Mar 31, 2015

The Miss List: Petit Séverin


There are the things I expected to miss, the things I initially missed, and, almost four years later, the things I really miss. Then there are the things I'm going to miss. The biggest problem with living in new places is that you realize, at some point, that there are people and things in each place that you love with all your heart, but it's impossible to assemble them all in one place.

Mar 28, 2015

Under Construction: Le Claousou Brebis


In the "clever solutions" category: What's a city to do when it's a) constantly in need of renovation and, therefore, under construction, b) constantly in need of funding, c) heavily dependent on its beauty for the tourism economy, and d) unable to authorize a lot of billboards because of the old architecture (and because of reason c)?

Mar 26, 2015

Down the Toilet: Massipou


This blog is really going down the crapper, because I'm going to talk about toilets -- again! When I first moved here and was chaperoning at the swimming pool, I offered to help a little girl get to "la toilette". She cocked her head, quizzically: "It's 'les toilettes'," she corrected me. "I'm 6 years old, and I know that. Why don't you?!"

Mar 24, 2015

It Was Inevitable: Tomme Blanche


I've been taking painting classes and painting a lot lately because, well, my inner painter was screaming to be let out. And if I'm going to paint, it seems like the kind of thing I should do in Paris, in a beautiful atelier at the end of an old, cobblestone courtyard in the Marais.


Mar 22, 2015

Beware the Air, Part Deux: Brousse de Brebis


Almost exactly one year later, we find ourselves again in a Paris with air pollution warnings; a Paris with a sky that unnaturally gray, even for Paris; a Paris where it's not the love in the air or the magic in the air that's palpable -- it's the air itself.

On the positive side, at least riding the metro is free.

Mar 20, 2015

Eclipsing the Eclipse: Vermenton


I didn't know about today's total (in parts of the North Atlantic ) and partial (in much of Western Europe) eclipse until yesterday, and that's partly because I checked out this whole week for a vacation with a couple friends in Lisbon, Portugal. And it's a good thing, because on the way home this morning, I get lucky and see something I couldn't have seen if I'd stayed in Paris: an eclipse the likes of which won't be seen (in Europe at least) till 2026.

Mar 18, 2015

Suck On This: Bonde d'Antan


I have no official statistics on this -- none! But anecdotally, I'm telling you, French kids use pacifiers more than American kids. Not just more, but longer. I often see French children walking around at age three, four, even five with their dummies stuck in their mouths.

Now this guy is so little, he doesn't even know he has hands, so not only can he not be expected to find a thumb if he needs one, he can clearly be excused for sucking, Maggie Simpson-style. One of the words for pacifier in French is "sucette" ("sucker"). The other is "tétine", which relates to "téter" ("to nurse"). No matter what you call it, it does its job and pacifies him.

But I start to find it a little surprising when the child is walking around, heading off to school with actual books and homework and backpacks. However, in the spirit of not wanting to be one of those judgmental parents, let me also say that there are exactly zero kids in Pippa's 5th grade class (CM2) or Gigi's 7th grade (5ème) class who still suck on pacifiers, so one way or the other, they get rid of them eventually.

Hold the presses: I have found one statistic: a small study conducted in Auvergne a few years ago in which 106 children were asked about pacifier use. 47% of them had used a pacifier for an average of 37 months. That means there were some who gave it up at one and others who didn't give it up at five.

This tendency to prolonged use of the pacifier may explain some of the bad teeth issues of French kids (pardon the teeth, and the pun).

THE CHEESE: Bonde d'Antan

The Bonde d’Antan, or "plug of yore", hails from Poitu, on the west coast of France, an area known for fabulous goat cheeses. I suppose it looks like the old-fashioned cork plugs that would have been used for barrels. However, this Bonde is made from pasteurized goats' milk, instead of raw, and I think the difference shows. It's a little bland for my taste, though I suppose if you like your cheeses pasteurized and mellow, it would be just fine.

The texture is nice -- a firm puck with some creaminess in the center. The flavor is mild, but has small hints of salt, goat, and nuts.


A "bonde" is a plug, which strikes me as the perfect cheese equivalent of a pacifier/ dummy/ sucette/ tétine.

Mar 16, 2015

What a Moron: Dombiste


As an English speaker, you may be tempted to use "stupide" to describe the incompetence and incompetents around you. It works, but it's not very French.

Mar 14, 2015

Good to (Almost) the Last Drop: Timanoix


My friend brings in a box of chocolates to his law office to celebrate the birth of his son. It's a smallish box of exquisite chocolates, classy and minimalist. Despite the fact that there aren't many to start with, after a few days, he comes back home with some of the chocolates left, uneaten. I am amazed, unable to fathom that a whole group of people can't finish off the box, but he reminds me, "Oh, they probably all wanted more chocolates. But it's that French thing, where they wouldn't take the last ones, because it would look too greedy."

Mar 12, 2015

All the World's a Comedy: La Tartuffe


Who needs Shakespeare, when you've got Molière? The staple of every middle and high schooler's French literature diet, I can tell you from experience that Molière is also the favorite of teachers of French in foreign countries as well. And with good reason. He's funny, but in that highly erudite, 17th century kind of way.

Mar 10, 2015

Every Day's a Good Hair Day: L’Elgines


Paris -- city of light, city of love, and city of very hard water. It's so hard it's practically crunchy, laden as it is with calcium and magnesium. And even though this is supposed to be deadly for hair health, for whatever reason, my hair is great: think Lady of Godiva, or Rapunzel. My hair has never been healthier and curlier (which I aim for, given that I'm not planning to brush it anytime soon). I feel like every day is a Good Hair Day. Why would hard water make my hair look better, defying the conventional wisdom? I'm no scientist; I'm the one who once announced, "Sound is unidirectional."


Mar 8, 2015

Let Them Eat Cake: Coeur de Marie


The first gorgeous day of spring also happens to be my birthday, so I cash in my chits for a day trip to Versailles, without the whining of "Not another palace!" For many people, I suspect Versailles is all about King Louis XIV. But for us, it's all about Marie-Antoinette, wife of Louis XVI, and the last Queen to reign here before the revolution.

Mar 6, 2015

Order at the Border: Raclette Fermière


You cross the border, and literally just minutes away, they suddenly cannot make bread. The bread in Italy is terrible: we call it Styrofoam. The more open-minded among you are saying, "No, it's just a different style," but we refuse to accept that anybody would ever choose Styrofoam over delicious French baguette.

Mar 4, 2015

Nose to the Grindstone: Cap Gris Nez


It's pretty obvious how much I love France, and living in France, but even I have to draw the line in the sand somewhere. And that line is at high school.

Part of it is because Gigi herself has started thinking about high school, and what she's thinking is that she doesn't want to go to high school in France.

Mar 2, 2015

Why I Love a Complete Bastard: La Roche de Thônes


It's time for you to understand your French accent nicknamed the Chinese hat, even though, let's face it, the French don't really understand it themselves. Generations of French school kids have been despising them and getting marked off for their erroneous circumflex (circonflexe) accent placement.

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