Thursday, July 22, 2010


Hello to all --

Sorry I have not posted in a while.  Things have been changing here in Liquid French Land.

A couple of weeks ago, I was diagnosed with small cell cervical cancer.  I was totally blindsided, as I had no symptoms at all.  They found it as a result of my annual exam.

So ... I am in the midst of chemotherapy and radiation.  No trip to France for me August 3.  But that's okay.  Right now, I have to focus on beating this.  And I will.

In fact, I think of France as I get my radiation and chemo. 

I envision the radiation and chemicals as allied soldiers at the D-Day Invasion.  They are fighting to rid my body of the Nazis.  My body is like France.  It will get bombed and beaten, but it will heal and rise up strong.  Go get em, Ike and Monty and Charles DeGaulle.   Vive la France!

I still have plenty to post about loving France.  Stayed tuned. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Beginning Paris -- Tell Me About THE FIRST TIME YOU SAW THE E.T.

Yes, dear readers, we did make it to France despite the volcano and strikes and all that wanted to hinder us.  More on that in a later post.

Today I want to write about something very cool that I did yesterday.  My friends are taking their 8-year-old daughter to Paris for her first time.  They asked me to come over to their house to tell her about what she would see and help get her excited about the trip.  (Are these great parents/friends or what -- giving me a chance to talk about one of the things I love best to their adorable little girl).

So I went over with a Paris picture book and a Paris magnet.  We talked  about all the wonderful things she would see.  This little girl, Belle, sat with rapt attention.  She did not act one bit bored.  She even got a sculpture that she had made to compare it to those of Rodin, when I was telling her about the Rodin Museum.   I told her about this blog, and she is going to send me some entries as a guest blogger -- Paris from a Kid's Perspective.  How cool is that?

But one thing I told her was this:  "For the rest of your life, you will tell other people about the first time you saw Paris.  You will say 'I was eight-years-old and with my mom and dad.'  How lucky you are to have so many years to remember that first time!
And you will always remember the first time you saw the Eiffel Tower. "

I do, don't you?  My hub and I had flown to Paris on Christmas Night.  The flight was a blast.  The movie  White Christmas with Bing Crosby was the feature (before individual sets) and the whole plane, including the crew, sang along to that lovely song.

We landed on a grey December 26.  I was humming "I Love Paris in the Winter When It Drizzles."  As our cab driver drove us to our hotel (Hôtel Lenox on Rue de Université) he crossed the Seine -- and there it was -- just as I knew it would look in my dreams, but this time it was for real.  I have seen the ET many, many times since, but I will always remember that first time. 

How about you?  What was your first time?  If you have not had that first time yet, how would you like it to be ?  (Don't hold back -- go for it!) 

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sending Out My Best Volcano Mojo

The countdown is on.  Hub and I are flying to France on Tuesday.  

Versailles for two days (I really want to see the place in detail, as well as the town, without rushing) 

Then we get a rental car to drive to Chenonceaux, which will be our center to explore the Loire Valley for four days. Then back to Paris for the last leg. 

I have been on pins and needles that we will not be able to leave if the volcano spouts again.   I  keep telling Hub that I promise I will be a good sport if we get stuck in France and we cannot get back home as planned.    ;)  

Wish me luck!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Learning French with Harry Potter - Part 2

Harry Potter a L'ecole Des Sorciers / Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter (French)) (French Edition) 

I am delighted that so many of you liked the first post about Learning French with Harry Potter and that  you are clamoring for more.  Okay, here we go --

Le Choixpeau Magique =  The Sorting Hat
Gryffondor = Gryffindor
Poufsouffle = Hufflepuff
Serdaigle = Ravenclaw
Serpentard = Slytherin

Nick Quasi Sans Tête = Nearly Headless Nick
 Le Baron Sanglant = Bloody Baron

Rusard = Filch
Miss Teigne = Mrs. Norris

 le balai = broom

 La Gazette du sorcier = The Daily Prophet

And if you want to tell someone something like "It's not rocket science" in French, try
 "ce n'est pas sorcier."

If you want to try learning French with Harry Potter, here is a link to try it out. 

Friday, March 19, 2010

Vivianne's Tips for Paris -- Part 1

Some friends have asked that I write up some of my tips for travel to Paris, so I thought I would post them here.  This is the first of a series.  The next post in the series will address transportation.  Many of you who read this actually live in Paris and/or have visited many times, but many others have not.  I know that some of you are planning a visit soon, and I hope these posts may help you.

I am sure that you have heard that Paris is the most beautiful city in the world.  In my humble opinion, people say that because it is true.  Besides its lovely architecture and lights, there is much to do there.  A month would not be enough time.  I am not sure what you like to do, but I have written down some of the things a person might like to do on a first visit and some things that we do on our return visits.  

The Sights

E.T. –
Probably the most famous monument in the world
View from:
1.    Trocadero Metro Stop (junction of  Line 6 and Line 9) (more on the Metro in a later post)  Just get out at the stop and turn left. You will be on a hill looking over at ET.  Great for photo ops
2.     Pont (Bridge) Alexandre – Great photo op here with stone lion and the Seine in the forgeround
3.    Walking along the Seine on the Right Bank

Going up the ET.  I don’t think it is worth it (the money or the wait), but you be the judge for yourself.    You cannot SEE the tower when you are in it. There are better views of the city from Sacre Cour and from the Montparnesse Office Tower.  But go early if this is what you want to do.  

Started building it in 1138.  It took over 200 years to build it.  Napoleon was coronated emperor here (not the other kings though – they were at the Cathedral in Rheims – a city about 4 hours north of Paris, which is lovely – near the Champagne Valley)  Notre Dame is one of our favorite places in Paris.  

There are many cathedrals in France (and all over Europe), but there is something special about Notre Dame de Paris and its place on the Seine on the Ile de la Cite (island in the middle of the Seine)  And it is the setting for Victor Hugo’s novel, Notre Dame de Paris (English Title: The Hunchback of Notre Dame) Check out the Knitlark Lane Podcast, where you can hear this classic read aloud.  Free at (also free on Itunes)

Free entrance.  Take your time inside to see the gorgeous rose windows and all the side altars.  Don’t miss the garden in the back, and enjoy looking at all the gargoyles on the outside.  Terrific view of Paris if you climb to the top, but stairs are narrow and there are a lot of them.  Not for the faint of heart.  

Named because St Denis was martyred here by the Romans (mount of the martyr).  It is on a hill overlooking the city.  The can-can shows near the Moulin Rouge are known tourist traps filled with Brits and Americans, so buyer beware.
There is a good park with sidewalk artists, but we have found better prices from artists along the walkway by the Seine between Notre Dame and the Louvre,  but this may depend on when you go and the artists you talk to.

If you have seen the film Amalie, you can visit the Bistro that is in the film.  (If you have not seen the film, you should try to do so before you go.)  Also try to view the films Paris Je T’Aime and La Vie En Rose (The Life in Roses) about singer Edith Piaf.
Restaurant Chez Catherine here has good onion soup.  
Note: Because there are so many tourists here, beware of pickpockets.

Cathedral of the Sacred Heart
Good view of city.  You can also look at the inside of the cathedral
Lots of Steps to get to the cathedral
Watch out for this scam here:  A young girl will smile and ask in English if she can give you a friendship string bracelet or ring. Then her friend will ask you for money. He might be joined by others, and they could get very insistent. 
DO NOT get involved with these folks.  If any one approaches you with anything like this, just say NO or NO MERCI.   A friend I know calls these folks the "String Mafia." 

In fact, if anyone comes up to you and asks, "Do you speak English?" you should be careful.  This is most likely not a person in trouble but a come-on for some kind of scam.  Just don’t get involved.  They will leave you alone.  

Lots of famous people buried here from Oscar Wilde and Edith Piaf to Jim Morrison.  It is very pretty, and there are maps to show you how to find the graves of those you are interested in.   

You can view the Arc d’Triomphe and walk down one of the most famous streets in the world.  Streets near here (like Rue Honore) have the high-couture fashion stores etc.  There is a museum in the Arc, but you get to it underground.  
The traffic in the circle around the arc is famously wild.

Yes, it is called Peaceful Square now, but it was not always so.  This was where the most famous guillotine was (there were many) and where King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette lost their head.

Where the King and Queen were kept prisoner.   But don’t go looking for LA BASTILLE.  Although there is a section in Paris called LA BASTILLE, the building  where the French Revolution started no longer exists.

There are many wonderful churches to see in Paris.  This one is very cool and on the Ile de la Cite  Built in 1242 to house the supposed Crown of Thorns. The stained glass here is really gorgeous.

If you are a fan of The DaVinci Code, you will want to see this one, as it was featured in the book.   Even if you are not a fan of the book, it is well worth a visit.  Great fountains outside.  

There is a palace here, too, that is now an art museum with exhibits that change every month or so.  This is where many Parisians go to enjoy a sunny afternoon.  There is a puppet show and a carousel.  You can read more about this in Adam Gopnik’s book Paris to the Moon.  

(Left Bank) a lovely area to stroll the streets and drink in the sights and sounds.

same as above on the Right Bank.  
The Jewish Museum here is very interesting.  This was where the round-ups occurred during Nazi occupation.

The Museums

We love art and history, so Paris is nirvana for us.

You can get them at the Paris Tourist Bureau or at any museum.  Get one at the first museum you go to.  They have passes for 2,4 or 6 days.  Not only do you save a bit of money when you have the pass (assuming you are going to a few museums) BUT (this is big) you do not have to wait as long in line.  It is wonderful when you get to bypass the lines and get right in.  You might wish to go to a museum that is less likely to be crowded (perhaps L’Orangerie) get your pass and then use it after that.  You have to use it on consecutive days.

The Louvre   
Formerly the palace of the King and Queen (one of their many palaces) and it is HUGE.  You could spend a week there.  GO EARLY, as it gets very crowded.  Plan your attack.  Go see La Gianconda (Mona Lisa) and Aphrodite (Venus de Milo) first.  Don’t miss Winged Victory and Louis David’s painting of the Coronation of Napoleon in Notre Dame (see above for visit to ND).  The Egyptian exhibit is terrific here. 

Watch for artists learning their skill as they paint from the old masters.  There is also a beautiful indoor sculpture garden.  Outside is the Jardin de Tuilleries (Tuillery Garden) where Marie Antoinette used to stroll.  It is now a lovely outdoor sculpture garden.  You can buy sandwiches and drinks and sit out on a bench and enjoy Paris.

Musee D’orsay  
If you like French Impressionism, this is the museum for you.   Lots of Manet, Monet, Degas, Renoir, etc.
In an old train station – really cool.

Don’t miss this.  Huge panels of Monet’s water lilies.  He painted them for this room.  Wonderful.   Nice art exhibit downstairs, too.  The building used to be where they grew orange trees so the royalty could have fresh fruit in the winter.

Rodin Museum  
In the sculptor’s house.  Good exhibits.  Nice garden where you can see his most famous sculpture (The Thinker)

Cluny Museum
This one is my favorite.   -- It is a museum about the Middle Ages set in an old abbey.  Terrific tapestries, stained glass, etc.  

Musee Carnvalet  Free.  In a lovely house in Le Marais.  History of the City of Paris.  

Musee Pompidou – modern art – cool building with colored pipes around the side

There are many, many others and many traveling exhibits, too.  Just a wealth of things to do if this is what you like.  More later.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Going French in Denver, Colorado

Okay.  I hear you.  You are skeptical.  Denver?  Maybe a good steak or delicious Mexican food, but French?
Trust me.  I have just the place. 

In my view, you can "go French" just about anywhere -- as long as you have the right esprit (spirit). 
Hub and I had the opportunity to visit Denver last weekend.  It is a terrific city.  We stayed in the Brown Palace Hotel, a lovely downtown fixture that has been in continuous operation since 1892. 

We walked to everything or took the free trolley that goes up and down the 16th Street Mall.  

Going French with Food in Denver 
We found a fantastic French restaurant called Bistro Vendome.  Denver was celebrating Restaurant Week which meant that many restaurants had specials where 2 people could eat three courses for $52.80.  (Denver is the Mile-High City -- 5,280 feet!).

Our meal started with a roasted yellow beet salad (beyond delicious), then we each had cod with brussel sprouts (so yummy) and finished with a crisp that had cranberries and apples with rum ice cream.  

We paired this with a lovely Viognier wine, and I had the French press coffee with dessert.  Our meal was made even better because of the wonderful service of wait staff Kimberly, who seemed to take joy out of the fact that we were having a good time. Good wait staff can make or break a meal.  Bus person Julie was super also.  Bistro Vendome was fantastic, and  I recommend it to anyone who visits Denver. 

Going French with Fashion in Denver 
There is a lovely boutique called Eve near Larimer Square (almost across the street from the Bistro Vendome restaurant) that had a wonderful collection.  The owner Sabine is German, not French, but she had wonderful items from Paris, Brazil and Italy.  She also had a gorgeous jewelry selection from local artists.  Sabine was super friendly, without being pushy, and her shop would not look out of place in any French city. 

Going French with Art in Denver
Yes, this was a bit harder to do, if one insists on defining art narrowly.   
But loving art is something that is universal, n'est pas? 
The Denver Art Museum has a fabulous collection art from the American West.   There is some European art -- even Monet -- but the focus is on art from the western United States.  
But there is French espirt here, too. 
Enjoying all kinds of art is something that we should learn from those French Impressionists who were determined to break the mold that was set for them at the time.  
We spent four hours at the museum and had a wonderful time. 

if you like food with a Mediterranean flair, try Rioja -- same chef as Bistro Vendome. 
And if Russian food and vodka is your fancy, Red Square Bistro has both.  Try both the beet and the fig vodka.  Yummy and fun.

So.. if you get the chance,  give it a try -- Go French in Denver!

We are headed to London next week, so I will be reporting on how to Go French in England next. 
Stay tuned.

Friday, February 26, 2010

My French Language Quest: The Tutor

I am DETERMINED that I am going to learn to speak French.  
Those of us who are trying to learn a new language often have trouble when we try to speak that language in an ongoing conversation.  I know that this is my worst problem.  I can read ok, and I can often pick up the general idea when I am listening.  I can even speak in isolated phrases when I think it out.

But heaven help me if someone actually answers me after I speak! When it comes to an ongoing conversation...Yikes.  The problem for me is that I cannot think fast enough to figure out what someone else is saying and then put together my own thoughts for what I should say next.  

The only way to get better at this is to practice, practice, practice.  Then practice some more.

So I hired a tutor to work with me on my skills in speaking.  Her name is Ly.  She was born in Laos, but her parents moved to Besançon, France when she was little.  She is just fantastic.

Here is what a typical one-hour lesson is like:

Ly gives me homework to watch a French film on my own. (Yes, I still need the subtitles).  I either order the film or watch it instantly on Netflix. (Netflix has lots of French films that you can view instantly.  If you have not tried this yet, check it out)  Sometimes Ly lends me her copy of the DVD.  

For my lesson, we discuss (all in French!) the characters in the film, the vision of the director, the costumes, scenery, colors and how they contribute to that vision, and so on.  It is quite a workout for me.  She helps me if I get totally stuck, but she makes me try hard to express myself without her prompting. 

After that, we spend some time on grammar.  Ly makes note of what I need the most help on from the last lesson, and she brings me oral and written work for that grammar area. (She has many areas to choose from, believe me). 

Next I read aloud from a poem or fable or news story that Ly has emailed me so I can work on pronunciation.   This exercise is designed to get me out of some bad habits.  Ly tells me that my "nasals" need work and that I need to slow down my speech.  She says when I talk fast, I slur sounds -- too much like an English speaker. (She calls it too, too  Eegleesh.)

By the end of the hour, I am exhausted but happy that I am starting to make progress in MY FRENCH LANGUAGE QUEST. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Loving France? Still Waiting #3

...continued .... This post is a continuation of  the Loving France?  thread that tells how I became a card-carrying Francophile.  You can read earlier posts and read them in numerical order, if you wish.
Just check out the archives.  

When I last left you in this thread (in #2) we were on vacation in a tent having a gin and tonic.  We were not in France.  Not even close.
Our life changed over time.  In the words of the inimitable Sonny and Cher, "The Beat Goes On."
We find new jobs in new cites.
We move past the tent. (We still kind of miss it, and we still use a tent for weekend trips to state parks)
We plan our first trip "across the pond."

If you are someone who uses "summer" as a verb -- as in "Last year I summered in Nantucket" -- I am sure that it comes as a shock to you that someone could be this far along in life without making this journey.

Oh, you who had ski trips to Saint Moritz in middle school and high school spring breaks in Prague!
Not everyone had the opportunities that you took for granted as a kid.  We are just thankful to be able to do so now.

So it it time to make our first trip overseas.  And we chose .... not France.
We went to England.  I think many Americans choose England for their first big trip.
We are embarrassed and nervous that we are not able to speck another language.
We think that (at least theoretically) we can speak and be understood in the UK.

So we took several trips to England

and then to Scotland


and also to Wales

It was wonderful, as you can see.  We loved every single minute of our trips in the UK -- from Cornwall and Devon to Yorkshire and the Lake District in England to Aberdeen and the Isle of Skye in Scotland to Betws-y-Coed and Snowdonia in Wales. 

Then my dear dad took me on a trip to Italy.

Fantastic.  What a beautiful country!  The food!  The art!  The wonderful people!

But not France.

You are probably wondering, "When does France come into the picture?"  And what is it about that place that gets under your skin?

Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

My Tips for Learning French #1 -Beginners-

It can be pretty daunting to think about learning  another language if you have been out of school for a bit.
You've probably read those articles that say that if you haven't got it by around age 7, you will never be able to talk with a perfect accent.

I know how you feel after you read something like that.
Terrific, you think.
I'll be XX (fill in the year yourself) this year, so what is the use of starting to learn French?

Well, how old are you going to be if you don't start?  Hmmm?

Chin up. You can make progress at this if you work at it.  Truly.  And it is lots of fun when you get going.
If you have had even a little French in the past, you will be surprised at how much is still in there.
I took Spanish lessons before a trip to Buenos Aires, and I was amazed at how the words kept coming out in French -- words that I did not even realize I remembered from my two years of high school French.

Even if the only French words you know are Yves St, Laurent, you can learn.
And it will be good for you.
I have read that learning a new language at any age is supposed to be helpful in preventing Altzeimer's and dementia.  It supposedly wears new grooves in parts of your brain.
So let's make our brains groovy. 

Ok, you ask, how do I start?
Some people think that the only way to learn is to go to a month-long immersion class in France and soak it all in.
That would certainly be one way.
But that job thing or that family thing -- not to mention that money thing -- may make a long immersion in France impossible.

If you are someone for whom the word "summer" is a verb -- as in "I love to 'summer' at the Vineyard" -- I suggest that you try this immersion method.

If not, check and see if there is an Alliance France group near you (they list their locations on their internet site). They offer classes, and I understand they are very good.  Alas, I have none near me.

See if a community college near you offers classes or if a French high school teacher in your town would give you some lessons.  I really think it is a good idea to start with someone face-to-face who can get you on the right path with pronunciation and grammar.   

If that is not possible, then just go at it yourself with all you've got.
There are lots of tools to learn French, and it can be a bit overwhelming to try to wade through them all.
Here are some things that I used that I  thought were helpful when I started to learn French about two and a half years ago.  I am going to start with two items today, but I will be adding more in later posts. 

You need to start building your vocabulary, but you also need to understand the grammar structure as you learn.  Here are two items to get you started.  They won't break the bank, but they will get you a good foundation if you practice every day. 

The book French: How to Speak and Write It by Joseph Lemaire has pictures with vocabulary and grammar lessons that are easy to follow.  Many of the words are written out phonetically so you can see how to pronounce them.  The book was first published in 1962, and it is still in print.  It is pretty easy to find online if you cannot find it at a store near you. 

Here is a link  French: How to Speak and Write It (English and French Edition)

I really love this next item.  It is a set of CDs called Drive and Learn French.  The CDs tell the story of Jon and his French friend Jacqueline.  Jon meets Jacqueline at the gym , falls head over heels for her, and he decides he needs to learn to speak French to impress her.     

I especially liked this program because it has lots of catchy songs that help you remember the words.  There is one song set at a restaurant that I found very handy when I visited France after working with this CD  --
"We have a reservation -- Nous avons réservé"
This program teaches you greetings, numbers, colors, weather, directions, words to use on the telephone, how to order at a restaurant -- lots of useful things. 


 As you can see there is a Listener's Guide so you can read and follow along with the action and music (though not while driving, please).  
In future posts, I will be reviewing more items that I have been using to learn French.  I will include items for beginners and also for intermediate learners.  

Please let me know how you are progressing  with this beautiful language.

Au revoir. 

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Time to Reconnect with Albert Camus

Albert  Camus.  He died 40 years ago this month (January 4, 1960) in a car accident.  He was at the summit of his powers.  Only three years before the accident, he had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Camus was forty-six years old when he died, and he believed that his work had not even begun.  The exquisite irony is that he did not even like cars, and he had planned to travel by train on the day he died, until a friend talked him out of it.  An unused train ticket was found in his pocket.  One can only imagine what Camus would have done with that material in one of his books.. 

I first became acquainted with Albert Camus in college when I took a course in The Philosophy of Existentialism.  Yes, I know that there is a big argument that he was not an existentialist -- that even JP Sartre was not really an existentialist.  That label does not really matter to me.

What interests me now is whether my view of him has changed now that  I am older and wiser. Well, definitely older -- not sure at all about that wiser part.

And I also believe that for me to get a more complete picture of France today, I must try to get a better understanding of the French history in North Africa.. His writings subtly deal with themes of colonialism and the problems that it leaves in its wake. 

People like Camus were known by the term "pied-noir" -- black foot.  This term referred to people who were colonists of French European ancestry who lived in Algeria before independence.  It also refers to colonists who were repatriated in France after Algerian independence.   The name "black foot" is believed to have come from the firemen, the coal stokers, on steamers who worked in bare feet colored black by coal. .  They were most often Algerian natives.

Camus was born to a working-class family in Algeria in 1913.  He worked at various jobs in North Africa to pay for the courses he was taking at the University of Algiers.  He next turned to journalism, and he also ran a theater company that produced plays by Malraux and others. (He would later say that Malraux should have been the one who received the Nobel Prize).  During WWII, Camus was a leading writer for an underground newspaper of the French Resistance.

The writings of Albert Camus include his fiction, The Stranger, The Plague, and the Fall, and his essays, The Myth of Sisyphus  and The Rebel.    He stresses themes of survival and resilience, together with the difficulty man faces when he must accept the "absurdity" of the universe -- themes that certainly resonate today.

I am going to reconnect with Monsieur Camus.  I am not sure whether to start at the beginning with The Stranger or start with my dog-eared copy of The Plague that I kept from college.  I wish I could read them in the original French, but I am pretty stretched in my attempts to read Harry Potter in French (see previous post on Learning French with Harry Potter).

My favorite quote by Albert Camus:
Autumn is a second spring, when every leaf is a flower.

If any readers have suggestions on how to reconnect with Albert Camus, please let me know.   
Here is a link to find The Stranger The Stranger

Friday, January 15, 2010

Another January Natural Disaster - The Paris Flood of 1910

As the world watches the terrible news from Haiti and fervently hopes that relief efforts can soon help the people dealing with this catastrophe, the City of Paris is marking The Great Flood of 1910.

The exhibition Paris inondé 1910 is at the Galerie des bibliothèques from 8 January to 28 March 2010. 

Check out this link for more pictures

There is also a new book out that chronicles what happened, and it looks like it will be an interesting read.    

The book is getting great reviews. One reviewer noted how the author, a history professor at Rhodes College (Memphis Tennessee USA), writes in detail about the causes of the flood and the physical destruction left in its wake. But perhaps the best part of the book, according to this review, are the parts where he also highlights the political, cultural and social context of the time.  I am definitely buying this one, and perhaps we can discuss it in the blog.  Here is a link if you want to buy the book   Paris Under Water: How the City of Light Survived the Great Flood of 1910

Trust the French to find humor even in difficult times. (Be sure to look at her hat.)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Learning French with Harry Potter - Part 1

Ok, so how could I possibly be learning French with Harry, the quintessential English wizard?

Well, ce n'est pas facile.  (It is not easy.)  The book Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is the first in the series, and it is called  Harry Potter à L'école Des Sorciers in French. (If you are a Harry P fan, you will note the different picture on the cover, too)

I will be posting ideas in later posts for those who are at the beginning of their journey learning French, but this is for advanced beginners or intermediate learners.  (I think that is about where I am).

I have found it fun to read children's books as a way to increase my vocabulary.  I know (and love) the Harry Potter story, and I have the book in English and in French.  It is fun to try to read it in French, although I certainly cannot read it quickly.  I have found that the best way is not to try to look up every word, but to read to get the general idea and look up words (or check the English version) only when I have to.
Here is a link to the French version if you want to join me:
Harry Potter a L'ecole Des Sorciers / Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter (French)) (French Edition)

Here is some vocabulaire for you:
Les hiboux -- owls
La baguette magique - magic wand
Collége Poudlard -- Hogwarts School
des Moldus - Muggles
Tu-Sais-Qui - (He who cannot be named -- You Know Who -- also known as  VOLDERMORT)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Day in the Life of an Unrepentant Francophile

More on how I got to this place in life in a later posting.  Earlier posts below (titled  Loving France?)  give some hints.

But how does My Life as a Francophile affect me right now?

I work every day to improve my French language skills.

This morning my "alarm" went off.  Instead of music, the alarm clock is set to a Pimsleur French CD.  Today we learned how to ask for gasoline at a gas station.

On the way into work I listened to the podcast Learn French By Podcast.  This is available FREE on Itunes.  You can just download it into your ipod and get a lesson on-the-go.

While at work, I listen to live streaming of Radio France.  I don't always understand everything, but I pick up phrases here and there, and I hope that I am learning even more by osmosis.

I used to have a French tutor, and I am going to take steps today to hire another one.

Would love to hear of any other tips for learning French, and I will pass on all that I hear.

Au revoir.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Loving France? Not Yet. -- #2

continued .... This post is a continuation of  the Loving  France ? thread that tells how I became a card-carrying Francophile.  You can read earlier posts and read them in numerical order, if you wish.

So I grew up.  (Sort of.).

I got a job and found a life partner.  Traditionalists would say that I married the love of my life, my husband, Rob.  Rob came from one of the "French" (Candian) families in town, with cousins named Jacques, Francois, Suzanne, and Marie.   He took eight years of French with the French nuns and four more years with the Brothers of the Holy Cross in high school.  He still insists that all he had to do was memorize vocabulary lists.
But perhaps there was something Gauloise, even then, that appealed to me.

Rob and I both love history, art, and outdoor activities.  Our travel budget when we started out together was small, but we had fun.  We traveled by car throughout the United States, visiting lots of  museums, battlefields, forts and many fantastic state and national parks, .

Because of a lack of funds, we often stayed in our tent.  Please be aware that sleeping in a tent is much more fun if enormous quantities of gin are consumed (with only small bits of tonic).

Friday, January 8, 2010

Loving France ? Oh No, Not I -- #1

The first post in the Loving France thread -- How I Became a Card-Carrying Francophile

There was no way that I was ever going to become a silly person who fawned over any country, let alone France.  Famous last words.  Pride goeth before a fall, and all that.

It happened to me before I realized what was going on.  I started loving France.  Yes,  I became a Francophile.  Yikes. (or, rather, Mince!).

Just last week I finished reading a terrific first novel by Nancy Horan called Loving Frank.  This historical novel tells the story of Mamah Borthwick Cheney, an upper middle class wife and mother in Oak Park, Illinois who falls head over tea kettle for the married father (and famous architect) Frank Lloyd Wright.  She leaves her home, her husband (who was not a bad guy) and her two children to follow Frank to Europe, Japan, and back to his boyhood home in Wisconsin.   She is torn up by her obsession, but she cannot seem to help herself.  (Along the journey, which has a horrendous end, she discovers the new budding feminism in Europe and makes some interesting comparisons between that and the movement in the United States).  This book was a good read, and I recommend it highly.

Well, sometimes I think I am in the same boat as Mamah was when Frank Lloyd Wright swept over her like a tidal wave.  It started slowly, but then I became engulfed.

This enchantment did not happen to me in my youth.  It has come about in middle age.  Perhaps that makes it a bit embarassing.  Perhaps I should know better ... guard myself more.

Ok.  With a name like mine, you might think that France and things French were sure to be a part of things. Not so.  I grew up in New England (the northeastern part of the United States) where there were many families like mine with French, well Canadian French, roots.  Our town was filled with Frechettes and Dufresnes and Ethiers and Dupres.   My Nana grew up speaking French and she would use certain phrases that I still remember.

So I took French in high school.  Other than talking a bit with Nana and some of the other "mameres" (grandmothers),  I had little chance to practice.  There was no money in my family for trips to Paris or study abroad while in college.   Thoughts of French culture were as foreign to me as that of Albania.  We did take some trips to French Canada (La Belle Province, Quebec), and I tried to speak a bit without much success or joy.   

I stopped the French classes after two years.  I decided to take up the clarinet in the band instead.  I wish I had somehow found a way to do both.  I think I have a good ear and that I could have enjoyed becoming proficient in a language.   But we all know that hindsight is 20/20.  I was young and silly, and I thought I knew better than anyone else what was good for me. 

So what happened to put me on the road to Francophile City?  Stayed tuned.