Category Archives: Paris

Moving to France in 21 Days: The Why and How?


I was recently invited to write a guest post on a fellow blogger’s website, and as I was answering her questions I realized that I’d never shared much of this information on my own blog.  I’ve decided to post it here, exactly as it will appear on her blog, and I’ll share the link once she publishes it.

Question #1:  A little about yourself, where you are living now, what you do now, children etc..

Allow me to introduce myself.  My name is Jennifer, and I’m a mother of three and wife of one.  I’m originally from Louisiana, way down south in Cajun Country.  My whole family still lives there.  My parents have told me on numerous occasions that they don’t know how I turned out the way I did because I’m so different than my brother and sister.  So far I’m the only one to have been bitten by the travel bug, but that may change because we have decided to uproot the family and move to France one month from now.  My sister and cousin from Texas used to tell me I was adopted, and that was why there were no pictures of me as a baby at my Granny’s house, but I know they were teasing and I have my mom’s skinny legs and freckles to prove it.

Question #2:  Where are you from originally?

I’ve been living in St. Louis, Missouri ever since I came up here seventeen years ago for graduate school to study French literature.  It was only a year and a half later that I met my Parisian husband, François-René.  People love to ask me if we met while I was studying in Paris, but I never studied there!  We met by chance in a 1997-style Internet chat room, way before the days of Match.com.  I was there to practice my French, and he was there to practice his English.  One year, many transatlantic flights, and many dollars spent on long distance phone calls later, we were married and off to live in France for a year while waiting on his Green Card to come through.

At that time, back in 1998, we decided that even though he was from Paris we would settle down in the South of France.  We moved to Béziers in the Languedoc-Roussillon region where his sister and her family were living.  We stayed there for one year, and decided to move back to St. Louis so that I could finish up my MA in French.  We told ourselves that we would move back when I’d completed my degree.  Now here we are 14 years later, still in St. Louis.  I’ve been teaching high school French all this time, and to an amazing bunch of young men

François started out in the corporate world since he’d studied business administration, but after ten years of that he decided to make a career change.  He went to work as a teacher in a French immersion school in the city.  We have enjoyed every minute of living here, and it’s a wonderful place to raise a family, but that’s no reason for us to feel stuck.  And a year and a half ago we started to feel stuck.  That’s when we decided to sell the house and move back to France.

Question #3:  When are you moving to France and with whom?

Before we had come to a complete decision, we did ask our children how they would feel about it.  At this point it is important for me to say that being teachers, we’ve been able to spend two months in France every summer for the last 14 years.  Our children are all completely bilingual with no trace of an accent, because we’ve only spoken French with them since they were born.  Compared to our American friends, we lead a very “French” lifestyle already in terms of every day family life.  We have three children, but only two still at home.  Our eldest is now 22, and though he plans to eventually come to France to study the culinary arts, he will stay here for now.  We also have a 9-year-old son and a 6-year-old daughter.  They are very excited about moving to France, and naturally a bit sad to leave behind their school and little friends.  We will be moving back to Béziers, where François-René’s sister and her family still live.  The kids will go to the same school where our older son went when he was in first grade.  We will live fifteen minutes from the Mediterranean coast and one hour from the Spanish border and the Pyrenees.

Question #4:  Where are you going to move?  Why did you choose that area?

While considering where to move in France, at least for now, there are only two real options.  There’s Paris, where Grandma and Tante Guénaëlle still live, and then there’s Béziers.  We want to be near the family (a luxury we’ve never known), and honestly, choosing between hectic city life and the good weather and serenity of the South, it’s not a difficult decision to make.  All said and done, it took us a year to get our house on the market and sell it.  For now, we are planning to rent in Béziers.  I’m kind of hoping for an affordable little house, or “villa” as they call them, but we’ll see what we can find.  We won’t be in a huge rush to find something because it will take our container up to two months to arrive.  In the meantime we can stay with the family in July, and in August they’re going on vacation so we will house sit.  We usually stay with them for about six weeks every summer anyway.  Plus they live in a house surrounded by vineyards with horses and a swimming pool.  It’s a pretty sweet deal, and all the more so because they are 100% adorable and we don’t seem to get on their nerves too much.

Question #5:  Why are you moving to France?

We have not decided to move to France for an awesome job offer, nor have we decided to move there because we’re independently wealthy people.  Why have we decided to move to France?  We are schoolteachers.  We work hard and want to enjoy our lives as much as possible.  We want the very best for our children.  I’m sure that turning 40 had a lot to do with our decision to move to France, and why not?  I don’t want to wait until I’m retired to live the good life.  St. Louis has been great, and so will be France.  I’m looking forward to the temperate summers and winters.  I know it gets hot there in the summer, but you don’t know hot until you’ve lived in hot and humid Louisiana and St. Louis.  I’m also looking forward to learning how to slow down.  Relax.  Take a load off.  Enjoy life.

I’m looking forward to summers at the beach and winters in the mountains without having to spend an absolute fortune like we would have to here in the States.  I’m looking forward to not having to worry about the cost of health care.  And what about the food, the wine, and yes…the French people!  I’ve found the people we’ve met in the South of France to be very genuine and caring people.  I’m also very much looking forward to raising our children with a strong sense of “politesse” that is becoming harder and harder to find in the US.  We’re doing our best, and they’re very polite and sweet, but I can remember how much easier it was (when my eldest was a little boy in France) when it wasn’t considered an abnormality for children to be polite.  It was the norm.

Question #6:  What will you do when you arrive in France?

Upon arriving in France, I will be working for 5 weeks in Montpellier as Summer Program Dean for Oxbridge’s Académie de France.  It’s a summer French immersion program for teenagers from around the world.  Though I’ll be living on campus during that time, it’s only about a half an hour away from Béziers, and that’s where my husband and kids will be.  They can come to see me, and I also will have one day off every week.  I’m very excited about this position, as I usually spend a month every summer traveling around Europe with my students from St. Louis.  I am also hoping to make some good connections.

After that first month I will return to Béziers with my family, and we will await our container while searching for a house or apartment to rent.  From that point on, all we will need is a strong Internet connection, a willingness to work hard, and a bit of good luck to launch our online language academy.  I’ve been working very hard for the last nine months or so to get it up and going.  I will teach English and French via Skype  (I’ve already started), together we will create podcasts, videos, free French and English lessons, we’ll maintain several language related blogs, websites, and Facebook pages, and continue to expand my YouTube channel while attempting to make a living from it all.  Aside from that, we’ll be spending our time living out a dream.

Question #7:  Have you a blog?  Facebook “Like” pages?

I have a personal blog, C’est la Vie! and it’s all about our original plan to move to France and the steps we’ve been taking to get there.  Once we’re in France, I plan to blog about daily life in the Languedoc.  I also have a blog to help people learn to speak French, Learn French With Jennifer, and one to help French speakers learn to speak English, Apprendre l’Anglais Avec Jennifer.  In addition, I have a commercial website that I’m working on (it’s not 100% complete) to promote the Skype lessons that I mentioned, and it’s called Love Learning Languages.  Anyone who is interested can easily access my Facebook pages, Living in Languedoc , Love Learning French , and Love Learning English.  In case that’s not enough, I also have a YouTube channel to which I upload videos to learn French on a daily basis.

Thank you so much for inviting me to write a guest post on your blog.  I wish you all the best in your return to Ireland, and hope that you will keep nothing but fond memories of your 11 years spent in France.  I dream to one day go to Ireland, the homeland of my ancestors.

Poulet Rôti, Demi-Baguettes, and Macarons, Oh My!!


What is more tempting to all of your human senses than just walking down the street in Paris? These particular memories stem from my spending a decent amount of time every summer in the 15th arrondissement, where my husband grew up, and where his parents still live.  It’s a very residential district, and one of the most quintessentially “parisian” arrondissements in all of Paris, or so I’ve been told.

Take a stroll out and about just before noon.  You’ll try to navigate the sidewalk traffic, avoiding having your foot rolled over by one of many little old lady grocery carts, filled to the brim with fruits and vegetables that have just picked up at the open air market, and you will pass by the butcher shop and feel the heat of the rôtisserie. You’ll stare amazed at the chickens that rotate, rotate, rotate, just beckoning passers by to pick one up for the midday meal.  You’ll continue on your way, roasted chicken bagged up and ready to inhale, and you will see a child who has run up to the boulangerie for his mother to get a fresh baguette for lunch.  As he innocently tears away at the tip of the bread with his little fingers, and pops the freshly baked staple into his pouty little French mouth, you will decide that you also need some freshly baked bread to go with your freshly roasted chicken.

You’ll hop into the next bakery you see (and even though it’s not “artisanal” you’ll think everything looks and smells amazing).  After standing in a line composed only of local Parisian residents, you will see single people ordering demi-baguettes, and as you watch them, you will find yourself wondering if such a thing even exists in America.  Then you’ll order one of those demi-baguettes, just because you can.

Arms getting full, and stomach rumbling from desire, you will now pass in front of a pâtisserie (any pâtisserie), and the window display will stop you dead in your tracks to admire the latest creations.  You’ll find yourself uncontrollably drawn into the shop, and before you know it, you’ll walk out of that very bakery with your poulet rôti in one hand, the most adorable little pink box full of macarons and tied up with a lovely white ribbon in the other, and your demi-baguette under your left arm.  As you tear at the tip of your baguette and pop a piece into your mouth to tide you over,  will you succumb to the temptation of the fromagerie calling your name gently as you walk by? And will you content yourself to wash it all down with a bubbly glass of Badoit (and that’s not the fun French bubbly you may have in mind, that’s merely sparkling water), all the while knowing that your poulet and fromage would be much more nicely complemented by a bottle of Hautes Côtes de Nuits from Burgundy? Oh, the decisions you’ll be forced to make.

There’s a scene from Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain that I think you will enjoy watching, even if you’ve already seen it countless times.  Watch as she leads a blind man around her neighborhood in Montmartre, and see if you can count the number of times your tastebuds are tingled.

Meme visits France (Bless Her Heart)


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This is a picture of me, my sister, and my mom.  Don’t we all look alike?  Let’s take a leap back in time about 14 years to 1998, and that was the first time that I lived in Béziers.  I had just gotten married (three times, all to the same man), and we were living in France, waiting for my husband’s Green Card approval.  All of that is a story for another time.  What I’d like to write about is the time Mom came over to visit us.  It was October, and that’s my birthday month.  Mom was still working back then, but had taken a few weeks of vacation.  She’d already been to France once, at the time of our wedding, and felt adventurous enough to make the long trip from Louisiana on her own.

Getting to Paris was no problem.  She just hopped on a direct flight from New Orleans, and ten hours or so later, she was at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris.  My father-in-law very graciously met her at the airport and drove her to the Gare de Lyon.  She was to take the TGV directly to Montpellier, then make a connection to Béziers.  This was our big mistake.  We should have just had her fly down to Béziers, because she doesn’t speak any French, and she’d certainly not had any experience with train travel in Europe.

The ride on the TGV was perfect, and she made it down to Montpellier with absolutely no problems.  Before getting on the train in Paris, my father-in-law had spoken with a fellow traveler (who spoke English), and had asked him to direct my mom to the right platform to make her connection to Béziers.  The kind traveler did just that, or so mom thought. Trusting soul that she is, she didn’t think about double-checking to make sure she was in the right place.

Long story short, she hopped on a non-stop TGV that took her directly back to Paris.  I don’t think she realized it right away, with the jet-lag she was certainly experiencing, but before too long she understood that she should have been in Béziers by then!  But it was a non-stop TGV.  When the conductor came around for tickets, and she didn’t have one, he was kind and patient enough to finally understand what had happened.  They didn’t charge her anything, but there was no option except to sit back and enjoy the ride to Paris.  Now by this time, she’d been traveling for quite some time, and was really getting tired.  This was in 1998, and it wasn’t like today when everyone has cell phones.  She didn’t have one, so she couldn’t call us.

When we got to the train station in Béziers, with my husband and son who was then only 7, we fully expected to find “Meme” and bring her home with us for a nice two week visit.  But there was no Meme getting off of the train.  I was desperately worried.  Had she fallen asleep on the train?  Where was it heading to next?  We only had two or three minutes to look around on the train for her before it left for the next destination.  No Meme.

Not knowing what in the world to do, we waited for the next train from Montpellier to arrive.  Still no Meme.  I could just imagine her having fallen asleep on the train, only to wake up somewhere in Spain not knowing where she was.  I was worried sick.

We went back to our apartment, called my brother and sister-in-law (who also live in Béziers), and told them what had happened.  We waited by the phone, not daring to leave the apartment for fear of missing her call. About two or three hours passed, then the phone rang.  It was my brother-in-law, Jean-Marie.  He had only one declaration to make, and that was, “J’ai trouvé Meme!!” (I’ve found Meme).

“What??  Where is she??”  Jean-Marie explained that he’d received a phone call at home from my mom.  She’d arrived in Paris, and had called the only number she had with her, which was his.  You know how it is, hind sight is 20/20 when it comes to traveling, especially to a foreign country where you don’t speak the language.  She’d explained to him what had happened, and thankfully his knowledge of English was MUCH better than what he’d ever led me to think!  Not wanting to disturb my parents-in-law in Paris (though she should have, but that’s not her style), she’d purchased another ticket to Béziers that very night.  How many hours had she been traveling??  I’m not sure, but we’re probably beginning to move beyond the 24 hour mark.  This particular train was not a TGV, it was too late for that.  It was a very slow-moving night train.  Meme was scheduled to arrive in Béziers around 8:00 in the morning.  Poor thing, and as a born and bred southerner, there’s only one phrase that fits.  “Bless her little heart”.

I sure didn’t sleep well that night, and keep in mind that I hadn’t yet spoken to my mom.  At 8:00 in the morning, we were at the train station waiting for her, still with a doubt in my mind whether she’d step off of the train or not.  Lo and behold, an understandably exhausted and somewhat frustrated Meme emerged (though she’s a Southern Lady, and you wouldn’t have known anything was wrong if you’d seen her).

We brought Meme home, had a big ole pot of American-style coffee brewed and ready, and heard her firsthand account of her adventure.  Now how many grandmas have that kind of story to tell?  I can tell you one thing, now that she knows we are moving back to France, she hasn’t sworn off traveling over there to see us.  However, she will not be taking the train.

Hemingway’s Paris


ImageJust before leaving for my very first trip to Paris back in 1992, my French teacher told me to go and see the legendary bookstore “Shakespeare and Company”.  That’s what I did, and since then I’ve had a bit of an obsession with the history of this legendary English bookstore and all of those who helped to give it a name in history.

Fast forward about twenty years, and my obsession is mainly focused on Ernest Hemingway and his life in Paris in the twenties.  Of course, sometimes I deviate and become fascinated with the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald,  his wife Zelda, and Gertrude Stein just to name a few.

Like many others, my passion was renewed with the release of Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris.  I first saw this movie in June, 2011, while in Paris.   I heard that the movie was released in Paris before being released in the United States, but I’m not sure if that’s true.  Anyway, I was traveling with a group of my students, and had dropped them off for some exploratory time at the Louvre.  It was pouring down rain, and I didn’t have an umbrella.  I knew it would be pointless to rush, so I strolled at a leisurely pace through the Tuilerie Gardens, beyond the Place de la Concorde, on up the Champs-Élysées, and right into a cinéma where I spent the next hour and a half or so falling in love with the Paris that had just seen me drenched to the bone.  What a treat it was to walk out of the theater only to find that it was still raining.

Fast forward another two years, and I’m back in Paris.  I had about ten days in the city by myself.  On the one hand, it sounds like a dream for a working mom who spends the entire school year trying to keep up with a hectic schedule.  On the other hand, after about day 4, Paris can get a bit lonely when you’re missing your husband and kids.  I decided to take advantage of the time and do something just for me.  I spent a few days scouring the Internet , trying to map out a personalized walking tour of Hemingway’s familiar haunts.  I found a travel blog that was MOST helpful to me, and if you’re interested in knowing exactly where to go on a Hemingway walk, I strongly suggest you read it:

http://www.slowtrav.com/france/paris/rl_hemingway.htm

When I’d at last finalized my itinerary, I knew it would be a long walk that would take all day.  What an adventure!  I put on my not so comfortable walking shoes (had to look good, it’s Paris, after all), grabbed a book and my  journal, and I started out from the 15th arrondissement where our studio apartment is located.  I made my way, by foot, over to the Montparnasse district.  I basically did the walk described on the SlowTravelFrance blog, except I did it in reverse because it was more practical for me.  I started down the Boulevard du Montparnasse, walked past La Coupole, La Closerie des Lilas…  Originally I had intended to stop at La Closerie des Lilas for an afternoon refreshment.  It was one of Hemingway’s favorite writing (and undoubtedly drinking) spots.  Also, I’m of the generation of Robert & Mireille in French in Action, and many of their rendez-vous took place in this café.  My plans changed when I had a look at the menu prices.  Thankfully they’re listed outside.  Instead, I planted myself on the bench out front, drank my bottle of water, smoked a cigarette from the pack that cost me almost $10 USD, and chewed on a piece of Hollywood Chewing Gum that I’d bought at the Tabac.

Once I’d rested up a bit, I continued on to the Rue de Fleurus, and that’s where Gertrude Stein’s apartment can be found at #27.  I was mainly reminded of scenes from Midnight in Paris when I got there.  I was the only person on the street who was stopping to have a look, and I felt a bit strange because even though it was Gertrude Stein’s apartment, it’s somebody else’s apartment now!  I was gazing up at one of the windows, and when I caught sight of someone gazing back at me, I embarrassedly scurried off toward the Jardin du Luxembourg.

By this time, it was mid-afternoon, and it was hot in Paris on that day.  I was ready for a cold drink, so before entering the Jardin du Luxembourg, I stopped in a shoddy little café for a beer.  I’m usually not a beer drinker, but it sure did taste good as I sat on the terrace of this dirty-ish café and wrote in my journal.  I don’t remember the name of the place where I had my beer, but even though it was dirty and they only had a one Turkish unisex bathroom, I’d recommend it because I made a great memory for myself on my Hemingway Day all by myself in Paris.

Next I went into the Jardin du Luxembourg.  I decided to sit and read for a while.  I knew that Hemingway had spent a goodly amount of time here, and some of that time was caught catching pigeons to eat so that he, Hadley, and Bumby wouldn’t starve to death.  I wonder if the pigeons of the twenties were the mutant pigeons of today?  It was a gorgeous day, so I found a shady spot on the grass and laid down with my book.  I was quickly distracted by an American couple who were so in love!  What I appreciated so much about them, and why I watched them unabashedly for about fifteen straight minutes, was because they were in love in Paris!  And they weren’t attractive.  They were not very well-dressed, they were slightly over weight, but they were in full PDA mode, and it was beautiful.  I don’t think they would have behaved like that in the US.

After the PDA and about a chapter of my book, I was ready to carry on.  I headed up to the Boulevard St-Germain-des-Prés, had a look at the famous café les Deux Magots, continued  on rue St-Sulpice, and finally down the rue de Vaugirard.  I made my way along the Quai des Grands Augustins and perused the bouquinistes of which Hemingway was so fond.  On to Shakespeare and Company where Sylvia Beach once loaned books, and even fed and housed Hemingway and his contemporaries from time to time.  Sylvia Beach had to close shop after WWII, but it has since been reopened by one George Whitman, who carries on the tradition of caring for artists and writers alike.

I only had two more stops to make on my walking tour.  I wanted to find Ernest and Hadley’s first apartment at 74 rue du Cardinal-Lemoine, and I wanted to also see the room Hemingway rented in a hotel nearby at 39 rue Descartes.  I couldn’t find the former, even though I must have walked up and down the narrow street a dozen times.  I wonder if it’s just not marked with the number 74??  However, I did find 39 rue Descartes, where Hemingway rented a room and tried to write.  There is a small plaque on the wall that says (in English) that “Ernest Hemingway lived in this building from 1921-1925”, but it’s not true.  That’s just where he went to work, or more likely to get away from family life with Hadley and Bumby.  There’s a larger plaque on the wall that says (in French) that “Dans cette maison est mort le 8 janvier 1896 le poète Paul VERLAINE…”  I wonder if Hemingway knew that when he took the room?

By this time, it was probably getting close to 7 pm.  I was tired (in a good way) from walking all day, and was starting to get hungry.  It would have been easy to have a seat in one of the many Latin Quarter cafés for a little something to eat and to people watch, but I opted to take the Métro back to the 15th.  When I got back to my neighborhood, I stopped chez l’Arabe (the neighborhood convenient store) and picked up some pasta, Barilla sauce aux olives, shredded emmenthal cheese, and a bottle of wine.  I went back to our 11th floor studio apartment, cooked my poet’s repast, and opened the window to the view  you see in the picture below.  That was a day well spent.

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What School Lunch in France Can Teach us Back Home in the U.S.


Here’s an interesting article I found on WordPress, again about France’s school lunches.

What School Lunch in France Can Teach us Back Home in the U.S..

Paris, Je t’aime (Part 6: Le Louvre, La Fête de la Musique)


Fast forward 14 days……

 …and we’re back in Paris after taking a trip around France!

When we first got back to Paris, we were arriving by coach from Normandy.  We arrived at our hotel in mid-afternoon, ready to hit the town.  Everyone was especially excited because the date was June 21.  You know what that means, right?  Not only is it the longest day of the year, the Summer Solstice, but all over France, even in the smallest village, it’s La Fête de la Musique http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fête_de_la_Musique, The Music Festival!  This is the one day of the year that people wanting to play music of any kind, professional or amateur, can get out on the streets and show their stuff.  It’s a great big party, and the ambiance is quite festive, and of course, it doesn’t get dark in Paris until after 11:00.

I don’t think my students had ever seen anything like this.  No matter where they went (we were mainly in the Quartier Latin), there was music on ever corner, every space was filled either with musicians, singers, or  spectateurs like us.  We sent the students out for a little free time, groups of 4+, and I’ve been told they had the time of their lives.  You  must know that all of my students were, at the time, 17-18 years old, and they’re all boys.  We only gave them a bit of free time before meeting up again. We saw how much fun they were having, and they seemed well-behaved (nobody was drinking, or not that we could tell), so we let them have a bit more free time.  On the Métro ride back to the hotel, they had lots of stories to tell.  Most of them had the obvious “best” story to tell (they are teenage boys).  They’d seen a group of about ten young French people all stark naked traipsing around in the Fontaine Saint Michel.  That’s something they’re not likely to forget.

We stayed up later than usual that night, but with the promise that nobody would make trouble when the 8:30 wake-up call would come the next morning.  They came through for me, and nobody had on dark sunglasses.  I considered that a success!  We woke up to a rather gloomy day, as far as the weather goes.  There was a light mist, enough for an umbrella, and it was pretty chilly.  Sweater weather.  Good thing we saved Le Louvre http://www.louvre.fr/en for the last day!

We got to the museum at about ten, and fortunately I’ve been doing this long enough to know which entrance to use in order to avoid the long lines.  In case you’re not aware, I’ll tell you that you must not use the pyramid entrance.  Rather, you should enter the museum through the Rue Rivoli (Palais Royal)entrance.  However, you may not use this entrance for groups.  If you are like me, traveling with a large group (especially students), send them in groups of no more than three, and not one right after the other.  They catch onto that pretty quickly.

I’ve been to Le Louvre a million times (not really), and on that day I didn’t particularly feel like it.  Instead, I sent them in groups and gave them a meeting point after lunch.  I considered going to see the new Woody Allen film Midnight in Paris  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1605783/ that had just opened (what an awesome movie), but instead I thought I’d better go and check on my colleague who was stuck back at the hotel with a hurt knee.  He was glad for the company, and we had lunch together.  I felt bad that his last day in France was compromised by his injury (I think he’d been doing too much climbing, he’s quite the adventurer).

After I met back with my students, we went to the Champs-Élysées  http://www.champselysees.org/, viewed the Arc de Triomphe  http://www.arcdetriompheparis.com/, ate a few macarons from La Durée  http://www.laduree.fr/, and before we knew it, it was time for an early dinner.  After dinner, it was back to the hotel to pack and get ready for an early flight out the next morning.

The check-in at Charles de Gaulle http://www.aeroportsdeparis.fr/ADP/en-gb/passagers/home/was “almost” uneventful.  Just a reminder:  No, it is not possible to check in with a bullet keychain.  It’s not possible with a seven-inch dagger either.  Boys . . . what can I say?  But I’m not the one who had to deal with all of that.  My unfortunate, liming colleague had the pleasure, while I prepared to greet my husband and children who were to arrive in Paris the next day, and then we began our two month family vacation in France.  That’s the way I do it every year, I send the students home with the other chaperone, then stay for holidays.  Maybe this year I’ll be able to stay there for good!  If you’re interested, see my other posts about moving to France.

So that’s it for the 2011 tour to Paris with my wonderful group of students.  There was a lot more to see between the time we left the City of Lights and the time we made it back for the Fête de la Musique, but that’s a story or two for another series of posts.  I hope you’ve enjoyed, and if anyone has some suggestions for future student trips, I’m all ears!  Merci, et à bientôt!

Paris, Je t’aime (Part 5: Montmartre)


After dinner we headed up to Montmartre http://www.aparisguide.com/montmartre/index.html, which is quite close by foot.  We had watched Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulin http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0211915/ in class before our departure, so they thought it was fun to see Le Café des Deux Moulins, the café where Amélie works in the movie.  Just after having a look (from the outside) at the café, we started our uphill trek to the stairs of Le Sacré Coeur http://www.sacre-coeur-montmartre.com/.  Many people get to the top of the stairs and are so overcome by the panoramic view of Paris that they forget about the jewel of a Basilica that’s sitting right behind them.  It’s absolutely worth going inside to have a look, even if you’ve been on a tour of Europe and you’ve seen so many churches that they’re all starting to look alike.  Inside, you will find the enormous Byzantine mosaic of Christ.  It’s one of the world’s largest.  Many of my students were more impressed / inspired by Sacré Coeur than by Notre Dame de Paris  http://www.notredamedeparis.fr/.

You can’t take a trip up to Montmartre without exploring the Place du Tertre http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Place_du_TertreIt’s normally filled with artists just waiting for a chance to draw your portrait.  All of these artists are quite talented, or they wouldn’t have a spot in this world famous square.  Portraits can be pricey, but it’s a nice gift for students to bring home to their parents or grandparents.  For something a bit less dear, you can also have a caricature drawn, and that’s a lot of fun, too.  And while you’re at it, don’t neglect the urge to grab a crêpe, but not just anywhere.

Get off of the Place du Tertre and walk down the Rue Mont Cenis and have one at the window of Au Petit Creux http://www.montmartre-guide.com/adherents/page3/i65/le-petit-creux.html.  They’re not the absolute best crêpes in Paris, for that you’ll have to head over to Montparnasse http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2006/03/the-best-crpes/, but they’re still really good, especially with a big glob of Nutella inside.

After filling up on crêpes we hopped back on the Métro at the Abbesses station, and headed back to our hotel.  After such a full day, I didn’t have to worry too much about room checks.  I think everyone fell asleep within 20 minutes.  This is the last night we’ll be spending in Paris, for now.  We’ll be back for a few more days at the end of the tour.  Tomorrow morning, bright and early, we will make our way to the Gare de Lyon http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris-Gare_de_Lyon where we’ll board the TGV for a five to six hour ride to Nice.

The final post for our trip to Paris will be Paris, Je t’aime (Part 6:  Le Louvre, La Fête de la Musique).  I hope you’re enjoying the blog, and merci.

Paris, Je t’aime (Part 4: Viva la Vida- Paris and all her Friends)


The next morning, day 3, we allowed ourselves to sleep in a bit.  We didn’t really get our day started until about 10:00.  Everybody was happily rested, and that’s always a good way to start the day.  At this point, all of the guys were simply delighted at the idea of eating croissants, pain au chocolat, and baguettes  every morning for breakfast.  By the end of the trip, and I will never understand how this could be, they were really tired of the “continental” breakfast.

We had a big day in store.  We had many things to see in Paris before moving on to the South of France.  On this day, we went out to Versailles.  Many times, I try to get away with not going out there because it’s just way too crowded., but this time the guys really wanted to go.  Our coach driver was nice enough to bring us out there, even though it wasn’t an official part of our tour.  Rather than being dropped off right at the entrance of the Palais de Versailles http://www.chateauversailles.fr/homepage like most of the other tourists, we came upon it from the edge of the gardens.  This allowed us to approach the palace by meandering through the oak lined paths.  We saw Marie-Antoinette’s Petit Trianon http://en.chateauversailles.fr/marie-antoinettes-estate and Le Petit Hameau http://www.pbs.org/marieantoinette/life/hameau.html before seeing the Palais.

Students can enter the palace for free as long as they’re under age 18, and so most everybody did go in.  After visiting, they couldn’t stop talking about the sheer opulence of the place.  I guess the crowds don’t bother them as much as they bother me.  It also helps that they’d just studied about the French Revolution http://chnm.gmu.edu/revolution/ in history class.

After our trip to the palace, we went into town to the Place du Marché http://millie.furman.edu/versailles/towninfo.htm where there are many small, not terribly expensive restaurants.  Once again, we split up for lunch.  I will recommend going to this part of town for dining.  It’s not really the place where you’ll see hundreds of tourists.  This isn’t because it’s located very far from the palace, but it’s rather  because you have to walk past a lot of other restaurants before arriving there.  Most tourists, I imagine, are tempted by the first places they see.  Some of my students did disappoint me by eating at a Tex-Mex restaurant, but I didn’t tease them for too long.  Apparently they paid a lot of money for a very average, even bad lunch.  Lesson learned!

When we got back to Paris, it was already late afternoon.  It seemed like everyone wanted to get back to the Quartier Latin, imagine that.  We went there for a few hours of free time before heading up to Pigalle  for dinner.  Why would I bring 20 American teenage boys to Pigalle http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quartier_Pigalle for dinner?  For one thing, it’s cheaper than other areas.  For another thing, they get to see a seedier part of Paris, and between you and me, they like that!  It was all innocent enough, and the food was good.

Next in the “Paris, Je t’aime” series (Part 5), join us on a trip to the highest point in Paris:  Montmartre.

Paris, Je t’aime (Part 3: Chartres, French High School)


We woke up early on day 2 in Paris, and made our way to the Gare Montparnasse http://parisbytrain.com/gare-montparnasse-photo-tour/.  We boarded a train to Chartres, and less than an hour later we were greeted by my French teacher friends, Christine and Odile.  They gave us a little tour of the town, including a history lesson about and a visit of the Cathédrale de Chartres.  Around 10:00 we went to the school where my American students were each partnered up with a French student.  The exchange was simple enough, since many of the Chartres kids had been to our school the previous October.

Students and teachers were so kind to all of us.  During the day, we were invited to their cafeteria where we all were treated to a pretty tasty three-course meal.  We teachers even had bottles of wine on the table to enjoy.  During the day, some of the kids had free time (no scheduled classes).  While they weren’t in class, their English/American Club had a meeting.  What a blast!  They put on American music and for about an hour there were 50 or so American and French kids all line dancing together.  The French kids were much better at it than my students!  That evening, we were invited to stay for a barbeque at the school.  It was certainly one of the highlights of the trip.  We took the train back to Paris, and were back at the hotel by midnight.

Stay tuned to “Paris, Je t’aime (Part 4)” for a trip to Versailles and Pigalle!

Paris, Je t’aime (Part 2: A French Home, le Marais)


After lunch, we started a walking tour of Paris.  Since we were already in the 2ème, our guide offered to have us stop by his house right around the corner.  He has the obvious good fortune of owning his own house, right in the very center of Paris.  From the street, you open the oversized, watch-your-step kind of door and move into the entrée of what is actually an apartment building.  Just beyond the entrance and access to the apartments, you happen upon his house.  It’s a pretty quirky place, looks like it could be part of the décor of a Tim Burton movie.  There are books absolutely everywhere, and the walls are covered with artsy posters.  There’s a makeshift mezzanine, that he built himself, where books are stored on shelves.  This is in the living room, which is pretty much the everything room.  A ladder is at one’s disposition to gain access to the overhead books.  In the living room, there’s also a small table and a high-chair, various toys lying around.  It’s a well-used space.  He was hospitable enough to allow anyone in our group use the toilettes.    The stairway that leads to the bedrooms is only wide enough for one not-so-hefty person at a time.  The rooms upstairs echo the wonderfully eccentric tone of the living room, and everything is lovely.

The rest of the first day was spent walking around the Marais district http://goparis.about.com/od/sightsattractions/ss/MaraisTour.htm, one of Paris’ oldest and most gorgeous neighborhoods.  It’s an historically Jewish area, and we stopped in front of a school where we read this plaque, erected in the memory of  Jewish students who were deported between the years of 1942-1944.  They were exterminated in concentration camps.  I had my students do the translation on their own, and then our guide led us through a very comprehensive lesson on how this could have happened, and what led up to the war.  It still gives me chills to remember the silence of my students while standing in front of this school, on the very sidewalk where so many children, now lost, once ran into school in happier days, hoping not to be late.

By the time we had walked around the Marais, Île de la Cité http://www.aparisguide.com/ile-de-la-cite/index.html, and parts of the Quartier Latin http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latin_Quarter,_Paris, it was time for dinner.  It was not a very memorable occasion, as I recall.  We went into a supermarket and bought picnic-style goods that could be thrown together quickly and eaten in hotel rooms.  We were all thoroughly exhausted, but we made it through the first day!  Tomorrow, everyone would be ready for our day trip to Chartres http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/81, where we would spend the day at French high school, L’Institution Notre Dame http://ind-chartres.fr/.

Have a look at “Paris, Je t’aime (Part 3)” to see how our day at French high school went!