Tag Archives: French


Beginner French:  Part 1, Au Café

November 29, 2013

Free Skype Lesson + 50% off Online French Course

Coupon Code:  BLACKFRIDAYFRENCH2013 (click on the link in the title)

I’m pleased to offer an online Beginner French lesson, in the marketplace now at Udemy.com.  The regular price for this video course is $20, on sale for only $10 today.  In addition, the first ten new students to enroll in the course TODAY ONLY will receive a FREE 45 minute French course with Jennifer on Skype.  Coupons are limited, and the free lesson is only for the first 10 to enroll in the class today.  Looking forward to hearing from you!  À bientôt!

Le Marché du Vendredi


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I love, love, love Fridays in Béziers.  Friday is market day!  There are many markets that take place every week, but the one on Friday is the largest, and it’s practically downstairs from where we live.  For the last few weeks, since the kids have been back in school, we have been enjoying going to the market to find something delicious to prepare for our family to eat together at lunch.  Today, we chose “loup de mer”, which is sea bass, or sea perch…I’m not really sure what the difference is!  To go with that, we steamed some little potatoes, then served them with butter and parsley.  We also made a little mixture of seasonal vegetables, eggplant, bell pepper, and zucchini.  Then we ate cheese.  Oui, la vie est belle!

French bureaucracy… Hate to say it, but you told me so!


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Our container finally made it to Point B!

Ha, ha, ha…. Sometimes you just have to laugh!  How did I think it would be any different for us?  I guess it’s just one of those things that you hear about, but never believe it can happen to you.  Everyone I know who has moved here, and especially those who have written or blogged about their experience, has wished us good luck with the “French red tape”.  It’s basically a seemingly endless Catch 22.  I’m choosing to remain positive, and believe that by the end of August it will all be worked out.

For the moment we are living at my sister and brother-in-law’s house while they’re away on vacation, so it’s really nice to have some extra time  to finish up paperwork and get our apartment cleaned up and fixed up the way we want it.  As you can see in the picture below, it’s not such a bad place to be spending the month of August.  The only thing is that it is out in the countryside, and it’s not really possible to get a good Internet connection.  I’m so looking forward to getting the Internet set up at the apartment so that we can easily go there to get some work done.

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Here’s some exciting news!  A young English woman who is living in Barcelona teaching English and studying French and travel journalism at the same time found my blog and Love Learning French Facebook page, and she’ll be in Béziers this weekend.  She’s asked me to give her a few hours of immersion classes around and about town on Friday and Saturday.  I’m really, really looking forward to doing that, so fun!

I take that back. Long-stay visa… no check.


UnknownWow, two posts in just one day, this must be juicy!  Only four short hours ago I was sitting at a Starbuck’s (don’t hate) wondering why I hadn’t brought my jacket with me to Chicago, with a big smile on my face in honor of La Journée de la Joie.

While waiting for my 5:15 train back to St. Louis, I received a phone call from the lovely lady at the consulate who helped me so much to locate all of the documents that I need for my long-stay visa.  She called to tell me that, unfortunately, my passport will expire NEXT April (2014).  The problem is that the visa I need is valid for one year.  See the problem?  My American passport absolutely must be valid for one full year from the time that visa is validated, which will be June 18 when I arrive in France.

My first reaction?  “Darn it.”  I meant it, and that’s a strong reaction from me.  I don’t curse, but “darn it” is a pretty close euphemism to what I really wanted to say.  I’d just come all the way to Chicago, spent the night in a hotel (spending money that could have been better spent on a wonderful dinner in Carcassonne, for example), gone through all of that just to have this one little stress completely off of my  plate.  And here it’s been regurgitated, right back onto my plate.  But I have to remember that if I were in France right now, it would be National Joy Day!!  So I’m taking my husband’s advice, “Jenn-ee-fère, zen!!!”  Ok.  I’m zen.  No really, I am.  I’m on the Amtrak, the “high-speed” Amtrak with free WiFi, and they have a bar.

I called the National Passport Service to see what could be done.  It seems that the expedite process to receive a new passport takes 2-3 weeks if done by mail.  If I get an appointment at the regional office in Chicago and go back there to get it, it can be done in a day.  I think that’s what I’m going to have to do, because I’m leaving for France on June 17, and the visa could take up to 21 days to receive.  I know from last year, when I did the same exact thing, that I got it back in one week.  Zen.  I’ll get an appointment to get an expedited passport, and once I have it I will hand deliver it to the French Consulate.  Zen. Then I’ll certainly receive it by mail before my departure on the 17th.  Zen.

I don’t want to do the trip alone again.  I’m going to have to find a friend to come along.  Then there’s the problem of work.  How can I take off another day when there’s only one week of school left?  Can’t miss Wednesday afternoon, though.  My colleagues in the Foreign Language Office are taking me out to a French restaurant for lunch.  Happy Joy Day!!

“Honey, Could You Get The Phone?” or “How to Avoid Answering the Phone in France”


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The first time we moved to the South of France was about fifteen years ago.  François and I had just gotten married, and I had a BA in French and was about halfway through an MA in French, so I thought I would be fine.

And now, everyone who has lived through a similar experience takes a moment to chuckle.

How was I supposed to know everyone would speak so fast, and I sure didn’t know the people who live in the South have an accent!  This Louisiana girl was doomed.  Not quite doomed it seems, because it was that year in France that allowed me to gain the confidence to believe in myself and speak.

During the whole year that we lived there, I never got used to speaking French on the phone.  I would take off running across the apartment to lock myself in the bathroom, forcing my sweet husband (or even my seven year old son who was just learning French) to answer anytime the phone rang.

Does anyone else have a story to tell about speaking “book French” once you arrived in France for the first time?

 

 

 

Louisiana Crawfish (ça va me manquer!)


Louisiana Crawfish (ça va me manquer!)

I’m going to love living in France, but I’ll sure miss Crawfish Season. As it is now, I have to drive 12 hours to get the good ones from Louisiana. I guess when you think about it like that, it would only take about twelve hours by plane (all said and done).

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.

Working @ Montpellier this Summer ?!?!?


Since I am not renewing my teaching contract this year, and since we are moving to the South of France in June, I’ve been spending the last six months or so really focusing on what to do about my professional life.  I see this as a real opportunity to do something different and exciting, keeping in mind my specific talents, interests, and experience.

The online classes I’m teaching are going very well.  The company that hired me, based in Montpellier, just informed me today that I will have three new students.  Two will be learning English, and one is a beginner in French.  They’ve assured me that once we live in France I will have a full schedule if I want it.

I ran across another opportunity several months ago.  It’s a position for “Program Dean” of a pretty prestigious residential French language/cultural program in Montpellier.  It’s a month long residential program for mostly American high school students.  They’re looking for someone who is bilingual in French and English, who has lived in the region, and who has an extensive background both teaching and traveling with North American students of this age group.  I seem to fit the bill rather perfectly, so I sent in my CV and letter about three months ago.

I can hardly believe it, but the executive director contacted me, and just this morning we set up a Skype interview for this afternoon.  I am so very nervous.  I suppose the interview will be in French, or at least I feel that it should be.  The interview is an hour and a half away, and my heart is already beating fast.

If I get the job (don’t worry, I just found some wood to touch / knock on), they will pay for my flight from New York to Montpellier.  That would be great for the budget!  It will mean living at the residence with the students for a month, and overseeing the disciplinary life of the program and assisting with the administration.  It would also mean working with a team of assistants, mostly local undergrads, meeting guest speakers, coordinating field trips around the region, providing pastoral care of students and supervision.  It sounds like what I do every summer with my students anyway, and since I haven’t planned a student trip this year it would be feasible.

Of course, it would mean living in Montpellier for a month while my husband and kids are in Béziers at my sister-in-law’s house, but it’s really close!  We would still be able to see each other quite often, and my nieces live in Montpellier.  I’m just imagining what kinds of doors this could open for me professionally, and all of the neat connections I could make.

So if you have read this far, please say a prayer for me today!  I’m going to try to keep the attitude that it’s not an interview with a leading professor at Oxford University.  It’s just a conversation with another human being.  If it’s meant to be, it will happen.  Thanks for reading my nervous bantering 🙂

MAY 2013 UPDATE:  I GOT THE JOB!!!!!

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.

Annual Languedoc Festivals (that I’m putting on my calendar)


January-March:

Limoux:  Carnaval de Limoux

Approximately ten weeks of festival, this is one of the longest running carnivals in the world.  Masks, costumes, music, pranks, King Carnival burned at the stake,  swapping of roles, and it’s all done in the Occitan language.

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March:

Nîmes:  Féria de Primavera

This is the pre-Lenten carnaval , and the first of several annual féria in Nîmes.

April:

Sommiers:  Medieval festival

Street festival featuring costumed merchants and performers, markets and music.

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May: 

Pezenas:  Cavalcade

Annual festival, artisan craft market, medieval period-costume parade.

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Nîmes:  Feria de Pentecôte

The main focus is bullfighting in the Roman amphitheater.

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Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer:  Gypsy Festival & Pilgrimage

Traditional gypsy music,  traditional gypsy costumes, white horses of the Camargue, solemn procession of over 3,000, headed by the king of the Gypsies and the archbishop, weaves its way through the village streets, singing a repetitive chant until everyone reaches the sea.  Bullfighting, concerts, lots of food.

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June:

Beaucaire:  La Fête du Drac

Traditional festival in honor of the town’s dragon mascot.

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Pavalas:  The Maguelone Music Festival

The cathedral is home to a festival of ancient music.

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Montpellier:  Le Printemps des Comédiens

Theater and live performances,  proposing between 20 and 25 shows and drawing more than 40,000 paying spectators.

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Narbonne:  Festival National de Théâtre Amateur

Ten evenings of open air amateur theater.

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July:

Sète:  Fête de la Saint-Pierre

The town pays homage to St. Pierre, patron saint of fishermen.

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Montpellier:  Festival de Radio-France

Music festival focusing on opera, classical music, and jazz.  90% of the concerts are free.

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Beaucaire:  Medieval Fair

A week-long recreation of the medieval market and other celebrations.

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Avignon:  Festival d’Avignon

Theater festival that runs for three weeks.

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Carcassonne:  Dance, music, and theater festival

Opera, Dance, Theatre, Classical Music, French and international popular music, Modern music.  Many concerts are free.

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Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert:  Annual fête

Baroque organ and choral music is held in a medieval monastery.

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August:

Sète:  Water jousting

Originating in Sete centuries ago, this sport is now a passionate fixture of Languedoc traditional culture.  The most important tournaments take place on August 25, la Fête de Saint Louis.

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Orb Valley:  Festival de la Vallée de l’Orb

Takes place in various town squares throughout the Orb valley, this festival features lots of wine and folk music activities.

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Béziers:  La Féria

Five day féria focusing on bullfights, concerts, food.  Attracts over a million visitors annually.

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Narbonne:  Semaine Bavaroise

In alternating years, Narbonne honors twin town, Weilheim in Germany, by a week of celebrations of Bavarian food and folklore.

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September:

Pavalas:  Féria d’Automne

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Nîmes:  Féria des Vendanges

Basically a repeat of the Féria de Pentecôte that takes place in May.

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Le Grau/Port Camargue:

Traditional water tournaments and bull fights.

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October:

Aigues Mortes:  Annual fête

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Béziers:  Les Primeurs d’Oc

Premier wine festival in Languedoc.  Features wine, music, dance, and theater.

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November-December:

Pezenas:  Occitan Christmas

Montpellier Christmas Market

Béziers Christmas Market

Perpignan Christmas Market

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Carcassonne:  Marché au Gras

Christmas market with lots of artisanal crafts and regional food products (and FOIE GRAS!!!)

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I highly doubt that I’ll make it to all of these festivals and events, but they do look like fun.  I think I’ll opt most likely for the various markets, medieval festivals, Christmas festivities, and wine festivals.

What have I missed?  If you know of other worthwhile festivals/markets/events going on annually in the Languedoc, please tell me about them in the comments.  Maybe there’s a festival that you think is great somewhere else in France?  If so, I’d sure love to hear about it.