Everybody speaks French! In Ottawa, I rarely hear “Parisian French”, and if I do, I tend to turn around and glance at whoever talked. Well, I keep on doing that here: whenever I hear French, I turn around. And I really have to stop doing it. This is France.
I’m a bit disconnected from French news. But recently, a few headlines caught my eyes again, mostly because they quickly spread internationally. First, there was the tragic story of the Dupont de Ligonnès family—the father is still on the run by the way.
The U.K and Royalists around the world celebrated the Royal Wedding, the U.S.A finally got “America’s most wanted” and Canada woke up from the federal elections with a hangover—Harper in a majority government, seriously?
Meanwhile, the headlines in France were all about a grisly case that took place in Nantes, my hometown.
I entered France with my Canadian passport and I decided to become a woman with a mission. I was going to find out if French were rude. About an hour after setting foot in my former country, I was ready to say yes. As soon as the plane landed, you could tell the French returning back home from the Canadians: the former loudly rushed out of the plane while the later politely let each other go first.
I felt like one of those people who are offered drugs at a party, got hooked and ended up selling their car for a few grams of crack or whatever is trendy these days. The girl at the counter had me hooked on the best cream ever by giving me a free sample. I decided to do the sensible thing: I just said no. I’m not spending that much on a cream, this is ridiculous, no matter how good it is.
I pushed the door open, slightly annoyed myself, and let him in. “Ah oui, ah oui!” he exclaimed in surprise, suddenly realizing I was not a drama-queen after all. We stared at each other, unsure of what to do. Fortunately, after 6 weeks in France, I had my Frenchness back and I could try to solve the problem as diplomatically as possible.
Crêpes are Brittany’s specialty and crêperies can be found everywhere in Nantes. These very thin pancakes are made from flour, eggs, milk, butter, and a pinch of salt. Normally, crêpes are slightly sweeet and galettes are unsweetened: the first one is served as dessert and the second one is the main meal. They are traditionally served with very cold cider.
We are on our way to France and will stay in Europe until July 31 st. I haven’t spent a summer in France since 2003 — at the time, I was coming back from Australia and New-Zealand and I spent the summer studying for my university exams. It was the hottest summer ever in Europe and I spent half of my time camping at the beach with a bunch of friends. Seven years later, I don’t have that many friends left in France but Feng and I should have fun nonetheless — I remember summer in France as a nice season.
In France, the saying goes that “le client est roi”. But in fact, the customer is anything but a king: at best he is an idiot, a minor annoyance in your day. As this funny article on “How to play the French service game … and win” explains: “The customer is king. But we all know what they did to their royal family. The guillotined head of Louis XVI bounced across the Place de la Concorde as a few thousand Parisians laughed at it”.
I was absolutely unaware of our reputation abroad until I started traveling. Then, I realized that the French were said to have this little je ne sais quoi. In plain language: French were libertine, were doing it all the time, routinely had several mistresses and lovers and had a god-given talent for romance.
The theme for this month is “what a weird day!“. We all experienced a day when nothing goes as planned, when the world just looks strange, when we witness something unusual. At least I hope so… wouldn’t like being the only one!
There are French things I miss, like the coffee culture and historic cities. But then, I think about the downsides: stupid shop hours, dodging dog poo, the bureaucracy…
There are “pâtisseries” and “boulangeries” everywhere, the first ones specializing in cakes and elaborate pastries, the second ones offering many kinds of bread and basic bakery products.
Nantes was pretty lucky during World War II: unlike a lot of French cities, it wasn’t totally destroyed by bombings.
If you follow the Loire river from downtown, you will find a bridge that crosses to the “isle of Nantes”, a former shipyard turned into a leisure and cultural site.
We flew to France yesterday, and after our travels in Latin America, where airport security is straightforwards and quite basic, it was a shock.
Like any other expat/ immigrants, Sasha occasionally misses home. Her “5 American things you can not recreate in Europe” made me laugh… and I figured I could easily list 5 French things I can not recreate in Canada.
France is probably most famous for its “viennoiseries” — sweet pastries. The croissant, of course, and also the pain au chocolat (sweet bread with a thin chocolate bar wrapped in the middle). Oh, and the pain aux raisins — sweet bread with raisins. There’s also the flan (custard pie with prunes), the lemon pie, the banana pie with chocolate, the chausson aux pommes (apple pie)…
Of course, we were both a bit tired after spending almost two days in Montreal airport. That probably explained why my bank card was swallowed at the first ATM I used and why we didn’t notice we were using the wrong plug for my computer.
Plenty of time to think — I’ve been stuck in Montreal airport for 24 hours in a row now. And I’ve just decided to stop being cheap and bought a Wifi access (can you believe we have to pay for Wifi in this bloody airport???).
Occasionally, a bunch of dark coats men wait at the next station: tickets collectors. Upon seeing them, weird things would happen: people of all age would run towards the nearest doors, some would pull washed out tickets out their bags and pockets and punch them quickly, some would distribute extra-tickets around them and the consensus would be “putain!*”.