Monthly Archives: November 2009

Too Bad They Don’t Fit In A Suitcase

Here’s Martial, who is often to be found opening a bottle of wine for his many friends. Sometimes he opens the WRONG bottle of wine (like a 1991 Vougeot) and makes boeuf bourgignon with it and invites you over to share in his mistake.

I don’t think there is any point to me trying to make beouf bourgignons in the future. Nothing will match that one. Ever.

And here are my dear, dear copines Charlotte and Isabelle. Kinda like Carrie’s Miranda, Samatha, and Charlotte…except they’re French, of course. They’re also much better cooks, and don’t have as many (in fact any) Manholo Blahniks.

I would so love to be able to have one of our café‘s again. *gallic sigh*

And then here are two of my surrogate French sons – Gabin and Eloi.

And two of my surrogate French daughters – Capucine and Alix.

And Mauhault, Franck’s goddaughter, with the bluest eyes you have ever seen.

And there are more people I would like to cram in Franck’s suitcase although he didn’t take photos of everybody – members of his family, Arthur, Marc-Olivier, etc. etc. etc.

Somebody really has to get working on that Star Trek tele-transportation technology. I mean, we can send a man to the moon, why can’t we send someone instantly from France to Canada?

Authentic France Travel Tip #52: Do Paris, But Preferably at The End

Paris is on my mind today. Franck is there right now, staying with our friends Nicolas and Joelle before catching the plane tomorrow back to this rain-sodden little island of ours here in the Pacific (and more importantly, back to me and the Bevy).

Also, last night I stayed up until 1:00am watching the final two episodes of Sex and The City which take place mainly in Paris.

I laughed out loud when the fictional Carrie Bradshaw meets her lover Alek’s Parisian daughter for the first time.

Chloe the daughter is played by quite a well-known French actress, and when Carrie asks (nervously) “how are you?” after being introduced, the Parisian daughter answers, “Well..let’s see know, my life has basically fallen to pieces since this morning. I am totally depressed and all that is left for me to do is slit my veins.”

The look on Carrie’s face is priceless.

But that kind of drama is what makes Paris so riveting. If you haven’t been, you really should go. It isn’t necessary to spend all of your time in France in Paris, but a day or two is really a nice compliment to a little séjour in the French countryside.

I always recommend putting the Paris portion of your France trip at the end rather than the beginning. When you are jet lagged and tired from a long trip, Paris’ magic can quickly become exhausting and disorienting.

Enjoy your Parisian jaunt at the end, when you are well-rested and well enough adapted to French life that you can really make the most of it.

Maybe if Carrie had followed my advice she would have ended up with Alek rather than Mr. Big…but then again, that would have been a shame, n’estce pas?

Frenchitude Lesson #56: Drink in Thy Street

The Bistro Bourgignon in Beaune always has comfy outdoor couches ready for prospective winetasters.

***

Similar to the time when a woman in Victoria castigated Franck for opening a door for her, Franck cannot help but trot out again and again another particular bit of effrontery that he experienced in his adopted country.

It happened during his very first summer in Canada. We had been living together in Montreal where I was a student at McGill.

Summertime rolled around, and Franck got himself one of those typically Canadian rite of passage jobs – a tree planter in Northern BC – while I was busy in Victoria protecting Canada’s borders as a Custom’s Officer (I can still remember how to read someone their rights – handy skill for a parent).

After six weeks living in the bush amongst the black flies and black bears, Franck and his crew were let loose back into civilization – Prince George, BC – for three days and two nights to shower, drink beer, and PAR-TAY between contracts.

The second night they were all out in the streets of Prince George watching a fireworks extravaganza (Canada Day, if memory serves correct). They were all, of course, drinking beer.

Here comes the effrontery part: within a matter of minutes an RCMP officer came by, took their beer, and emptied it down the gutter in front of them.

Franck still trots out this story on a regular occasion. “Can you believe it?” he says. “They actually emptied it down the gutter! Perfectly good beer!”

This is unfathomable to a French person because: a) the French law enforcement officers are the last people to waste perfectly good alcoholic beverages, and b) because drinking in the street is not only a way of life in France, but held up as the mark of a civilized, cultured society.

Just have a look at the photos Franck took from the Beaune wine auction and party last weekend. It was warm, the streets were full of revellers, and you would have looked mighty strange if you were over 16 and weren’t wandering around with a tasting glass in your hand.

Or a glass of mulled wine, which this fellow is serving up. I love a lovely glass of mulled wine to warm up my hands.

Wine is everything in Beaune, especially on this particular weekend. It is debated, tasted, and worshipped openly.


Winetasting
stands are set up every few metres, so your glass never has to go empty for very long. And yet the crowd is completely well-mannered – downright charming as a matter of fact. Families and groups of friends arrive en masse. Children are running around everywhere…

People take time to sit down at a bistro table and enjoy a glass of wine and the twinkling Christmas lights.

And there are no gendarmes throwing wine down the gutters at all. However, you might just find one tasting alongside you.

Vive la France.

La Reponse…

Well Pam, you were trrrrrrrrèèèèèèèèsssssssss close, and I think you deserve a bottle of virtual Burgundy Crémant for being the only person who dared to guess.

Either this one was way too hard, or you guys are all having the same kind of week that I’m having!

About three days ago Camille came down with yet another virus, just when I thought that after over a month of nursing sick children that I was finally out of the woods.

I had a mini-meltdown that took the shape of very nasty insomnia which occurred – and let me just say, oh do The Sleep Gods ever have a well-honed sense of irony – on the two nights when the bevvy actually slept through the night for the first time in about 6 weeks.

I was so livid about not sleeping, not to mention anxious about how I could possibly get through the next day on no sleep that I made a tearful phone call to Franck at 1:45am (10:45am in France). I was not proud of it, nor the many weepy wails of, “why is this so hard?” and “why can’t I do this?”

I’m feeling better now.

In retrospect I figure that the meltdown was normal and indeed necessary after the past few weeks of pestilence, rain, and temporary single-parentdom. That stuff can only be repressed and pushed aside for so long; it has to come out sooner or later.

So that explains why I haven’t posted over the past few days. Franck, however, has been adding photos to his Picasa web link every day. He is having a marvelous time in Burgundy (with the exception of desperate middle-of-the-night phone calls from his wife) now that he jetlag has passed.

So the answer to Monday’s Sommes-Nous? is that this photo was taken during the festivities for the “Vente des Vins” in Beaune. This year they did something new – a sound and light show on Beaune’s most beautiful buildings, called a “son et lumière” and something that the French love and, as you will see below, have elevated to an art form.

The photo I posted for the Sommes-Nous? was the light show that was being projected on the side of Beaune’s famed Hospices de Beaune (going to Beaune and not visiting this famed 15th century building and institution is akin to going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower). It recounted the history of Beaune’s trademark monument and the love story that began it all between Nicolas Rolin and Guigone de Salins.

That’s our girl Guigone (and tell me, why does no-one name their daughter “Guigone” these days?) to the right and her love Nicolas to the left.

The Hospices de Beaune also houses a museum which owns some very famous pieces of Flemish art as depicted on the ancient stones below.

And the usually staidly elegant Notre-Dame Cathedral of Beaune has also put on her glad rags for the party. I’m not sure what the man with all the snakes in the centre is all about but you have to admit you would probably stop in the middle of the street to look. I sure would.

France is historically a deeply Catholic country, so never fear! Jesus and the Virgin Mary have not been snubbed. They were also invited to the party. I can’t help but wonder what they chatted about with the snake man over a glass of Beaune’s world famous wine.

Who says that mystery is dead in modern life?

Frenchitude Lesson #55: Eat Slow

With Franck away in Burgundy I’ve been handling what I call the “arsenic hours” of 4:00-8:00pm on my own. Homework, dinner, dishes, bath (all with, in my case, a whinging toddler attached to one of my legs).

However, I still have managed to get the bevy down to a hot, sit-down dinner every night and take a moment to unwind and chat with them about their day. I am of course, having to discipline Clem throughout, i.e. “Sit down, sit down, SIT DOWN!” and “Don’t you dare throw your food on the floor…ah, dammit!”

So, really, it is not all that relaxing for me, but I believe the bevy need it to give a sense of normalcy to their lives when Franck is away. So even though my mind is inevitably three steps ahead of dinner, as it is wont to do during the arsenic hours, I try to slow myself down and encourage the girls to take their time eating.

Two nights ago Charlotte who, along with Camille, is doing some culture catch-up of her own in the form of becoming obsessed with the movie High School Musical, was bolting her food.

“Slow down,” I say. “You have to rush at lunch at school, but you don’t have to rush now.”

A sheepish smile. “I want to finish quickly so I can watch High School Musical again.”

Camille lifts one disdainful shoulder. “If you start eating fast Charlotte, you’re not French anymore.”

Si! I am too still French!”

“Not if you eat fast,” Camille decrees.

“Mom!” Charlotte wails. “I’m still French even if I want to finish to watch High School Musical, right?” (I can’t help but notice that this argument about not being French takes place entirely in French)

“Sure,” I agree, distracted. Clem has just dumped her pasta with bolognaise sauce all over the floor.

“Non,” Camille insists. “French people eat slowly. That is what being French is all about.”

So there you have it. According to one Grade 2 girl at least, eating slowly is the essence of Frenchitude – even in the face of such worldly temptations as High School Musical.