All French, all the time

Today I was so close to a total day of French interaction. I was batting 1.000, pitching a perfect game, getting a hole-in-one on every hole, etc., by which I mean I was speaking only in French to people, and receiving only French in response.

Things began swimmingly when I collected my mail at American Express. Confident from that transaction, I attempted to buy a phone card at La Poste (the post office) but discovered that a phone card "not to put in the phone but to press the numbers on the phone to use" (as I roughly garbled in French, because we needed one of two types of French phone cards) needed to be purchased at the Tabac (tobacco store) or "chez France Telecom." Unphased by the rapid French response I received from the postwoman, and understanding more or less what she'd told me, we headed to the Tabac where I repeated my ill-formed but apparently comprehensible request for une télécarte, paid, and exited with a wave of the hand and an au revoir, madame.

Several hours later, lunch was ordered sans problème, entrance was ascertained to the Picasso Museum, and hot chocolate enjoyed alongside the Place des Vosges, all in French (or tout en français as I like to say these days).

I was high on French, walking the streets of the Marais with a certain je ne sais quoi strut when we stopped at the fromagerie (cheese store). Jason and I became separated in the small store and when the shopkeeper approached Jason with a flurry of French, my streak abruptly ended when Jason responded with, je ne parle pas le français. The cheeseman switched right over to English from that moment on. I insisted on French. Back and forth we went, but I wouldn't budge a linguistical inch.

I picked the cheese, "Une brique de brebis, s'il vous plaît."

"Is that all? Anything else?" he replied.

"Non, c'est tout," I said firmly, but with a smile.

He rung us up, "4.80 euros."

I handed him the money and Jason took the cheese.

"Thank you. Good bye." he said.

"Merci monsieur. Au revoir." I replied.

Hell hath no fury like a woman determined to speak French.

French language goals

One of my goals while here in Paris is to improve my French. To that end (and being a project manager-type A personality) I've established goals for my progress broken down by week. For the first week (nearly complete now) I plan to "master" the pronounciation of un (the pronoun "a" or "an") which has always given me trouble because of my fluency in Spanish. My other goal for week one is to be able to understand numbers when spoken and be able to use them easily. So far, so good, though I still get tripped up on the numbers some time.

For week two: try to speak in more complete sentances, improve my differentiation between masculine and feminine nouns, and increase my vocabulary. I'm almost ahead of schedule, having added two new words to my vocabulary during this first week: gaufre (waffle) and marron (chestnut).

Le Colimacon restaurant

Le Colimaçon
44, rue Vieille du Temple
75004 Paris

48€ for two (one appetizer, two entrees, one dessert), with 1/2 bottle of wine

Wonderful dinner last night at Le Colimaçon right down the street from our apartment. I started with chèvre chaud aux figues, a salad of mixed greens with warm goat cheese melted on toasts accompanied by fresh figs and tomatoes. The balance of the figgy sweetness with the vinaigrette was absolutely perfect and every bite, especially when accompanied by the warm cheese, caused me to exclaim, "this salad is SOOO good!" For my main course I had confit de canard, a moist and tender drumstick and thigh of duck with cripy skin and juicy in its own fat. (For those keeping track at home, my vegetarianism suffered a fatal blow with my meal at the French Laundry and has never fully recovered.) This was accompanied by two cakes of grated potatoes and was rich and salty and moist and tender and simply wonderful.

I can't believe we simply stumbled into the place while wondering down the street looking for dinner. We selected it for two simple reasons: reasonable prices (under 20€ for entrees) and co-ed (the Marais has its share of gay bars and clubs, many of which seemed to be "going off" on Sunday night as we looked for a dinner place). If you're looking to eat in the Marais, I absolutely recommend this place for dinner. The only disappointment, which was slight, was the tarte tatin, which seemed less good only because I make it often at home. I'm looking forward to going back again, maybe even tomorrow!

Duck-like Parisians

No one pronounces oui as "we" or even "oowe." It's all very nasal and quacking-like, a sort-of "wanh." I never noticed before but it sounds like a millions ducks quacking at once. Why do they call the French "frogs"? Ducks would be make more sense.

Free museum Sundays

On the first Sunday of every month the national galleries in France are free. On subsequent Sundays it's half-price. Judging by the line in front of the Musée d'Orsay and the crowd inside the Louvre today, this fact is no secret in Paris. Nonetheless, if you're looking for a cheap way to see some wonderful art and can deal with the crowds, it might be worth it. We skipped the Louvre Top 10 (Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, etc.) and went to see the objets d'art from Napoleon III's Apartments, The Restoration, and the July Monarchy.

And because we know a "secret" entrance to the Louvre, there was no waiting in line! Of course, I can't tell you where this secret entrance is because if I do, it won't be a secret much longer and then it will have long lines just like the main pyramid entrance. If you're planning a trip to Paris soon and want to know (and will keep it a secret), email me and I'll tell you where it is.

Parisian apartment living

I very much feel like I'm living in France already due to two nearly back-to-back trips to the BHV department store. First we needed a halogen light bulb. A little while later (after an "error du outlet" as you could say in Frenglish), a new fuse. I've gotten very good at going to the electronics department of the BHV with the item I need in tow, saying "Je cherche comme ça" and then being led to the item in need. There's nothing like a fuse purchase to make you realize you're not staying at a hotel.