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Posts tagged ‘Travel’

No. 359-360: M-F and Hélène: the ladies who (make) lunch and (sometimes) spit wine

MF_helene_1.jpgSome of my most cherished memories of my time in France are from the kitchen. I was fortunate to learn about and taste all sorts of global cuisine prepared with love in the homes of remarkable women from all around the world. I was also lucky enough to have the opportunity to spend many delicious days shopping for fresh ingredients at the marché and then learning how to prepare them with the lovely Marie-Françoise and a great group of friends. Yes, when pressed, I would have to say that M-F’s approach to real French family cooking and hands on learning marks some of my most memorable days in Paris.

While in Paris, I also had the great fortune of meeting the marvelous and slightly mischievous Hélène, wine aficionado and friend. Not only has she taught me to appreciate good (and not necessarily expensive) wine, she has also taught me to appreciate life as it comes, warts and all, and to always strive to be in the moment. Those afternoons we spent nose in glass, swirling, slurping and spitting wine and strolling along the Seine were some of the best.

Here’s to my culinary friends:  the ladies who (make) lunch and (sometimes) spit wine.

Vous-allez me manquer.

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MF_helene_chablis.jpgChin chin!

Marie Françoise and Hélène (perfectly bilingual) also cater private dinner parties, wine pairings, birthday and  graduations parties in Paris. For more information contact: marie@mariefrancoiseflavors.com

No. 358: Lost in Translation

I am a bit stressed tonight, and could use a laugh. Maybe you could too with Monday looming large? This short, and by no means exhaustive, sampling of ridiculous and cringe-worthy things we have said in French over the past few years should make you smile.

Au restaurant:

  • Out with an international French-speaking crowd one evening, and after finishing both my starter and main, and desperate to make polite conversation, I turned to the Swiss woman next to me and whispered, “Je n’ai plus femme.” (I no longer have a wife), rather than, “Je n’ai plus faim” (I’m not hungry any more). It would have been better to say, “J’ai bien mangé.”
  • Coming down the stairs from the loo at another resto, a young French gal asked me where the bathroom was. I told her to “Montez l’escalier et roulez à doite,” (go up the stairs and roll to the right), instead of “tournez à droite”. At least it made her smile.
  • Constantly struggling with pronunciation and distinguishing between words that sound alike (to me) in French, I have asked for “connard” (the mother of all swear words) instead of “canard” (duck) when ordering my plat principal more times than I care to remember.

 

À l’hôtel:

  • Staying at our first French bed and breakfast in the Loire Valley, the adorable elderly owner came by to ask if we enjoyed our breakfast and if we wanted more to eat, Superman confidently told him, “Je suis pleine”. The proprietor was stunned to learn that Superman was pregnant.
  • Hastily leaving our hotel room to catch a train, I grabbed a bag of rubbish to throw in a bigger bin in the lobby. The cleaning staff was in the hallway, so I handed it to them and said, “C’est pour la pourboire.” (It’s for the tip), instead of saying “poubelle” (trash can). I’m guessing it is the worst tip they have ever received.

 

Faire des courses

  • When buying cheese for a dinner party one afternoon, Superman asked the formager if it was possible to sleep (coucher) with the cheese, instead of cut/slice (couper) the cheese. He must have wondered just what us Americans get up to at home.
  • Getting ready for Superman’s 50th birthday party I ran to the corner wine shop and asked the vendeur if I could have “three chilled bottles of champignons” (mushrooms) instead of champagne. Thankfully they were out of fungus that night.
  • Button and friends were out looking for a gag gift for an 18th birthday party and decided on a flask. Not knowing the word for flask, they checked Google translate and came up with “ballon”. They went from Tabac to Tabac asking cranky old Frenchmen, “Vous-avez des ballons?” (Do you have balls?)
  • Picking up a few items for dinner at the local Franprix one day, the cashier asked me if I needed a bag, I politely told her, “Non merci, je suis un sac.” (No thank you, I am a bag.) It was a bad hair day.
  • Trying to exchange an expensive item at the hardware store that was the wrong size, Superman was asked why he wanted to exchange it. The French words just weren’t coming, so rather than telling the salesman, “J’ai changé d’avis.” (I changed my mind), he told the salesman, “J’ai changé mon cerveau.” (I changed my brain.) Don’t you wish you could do that sometimes?

 

Avec le chien:

  • When walking Taz we are always asked, “Is he a boy or a girl.” When we first arrived in Paris, Superman often responded gaily, “Je suis un garcon!” (I am a boy!) As if it wasn’t obvious.
  • And last but not least, the first time we went on vacation without Taz, I diligently wrote the French family detailed instructions on how to care for the little guy. This of course included a recommendation that every morning when they take him out to carry with them “deux sacs de merde” (two bags of shit), instead of two “poop” bags. Curse you Google Translate!!!

 

If you aren’t making mistakes, you aren’t trying, n’est pas? I hope you had a good chuckle.

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No. 357: Bon voyage and all things bon(ne)

 

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As I am in the final countdown of our extraordinary 3 years in France, some of my friends and neighbors have already begun to wish us a bon voyage. But since I am still in denial about leaving this country that now feels like my home, I’ve decided to completely ignore these well wishes for a good journey and contemplate instead all of the curious and concise sayings the French use with the word bon(ne).

Yep, one last language post with some of my favorite bon(ne) expressions. Go ahead and wish me bonne chance and please do correct me and any misinterpretations I may have made with this versatile mot.

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To begin with there are all the basics: bonjour, bon après-midi, bonsoir, and bonne nuit. And then there is bonne journée and bonne soirée. At week’s end and before the hols you can always offer a jaunty, “Bon week-end!” and “Bonnes vacances”. And on Sundays all the shopkeepers are happy to wish you a “Bon dimanche!”

I like these quick greetings and send-offs because all of the “I-hope-you-have-a-good…” is tightly packaged in one robust “bon(ne).

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When we (expats) sit down to eat, we say, “Bon Appétit!” (I’ll let your French friends explain if and why this is or isn’t a gauche thing to start a meal with.) I suppose it is better to say, “Bonne degustation!” (Literally, “good tasting”.) And I heard it is good to have a “bon fromage”, not a good cheese, but a cushy job. It seems like it might be fine to be une bonne fourchette (a good fork/hearty eater) as long as there is enough food.

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On your birthday, we’ll all say, “Bon Anniversaire!” and on major holidays or meaningful occasions, “Bonne fête!” When the clock strikes midnight on December 31, we will chime in with Bonne Année!” and maybe even add a “bonne santé” (good health).

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When the French are looking for a bargain, they’ll use, bon marché, which no longer has anything to do with the luxurious and highly priced food halls in the 6éme. They may cherche un cadeau bon marché, but they definitely won’t find one au Bon Marché.

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There is a multitude of ways to wish a friend or customers an enjoyable leisure activity. At the cinema it is, “bon film”, or “bonne séance”, or even “bon ciné”. Off to Rock en Seine? Bon concert is the appropriate farewell. I’m guessing you can say, “Bonne lecture!” (good reading) to your book club, although I’ve never tried. For your hunting friends, sign off with a “Bonne chasse!” For those of you hunting for a retail deal, “Bon Shopping!” fits the bill. I have even heard, “Bons magasins!”(literally good department stores!) on the first couple of days of the massive sales. For the sporting types, “Bon match!” works before the ref blows the first whistle and after he blows the last.

I can’t decide if it is good to be told you have a bonne tête (good head on your shoulders?) or if in fact a bonne tête means you are a fool, easily duped. But it might be good to know that à bon chat bon rat is tit for tat.

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When life is tough and you are facing new and difficult changes, a sincere, “Bon courage!” Is always helpful.

I suppose I will be getting a lot of those in the next few days along with wishes for a bon retour, bonne route and my favorite, bon vent, as long as those well wishers don’t mean “good riddance”…

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No. 356: à faire une pause

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The packers were more than two hours early this morning, and the day quickly spun out of control. I’ve been chasing my tail since 6 AM, so all I have for you this evening are some happy pictures of a lovely day we recently spent at Vaux le Vicomte–a peaceful alternative to Versailles–and a LINK for you to see what makes it so interesting and special. Every Saturday night until October 4, more than 2,000 candles light up this stunning château and the magnificent gardens, and at 23h a magical fireworks display fills the sky and lights up the estate with a shower of gold and silver. It is also gorgeous in the sunshine.

Vocabulaire

à faire une pause: to take a break

 

 

No. 355: Being Covered with Croissant Crumbs

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You know it is going to be a great day when you start it covered in croissant crumbs.

Why in the world can no country besides France make perfect croissants and pain au chocolat?

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No.354: La nuit à Paris

I love Paris when the sun comes up. I love Paris in the morning as the clouds burn off. I love Paris on a drizzly afternoon. And I even love Paris in the bitter cold dusk. But there is something so dreamy and thrilling about la nuit à Paris.

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Vocabulaire:

la nuit à Paris: Paris at night

No. 353: les Jardins

One thing I admire about the French is their ability to relax and take the time to smell the roses. Paris is full of small and large jardins (426 to be exact) and green space where you can go to recharge and escape the hustle and bustle of big city life. These jardins make Paris a truly livable city and are one of the things we will certainly miss from our life here. Here is a sampling of a few of my favorites.

Les Jardins du Luxembourg surround the Luxembourg Palace built for Marie de Medicis in 1615 (and which now houses the Senate). This huge park never ceases to astonish me with its abundant flowers, sprawling lawns, and gorgeous fountains. There is something for everyone here from toy boat sailing and playgrounds to chess and tennis matches, and of course, the best green reclining chairs found anywhere in Paris–perfect for kicking back, reading, and relaxing.

The Champ de Mars home to my beloved Eiffel Tower is one of my favorite places in Paris. Although it is obviously very touristy, it still feels like a local park. I love my daily walks with Taz through the broad alleyways and flowering trees. It is both a peaceful refuge and a rockin’ party and the perfect place to gather for a picnic.

The Rodin Gardens are another hidden treasure of Paris. Surrounding the house (and now museum) in which Rodin worked, they provide a calm respite from the clatter of the city and are the perfect place to appreciate his magnificent works of art. The Rodin Gardens heighten the beauty of his sculptures and fill my artistic soul.

Le Jardin du Palais Royal has a long royal and not-so-royal history, and at one time was the hotbed of prostitution and revolutionary rumblings. Enclosed by the Palais Royal courtyards and arcades, I like it because it is not an obvious garden, not a garden one notices from a distance. It is truly a quiet retreat, right in the middle of Paris.

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The Bois de Boulogne, a former hunting ground of the kings of France has become the place for Parisians to relax, bike, run, boat and picnic. It is huge and includes the Parc de Bagatelle, the jardins and greenhouses of Auteuil, the Pre-Catelan jardins, and the Zoological jardins. Superman and I ride our bikes there nearly every Sunday. It also has a fabulous network of lakes, perfect for rowing and soaking up the sun.

Les Jardins de Bagatelle situated in the west part of the Bois de Boulogne, has a long and complicated history attached to the French royal family and their “favorites”. Once used as a discreet rural hideout, away from the court, it is now home to some of the most spectacular rose and iris gardens in the world.

Des Jardins des Plantes is a botanical garden located in the 5eme arrondissement between the Paris Mosque, Jussieu University, and the Seine. The National Museum of Natural History is part of this huge complex along with an impressive greenhouse and an animal menagerie.

Les Jardins Albert Kahn were created by Albert Kahn over a period of 15 years from 1895-1910. A believer in universal peace, Kahn created a complex of gardens from around the world including a Japanese garden and village, a French garden, an English garden, a Vosges forest, a blue forest of Atlas cedars and Colorado spruces, and a prairie gold forest.

Le Parc des ButtesChaumont located in to the northeast of the 19eme arrondissement–is the third largest park in Paris. Commissioned by Napoleon directed by Haussmann, and designed by Jean-Charles Alphand—it is full of steep hills (great for rolling), water features, and artificial cliffs and buttes…and you are allowed to sit on the grass.