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. 

“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.

Loire Butcher Shop

Shortly after I arrived in the Loire Valley in 1979, my patron, Madame Dubois took me shopping in the nearby town of Songais (not the real name). Many of the sights in this small town were unfamiliar to me and I remember my mouth dropping on more than one occasion as we passed by ancient buildings or unusual merchants. One of the most memorable shops we visited that day, was the butcher shop.

Cherished Memories

We all have memories we cherish, and for many of us, these memories revolve around our childhood. My mother loved cooking more than anything else in the world and she would spend hours in her kitchen preparing meals for the family. My brother very much appreciated her efforts, but alas, I was a very picky child. No amount of coaxing or pleading would open my mind to her “healthy” recipes, so she often prepared separate meals for me (so I wouldn’t “starve”). One of my favorites was palačinke, better known as crepes.

Luscious Libations from the Loire Valley

When I worked as an au pair in the Loire Valley in 1979, I sampled many fabulous wines, from Sauvignons to Cabernets. Once, as I strolled through the farmers market in the Loire Valley, I sampled unfermented new wine. Here is an excerpt from my memoir, French Illusions: My Story as an American Au Pair in the Loire Valley, chronicling that event.

Award Contests – Yea or Nay

I’ve entered my memoir, French Illusions: My Story as an American Au Pair in the Loire Valley, in two contests.

In the spring of 2014, I paid $89 and submitted my book to the Readers’ Favorite Book Awards Contest.Later that year, they notified me that I won the Bronze Medal in the “Non-Fiction Travel Category.” There was no monetary prize for this award.