We were on our way to Lyon when we almost ran over this guy and his two Siberian huskies pulling him on his bike. Instead of running into him, we rode next to him to hand him a donation.
He’s Randolph Westphal and he’s been biking all over the world with his dogs for more than 14 years (around the world 4 times!) on a mission to share his experience as a cancer survivor visiting hospitals, hospices and clinics. More than two decades ago, his doctor’s told him he had about a year left to live because of his cancer but he’s still here 20 years later!
He’s been hit by an 18-wheeler, which put him in a coma, broke his leg, got attacked by a bear and more…and YET he continues.
Here’s more info on him to read about his trials, tribulations and successes. Riding for Cancer, Randolph Westphal (in German)
If you see him, give him some love!
Posted in cars/bikes/etc, news, people, stories Tagged with: biking around the world, cancer awareness, france, Randolf Westphal, siberian huskies
Going back to Rue Mouffetard after a long while, reminded me of one of the very first times I was there. I was visiting a film student friend who lived on the street. We were hanging out the 3rd story window of his apartment watching people, and he suddenly jumps and screams, “THAT’S Wim Wenders!” I’m like, “Are you sure? You can only see the top of his head. How can you tell?” He says, “I just know the top of Wim Wender’s head! It’s him sitting outside at that cafe, I swear.” He started running down the stairs. “Let’s go meet him!” I ran down with him. And, it turned out to actually be him; it was the man who made one of my all time favorite movies right before my very eyes. We chatted for a minute or two about nothing in particular. My buddy got his autograph. I wished I had my camera with me but that was when I rarely took any photos. I totally regret that. Anyway, I didn’t see Wim Wenders this time but here are some photos I took on Rue Mouffetard a couple of weeks ago.
Posted in paris, photos, stories, travel and places Tagged with: france, paris, photos of paris, Rue Mouffetard, wim wenders
From the smithsonian:
“I tip the torchlight and examine a wall in my hotel room. From a distance, the wall looks like vanilla frosting roughly applied. Up close, I see nuggets of caramel-colored stone, faint brown streaks…and an oyster shell. The wall before me is 100 million years old, the raw edge of a cave scraped into a cliff above the Loire River. The oyster was a much earlier guest here, a fossil left from the sea that once covered this part of France and left behind a thick bed of white stone called tuffeau.
Many buildings in the Loire Valley are constructed from this stone. On a trip to France four years ago, I stayed in an elegantly restored farmhouse near Tours, its walls made of tuffeau blocks, stacked like irregular sugar cubes. The farmers of long ago probably dug their own tuffeau. It’s just under the surface–unplanted fields gleam with tuffeau churned to pebbles by the plows. However, the serious quarrying was for the signature chateaus and other monumental architecture of the Loire Valley.
At the time, I was among friends who wanted to visit all the chateaus. The first few exhausted my taste for opulence. Then, near the chateau in Amboise, I noticed caves in the cliff, some with brightly painted front doors, windows, shutters and flower boxes. As we drove around the Loire Valley, I spied more of these domesticated caves, some with chimneys thrusting through scruffy vegetation at the tops of cliffs or new facades and courtyards. Oh yes, someone finally explained: after widespread quarrying of the tuffeau began in the 11th century and created cavities in the hills and plains, people moved in. Some to escape warfare, others because the caves made convenient, low-rent dwellings. Until the early 20th century, many people lived in these so-called troglodyte homes. Entire villages were underground. Some people still live in the caves, I was told, and others are …”
Read the full article
Posted in Dordogne, news, Recommended Accommodations, stories, tips, travel and places, travel tip, weird
photo courtesy of Presse-Océan
David Bernard and Marie Geffriaud, owners of L’Etage, a small restaurant in Nantes (Northwest France, Region: Pays de la Loire), are offering an exceptionally cheap lunch menu on Tuesdays. It’s a marketing tactic to get noticed but it’s also a way to address the financial crisis that has hit France and their clientele. So far, it seems to be working.
For 3.50 €, a sample menu would include thai curry chicken and rice and for dessert, a choice of custard or fruit salad.
I hope other restaurants will follow their example.
15, rue Beauregard
Tel: 02 40 12 10 04
tags: france, french, living in france, cheap eats
Posted in advertising & marketing, Bretagne/Brittany, food and drinks, Loire Atlantique, news, restaurants, stories, tips, travel tip
“Two amateur French wine makers have died after they were suffocated by the fumes from the grapes they were treading with their bare feet.
The victims had volunteered to help a friend make wine at his vineyard in the northern Ardeche region and had climbed into the six-foot wide vat to begin the traditional process of extracting the juice from the grapes.
But police believe Daniel Moulin, 48, and 50-year-old Gerard Dachis were overcome by carbon dioxide fumes that are given off during fermentation and collapsed.
Rescuers tried frantically to revive the pair but in spite of resuscitation efforts the two men did not … Continue reading
tags: france, french, grapes, fatal grape treading, don’t try this at home
Posted in food and drinks, news, people, stories, weird, wine
Two Montreal based comedians with radio station, CKOI 96.9 FM Montreal, totally got a very gullible and giddy, giggling Sarah Palin. A MUST listen. I like how the French describe it, “piégée” (trapped / pranked her) with plain silliness that she basically ignored or didn’t hear. It’s hard to tell.
It is hilarious. Highlights: Marc-Antoine Audette disguised as Sarko tells Palin, “Carla wrote a song about you called, ‘le rouge a levres sur un cochon‘ (lipstick on a pig)” … but tells her it means “Joe the Plumber.” He also mentions that he saw the documentary on her life called, “Hustler’s Nailin’ Pailin” and she says, “Good! Thank you!”
(And people want her to be VP and perhaps P one day? Help us!)
The media is reporting that she took the prank lightly-heartedly but you can hear her away from the phone blurt, “For Christ’s sake, it’s a prank!” She doesn’t sound too thrilled about it to me. Anyway, this was an excellent prank. Chapeau bas , CKOI Montreal.
Listen to the prank
tags: french, prank palin, ckoi montreal, Marc-Antoine Audette, sarah palin
Posted in funny, news, politics, stories, weird
“France has recalled sweets and biscuits made with Chinese dairy after finding high levels of an industrial chemical.
In China, four babies have died and 53,000 have fallen sick after consuming milk products contaminated with the chemical melamine.
The EU banned imports of Chinese baby food containing traces of milk in response to the scare last month.
The recall of White Rabbit sweets and Koala biscuits is the first such order to be made by a European country.
French consumers were warned to destroy or return the tainted products after tests showed high levels of melamine, which can cause kidney failure.
“The first results of tests conducted in France have shown a melamine level above the warning level set by the European Commission at 2.5mg per kilo,” the agriculture ministry said in a statement.
So far there have been no identified cases of health problems associated with the contamination in France.
The recall is the strongest measure yet taken by a European country amid a worldwide health scare over Chinese milk products that has led several countries to ban dairy imports from China.
It came as China issued new quality controls for its dairy industry and promised more severe punishment, including public naming, for anyone found to have violated safety standards.
Some Chinese dairy farmers are accused of fraudulently adding melamine to watered-down milk to make the product appear rich in protein and to fool quality control tests.”
Posted in articles, business / economy, chocolate, daily life, food and drinks, health, news, products, stories, tips
“Picture this: A hotel guest, sleepless after a night spent at the posh Marriot Champs Elysees, asks the concierge for help getting an emergency passport.
She is without hair product or makeup, sports a blotchy face swollen from tears, and is wearing the clothes she went out in last night. Long story short: her purse–ok, fine–our purse containing the key to our rental apartment, cell phone, money and credit cards — and th all-important passport — was stolen the night before.
Also, it was just two nights before we were flying home.
Weeping and wine-muddled after discovering the loss following dinner last night, we had reached my husband back home and asked him to book a room at the Marriott. American-style comfort and help was just what we needed.
All our Marriott points and a couple hundred bucks later we were checking in, relieved and happy to be in a place where they brought us Evian and spoke in English.
The concierge was indeed quite helpful the next morning, seeming not to notice our pitiful appearance, providing the information we needed and a map to find the embassy. Since it closed early in the day and this replacement passport process could take a while, we headed straight there.
Unfortunately, his directions were wrong. The concierge of an American hotel, a five-star hotel at that, had sent us awry. We … “ Continued:
tags: france, paris, hotels, marriott, Champs Elysees
Posted in news, paris, paris hotels, stories, travel and places, travel tip, weird
Tucked away in Chennai, India (southeast coast of India in the northeast of Tamil Nadu), you’ll find an usual and unexpected establishment: a French baking school. The school was created by 25-year-old Alexis de Duclas, a graduate of Essec, one of France’s top business schools, and 24-year-old certified French baker, Antoine Soive, who had previously worked in one of Alain Ducasse’s Michelin star restaurants.
Together, they work toward helping the “Untouchables” in India,* (also called Dalits) the very bottom, absolute lowest level of the Hindu caste system. Their objective is to train and certify the untouchables in the production of French baked goods and pastries, so they will later be more fairly integrated into society and regularly employed. The inspiration to found the school came after a fateful meeting with Ducla and Father Ceyrac, a Jesuit missionary who had worked with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charities to support children and people in distress in India. Many, many months later, Ducla launched his baking school.
Ducla’s school is the epitome of corporate social responsibility, with social issues being the very core of the business, while still maintaining the ability to literally and figuratively “make dough.” Ducla wanted to prove that humanitarian projects can also be profitable. The school is run by the Charity Education and Rural Development Trust. Classes are also funded by philanthropists from India and France. Ducla’s business manages to make a reasonable amount of profit by selling their products.
Students are chosen based on their “untouchability” therefore they must be from economically weak areas and they must be motivated. That is the criteria for selection to this unique school. Along with cooking lessons, the students are also required to take English, Tamil and Science lessons. The training is rigorous and students are required to wake up at midnight and work through the night. After two years of intensive training they should be ready and equipped to handle anything from a fancy gateau for a five star kitchen, to petit fours for a high end restaurant.
A couple of years after the launch of the school, Ducla opened La Boulangerie, a French bakery/ cafe in Anna Nagar West in Chennai operated and maintained by Untouchables (15th Main Road, Anna Nagar West, Chennai 10 Tamil Nadu, India), serving, croissants, cakes, breads and sandwiches.
*Who are the Untouchables in India?
Untouchables in india are branded as impure from the moment of birth. Approximately 1 out of 6 indians (160 million people) live and suffers at the bottom of the Hindu caste system. India’s Untouchables are relegated to the lowest jobs, and live in constant fear of being publicly humiliated, paraded naked, beaten, and raped with impunity by upper-caste Hindus seeking to keep them in their place. Merely walking through an upper-caste neighborhood is a life-threatening offense.
Nearly 90 percent of all the poor Indians and 95 percent of all the illiterate Indians are Dalits/Untouchables, according to figures presented at the International Dalit Conference.
tags: france, alexis de ducla, la boulangerie, chennai india, Anna Nagar West , untouchables
Posted in bread, business / economy, education, outside of France, pastries, people, products, stories
I think there might be more visitors to Vimy from now on…
“A French couple were given a four-month suspended sentence and made to pay one euro in damages to the Canadian state for making a porn video at a World War I memorial, officials said Wednesday.
The verdict came just six months after another couple were fined for taking nude photographs of themselves at the same memorial at Vimy in northern France, which pays tribute to the 60,000 Canadians who died in the Great War.
In the latest ruling Tuesday by a court in the town of Arras, the married couple in their thirties, who put the video on a paying website, were also fined 500 euros each after they were found guilty of exhibitionism.
The symbolic one euro in damages was ordered because the Canadian state was a civil plaintiff in the case.
“The memorial has been known for a long time as a place where exhibitionism and voyeurism is common,” prosecutor Elise Bozzolo told AFP.
The memorial, two huge pylons that can be seen for miles around, was created in memory of the April 1917 battle of Vimy Ridge, a costly victory for Canada.
The site draws around half a million visitors each year.”
tags: france travel vimy wwi memorial sex video one euro fine
Posted in articles, cultural differences, french laws, funny, news, Nord Pas de Calais, stories, travel and places, travel tip, weird
From the iht:
“As a kid in Brooklyn Steven L. Kaplan ate pale sliced Wonder Bread like everyone else but had an epiphany in Paris as a Princeton student in 1962 when he happened on a small bakery on the Rue du Cherche-Midi called Poilâne and bought a bâtard which he filled with cheese and ate in the Luxembourg gardens. “I can still taste that first bite,” he says.
Kaplan went on to become a professor of history at Cornell University, always fascinated by bread as one of the principal actors in French life: it is bread, he says, that seals the social contract in France, the link between the government and the governed.
When in the United States Kaplan, from what he views as necessity, bakes his own bread. In France he is recognized as the bread authority, compared recently in Le Monde with Robert O. Paxton, the American historian who forced French eyes to open on the subject of Vichy. The occasion of the comparison was Kaplan’s new book, “Le Pain Maudit” (Cursed Bread), a study of an unsolved mystery dating back more than half a century but which lingers even in the memories of those not then born: the affair of the poisoned bread.
What became a national disaster began on Aug. 16, 1951, when the inhabitants of the small town of Pont-Saint-Esprit in the Gard region of southern France were suddenly stricken by frightful hallucinations of being consumed by fire or giant plants or horrid beasts.
A worker tried to drown himself because his belly was being eaten by snakes. A 60-year-old grandmother threw herself against the wall and broke three ribs. A man saw his heart escaping through his feet and beseeched a doctor to put it back in place. Many were taken to the local asylum in strait jackets. There was no treatment, no cure and only one possible explanation: something in the bread baked the night of Aug. 15-16 had caused the calamity….” Read the rest
tags: france Steven L. Kaplan Pont Saint Esprit Le Pain Maudit poisoned bread
Posted in articles, bread, food and drinks, history, stories, weird
From the iht:
“COLLOBRIÈRES, France: Christine Amrane says it is mostly about profit, not just protest and nostalgia. This isolated village has decided to accept the French franc in everyday commerce, along with the euro, and the colorful old bills adorned with French heroes and writers have got people thinking.
Not too radically, of course. Collobrières, after all, is deep in Provence, a picturesque little place of 1,600 people, with a perfect, tiled village square, commanded by city hall and a café with a table of old men playing cards and drinking pastis, all shaded by huge plane trees from the hot southern sun.
“We lost something with the franc,” said Amrane, the mayor since 2001. “We lost an identity. We moved very quickly into Europe, maybe too quickly.”
Along with mostly visa-free travel, the introduction of the euro in 2002 was heralded as a great step in the building of a united Europe. But printed with images of imaginary bridges and buildings, and with no portraits of anyone, living or dead, euro bills are as faceless as the Eurocrats who run the institutions of the new Europe.
While Europeans value the ease of travel that the euro has encouraged, they also think that the new currency created inflation by allowing merchants to round up costs. And of course the European Central Bank means that countries can no longer adjust their interest rates and exchange rates to suit their particular economic circumstances.
Nathalie Lepeltier, a 39-year-old baker who launched the idea of accepting the old franc, says that “the euro has made life more expensive – prices are much higher.” Whether the euro is at fault or not, people certainly believe that it is.
“People have lost the concept of the value of money with the euro, because of the euro,” Lepeltier said. People remember the price in francs, and they’re shocked now when they use francs at how much more everything costs.”
Amrane’s husband retired and started getting his pension in 2001, before the euro. “He was paid in francs and now in euros, and it’s not at all the same,” she said. “There’s a general malaise.”
The autumn chestnut festival is on the minds of the people here more than political protest. Paris is 860 kilometers, or 535 miles, away, and Brussels even farther.
But the European Union is a source of confusion and annoyance, both abstract and distant. The French were not allowed to vote in a referendum on the complicated Lisbon Treaty to reorganize the workings of the enlarged union of 27 nations. France, like most countries, thought it safer to ratify the treaty in Parliament, where the government holds a majority.
But the Irish voted, and voted no. And there’s a lot of sympathy for them here.
France is thought to be the beating heart of the European vision, but the last time the French voted on an earlier version of Lisbon, in 2005, they voted no – and polls say they would reject it in its current form….
Posted in articles, daily life, news, Provence, shopping, stories, weird
France’s space agency, CNES put its entire UFO sightings archive on the web.
“The saucer-shaped object is said to have touched down in the south of France and then zoomed off. It left behind scorch marks and that haunting age-old question: Are we alone in this big universe of ours?
This is just one of the cases from France’s secret “X-Files” — some 100,000 documents on supposed UFOs and sightings of other unexplained phenomena that the French space agency is publishing on the Internet.
France is the first country to put its entire weird sightings archive online, said Jacques Patenet, who heads the space agency’s UFO cell — the Group for Study and Information on Nonidentified Aerospace Phenomena.
Their oldest recorded sighting dates from 1937, Patenet told The Associated Press in an interview Friday. The first batch of archives went up on the agency’s Web site this week, drawing a server-busting wave of traffic.
“The Web site exploded in two hours. We suspected that there was a certain amount of interest, but not to this extent,” Patenet said.
The archive includes police and expert reports, witness sketches (some are childlike doodlings), maps, photos and video and audio recordings. In all, the archive has some 1,650 cases on record and some 6,000 witness accounts.
The space agency, known by its French initials CNES, said it is making them public to draw the scientific community’s attention to unexplained cases and because their secrecy generated suspicions that officials were hiding something.
“There’s always this impression of plots, of secrets, of wanting to hide things,” Patenet said. “The great danger would be to…” Read more of this article »
Posted in articles, cultural differences, daily life, history, news, stories, websites
French company Louis Vuitton is up to its old misguided antics getting all litigious on guitarist, Dave Navarro (Jane’s Addiction, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Panic Channel). They’ve got their knickers in a twist over the fact that Navarro has been using a LV strap for his guitar. Um. I’d call that free advertising for LV! But nooooo. Louis Vuitton legal cronies sent the guitarist an ugly threatening letter expressing, “We have no doubt that this copying has been willful and is intended to trade upon the fame and cachet of the LV Trademarks to elevate the status of the infringing Guitar Strap, and of Jane’s Addiction.” Basically, they’re going to sue his ass if he doesn’t cease and desist his LV guitar strap use. Pffff.
Read about it on Dave Navarro’s blog, 6767
Related: Louis Vuitton is Suing a Darfur Fundraiser,
Getting Caught with Designer Rip-offs (Fakes) in France and Italy, iPod Cases from M. Louis Vuitton, Kawaii Contrefaçon
tags: france louis vuitton guitar strap dave navarro
Posted in advertising & marketing, art/culture/design, celebs, fashion, funny, music, news, people, shopping, stories, weird
Those opposing the new Eiffel Tower “hat” can breathe a sigh of relief. The new hat for the Eiffel Tower is a No-Go. Not only that, it was never a GO, nor part of a design competition; it was never approved for restructuring the famous landmark. WHO invented THAT story??
“David Serero, principal of Serero Architects, said in a telephone interview that his firm’s proposal was merely a spontaneous design it had submitted to the Eiffel Tower management group in view of the tower’s approaching 120th anniversary and, he said, was neither a response to a design competition nor solicited by the tower’s management.
The Guardian’s Web site reported Monday that the Eiffel Tower’s management group, the Société d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel, had approved a temporary restructuring of the observation platform, which would alter the tower’s overall shape. After the report was picked up by other news organizations, the management group said that it had never solicited a redesign and that it envisaged no changes to the tower’s appearance.
Mr. Serero said his firm submitted unsolicited designs and put them on the Web, where they were later seen by news organizations.”
Posted in articles, news, paris, stories, travel and places, weird
Since our friends from the U.S. were visiting, we thought it would be fun to meet in Provence and go wine tasting. Some of France’s finest wines come from Chateauneuf du pape and everyone was up for that, so off we (three Americans and one French guy) went.
We stumbled upon a wine cellar that produced award-winning wine and received an informative presentation from the vintner, who spoke fluent English. We tasted 4 wines, and thought about buying a few bottles. They were excellent wines. While discussing what we would get amongst ourselves, the vintner blurts out that he expected we buy CASES of wine. He said something like, “Hey, I’m not a reseller, you know; I’m the producer.”
Ok, I didn’t say that but wanted to. Yes, he’s the producer but he’s still selling it.
This, of course, made no sense anyway since he knew very well that Americans cannot take much wine back to the U.S. And because our friends just brought carry-on luggage, they wouldn’t be able to take any bottles at all with them. He began to annoy me with his greed. Still, we decided to buy ONE case (6 bottles): all the wines we sampled, including a gold medal awarded wine from 1999.
Things were rolling along and we paid our 104 euros ($159) for the six bottles until the vintner began filling the box with our order. He made sure we saw what he put in the case, then says, “and lastly, here’s the 1998 bottle.”
My sweetie says LOUDLY, “we bought the 1999 bottle, you know, the one that costs 26 euros (about $40). Not 1998.”
The guy tried to rip us off!
Anyway, I found that to be so rude, greedy and annoying, but ultimately pathetic. I mean, I could be recommending his little “domaine” right now but instead I simply can not.
How many Americans did he trick?
That just isn’t right.
Posted in food and drinks, products, Provence, shopping, stories, weird, wine
The French documentary, “Le Monde Selon Monsanto / The world according to Monsanto,” directed by independent filmmaker Marie-Monique Robin, airs tonight on ARTE.
The film paints a grim picture of a no-holds-barred evil corporation with a decades-long track record of environmental crimes, health scandals and endangering the population of the entire world.
It will open your eyes to many things and you’ll never look at food the same way again.
Read about it at ARTE (in French) More about it here (in English)
See the movie trailer here
Posted in daily life, environment, garden, health, kids, nature, politics, products, stories, tv and movies
As an expat in France, I don’t get to vote in the municipal elections today but my sweetie does and so I was trying to figure out how it works here. It became very, VERY clear that it’s nothing like in the U.S. Firstly, our little city hall has an “aperitif” room where you can have a drink and eat some cake before or after voting. Later in the day they serve wine.
Me: So who’s running for mayor?
Him: Same guy.
Me: Anyone else?
Him: Well, not really. You know, the list.
Me: What list? What do you mean not really?
Him: He could get scratched off the list.
Me: What!? People can just scratch him off the list and he’s out?
Him: Yeah, well if more than 50% of the voters cross him out.
Me: You mean cross his name out…with a pen?
Me: But. Oh. Weird. And what about the list?
Him: Since we live in a tiny village, there’s only one list. We’re lucky anyone wants to run for anything. But in larger places, there would be many lists. For example, each list representing a political party. You’re in fact voting for a list of people: The mayor and his municipal counsel.
Me: Soooo. Our village has only one list. That just means they are sure to win. No other lists means no other candidates. Are the people on the list from one party?
Him: No. But only because the village is so small.
Me: Ok, this is strange. So, who’s on the list?
Him: The guy who wants to be re-elected mayor and all his friends.
Me: His friends? Why are his friends on the list?
Him: They want to be part of the municipal counsel.
Me: What if you don’t want some people to be on the counsel?
Him: You cross out their name. And if you want someone else to be on the counsel, after you cross out a name, you can add someone’s name on the list. Same with the person running for mayor. He would be at the top of the list.
Me: What?! You mean you can cross out the name of the guy running for mayor and put ANYONE else’s name???
Him: Sure, and also with counsel candidates.
Me: Ok, so, in fact, someone who isn’t running for mayor, can actually be elected mayor.
Him: Yes. But more than 50% of the voters have to write in his name.
Me: What if that person gets elected mayor and never wanted to be mayor?
Him: He’s mayor. I guess he’d have to resign and the rest of the list would come up with a mayor.
Me: That is so kooky.
More Franco-American Conversations
Posted in cultural differences, daily life, events, politics, stories, weird
“The mayor of a village in southwest France has threatened residents with severe punishment if they die, because there is no room left in the overcrowded cemetery to bury them.
In an ordinance posted in the council offices, Mayor Gerard Lalanne told the 260 residents of the village of Sarpourenx that “all persons not having a plot in the cemetery and wishing to be buried in Sarpourenx are forbidden from dying in the parish.”
It added: “Offenders will be severely punished.”
The mayor said he was forced to take drastic action after an administrative court in the nearby town of Pau ruled in January that the acquisition of adjoining private land to extend the cemetery would not be justified.
Lalanne, who celebrated his 70th birthday on Wednesday and is standing for election to a seventh term in this month’s local elections, said he was sorry that there had not been a positive outcome to the dilemma.
“It may be a laughing matter for some, but not for me,” he said.
(Reporting by Claude Canellas, Writing by Andrew Dobbie; editing by Sami Aboudi)
Posted in funny, news, stories, travel and places, weird
From the belfasttelegraph:
“Saint Céneri could hardly be more French and yet its rich history has been shaped, for good and ill, by foreign missionaries and invaders. The small settlement, just within lower Normandy, was created in the seventh century by an Italian saint and hermit – Saint Céneri himself – who conjured up springs and parted the waters of rivers by pointing his stick. During the Hundred Years’ War, in 1434, the village castle was besieged for months and then demolished by 15,000 obstinate Englishmen.
After 561 uneventful years, the village fell, willingly this time, into the clutches of another foreigner – a Yorkshireman. For the past 13 years, Ken Tatham has been the mayor of Saint Céneri-le-Gérei, the only British mayor in France.
On Sunday week, 9 March, he is up for election for the third time. There are no opinion polls in Saint Céneri but Mr Tatham, 62, is likely to win by a miniature landslide.
How many voters would that mean exactly? Mr Tatham considers for a moment. “We have a population of 140, of whom 160 can vote,” he said. “This is just like Corsica, although you’d better not quote me saying that.”
Mr Tatham has lived in Saint Céneri for 38 years. He is married to a…”
Read the full article
Posted in articles, daily life, news, people, politics, stories
Collectors of vintage toys and toy cars will feel at home at the Galerie du Jouet Anciens in the heart of Saint Germain in Paris. Find the models missing from your collection or sell some of your own collection. Even if you don’t collect it’s a neat stop to make if you’re in the neighborhood. This shop displays at least 3,500 vintage toy cars. These are like little gems to the antique toy car enthusiast, and one in particular. We’d been told that a bank president of one of the largest banks in France has his chauffeur drop him by the store often to admire them. Then, he steals one each time! He’d done this many, many times and collected quite a few for his home collection, complètement gratuit.
Actually, a friend who knows the store owner told us this story.
Us: Which bank??? BNP? CIC?
Him: No! I can’t say.
Us: LCL? Caisse d’Epargne? Société Générale? Banque Populaire?? Crédit Agricole??
Him: I can’t tell you!!
Us: Well what happened??
Him: The store owner finally got fed up and asked him to bring back all the stolen cars. His chauffeur promptly took the bank president home where he collected all his booty. He finally returned them.
Us: Awwwwwwwwwwwwwww. Weird.
Galerie du Jouet Anciens
9 rue des grands Augustins 75006 Paris
tél (33) 01 43 26 36 75
They sell: Dinky toys, CIJ, Norev-AR-JRD, SpotOn-MatchBox-Tekno, Mercury-Marklin, Cherryca Phenix, Model Pet-Micro Pet, Tootsie Toy, Tour de France
Posted in paris, shopping, stories, travel and places, weird
A while back I got my mom a collection of oldie chansons, very famous French songs that many people recognize. Stuff from Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel, Brassens, Charles Aznavour, etc. She’d told me that she used to listen to them growing up as a little girl even though she doesn’t understand any French. My grand dad was a fan, apparently, and she became one too.
So, she was happy to receive my gift and she plays it often. When I’m at her place, I’ll hear her humming along happily with the songs. It’s very cute. I giggle, though, when the Brassens song, “Le Gorille” (the gorilla) comes on. I can’t bring myself to telling her what it actually means. If you don’t understand French, it’s such a happy SOUNDING song (merci, M. Brassens. listen to it here). Now, if you would listen to rapper, Joey Starr’s version of this song (listen to an excerpt), you might guess the song’s about something more serious.
If you do understand French and have heard Le Gorille, you’ll know that the song’s about a gorilla that escapes his cage and rapes a judge.
Posted in language, music, stories
A couple of months ago, we spent about a week in the Lyon area and a bit farther south for work, and today, I am still digesting the meal we had down there.
One of our clients wanted to take us out to dinner, which always confuses me a little about our client relationships here in Europe. Aren’t WE supposed to be taking THEM out to dinner? Not complaining! We have the best clients – ever. Anyway, he picks us up at our hotel in downtown Lyon (they are NOT in the Old Town like they advertise) and off we go at bullet speed until we reach the tiny town, Collonges au Mont d’or, which is a couple of miles north outside of Lyon along the Saone River. We enter the parking lot and I gaze up at the brightly painted (pink, red, orange, yellow, green) building that looks vaguely familiar to me.
“I’ve seen this place before on TV.”
Then I see the larger than life painting of Paul Bocuse on the side of the building looking out from a painted balcony window, a veritable study on narcissistic exterior restaurant design (little did I know, that was just the tip of the iceberg.)
“Paul Bocuse! L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges!” (and I thought, doh! I didn’t bring my camera to take food photos for my blog, forgetting temporarily that it was a business meeting.) Paul Bocuse’s restaurant in Collonges au mont d’or was included in Restaurant Magazine’s Top 50 Best Restaurants in the World for 2007.
We’d recently watched a documentary about the life of Paul Bocuse on ARTE, and it became immediately crystal clear that the life of this Michelin starred chef, is a far cry from that of the ordinary French lifestyle – well, from the lives of mostly anyone anywhere.
“Did you know he has THREE wives??!”
Back to the restaurant.
We were brought into a salon for hors d’oeuvres (foie gras or smoked salmon on tiny square inch toasts) and drinks, and later escorted to our table.
Once seated, one could not miss the name, “Paul Bocuse” etched on…EVERYTHING. The napkin holders, the plates, the butter dish, the wine cooler, the walls. Paul Bocuse this. Paul Bocuse that. I get it. You are NOT to forget where you are. Period. I think his name is now indelibly tattooed on my eyeballs.
How was the food? The food was… pretty tasty. I don’t have photos of any of the dishes. Sorry. Needless to say we had little complaints (except the lobster cassolette was a slightly over salted. I’m sorry but is WAS.) from the aperitifs to the desserts (the house ice cream was great). Worth mentioning is the sea bass with lobster mousse baked in a puff pastry shell, which was excellent, as was the cheese cart supplied by La Fromagerie La Mère Richard. You must sample their famous Saint Marcellin cheese, which is to-die-for (to find cheeses from La Mère Richard, go to Les Halles market in downtown Lyon). The Bresse chicken cooked in a bladder with morille mushrooms wasn’t too shabby either. They bring the whole thing out and pop the bladder in front of you. Do you think it would not taste as good if it were NOT cooked in a pig’s bladder?
During our meal we thought we saw Paul Bocuse on the other side of the restaurant. The waiting staff, which by the way, is no short of extraordinary (some of the guys are pretty cute too), confirmed that he comes to the restaurant every day to eat and to make an appearance. Then, I saw this ginormous chef-apron-and-toque-clad man approach our table.
We all say in unison, “Good evening” to this culinary icon.
He just stood there and stared with a half smile. Then disappeared.
Squinting and in unison again, “Why didn’t he say anything?!”
“Were we supposed to say ‘Oui, chef!’ or something??!”
The other strange thing was that in our section of the restaurant, there were other tables but he only came to our table. Very odd, indeed.
Maybe….maybe it wasn’t really Paul Bocuse!! You know, the restaurant borrowed wax Paul Bocuse from Madame Tussauds and he rolled away on tracks…
Paul Bocuse Restaurant – L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges
40 Quai de la Plage
69660 Collonges au Mont d’Or France
Tél. : (33) 04 72 42 90 90
Website: Paul Bocuse
Note: The waiters gave me a menu to take home with me and if you want Paul Bocuse to sign it, you can ask him while he’s in the restaurant. Also, I went back to the restaurant on our way out of town to take some quick photos. I know. I’m such a nerd.
Posted in food and drinks, people, stories, weird
While we were out shopping and looking for our scary movies (which we couldn’t find), we missed the trick or treaters!!!!! I wanted to see French kids going door-to-door because everyone around here said they do – and I only halfway believed them. I wondered what they’d say at the door. According to my mummy-dearest-in-law, they say this…. drum roll…..
On veut des bonbons! / We want candy!
That’s so pushy.
Posted in cultural differences, events, funny, stories
“…The joint suicide of André Gorz, the French philosopher and founder of the magazine Le Nouvel Observateur, and his British-born wife Dorine, who was suffering from a fatal disease, has turned the love letter that he wrote to her into a surprise bestseller.
Gorz, 84, a friend of Jean-Paul Sartre, and Dorine, 83, committed suicide by lethal injection at their home in the village of Vosnon, east of Paris, on September 22. Two days later a friend found them lying side-by-side in their bedroom.
Gorz’s 75-page Lettre à D. Histoire d’un Amour (Letter to D. Story of a Love), published a year earlier, was a tribute to his wife. One French critic described the work, which won him a wider audience than his essays on ecology and anti-capitalism, as his “intellectual and emotional testament”.
The couple met by chance at a card game in 1947 and married in 1949. “You will soon be 82. You have shrunk six centimetres and you weigh just 45 kilos and you are still beautiful, gracious and desirable,” the book starts. “It is now 58 years that we have lived together and I love you more than ever.”
Gorz goes on to describe finding out in 1973 that Dorine, who managed foreign rights for the publisher Galilée, suffered from an incurable condition…”
Read the rest at TimesOnline published for the first time in Britain
Posted in daily life, people, stories
Here’s a fun and silly reading by David Sedaris talking about
the French healthcare system. Click here to listen
Posted in cultural differences, daily life, funny, paris, people, stories
Old Man: I bought bread in the supermarket bakery and gave it to my rabbits. But they wouldn’t touch it!
Baker: I don’t blame them.
Old Man: I wonder why they didn’t eat it.
Baker: That stuff is filled with chemical sh*t and other unnatural ingredients. I wouldn’t even call it bread.
Old Man: Many people eat that chemical sh*t. It’s a shame.
Baker: Well, they shouldn’t. They should come to my bakery. (wink!)
Posted in daily life, food and drinks, health, stories
Pop Quiz. What do talking incessantly and taking a vow of silence have in common? Answer: The nun we met on Saturday.
Standing in line at the train station to buy some tickets for a future trip, we noticed a nun a few people ahead of us and panicking at the ticket window.
Nun (talking to no one in particular): OMG! What am I going to do. (Ok, she didn’t say OMG, but that would have been good.)
No one answered.
Nun (still talking to no one in particular): Why didn’t they tell me I had to transfer to get to Autun? Now what am I going to do? I mean, how was I supposed to know I had to transfer? The person obviously was inexperienced – I mean she was very young and well she probably forgot to tell me – but now I am stuck and have no way of getting to my meeting with the bishop on time – oh dear me – and the soonest a taxi can come is in an hour and a half – too late for my meeting with the BISHOP.
No one responded.
Nun: He will be so disappointed that I couldn’t make the meeting and then maybe it’ll be a long time before I have a chance to meet with him again – so hmmmm I’m not sure what to…
Us: Ma Soeur! (In France, you must always address a nun as “My Sister”) We’ll drive you to Autun. It’s only 30 minutes and you’ll have 15 minutes to spare.
The 30-minute drive might have been the longest 30 minutes I’ve ever experienced and entailed a kooky nun talking the entire time nonstop. I’m not kidding. We didn’t even know when she took a breath. She talked in one LOOOONNNNGGGG sentence, a “Sister’s Monologue.”
She even continued to talk as she exited the car. We left her with some caretakers of the estate and she then thanked us and mentioned that she would surely tell the bishop about how we saved their meeting. My sweetie asked her to ask the bishop not to ring the bells too early in the morning so people near the cathedrale could sleep. She said ok (!) and one last thing.
Nun: “Perhaps we shall meet again if you are ever near my convent. I took my vows and the oath of silence at the Order of Saint Bruno…”
Us: “WHAAAA!?” (We didn’t actually say that out loud. We just thought it.)
She said some other things that we didn’t catch because we were so hung up and shocked by the fact that she’d even admit to us that she took a vow of SILENCE…
Posted in daily life, people, stories, weird
France’s 1st round of presidential elections is today, so I decided to tag along with my sweetie to the polls. But before that, I said, “Hey, but it’s lunchtime. Are they open?”
“Of course, they’re open,” he says as if actually saying, “duh.”
“OMG. Something in France is open during that sacrosanct hour, lunchtime??!”
“Ha. It’s probably the only day in the year when THAT happens, huh?”
So we arrive and I felt all excited even though I don’t get to vote. It’s just fun to see how other countries do this I guess. Here’s what you see if you’re from a village like ours. (it’s probably a lot different in large cities. maybe.) A few guys at a table in a room at the Mairie with nothing decorating the walls except a very new no smoking sticker and a photo of our current leader, Jacques Chirac. I then realize at this moment that this is definitely NOT an electronic voting system.
I ask the gentlemen if they’d mind if I take some photos. “Why?” (as in “Why on earth for?”) But then they say ok. We were lucky to find happy officials. It could easily have been 3 surly old geezers, staring you down with eye daggers.
My other half begins to gather all of his slips of paper as I tell the officials that he doesn’t yet know who he’s going to vote for. (which was true). They chuckle politely.
He proceeds to the booth to put his slip of paper into a blue envelope. (Damn! I forgot to take a picture of the booth. I know, I’m a nerd.) He takes a while as he tries to come up with his lesser of the evil choice. As I wait, I ask the men which one of them will say, “A Voté!“? The guy in the middle, as if embarrassed says, “That would be me.”
Finally, he comes out of the booth to drop his vote into the urne, and the middle guy meekly says his little spiel quickly (see how embarrassed he looks?).
Polls close at 6pm. Now. Does this method seem, well, flawed? It would be so easy for small villages like this to stuff that ole ballot box. Who’s watching them, afterall? Yep, always the conspiracy theorist. But you know, there are somewhere around 6,000 villages in France. A collaborative cheat session could result in a strange and fatal conclusion.
The French 1st and 2nd round system also seems like it could use some improvement. Especially this year when so many people are split between several candidates. For example, say your first choice is Besancenot (yea, the revolutionary communist mailman), your second choice is Bayrou, but Royal and Laguiller (I know, this is extremely hypothetical) make it to the 2nd round and Bayrou doesn’t. And if all people’s 2nd choice was Bayrou, he might’ve had a chance to win the 2nd round if he’d made it to the 2nd round. Like, what would happen in the 2nd round if you could vote between 3 candidates. You know? Anyway.
That’s the process if you were wondering. It is history in the making, as it could and will surely result in dire consequences for the hexagon.
Posted in cultural differences, daily life, politics, stories