The French “Manana”

July 28th, 2014

Hotel de VilleMy least favorite word in the French language was and may still be the word normalement. Normalement basically means “if all goes according to plan”. When you add normalement to a response, it means the thing should happen. For example:
Question: « Le magasin est ouvert demain ?» / “The store is open tomorrow?”
Response: « Normalement, oui. » / “It should be, yes.”
Why do I hate this word? Because it denies all responsibility. It turns a “Yes” into a “Yes, you obnoxious inquirer, but don’t come blaming me if something changes. I didn’t promise anything.” In effect, normalement is a just a CYA addition.
But my latest pet peeve or bête noire as the French would say, is « pas du tout », sometimes shortened to just « du tout ». Of course there are legitimate reasons to say “not at all”, but I think it is far overused in French. Two examples:
Example 1: A couple of weeks ago, I was walking with a friend down rue du Faubourg-Poissonnière, the border between the 9th and 10th arrondissements. I was looking for a place to get photocopies done. We came across a shop that said, among other things, “Printing”. My friend suggested that I fermaturetry them. I said no, I’ve lived in Paris long enough to know that if they don’t specifically say “Copying”, they will not do copying, and not only will they tell me know, they will laugh at me for even asking! “Don’t be silly,” he told me. Might as well ask. So I did. And the response? « Pas du tout, Madamoiselle ! » Was this really necessary? Had they just said “Sorry, no” would that have left some doubt in my mind that maybe they still did some copying, if I just asked more politely? When I asked if the shopkeeper knew where I could make copies, he said “all over!” but it still look me another 20 minutes to find a place.


Ramadan-Themed Ad in the Paris Metro

July 27th, 2014

1 ramadan ad in paris metro buzzmobileI don’t remember seeing ads about Ramadan in the Paris metro before this year. Clearly a bigger part of the population than ever is observing Ramadan, the yearly month-long Muslim fasting time, which ends tomorrow.

This ad is for a telephone company, Buzzmobile. It says, “Unlimited calls 24h/24. I can gassar without counting!” A footnote says that gassar means “talk or gab.”

An alarmed-sounding article in the Nouvel Observateur points out that the French have tended to be leery of any kind of marketing directed at one ethnic group in the population; the French government is not even allowed to ask ethnic questions on its census, so no one really knows what percentage of the French are from different ethnic groups.

The woman in the photo is wearing makeup and a full “correct” veil, the kind she wouldn’t be allowed to wear to a public school in France. The ad people look as if they did their job a bit hastily, says the French Muslim consumer site Al-Kanz, detailing the problems: the word gassar is specific to Algerian Arabic; in Morocco and Tunisia it’s pronounced differently. Also, French North Africans often don’t even speak Arabic any more, and many others prefer to speak Berber with their families, not Arabic.


Cali Cuisine, Paris View

July 26th, 2014

frame 2California dreamers who don’t want to lose sight of the Eiffel Tower should book a terrace table at Frame, the contemporary California-inspired brasserie at the Hotel Pullman Paris Eiffel Tower. I went for the Eiffel Tower views (even after 19 years living here, it’s still impressive!) and the fish tacos on the menu. My Parisian friend came for the Anchor Steam beer and the promise of “something unique”. And despite the Iron Lady, you certainly don’t feel like you’re in Paris! frame1The brasserie is modern and spacious, with huge floor-to-ceiling windows, white marble counters and tables, and décor by French designer Christophe Pillet. If you’re sitting inside you can see the open kitchen or book a private dining room for groups. Open daily 8am until 1am.


Where the French President Eats

July 25th, 2014


Imagine our excitement last Friday evening when we saw none other than the President of the Republic, François Hollande, dining at the gastronomic jewel in the crown of the 18th arrondissement: La Table d’Eugène. Proof that not only is this part of the 18th becoming hipsterfied – it’s positively being gentrified.

Helmed by chef Geoffrey Maillard and his sous-chef François Vaudeschamps – who have previously worked at Le Bristol, Le Plaza Athenée, Alain Senderens and Taillevent between them – the discreet Table d’Eugène has been drawing connoisseurs to rue Eugène Sue for the last five years since it opened (and is, as such, perhaps a trailblazer for having set up in this part of town). Last September it unveiled its new decor – muted tones of beige, grey and oak – behind curtained windows, cocooning patrons in its small, subtly luxurious dining room, where service is slick and the food takes center stage. Table d'Eugene_copyright Kim Laidlaw Unlock Paris_all rights reserved 6The menu is seasonal – changing every 10 days – with high-quality individual ingredients sourced from small-scale producers. Fixed-price dinner menus range between €55 and €99 and may feature dishes such as sea bream tartare with yuzu and daikon, or veal with truffle mashed potatoes, caramelised shallots and pan-fried chanterelle mushrooms, all beautifully presented, and punctuated by amuses-bouches, palette cleansers and pre-desserts, and paired with wines from their superlative selection (the Pattes Loup Chablis, €48, goes down a treat).


You, Too, Can Paint at Giverny

July 24th, 2014

giverny2My friends Laurie and Blair lead outdoor painting workshops in Paris and environs. During the summer they take clients to Giverny to paint and they receive a special permit that is only given to artists and photographers to go after hours when it is closed to the public.

We went on a hot mid July day during the week. Laurie and Blair rented a van and we drove to Giverny in about 90 minutes. That day the clients were two women who were grade school teachers from Hawaii. Their teaching method was quite interesting as they told us how they integrated art classes into the curriculum. They were on a special grant from their school to expand their painting abilities and skills to pass on to their students.

We arrived about 4PM and went to see the Hiramatsu, The Lily Pond, Homage to Monet at Giverny Museum of Impressionisms (yes, the “s” on the end of Impressionism is correct). The show was a reverse-take on Monet, as Monet was greatly influenced by Japanese prints, and Hiramatsu, a Japanese artist, painted a series of paintings influenced by Monet after he first saw the Water Lilies at the Orangerie in Paris and after visited Giverny.

giverny1We then saw the house and the gardens. Although it was teeming with tourists, it was till a great thrill to revisit the country house with its musty smell and antique furniture and of course the gardens. At about 5:45 we carried the easels and art supplies to the water lily area. The museum closes at 6PM so it was almost empty by the time we arrived. It was still full daylight, as it doesn’t get dark till about 10:15 in July.


A Most Amazing Mall

July 21st, 2014

beaugrenelle the paris blogBeaugrenelle is the perfect mix between the best features of a shopping center and the spirit of a department store. One might be mistaken and call it a mall…but Beaugrenelle is nothing like an American mall. Its original architecture, designed by Valode & Pistre, is full of light making it infinitely more beautiful and pleasant to be in than a normal US or UK style shopping mall.

Beaugrenelle counts more than 100 brands, from fashion to beauty, interior design to leisure and fine food: Claudie Pierlot, Baccarat, American Vintage, BA & SH, Aubade Lingerie, Maje, Michael Kors, Maisons du Monde Interiors, Sandro, The Kooples, Zadig & Voltaire, Marks and Spencer and much more. guerlain beaugrenelleWhen you get tired of shopping, Beaugrenelle has a place to get your nails done and a spa.

Located in the 15th arrondissement of Paris, the shopping center is situated 700 meters away from the Eiffel Tower, and has a beautiful view of the Seine. You can make a day of it considering that Beaugrenelle offers a large choice of dining options. For a quick bite they have Cojean, Exki and Eric Kayser or sit down to a proper lunch at the Parisian Pub, the Eclectic Brasserie, Pizza Chic or Noura.


A Graphic (Novel) Battle

July 20th, 2014

somme joe saccoArtist Joe Sacco has created an immense 24-foot panoramic depiction of the WWI Battle of the Somme (July 1, 1916) spanning the long metro tunnel in Montparnasse station (in the corridor between Metro line 4 and the train station). It was one of the deadliest battles, with 20,000 dead and 40,000 wounded in one day. The artist uses a graphic-novel style with no words to depict the horrors of trench warfare. Worth seeing, even if it means you have to go into the Montparnasse metro labyrinth (through August 31). If you can’t make it, the artist’s book, The Great War also includes it.


Bust Out the j’Aimes

July 19th, 2014


Dang! 5300 likes? Thanks, everyone.

The Little Jew?!

July 19th, 2014

funny boneI just whacked my funny bone and oww did it hurt. I realized I didn’t know how to say “funny bone” in French. None of us are actually Franco-French in my house, and I can’t say it would normally come up in a conversation. So I looked it up on WordReference (which by the way is a great resource), and it said that the informal translation was le petit juif (the little Jew). As in (this is the example given), “I accidentally hit my little Jew and my arm is still tingling.” I think I’ll be using le nerf ulnaire instead.



Emerging from Obscurity

July 18th, 2014

atlantic limpet the paris blogThe crepidula fornicata, or Atlantic limpet as it’s soon to be better known in English (sometimes also known as the Atlantic Slipper Shell, or berlingots de mer in French) is actually native to the northeast of the U.S.

Until now, few people have tasted this shellfish as it’s very difficult to extract the edible part from the shell. But now, Brittany native Pierrick Clément and his team at the company Britexa have invented a machine that separates the shell more easily. Why is this machine in Brittany, if the limpet is native to the U.S.? As the story goes, the limpet was actually brought over from the U.S. to France in the D-Day invasion. The shellfish stuck to the hulls of the military ships. The limpet has multiplied exponentially in France, making it an environmentally friendly food to eat; it is not overfished.