Bastille Day: Background & Vocabulary

How quickly the year is passing! Another July 14th is just around the corner. You may know it as Bastille Day, but here in France, it’s called “La Fête Nationale” or “le quatorze juillet.”  

 What’s it all about? Simply put, it’s the date that marks the start of la Révolution française (the French Revolution) and represents the day on which France won her independence from the unchecked and absolute power of the monarchy.

 A Quick History Lesson

 In the 1700s, France was divided into three social classes, known as “États” (estates): the first estate was le clergé (the clergy); the second estate was la noblesse (the nobility), and the Third Estate was everybody else. While the third estate did consist partially of the bourgeoisie (middle class), its largest component was the poorest of society, known sometimes as sans-culottes (without britches).  

 Although the first two estates made up about 3% of the entire population, they were disproportionally wealthy, privileged and powerful, and subjected the vulnerable people of the Tiers État (Third Estate) to harsh and arbitrary laws.

 By 1789, the country was mired in a severe crise économique (economic crisis) and many among Third Estate were fighting starvation, while the other two estates thrived. Ras-le-bol (fed up), the leaders of the Tiers État created a new assembly to write a constitution, very much against the wishes of King Louis XVI.

 On 14 juillet 1789, a mob in Paris, spurred by rumors that Louis XVI planned to use force to destabilize the new assembly, stormed the immense stone prison la Bastille, killing numerous guards and releasing the seven prisonniers politiques (political prisoners) it held. The storming of Bastille gave heart to the masses as the Bastille was viewed as the ultimate symbol of the monarchy’s absolute power. That very night hundreds of people began to tear down the Bastille, stone by stone.

 Just over a month later, on 26 août 1789, the new assembly voted for the Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen (The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizens), a constitution that set out the individual and collective rights of all French people, regardless of social class.  

 And so la République française was born.

Celebrating 14 juillet in Paris

Le quatorze juillet has been a jour férié (national holiday) since 1790. And in Paris it brings quite the doozy of a celebration.

In the morning, an enormous défilé militaire (military parade) struts down the Champs-Elysées to salute le Président de la République (President of the Republic) and other high-ranking French politicians who greet the procession at the Place de la Concorde. Low-flying military jets roar overhead in a spectacular flyby, the tri-colors of the le drapeau français (the French flag) trailing behind them in clouds of smoke. Of course, everyone sings l’hymne national (the national anthem), la Marseillaise.

 When night falls, thousands of people swarm toward the beautifully-lit Tour Eiffel (Eiffel Tower) to watch the feu d’artifice (fireworks), which burst into life just behind the legendary tower. Those not at the Eiffel Tower might be dancing the night away at the exhilarating bal des pompiers (Firemen’s Ball). These balls – hardly formal events – take place in firehouses all over Paris and are open to the public, usually with just a suggested donation.

 Sounds good, non? Come to Paris and celebrate with us!  Bonne fête!

Will you be in Paris for le 14 juillet? How will you celebrate?  Share with us (in French, if you like) below!

(photo: Sergii Rudiuk / Shutterstock.com)

It's La Chandeleur: Serve up the crêpes!

Crêpe-lovers rejoice! Today is La Chandeleur (Candlemas), which means crêpes!  Many French families will have a massive crêpe-making session tonight, school cafeterias will serve these thin pancakes to children, and while strolling through the market, you may suddenly find a warm, freshly-made crêpe thrust into your hand – for free!

Keep reading to find out more about this delicious French tradition!

History of La Chandeleur

La Chandeleur (Candlemas) is a muddle of pagan and Christian traditions that have existed since ancient times. In ancient Rome, it was a celebration to honor Pan, god of the wild, shepherds and flocks, where they would march in the streets, waving lit torches. In the early Middle Ages, the Roman festival was Christianized to celebrate Jesus’s presentation to the temple and the Virgin Mary’s purification. To this day, many Catholic churches celebrate La Chandeleur with candlelight processions.

In medieval Anglo-Saxon culture, February 2nd also marked the traditional celebration of the coming of Spring. February 2 falls smack in the middle of the winter solstice and the spring equinox, signaling the return of sunlight and spring’s beginning. People would thus make offerings to the grain goddess on this date – hoping for a short winter – and engage in ritualistic “spring cleaning” of their homes. Weather superstitions were formed around the date, hence the fun rhyming Chandeleur proverb:

  Quand la Chandeleur est claire, l’hiver par derrière, Chandeleur couverte, quarante jours de perte.

 (When Candlemas is clear, no more winter to fear; if Candlemas is overcast, 40 days of winter to last.)

Americans are bound to recognize shades of Groundhog Day here!

The Crêpe Connection: Traditions and Superstitions

So, how did La Chandeleur come to be synonymous with eating crêpes? It’s said that the round golden pancakes bear a resemblance to the sun, reminding the people of the forthcoming warmth and fertility of spring. The tradition may also be rooted farming superstition that if you didn’t eat pancakes on February 2nd, the wheat crops would be decayed for the year.

While multiple traditions and superstitions surrounded the eating of crêpes in medieval times, only a few of these persist in France today. A favorite French tradition is that you must hold a gold coin in your writing hand, while flipping a crêpe into the air with the other. If you manage to catch the crêpe in your crêpe pan, your family will become rich that year.

Some families throw the first crêpe at an armoire (wardrobe) to see if it sticks. If it does, you should leave it there for a year! Other families are said to throw the first crêpe over the wardrobe.

Types of Crêpes

Most Anglo-Saxons know crêpes as a sweet dessert made from white flour. But in addition to these the French love savory crêpes made from buckwheat flour, called galettes de sarrasin or galettes de blé noir; or wheat flour, crêpes de froment. The most popular version is called la complète: it’s composed of ham, emmental cheese and an egg.

And, of course, sweet crêpes are also popular here for dessert or a snack. They’re often served simply with butter and sugar, slathered in Nutella, or wrapped around such delicious fillings as salted butter and caramel. If you’ve got a real sweet tooth, you can also add slices of bananas and fresh whipped cream.

Where to Find Great Crêpes in Paris

Crêperies and crêpe stands abound in Paris, but certain areas are more well-known for these pancakes than others. The rue du Montparnasse, near the Gare Montparnasse rail station, is especially famous for its tasty crêpe restaurants. This area gained its reputation for great crêpes because the trains departing and arriving from that station go to Bretagne, an area in northwestern France where crêpes are a particular specialty. Bretons moving to Paris settled in the area around the Gare Montparnasse area and brought their crêpe recipes with them.

The most famous restaurant on rue Montparnasse is Crêperie Josselin, which often has lines of customers waiting to get in. You’ll also enjoy La Creperie Plougastel, a popular Breton crêperie a little farther down the street, or Ty Breiz, which is just a few blocks from the Gare. Not far away is also 142 Crêperie Contemporaine, which brings chic and modernity to the crêpe scene.

Outside of the Montparnasse area, the most well-known crêperie is probably the trendy Breizh Café in the Marais, famous for their delectable buckwheat galettes. And if you happen to be over in the Latin Quarter, check out Crêperie de Cluny. You can also eat marvelous crêpe in Montmartre. After climbing 300 steps to the top, you will enjoy this street full of crêperies just next to the famous Basilic Sacré Coeur.

Simple Crêpe Recipe by FAYLI

Why not celebrate La Chandeleur by making your own crêpes at home? Try this easy crêpe recipe… and learn some French while you’re at it!

Ingredients (for approx. 15 crêpes)

  • 300 g (1-1/3 cups) flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 liter (3 cups) of low-fat milk
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of rum or vanilla extract
  • a pinch of salt

Preparation:

1. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs.

Battre les œufs dans un bol à part.

2. In a second bowl, combine flour with salt and sugar, making a well in the center.

Dans un autre récipient, mélanger la farine avec le sel et sucre, faire un puit au centre.

3. Pour the beaten eggs into the center of the flour well, then mix with a whisk.

Verser les œufs battus dans le centre du puit de farine, puis mélanger avec un fouet

4. Add the milk gradually, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. Once milk is fully added, whip vigorously until fully combined.

Ajouter progressivement le lait en mélangeant continuellement pour éviter la formation de grumeaux. Une fois le lait ajouté, battre vigoureusement jusqu’à ce que le mélange soit homogène

5. Mix in the rum or vanilla extract thoroughly, then let the mixture rest for at least 30 minutes.

Bien mélanger avec le rhum ou l’extrait de vanille, puis laisser reposer au moins 30 minutes

6. Heat a large, shallow non-stick pan with a small piece of butter.

Faire chauffer une poêle non adhésive avec un petit morceau de beurre

7. Ladle about a half-cup of the batter into the hot pan and cook the crêpe on each side for about 30 -60 seconds.

Verser une demi-louche de pâte dans la poêle chaude et faire cuire la crêpe de chaque côté environ 30-60 secondes

8, Remove from pan and add your favorite topping: granulated sugar, melted butter, Nutella, sliced bananas or strawberries, or honey.

Retirer de la poêle et ajouter votre garniture préférée: sucre en poudre, beurre fondu, Nutella, bananes en rondelles, fraises ou miel

Enjoy!

 Régalez-vous!

If you’re interested in making a buckwheat crêpe (galette), try David Lebowitz’s wonderful recipe here.

What’s your favorite kind of crêpe? Share with us below!


7 Cozy Spots in Paris to Escape the Winter Cold

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In these frigid January days, those of us in Paris are scurrying from place to place under slate-grey skies, scowling as the freezing air seems to slice through every layer of our clothes. On days like these, nothing is more tempting than finding a nice quiet spot to hunker down with a good book and a warming drink.

To get you thinking warm thoughts, here are our top 7 picks of cozy places in Paris to curl up with your French workbooks (okay – any book) and get away from it all for awhile.

1.  LA CAFÉOTEQUE

The moment you enter Caféoteque, you’re struck by two things: the rich all- encompassing scent of roasting coffee beans and the palpable chalereux (warmth) of the place, which seems to take you by the hand and draw you inside. For coffee lovers, Caféoteque is the ideal place to hide out from the cold.

Founded in 2005 by Gloria Montenegro, a Guatemalan native, Caféotechque single-handedly changed the coffee scene in Paris from notoriously bad to a glorious specialty fit for a gourmand. The café features more than 20 different coffee beans, each from a different country, with descriptive profiles accompanying each variety. And the baristas know what to do with these beans, too: each has been carefully-trained in the art of roasting beans and preparing the perfect cup of coffee. The shop even offers an intense 50-hour course to coffee professionals.

 

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Even if you don’t know an espresso from a ristretto, the café is still a wonderful place to have a time-out. For a Parisian space, it’s surprisingly generous with three sitting rooms filled with a variety of chairs, pillow-strewn benches and battered café tables. The walls are adorned with central American artwork, and the back room (which includes a bar and piano) has one wall entirely devoted to their stock of unroasted coffee beans.

Caféoteque’s only downside is that is doesn’t have Wifi.  On second thought, that’s not really a downside…it makes it the perfect place to escape from the constant buzz of world for awhile. The only buzz you get here is from the coffee.

Caféoteque: 52 rue de l’Hôtel de Ville, 75004

 

2. LE VALENTIN

Just as Caféotechque is a haven for coffee lovers, Le Valentin is a tea-lover’s dream. This little salon de thé is tucked away in the beautiful 19th-century Passage Jouffroy, just a few doors down from the Musée Grevin, Paris’s wax museum. Here, you’ll find more than 35 different types of teas, from green to white to Rooibos, served in beautiful cast iron teapots.

 

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As appealing as the tea are the array of patisseries offered, which range from basic croissants and pain au chocolat to more decadent offerings, such as moelleux aux myrtilles, a kind hazelnut-blueberry cake and baba rhum, a rum-soaked cake topped with whipped cream.

The salon’s elegant downstairs is certainly pleasing but the lamp-lit upstairs room is where you should head for extra charm and quiet. Featuring an assortment of canapés (sofas), tapestries, padded benches and long wooden tables, you can easily pass an hour or two in comfortable solitude. Warning: the Wifi is free but wonky.

Le Valentin: 30-32 Passage Jouffroy 75009 Paris

3. BIBLIOTHEQUE MAZARINE

That’s right – why not find some peace and warmth at an old-fashioned public library? Although this particular library might prove a little distracting: with its the phalanx of marble busts lining the halls, and ornate golden chandeliers illuminating the reading room tables, it’s easily one of the most dazzling libraries in Paris.

Created in the 17th-century based on the private collection of Cardinal Mazarine, the bibliothéque is housed in the left wing of the prestigious Institut de France – that rather intimidating-looking gold-domed building on the Seine’s Left Bank just opposite the Pont des Arts. It’s home to approximately 500,000 printed works, including a Gutenberg bible and some 2,000 incunabula (books and pamphlets printed with the earliest typography).

Prestige and grandeur notwithstanding, don’t be afraid of going inside: the library is open to the public. To sit in its reading room for a spell, you’ll just need some identification and a reading room card, which is available from the on-duty librarian. A non-renewable five-day pass is available for free; an annual pass is available for €15.

Bibliothéque Marzarine: 23 Quai de Conti, 75006 Paris

4. SHAKESPEARE & COMPANY

Shakespeare & Company may not be from the 17th century, but it’s a legend in Paris nonetheless. For those unfamiliar with this landmark, Shakespeare & Co. is an (mainly) English-language bookstore in the 5th arrondissement, a stone’s throw from the Notre Dame Cathedral.

Originally opened in the 6th arrondissement in 1919 by Sylvia Beach, the bookstore was a famous hotspot for renown expatriate writers, including Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein. The shop closed during World War II but was resurrected in 1964 by George Whitman at its current location.

While the crammed bookstore itself is worth a visit, if you’re looking for a cozy spot to huddle up with your French notes for awhile, the upstairs reading room is just wonderful. Lined with books (not for sale) from floor to ceiling, the room offers comfy cracked leather armchairs, a slightly lumpy pillow-lined bench and assorted wooden chairs to while an afternoon away.

Shakespeare & Co: 37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 75005 Paris

5. CAFÉ CRAFT

It’s a myth that everyone in Paris has the time to go wandering dreamily around the city or sit aimlessly in cafés. If you need to get some serious work done and need a non-distracting but congenial environment to do it in, pop into Café Craft.

Half-café, half co-sharing workspace, this modern minimalistic place is tucked away in hipster heaven near the Canal St. Martin. The front part of the café offers a space for people to chat or read the international press over cakes, cookies, quiche and truly excellent coffee (Craft proudly uses a Marzocco, the “Rolls Royce” of coffee machines, and the baristas are carefully trained to make a good cup).

 

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The back part of the café provides a long table for co-working (with an electrical outlet for each seat!) and there’s a sectioned-off part suitable for group meetings. The Wifi is fast and reliable; the baristas friendly. It’s a great place to work when your tiny Parisian apartment becomes too confining…. or if you just happen to be in the neighborhood!

Café Craft: 24, rue des Vinaigriers, 75010

 

6.  Hotel St. James Albany

If you want to step out of the cold and into warm comfort and splendor, head to the Hotel St. James Albany. This luxurious hotel is located in the 1st arrondissement, just steps away from the Jardin de Tuilieries and glitzy shopping street, rue Saint-Honoré. Here, you find a wonderful lounge– plush and cozy – where you can order a variety of drinks and snacks, from a coffee to a club sandwich to a bubbling coupe de champagne.  Exclusive though it is, the waitstaff is attentive but discreet and will never rush you out.  We often hold private French lessons here – and during the summer months, in their stunning interior courtyard.

Hotel St. James Albany:  202 rue Rivoli 75001 Paris

7.  Bonpoint Concept Store

Now, this place is one of the best-kept secrets in Paris.  Bon Point is an luxury children’s clothing boutique with beautiful, expensive offerings (a simple pair of baby socks cost about €15; sweaters run upward of €150). But never mind that – tucked away in the cellar of their sprawling concept store in the exclusive 6th arrondissement is a charming little restaurant/café that offers total tranquility.  Few people know it’s there and no signs outside advertising it.  You just have to know where to go.   Enter the store, give a nice ‘bonjour‘ to the friendly vendeuse (sales ladies), and head down one flight of stairs to the restaurant.  It’s an especially great place to go if you have a small child – it’s one of the few restaurants in Paris that has high-chairs.   (And if you’re interested in children’s baby clothes, check out the store itself: the elaborate décor will blow your mind!)

Bonpoint Concept Store: 6, rue Tournon 75006 Paris

FRENCH LANGUAGE TIP:  If you chose to escape to a café, here are some French phrases that might be handy:

• Bonjour, je voudrais un café noisette s’il vous plait  (Hello, I’d like an espresso with cream, please.)

 • Pourrais-je avoir du sucre ? (May I have some sugar?)

• Est-il possible de se connecter en Wifi? Quel est le nom du réseau et le code d’accès ?  (Is it possible to connect to Wifi?  What is the the name of the network and the access code?)

• Je vous remercie ! (Thank you!)

Where is your favorite quiet spot in Paris? Share with us below!


Galette des Rois: A Sweet French Tradition

shutterstock_236409652You thought the French food fest was over now that Christmas and New Year’s Eve was behind us? Think again. With the arrival of January comes a national obsession with the galette des rois – the “king cake.”

If you’re in France, you’ve probably noticed this scrumptious-looking cake, usually topped with a golden paper crown, in your local boulangerie (bakery), pâtisserie (pastry shop), or supermarché (supermarket) since mid-December. It’s flaky, sweet and best served when warm, straight out of the oven.

But the pleasure brought by a galette des rois isn’t merely due to its delicious taste – it’s also the anticipation of wondering whether you will be the lucky one to discover la fève, a tiny charm, buried inside one of the slices. If you are, you’re “king for a day” and take your place in a 700-year old French tradition.

History

The French have been serving up galette des rois  since the 14th-century. Traditionally, it’s served on January 6th – the 12th day of Christmas – to celebrate the Epiphany, a religious feast day commemorating the arrival of the Three Kings to the manger where Jesus was born. Today, it’s eaten throughout the month of January and is simply a festive way to celebrate the new year with family and friends, regardless of religious background.

You’ll typically find two basic styles of galette des rois: In northern France, it’s made of pâte feuilleté, puff pastry, and stuffed with a dense, creamy almond paste called frangipane. In the south of France, you’ll be eating a brioche-style cake covered with candied fruit. Other variations can be found as well, from shortbread-style, popular in Western France, to those that have alternate fillings, such as chocolat-poire (chocolate-pear) or raspberry.

Serving Traditions

Tradition dictates that when serving galette des rois, the entire cake should be divided such that each guest receives a slice, plus an extra, symbolic slice for any unexpected visitor, or poor person, that should pass by. In this way, everyone has the opportunity to “tirer les rois,” – or “draw the kings” – from the cake.

The “king” is represented by the fève, once a fava bean, now a porcelain or plastic figurine, hidden inside the cake. The person who discovers the fève in their serving is declared le roi (the king) or la reine (the queen) and gets to wear the golden paper couronne (crown) that comes with cake. In some families, le roi or la reine gets to choose a royal counterpart and is tapped to buy the next galette des rois.

Kids and adults alike can get surprisingly enthusiastic about the winning of the fève – many people collect them – and playful accusations of cheating might occur. To avoid this, it is traditional during the slicing of the galette to have the youngest child at the gathering slip underneath the table to call out the name of the person to receive each slice so the server can’t be accused of playing favorites!

The Modern Take

Today, pâtissiers across France make their own versions of the traditional cake, from Pierre Hermé’s rice pudding and caramel galette to Angelina’s gold-dust covered galette. And the fèves get more and more creative as well: some boulangeries create special collections of fèves depicting modern themes from great works of art, to classic movie stars, or even popular cartoon characters. Naturally, if you are making your own galette, you’ll need to buy your own fève, which can be bought here:  http://www.fevesdumonde.com.

Recipe: Chocolate-Pear Galette des Rois

Some of the best and most creative galette de rois in Paris can be found at these pâtisseries.  But if you’re not in Paris, why not try making your own?  It’s easier to make than it looks and takes only about an hour to prepare….but your guests don’t have to know that!

galette-des-rois-3-gd-format

Cooking time : 25min (preparation) 25min (cook)

Skill level : Easy

Servings : 8 slices

***

Ingredients :

2 ready-made puff pastry

2 large pears

1 tbsp vanilla extract

60g dark chocolate

100g softened butter

150 ground almonds

100g caster sugar

1 fève (lucky charm  – if you don’t have a plastic or porcelain one, you can go old-style an use a bean!)

3 eggs

Method :

1) Heat the oven to 200C/fanC180/gas 6.

2) Peel the pears, slice them length-wise into quarters, remove core and cut each quarter in three slices.

3)  Glaze pears over medium heat in a large frying pan with melted butter.

4)  Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of sugar to caramelize.

5) Heat the dark chocolate in the microwave for one minute.

6) Put one ready-made puff pastry on a baking sheet and spread with melted chocolate.

7) Beat together the softened butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy.

8) Add 2 eggs and vanilla extract into the butter-sugar mixture, then stir in the ground almonds.

9) Spoon the mixture over the chocolate, spreading it evenly.

10) Arrange pear slices on pastry and hide the fève.

11) Brush the edges of the pastry with water, then cover with the second pastry piece, pressing the edges to seal. Mark the top of the pastry from the center to the edges like the spokes of a wheel or in a zig-zag pattern, then brush with the last beaten egg.

12) Bake for 25-30 mins until crisp and golden. Serve preferably warm.

What’s your favorite kind of galette des rois?


19 Ways to Celebrate New Year's Eve in Paris in 2014

Bonne Année nuage de mots couleurs texte tag cloudIn Paris, New Year’s Eve (called le Réveillon de St. Sylvestre) can feel like pure magic. While the French typically celebrate by sitting down to a sumptuous feast – inevitably featuring delights such as foie gras, raw oysters and champagne – the City of Light offers endless other ways to ring in the New Year in style.

Whether you’re seeking a romantic night for two or an action-packed night around town, here are 19 ideas for making this New Year’s Eve in Paris memorable:

Romantic

1. Sip champagne from flute glasses at Le Dokhan’s Bar. It has one of the largest and most eclectic lists of champagne in the capital, making it a favorite among Parisians.

2.  Stay at the charming Duquesne Hotel. Make sure you get a room with a balcony facing the sparkling lights of the Eiffel Tower and order champagne to your room.

3. Take a nighttime Seine River cruise on the Bateaux Parisien and glide by the world’s most famous illuminated monuments.

Active

4. For popping music and high-energy dancing, go dancing at Queen Club Paris on the Champs Elysées. A classic and gay-friendly night spot, Queen is Paris’ most famous club and attracts internationally renown DJs and an enthusiastic crowd. On New Year’s Eve, the entrance cover is a pricey €50, including 2 drinks.

5. Visit a more branché (trendy) dance scene at Nouveau Casino on one of the hippest streets in town, rue Oberkamp. On New Year’s Eve, the theme is: “The Golden Years of Hip-Hop and Jazzeffiq” Jazeffiq is well-known collection of Parisian musical artists and DJs, guaranteed to keep you on your feet.

6. Take a whirl at the free ice rink on the Eiffel Tower’s first floor, open daily from 10.30 am to 10.30 pm.

7.  Want to experience a French masked costume ball? Check out the annual Bal Masqué at the Theatre de St. Germain on New Year’s Eve. Entry is €50, including an open bubbly bar. Masks provided at the door, in case you forget your own.

8. Trek up the Montmarte hill to reach the Sacré Coeur basilica. Sit on the basilica stairs with the buskers and lovers and other Paris-struck people and feast your eyes on the city below.

Entertaining

9. Would a soirée of Edith Piaf songs hit the right notes? French singer Caroline Nin’s bilingual “Hymne à Piaf” at the 13th century Essaion Theater promises to be an original evening. Unlimited champagne and canapés on New Year’s Eve will add to the atmosphere.

10. Get tickets to see the Moulin Rouge, a typical cabaret and the birthplace of the can-can dance (warning: this is old-school French-style – the dancers are topless). Seating is very limited at the point, so you’d better hurry.

11. Catch an American movie classic at the Action Cinema on a small cozy street in the 6th arrondissement. On New Year’s Eve, it’s showing the 1957 classic “Silk Stockings” starring Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse. Films are in English with French subtitles.

12. After the film stroll over to Café de Flore, just a few blocks away, for a glass of bubbly. Soak in the vibes of famous authors like Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir who still haunt its walls.

Mingle with the locals

13. Head to the Place de la Bastille, where there’s a fair, complete with thrilling amusement park rides, arcade games, candy apples, crêpes, and sugar-covered churros (fried dough). The metro is free from 5 pm on December 31 until noon on January 1, so feel free to hang out as long as you like.

14. Pack a picnic and join the crowds reveling on the grassy Champs de Mars to watch the Eiffel Tower twinkle at midnight. Sneak a bottle of champagne with you – you’re not supposed to drink alcohol on the Champs de Mars, but the police are likely to turn a blind eye on New Year’s Eve.

15. If you want to be swept into the intensity and excitement of an immense crowd, head over to the the Champs Elysées. It’s being converted into a giant pedestrian zone for the night (and all of the next day) and is guaranteed to have an electric atmosphere.

Dining Out

16. The Bistrot Belhara, an upscale bistro in the 7th arrondissement, is haled by restaurant critic Alexander Lobrano as offering food that is “casually elegant, technically perfect, and respectfully traditional with a tweak of irreverence.” Plus, he says, it’s fun to people-watch the French bourgeoise in their element.

17. For a grander seafood dinner, head to the Brasserie Julien in the 10th arrondissement, known for its stunning art nouveau style and excellent traditional cuisine.

18. Want a restaurant with a view? The famous La Tour d’Argent offers a magnificent view of Notre Dame Cathedral and the Seine river. Classic, elegant and pricey, with extraordinary food, this Michelin starred restaurant rarely fails to delight.

19. For panoramic views of the city, check out Le Ciel de Paris restaurant at the top of the Montparnasse tower. From there you can enjoy both fantastic French cuisine and the breathtaking sight the glittering Eiffel Tower.

How will you spend this New Year’s Eve in Paris? Share below!  Bonne Année!


The Covered Passages of Paris: A Christmas Stroll

Passage Jouffroy

Errer est humain, flâner est parisien.”
To err is human, to stroll is Parisian.
– Victor Hugo

These words were true in the 19th-century and they’re true today. Nothing is more quintessentially Parisian than spending a lazy hour or two strolling through Paris’s streets, gardens, or along the banks of the Seine with no aim other than to take delight in the special details the city offers.

In France, we call a person who strolls in this manner a flâneur (flah-nuhr). If you want to really slip beneath the skin of Paris, we encourage you to become one for a little while.

Of course, there are thousands of places to for leisurely strolls around Paris. But in winter or during rainy season – and especially at Christmas – a wonderful place to flâner is through Paris’s historic covered passages.

Les passages couverts (pah-sahj coo-vairt) are covered passageways built in the 18th and 19th-centuries as elegant shopping arcades for the Right Bank bourgeoisie. Characterized by glass-and-iron roofs, gorgeously patterned tile floors, and distinctive decorative details, the passages were a genteel escape from the grit and grime of the city beyond.

Today, there only about 20 passages left from the original 140+.  Their conditions range from shabby to impeccable, but each one still evokes a sense of stepping into another era when you pass through their iron gates. Original boutiques, art galleries, toy stores, cafés and other unique shops make the passages wonderful place to find special items and knick-knacks that don’t smack of globalization.

But even if you don’t spend a dime, it’s sheer pleasure to simply flâner, admiring the offerings in les vitrines (shop windows) and revel in the Paris that was – and, thankfully, still is.

If you can’t get to the real thing – right now – come take photographic Christmastime stroll through three of our favorites:

PASSAGE JOUFFROY

The Passage Jouffroy is a bustling passages crowded with locals and tourists alike. It’s home to the Musée Grevin, Paris’s waxworks museum, the lovely 19th-century Hotel Chopin, and dozens of interesting boutiques and shops, where you can buy anything from a gold-tipped cane to a 1950‘s child’s music box to an adult-sized silver crown. Don’t forget to have tea and patîsseries (pastries) at the lovely teahouse, Le Valentin. (Tip: For a more cozy, intimate environment, ask to be seated in their room upstairs).  Address: boulevard Montmartre or rue de la Grange Batelière, 75009, Metro: Grand Boulevards or Richelieu-Drouot.

 

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GALERIE VIVIENNE

This is Paris’s most dazzling  passage. Luxury boutiques abound here, from Jean-Paul Gaultier to Nathalie Garçon to the famous wineshop Legrand Filles et Fils .  The adorable toy shop Si Tu Veux will make you wish you were a kid again and the bookstore, F. Jousseaume, is full of fragile old French tomes that look so rich with knowledge that you’ll be tempted to buy one, regardless of the subject matter – but they’ve got intriguing modern books as well.  Lunch at the elegant Bistrot VivienneAddress: Entrances on rue des Petits-Champs, rue de la Banque or rue Vivienne, 75002. Metro: Bourse.

 

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PASSAGE DES PANORAMAS
Passage des Panoramas is the oldest passage, built in 1799. It  has decidedly different atmosphere than the two mentioned above. Slightly run-down and always busy, the passage is inevitably filled with locals, usually there to dine at the down-to-earth Indian and Asian restaurants or at the trendy gluten-free restaurant Noglu, or any of the other street-food style eateries. Peppered between food places are interesting little shops, such as a store that sells signed autographs, art galleries, philatelists and old postcard shops, and jewelry and clothing boutiques. Address: boulevard Montmartre, 75009, Metro: Grand Boulevards or Richelieu-Drouot.

 

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Joyeux Noël from French As You Like It, your French language school in Paris!


Top tips to learn French at markets in Paris

Paris is a haven for bon vivants. Although there are numerous supermarkets, chain shops and fast food restaurants, markets in Paris are still very much alive, kicking and full of fresh fruit & veg.

paris-market-frenchasyoulikeit

While in Paris, whether on holiday or staying for longer, we suggest making like the locals and heading over to your local market – you’ll be able to learn French in Paris whilst stocking up on delicious fresh and seasonal products!

However, before setting off, here are a couple of things about markets in Paris to bear in mind:

1.) Timing

Different markets are held on different days of the week – so check first rather than assuming they will be held on a Sunday. They usually kick off early, around 7am, and finish by 2pm. For excellent value, hit the stalls near closing time when sellers are keen to offload their wares.

What time does the market open/close? Le marché commence/termine à quelle heure?

2.) Prices

Prices are usually fixed, but if you’re friendly there’s no harm in trying a bit of bartering – as a minimum you’ll get a few extra strawberries or slightly rosier apples. It’s a great chance to practise and learn French. Simply smile and go for it – the effort is always appreciated.

Excuse me (get attention): Excusez-moi madame/monsieur
I’d like to buy a melon: Je voudrais un melon
How much does it cost? Combien ça coûte?
Thank you and see you soon: Merci madame/monsieur, à très bientôt

3.) Behaviour

Markets in Paris can be busy and bustling, so be prepared for a little shoving and expect your toes to be crushed by passing shopping caddies. However, do be patient and wait your turn – it’s a great opportunity to exchange a little small talk with the customers standing next to you and learn French vocabulary into the bargain!

It’s a lovely day, isn’t it? Il fait une journée magnifique, non?
Do you know where I can buy…? Savez-vous où on peut acheter

You’re now ready to practise your French at your local market. If you fancy venturing a little further afield, here are some of our favourite markets in Paris where you can hone your skills and learn French:

THE OLDEST MARKET IN PARIS
Marché des Enfants Rouges

This is the oldest remaining market in Paris and dates back to 1615. It’s now a trendy place to grab a bite to eat with an eclectic choice of food stands and restaurants.

I’d like to eat in: J’aimerais manger sur place
To take away: à emporter
Do you serve ….? Servez-vous…?

39 rue de Bretagne, 75003
Tue-Thu 8.30am-1pm, 4pm-7.30pm; Fri-Sat 8.30am-1pm, 4pm-8pm; Sun 8.30am-2pm
Métro: Filles du Calvaire or Saint-Sébastien Froissart

THE MOST COSMOPOLITAN MARKET IN PARIS
Marché de Belleville

Expect to see a whole new side to Paris! Belleville, famous as a Paris Chinatown, has an excellent value markets along its main boulevard. You’ll see strange vegetables alongside more traditional wares. Be prepared for lots of shouting in lots of different languages.

What is it? Qu’est-ce que c’est?
Which country does it come from? XXX vient de quel pays?
Do you sell… ? Est-ce que vous vendez… ?
A kilogram: un kilo
Two hundred grams of cheese: deux cents grammes de fromage
A dozen: une douzaine
Roughly/ approximately: environ, à peu près
I’d like a half a kilo of apples, please: Je voudrais un demi-kilo de pommes, s’il vous plaît

Boulevard de Belleville, 75011
Tuesday and Friday 7am – 2.30pm
Metro: Belleville

THE MOST ORGANIC MARKET IN PARIS
Marché Raspail

Although there aren’t yet many organic markets in Paris (things are slowly changing with more and more organic shops popping up), this market is rather enticing. There more than 50 stalls to meander that sell everything from soaps to wine with a fruit and vegetable focus.

Organic: biologique (bio)
Fresh: frais (m), fraiche (f)
Seasonal: de la saison
Where was it made? D’où vient….?

Boulevard Raspail, 75006
Metro : Notre Dame des Champs

Sun 9am-2pm Bio produce
Mon-Fri 7am-2.30pm general produce

Have fun practising your French at your local Paris market! Why not get some expert guidance private French lessons adapted to your level?

Happy shopping and here are some more ideas for markets in Paris.


How to have fun and learn French in Paris this summer

Empty Parisian cafés. No queues at the bakers. An unusual sense of calm.

This can only mean one thing. It’s summer in Paris!

Image of Paris Plage

If you’re living in Paris or just visiting, this means peace, quiet and sunshine (hopefully) from mid-July to the end of August, more or less in line with the French school holidays.

Rather than joining the fleeing Parisians in search of golden beaches, shady mountains and a change of scene, we highly recommend sticking around for summer in Paris. It’s the perfect opportunity to improve your language skills with al fresco French lessons whilst sunbathing, drinking apéros or watching a film!

1.)    FRENCH LESSONS AT PARIS PLAGE

Where: Along the Seine near Hotel de Ville and at the Bassin de la Villette

When: 20th July to 18th August

The cars and lorries are replaced by sand, deck chairs and sprinklers, and at La Villette there are even pedalos and pétanque – a southern French version of bowling that is often accompanied by generous doses of Pastis (aniseed liquor) or rosé wine. It’s the perfect place to have fun and learn French in the sun with your French friends, or why not strike up conversation with a neighbouring sunbather?

Useful beach vocabulary:

Beach: la plage

Beach umbrella: parasol

Deckchair: un transat

Sand: le sable

Go for a swim: se baigner

Is this deckchair free? Ce transat, il est disponible?

Where are you going on holiday this summer? Vous partez où en vacances cet été?

The weather is lovely isn’t it? Il fait un temps magnifique, non?

 

Image of the Parc de la Villette

 

2.)    FRENCH LESSONS AT THE OPEN AIR CINEMA

Where: La Villette,metro Porte de Pantin

When: Wednesday to Sunday, 23rd July to 24th August 2014

Come summer, cinema spills out into the streets. Yes, that’s right, Parisians put up temporary cinemas in public squares and parks. La Villette sets up screen for a month of movies from all over the world. Films are showed from Wednesday to Sunday and deck chairs can be hired. It’s a perfect way to spend a sunny summer evening with a pre-film picnic, before practising your French listening skills.

Useful cinema vocabulary:

Cinema: le cinema (le ciné)

Screen: l’écran

A screenplay: scénario

Filmaker: réalisateur

Main actor: l’acteur principal

Horror film: film d’horreur

A thriller: un film policier, un polard (familiar)

Comedy film: une comédie

Action film: un film d’action

What did you think of the film? Qu’est-ce que tu as pensé du film?

What time does the film start? A quelle heure commence le film?

3.)    FRENCH LESSONS ON ILE SAINT LOUIS AND ITS FAMOUS ICE CREAM

There’s nothing like an idle stroll along the Seine to the Ile Saint Louis. This island is full of beautiful mansions, chic shops and mostly importantly the famous Berthillon ice cream makers. Here’s how to make sure you get the glace you want!

Useful ice cream vocab:

Icecream: la glace

Flavour: un parfum

Cone: un cornet

Scoop: une boule

I’d like two scoops of strawberry ice cream in a cone, please

J’aimerais deux boules de glace aux fraises en cornet, s’il vous plait

Hopefully you’ve found plenty of inspiration to learn French in Paris this summer? Why not test out our tailored French courses to give yourself boost?

Have a great summer!


How to Have Thanksgiving in Paris

Thanksgiving-dinner2-760380For American, the fourth Thursday in November can be a hard day to be in France. Besides the occasional co-workers or waiter who asks–Wut iz zis Zanksgiving, the day will be just the same any other Thursday in November. But don’t despair! There are an estimated 50,000 Americans living in France. If you got to have some turkey and stuffing, it can be done in Paris.

According to the NY Times, the Thanksgiving essentials are turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, potatoes, something orange (yams, squash or even mac and cheese), a green and snappy vegetable, and pie. Now here is how you are going to find them all!

Une Dinde
The French traditionally eat turkey (une dinde) at Christmas. The bird is definitely part of the culture, but unless you live in an area of Paris with tons of other Americans, a turkey will be hard to find in November. We recommend ordering your turkey ahead of Thanksgiving at your neighborhood butchers. Make sure you remember to convert pounds to kilos to be sure to get the right size bird. If you have a tiny stove, we’ve heard that some butchers will cook the turkey on their rotisserie too.

 2 THANKSGIVING ARDOISEStuffing
Gertrude Stein famously couldn’t decide if she wanted chestnuts (les châtaignes), mushrooms (les champignons), or oysters (les huîtres) in her Thanksgiving stuffing and so Alice B. Toklas created her signature dish by using all three. All three can be easily found at any Parisian market.

Cranberry Sauce
Cranberry sauce is a little trickier. Dried cranberries and cranberry juice started appearing in French supermarkets a few years ago, but fresh cranberries or canned sauce are still hard to find. The closest thing to fresh cranberries that you can find at most French markets are groseille. They are not the same, but their tartness and color make them a decent substitute. Otherwise, for the real thing try one of the shops that specialize in import American foods, such as the Thanksgiving Store, 20 Rue Saint-Paul, 75004.

Something Orange
A sweet potato (une patate douce) is probably the easiest thing to go with here and you’ll be sure to horrify and delight your French guests if you have the courage to put marshmallows (les guimauve) on top of it. Add this one too to your market-shopping list.

A Green and Snappy Vegetable
If you are a traditionalist and believe that only green bean (les haricots verts) casserole is the only acceptable green dish to serve, be prepared to make it from scratch or import it from the U.S. Cream of mushroom soup and pre-made crispy onions are not stocked in most French supermarkets. Here’s a great recipe and you can find everything in France if you’re feeling up to the challenge.

Pie
The saying goes that there is nothing more American than apple pie, but for us Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving without a pumpkin pie (tarte a la citrouille). The Thanksgiving Store sells a limited number of Pumpkin Pies. If you feel up to breaking from tradition, just a little, there are the pumpkin cupcakes from the Sugar Daze Bakery, 20 rue Henry Monnier, 75009.

Since you don’t get off work for the holiday, we understand if you don’t have the time or energy to cook a full meal. Here are a few addresses where we’ve been told you can find the traditional meal:

[list type=”check”]

  • American Chuch in Paris (communal meal): 65 Quai d’Orsay, 75007
  • Harry’s Bar: 5 Rue Daunou, 75002
  • Joe Allen: 30, rue Pierre Lescot 75001
  • Bistrot St. Martin: 25, rue Louis Blanc 75010
  • Breakfast in America: 17, rue des Ecoles, 75005

[/list]

Ready to practice this new vocabulary before going to the market? Call or contact us to start taking lessons.

Photo from Paris Breakfasts.

 


Practice Counting at the Palais de Justice

400px-Conciergerie22
interieurPalaisJusticeAs the days get shorter and the air colder, its time to move your French lessons inside. But where should we meet? Go
ahead and stand in line to go up the Eiffel Tower
with your friends. The view is gorgeous and it is an experience not to be missed, but up there it is a bit too loud and busy for a French lesson. Paris is our classroom. Let us find just the perfect quiet monument that fits your interests.

The Palais de Justice, for instance, is located in the Île de la Cité in central Paris and is often missed because of it’s noisier neighbors the Cathédrale Notre Dame and Sainte Chapelle. From novices to those nearly fluent, the Palais de Justice might be just the place to learn something new, in French.

For French beginners, let’s start by counting. The building has 7,000 (sept mille) doors and more than 3,000 (trois mille) windows. It has 24 (vingt-quatre) kilometers of hallways, 4,000 (quatre mille) employees, and at least 15,000 (quinze mille) additional visitors (lawyers, police, etc…) every day. That’s a lot to count!

History buffs may be interested in talking about the Conciergerie’s role in the French Revolution. The former royal residence and the famous prison was where Marie Antoinette was imprisoned before being guillotined. In addition to her, 2,700 other prisoners were kept here before being executed during France’s ten month Reign of Terror in 1793 and 1794. After the Revolution, it continued to be a prison for high-profile prisoners, such as Napoleon III, until it was decommissioned in 1914 and opened to the public as a national historical monument.

There’s also a lot to talk about regarding the French legal system. As far back as Roman times the site has been used as a place of government. Today it houses the French correctional court, the court of large claims, and court of appeals, which is highest jurisdiction in the French judicial order. Did you know the French law system is based on Roman law? It is radically different from Anglo Saxon common law because it is based on written codes and not on the precedents (prior decisions).

Here’s some more history about the Palais de Justice to get you ready for your visit:

Listen to the text below.

Sur le site du Palais de justice s’étendait autrefois le Palais de la Cité qui a été la résidence des rois de France, du Xe au XIVe siècle et dont il ne reste aujourd’hui que deux vestiges : la Conciergerie et la Sainte Chapelle.

Lorsque le roi Charles V décide vers 1360 de quitter le Palais de la Cité pour le quartier Saint Paul ; la royauté y maintient son administration : La vocation judiciaire du lieu s’annonce.

Le Palais eut à subir plusieurs incendies. En 1601, en 1618, en 1630 et en 1737, 1776.

Sous la Révolution, le Palais fut le siège du Tribunal révolutionnaire.

Le Palais de justice prend une nouvelle dimension politique sous la Restauration (1820). De nouveaux postes sont créés mais les locaux ne suffisent plus à accueillir le volume croissant des cas. Les affaires judiciaires ne cessant d’augmenter, un vaste programme d’agrandissement du Palais est lancé.

Le chantier est quasiment achevé lorsqu’éclatent les événements de 1870. Allumé en divers endroits du Palais de justice par la Commune agonisante, l’incendie du 24 mai 1871 réduit à néant les travaux. Les plans sont refaits et le chantier recommence en 1883. Depuis 1914, le Palais n’a pas connu de travaux d’une telle envergure.

La façade sud néo-gothique est marquée par de nombreux impacts de balles tirées lors de la Libération d’août 1944.

De nos jours, le palais est toujours l’un des centres névralgiques du système judiciaire français, puisqu’il abrite notamment la Cour de cassation, la plus haute juridiction judiciaire.

Par ailleurs on trouve dans le Palais les locaux du conseil de l’ordre, sa bibliothèque, sa salle de réunion.

Les personnes privées de liberté sont détenues en deux endroits : le dépôt, géré par la police, pour les gardés à vue qui passent en comparution immédiate, et la souricière, gérée par l’administration pénitentiaire, pour les personnes détenues qui doivent passer devant le juge.

Interested in starting French lessons? Call +33 (0)6 66 10 53 64 or contact us at info@frenchasyoulikeit.com.

Photos by Jennise.