My French Language Challenges

I have always loved the sound of a person speaking French. The words spill out of their mouth with an almost sing-song quality. And don’t get me started with the way the French roll their r’s when they pronounce words like erreur, (error) or rappeler (to call back). Without a doubt, I chose to learn French in 1979 for these reasons.

The Beloved Croque Monsieur

French food has always appealed to me. The sauces, the spices and the aromas draw me in like a pin to a magnet. As a young woman, living in France in 1979 and 1980, I had opportunities to sample many different dishes, but it was the croque monsieur I remember most fondly.

Famous Cafes in Paris

Boulangeries and Magasins de vin are essential in the life of many Parisians. So are les cafés. In certain parts of the city, every other shop appears to be a bakery, wine merchant or café.
 
It is a treat to wander down boulevards, admiring the window displays or inhaling the scrumptious smells wafting out of a café or bakery. And, as you stroll along, inevitably you will pass the quintessential French scene – a restaurant with outdoor tables, red awnings and colorful flowers.
 
Many of the cafes you pass in Paris are renowned. The Café Le Procope, founded in 1686 by Francesco Procopio Dei Coltelli, a Sicilian Native of Palermo, became a popular meeting place for Molière and other literary types. Continuing this trend, Voltaire, Rousseau and others frequented the establishment. According to French Moments, “Benjamin Franklin, then Ambassador to France, worked on the U.S. Constitution at a table” inside Café Le Procope. Other cafes, such as Le Deux Magots and the Café de Flore became popular gathering places in the 1920’s by many intellectuals and literary types, including Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Hemingway and Picasso.

Farmers’ Markets in France

Most villages in France have a farmers’ market once a week during certain times of the year. These markets are often a mix of stands and stalls offering homemade items, cheeses or a full-range of produce straight from the farm. 

Exploring Paris On Foot

Are you planning a trip to “The City of Light”? Perhaps you have dreamed of strolls along famous Paris streets or through quaint Paris neighborhoods. In this remarkable city, each turn brings a new café, historical site or a fascinating store to explore. And what about those ornate bridges over the River Seine? Many of these bridges offer stellar views.

Andouillettes? No, Thank You

My trip to France in 1979 opened my eyes to a whole new world, especially with regard to French cooking. Raised in a humble family with very few extravagances, we rarely splurged on anything, including food. Madame Dubois, my patron at the Château de Montclair, and her mother, Madame Moulon, introduced me to some of the best meals I’ve ever eaten. There were, however a few dishes I would rather forget.

A Visit to Saint Gatien’s Cathedral

While I lived in France in 1979, working as an au pair, I had a chance to attend mass with the family at Saint Gatien’s Cathedral, the Gothic Roman Catholic cathedral in Tours. My visit to this ancient building, built between 1170 and 1547, was an an unusual experience and I write about it in my memoir, French Illusions, My Story as an American Au Pair in the Loire Valley. Here is an excerpt:

“Le Petit Prince” Returns

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My husband and I recently moved to a smaller home in Arizona and this required lots of downsizing. As I rummaged through old boxes, sorting “keep” piles and “give away” piles, I stumbled across my copy of Le Petit Prince from my stay in France in 1980. My heart lurched as I picked up the well-used book, turned to the first page and discovered  an inscription — long forgotten — from my love interest in France. 

Romance on a Train in 1979

When I traveled to France in 1979 to work as an au pair, I brought my trusted Kodak pocket Instamatic camera along so I could capture some special moments. The camera was small enough to fit inside my purse or pocket, hence the name.

A Christmas Memory from France

french-yule-log-2In 1979, I experienced my one and only Christmas abroad, far away from my beloved family in, Seattle, Washington. Fortunately, a French friend invited me to dine with him and his friends, otherwise I would have spent the day alone. It was a pleasant experience, filled with good food and comradery, and I was glad I attended the event. Here is an excerpt from my sequel, French Illusions: From Tours to Paris, describing this special event.