Monday, January 31, 2011

La France à Seattle -- Survey results are in!


At the beginning of the month, I asked my readers to tell me what their favorite French establishments were in the Seattle area. Thank you for sending in your votes. There were no real surprises, but I still found out about a couple of places I want to try over the next few weeks. Ready? Voilà les résultats. Please note that if you click on each establishment's name, you will be directed to the website...

Les Boulangeries:

Local classics such as Le Panier, at Pike Place Market, ranked high in several lists. Truth be told, Le Panier Very French Bakery has been a reliable performer for years, offering delicious sandwiches for lunch (made with fresh baguette, bien sûr), and a great selection of pâtisseries (fruit tarts, palmiers, éclairs come to mind, as well as seasonal Galette des Rois), and viennoiseries (croissants, pains au chocolat, pains aux raisins). A "Very French Bakery" it is indeed. Don't forget to check it out next time you go downtown!

Palmiers... Pure butter... flaky dough... Heaven!

On Seattle's Eastside, ("The Dark Side", according to some Seattleites) we find a couple of reliable French addresses as well. Belle Pastry in Old Bellevue, has been a popular option for years. I enjoy sipping a cappuccino there once in a while. Someone noted that she favors their café au lait, served with a generous slice of warm baguette, butter and raspberry jam on a rainy morning. Quel petit-déjeuner! The ideal breakfast!

Personally, I enjoy visiting another Eastside boulangerie on a regular basis (probably because I meet private students there several times a week). Welcome to the French Bakery in the lovely town of Kirkland. Even though the place is often packed and it can be hard to find a seat, the (Italian) coffee is bold and the pastry selection tasty. My favorites are Les viennoiseriespain au chocolat, palmier, and chausson aux pommes (French apple turnover). 

Chausson aux pommes... Golden and crisp, with a delicious apple compote filling... 

There is another boulangerie. It is located in West Seattle. I must confess I have not visited it yet but several students of mine swear by it. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the award-winning Bakery Nouveau. Apparently Le Boulanger (the baker) knows a thing or two about bread-making. A few years ago, he won an international competition in France and beat the best French bread makers! Oh, la la! Sounds like a visit is long overdue.

Les restaurants:

Two establishments were mentioned over and over in the survey. Maximilien is one. It is a Seattle institution. Located inside Pike Place Market, another Seattle landmark, the restaurant enjoys panoramic views of the Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. The food is not bad either, if you favor bistro classics such as escargots à la bourguignonnecroque madame, or soupe à l'onion (French onion soup).

A contender for best local French bistro is popular Café Campagne, also located near Pike Place Market, a favorite for Sunday brunch. I always order the same dish there: Les oeufs en Meurette (
Poached eggs served on garlic croutons with pearl onions, bacon and champignons in red wine-foie gras sauce, with pommes frites). Miam! Yum! Le Husband swears by le cassoulet (a rich bean and meat stew from the French Southwest).  We need to mention the elegant and more upscale version of Café Campagne, located usptairs: Campagne. This restaurant must be reserved for special occasions! Note it is currently closed for renovations.

Oeufs en Meurette... Soaking up the rich wine sauce with baguette or french fries  is one of life's great moments!

For Halloween, Le Husband, Junior and I bumped into a little gem, Bastille Cafe and Bar, located in the lively and always entertaining Ballard neighborhood. What a delightful Parisian-style bistro! We loved the décor, from the authentic-looking zinc-topped bar ("le zinc"), to the tile floor, ironworks and the old Parisian clock. Food was traditional bistro fare, but with a Seattle twist: There is a 4500 square foot rooftop garden where the staff grows their own organic herb and salads! The place is truly stunning and we will be going back soon.

Truth be told, Seattle has quite the selection of wonderful French bistros: When you get a chance, check out Voilà, near lovely Madison Park (don't miss their excellent selection of mussels), Le Pichet, on 1st avenue, or newcomer Luc, where students and I had a fun pre-Holiday dinner a few weeks ago. Bistros, in Seattle or in Paris, offer simple food, good wines, and affordable prices. Beware: Bistros are not the best place to enjoy a quiet, romantic meal. At peak times, the noise level in some of these fine establishments can be deafening!

... and here is my transition to a favorite on Seattle's Eastside: The French Studio group and I have always enjoyed our end-of-school-year dinners at a quiet, but much loved Kirkland restaurant, Lynn's Bistro. Classically trained, chef and owner MyLinh Tran serves unique asian-accented French cuisine. She is a nice lady who also tries to find a French-speaking waiter for our group so my students get to order their meal in French! The $30 3-course prix-fixe dinner is an excellent choice chez Lynn!

Les crêpes:

rêpes deserve a category of their own. I found out people get quite passionate about their favorite crêperies! A couple of businesses were mentioned in the survey. 

Crêperie Voilà in downtown Seattle. This is more of a street stand than an actual restaurant. Their website announces: "Fast-food, Old World style". The picture gallery is appetizing. Crêpes are b.i.g. I look at the photos and am immediately reminded of the movie: "Supersize Me". They must be tasty, several people vouched for them. Personally, I like my crêpes simple. Ham and cheese on buckwheat for a savory crêpe. Sugar or lemon for a sweet crêpe. My son (and thousands of other people) would probably interject: "Et le Nutella?" (what about Nutella?)-- So, yes, ok. Vive le Nutella!

Italy's most successful export!

Problem is, we do not have enough decent crêperies in Seattle. La Côte Crêperie is a good address in Madison Valley. Prices are a bit high, unfortunately, but I love their French hard cider collection (a crêpe should always be served with a small bowl of cidre from Normandy, preferably). Another place is Anita's Crêpes, located in Fremont. Tasty selection, but again, prices are not cheap, and they put soooo much stuff on crêpes! (Note that Anita's Crêpes also has a stall at the popular Ballard street market). My favorite way of eating crêpes is "on the go", while walking in the street in Paris. Le French fast-food, quoi! I can't imagine attempting that feat while holding some of the crêpes that landed on my plate in Seattle! It would not be pretty! One thing is for sure, in Paris or in Seattle...

A bientôt!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Expressions déprimantes dans la vie française...

This is an article in French. Level is lower intermediate to intermediate. Look up new words and expressions translated in Le Lexique, at the end of the article. My English-speaking readers did not appreciate being left out last week, so just for them, Les Monolinguistes, I have added a free translation at the very end. Bonne lecture!

Dernièrement, la météo a été triste mais prévisible à Seattle... pluie, pluie, et pluie. Un vrai temps de chien! Alors, comme j'étais un peu déprimée, j'ai pensé à des mots et expressions pas très agréables qu'on entend dans la vie quotidienne. Par exemple: "Il tombe des cordes" ou alors, chez Starbucks, "désolé madame, il n'y a plus de café!" (Bon, d'accord. Celle-la, je l'ai  inventée ;-) 

Voici une compilation de quelques expressions que vous verrez ou entendrez peut-être pendant votre prochain voyage en France, malheureusement. Il vaut mieux être préparé, n'est-ce-pas?

En tête de liste, le mot "non". Les adultes l'utilisent parfois avec des enfants désobéissants. Dialogue. La mère: "Non, tu ne mangeras pas de bonbon avant le dîner." La fille: "Si!". La mère: "Non!". La fille: "Si!", et ainsi de suite.

Un autre mot très, très désagréable, "interdit". Quand j'étais jeune, je n'aimais pas du tout ce mot, qui était partout. 

Pauvres chiens! Ils ne doivent pas jouer dans ce parc!
En France, si vous ne conduisez pas de voiture, vous êtes un piéton. Comprenez-vous ce panneau?

Dans beaucoup de jardins publics en France, les pelouses sont interdites. Ici, vous pouvez voir une personne "rebelle" --
en général un touriste!

Un chat, très, très intelligent!
Continuons notre liste. Pendant votre visite en France, vous n'aimerez pas voir le mot "hors-service" (ou "en panne"). Si ce mot est placé sur une machine que vous voulez utiliser (téléphone, distributeur automatique de billets), alors c'est une mauvaise nouvelle!

Ce téléphone est "hors-service".  Avez-vous votre téléphone portable?
Ce soir, vous êtes à Paris, et vous décidez d'aller au théâtre pour voir un nouveau spectacle à succès. Vous arrivez au guichet et vous apercevez un panneau qui annonce: "COMPLET". Une autre mauvaise nouvelle!

C'est dommage!
Il fait très beau et très chaud. C'est le mois d'août sur la Côte d'Azur. Vous décidez d'aller à la piscine de votre hôtel, qui est superbe. Vous arrivez à la piscine. Vous choisissez une chaise longue parfaitement située au bord de l'eau. Malheureusement, vous voyez un message sur la chaise: "Réservé". Pas de farniente au bord de la piscine pour vous aujourd'hui!

Le soir, après le fiasco à la piscine, vous allez au village pour dîner dans un excellent restaurant dont vous ont parlé vos amis. Vous le trouvez enfin, au fond d'une impasse. Le bâtiment est très sombre. C'est bizarre. Vous approchez, et sur la porte, vous voyez un panneau: "Fermé pour travaux". Oh, non! Quelle journée!

Enfin, n'oublions pas un mot qui peut être très, très déprimant dans la langue française: Grève. Ce petit mot peut causer beaucoup de problèmes pendant votre visite en France. Plus de transport public, plus d'avion, retards dans les trains, courrier erratique. Bref, la catastrophe. Si vous arrivez en France au milieu d'une grève, deux seules choses à faire: patience -- et créativité!

Comprenez-vous le dessin ci-dessus? A droite, deux grévistes, qui travaillent pour les Transports Publics Parisiens. A gauche, le public (vous et moi). Il n'y a plus de métro. Traffic interrompu, alors ils se plaignent: "Ras le bol", "Y'en a marre", "Trop c'est trop".

Voilà, vous savez tout. Ne vous inquiétez pas trop, quand même. La vie est plutôt agréable en France. Il suffit d'être très patient... 


prévisible, adj. (predictable)
un vrai temps de chien (very bad weather-- weather fit for dogs, literally)
la vie quotidienne, n. (daily life)
il tombe des cordes (it's raining cats and dogs)
une compilation, n. (a list, a "best of")
Il vaut mieux (it's best to...)
désobéissant(e), adj (disobedient, unruly)
Si! (oui-- when used in response to a negative statement or "non")
Et ainsi de suite (etc.)
un panneau. n. (sign)
une pelouse, n. (lawn, grass)
hors-service/en panne (out of order)
un distributeur automatique de billets, n. (ATM)
un téléphone portable, n. (a cell phone)
un spectacle à succès, n. (a famous show, a hit show)
le guichet, n. (the ticket window)
complet, adj. (sold out)
la Côte d'Azur (the French Riviera)
une chaise longue, n. (lounge chair, reclining chair)
située au bord de l'eau (by the water)
Réservé (reserved)
un restaurant dont vous ont parlé vos amis (a restaurant your friends told you about)
au fond d'une impasse (at the end of a dead-end street)
une grève (a strike)
un retard, n. (a delay)
courrier erratique (erratic mail)
bref (in short)
un gréviste, n. (a striker)
ils se plaignent, v. (they are complaining)
"ras le bol", colloquial (we've had it up to here!)
"Il y en a marre", colloquial (enough, already)
"trop c'est trop", colloquial (too much is too much)
Ne vous inquiétez pas trop quand même (don't worry too much though)

Free Translation-- Enjoy, Les Monolinguistes!

Depressing expressions in French life

Lately, the weather has been sadly predictable in Seattle. Rain, rain and rain. Since I was a bit depressed, I started thinking about unpleasant words and expressions in everyday life. For example: "It's raining", or, at Starbucks: "Sorry, Ma'am, we are out!" (ok, so maybe I made that one up).
Here is a list of expressions that you might see or hear during your next trip to France unfortunately. It's best to be prepared, right?
At the head of the list comes the word: "No". Adults may sometimes use it with disobedient children. Dialogue. The mother: "No, you will not eat candy before dinner!" . The daughter: "Yes I will!". The mother: "No you won't!". The daughter: "Yes I will!", and so on.

Another very, very unpleasant word: "Prohibited". When I was young, I did not like this word, which was everywhere. 
(Photo caption: Poor dogs. They are not allowed to play in this park!)
(photo caption: In France, if you are not driving a car, you are a pedestrian. Do you understand this sign? -It means "no way through for pedestrians").
(Photo caption: In many public parks in France, lawns are "prohibited". Here you can see a "rebel", usually a tourist)
(Photo caption: A very, very smart cat) Let's continue with our list. During your visit to France, you will not like seeing the words "Hors-Service/En panne" (out of order). If this word is mentioned on a machine that you need to use (telephone, ATM), then that's bad news!
(photo caption: This telephone is out of order. Do you have your cell phone?)
Tonight you are in Paris, and you decide to go to the theater to see a popular play. You arrive in front of the ticket window and you see a sign that reads: "Sold out". More bad news!
It's beautiful and hot outside. It's August on the French Riviera. You decide to try to gorgeous hotel pool. You arrive at the pool. You spot a lounge chair ideally placed by the water. Unfortunately, you see a note on the chair: "Reserved". No lounging by the pool for you today! 
In the evening, after the swimming pool fiasco, you go to the village to have dinner in an excellent restaurant recommended by your friends. You finally find it, tucked away at the end of a dead-end street. The building is very dark. That's strange. You get closer and on the door, you read a sign: "Closed for renovations". Oh, no, what a day!
Finally, let's not forget a very depressing word in the French language: "strike". That small word can cause a lot of problems during your French stay. No more public transportation, no more flights, delayed trains, erratic mail. In short, a true catastrophe. If you arrive in France in the middle of a strike, there are two things you can do: be patient and be creative!
Do you understand the picture above? On the right, two strikers. They work for the Paris public transportation system. On the left, the general public (you and me). The metro has stopped running. The general public are complaining: "We've had it up to here!", "Enough, already!", "Too much is too much!".
There, you have it. Don't worry too much though. Life in France is rather pleasant. One just needs to be patient... 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Quelle vie sociale débordée! What a busy social life!

Dear readers,

By popular demand, French Girl in Seattle is happy to introduce a series of articles written in French. These articles will be published each month and will cover a variety of topics. A list of challenging words and expressions (italics) will be listed at the end of each article. Do not hesitate to forward comments and questions. I will do my best to answer them promptly. Let me know if you enjoy our first story, an insight into the busy social life of yours truly! The level for this story is advanced beginner to lower intermediate. You will feel more comfortable reading if you are already familiar with the présent/imparfait/passé composé and futur tenses. Bonne lecture.

Chez nous, l'année 2011 a démarré sur les chapeaux de roue. Nous avons accepté beaucoup d'invitations à l'automne dernier, alors c'est notre tour de recevoir nos amis pour dîner à la maison avant la fin du mois de janvier. Le problème, c'est que nous avons beaucoup d'amis. Je sais, je sais... Avoir beaucoup d'amis, ce n'est pas vraiment un problème. C'est même plutôt une chance, non?

J'ai essayé d'organiser efficacement notre calendrier social, et j'ai invité nos amis par groupes de 6 ou de 8. Il y a eu plusieurs soirées
 "à thème"... Le premier dîner était un dîner marocain. J'ai préparé un tagine au poulet et au citron, une sorte de ragoût parfumé avec des épices et présenté dans un plat du Maroc, le Tagine. 

Tagine marocain
C'était délicieux et les invités se sont régalés. Certains en ont demandé plusieurs fois! Pour le dessert, j'avais préparé une salade de fruits à la fleur d'oranger. Là encore, grand succès.

Le weekend suivant, nouveau groupe d'amis, nouveau menu. Cette fois, nous avons servi une recette typiquement française, le coq au vin. J'ai cuisiné le plat plusieurs jours à l'avance parce que le coq au vin est une recette qui est meilleure réchauffée. En France, pour préparer cette recette, on utilise de préférence un coq, ou un chapon. Aux Etats-Unis, il est plus facile de trouver un simple poulet.

Un Coq

Ensuite, les invités ont dégusté une sélection de fromages avec une salade d'épinards. Pour le dessert, j'ai servi un clafoutis aux poires. Quel régal!

Cette semaine, troisième dînernous avons choisi de servir une racletteC'est une tradition très populaire en France et aussi en Suisse. La raclette, c'est sympathique et très facile. Il suffit de trouver du fromage de raclette (suisse ou français), de la charcuterie (servie en tranches très fines), des pommes de terre, des champignons, quelques tomates, et bien sûr, des condiments (câpres, cornichons, moutarde). Le plus sympa: ce sont les invités qui travaillent... mais il faut avoir le bon équipement!

Tout est prêt pour la "raclette party"
Après la raclette, il est recommandé de choisir un dessert léger, mais comme c'est bientôt l'anniversaire de Junior, nous célèbrerons quelques jours à l'avance avec un magnifique gâteau glacé. Bon courage, chers invités! Oublions de compter les calories pendant quelques heures!

Bien entendu, une sélection de bonne bouteilles de vin doivent accompagner tous ces repas: vins robustes pour le tagine; vins de bourgogne, type Pinot Noir pour le coq au vin, et pour la raclette, du Riesling (en France, on utiliserait des vins blancs de Savoie, par exemple Apremont ou Roussette).

Voilà, vous savez tout. Ce mois de janvier animé se terminera la semaine prochaine avec une "soirée pyjama" à la maison pour Junior et ses amis. Joyeux anniversaire Alec! Je suis certaine que ce sera la soirée la plus fatigante... mais au mois, le repas, lui, sera très facile: pizza (livrée à domicile) et cup cakes/petits gâteaux au programme!


démarrer sur les chapeaux de roue, v. (to get off to a flying start)
un ragoût, n. (a stew)
se régaler, v. (to enjoy delicious food)
une salade de fruits à la fleur d'oranger, n. (fruit salad with orange flower water)
réchauffé(e), adj. (reheated)
un coq, un chapon, n. (a rooster, a capon)
quel régal! (how delicious!)
de la charcuterie, n. (cold cuts)
des condiments, n. (condiments)
on utiliserait, v. conditionnel (one would use...)
animé, adj. (lively, animated)
une soirée pyjama, n. (a sleepover)
livrée à domicile, adj. (delivered at home)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Un Sondage... A Survey...


As a French girl who lives in Seattle, I often get asked about my favorite French places in the Pacific Northwest. Do I have favorites? Bien sûr! I am happy to share them with friends and students. 

As part of my New Year's resolutions however, I thought it would be fun to compile a list of favorite French establishments in the Seattle area. Then I could post a "Top 10" on this blog under: "La France à Seattle" (France in Seattle).

I need your help. Friends, students, readers: please share your favorite French spots with me. Tell me what they are, and what makes them special/authentic/worth a second (or a third) visit. Restaurants, bakeries, cafés, boutiques: Tout me va (anything goes).

This is not un sondage officiel (an official survey), bien sûr, so you can reply by leaving a comment on this blog, on Facebook, or via email. Your answers will be compiled by January 31, 2011. This could prove très amusant!

Merci beaucoup!

Young Francophile - Bastille Day 2010, Seattle WA

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Paris sous la neige... Paris in the snow...

2010 will be remembered as one of the coldest winters to hit France and Europe in recent memory. In fact, Alsace and the Eastern regions recorded their lowest temperatures since the 1970s. It snowed there. It snowed in Paris. It snowed even in Provence and Southern France. It snowed partout! (everywhere).

While my family stayed in Paris during the Holidays, the Seine river reached record levels due to the heavy snowfalls in the region (and in the rest of Europe). It got so bad that the famous river boat tours ("Bateaux-Mouches") had to stop for a few days, to the tourists' dismay. If they had not, their boats might have hit some of the bridges! The city expressways on both sides of the river had to be shut down temporarily-- and all the swearing from Parisian drivers did not change anything. Le Zouave's feet were in the water, you see, and when that happens in Paris, everyone knows there is a very serious risk of flooding. Le Zouave?, you ask. Voilà Le Zouave:

Le Zouave by the Alma Bridge
This statue of a soldier that belonged to the French light infantry in the North African colonies was inaugurated (with the Alma Bridge it stands under) by Napoleon III in the mid-19th century. For more than 155 years, the venerable Zouave has warned Parisians about potential flooding of the Seine River. When his feet get wet, the French capital takes notice. Everyone still remembers the terrible inondations of 1910. That year, the Seine reached the Zouave's shoulders. Quelle histoire!

"Que d'eau, que d'eau"-- So much water!

Reluctant boaters
An interesting fact about Le Zouave, is that it is not really a compliment to be named after him. My French students will want to jot down this expression: "Arrête de faire le zouave", which roughly translates into: "Stop clowning around!". Many French children have heard it from their parents or grand-parents and have immediately sat down. Nobody likes being called a buffoon after all. 

But I digress. Back to the cold winter of 2010. My father loves emailing me slideshows about France that pop up in cyberspace and somehow end up in his Inbox, and ultimately, in mine. Merci papa! This week, I sorted through 7 or 8 of them and was happy to find this little gem.

The slideshow is aptly titled: "Paris sous la neige: Pagaille et romantisme" (Paris in the snow: Mess and romance). These amazing pictures of Paris were taken during the first big snowfall in early December 2010. This was just a week before we arrived, and I am so glad most of it had melted by then! French speakers will enjoy the original captions. For the others, don't they say a picture is worth a thousand words?

Click below to see pics -- I am using for the first time, so bear with me here.

-- A bientôt!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ces merveilleux commerces de proximité! Wonderful specialty shops! - PART 1

Yesterday, as I was looking at the bright, big, shiny -and relatively tasteless- produce at my local supermarket, I could not help but miss the wonderful shops that make convenience shopping such a delightful experience in France. My countrymen use them daily, oui chaque jour, to get fresh bread, as well as meat, fish, fruit, and vegetables. Do the French patronize supermarkets? Bien sûr. Convenience is convenience, after all. Les supermarchés, and their smaller versions, les supérettes, are everywhere. Prices are lower there, and it saves time to pick up most groceries in one place. The French also take frequent trips to les hypermarchés, these gigantic stores that sell food, of course, but just about everything else as well (think Fred Meyer, but much, much bigger). While Americans were discovering malls in the 1960s, chains like Auchan and Carrefour started spreading all over France, Europe, and ultimately, the world, opening gigantic superstores mostly located in the suburbs due to their large size. I remember going to the local hypermarché with my mom when I was a teenager. It was our Friday evening ritual. While she filled the big cart with groceries, I would explore the giant aisles, looking for books, records (remember these?), gadgets, clothes. I never got bored there.

Times change. I live in the US now. I live in suburbia. La banlieue. It seems that our whole town could fit into one the giant Carrefour hypermarkets parking lots. There are very few decent specialty shops. Instead, there are chain stores, and parking lots, lots of parking lots. It's practical. It's convenient. No doubt about it. Still...

I was just in Paris, as you remember. Our rental apartment was located a few steps away from rue Oberkampf, a lively street that offers so many specialty stores that I did not even get a chance to visit them all during the two weeks we stayed in Paris. Quelle chance

Snow does not stop local shoppers on busy rue Oberkampf
This is a blog that discusses France AND the French language, let's highlight some of the wonderful French specialty stores that survive and sometimes even thrive, in the age of big distribution, hyper-this, and giant-that. French 101. Les commerces de spécialité. Allons-y!

The most frequently patronized shop, is, without a doubt, la Boulangerie. This is where you buy your bread daily. Baguette, ficelle, gros pain, batard, etc. The French take their bread very seriously. If you ask several people what the best boulangerie is, they are likely to argue. The French love to disagree. Try it. Next time you go, ask two people "Qui vend la meilleure baguette?" (who sells the best baguette?. Then wait, and enjoy the show. La boulangerie also offers les viennoiseries, a selection of baked goods made of flaky dough, croissants, pains au chocolat, pains au raisins... Often, la boulangerie is also une pâtisserie. You will find delicious and gorgeous desserts there. 

If you are shopping for food, chances are you will also visit la boucherie, where you buy all your meat, and poultry. 

If you prefer le poisson (fish), les coquillages (shellfish) or les fruits de mer (seafood), you will look for la poissonnerie.

Need fresh fruit and vegetable to go with the meal? Look for le Primeur... My favorite primeur on rue Oberkampf offered 4 different types of mandarin oranges. The owner knew where each had come from and had me taste them so I could make my choice. They were juicy and oh, so tasty!

A French meal would not be complete without du fromage. Just as the typical Frenchman knows the best boulangerie, he also knows the best fromagerie

Look at the selection of goat cheese (chèvre) on the top shelf!

Let's not forget le vin... What's a good meal without wine? There are options... You could visit an independent store, un marchand de vin/un caviste or a good chain store, like Nicolas, where knowledgeable sales staff will be able to help you make your choice. 

Finally, let's face it, on busy days, it feels like true luxury to have someone cook for you. A favorite shop of mine: le traiteur (often combined with la charcuterie). This is the closest thing you will find to an American deli in France. Delicious salads, plats cuisinés (entrées), cured meats, roasted chicken you can smell a mile away... It has it all. How can one live without a proper traiteur, I ask?

Beautiful terrines
Miam! Yum!
I hope you are ravenous by now. There are many more French specialty shops to discuss but it's dinner time here in Seattle. Unfortunately, I did not visit my friend le traiteur today, and that means I have to c.o.o.k. dinner. Quelle barbe! A bientôt, mes amis, et bon appétit! 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Histoire d'enseignes. A story about signs (1)

We have been home for a week. We brought back a lot of pictures, Christmas gifts, memories, and two stubborn colds. New Year's Eve was a blur, as we unpacked, filled the fridge, picked up Hailey Le Dog and Felix Le Cat at their respective hotels, and found the time to go look for Junior's new furry friend, Hammy Le Hamster (a promise is a promise, after all). We toasted the New Year with dear friends, barely standing, and finally collapsed early on 1.1.11---  Ouf! Phew!
This week, friends, students, and acquaintances have asked me about Le Blog. I did not realize Les Aventures des Savoye à Paris had such a following. This made me très happy. My readers asked if Le Blog would continue now that we are back in the Pacific Northwest. I replied: "Pourquoi pas?"-- Not only do I still have pictures from the trip I would like to share, but I also have great plans for Le Blog (details to follow). And, really, quel kick this has been!

Where to start? I know... I am going to talk about something fun I did while in Paris during the Holidays. Thanks to the new supersonic camera Le Husband gave me as a Christmas gift (I swear it's practically impossible to miss a picture with this fabulous little thing), I have had the best time taking pictures of... signs. "Signs?", you ask. Yes, signs. I love all signs in Paris. Enamel street signs, first of all. You know the ones. If Sleeping Beauty woke up in the middle of the Champs Elysées one day, she would only have to look at the nearest  blue sign, and voilà, she would instantly know where she was. How perfect are Parisian street signs? Not only do they look good, but they also tell you right away what Arrondissement (district) of Paris you are in (Left Bank, Right Bank). That's not all. Street signs are usually named after a famous person, or event. As soon as you read them, you are literally transported back in time, and, if you are like Moi, your imagination starts wandering... Case in point...

Colette, French novelist, Gigi (le Musical), Chéri (le novel)...
What are the names most commonly found on French street signs? I am tempted to answer "République" or "Charles de Gaulle"-- even though this is just based on personal observation, not on official statistics. I am pretty certain that e.v.e.r.y. French village/town/city has at least one rue (street), avenue, place (square) named after the glorious French Republic (born after the Revolution in 1789), or after the famous French statesman and war hero.

Before you start imagining this French girl walking around Paris taking pictures of blue street signs, I must add that I am interested in many other signs, like, par exemple, restaurant signs.

"At the Three Little Pigs" -- How cute is that? 

"The White Wolf" sits immediately across from
 "The Three Little Pigs" 

A great name for a restaurant. This refers to simple, unceremonious meal such as pot-luck meals
If, like Moi, you like signs, a great place to visit while in Paris is the fabulous (and free!) Musée Carnavalet. This is a favorite of mine, and it is dedicated to the history of Paris and the French revolution. The building itself is, quite simply, gorgeous. Built in the 16th century, the Hotel Carnavalet was a private residence (some people have all the luck!) until it was turned into a museum in 1880. 

Musée Carnavalet located in the heart of
Le Marais neighborhood
A popular display at le Carnavalet is a model of La Guillotine. Invented by Dr. Guillotin, the machine was put to good use after the French Revolution and remained the main method of execution in France until the death penalty was abolished in 1981!

La Guillotine... in action!
My favorite part of the museum is very different and somewhat light-hearted. I give you: "La Salle des Enseignes", the room of signs! A dream for sign lovers. Old signs, some dating back to Medieval Paris, boutique signs, office signs, advertising signs. Heaven, quoi!

Carnavalet - Salles des Enseignes

A funny thing happened as I was taking pictures of signs all over Paris. I started seeing black cats. I had one waiting at home, you see, Felix Le Cat. After a few days, it seemed that Felix was tagging along on the trip, popping up on street corners, in the most unexpected places... So I started collecting shots of black cats, just because...

A suivre... To be continued here.