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France – Spring 2012

A 2012 trip to my hometown, Nantes, in France.

A Day in Airports

The line-up to go through security was interesting. Most travelers were flying short and medium haul flights to either other parts of France or sunny destinations like Morocco, Tunisia or Turkey. And each and every one of them had some banned items in their hand luggage!

Funfair in Nantes

In Nantes, there are two several-week-long fun fairs a year: one in the spring, and one in the fall. When I was a kid, we waited for both fairs impatiently—going there would keep us busy for several Wednesdays (in France, kids don’t go to school on Wednesday!).

Nantes’ Industrial Past

One of my favourite districts in Nantes is the one close to the Loire River, by the quai de la Fosse. The former dodgy neighborhood was home to the shipyards and, at the time, prostitutes and brothels were known to satisfy sailors’ needs quai de la Fosse (there are still a number of strip...

Ten Random Observations about France

Even though I haven’t lived in France in ten years and even though I’m registered as a “French abroad”, I still received a carte d’électeur at my parents’ address to vote for this year’s presidential election. So technically, I guess I can vote twice. Ahem… election fraud, anyone?

Creative Use of English Language in France

In the 2004 novel “A Year in the Merde”, an Englishman is sent to Paris to set up a chain of tea rooms in France. At the beginning of the book, the British guy tries to explain his French team that “My Tea Is Rich” is not a good name for a chain of English tea rooms.

The Weight Of History

Last week, Nantes inaugurated a brand new memorial to the abolition of slavery. The city doesn’t have a glorious past: Nantes was the slave trade capital of France, and that’s how it became the largest port in France and a wealthy city. In the 18th century and well into the 19th, Nantes...

Fire in Nantes

Article views: 4 I’ve been spoiled with photo-ops lately! A demonstration, the annual street market, the carnival (that I skipped)… and now a huge fire. Nantes is definitely the place to be in March-April! Yesterday afternoon, I smelled smoke in the street but I couldn’t figure out where...

Street Market in Nantes

Sales are an exciting topic in France for two main reasons: first, clothes aren’t cheap, second, sales and discounted prices are rare. In fact, the French government regulates sales and only allows two six-week-long markdowns a year, one in June and the other in January. But this Saturday...

The Île de Versailles

I took a long walk to the Île de Versailles, a small island on the River Erdre. The place is modeled after a Japanese garden, and dotted with patches of bamboo, rhododendrons and bonsai trees. It’s a great place to get a “out of the city” feel, even though it’s tiny and can be crowded on...

Nope, not this way, Nantes, March 2012

The French And Their Bathrooms

I first noticed the many differences between North American bathrooms and French bathrooms a while ago, but I had somehow forgotten about it. It all came back to mind today, when I went for a drink with one of my oldest friends (we’ve known each other since we were six years old!).

The Presidential Race in France

Living in Canada means that I’m relatively sheltered from campaign craziness—I didn’t even know all the candidates who had qualified, ten of them in total. But of course, this week I got a crash-course in 2012 presidential elections: it is the main focus in the media and the hottest topic...

Passage Pommeraye

Passage Pommeraye is one of the historic monuments I’m now rediscovering. The mini shopping mall is a passage between two streets, rue de la Fosse (the lower street) and rue de Santeuil (the higher one). It was completed in 1843 and was a novelty at the time. The design is very elaborate...

Is The French Diet Still A Good Diet?

A decade ago, José Bové, the farmer syndicalist, was fighting against junk food (he famously sacked a McDonald’s franchise to make his point) and French would rather have some baguette with stinky cheese than a hamburger. But the more I walk in Nantes, the more I wonder whether the French...

City Under Siege

French love to rebel against the establishment, and spring is generally the start of “protest season”. That’s why I wasn’t surprised when I heard a demonstration was planned this Saturday. But while the protest itself was fairly innocuous, the police force deployed seemed pretty...

Ten Things I Had Forgotten About France

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.

Packing and Flying… Again

From Ottawa, I can easily bus to Trudeau Airport in Montreal or Pearson in Toronto and catch a direct flight to Paris. It’s a six- or seven-hour flight, and dozens of airlines serve this route every day. I can be there if needed. At least, I can try to. And this time, I needed to be there.