Friday, October 31, 2008

The French Connections

So many French-American connections. So little time. Today's short-list:

1. America [hearts] France.
If you don't already know about it, there exists a museum of Franco-American Cooperation, at the Chateau de Blérancourt, about 90 minutes from Paris. Watch this 10-minute video, mellifluously narrated by Philippe de Montebello, and you'll be itching to visit.

Although the museum is currently closed for renovations, the exquisite grounds and gardens can be toured. Additionally, from November 8 through November 11, there will be special activities to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice.

2. Did you know that the great-great-great-grandFather of our Country was French?
Nicolas Martiau, ancestor of many prominent American statesmen, most notably George Washington, was born on Ile de Ré in 1591. A statue of Washington was erected in honor of this French-American connection on Ile de Ré (my sometimes home away from Paris) in October 2007.

3. In my mind I'm going to Carolina (or nearby).
Good travel news: starting in April 2009, USAir will offer a direct flight from Charlotte, North Carolina to Paris.

4. Eurodisney Redux.
On a more frivolous note, juicy TV teen drama Gossip Girl mentions the President de la République.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

What am I eating?

At La Grand Epicerie yesterday I was dutifully getting my bananas weighed in the produce section. Next to the scale there was a mound of what looked to me like petrified maggots.

Is your mouth watering yet?

Without gagging, and masking the astonished horror in the back of my throat, I calmly asked the serveuse about them.

"Ce sont des crosnes," she replied matter-of-factly. Noting my interest, she added enthusiastically, "They are somewhat of a specialty item in France; they taste a bit like artichoke, but you cook them like a potato. The are appreciated by gourmets, but are somewhat rare, which is why they are priced at this level."

Which was €39.95 per kilo.

You only live (or die) once, so I took the plunge and asked for une poignée -- a handful.

Guess what I'm having for dinner tonight?

Not Sunday with Richard and Polly and Rosemary

"This is Major Tom to Ground Control..." I heard the Bowie tune blaring in the entrance hall of the grand Bibliotheque nationale Richelieu as we entered.

"Uh-oh," I groaned. "One of my least favorite songs."

I caught on immediately, though. Not so subtly they were setting the mood for the special opening Monday night of the exhibit 70s: Le choc de la photographie americaine.

Having made it past the metal detector and the first invitation controle, we were directed to yet another line to wait to enter the gallery hall. The event had begun at 8 and we were pretty prompt, but it was already filled to capacity. Our patience was tested, but after 10 minutes we were in. We inquired as to whether there was a cocktail accompanying the vernissage (Roederer Champagne was the sponsor, so it seemed a reasonable question). Negative. Damn. One more check of our precious carton d'invitation and we were granted permission to enter the packed room. As we walked through the door, Rosemary said in a whisper,"That's Pierre Rosenberg," indicating distinguished man exiting as the seas parted around him. Art-world ignoramus that I am, I confided that I didn't know who he was. "The former director of the Louvre," she explained. There were clusters of invitees inside with the same famous aura about them, and it was hard to tell if they were some of the famed photographers, or journalists -- or just looked like it.

For the most part, the black and white photographs were all interesting, but I had a vague feeling of having seen most of them somewhere before. Arbus, Winogrand, Friedlander. It didn't seem all that much of a shock: I lived through the 1970s in America myself.

No actually, I began to get much more interested in the rest of the scenery -- the attendees at the exhibit opening. There was a scattering of tall, handsome men looking bored. I couldn't tell if they really were bored or just working on the look.

I stood in the middle of the packed room. Then. You know that odd two-step that happens when you step aside to avoid collision with someone and they shift the same way, so you dodge the other way and simultaneously they do it too? Then you both laugh a bit and wait for the other one to go ahead?

A funny variation on this happened. A man swiveled around and we were nose to nose. So I moved to the right. He moved to my right too -- but off-tempo, with about a 1-second delay. Repeat to the left and to the right. I smiled and stood still. He stood still too, unsmiling, but direct eye contact. I couldn't tell whether it was a technique to draguer or some sort of passive aggression. We finally parted ways.

At this point I wasn't focusing on the photos at all any more -- there was so much more entertainment in observing the crowd, noting behaviors and listening to little snippets of conversations.

Of all my eavesdropping, I heard only one couple actually discussing the art on the walls. They said, "Oui, c'est tres simple mais le montage est parfait."

Next I felt a fuzzy bear push me out of the way. Oh wait, it wasn't a bear, it was a lady in a linebacker mink coat and 1/2 pound diamond earrings, with a pouffy blond chignon, clunky heels, careening through the exhibit, dangling her wide-open clasp pocketbook by her side. As she grazed past the images I heard her spouting to her husband, "There is a grande soiree chez Dorothee, that will be much better." I think she and monsieur did the whole room in under five minutes.

As Monsieur and Madame Mink were exiting they crossed paths with a mover and shaker who appeared to be Somebody, in bright red chinos, cashmere sweater, a soft white shirt, Italian loafers. I didn't see him really inspect any of the photographs, either. Oh, he was looking around, all right. I felt better realizing that I wasn't the only one just surveying the crowd.

A pale bearded man in a heavy turtleneck and his bobo pal in a jacket and dark shirt were engrossed in conversation as they slid along past the photos as if on a conveyor belt. "People went to that party because they expected quelque chose de bien." "Ouais, I saw people the next day and they didn't accept what was happening. You don't laugh about anyone like that."

After about half an hour, when we were ready to leave, the room was almost completely vacant. There was more space to actually see the photos, but where had all the jammed crowd gone in such a short time? Locusts, descending and then vanishing.

High up on a wall near the exit was an inscription by Diane Arbus:

"I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn't photograph them."

We wandered out -- Richard, Rosemary, and I -- into the main hall.

Grace Slick was belting out her best over the loudspeakers. "Don't yo-ou want somebody to lo-ove..."

Now read Richard's evening description here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Halloween in Paris

I'm a die-hard member of the adults-dress-up-for-Halloween school, one of those deep maternal character flaws that always made my kids cringe in embarrassment.

Needless to say, I've grown out of that habit -- though not the will to do so -- living in Paris.

Naturally I was overcome with childlike glee when I happened upon Aux Feux de la Fete, a costume and fireworks store on boulevard Montparnasse. I popped inside to find out what the offerings were.

The owner was one of the most thoughtful Parisian shop-owners I've encountered. I asked him if Halloween was really popular. "Oh, l'Halloween, c'est surtout pour les jeunes," he said with a chuckle. "A few years ago, a lot of adults were having costume parties, but that's pretty much leveled off. Mostly it's les petits."

"Do they go trick-or-treating in the neighborhood?" I asked.

"Oh, well, not door-to-door," he said. "But they do stop in at the places they know to show off their costumes. They have little parties at home, peut-etre. But when the children visit my shop in their costumes, they bring me the candy, not vice-versa. C'est charmant. Many of these little ones I have known all their lives -- since they were in the ventres of their mamans." He made a big gesture of a round belly. "Now they are grands comme ca," he added, holding his hand at chest height.

Monsieur may have mostly the younger crowd as clientele, but he certainly is well-stocked for the more -- dare I say mature? -- generation as well.

There is something so quintessentially French about Marie Antoinette wigs, of course.

But you have to admit, nothing is more French than being Johnny.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Little Bit of Paris

Feeling depressed at the thought of leaving Paris in a month, I did my usual walk-the-streets therapy. Paris almost always offers some entertaining encounter or entrancing glimpse to brighten my day. Quirky only-in-Paris moments that I have been chronicling for a few years now.

This time, the Paris-strolling had the opposite effect. It made me even more morose. "Departure" seemed stamped in black on every scene. These charming tidbits of my day, one month hence, wouldn't be at my doorstep or even the next bus stop. All I could register was impending loss.

Every step, I ruminated. How can I leave Paris? How can I wrench myself from this place that has fueled my soul, my mind, my creativity and joy? Then I chided myself: Whoa, girl, halt the pity-party and stop being so melodramatic! I knew these rhetorical questions had far too many reasonable answers, from "it's the economy, stupid" to "fambly is fambly." I kept trying to rationalize that most other people on the planet would be thrilled to spend just one month in Paris. Call me a drama queen, but I could only view my upcoming final month as awaiting execution. After that, Paris will be guillotined from my daily existence.

Orchestrating a departure from Paris is to me like planning a break-up with someone you're still deeply in love with, but you know the relationship just won't work. Each infatuated moment together is bittersweet at best.

I cannot descend into this overinflated sentimentality, I thought. Must pull self up by bootstraps and carpe diem. To no avail: spirits were soggy and flagging. I caved in and indulged in a premature pick-me-up going-away present. Heading homeward I stopped at Librairie Fontaine at Duroc and purchased a copy of "Un Peu de Paris" [A Little Bit of Paris] by Jean-Jacques Sempé. After all, I reasoned, my decades-long admiration for Sempé and his amusing vignettes of French life had contributed to the ardent francophilia that propelled me to live here. And I have the rest of his books in storage in the US. So what more fitting souvenir of a city that I'm permanently besotted with?

I can justify any purchase, eh?

"On ne se trompe jamais avec Sempé," said the sales clerk as she led me down the spiral staircase to the beaux livres section. ["You never go wrong with Sempé."] I agreed.

Back at the apartment, I stretched out on the sofa with a cup of tea and began leafing through the Sempé drawings. This was both a huge mistake and a very smart move.

They took my breath away: Sempé had captured MY Paris! All those quirky moments, little ironies and joys and frustrations of daily life. And I found it impossible to merely flip through the pages. Most of the drawings are so richly detailed or subtly expressed that I hovered over each one for minutes. He got it all. I alternately hooted with glee and sniffled with wistfulness. Then I simply had to shut the book for a while. Killing me not so softly with his images.

Most of the drawings are black and white ink with gray wash. Sempé captures the essence of Paris, the nuances of gray, and flecks them with the bright funny moments or ironic twists that comprise daily life here. Irate drivers blocked in traffic protesting the banner-waving protestors. Weary commuters huddled together under the bus stop in a downpour. The dynamic between a young hipster on her cell phone and a matronly dame d'un certain age as they face each other on the bus. Paris-Roller. Hordes of panicked jaywalking pedestrians. A tired gentleman exiting the stairs of his apartment building with an hors-service sign subtly drooping on the elevator. Joggers outside the gates of the Jardin du Luxembourg waiting for opening hours. Sometimes intimate views, sometimes with bird's-eye omniscience. Always witty, perfect infinitesimal Parisian moments.

If I had only one way to wrap up Paris and take it with me when I leave, it would be this.


As promised, some scenes from Barcelona.

Tibi dabo. Latin for "I give it to you." Tibidabo is a mountain overlooking Barcelona, with a spectacular view of the city, an ancient amusement park, a church, and a fun, funky funicular ride to the top.

So I give to you a little slide show so I can test my technological skills.

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

The French New Wave

Contemporary French culture in the performing arts is not only thriving, but has an exciting future, according to a photo-essay in the New York Times T magazine.

"Oh-la-la!" crows the writer. "Not since the fabulous Josephine has a French first lady been so entertaining. But Madame Sarkozy is only one of the adventurous, unconventional multi-culti talents coming your way."

Check out "The French New Wave." which naturally features first lady Carla Bruni, but also a dozen other rising French stars. Guillaume Canet. Eva Green. Aïssa Maïga. And the cast of award-winning "Entre les murs."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Polly Arrow Barcelona

One of the things that happens when you realize that you're going to be moving away from Paris (or any place, I imagine) is the mad scramble to do all the stuff you haven't done in the time you've been there.

One thing I haven't done much is travel beyond Paris.

So hola! Here I am in Barcelona. Of course I was inspired by Vicky Cristina Barcelona, yes I admit I saw it twice in Paris. But I had wanted to go to Barcelona for a long time and never had the impetus until it occurred to me that I have precious little remaining time when I could just "hop down" to Spain for a short jaunt. And when I found that the round-trip on Iberia was $145-- well there wasn't much stopping me. Only an hour and a half plane ride.

So here I am mid-week, exploring Barcelona, amazed that it's taken me so long to discover this enchanting, buzzing, humming city. As is my practice in any new city, the first day I rode one of the double-decker hop-on-hop-off buses, just to get my bearings. There was so much to cover -- such a dizzying array of sights and culture and sensory input that I needed to shut down for a while to absorb it all. Four days in Barcelona is barely enough to scratch the surface.

And no kidding, the first sight I saw from the turista bus was this. Worthy of a post of its own, perhaps.

Next: Gaudi, Tibidabo, and more.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Palling Around with Tourists

What's all this fuss I've been hearing about that nice man, Barack Obama, "palling around with tourists"?

Someone seems to think that there's a problem or some danger with that. What's-her-name. Tina Frey? Tina Fay. Tammy Faye? Whomever. Whoever that silly lady is with the poofy hair and mascara who talks a lot and doesn't really say much. I think this is a shameful and slanted statement for her and her partner to make.

Tourists are lovely people. Why, I often have houseguests here in Paris; and when they are visiting me, well, gosh darn, they are tourists in Paris. And I pal around with them a lot. I may not be running for president of these United States, but I don't see anything wrong with befriending the tourist.

My friends are tourists. Tourists are my friends. And tourists are an important part of the global economy, which needs all the help it can these days. With my pals, we go to all the tourist places, and we buy snow-globes of the Eiffel Tower. And key chains! We provide jobs to those trinket-sellers. We ride the double-decker buses. And certainly, I admit it's a bit embarrassing to be seen with them in their windbreakers and white sneakers and Cubs baseball caps, or -- even worse -- when they wear berets to try to look like rakish Frenchmen. But heavens, it's not sinful, and certainly not worth whatshername telephoning all my friends about with automatic robo-phone calls.

I think we should make up hundreds or thousands of tee-shirts that say "I've been palling around with tourists." And be proud of our friends, The Tourists.

Oh -- what's that you say?


Never mind.

What Happens in Paris Stays in Paris

Last night I attended the book launch for Naughty Paris: A Lady's Guide to the Sexy City. The invitation said the party was to be held at a chic boutique called Yoba on rue du Marché St. Honoré. I'd never heard of it, so I found Yoba's website and, um, was drawn in a bit longer than planned as I perused the wares and advice on therein. Definitely an NC-17 kind of site (it's all in French, but there are pix), so be warned ... Or thank me later.

The launch was festive, and Yoba was doing a brisk business in the fun 'n' frisky objets department. Oh, I may be on the fast lane to middle age -- but, you know I'm from New England, and I am soooo naive. Or I used to be. Now I've been to Yoba. I get it.

There were such fun little toys! I guess for playing with rubber duckies in the bathtub or make-believe cops and robbers?

Or hopscotch?

A feather tickler for a rousing game of Blind Man's Bluff?

And the good news is that Yoba sells batteries, too.

It was an eye-opener, and it was sheer fun and a pleasure to meet Naughty Paris author Heather Stimmler-Hall, pictured here with a friend, Paul.

Treat Yourself to Naughty Paris

Ladies (and gentlemen), it's time for a little break. Time for a few minutes' hiatus from the news, from fretting over the Dow Jones, the campaign mudslinging and Tina Fey lookalikes. Forget dwelling on the impending gloom of autumn, the holiday decorations you just don't have the get-up-and-go to get-up and get.

Ladies, we all know that reading is the ultimate cheap thrill, the easiest way to escape the daily doldrums. Some of us may read bodice-ripper steamy pseudo-novels. Some may read of exotic travel in guides to foreign lands. Some may read self-improvement books. But if you've ever wondered how to really relish the life -- or even a moment or two -- of no-holds-barred romance and seduction à la française, please treat yourself to the guilt-free, oh-so-guilty pleasure of reading Naughty Paris: A Lady's Guide to the Sexy City.

Naughty is in the eye of the beholder, of course. But Heather Stimmler-Hall's new book is a gem. A gold mine of how-to's and where-to's for any woman traveling to or living in the City of Love, or even dreaming of it. Call me jaded, but I found this guide to be an excellent primer -- with precious little to be titillated about -- on how to find your inner femme fatale. Your naughty may be another's nice, but this book is an unapologetic romp into the foundations and fundamentals of being a healthy, gorgeous woman who attracts the opposite sex. How to understand the French dating and pick-up codes. Where to buy the best lingerie for your money. Toys. Boys. Seduction poise. But it's not all that naughty, really. It's just authentic and French: there are even chapters on history of French women, literature, museums. An intelligent, cultivated woman is, of course, the most alluring.

Admit it, most of us appreciate such lucsious advice. We devour it. We're just not supposed to acknowledge it. Naughty Paris rips the bodice off the false-prudery and gives you all the steamy details. (If your prim sensibilities find the end chapters on certain clubs and activities offensive or embarrassing, just discreetly exacto them out.) As I read through the book, I thought, "If Mae West were alive today, she would have written the foreword and the jacket blurbs. Heck, she would have written the book."

Naughty Paris has plenty of pointers for flirting à la française. I have one flirt tip to add: read this book on a plane, a train, or in a café, and trust me, you'll have one of the best conversation starters a femme fatale wannabe could ever want.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Love Seat?

This shapely chair was in the window at Arredamento on quai des Celestins.

Here's a side view.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Ya gotta love Paris

For all the other Pollys in the world, another reason to love Paris.

Rue Parrot in the 12th arrondissement.

And no Polly-wanna-cracker jokes.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Treasures of French Royal Family at Auction

Sorry. I couldn't resist posting this tidbit.

For those unaffected by (or in denial of) the current economic situation, there is important -- and perhaps ironic -- shopping and acquisition news in Paris, according to The Guardian.

"The last remaining treasures of the French royal family – including a silk purse embroidered by Queen Marie Antoinette in her prison cell – will be auctioned in Paris next week." Read more.

Practical details: on Tuesday, October 14, some of the estate of the late Count and Countess of Paris will be auctioned off at Christie's Paris. The auction catalog is here.

Viewing times are Sunday, October 12, 2 - 6 pm and Monday, October 13, 10 am - 8 pm, at the showroom on avenue Montaigne. Items will be on sale Tuesday October 14 at 11 am and 2 pm.

9 avenue Montaigne
75008 Paris

Metro is Alma-Marceau; but I imagine that if you're buying at this auction, you're not taking the metro.

Dumbing Down my French Accent

How many years of my life have I spent in the language lab, headphones squeezing the life from my weary brain cells, perfecting, perfecting, perfecting my pronunciation of French? Sentences like this pounding through my head:

Répétez: "La timidité de Virginie lui rendit la vie difficile."

I would répétez répétez répétez, the prof or language lab instructor at command central occasionally surreptitiously listening, piping in an unexpected correction that would make me jump.

I had initially learned French mostly by ear, beginning in middle school and continuing through college. After all those years of aural-oral phonetics calisthenics, I finally grew up and -- ta da! -- moved to Paris, pronunciation-proud and raring to go. Of course I made a few gaffes here and there.

Then, wham! At a recent dinner party, I was engaged in light banter with my table companion, an attractive-enough French businessman. In mid-conversation, he remarked, "Vous parlez presque sans accent." [You speak French with almost no accent.]

"Merci," I replied brightly.

"It was not a compliment," he retorted with a thin smile. "You should use more of an American accent. It would be more sexy than if you try to speak French too well."


"Ah-lore jer dwah parrlay frawnsay cawm saw?" I joked. "Say ploo sexee?"

He simply smiled.

I didn't know whether to be furious or thankful. First off, I considered whether it was a no-no to answer "merci" in response to a perceived compliment. But my honest initial reaction was an appreciative "Thanks! Yeah, I worked hard to reach this point." Maybe I need to come up with a new scripted answer for that "presque sans accent" comment, which I field from from time to time. Next, though, I was smoldering; not at him -- he was just teasing me, I think -- but at the notion that I ought to dumb down my French accent in order to be more alluring. Sheesh, I'd feel like a traitor to the legions of French instructors who drilled precise, proper pronunciation into my ears. And all the tuition money spent for the privilege!

I don't think I'm alone in this quandary.

Since living here, I have learned to smile appreciatively when someone says "Do I detect un petit accent? Vous êtes Anglaise ou Américaine?" Status quo accent is fine, charming, fun. I just don't want to have to adopt a fake-o American accent that I never really had.

If you want to practice improving your French accent (I still do!), here is a fun site for phonetics practice.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Le Clezio wins Nobel Prize

A decade ago when I was in graduate school studying French Literature in Massachusetts, there was an endowed lecture program that enabled the university to invite renowned French authors to speak to the students.

In our Contemporary 20th-century literature course we were reading Annie Ernaux, Tahar Ben Jelloun, J.M.G. Le Clezio, and other great post-1950 French authors.

We had the great fortune to have Ernaux, poet Yves Bonnefoy, Le Clezio, and a handful of others, as speakers that year. And in true French-American style, there was always a small wine-cheese-crudités reception following the intellectual portion of gathering, where we had the chance to talk more informally.

Le Clezio visited our graduate seminar and fielded questions from the small group of students about his novel, Onitsha, which we were studying.

I was, as usual, so tongue-tied and awestruck by his fame and ability that I was only able to sputter unintelligible questions about the work, and the powerfully moving poetry of his novel. Besides, Le Clezio in person was an Adonis. A brilliant, literate French Adonis.

I may have semi-flunked the seminar-participation portion of my graduate school grades.

But, wow. As of today I can boast that I have met and discussed French literature with a winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Time to read some more of his works.


Pylones is one of those stores.

When I first moved to Paris, I found it so witty and funny. Lots of wacky, impractical items, but also lots of other practical stuff that simply allows you to whistle while you work. Always something to make you smile.

After traipsing around Paris enough, though, it seemed as though Pylones boutiques were in virtually every arrondissement, and I grew a bit weary of the chain-store mentality.

But, oh, they do offer all sorts of irresistibly whimsical and entertaining merchandise, and I find myself drawn in, especially when out-of-town guests are around. I inevitable buy the alligator staple-remover (I needed a staple-remover for my desk anyway, so might as well have one that makes me smile, right?). Or the 3-D Eiffel Tower cut-out post card. Non-essential but definitely memorable. And just inexpensive enough to satisfy the budget impulse-shopping cravings. Funny corkscrews, playful salad servers, all in bright, colorful plastic. Silly rubber gloves.

But the latest draw for me is the reading glasses. (Please don't snicker if you don't need reading glasses yet -- you will some day!) Pylones has the most stylish reading glasses in Paris for the money.

Today, for the umpteenth time this month, I got a random compliment about my reading glasses, when I put them on to look at the bus map.

So here's the scoop. Reading glasses, 10€ a pair, all levels from 1.0 to 3.50 (maybe higher, but I'm in denial), including a matching case. All sorts of colorful patterns. The next cheapest reading glasses [loupes de lecture] I've found elsewhere in Paris are 20€ at parapharmacies. You do the math.

But you have to be willing to be a bit wacky. Make a bold style ... statement?

Face it, you don't have much to lose once you admit visual defeat.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

One Day in Paris

1. Girls

Walking down rue Boissy d'Anglas, a fashionable French woman in front of me stepped off the curb and in the process accidentally left one of her high heels behind in the sidewalk crack. Without missing a beat, she deftly backtracked three steps, retrieved her shoe, slipped it on, and then turned coolly around to see if anyone had noticed her gaffe. She looked at me and beamed a complicitous we-girls-suffer-like-this-don't-we sly grin.

"Cendrillon?" I ventured.

"Bien sûr," she laughed back, tossing her blonde curls and adjusting her designer sunglasses as she strode across the street.

2. Comic relief

I was purchasing a teensy souvenir for a friend in a très très upscale hotel boutique. It was filled with sparkling and fluffy hotel-logo items, and there was a perfumed air of quiet elegance and decorum. The novice cashier was having difficulty making my American credit card function in the machine. Often French credit card machines are slow and unresponsive to cards with a magnetic stripe, since all French cartes bancaires have a puce -- a microchip -- which requires only a PIN code to be punched in. After multiple swipes of the card, and some coaching from the veteran saleslady, then finally trying another machine, she succeeded in registering the purchase.

She apologized for the delay as she wrapped the gift. Conversation ensued en français, as it often does, about the differences between the two types of cards.

I was tut-tutting as usual. "I just wish that American banks would put des puces into credit cards. It makes so much sense."

"Oui, oui, " she agreed, "it would simplify everyone's lives."


"Of course, I guess right now they have bigger problems to resolve," I added.

Unexpectedly we three started to giggle timidly, trying to rein it in at first. "Non, ce n'est pas le bon moment pour ça," she chortled. Then all three of us were doubled over shaking with laughter, like misbehaving schoolgirls in chapel. Dabbing the tears off our cheeks with kleenex.

3. Operator

In a large sky-blue dining room with 25-foot ceilings and a hushed atmosphere, a kindly American couple sits primly at the elegant table nearby, scanning their large white menus through their reading glasses. The waiter returns to their side, and with a short bow he flourishes the answer to the question they asked which had sent him scurrying.

"Eet is 'goldfish'," he announces.

"Goldfish?" Startled, the husband and wife look at each other in disbelief. They shake their heads and hastily dive back into their menus to find another selection.

I return to my menu to make my choice for lunch. The poisson du jour is rouget.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Va-Va-Va Vrooom!

This Vespa, parked on the historic and stately place de la Concorde, was getting a lot of attention from passersby today.

I like decoupage, too, but this classifies as over the top(less).

I wonder if being racy makes it go any faster.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Yanks in Paris Watch Debate at 3 am

I'm guess I've become too old for these nocturnal adventures.

But the rest of you sprightly youths in Paris can join Young Democrats Abroad and Young Republicans Abroad as they cheer on their candidates at the next Presidential Debate.

The Paris gathering will be held at the Hideout, 32 rue Dauphine, Paris, 75006 on Tuesday, October 7, to watch the televised debate live.

Folks will begin arriving around midnight, but the debate won't start until 3 a.m. (9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time).

Me? Please, I'm not a bad citizen. Just a sleep-deprived one. I'll watch the re-run of the debate, while sipping my cafe au lait first thing in the morning on Wednesday, on, after my middle-aged beauty sleep. Wearing this for good measure:

Vitrine en cours

Mes apologies while I fiddle around with a new template for Polly-Vous Francais.

I'm sticking with the envelope for a banner, but working on other graphics.

Voicing your preferences on blog presentation is heartily accepted. Vote early, vote often.

Wall Street English

Perhaps there is some small comfort we can derive from the US economic crisis and the non-glorification of Wall Street.

Perhaps -- oh, I can dream, can't I? -- before long we will no longer be subjected to the annoying, tread-worn advertising campaign "Do You Speak English?"in the metro, with the grinning model giving a thumbs up, or thumb-and forefinger in the A-Okay sign.

"Yes! I speak Wall Street English."

Perhaps the Wall Street Institute will change its name to the Main Street Institute? Here's a possible ad poster.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Americans Voting from Paris

I just got my FWAB - Federal write-in absentee ballot -- for the election. Exciting, and easy to do online. Crucial! Don't take my word for it; listen to Gwyneth.

Or go directly to . American citizens in Paris who want to speak with a live human being can go to a number of voter registration/absentee ballot information events:

Wednesdays 5pm - 7 pm at Brentano's books, 37 avenue de l'Opera, 75002
Saturdays and Sundays 2pm - 5pm at Shakespeare & Co. 37 rue de la Bucherie, 75005
Saturdays and Sundays noon - 3 pm at Breakfast in America, 17 rue des Ecoles, 75005.

All American citizens living abroad who will be 18 or older on November 4 have the right to vote in the Presidential Election.

Other voting resources:

Overseas Vote Foundation

Association of Americans Residing Overseas

Where in the world will YOU vote?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

There's Always Room for One More Book

I've received a number of books for review, which the authors or publishers think might tie in with the themes of Polly-Vous Français. Since I have quite a backlog of reviews to write, I'm just going to scribble a few heartfelt thumbnail sketches and encourage everyone to READ MORE BOOKS.

You can always watch the movie version or sitcom or miniseries later; just read the book now. These books. Other books. Read books!

Okay, end of Mommy-Vous Français lecture.

For starters, two books about France in general.

The first one is totally delicious. So delicious it makes me drool with envy. Gastronomie! is the result of a couple's pilgrimage across France visiting food museums and food heritage sites in all regions of the Hexagon. Tom Hughes and Meredith Sayles Hughes traipsed across the French countryside, from the Hotel-Restaurant Tatin in Lamotte Beuvron, birthplace of the tarte tatin, to the Maison de la Chicoree in Orchies, to the Musee du Tire-Bouchon in Menerbes. They recount their travels (and those meals!) in easy-to-follow itineraries that will get you itching to pack your suitcase and forswearing that diet.

Next is a book that you might pass over, assuming it's just another photograph coffee-table book of Paris. Au contraire. Historic Photos of Paris is not a mere compendium of excellent antique photos, dating from the earliest days of photography in Paris. Author Rebecca Schall has written a compelling social history of Paris and France using the photos as a springboard. These are not merely captions, but rich text, clearly written, that gives a better understanding of the whys and hows of Paris today through the lens of history. I learned a lot. It's the kind of coffee table book that I will actually read and re-read.

The next books fall under the veni, vidi, vici category.

Petite Anglaise needs no introduction to francophile blog readers the world over. The subtitle is "In Paris. In Love. In Trouble." But first and foremost this book is a blook (a term I just learned; I think I got it right.) And a blook worth reading not because it primarily features Catherine in Paris or love or trouble so much as her "blogging in Paris, in love with blogging, and in trouble with blogging." Many tomes have already been written about life journeys in Paris; and to me the great merit of Catherine's book -- what kept me eagerly turning the pages -- is that it lets you into the mind of a blogger. The life of a blogger. Paris is the mere backdrop. When does a blogger reveal the details she chooses, and why? And how does she handle interactions with readers? It's gripping. So whether you are a blogger or a reader of blogs, this blook is for you.

I haven't yet read Laurel Zuckerman's Sorbonne Confidential, but from the reviews I've read and some excerpts, it's a witty and trenchant view of an American's experience inside the most famous French educational institution. The French translation was published by Fayard, and this month her original English version will be launched. To hear more and to meet Laurel herself, you can attend a reading at WH Smith on October 14 at 7:30 pm.

Adam Shepard's book has nothing to do with Paris but everything to do with starting all over and making a new life for yourself. Scratch Beginnings recounts Adam's journey as a recent college grad who decided to see if he could start from scratch in a new town, with just a duffel bag and $25 and no connections, and have a functioning car, a place to live , and $2500 savings by then end of a year. No small feat. Harper Collins will have the book on the shelves October 14 as well. Bless that boy, he told me, "I've been featured on The Today Show, CNN, Fox News, NPR, Christian Science Monitor, The New York Post…blah, blah, blah." Nothing blah about that!

So I think there is still room for another Paris veni-vidi-vici book, one with a twist at the end. Yet to be written or published. A divorced woman starts a new life in Paris, plans to stay "until I've seen all there is to see," i.e. forever. She has innovative, creative ideas for making a permanent life here, starts a kind of funny blog, writes half a manuscript with a French woman, gets filmed in a documentary, writes some articles, edits a book, discovers the daily joys and frustrations and indelible infatuation with the most beautiful city on the planet, and re-discovers herself in the process. Gradually the economy erodes her ability to make the Paris present continue into the Paris future, and she realizes her time in the City of Light has come to an end. She has still conquered, though, because she'll always have Paris in her heart, her soul, and her bones, when she says au revoir and moves back to the States in November. The book's title, of course, will be Polly-Vous Français.

I just wanted to see if you were paying attention.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

We Are Animals in Blue Jeans

The latest Wrangler's television commercial has been gaining a bit of attention in the US, from what I've heard. The voice-over is distinctly French, and the philosophy is 100% existential.

Reaction has been mixed, I gather; but I liked its intelligent approach. Le mythe de Sisyphe and all that.

There was only one cultural speed-bump for me, when I thought the French voice was asking, "Why do we spit up?" (Yeah, I used to have little babies. We had terry shoulder towels for that. Never enough time to ask "why?")

Gawker, on the other hand, though the ad was fit for the poubelle, not for American consumption.

What do you think? Is it a pretentious French approach or a thoughtful, daring attempt at making American consumers (dare I say) think?

French admen Fred & Farid -- no strangers to brazen ad campaigns, like their Orangina "Naturellement Pulpeuse" series -- are avant-garde enough to break into the American market with a notably philosophical ad.

Woof-Woof, Miaou, Cui-Cui. Amen.

Time to take your critter for a stroll!

This Saturday is the annual Blessing of the Animals at the American Cathedral in Paris.

Don’t miss this colorful event, celebrated every year on the weekend closest to the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi.
Bring Rover or Minou, or even a more exotic pet, to receive a blessing.

Results for improved behavior aren't guaranteed, of course. But who knows, maybe you'll all sleep better?

In the interest of liturgical dignity, please be sure pets are appropriately caged, boxed or leashed.

Open to all pets, their owners, and animal lovers.

Saturday, October 4, at 11 o'clock a.m., in the exquisite cloistered Dean's Garden at the American Cathedral, 23 avenue George V, in the 8th arrondissement.
Metro: Alma-Marceau or George V
photos courtesy of wikipedia
Locations of visitors to this page
Travel Blogs - Blog Catalog Blog Directory blog search directory Targeted Website Traffic - Webmasters helping webmasters develop high value relevant links. Promoting ethical web-marketing using the time trusted pillars of relevance and popularity.