Archive for July, 2010

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July 28, 2010
Window display at Ladurée, Place Madeleine.


Currently on hiatus travelling through Spain and Morocco.  Expect more blogging when I return to Paris (and regular internet) in late August!

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La Fête nationale

July 22, 2010
“My “14 juillet” souvenirs


la fête nationale – national celebration
le 14 juillet – the 14th of July
le bal des pompiers – fireman’s ball
un pompier – fireman
un defilé – parade
le parfum
– flavour
une gueule de bois
– hangover (familiar)
un bonnet – bonnet, cap, head covering
une bavette – flank (steak)
papoter – to chatter
le feu d’artifice
– fireworks


******

A mere four hours after getting home from the July 13 pre-fête nationale Bal des pompiers, just as I was finally drifting off to sleep, my phone rang. It was my friend Floriane, with the wake-up call I had requested. She had received a V.I.P. invitation to watch the big defilé along the Champs-Elysées at a very special reception being held in one of the offices above the grand boulevard, and she had invited me to be her guest. “Coucou Darlene, tu viens de te reveiller ? ” (“Hi Darlene, did you just wake up?”) she asked me sweetly, obviously bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, having had the good sense to skip the bal the night before. “Euh… non…” I fibbed. “J’arrive…” (“I’m coming.”)

I dragged myself, slowly, painfully, out of bed, cursing military parades and their early start times. Why? Why start a parade at 9:00 a.m.? What was wrong with a 1:00 p.m. parade? Or even better, a 4:00 p.m. parade?

Thirty minutes and two large cups of caffeine later, I left to meet Floriane. Having consulted Google Maps the night before, I knew that the address was a fifteen-minute walk or a mere five-minute Métro ride away. I had also checked the RATP (the Paris métro) site the night before and knew that my nearest subway station wasn’t closed, so I was all good. Or so I thought.

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Le Bal des pompiers

July 22, 2010

Photo courtesy Mélina.

la fête nationale – national celebration
le 14 juillet – the 14th of July
le bal des pompiers – fireman’s ball
un pompier –  fireman
une caserne (de sapeurs-pompiers) – fire station
un don – donation
une voyageuse – female traveler
“C’est gentil, merci.” – “That’s kind of you, thank you.”


******


Marshall:
Wow, you’re creating a holiday.
Barney: Why not? Everybody gets one – mothers, fathers, Bastilles…
“How I Met Your Mother”


Most people I know back home have heard of “Bastille Day”, although my guess is that many would be hard-pressed to define exactly when and what it was.  In fact, July 14 is la fête nationale de France – their version of Canada Day, if you will.  Somewhat oddly, it’s known internationally in English-speaking countries as Bastille Day, even though in France, it is either referred to as le 14 juillet (much like Americans refer to Independence Day as “the 4th of July”) or simply, la fête nationale.  It commemorates the 1790 Fête de la Fédération, a huge feast that was held on July 14, 1790 to celebrate the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille in 1789, considered to be a major turning point in the French Revolution.

Now, talk of a national holiday generally tends to conjure up images of the kind of pomp and circumstance befitting a dignified patriotic celebration.  And while it’s true that le 14 juillet is observed over here with much fanfare, parades, concerts and fireworks—the stuff you’d typically see in other countries during similar sorts of celebrations—the French also have another somewhat lesser-known tradition linked to la fête nationale that is quite unlike any of the customs associated with our own national holidays in North America.  In typical French fashion, it flirts with the hedonistic; a backyard barbecue, it’s definitely not.  I’m referring of course to le bal des pompiers, which really deserves to be touted in travel brochures as a genuine tourist attraction right along with the Eiffel Tower, at least for us voyageuses out there.

Every July 13, the night before the official patriotic celebrations begin, France’s finest open up casernes all over the country and throw les bals des pompiers for the general populace.  The parties usually run both July 13 and 14 from 9 p.m. until 4 a.m. and entry is traditionally free, although dons of any amount are gratefully accepted at the door, with all proceeds going towards improving the conditions of workers.  Oh yes, my lady friends back home, you heard me right – on July 13 and 14 all over France there are parties hosted, staffed and filled with firemen.  Dancing.  All with cute French accents.  Don’t you wish you were here?

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Sunset by Ferris Wheel

July 9, 2010
Girl, uninterrupted

la grande roue – the big (Ferris) wheel
la plus belle ville du monde – the most beautiful city in the world
se tenir la main – to hold hands

******

“Et on se prend la main, comme des enfants…”
(“And we hold hands, like children…”)
– From the song “Comme des enfants”, Cœur de pirate


On the last day of June, my friend Dylan and I took in a beautiful summer sunset in Paris from the top of la grande roue in the Jardin des Tuileries. There couldn’t have been a more perfect evening for it. The light spilled out across the city like liquid gold, tinting everything it touched with a little bit of magic. And even though I’d been here two months and had already seen the city from a myriad of angles, I found myself catching my breath all over again and marveling in disbelief at how very lucky I was to be living here.  It seems like every day I discover another reason why Paris really is la plus belle ville du monde. Continue reading »

Eating on the Cheap

July 7, 2010

un sou – a French penny
mes découvertes – my discoveries
un Coca – a Coca Cola
un kir – an apéritif made of cassis liqueur and white wine
une carafe d’eau– a pitcher of water
au comptoir – at the counter
quartier – neighbourhood
le prix – price
un marché alimentaire – food market
“Framboises ! 4€, les deux barquettes !” – “Raspberries! Two boxes for 4 euro!”
les crêpes à emporter – crêpes to go
à emporter – to go
sur place – on the premises; “to stay”
un sandwich grec
– a Greek sandwich
une formule – a set menu
le 3ème – refers to the “3rd arrondissement”; Paris is divided into 20 different arrondissements
un resto– short for “restaurant” (familiar)
la vie quotidienne – daily life
un plat – a main dish; somewhat bizarrely, in English, we refer to plats using the French word entrée, whereas in French, an entrée is actually what we call an appetizer, that is, the entrée or “entrance” to the meal
un très petit prix – a very small price
un chômeur/une chômeuse– an unemployed person

******


My first couple of trips to Paris, I was more or less on vacation.  I had a steady job waiting for me back home, and a guaranteed income to go along with it, so I felt at liberty to stop and eat when and where I wanted, pay outrageous tourist prices for tomato and cheese sandwiches at the Louvre, and blithely rack up my credit card trying out all the adorable little restaurants that André Michelin’s heart might have desired.  I knew at the end of the day that I’d be able to pay it all off, if not with this paycheque, then with the next one, so what the hell – why not live a little and treat myself?

Now that I’m actually living in Paris, this sort of behaviour is not so practical unless I’m prepared to start singing a French version of Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? in the métro.  Employment in the foreseeable future is still an uncertainty and I don’t know how long it’s going to take me to find a job, so I need to stretch my savings out and make them last as long as possible.  This means that nightly dinners out at that delightful little bistro on rue Montorgueil are off the table, at least for now.  I’m back to counting my pennies – or should I say, my sous – the way I did back in university.  Luckily, having been a starving filmmaker for several years, I have lots of experience in finding ways to make my dollar euro go farther.

In the spirit of sharing, I thought I’d let you in on some of mes découvertes on how to eat cheaply here.  I’ll warn you in advance, this is not your Zagat’s guide to eating in Paris.  But hey, if you’re looking to save a euro or two, keep reading. Continue reading »

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