Thursday, March 31, 2011

Down, Down, Down...


Some Paris metro escalators are clearly not for those who have le vertige: fear of heights... If you haven't got that maladie, you could develop it on these!

At least this time, I wasn't trucking a bunch of oversized luggage to the airport, so this scene was a bit less daunting...

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Blue Art Therapy


This "Blue Art Therapy" was supposed to advertise a blue jean collection at a store in Paris... Hmmmm.... Not sure the liquid infusion bags would convince me to buy clothing... I guess I'm not in their target audience...

tags: French fashion, French style

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

食品 (Shokuhin) Food



What does a Franco-American couple eat before going to watch a show with songs written oringially in English by Swedes and recreated in French for a French audience?

Well, Japanese food, of course... (except for that red stuff in the can...)

The meatballs here were my favorite. They were made with chicken, not beef...

Monday, March 28, 2011

Mamma Mia: Très Bien!


It was an awesome show. And yes, it still worked for me, even though the songs were all translated into French. As soon as I heard the first note of each chanson, I knew what it was about and could fill in the blanks... So I didn't find it disconcerting (concert pun intended here...) at all.

When the story was over (finishing with "I Had a Dream") and before the final bows they did a few songs --including my fave "Dancing Queen"-- in English. BTW, when that one was done earlier in French, it remained Dancing Queen, not reine, which is the French word for queen.

No, I didn't wear my bellbottoms, but I did sing along at the end, like everyone else.

So if someone asks you to go see it, my advice would be: "Dit oui, dit oui, dit oui..."  (That's how the song "I Do, I Do, I Do" was altered....) It's playing at the Mogador Theater in Paris until at least June. Or if you live near Orléans... no problem... they've announced two dates for the Zenith... in February 2013!

tags: Abba musical Paris

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Parlez-Vous Français?


I am not much into going clothes shopping, until a friend has a new baby. That's fun for me... And I like these "baby bags" for a cadeau (present)... You zip them up inside it when they're really little and you can rest assured they won't get uncovered during the night.

This was just what I was looking for, but as I often find here, it had just one problem... I want my gift from France to say something.... in French!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Megadelicious Cookies


I just love these... cookies with a chocoate bar attached. Kind of like S'mores, but minus the toasted marshmallow...

I've yet to find a brand of this combo that I didn't like... This one rated a 20/20 (the French grading system) in my book, and it was just 59 centimes for a box, to boot.

They're a bargain at twice the price for these 12 "biscuits dropped with milk..."

Friday, March 25, 2011

Flat Stanley/Clément Aplati


On Wednesday, we received this paper guy in the mail, our latest "Flat Stanley." If you haven't met him or one of his one million lookalikes, here's what he's all about...

Flat Stanley (Clément Aplati in French) is a book about a boy who was flattened one night by a bulletin board. His new state enables him to travel easily and solve crimes along the way...

Through the Flat Stanley Project, kids all over the world create their Stanleys from a template and then mail them to a friend or relative in a faraway place. We take photos of Stanley everywhere we go for a few weeks and send back the photos with captions, so the kids can learn about our environment and everyday lives... Our previous Stanleys have visited castles, Paris and exciting local scenes such as the post office and the grocery store.

Welcome, New Stanley. We'll take good care of you and get you sent back home safely with a few souvenirs.

For more on the project, click here. I think it's really a clever idea.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Chat sur un Mur


It was a beautiful spring day here today, and apparently this "cat on a wall" thought so too... He posed for a half dozen photos, but alas, I couldn't coax him to move further down the wall and out of that shadow...

The radioactive clouds from Japan reached France today, and at first, there were reports that we should stay indoors. Later, that warning was erased and we were told the levels were not high enough to cause any health risk.

Some skeptics still remained indoors here though, because in 1986, the French government claimed that the clouds from Chernobyl missed France. That was later proven to be false and is an often cited point when people mistrust their government here. "Yeah, and the clouds of Chernobyl stopped at the French border...."

You can see the cloud's path on this video from Meteo France.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Leader Price


Um, why not Price Leader? This is a national chain here...

On the subject of incorrect language use, I've never been able to correctly pronounce jus, in French. You don't say the "s," but I can't quite resist...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Johnny Rancher


Oh, the Western look... pronounced in French like Luke.

Anything from the Old West seems to be eternally a la mode here (in fashion)... The best explanation I've gotten for this fad is that in the 80s and 90s they used to run a lot of old classic Westerns on French TV on a program called La Dernière Séance (the last showing). The show was hosted by French singer Eddy Mitchell. Thanks to this series, John Wayne was and is still a hero here in France.

This is one of those rolling billboards, where after about 15 seconds, the whole screen flips to the next advertisement. Our star here is 60s rocker Johnny Halliday, who along with his wife Laeticia, does many ads for this eyewear chain.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Spring Forward



I thought this little place in Barbizon near the Fontainebleau Forest was so quaint... I'll bet it'll be even cuter when whatever is above the windows is blossoming, too... Glycine? (Wisteria?)

It has finally felt like spring here these past few days. Next week, we'll have even more daylight as we set our clocks forward on Sunday. Our clock changes don't always coincide with the dates in the United States. We will "fall back" on October 30th, whereas the US will make the change one week later...

Happy second day of Spring, everyone!

tags: daylight saving time

Sunday, March 20, 2011

St. Peter's Church in Avon--Interior


L'Eglise de St. Pierre is as rich in history as it is beautiful.

At the top, we see the names of Avon residents who perished in World War I. Just to the right of this plaque was a list of 23 Avon natives who died in concentration camps, including the city's mayor at the time and the priest who was the hero of a French movie by Louis Malle called Goodbye Children.

The stunning stained glass windows include dedications to St. Peter, St. Paul and St. Fiacre, the patron saint of the Avon market gardeners.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Bad Driver Week


This guy was coming at me down a one-way street yesterday. I was stopped at a light. Not sure why he was stopped at this moment, except that perhaps he was suddenly realizing what he'd done. I slowly let him pass in front of me before advancing into his place, which was a left-turn lane...

Incidently, you are not allowed to do anything but drive in your car when you're driving in France. No food, no cigarettes, make-up application, etc. And that surely includes not letting your baby (was she even one year old yet?) drive behind the wheel with you going about 30 k.m./hour. I could not and still can't believe what we saw on Thursday this past week while I was picking up the kids after school... Get a brain, lady!

Overall, I find French drivers to be pretty good compared to some of the places I've lived, though...

Friday, March 18, 2011

Ooh La Vache!


Ne me tapez pas! Réservez-vous pour votre belle-mère.

Translation: Don't hit me. Save that for your mother-in-law.

(BTW: Ooh La Vache: Holy cow!)

This was in a used furniture shop in the Orléans area. At 790 euros I won't be buying it, hitting it, nor saving my strength to hit my mother-in-law instead.

I don't always get French humor. Perhaps because I really like my mother-in-law.


tags: French expressions, French sayings

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Just Horsing Around


This cheval was hanging out above someone's door in Pithiviers. He looks like he's in shock, no?

Happy Saint Patrick's Day, everyone! Don't forget to wear your green...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

No Pain-less Meals


What Chinese meal would be complete without .... French bread?

Yes, that basket marked pain (bread) has slices of baguette...

I recall that while serving a Mexican meal to some friends in Eastern France, they were surprised when we didn't have a cheese course. (There was Swiss cheese in my oh-so-authentic enchiladas, anyway.)

Some habits are hard to break.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Big Smiley Guy is Watching

 Big Smiley Guy is en colère (mad) because...


Somebody's clipping along at 65 kilometers an hour.


Ah, that's better....

The speed limit in France is under 50 km/hour inside built-up areas.You know you're inside such a zone when you see a sign outlined in red like this:


BTW, today's the Idea of March so this goes out to all the Cesars and Caesars out there!  This place was in the middle of nowhere, between Pithiviers and Fontainebleau...


Monday, March 14, 2011

The Perfect Parallel Parker


Actually, buddy, you're just a bit off to the left.

I was trying to find something positive about your leaving this new Peugeot smack dab in the middle of the lane, but alas, I'm coming up empty...

I know, I know, parking is tough in the area, what with the unemployment office being around the corner, but we're all scrambling for a spot, and this just isn't the solution...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

This Place Rocked


This is from Fontainebleau Forest near Barbizon. Ellie and I had a great time hiking around and scaling these giant rocks yesterday...

It was finally warm enough to eat outside (barely), so we found a little fast food restaurant at the edge of the forest... Nine euros for a kids' meal! Chicken nuggets (3), fries, OJ and ice cream. I thought it would be cheaper than the ritzy places downtown in Barbizon, but then I found out that for nine euros at one of those other places, she could have had a children's meal with grilled salmon or beef.

But we couldn't eat outside there. And this was the sort of view we had from our table...

Rock on...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Sologne Architecture


This is a Sologne style building.  In between the timber, there's a mixture of mud and straw called cob, which is not visible from the surface. It's been covered up with a colored cement to protect the building from humidity...

This housing style is very common among old structures throughout the Sologne, which is a region of north-central France. Well-known for its hunting, the Sologne includes parts of the Loiret, Loir-et-Cher and Cher departments. The Sologne's northern boundary is the Loire River, so technically, this building, being just north of the river is not IN Sologne, but we can still refer to its construction style...

My town, La Ferté Saint Aubin, is often called the door to the Sologne...

BTW, Sologne is difficult to pronounce. It's a bit like soh lohn', but at the end there's a nyuh, but the uh part is almost not expressed.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Do They Deliver?


La Cigogne... The Stork...

This is an Alsatian restaurant in downtown Orléans. It's on the long, long list of places I'd like to try...

Their menu offers homemade foie gras (duck liver pate-- not for me, thanks) and tartiflette (a potato, ham and stinky cheese dish that I adore). But I think I'd go for the all-you-can-eat buffet of flammekuches. These are an Alsatian style pizza like dish with onions, cream sauce, cheese and ham bits...

Okay, now I've really got to set a date with Bernard to eat at this place!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A-gas-t, again...


Just one month ago, we were paying 1.43 per liter for sans plomb (unleaded). Now, this translates to $7.84 a gallon for me, whereas a month ago it was $7.38.

We've been watching the cost of essence rise at pumps all around us these past several weeks... We've just finished some holidays here... two weeks off. But people in Zone A (Grenoble, Lyon and others) are still on break for another week...

Aïe! Aïe! (Pronounced like I..)

Ouch! Ouch!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Une Religieuse


Ooh lala, what an experience... this is (was) a nice combo of profiteroles (puff pastries), crème filling and chocolate and vanilla icing... Religieuse is the word for nun, and this cake supposedly resembles a nun, hence the name...

Mmmm, heavenly...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Palace of Fontainebleau


An absolutely immense château! The current structure was started by King Francis the First, who also built Chambord. Among his guests were Leonardo da Vinci and Pope Pius VII (as Napoleon's prisoner on the second visit).

During the French Revolution many of the palace's original furnishings were sold as to raise money for the French and to ensure that the Bourbons couldn't return to their previous lifestyle. Even so, within a decade Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte began to transform the Château de Fontainebleau into a palace of fabulous grandeur. The emperor helped make the château the place that visitors see toda, and it was here that he bade his Old Guard farewell as he went into exile in 1814.

The château includes a school of art, architecture, and music for American students from the United States. The Écoles d'Art Américaines was founded by General Pershing. His troops were stationed there during the World War I.

One other note of American interest... Madonna mentions Fontainebleau in her song "Secret Garden" from Erotica in 1992...

Monday, March 7, 2011

Bière a la Cerise



I'm not a beer fan at all, but this one caught my interest because cherries are my favorite fruit...

This drink still tasted like beer, but I think beer lovers who are looking for something different might find La Becasse to offer an intriguing flavor...

And as a friend so kindly pointed out, it's not French...

...it's as Belgian as French fries...

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Keep on Truckin'


Occasionally, we enjoy what we call "truck pizza." We find them all over France... This one, the Picco Pizz, sets up near our tourism office on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and in nearby Jouy le Potier on Wednesdays and Marcilly en Villette on Thursdays.

There's a wood fired oven hidden behind the three stacks of pizza boxes. The Poulette is our favorite here. It's got tomato sauce, cheese, kebab meat, fresh mushrooms and crème fraîche (like sour cream.) Like many pizzerias in France, this truck offers a wider variety of toppings than we're used to in the U.S....

For example, on their menu:

*The Cremiere: tomato sauce, cheese, blue cheese, camembert, goat cheese and crème fraîche
*The Reine: tomato sauce, cheese, shoulder meat, fresh mushrooms and egg
*The Lorraine: crème fraîche, cheese, lardon (fatty ham bits) and onions
*The Norvegienne (Norwegian): tomato sauce, cheese, smoked salmon, crème fraîche and shrimp
*The Chevrette: tomato sauce, cheese, goat cheese, basil, lardon, honey and onions
*The Picco Pizz: tomato sauce, cheese, cured ham, potatoes, onions and crème fraîche (Do you get the idea that crème fraîche is popular on pizzas here?)
*The Dijonnaise: crème fraîche, old-fashioned Dijon mustard with seeds, chicken kebab, mushrooms and peppers
*The Provencale: tomato sauce, cheese, shoulder meat, cured ham, chorizo sausage, mushrooms, crème fraîche, fresh tomatoes, and beurre d'escargots (a butter sauce with garlic and parsley--no snails, but sometimes used on snails)
*The Chinoise (Chinese): tomato sauce, cheese, scallops, shrimp, soy beans, onions, peppers, and spices

and for the real meat fans...

*The Landaise (from an area south of Bordeaux): tomato sauce, cheese, gizzards, potatoes, duck breast, and pepper sauce

Prices range from 7.50 € ($10.48) to 15.90€ ($22.08) for 11-inch to 16-inch pizzas...

Bon appétit!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Boule Meringué


Yesterday, I forgot my lunch again. And no, it wasn't on purpose.

Therefore, I found myself at the local bakery looking for quiche. They had none, so I got a tuna sandwich with eggs, tomato and lettuce on a yummy French baguette (which were gone before I got a photo). It was great, but I really had wanted quiche.

So I consoled myself with this, a chocolate meringue ball.

It's got two meringue pieces dipped in chocolate. Here, they are a light, airy type of a cookie. It's hard to describe, but meringue is not the same consistency as what we put on top of a lemon meringue pie. It's more solid, yet it melts in your mouth.

Then the two parts are joined together by a vertical layer of chocolate butter cream. Oh, yeah.

Un moment sur la lèvre, une vie entière sur les hanches.

They don't say that here in French, so it doesn't rhyme, but it's equally true...

"A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips."

Friday, March 4, 2011

On Top of the World


We've got lots of traffic circles in France, which are called rond-points, but more often they're decorated with floral displays.

Not sure what this guy is doing stepping on Mother Earth. According to a site I found on the web, it's called "Statue of Europe." He's outside Montereau-Fault-Yonne, southeast of Paris...

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Eighteen Times and Counting...

 

That's how many times I've visited Château de Chambord in the nearly six years since we've lived in the area... and I've never gotten sick of it. 

When you emerge from the Chambord Forest and see the clearing where the giant castle sits, it almost looks painted on the sky. We always stop before we park and take photos at this point because even from this far back, it's hard to get the whole structure in the shot.

Château de Chambord was built by François the First as a hunting lodge. However, he spent more time at nearby Château de Blois and Château d'Amboise. I've only seen each of those once. Chambord, being the biggest castle in the Loire Valley and just 35 minutes from us, is the best local attraction, in my book. (Although our La Ferté castle is quite nice as well, and ranks among the top 50 visited in France.)

Construction on Chambord began nearly 500 years ago, on September 6, 1519, and was never completed. Some have suggested that Leonardo da Vinci may have designed Chambord, especially the double helix staircase in the middle of the building. King Francis spent less than seven weeks here total, and when he died, the castle remained unused for nearly a century. Among those who lived there at times were the Duke of Orléans and King Louis the 14th, who finished the royal apartments and added a 1,200-horse stable. 

In 1939, shortly before World War II brokeout, some art collections from the Louvre and Compiègne museums (such as the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo) were stored at Chambord. Recently, there was a temporary exhibit about the efforts to maintain France's national art collection during the war.

If you go, bring your walking shoes. Chambord's got 440 rooms, 365 fireplaces, and 84 staircases. I enjoy going to the highest point allowed and looking out at the view of the Cosson River. But boy, do your legs ache afterwards!
  
According to a Disney animator, Chambord was the inspiration for the beast's castle in Beauty and the Beast. I must say I am captivated by it each time I visit, and am looking forward to at least 18 more trips!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

La Bibliothèque


If I lived in this little town outside Fontainebleau where we stopped last weekend, here's where you'd find me hangin' out...

The library, a.k.a. la bibliothèque, is on the other side of the wall. Incidentally, the word for bookstore in French is librairie. I'd say these names are just to confuse us foreigners, but my husband always reminds me that in English we say we drive on parkways and park on driveways.

Soooooo....

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Bearing It All?



American movies sometimes lose a bit in translation when they make it to France... LOL.

This is an actual sign for a movie theater that I found in a large shopping center in downtown Orléans. The bottom part is for the movie "No Strings Attached," with Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher...