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Monthly Archives: February 2012

“Orange” You Glad You’re Going to France?

As I continue to read the book C’est La Vie, the author goes to visit some friends in northern Provence in a village between Orange and Vaison-la-Romaine.  I couldn’t help think of  all the children’s knock knock jokes I have repeated when my children were young.  My modified rendition of one goes like this:  Knock, Knock.   Who’s there?  Orange.  Orange who?  Orange you glad you’re going to France?”

Yes,  that was a groaner,  but it does communicate one light-hearted truth:  I am very glad and excited about going to France – and now perhaps to the town of Orange!

When I checked out Orange on the internet, I learned that it is 30 minutes from Avignon which is where  we are heading  when we leave Paris.    I also learned that Orange has one of the best preserved of all the great Roman theatres. In one of the guidebooks I was reading, the author commented that so many people go to Italy and are disappointed since they must exercise a lot of imagination as they view the historic ruins.  However, in France, so much of its history is so well preserved that we gain a greater sense of what it was like in the past.    Anyways,  the  Roman arch in Orange is considered one of the most beautiful and interesting surviving examples of a provincial triumphal arch from the reign of Augustus! It is classified as a Unesco world heritage site. Well, perhaps we will make a point of driving through this village.

I learned a new French word from Susie Gershman’s memoir  as she relates a humorous story about trying to meet some men by going to a firemen’s ball.  She didn’t realize that  “of the dozen or so firemen’s balls in Paris,  a few are PD, as gay is referred to in French.  My guidebook had failed to mention this little detail.”  Apparently, PD is short for pederaste.  (Unfortunately, I haven’t figured out how to add accents to correctly spell some French words!!)  I rather suspect though that this isn’t going to be one of my more helpful vocabulary words to add to my limited French vocabulary.



 
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Posted by on February 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

BLUE, WHITE AND RED OR RED, WHITE AND BLUE

As a Canadian, if I was to tell you the colors of my nation’s flag, I would say, “red and white.”  I wouldn’t say white and red.   Similarly, Suzy Gershman, the author of C’est La Vie is an American and she is accustomed to saying, “red, white and blue.” Well,  she narrates a moment when she recommended to a group of Frenchmen that the colors should be like the French flag, “red, white and blue.”  After a moment of confusion, one of the French men nodded his head in understanding as he corrected her and said, “blue, white and red.”   Interestingly, the author didn’t seem to acknowledge that his confusion made sense and that it was most logical that just as we are used to saying our flag’s colors in a certain order, his order made sense also.  Just look at the flag and what color would you say first?   However, after googling the “French flag,” the answer to my question may not be so obvious.

Most sites seemed to describe the French flag much like the one from a U.K. site:   “As the above picture of the French flag indicates, the overall background is red, white and blue.”!!!         http://www.flags-flags-flags.org.uk/french-flag.htm

Well, I have no answers for this oddity, but in the meantime, I did learn  that the French Flag with its three equal vertical bands is known as the French Tricouleur.  I also learned that each color is symbolic of specific virtues: blue is for vigilance, truth and loyalty,  white is for peace and honesty, and red for hardiness and bravery .  There is quite a bit of history attached to the significance of the flag, but as I skimmed a rather lengthy article, I decided that  all I really wanted  to remember was the  significance of the colors,  and that the French Revolution inaugurated the French tricolor flag, and even more importantly to be able to say respectfully, “blu, blanc et rouge.”


 
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Posted by on February 18, 2012 in France, Travel

 

TEA AT THE FOUR SEASONS HOTEL GEORGE V

                                               http://www.preview.fourseasons.com/paris/dining/lounges/la_galerie/

As I continue reading C’est La Vie, the author Suzy Gershman describes how hot it is in Paris during the month of August particularly since she had no air conditioning in her apartment.  To cool off, she mentioned how she would often go to the Four Seasons Hotel George V to not only enjoy the newly popular iced tea but its air conditioning.
  It sounded so lovely as she described how she just took her notebook with her  and she would sit there there sipping her  cool drink and write.  Of course, I had to google this hotel and I  discovered that it was breathtakingly beautiful.  As I look at the above picture, I  imagine myself walking into this room, and being seated in one of the red chairs beside the tapestry on the wall.  I say, “Merci beaucoup” and then sit down on the chair that I am offered,  and I open up my I Pad and write while I wait for my drink to come.  Well, actually, I just pretend to write so that I can look like I belong in this opulent room!  I really look for every opportunity to gaze at the beauty – the chandeliers, the wall hanging, the flowers, the window coverings.   My only distraction is wondering if I am dressed appropriately!   However, I since I learned from Parisian Chic that I could wear a pair of well-fitted black jeans with a blazer and look chic but casual, I sit confidently!
However,  after checking their menus that have no prices, I know  that when I arrive in Paris, I might walk into this hotel but I  will not be having my drink here. But it doesn’t really matter.  My imagination has taken me out of my very ordinary room where I am presently typing,  and it has transferred me into the lounge of the Four Seasons Hotel where I have enjoyed drinking my cup of tea before I go downstairs to cook supper for Greg and me.
 
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Posted by on February 17, 2012 in France, Travel

 

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SHOULD I HATE HONFLEUR?

Have you ever finally made up your mind about some issue and then end up in some conversati0n that  causes you to  second guess your decision? This happened to me recently although it wasn’t a conversation but a comment I read in the book I am reading.   Greg and I had decided that we would tour some part of northern France before we went to Paris for his conference.  After looking at Google Maps and reading from some guide books, we decided that  we would rent a car at the Charles de Gaulle Airport and then drive  to Honfleur.  We felt relieved that we now had at least a starting point for our travel itinerary!!

Well, wouldn’t you know that that evening I am reading my book C’est La Vie and the author writes,  “I hated Honfleur.  Really, seriously, violently hated it.  Waay too touristy for me, even out of season.  I really couldn’t find any charm anywhere.”

Well, at first I thought it was just humorous  but by morning, I started to worry that we had made a mistake!  After all, we will be really tired from our long flight and from  jet lag and what if we drive into this town and think how ugly it is and why did we ever come!  I reminded my self that her opinion could be based on the fact that she was looking for a house to purchase.  As I consulted my guidebooks again, I found their words very reassuring.  I was soothed by such phrases  as  “idyllic little Honfleur”, “Honfleur’s engaging streets and activiities are within a short stroll of its old port,” and “the town is its best sight.”

I read again the author’s vehement statement and remembered how my husband said when we were first married that he didn’t want to go to Disneyland because it was “waay too touristy”.  I told him that I didn’t mind being a tourist and that I liked going to places that tourists liked seeing!  We went on that holiday and had a wonderful time.  If we want to see all the attractions that are popular with tourists, then those places are probably going to be “waay too touristy”.  So much of our enjoyment anywhere – but especially on holidays – is determined by our attitude.  I intend to enjoy all that Honfleur can offer  – even if the memory is our laughter because there was so much tourist hype.  Or perhaps we will find some little street to wander down and actually find the charm that my author didn’t take the time to see.

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

NEW MEANING TO THUMBS UP

As I opened the section on “French Gestures” in the book The Everything Learning French Book, I had a flashback of my own French gestures.  I cannot begin to count the number of times that  I have been  teased  how my hands move as I speak.  In my high school years,  some friends found it amusing to  even grab hold of my hands to interrupt my speaking.    Therefore, as I read this section, I mainly related to gestures that might have needed explaining to others.  However, I did chuckle imagining a person tapping her nose to indicate that she knows or understands something.

And  I really like the gesture of a  person covering her mouth with both hands to indicate an apology for something the speaker has said.  After all, it is a perfect visual acknowledgement of what destruction can come from our tongues.

At any rate, I believe that just common sense will help me uncode the various  “French” physical gestures that are described in this book.

However, I did appreciate learning that if the French are going to count using their fingers, they begin with the thumb as number one when most of us begin with the index finger.  This could be important information if you use your fingers to indicate how many items you would look.  As the authors in the book warn its readers, “If you want one drink and hold up your index finger to indicate that, you may just end up with two.”  What a surprise if both Greg and I received two drinks each!  Perhaps I won’t tell Greg this helpful tip – just for the fun of it!!

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

WE ARE LOST. PLEASE HELP US!

I still remember sitting in my French 30 classroom  hoping my teacher wouldn’t point her finger at me for me to speak since my inadequate “rolling r” was always corrected.  However, I am hoping that even though my accent may not have improved,  I will still be able to communicate some practical phrases to a French person and to be understood.    And my goal is to develop some vocabulary to help me read signs, menus and  perhaps a tourist pamphlet.
It was rather gratifying as I worked on Lesson One to actually recall some of what I learned  forty years ago!!!  Today’s lesson focused on asking another person her name and asking how that person is doing.  The lesson explained how your choice of vous or tu was dependent on how well you knew that person.  It seems a rather safe assumption that I am not going to know any French speaking person and that I should not engage in any casual conversations.   This certainly simplifies what I need to memorize and eliminates my fear of offending someone if I use the too familiar “tu” when I should have used the more formal “vous.”
After completing lesson one, I decided that was enough  for one morning, and I read from Ina Caro’s book,  Paris To the Past:  Traveling Through France    The author and her husband have travelled France extensively but  recently, she decided that she preferred to use Paris as her home base and then just take daily train rides to particular destinations.  She lists these destinations in historical order  starting with the Middle Ages, moving into  the Renaissance and finally up to the Bourgeois Century.
 By the time Greg came home, I was ready to eliminate our idea of renting a car and instead  locate the train schedules in Paris.    However,  Greg said that he still liked the idea of driving in order for us to get a better sense of the land.  I thought that was a valid point especially since this is our first time in France.  Yet at the same time,  Ina Caro  also reminds her readers that “French railroads . .. whisk you through this maze of faceless suburbs and deposit you sans traffic jams in the city’s ancient past.”   Another good point,  but  when I continued to read her book, she also  described  how you could arrive at your destination and experience complications finding a taxi since sometimes it was too far to walk.    Even though there are advantages and disadvantages to both modes of travelling, Greg and I have opted to drive a car rather than rely upon the schedules of a train.  Therefore, I think I had better assume that one of the practical phrases I need to learn in French is,  ” We are lost.  Please help us.”
 
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Posted by on February 6, 2012 in France, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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