Oct 14, 2016

Where's My Hot Water Bottle?: Mont Grêle


Is collective / communal heating a thing in other countries? I'd never heard of it till we moved apartments here in Paris, where it's pretty common. The "syndicat" (like a Home Owners Assocation for the building) decides when to ask the city to come out and turn on the heating for the building. Then the city takes their sweet time doing it. Individual owners/renters have no control over when it turns on and how hot it runs. This means that since the weather has just turned cold, I'm writing this in my annual pre-heat outfit: long sleeves, wool sweater, heavy fleece jacket, fuzzy fleece blanket, and hot mug of tea.

Oct 7, 2016

Same Old Place, Brand New Name: Pavé Neuvillois


Forget everything I've written -- at least when it comes to the regions of France. Did we visit Cathar country in the Languedoc-Roussillon region? We did, and though the castles haven't uprooted and moved, they are now located in the region of Occitanie. This pays tribute to the historic origins of the area: the Pays d'Oc (from which came the word Languedoc -- or language of Oc, the name for the local dialect).

Sep 30, 2016

Croissants to Clothes, Brioches to Belts: Chaumes


In which A Year in Fromage acknowledges the slow slog towards gentrification. Or maybe not so slow. But definitely quite gentrified. In Paris, this process is often physically made manifest by utilitarian, old, neighborhood food shops being replaced by expensive socks or clothing boutiques.

Sep 24, 2016

Tricking the Eye: Bleu d'Auvergne


Trompe l'oeil is an art technique that, in theory, dates back to the Greeks. Practically speaking, however, it was during the Renaissance, when painters finally understood about perspective, that it really took hold. With a name like "trompe l'oeil", used in just about every language to describe the phenomenon and literally meaning "fooling the eye", it's clear that no matter who invented it, the French named it and claimed it.

Sep 18, 2016

On the Balcony: Lou Pèbre


There's a colorful French expression: "Il y a du monde au balcon" which translates literally as "It's crowded on the balcony." But really it's a euphemism to describe a lady who's well-endowed and showing it off. Check out that full balcony.

Sep 12, 2016

Kebab, But Not Shish: Frais de Troyes


As you surely know, France has a long and troubled relationship -- certainly at a low point right now -- with Muslim/Arabic/North African cultures. But the one thing that is undisputedly welcome in France is the kebab. Not to be confused with the shish kebab, what we Anglophones call our skewered and grilled meats. The French kebab, is more like a Middle Eastern shawarma, and is based on one particular kind of Turkish kebab, the döner kebab.

Sep 2, 2016

Relics of the Past: Saint Denis


In a suburb of Paris called Argenteuil, I see a stand like this outside the train station. I wonder, "What cute T-shirts are they selling?" When I approach, there are no T-shirts for sale, just a notice about the church in town, the Saint-Denys Basilica. When I ask the woman working the stand about what special thing is happening at the church -- are they selling T-shirts? -- she looks at me like I am a first rate, top-shelf idiot: "Madame, it's the tunic worn by Christ during the Passion."

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