. Basically we spent the two weeks laying in the sun (I don’t think I’ve been this tan since the day I left Miami a year ago), playing with the kids (I brought some crafts for them to make friendship bracelets), cooking (I think my spinach and artichoke dip won the silver next to our friend’s mother’s paella which took the gold), drinking (we couldn’t resist making a good Miami mojito for everyone), watching the Olympics (how is parading your horse an Olympic sport?), and laughing (at each other and the kids).You can view all of the photos here.
Everyday in France, for me, is another day to discover life abroad, and this past week was no exception.
We finally found our nest here in Lyon and our offer was excepted! Hopefully, we’ll be moving into our new place in October. It’s a cute three bedroom with a pretty big terrace (pic above). Nous sommes au comble du bonheur!
Speaking of un bonheur, since the weather was not so great last week I decided to go see a movie called “Un bonheur n’arrive jamais seul” (happiness doesn’t happen alone). It was my first time seeing an entirely French movie with no English subtitles and I have to say I was overjoyed when I was able to exit the movie having understood. That day, my bonheur did happen alone, but most of the time all of my wonderful moments are shared with my husband!
This past weekend we attended one of the most interesting weddings I’ve been to. It was a union between a French man and a Vietnamese woman, so needless to say it was a small meeting of the United Nations. The Vietnamese family has lived in France for some time, so they mostly speak French and the brother gave his speech in French, which I was also astonished to have understood. In any case, they respected many French traditions, one of them being the traditional French wedding cake (pic above) – a croquembouche (croque en bouche, meaning ‘crunch in the mouth) – it’s a form of choux pastry that is generally served as a high-piled cone of chocolate, cream-filled profiteroles all bound together with threads of caramel. It’s also decorated with sugared almonds, chocolate, flowers, or ribbons. Sometimes it may also be covered in macarons or ganache. At this wedding, it came out with sparklers!
The sparklers were fitting since the wedding was held on July 14, Bastille Day, the French national holiday which commemorates the storming of the Bastille, which took place in 1789 and marked the beginning of the French Revolution. It’s basically France’s July 4 and is celebrated similarly to Independence Day with parades, fireworks and time spent in parks and along the sea.
And then, sometimes not all things that are celebrated are events which bring un bonheur. I recently read a book called Sarah’s Key and a little piece of history was revealed to me that I wasn’t aware of, and which was commemorated this past Monday. The Val d’Hiv, which happened 70 years ago, was where French police in German-occupied Paris on the 16th and 17th of July 1942 rounded up 13,152 predominantly non-French Jewish emigrates and refugees and their French-born children and grandchildren who were then sent to their death in Auschwitz. The French don’t like to talk about this, and I don’t blame them, it was only in recent history where they erected a memorial and commemorate it each year. The book, which I highly recommend, also tells the story of how a farmer and his wife, and by extension a number of French country people, hid and protected Jews from Vichy France authorities, the Germans, and French collaborators, at great risk to their own lives. And it’s with that, that when my mother-in-law recently asked me during one of our French sessions who I most look up to I said all of those people who fought for our rights in our own countries and in others abroad.
When you are thousands of miles away from the backyard barbeques, the fireworks and the beach you have a moment where you actually find yourself missing those things (even though I told everyone I didn’t). For me, the 4th of July was always one of those holidays that I took for granted, but deep down that I really loved. I’m a sucker for a good bbq – to have a hot dog in one hand and a cold beer in the other, it doesn’t get more American than that (note: bbqs here consist of nice wine and sometimes unidentifiable pieces of meat – although amazingly delicious). I remember one distinct thing about the 4th of July in the U.S. – it’s my dad always saying, “if you’ve seen one firework, you’ve seen them all” – dad, I can tell you when you don’t see any on your nation’s birthday it just isn’t the same! However, as all chameleons do, we blend in and make the most of where we are, so in my case it was a bit of luck that about two weeks ago I was at a party where I met the president of an association here called Act4 that gets people together for lunches, dinners and other fun events in order for people to practice their English. I decided to join, and their first event was a 4th of July dinner at a New York-style diner call BIEH (short for: the best I ever had). Since it was technically my holiday, the president asked me if I could help with the animation. I ended up making little American flags that had facts about the U.S. and the 4th of July (did you know that Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on the same day – July 4, 1826) and another animator printed a map of the U.S. where we had to fill in the states (let’s just say I need to revisit Geography 101 – embarrassing!). The group is made up of French people trying to keep their English intact or English people who speak French all day yearning for a little piece of home; and then there’s me, trying to avoid all French situations (I also joined the group that only speaks French, but you see I haven’t posted about them yet). Then, just when I thought I was the only American there, another one showed up – I must admit his name threw me off – Sven (he’s the one pictured in the center) – but when he walked in he had California written all over his face. His mother is actually French (he’s a dual citizen) and he’s here doing an internship with the American Chamber of Commerce. After he introduced himself, I leaned over to the president of the association seated next to me and said, “one day that will be my son or daughter – only with an American mother.”
It’s been beautiful here in Lyon (even the giraffes came out to play), so yesterday we decided to picnic in the park with a light lunch and some reading, well, at least until my poor Kindle decided it wanted to stop working (p.s. Amazon’s customer service is incredible, they are sending me a new one!). We munched on a few things that my husband picked up from the market that morning, including the lovely green cheese (pictured above), which is surprisingly good with a ripe tomato and some fresh bread from our new boulangerie which just opened across the street from our house. After we spent way too much time in the sun (my back is the color of a tomato), we stopped by one of the various concession stands to pick up an orange and grenadine granita (or as we call them back home a slushy) for our walk home.
Summer has finally arrived in Lyon!
This weekend I decided to have a party for some of my classmates, so
we they could practice our their French (I hid in the kitchen). Even one of my teachers came (she’s pictured in the photo to the right in the middle row). I made an all-American dînatoire (which is a cute French word for a meal that’s not quite dinner and a bit more than your average cocktail party) which consisted of mini cheese burgers (featured above) with mini fries in a red pepper dipping sauce, mini crab cakes, cobb salad deviled eggs, a pea pesto crostini (not really American, but always a crowd pleaser) and mini chocolate chip cookies.
Bonnes vacances à tous!
For Mother’s Day here in France I made one of my favorite sweet American treats for my family of French mother’s — chocolate chip cookies. The French know their tarts and croissants, but cookies (or biscuit as they are called here) they know not. I sprinkled mine with a bit of sea salt before baking and voila they were gobbled up in less than cinq seconds.
To make them extra special, I put them in craft paper bags with red and white gingham (my pattern obssesion for the moment) ribbon and embroidered each mother’s initial on the bag (the one above is for my sister-in-law Pascale).
The next cookie victims will be my neighbors for our Fête de Voisin this weekend!
One year ago today, I married my best friend. I love you honey!
Thank you to all our family and friends who made our first year amazing. We love you!
We, meaning the French, just elected a new president about a week ago and his campagin slogan was, “Le changement, c’est maintenant” (the change, it’s now). C’est vrai (it’s true), not just for the French (politics are the same everywhere), but for me personally. Of course the big change for me this year was our move to France, and with that comes a bunch of other changes; however the one big change is the language, which at times I think is one of the most impossible changes to overcome (example: to say I miss you the French actually say you miss me!!). I often daydream about the day when my French is as good as or better than my English, but we all have to walk before we can run.
My walk, when it comes to the French language has been more of a crawl, I like to think it’s a salut to my new nephew Colton – I’ll run when he can I say! After taking French classes for about eight months it wasn’t until my parents came here on their vacation recently and I was forced to translate just about everything including conversations between my in-laws that I realized I CAN SPEAK FRENCH – not well and often broken, but je peux parler! I have to say it’s one of the achievements in my life I’m the most proud of. It’s like staring at one of those dot drawings that’s supposed to turn into an image and then, when all of a sudden it does and you can actually see the entire image you want to scream with joy and you’re almost happy when the other person can’t see it because you feel like you have better super powers than they do. Yeah, it’s like that!
Today in class, the professor asked us if we were all happy in France and I almost cried telling him that I love my French life (j’adore ma vie francais). Change is hard at times, but change, if you are able to embrace it truly, can be one of the greatest gifts of life.
Thank you to everyone thus far who have helped me to become a little more French everyday, but a big thank you to my parents who helped me my entire life to be able to arrive to this moment in my life.
Mom, dad, I love you and vous me manquez beaucoup!
/ˈfrɛntʃəˌfaɪ/ [fren-chuh-fahy] verb (used with object), -fied, -fy·ing. to make (something or someone) resemble the French, as in manners, customs, or dress.
This week is the home stretch before my parents arrive to Lyon, and if my parent’s “bonjour” and “au revoir” are anything like I’ve heard them say recently, then this week calls for a crash course!
Mom, Dad, here’s a compliation of three videos I think you should watch before you depart. (Note: if you are viewing this in the email version, you have to actually go to my blog to watch the videos).
Ok, first I think you should watch “Two Days in Paris” – it’s a classic tale of an American’s first time meeting his French girlfriend’s parents, and since you have less than two days to spend in Paris this will give you a good overview of the things you won’t see while you’re there. (note: this is actually the entire movie on YouTube):
The next video will give you a good idea what Lyon is like – see, Paris is not the only city in France!
Finally, it is Frenchified Friday, so I had to add one little lesson – please, please try not to act like this dude in “Shit Americans Say in Paris.”
Bonus: “Midnight in Paris”
This is a classic Woody Allen flick, but I added it to see if you can spot out-going president Sarkozy’s wife Carla Bruni in the movie (he only has nine days left in office – the presidental elections will take place while you’re here).
/ˈfrɛntʃəˌfaɪ/ [fren-chuh-fahy] verb (used with object), -fied, -fy·ing. to make (something or someone) resemble the French, as in manners, customs, or dress.
The countdown continues with about 12 days to go until the parental units arive to Lyon.
I know last week I said this week would be about bread, but the truth is I don’t have much to say about it other than the fact that j’adore du pain! It comes in many forms and I’m not sure there’s anything better in the world than a crusty baguette with fresh butter. My parent’s may not be big lovers of cuisine, but one thing I know I will be able to treat my dad to is a fresh pain au chocolat or maybe one of my favorites a tarte au praline.
Instead, if I am anything like my parents then they too learn better by visualizing than by memorizing sets of words, so I thought this video would be a more efficient use of their time.
How to fake French. When in doubt just use these five simple techniques. I found they work pretty well!
Until next week….bisous!
/ˈfrɛntʃəˌfaɪ/ [fren-chuh-fahy] verb (used with object), -fied, -fy·ing. to make (something or someone) resemble the French, as in manners, customs, or dress.
Only about 20 days to go until mom and dad arrive to France. Today, I continue the Friday tradition of getting them prepared for their stay. Since last week was about wine it’s only à propos that this week will focus on wine’s partner, cheese.
It should be known that my parents aren’t prone to indulge in what we call a “culinary experience” here in France, which is too bad since in 2010 Unesco enshrined the “gastronomic meal of the French” as part of the “intangible cultural heritage of humanity.” Although a fine dining experience likely won’t happen during their stay, one thing that they won’t be able to get around is the almighty cheese course.
Remember there’s cheese coming. I clearly remember one of my beginner mistakes when I arrived to France took place at the table for lunch at chez Debreuille. First, I mistook the appetizer as the “plate principal” (as the main plate is called here) and proceeded to take seconds of the appetizer only to be greeted by le fromage in between the plate principal and dessert. Even though I was stuffed I had to try the cheese board, which had some of the biggest cuts of cheese I have ever seen. It wasn’t all for not, since I discovered my favorite French cheese, Comté. Some people will tell you it’s cheese for kids, but don’t let them fool you they are just trying to keep it all for themselves.
Other tips to remember:
- When the cheese board is passed to you there may be some unidentifiable objects, particularly things that resemble green circles – this is cheese. The French like their cheese stinky, but I prefer the stench reside on my gym socks and not on my food, so feel free to pass on this, unless you want to really blend in.
- Next, there’s an art to cleaning your utensils for utilizing them during the cheese course. Sometimes you will get new utensils, but other times not. Watch how artfully the French use their left over bread (see lesson #3 next week on le pain) wipe off their fork and knife, after all you can’t taint the cheese with old particles of food.
- There’s also an art to cutting the cheese (insert joke here), I haven’t mastered this, so like lesson #2 just defer to Baptiste.
- Also, the cheese course can last for a while as if you have any left over wine, you need cheese, which means you need bread and if you have left over bread this means you need cheese, which evidently means you need wine…you get the picture…it can be an endless cycle.
- Oh, and finally, no, they don’t have those plastic squares which us American’s call cheese. When you see cheese in its natural habitat you’ll discover it comes in all different shapes, sizes and textures, but perfectly square, which fits on American sandwhich bread, and plastic aren’t a few of them.
Until next week….bonne degustation!
Typically, the holidays in France are celebrated with lots of food and wine, but last Sunday when we celebrated Easter, or as they call it here Pâques, at my husband’s grandmother’s house it felt a little less about the food and wine and more about a peaceful day with family.
His grandmother, otherwise known as Minu, lives in a town called La Planche, which is near the wine region of Burgundy (according to statistics in 2007 there were 981 people living in La Planche). It’s hard to believe, but she’s lived there all her life. I’ve only been there about three times, but each time I am captivated by it’s peacefulness and natural beauty.
I hope you found your holiday to be as warm and peaceful as I did mine.
Lots of love from France!
In honor of my parents arriving to France in about a month, I thought I would provide some insight on how they can frenchify themselves during their stay here by offering them some petite tips every Friday.
Mom and dad, pay attention…you’re about to get frenchified!
Show a distinct interest in wine. You won’t be able to tell the difference between a chablis or a chardonnay here, so just say, “Je voudrais un verre de vin blanc, s’il vous plait” (translation: I would like a glass of white wine, please). They’ll give you the “house” wine which is 100% better than a house wine in the U.S. and a whole lot cheaper. Attention: don’t ever try to drink as much as the French, they have a special gene which allows them to drink an entire winery without any affects.
Other variations on this are:
- “Je voudrais un verre de vin rouge, s’il vous plait.” (translation: mom is going off the charts and ordering a red wine)
- “J’aime beaucoup ce vin.” (translation: I really like this wine, can you order the next time since I have no idea what I’m doing.)
- When all else fails, you say: “Baptiste, est-ce que tu peux commander pour nous.” (translation: Baptiste, this is your country, you order)
Until next week….Santé!
One of the main things I really love about living in France is being able to get to experience all four seasons. There’s a song that says, “seasons change, feelings change, people change…” and it’s really true. There’s something that changes in you with each passing season. During winter here I definitely packed on a few pounds eating warm comforting foods, worked out a little less (it’s hard to get out of bed when it’s snowing), and wore one too many layers of clothing, but one thing I got to experience was the solitude of knitting. I taught myself to knit a basic scarf (with the help of my friends at Wool and the Gang) and I have to say there’s nothing like snuggling up on the couch with a cup of tea and the warmth of the wool. It’s an activity in which you need to utilize patience (which I don’t have a bunch of) and concentration and then at the end an overwhelming experience that you created something with your hands.
Now spring has come and she’s brought with her the blossoms of beautiful flowers in the park, gorgeous weather perfect for running outside to shed those winter pounds, colorful clothing, and fresh veggies.
Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems. –Rainer Maria Rilke
I didn’t take that many photos because as they say, I was taking it all in…but here are just a few:
Today I could have sworn it was spring, it was bright and sunny and the temperature was moderate at about 63F I would guess, so I decided to take a walk through Parc de la Tête d’Or (literally, Park of the Golden Head and legend says that a treasure with a Christ’s head could be buried in the park). It is located in central Lyon (about 1k or a little less than one mile from our apartment), and is a 290 acre urban park (just for reference New York’s Central Park is about 843 acres). It receives a huge number of visitors over summer, and is a frequent destination for joggers (including me) and cyclists. At the northern end of the park, there is a small zoo, with giraffes, elephants, tigers and other animals. There are also small paddle boats for rent, mini-golf, horse riding, a miniature train and a restaurant (which I just discovered today) that overlooks the large lake in the middle of the park.
My first trip to Paris was in November 2010 for the wedding of my husband’s brother. I remember how excited I was to make the trip from Miami (we weren’t yet living in Lyon nor were we married yet) to the city of lights. We were only staying in Paris for two days to attend the wedding and then we were off to Lyon. I remember thinking after our trip on the flight home how much I didn’t like Paris and why everyone was so in love with this city. The streets were crowded, there was too much traffic, the weather was nasty and my feet hurt (I thought kitten heels were going to be a safe bet…boy was I wrong).
Well, now, a little more than a year later I can honestly say that now I know why everyone hearts Paris. I’ve walked some of this world’s most magnificent cities…Rome, London, Athens, New York…and none of them are even comparable to Paris. Paris is the world’s biggest museum. Everywhere you turn there’s something to see, photograph, learn and be inspired by. My first glimpse of the Arc de Triomphe as we entered onto the Champs-Élysées is an image that I won’t soon forget, but Paris is also in the details – the lamp posts, the metro signs, the intricate architecture on the buildings are all so breathtaking and really want I liked the best.
(click on the images to enlarge them)
Paris is indeed a breathtaking city, but as I stepped off the train in Lyon and began my walk to our apartment I had only one thought…America is my country, but Lyon is my hometown!
Last week was the end of my first semester at the University of Lyon, and after four months of studying French I can now speak un peu de français. The classes took place in one of the university’s three schools – I go to Lyon 2 and am part of the CIEF, the international center for French studies, which specialises in linguistic and cultural studies for non French-speakers. Our class was really intimate and made up of 16 students from China, Japan, Korea, Austrailia, Norway, Mexico, Bulgaria and Algeria. We attended class everyday for about four hours a day with two different professors and one student teacher. Of the two main teachers, one (Muriel) was focused on teaching us the grammar and effectively how to use it and the other (Jean-Yves) helped us with pronunciation, although he mainly liked to joke around and make fun of us and when I say “us” I mostly mean me – I don’t think he’s too fond of the U.S. The student teacher got us speaking and interacting with each other to practice what we learned each week.
Anyway, on the last day of class after our exams we had a culinary cultural exchange in our class with Muriel. Everyone was asked to bring a dish that represented their country…what do you bring to represent the U.S. when it is a culinary and cultural melting pot? Me, I brought brownies with a cream cheese swirl…I had already made the class a pumpkin cheese cake during Thanksgiving. Below are some photos of our fete:
In general, I’m proud to be an American. We’ve discovered and developed a lot of things and it’s most noticable when you are living abroad, as you notice that our presence is everywhere. It’s also a bit boring to be an American aboard because of this very reason. In my French class, for instance, it’s not interesting for teachers to ask me questions like: what kind of food do you eat, what is it like in your country, what’s the difference between France and the U.S.; they leave those questions to the Chinese, Japonese, Austrailian and Norwegian (they eat dinner at 2 p.m.!) people in my class. The fact is, they know the answers I’m going to give since they see it on TV here, read it in the newspapers and generally are exposed to tons of American things. But, with all this aside I’m happy to report that today I am now an official resident of France. I’m not saying I want to trade my U.S. passport for an EU one (I want both!), but part of me is proud to have resident status, not only because it means I’m privy to a social security number, but because after three months of studying French I was able to walk into the office that grants resident status and ask for my 300 euro sticker (yes, that’s not a typo) in French. I have to say it was a petite victory for me. It was a sign telling me don’t give up – believe me, I’ve wanted to numerous times (thank you Baptiste for always being there during those “I’ll never speak French” moments). As I walked out of that office I realized that after only four months (yes, mom, it’s only been 4) of being in France I’m also able to read things like street signs and small newspaper articles; and to listen to a few television programs like Petit Nicolas (it’s a children’s cartoon) and a culinary reality show amongst a few news programs; I’m able to understand when the voice from above in the tramway lets me know that the train is “cinq minutes en retard” (5 minutes late), when the radio says “RTL2, ce n’est pas de la radio, c’est de la musique,” as well as keeping myself occupied talking to the babies of our friends when at dinner parties (I can finally talk to a three year old!)
No, French isn’t easy – my teachers admit it, my French friends admit it, but as they say nothing that comes easy is worth it. So, as I end my first semester of French classes here this week I realize that with a little patience I can Vive La France!
In France, New Year’s Eve is called la Saint-Sylvestre and is usually celebrated with a feast, called le Réveillon de la Saint-Sylvestre which typically includes items like champagne, foie gras and in our case one of our favorite dishes moules frites (mussels and fries).
To all our family and friends near and far, may you have a wonderful 2012!
Baptiste, thank you for a wonderful year! This one is for you honey:
“From New Year’s on the outlook brightens; good humor lost in a mood of failure returns. I resolve to stop complaining.” –Leonard Bernstein
The holiday season began on December 8 with Fête des Lumières, the annual festival of lights in Lyon.
This was followed by our annual holiday cookie baking:
Then, the first snow came in Lyon just a few days before Christmas:
Followed by Baptiste’s birthday celebration:
Then we left for the chalet in Les Carroz in the mountains to celebrate Christmas:
I hope your holiday season was filled with as much joy and happiness as mine was!
May you have a very Happy New Year!
I recently went to interview for a company here called Baby-Speaking, where I will be teaching French children English. During the interview, the person asked me if I knew any nursery rhymes, and I totally went blank. So it got me thinking as to what other things I’ve had to learn in the last 19 days that I’ve been in Lyon.
- J’adore quignon
- There are three rivers in Lyon and one is made of wine
- Body language can save a conversation – and so can a English to French dictionary
- I don’t look French
- Lunch is supposed to be two hours
- The computer keyboard in Europe is retarded – why must I hit shift to make a period!
- Public transportation rocks!
- In comte we trust
- A cafe = expresso – not a gigantic cup of American coffee
- Apperitif is just an excuse to have a liquid dinner
- Oh, and not to mention the language….my first class starts on Monday…
Lyon is said to be the city of three rivers – the Rhône and Saône rivers which converge here – and the Beaujolais wine. A river of wine I said, well then, we have to check it out! We were invited to go by my husband’s friend Jean-Charles who’s family has a long history of producing wine in the region. We were going to taste the first grapes of the season, as the picking just ended a week ago and everyone is now busy producing their wine for next year. We arrived on Saturday in time for lunch and ate at this charming restaurant in Ville de Morgon where I was introduced to one of Beaujolais’ famous dishes – oeufs meurette, poached eggs in a red wine sauce; which to me seems perfect for a Sunday brunch. Absolutely delicous!
After lunch we took a walk through the quaint town of Morgon. Unlike Napa, in Beaujolais, which is home to more than 250 wine producers, you can walk right up to the home of a wine producer and ask for a tasting which is free. Many of the producers have what is called a Cave where they store their wine and they are also often used as places to host wine tastings. So, due to my husband’s curiosity we ended up inside the cave of Pierre Savoye, Morgon’s Mayor, who’s wife Nicole Descombes Savoye, also produces wine. With no more than a “bonjour” he invited us to sit down in his cave for a taste of his 2008 wine. A few glasses later he lead us to where his new wine was fermenting to show us inside the barrels. It will definitely go down as one of the coolest experiences ever. After that, we went to the home of Jean-Charles’ brother Patrick Bouland, who is also a wine producer. I’ve included some photos below in Jean-Charles’ wine yard, as well as a few from his brother’s house. To see the full album which includes pictures of the Bouland’s preparing the wine check out my Facebook photo album by clicking here.
All throughout France a hush falls over the country every Sunday. Some people sleep through it and others make the most of it. Shops are closed, so are supermarkets, malls, some restaurants, and bien sûr the post office or really any sort of place that you would need to be open in order to do those ever occurring errands. But, Sundays for me have turned from that dreaded day before the work week (well, I don’t work) to a really wonderful day spent with my husband, sometimes doing absolutely nothing. So, when one of my French classes asked me to write a little piece for our class blog on what there is to do in Lyon on Sundays, I was happy to offer up my ideas. First is the text in English – I tried to translate it as literal as possible so you can see that my age in France when it comes to writing is about that of a seven year-old – then in French (mom/dad – it’s just so you can see I actually do my homework!)
Here are my 10 favorite things to do in Lyon on Sunday:
- Head out to the market in Croix-Rousse: It’s perfect to practice your French and of course to buy some nice vegetables and fruits.
- Cook for your friends: After the market it’s a good time to start cooking. You can find a recipe in French and invite your friends for lunch. Everyone can bring a plate to share.
- Go running or take a walk: Lyon has a lot of places for this – along the Rhone river or in Parc de la Tête D’Or (Park of the Golden Head).
- Go for a bike ride: There are a lot of different trails, but my favorite is the one that goes to park Miribel-Jonnage.
- Have a picnic: Buy somethings on Saturday or take some cheese and wine (of course you have this at home because you’re in France) and head out to the park.
- Watch a movie: It’s good for your French and there are always deals for students.
- Take a tour of Lyon: There are a lot of cultural sites in Lyon, so you can take a map from the tourist office at Place Bellecour or buy a ticket for an organized tour.
- Write a letter to your family or your friends back home: With the Internet you think it’s not necessary, but when was the last time your wrote a letter by hand? You can find a post card of Lyon and write a very cute note in French.
- Learn how to do something you’ve never done before: learn how to knit, cook French style, paint, photography, etc…
- Create a blog: I’m sure that your family and friends want to know what your life is like in France.
Bonus: If you have a car you can take a trip to Pérouge, a really cute medieval city close to Lyon. The city is classed as one of the “Most Beautiful Villages of France.” You can discover the architecture at the end of the middle ages and taste their famous sugar cake – http://www.perouges.org/
Voici mes dix choses préférées à faire le dimanche à Lyon :
- Faites le marché à Croix-Rousse : C’est parfait pour pratiquer votre français et bien sûr pour acheter des beaux légumes et des fruits.
- Cuisinez pour vos amis : Après le marché c’est un bon moment pour cuisiner. Vous pouvez chercher une recette en français (bien sûr) sur www.750g.com et inviter vos amis pour le déjeuner. Tout le monde peut apporter un plat à partager.
- Faites un footing ou une promenade : Lyon a beaucoup d’endroits pour ça – au bord du Rhône ; au Parc de la Tête D’Or.
- Faites du vélo avec Vélo’v : Il y a beaucoup itinéraires possibles, mais mon chemin préféré est celui de Miribel-Jonnage.
- Faites un pique-nique : Vous pouvez acheter quelque chose le samedi ou prendre du fromage et du vin (bien sûr vous avez du fromage et du vin à la maison parce que c’est la France) et allez au parc.
- Regardez un film : C’est bon pour votre français et il y a toujours un prix pour les étudiants.
- Faire un tour de Lyon : Il y a beaucoup de sites culturels à Lyon donc vous pouvez prendre un plan au bureau touristique à Bellecour ou acheter un billet pour un tour organisé – http://www.city-discovery.com/lyon/tour.php?id=1176
- Ecrivez une lettre à votre famille ou vos amis de votre pays : Avec Internet vous pensez que ce n’est plus nécessaire mais quand avez-vous écrit pour la dernière fois une lettre à la main ? Vous pouvez trouver une carte postale de Lyon et écrire une très mignonne note en français.
- Apprenez quelque chose que vous ne savez pas faire : apprenez comment faire le tricot ; la cuisine française ; la peinture ; la photographie, etc…
- Créez un blog : Je suis sûre que votre famille et vos amis veulent savoir comment est votre vie en France.
Bonus : Si vous avez une voiture vous pouvez faire un voyage à Pérouge, une cité médiévale très mignonne juste à côté de Lyon. La cité est classée parmi les « Plus beaux villages de France ». Vous pourrez découvrir l’architecture à la fin du moyen âge et goûter le fameux gâteau au sucre. Sur Internet : http://www.perouges.org/