Celebrating 225 Years! What do you have planned?

Today is my sixth Bastille Day (or as the French call it, “la Fête du Quatorze Juillet” or “la Fête Nationale“) on French soil. Although it’s a big anniversary — the French are celebrating 225 years of no more Bastille — I sort of missed out on the fireworks last night. I had bailed on a dinner/fireworks-viewing party earlier in the day because I was feeling under the weather, and our apartment in La Courneuve offered a less than optimal vantage point for the municipal fireworks display. I could still hear them, though, as well as all the fire crackers being tossed in the street below my window! There have been other events, of course, including the big parade down the Champs Élysées this morning, but we didn’t watch that either. The only thing we have planned, in fact, is a long walk in a park to get some exercise and fresh air. It seems like catching the French air force’s practice flights over Le Bourget yesterday afternoon is about as festive as it’s going to get for us this year … Continue reading Celebrating 225 Years! What do you have planned?

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So Much More Than a Paperweight

Chapter 3 of
My Life as an English Teacher in France

A few weeks ago, we commemorated the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings. I decided not to write a new article about that momentous day; instead, I shared two earlier articles about the history of the landings and about my first visit to Omaha Beach. Normally, that would have been the end of je parle américain‘s D-Day commemoration, but something subsequently happened at work that I need to share … Continue reading So Much More Than a Paperweight

“humble before their sacrifice”

Here in France, it’s hard to miss the commencement of the 70th-anniversary commemoration of the D-Day landings, from traffic problems all over Paris to a friend’s mobile uploads of Her Majesty’s arrival at Gare du Nord this afternoon. In the midst of all that, I want to take a quiet, solemn moment to remember the sacrifice made by so many on that day and in the weeks and months that followed to liberate France from Nazi occupation. Much has been written — and much is surely being written even as I type away here — on the significance of the day. Instead of adding to that (or possibly detracting from it), I’ll just share the words and images from my last two efforts to express the complex mix of emotions the day evokes for me. (Click the title links or the photos to access the two articles.) Continue reading “humble before their sacrifice”

It’s official!

With this post coming the day after Thanksgiving, you’re probably expecting a run-down of how I spent my fourth Thanksgiving living in France. Alas, this has nothing at all to do with that. We’re actually not celebrating this most American of holidays until tomorrow evening, so you’ll have to wait a few more days for that story. Instead, this article is just an update on a genealogy project of mine. It’s probably not very interesting or exciting to most of you, but it’s a big deal for me:

It’s official — I’m a Huguenot!
(… well, I’m officially the descendant of two of them.) Continue reading It’s official!

Once upon a time …

First of all, allow me to apologize for the delay in writing something for you, but things have been in a state of flux since we officially became a French family a fews weeks ago. That little red family register has changed a lot of things for us, the most immediate of which is that now I don’t have to be a full-time student to stay in the country! Given that I was already feeling both overqualified and overwhelmed in my last academic pursuit, I decided to just drop out. In the long term, that means that my schedule will be much more conducive to holding down a full-time job. In the short term, it means my schedule will be much more conducive to pursuing all kinds of personal projects ranging from the mundane like writing for je parle américain, to the utterly useless like learning Irish Gaelic, to the extremely ambitious like … writing a novel.

Yes — writing a novel.
Now, I know that might sound like a pipe dream, and
I know that living in Paris hasn’t transformed me into Ernest Hemingway,
but bear with me for a moment. Continue reading Once upon a time …

You’re a huge WHAT?

It’s not “official,” but I am pleased to announce that I am a …

Huguenot

“You’re a huge WHAT?”

Not “huge”

“Hu-gue-not”
/ˈhyo͞o gə ˌnät/

n.,
a member of the Reformed or Calvinistic communion of France
in the 16th and 17th centuries;
French Protestant.

Let me explain … Continue reading You’re a huge WHAT?

The Thin, Wet Line of Khaki

Saturday, I took a day trip to Normandy. Although I’ve lived in France as an American expat for more than three years and I’ve commemorated D-Day twice on French soil, I’d never before visited the D-Day beaches. When my in-laws invited us to go to Colleville-sur-Mer to visit Omaha Beach and the American cemetery there, I heartily accepted. I’d seen photos and read accounts of the débarquement — I’d even written an article about it for this blog — but I didn’t know how moving the experience would end up being. Continue reading The Thin, Wet Line of Khaki

franecdote 1670 : Mission Impossible

Detail of a portrait of King Charles II of England
by Thomas Hawker

It’s time for the next “franecdote” — an interesting fact or story from “THAT year in French history“ where “THAT year” is this year minus the number of Facebook fans je parle américain has every Thursday.

Screen Shot 2013-07-07 at 11.07.00 PM

Today’s franecdote is from August 1,
when je parle américain had 343 Facebook fans.
So …

The year 2013 — 343 fans = 1670

I’ll never forget from my South Carolina history classes how important the year 1670 was: it’s when England first settled the Carolina colony at Charles Towne, now known as Charleston. Carolina had been named for King Charles I, but Charles Towne was named for his son, Charles II. And it’s that King Charles who figures prominently in today’s franecdote. “But this is about French history, right?” Indeed it is, because the franecdote for today involves not only King Charles II of England, but also King Louis XIV of France. It’s …

Usually there’s a <drumroll> here,
but today this is more appropriate:

The Secret Treaty of Dover Continue reading franecdote 1670 : Mission Impossible

Saturday Afternoon Gardening

© 2013 Michel Denis Pouradier, all rights reserved

Photo credit: © 2013 Michel Denis Pouradier,
all rights reserved

Yesterday, Babydog proposed an impromptu outing to escape from La Courneuve for the day. Given the way I generally feel about my neighborhood, I was all in favor! We initially planned to take the train to Beauvais to see the cathedral, but then decided to make a less expensive excursion to Versailles. Because of early closing hours this weekend, though, we finally settled on an afternoon at France’s chief botanical garden …

Le Jardin des Plantes Continue reading Saturday Afternoon Gardening

franecdote 1681 : Digging Ditches

It’s time for the next “franecdote” — an interesting fact or story from “THAT year in French history“ where “THAT year” is this year minus the number of Facebook fans je parle américain has every Thursday.

Screen Shot 2013-07-07 at 11.07.00 PM

Today’s franecdote is from July 25,
when je parle américain had 332 Facebook fans.
So …

The year 2013 — 332 fans = 1681

There were a lot of interesting things that happened in 1681: King Charles II of England granted a land charter to William Penn, who went on to found the colony of Pennsylvania, a woman was flogged in London for “involving herself in politics,” and the last dodo bird was killed … maybe.

Dodo

But, since this is about France, the franecdote for today is …

<drumroll>

The Grand Opening of
The Canal Royal de Languedoc Continue reading franecdote 1681 : Digging Ditches