Posts tagged: France

Visiting The South Of France For The 1st Time {Part 2}

By , August 4, 2011 1:24 pm
Navacelles in the South of France

Navacelles in the South of France

Boris and I are hosting my parents for a week for their first time in France (and first trip to Europe). I have not been given many opportunities to observe my parents do things for the first time, but when it does happen occasionally, it is always entertaining.

As Americans, we usually greet one another with hugs or a handshake. But while in France, French customs call for kissing so how did my parents do? They were very stiff in their greetings, but my mother did well overall. As for my father, I couldn’t believe he opted for the handshake when it came time to greet another male!

Both Families Together For The First Time

Both Families Together For The First Time

During their first meal, my mother gets a little tipsy after having champagne. My father, on the other hand, is really enjoying all the courses of a French meal, down to the digestif. Since he is insistent on trying everything, we give him really strong smelly cheese, called Roquefort, to try. His reaction is quite memorable as he says, “There is a problem with this one.”

Roquefort Cheese

Roquefort Cheese (green stuff is mold)

There is so much to see in the south but with just a few days here, we manage to squeeze in a few lovely villages. Our first stop is St Guilhem le Desert, which I always enjoy visiting. Along our walk to see the gorges, there are lots of children jumping off the rocks into the clear blue water. Then we make our way to the medieval village where there are lots of little pathways filled with shops. Our visit to the monastery is free and I am surprised to learn that part of exterior courtyard was shipped to a museum in NYC (The Cloisters).

Gorge of St Guilhem le Désert

Gorge of St Guilhem le Désert

Gellone Monastery

Gellone Monastery

Cloister of The Gellone Monastery

Cloister of The Gellone Monastery

My parents appreciate different landscapes and we want to show them something they will never forget. While making our way through the windy roads to our next stop, we come upon a open field of Cardabelle flowers. These flowers are only seen in this region and they help predict if it is going to rain.

Cardabelle Flower Not Fully Bloomed

Cardabelle Flower Not Fully Bloomed

Dried-Up Cardabelle Flower Out in The Wild

Dried-Up Cardabelle Flower Out in The Wild

We finally arrive at a scenic viewpoint of Cirque de Navacelles where we have an impressive view of a limestone plateau that has been carved out from the Vis River that once flowed through it in an oxbow shape. Now that the river has taken a different course, it has left behind a small island in the middle, an oasis of green with a picturesque village, a waterfall, and many natural swimming pools.

Navacelles

Navacelles

Our next point of interest is the place that actually convinced me to visit the south of France with my Frenchie for the first time. As a lover of architecture and all things pretty, the Millau Viaduct is not only the tallest bridge in the world, but an impressive one by sight. The seven pillars that help support the bridge are each anchored with metals cables and make it more aesthetically pleasing. However, my favorite part is how the bridge bends over the town of Millau.

One of The Seven Pillars of The Millau Viaduct

One of The Seven Pillars of The Millau Viaduct

Town of Millau

Viaduct of Millau

As my parents are really enjoying their trip in the south, it’s time to make our way north to Paris.  While we have the option of taking a train up north, we decide to do a road trip (cheap car hire france).

To be continued…

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

The Adventures of First Timers in Europe {Part 1}

By , August 1, 2011 3:29 am

First experiences are always memorable no matter if good or bad. On a last-minute decision, my parents decide to come and visit us in France. It is going to be their first time ever in France, but also in Europe! I would like to share their story with you because in all my travels, I have never experienced so much bad luck all at once, as they did. My poor parents.

They are all packed and eager for their trip. As they arrive in the airport to check-in in the US, they are informed that their Air France flight has been cancelled, even though they were able to successfully check-in online a few hours ago. As it turns out, Air France is experiencing a strike. Luckily, they are able to get on a new flight, an indirect flight from Boston through Canada to Paris.

And how helpful, 15 minutes before their original flight was supposed to take off, they get an e-mail from Air France:

Air France Cancellation E-mail 15 Mins Before Departure

Air France Cancellation E-mail 15 Mins Before Departure

They arrive in Canada and all the other passengers trying to get to Paris, along with my parents, make a run for their connecting flight. Successfully at the gate, they try to board. Oh, they can’t find them on the flight. What!?* It looks like there is another bleep and the Air France rep in Boston didn’t successfully book them on the connecting flight. They are advised to go back to the main departure terminal and have it straighten out. Oh my goodness!

In short, after hours of waiting to be rebooked, they board another flight to Paris. There is no spare time to get food, so they are starving at this point. Ah, this is when the great reviews for Air France start to be true. Shortly after boarding, they are served food and alcoholic drinks, for free! And the thought of seeing me in a few hours made them forget all the craziness that occurred a few hours ago and they are able to laugh it away with the other passengers onboard.

Wine onboard Air France

Wine onboard Air France (source: njee1979 @ Flickr)

And finally, they have their first smell of Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport. But this is not their final destination. To make it to the heart of France, they have a connecting flight to Montpellier, which of course, they missed because of the error in Canada. No biggie, they will just take the next flight, six hours later.

About ten hours after their original arrival time, I’m able to greet my mother and father in the south of France. I want to show them everything and have them fall in love with France as I have.

And yes, my parents are still awaiting an apology letter from Air France.

… To be continued as their bad + good luck doesn’t end here.

Everyday Gastronomy Experience In France

By , July 13, 2011 3:35 am
gastronomy experience in France

Wine Is Only Part Of French Gastronomy

 

After one dining experience in France, you know why the Frenchies are known for gastronomy and why I cannot get enough of all this yumminess. In the US, our introduction to French dining takes place at a fancy restaurant, but the experience is not far from the truth. The biggest difference is most French people don’t dine out; they eat at home.

 

Pork Vol-au-vent Pastry The experience you get from eating at home in France and dining out is not much that different, except that it’s not fancy and you are the chef and the waiter. To understand what I mean, I’m going to walk you through a typical French dining experience at home and you can decide for yourself.
Ile Flottante Sweet Dessert Colorful Petite Appetizers

 

The Courses of a French Meal

You should always be prepared for all the courses of a French meal, as it can consume a lot of time. While the number of courses may vary for each meal, it contains a subset of the following.

Aperitif

Aperitif: Champagne

Apéritif or Apéro:

As a warm gesture and to stimulate the appetite, an alcoholic drink is first served. You can’t go wrong with Champagne as it goes well with many things. Other great options are Pastis, kir, or even beer.

Before you take your first sip, make sure everyone has finished toasting to one another.

Appetizers

Appetizers

Entrée or Appetizer(s):

On a French menu, you may mistake entrée for the main dish, but it actually means appetizer. This can be anything small, but keep in mind, sweet foods are saved for the last dish.

Wine is served throughout the meal. Red wine is usually paired with meat dishes and cheese while white wine goes better with fish and seafood.

Main Course

Main Course: Lamb

Main Course:

Most of the time, the main dish includes meat or fish, served with side dishes. This is when you can see the different cooking styles as the main dish tends to reflect dishes of that local region. I was once served horse meat and it was not that bad.

Cheese-Formage

Cheese

Cheese:

There is always cheese, regardless if it is lunch or dinner. Watch how others cut the cheese and do the same.

I learned my lesson early on when I randomly cut the cheese and everyone looked at me as if I butchered the poor cheese.

Tip:
Before having cheese, clean your plate with my piece of bread.

Be warned:
Your body needs to adjust to cheese over time, so take it slow.

Dessert

Dessert: Raspberry & Pistachio Cheesecake

Dessert:

Now comes my favorite part of the meal, the sweet part. For lunch, it may be something light, like yogurt or fruit. For dinner, I always secretly wish it were crème brûlée, but whatever it is, it’s going to be delicious.

Tip:
The dessert spoon is a great indicator of how much you should eat so you can make it through all the courses of a French meal.

Coffee-Cafe

Coffee

Coffee:

Now to start the winding down process, there is the option of coffee.

I’m always impressed with those that can drink coffee for dinner, as I won’t be able to sleep if I do. And keep in mind, coffee in Europe is never served in a giant cup, but instead in a tiny or small (alongee in French) cup.

Liquor Digestif

Digestif

Digestif:

I can never make it to this point, but to signal the end of dinner and to aid in digestion, a stronger alcoholic beverage is served. Many love to make their own liquor (out of pear or other fruits) and it is quite tasty, but too strong for me.

Overall:

French cuisine contains all the ingredients and thought into making your mouth feel all the sensations that leave you completely fulfilled. The meat, vegetables, and ingredients are fresh and almost organic, so you can immediately taste the difference. Since there are seasons for everything, you will find what’s in season on your plate. For me, I can’t wait for the figs to ripen this month so we can go pick them!

 

Table Manners

“No elbows on the table, no slouching.”
In a formal dinner, you should not do these things, but it is forgivable table manners. Just try to maintain good posture and chew slowly (to enjoy your food), and you will be okay.

Table Manners

Typical Table Setting

The big NO’s for Table Manners:
No chewing with your mouth open.
No eating with any noise (I learned I make loud slurpy noises when drinking soup or other liquids).

Remember, start eating ONLY when the owner of the house says “Bon Appétit” or “Bon App”!

 

Conclusion of Everyday Gastronomy Experience in France

The courses of a French meal sounds like a lot of food?  While France is not for Bargain Holidays, it is worth it.  After your first gastronomy experience in France, you may want to say oh-la-la because you are so full, but then you want to repeat the experience again and again.

Do you think this sounds much different from your French dining experiences?

Merci

Merci

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

France: Camping In Argeles Sur Mer

By , July 11, 2011 8:16 am
Bay of Collioure

Bay of Collioure

The one thing people don’t tell you about a world tour travel, is how tiring it can be. When we came back to France, we had no desire to be on the move. After some time of staying put, we accept an invitation to go camping in Argeles Sur Mer, next the Mediterranean seaside. I love nature and camping, but I have yet to experience camping in France.

Upon our arrival in the “campground”, we are given plastic bracelets that allow us access to all the amenities in the park. No, not that kind of park with only green grass and trees, but instead a sauna, Jacuzzi, outdoor pool and even miniature golf. Outside the park is lots of restaurants and supermarkets (classic beach town) so there is no need to worry about starving. This reminds me of Great Family Holidays.

We drive up to our assigned campsite and in our spot is a two-bedroom prefab house with a large wooden deck. Inside the house is new interiors with decent size rooms, semi comfortable beds, and a full kitchen. Next on our itinerary, we go soak in the Jacuzzi and bake in the sauna for thirty slow minutes, not bad for three-star camping in France.

Camping In Argeles Sur Mer

Camping In Argeles Sur Mer

Our Bedroom

Our Bedroom

All in all, the French call this camping but in reality, it is an economic family vacation. It allows you to be by the beach, but have the comforts you are used to, which is easier for families with children.

The location of Argeles Sur Mer is terrific because you’re by the sea and sandy beaches, with view of the Pyrenees mountain range, and within close proximity to the Spanish border. We pack up our small backpacks and set out on foot for a day of hiking to the village of Collioure. The beginning of the trail is along the cliffs overlooking the infinite sea. There are many wildflowers and just the right amount of breeze and sun to make it an enjoyable hike.

Hiking Along Mediterranean Seaside

Hiking Along Mediterranean Seaside

Before we know it, we arrive in the attractive village of Collioure. Apparently Henry Matisse, a widely recognized French artist known for his use of color in his paintings, visited here and was inspired by the scenery. I really enjoy walking around this village, as it is full of artisan shops and restaurants. I guess we are lucky because the large crowds of tourists are not yet to be seen.

Village Of Collioure

Village Of Collioure

Cute Artisan Tiles

Cute Artisan Tiles

Church Belltower Of Collioure

Church Belltower Of Collioure

Quiet Bay Of Collioure

Quiet Bay Of Collioure

After a relaxing lunch break next to the church tower of Collioure in the quiet bay, we are ready to continue on with our hike. We make our way up to the top of the hill where the castle of Collioure stands and pass by a very nice windmill of Collioure along the way. From above, we can see all the wonderful colors of the village and the entire bay.

Castle Of Collioure

Castle Of Collioure

Windmill Of Collioure

Windmill Of Collioure

Colorful Village And Bay Of Collioure

Colorful Village And Bay Of Collioure

Full View Of Collioure

Full View Of Collioure

Since we are so close to the Spanish border, we can’t refuse a visit to a Spanish village. Once we cross the border, the language completely changes. Having spent some time in South America, we love hearing Spanish being spoken. However, it doesn’t feel like a typical Spanish village, but another seaside town.

Spanish Town Of Llanca - Catalonia

Spanish Town Of Llanca - Catalonia

Church of Saint Vincent

Church of Saint Vincent

Our trip to this region ends up being very nice as there are lots to do and see. The village of Collioure is absolutely wonderful, but the region also offers a lot of other activities like a free audio tour of the Castle of Valmy and wine tasting. The artisan shops in the village of Castelnou also make a nice stop.

The Village Of Castelnou

The Village Of Castelnou

Artisan Home And Workshop Oven

Artisan Home And Workshop Oven

Artisan Gutter

Artisan Gutter

Thank you to our friends, Brice and Sophie, for a fun first experience camping in France.

Thank you Brice And Sophie!

Thank you Brice And Sophie!

Chapel of Saint-Laurent-du-Mont

Chapel of Saint-Laurent-du-Mont

Castle Of Valmy

Castle Of Valmy

Train Station Hall Designed By Gustav Eiffel

Train Station Hall Designed By Gustav Eiffel

The Largest Wine Barrel

The Largest Oak Wine Barrel

Wine Tour of Byrrh Winery

Wine Tour of Byrrh Winery

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

Things To Know About France For Your Trip

By , July 7, 2011 1:16 pm
Things To Know About France

Things To Know About France

France is a wonderful country to visit and to live in. It has beautiful scenery and cycling through France is one of the best ways to see its surroundings. Before coming here for the first time, there are a few things to know about France that we want to prepare you with to make your visit even better. I have put together common phrases and words to know in French; you will be better than me at speaking French in no time. And don’t be obvious about being a tourist. Know the differences between American and French culture and customs. I hope you find our tips useful or just have fun with it!

 

Things To Know About France: French Culture And Customs

French Toasting: Cheers French Greeting: Kisses On Cheeks

How To Kiss:

To greet one another, the French custom is to kiss on the cheeks instead of shaking hands. They kiss two, three, or sometimes four times depending on the region, but it’s always safe to go with two kisses, one on each cheek. Yes, they kiss everyone, both man and woman. If you do not feel comfortable, just stick out your hand to indicate that you want to shake hands instead. Not familiar with how to kiss and greet French style? Just follow their move and remember, it is impolite not to respond.

French Eye Contact:

In many cultures, making eye contact is very personal and it can feel strange or creepy. In France, making eye contact means equality and politeness. When greeting another person, talking to another person, or drink toasting, it is impolite and a way of looking down on another person if you DO NOT make eye contact.

Toasting:

The toast has been a custom to partake when having an alcoholic drink among friends and family. Before taking any sip of your drink, everyone raises his or her glass, and everyone says “Santé” (health) or “Tchin Tchin” (cheers). Then you have to clink your glass with each person and say “Santé” or “Tchin Tchin”. Just make sure you do not cross glasses with another; wait for the others to be finished and then clink glasses with the other person. Once you have finished clinking your glass with everyone in the group, then you can enjoy your first sip.

 

Other French Culture And Customs To Know

France roundabouts
When arriving in France, the language, customs, and culture can be very different from what you are used to. Everything I mentioned above are mandatory things to know about France. Next are a few things to keep in mind.
» All nouns have a gender; they are either masculine or feminine. For some nouns, the gender makes sense, like homme [man] is masculine and femme [woman] is feminine. That’s easy! However, there are lots of other words where the gender does not make sense. For example, personne [person] is always feminine regardless if the person is male or female.
» There are two different ways to go about getting hitched in France: you can get married the traditional way or enter into a PACS, a legally recognized civil union open to heterosexual or same-sex couples. Even with these two options, it is common to find many French couples that choose not to get married regardless of having children or not.
» Universal health care is available to all legal residents of France. Also, higher education is free (or for a small fee).
» There is no drinking age in France, but you must be at least 18 years of age to purchase alcohol. France has very strict drinking & driving laws; you should not be under the influence of alcohol. However, you can drink openly in a car if you are not driving or while walking in the streets. Until recently, everyone is allowed to drink while on the job, but it is no longer true for policemen.
» Some things to know about France, that tourists learn the hard way, is that most shops are closed in France on Sundays and sometimes Mondays. This includes supermarkets. While this is currently changing, plan for it.
» On Sundays, gas stations are most likely closed too. There are automatic gasoline pumping stations, but you must have a credit card and most machines (same goes for tolls) do not take American & Canadian credit cards.
» I think the most shocking difference for me is when I stayed over an acquaintance’s house for the first time in France. In the mornings in a French household, many feel comfortable coming out in what they slept in, as they are in their own home. Regardless if it is an underwear or/and bra, or just a robe, they will come out to have breakfast just wearing that. I guess as Americans, we are a bit more prudish.
» Last but not least, if you plan to do a car hire and drive in France, you should have a valid International driver’s license. Things to know about French roads are the many roundabouts and that most cars are stick shift (manual). The most important and dangerous rule to know is that a car coming from your right has the right of way. Be careful because not all French drivers abide by this rule. The best description I found was in the book, Merde Actuallyamazon, by Stephen Clarke:

This is the stupidest most dangerous law in the Western world. It is the French law that states that a car coming from the right has the right of way. You might be tooling along on what looks and feels like a major road, and if a car leaps out of a tiny hidden sidetrack without looking to see whether anything is coming, and thereby wipes out your whole family, it’s perfectly legal because it was coming from the right.

MERDE! [or Mehr|duh]

 

How to say in French?

If you are worried about speaking the French language, don’t worry because history shows that even they had a tough time. By 1790, there was a standardized French language, but still half of the French population did not speak or understand it. They continued speaking regional languages that were very extreme from one another. Then during the French Revolution, the teaching of French was taught in all the schools, so improvements began in the French language. According to the Constitution of France, French has been the official language since 1992 (Wikipedia is another great source for things to know about France.)

French flag

Common Phrases And Words To Know in French

In English: How To Say In French: Translation in English Phonetics:
Hello (or good morning) Bonjour Boh(n)-zhoor
Do you speak English? Parlez-vous anglais? Pahr-lay-voo ah(n)-gleh?
I do not speak French Je ne parle pas francais Zhuh nuh pahrl pah frah(n)-seh
I do not understand Je n’ai pas compris Zhuh nuh koh(m)-prah(n) pah
I don’t know Je ne sais pas Zhuh nuh seh pah
What is your name? Comment t’appelles-tu? Koh-mah(n) vooz ah-puh-lay-voo?
My name is … Je m’appelle … Zhuh mah-pehl …
How Are you? Comment allez-vous? Koh-mah(n)t ah-lay-voo?
Fine/Well Bien Byeh(n)
Yes Oui Wee
No Non Noh(n)
Nice to meet you Enchanté Ah(n)-shah(n)-tay
Excuse me Excusez moi Ehks-kew-zay-mwah
Please S’il vous plaît Seel voo pleh
Thanks (a lot) Merci (beaucoup) Mehr-see (boh-koo)
You’re welcome De rien Duh ryeh(n)
Can you write that, please? Pouvez-vous l’écrire s’il vous plaît? Poo-ryay-voo laykreer, seel voo pleh?
Where are the bathrooms? Oú sont les toilettes? Ooh soh(n) lay twa-leht?
Goodbye Au revoir Oh ruh-vwahr
See you soon À bientôt Ah byeh(n)-toh

 

Soldes?

When I saw all the soldes signs for the first time in France, I was like what’s going on? How can I possibly buy anything if it is all sold out!*#& [Clearly noted: soldes means sales]

French Soldes Sale

 

Mistaken Phrases And Words To Know In French

English Word How To Say In French: Translation In English:
Shower Douche A product used to sanitize a vagina
Sandals Tongue A garment generally worn as either underwear or as a swimsuit
Thong String A thread used for tying

 

Bad Phrases And Words To Know in French

In English: How To Say In French: Translation In English Phonetics:
Shit Merde Mehr|duh
Damn Putain Pooh|tahn

 

*** If you have a funny story about your first time in France, share it with us. We love hearing from you so leave us a comment. Merci! ***

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