Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Sunday, August 30, 2009

This weekend brings to close the annual Parisian exodus to the coasts of France. Everyone and their dog here seems to have a vacation house in Bretagne, Normandy or the Côte d'Azur, and they flock to it like ants to honey for the entire month of August.

Leaving the non-touristy parts of Paris gloriously empty. It's been fabulous.

I'm high enough up that it's not normally very noisy, but I do hear the every day traffic (including those annoying scooters) and random drunk men spouting off at whoever walks by. These past two weeks though have been silent. Absolutely silent. Quiet enough that I actually woke up one morning and thought it was pouring rain. I had big plans for the day, and I lay in bed cursing the French weathermen and their obvious lack of skills. Until I pulled back my curtains and was blinded by the sun and the brightest blue sky I'd ever seen. Yes folks, I live in the middle of the city, but it was so quiet that I'd confused the fountain down below for a downpour.

So I decided to take a video the other night while the sun was setting, to show my view and just how quiet it really was (and yes, you can hear the fountain in the background). It's a bit wobbly since I was taking it one-handed while talking to Crystal on the phone, but you'll the Sacré Coeur, the dome of Invalides, Saint Sulpice (I believe), La Défense, the Eiffel Tower, lots of French rooftops and the Montparnasse Tower. And you'll notice how pink & orange the sky is behind the Eiffel Tower. The rest of Paris is normally blue/greyish as the sun sets, but I'm treated to an absolutely amazing sunset behind the Eiffel Tower pretty much every night.

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Saturday, August 29, 2009


So y'all know I'm not a huge fan of Macdo, but I have to admit their new video campaign for their ''Venez comme vous êtes" (Come as you are) slogan is pretty damn funny.

I saw this one while waiting for a movie to start last week, and thought it was hilarious (though it probably won't be funny if you don't speak French).

And then there was this one the other night (and I'd bet a million bucks that Mr Poncho is from Bretagne lol):


Friday, August 28, 2009

I wonder if it was a mutual love of medieval fonts that brought these two together....


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Getting to Versailles the other day required taking the RER C - which I usually tend to avoid because it's sort of complicated and very easy to end up elsewhere than your desired destination. I especially don't like it during August because that's when they tend to close down bits of it for construction, replacing those stops with a shuttle bus. Which was the case that particular day.

For those of you not familiar with the Parisian metro system, Versailles is in zone 4, and my pass is only for zones 1-2 so I had to buy a special ticket to get out there. And once you exit the metro system, your ticket is no longer valid. Well, that's not entirely true, they're valid for buses - but you can't use the same ticket to get back into the metro once you've exited.

The problem here being that I had to exit the metro system in order to catch the shuttle bus. And I would have to reenter it at Invalides, using my already-stamped ticket, so I wanted to make sure I would be able to do so. There were so-called Info people walking around all over because of the travaux, so I stopped to ask Girl #1, who barely looked up from her mp3 player as she said "Beats me". On to Girl #2, who said "No, it's not valid, you should take the 10 over to Javel and get on the RER C there".

Now, we were already running behind because of all of this, so the whole "take the line 10" was a less-than-ideal option, so I decided to ask one of the boys, who said "Yes, it's valid". And voilà, we've got the French trifecta right there - you ask three different people the exact same question and you'll get three completely different answers.

I decided to head upstairs to see if I could find a possibly better-informed employee at the ticket office. There was actually someone there for once, so I explained the whole situation and the woman said "Yes, of course it will work, don't you think we'd set it up that way?". I thought to myself "Well, we are in France....." but instead I just said "So you're 100% sure I'm not going to get over there and then have to buy another 3€ ticket?" Which seemed to ruffle her feathers a bit, because she slowly looked me up and down and then said "Écoutez, j'ai 25 ans de metier. Et je suis pas blonde comme vous." (Listen, I've worked here for 25 years. And I'm not blond like you).

Oh-là! Cassé-d by the RATP lady!!

But she was right, my ticket did let me back into the Invalides metro, and we did eventually make it out there, only 30 minutes later than planned.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Saturday evening, Kendra and I made our way out to Versailles to meet up with the lovely Princesse Ecossaise and her fiancé FP in order to watch the Grandes Eaux Nocturnes at the Château de Versailles.

It was cool to be able to walk around the Château gardens at night, but based on the description on their website, I expected it to be more of a light show than there really was - ie. I was hoping to see more things like this:

After two hours of walking around, a voice came over the loud speaker, inviting us "to rejoin the Great Perspective" in English. We had to laugh because it was a direct translation from the French message, ie "Mesdames et Messieurs, Nous vous invitons à rejoindre la Grande Perspective". The funniest though was that the English message was obviously recorded by a native English speaker. Don't you think you'd if you were the one recording it, you'd take the time to tell them that the sentence was gobbledygook in English? Non??

The fireworks were fun though, and left the sky glittering like diamonds:

The accompanying fire show was also pretty impressive:

I think Saturday was the last night of this particular show, but there are a few others ones coming up in September - including Cyrano de Bergerac et les Empires du Soleil.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Should I stay or should I go go?


Thursday, August 20, 2009

It's boiling hot here, but la vie sure is belle.

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

I'd been meaning to post about some of the advertising differences between rural America and cosmopolitan France, but Jasmin beat me to half of it here, so go check out her post first.

And then take a look at the one I saw on my way to work one day:
Yes! People, that is solution! You can't pay for your car or your mortgage and you probably can't afford health insurance, but go ahead and HAVE MORE BABIES ANYWAY! After all, the new estimates have come out and it *only* costs $204,060 to raise a child to the age of 18 today (college not included). That's only a 15% increase since 1960 (when it cost $177,440), so it's practically a steal!

Copulation is the answer - why hasn't President Obama thought of this before? It's certainly been the French motto long enough, ie "you should have one for yourself, one for your spouse and one for your country". Though I wonder if they would eschew it knowing they're now copying the French?

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Friday, August 14, 2009

It's funny for me to think about how much my relationship with France has changed since moving to Paris. Even though I had an absolutely fabulous time in the US, by week three, I was starting to get an itch to come back. Me! Wanting to come back to France! Imagine that. I had to double check that hell had not frozen over during my absence. And the feeling was only cinched after watching Julie & Julia (IMO: the book is probably better than the movie). At $11 the movie ticket, it was a pretty expensive realization.

I'm very lucky though to have reconnected with several friends during my time there - I think after Fabrice and I broke up, I felt somewhat ashamed about the whole thing. Like I'd been thrown out like somebody's dirty laundry. Some of my friends from my "previous life" weren't even aware what had happened. So it was nice to catch up with them again and hear what they've been up to, especially my best friend from college.

There was something missing from my trip though - there were a few times when I'd get a twinge of "Gosh, this is so amazing - I wish I had someone to share this with". Like I was just bursting with love for what was happening at that very moment and I wanted to share that happiness with someone else.

But then on the other hand, I find myself letting the multiple emails from the bal de pompiers dude go unanswered.

I think it's still too soon. Or he's not the right one?

Maybe Paris is enough for me right now.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Got some more info about the family today. My mom is in the process of building a new house, and I tagged along with her to decide on cabinetry and other various details. The guy making the cabinets ended up being the one who installed the cabinets for the Extreme Home Makeover house, so we got lots of insider info from him. As a side note - this guy is the best cabinet maker in the area - he does custom, hand-built cabinets and normally he has a 4-5 month wait before you can even see him. Normally he would've been way out of her price range, but because of the economy, his wait time is down to less than a month and my mom was able to negotiate a really good price because he basically has no business (he said it's the worst it's been since he started 30 years ago). So that's cool for her - she'll get custom cabinets instead of the standard Ikea ones she would've gotten otherwise.

Anyway, back to the family - apparently there really wasn't anything "special" about them. The producers were just dead-set on finding a fireman for this episode and they were the only ones in the area with a suitably crappy house. He said it's caused a lot of animosity around town because the family is not at all hard up for money and the dad's schedule is such that he works three days on, fours days off - leaving him with plenty of time for home renovations.

Second criteria was a "hero". This man was one of seven firemen who saved a family from a burning apartment fire (the one who I was right behind during taping). But this guy didn't do anything special - he just worked alongside the others to save them. So the other six are frustrated that he's getting all the credit for it. And that he's getting a $1 million dollar home to boot.

Third thing - they wanted someone who volunteered - which the dad does - but the catch is that he volunteers during his work time. Firemen (at least in this area) are able to leave the fire station and go out and volunteer on paid time, and then just carry a beeper on them in case of a fire. Except this town has 36 salaried fireman and there were only 12 fires in the past year = a whole lot of down time. So a lot of people are upset that he's essentially getting paid to volunteer and not doing it on his own time.

Regarding the filming of the show - he said that they essentially have 4 shows going on at once, which means Ty and the designers aren't really present at all. They are there for the first day to greet the family and for the destruction of the home, and then they fly out for the rest of the week to go film elsewhere, only coming back a half-day before the reveal to get in some filming time and make it look like they were there all week. So with 13 episodes per year, they essentially film four episodes in two weeks, take two weeks off, film four more, take two weeks off and then film the last five.

The cabinet dude also said that they had the most ever volunteers for this episode - over 3,000 applied in less than six minutes. How's that for some Minnesota nice? My mother had tried to apply but was turned away. He also said that they accomplish in one day what it would normally take them an entire month to do - pretty impressive stuff.

A friend of his was on the applications committee, so I also got a little bit more info about the second place family (they have five back-up families in case something doesn't work out with the first one) - they are a strugging family with four children. The oldest child swallowed a nail when he was 3 and subsequently got lead poisoning from it, which led to severe brain damage. The house is not at all adapted to his needs, which makes caring for him very difficult and on top of that, they have medical bills up the wazoo.

So I'm starting to agree with the dissenters - this family, or the one my mom knows, seem much more deserving of a new home than the middle-class Huber family. I don't know - at least for me, it kind of takes away from the shine of the show to see that they have such an agenda out while looking for so-called "needy" families - and that they pass by families in true need in favor of ones that have better catch words like "firefighter" and "hero". What do y'all think?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I forgot to mention another thing that really struck me yesterday - the general feeling of the crowd yesterday seemed to be "What's so special about this family?". They're a family of four, the dad is a firefighter and they bought a crappy house that had a lot more problems than they originally realized. Yeah, that sucks, but why does that mean they should get a new home?

Everybody there seemed to know a family who had applied for the show who was "more" in need. Even my mother knew someone from her Kantele group who had applied - the woman was a single mother living in a run-down home, and is simultaneously trying to work full-time and care for her child with full-blown cerebal palsy. The child needs round-the-clock care and their home is just not adapted for her needs.

It was just interesting to the expectations that this show has raised - that a family is only "deserving" of a new home if they've experienced some kind of horrible family tragedy. Ie. one of the parents died AND they lost their home, or the entire family has cancer or some other equally terrible thing. I mean, how many shows did we see about families who lost loved ones in 9/11 or Katrina?

Or another woman gave the example of a family on a recent show she'd seen about a couple who adopted special needs children from China. Children who'd been abandoned by everyone - their family, their society, their country. Children who'd never received any kind of love, affection or education. And the dad was sick and died from brain cancer two days after the reveal. He never got to see the house.

Heads all around nodded in agreement. Yes, indeed, they were a family who deserved a new home.

But that said, considering it is the season opener, I do think there must be *something* else about this family that the are not telling us. Unfortunately with TV being the way it is and always needing sensationalism, they couldn't ever just show some ordinary family on their two-hour special season premiere. So until then, everyone will be just be waiting around to see what it is about this family that makes them worthy of this new house.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

So today I did something I never thought I'd do.

I attended a filming of Extreme Makeover - Home Edition. A family about 1/2 hour away from where my mother lives was chosen and the cast and several thousands of volunteers spent the past week completely transforming their home. The two-hour episode will air as the season opener late September.

We got there around just before noon and took a quick look around the house before finding a spot to camp out. I had a hunch that a lot of the filming would take place near the tents they'd set up, and thanks to my new-found Parisian metro maneuvering skills, we managed to get a good spot right up front. A short while later, Patricia Heaton (the mom on "Everybody loves Raymond") came out to talk to us. She was the celebrity guest for the episode and she interviewed a woman just in front of me who'd been saved from a burning apartment by the father of the family.So there is a good chance I will end up being in the background during that segment. Then there was a lot of waiting around. We were told the family would be arriving at 3pm. 3pm came and went and I got tired of standing around (and it wasn't really my thing), so I went back to the car to wait for my mother, who wanted to see the family arrive. She still hadn't come back by 4:30, so I made my way back over to the construction site. I saw a whole bunch of builders and volunteers milling around in the front of the house in their red and blue shirts, and decided to head over that way instead of going around back where all the spectators where supposed to be. My gumption paid off and I ended up being right in front of the limo and the famous bus during most of the taping:I was one of the only ones not wearing a blue or red t-shirt, and a few people looked at me strangely but no one said anything. Minnesota nice and all that jazz. It's so funny to see how France has changed me in that way - I'm much more daring now when it comes to lining up and sneaking into places I shouldn't be.
One of the things that surprised me most though was the number of takes they did - they did at least three for each scene you see. So that means three times of the limo driving up, three times of the family getting out of the car, three times of us all shouting "Move that bus" etc. Not to mention everything that went on during the week. Since I was surrounded by all the builders and contractors, I got a lot of info about what they'd seen and heard during the week.
As for Mr Ty Pennington himself, he was barely around. The only time I saw him was when he was taping his segments. Off-camera, he stayed to himself and didn't interact with the crowd or his fellow cast-members. Makes me wonder if his whole Mr. Nice Guy schtick is just a big act.Between the Patricia Heaton interview and the filming of the builders & the arrival of the family, I should make it on the show at least once or twice in the background. Not that that's really how I wanted to make my national TV debut - my mom called me up at 10:30 and said "Be ready in 15 minutes" so I basically just threw on some clothes and pulled my hair up into a ponytail.

All in all, it ended up being about 7 hours of waiting for less than a half-hour of filming. A bit too much for my taste and my knee is killing me from all that standing around, but my mother really wanted to go. And hey, it gave me something to blog about, right?

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Sunday, August 9, 2009

Current location:



Thursday, August 6, 2009

More fun than a barrel of monkeys

Huh. What do you know - having a 8-5 job and some semblance of a real life really cuts down on the time available for blogging.

Things are still going well here, I am having more fun than should be legal, but man, is it tiring me out. I got an ocular migraine today as a result - time for me to slow down a bit.

There so just much to see and do though that I can't help myself. Which is how I found myself being spirited away by a group of bikers last night:Who drove me to a sweet corn & pork chop roast:And then back home through the winding hills as the sun was setting:How can a girl say no to that?