So, when was the last time you took a school field trip?
For most of us, it’s probably been a while. For me, though, it was just yesterday, and it was pretty cool.
I haven’t written much about my studies this semester, but I will in the near future. In a nutshell, after four semesters of French courses at one school, I’m now enrolled in another one for what should be my final semester of French. My classes are very different this time around. There’s much less grammar and literature and much more written and oral expression. Yesterday, in fact, our grammar professor was absent, so our oral expression professor used that two-hour time slot to take us on a field trip to …
I just happened to be passing through Place de l’Opéra this afternoon when I was reminded of a place I definitely ought to share with you. Now, to set this up properly, imagine that you’re standing in Place de l’Opéra. The first thing you notice, of course, is the Paris Opéra house, its gilded rooftop statuary glimmering against a blue sky (or gray as the case usually is this time of year). As you turn counterclockwise to look down the avenues that converge there, you next catch sight of Place Vendôme to the southwest, and the column erected there to commemorate Napoléon’s victory at Austerlitz. Continuing counterclockwise toward the southeast, you then make out the gray slate rooftop of the Louvre at the far end of avenue de l’Opéra. Finally, turning back towards the northeast and peering up the boulevard des Capucines you glimpse a familiar green sign:
So, yes, it’s May Day, and I should be writing about springtime in Paris and the scent of muguet, or better yet, the perpetual struggle of the working class, but I’m not. I didn’t end up getting the material I was hoping for in order to do that, but I got something else rather amusing.
May Day is a national holiday here in France, so I went out for a stroll around Paris this afternoon, expecting to see some May Day manifestations, the streets swollen with members of the Parti Socialiste mobilizing for Sunday’s second round presidential election. I guess I missed the big parades though because all I saw were lots of locals and tourists soaking up the sun and enjoying the musical offerings of various street performers … including one unlucky opera singer at the Louvre Pyramid.
As soon as I decided to start writing about French pastries for this blog, I realized how little I actually understood about the technical differences among the various forms of French sweet baked goods. For example, what exactly is viennoiserie and how is it different from pâtisserie? If I write about something made from choux pastry, is it a viennoiserie or a pâtisserie? I considered sitting down for a little interview with my friend Arno—a former boulanger … or was that patissier … or both?—but I ended up doing some research on my own instead, and I think I’ve figured it out, so here goes:
je parle américain’s Basic French Pastry Primer (or useless information for your next visit to the boulangerie)