Tagged: France

36 Hours: 125 Weekends in Europe

Even though I live in London, England, and therefore do not have much contact with America, I like to read the New York Times. As travelling the world would be the first thing I’d do if I won the lottery, I LOVE the NYT book “36 Hours In…” which offers itineraries for weekend stays in various places. Naturally, the most interesting one for me is “36 Hours In Europe”, which was published in 2012.

Reading its publisher Taschen’s description of the book makes me want it even more:

Culture, history, natural beauty, fine cuisine, artistic masterpieces, cutting-edge architecture and style—Europe overflows with so many riches that a lifetime seems too short to appreciate them. But with the right guidance, you can go far in a single weekend. Stylishly written and carefully researched, this updated and expanded collection of the popular New York Times 36 Hours feature offers you 125 well-crafted itineraries for quick but memorable European trips, accompanied by hundreds of color photographs to fire your imagination. Explore the expected: the Renaissance in Florence, surfing in Biarritz, flamenco in Seville. And discover the unexpected: Sicilian mummies dressed in their Sunday best, a dry-land toboggan ride on Madeira, a hotel in Tallinn with a KGB spies’ nest on the penthouse floor. World capitals, ancient nations that once ruled wide domains, tiny countries with big personalities—it’s all Europe, and all fun to read about (whether you actually go or not) in this handsomely designed and illustrated book.

All I need now is lots and lots of money, and I’m off. (The book has also inspired me to invent my own 36 Hours In London… for teenagers)

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Student demonstrations in Paris – an eyewitness report

It all started in mid-October, as 15-year-old Kosovar Leonarda was arrested during her school trip because she was an illegal immigrant. Some days later, Khatchik, an 18-year-old Armenian boy, was sent back to his country for the same reason. The same morning, students tried to block their schools in protest.

I remember how it began in our school: it was a Wednesday morning, and I went to school at eleven. In front of the doors were gathered a few large green bins. Not taking notice of that slightly unusual detail, I walked past them and went straight to class. In the staircase I saw different signs saying « For Khatchik and Leonarda, General Assembly at 1 pm ».

flore1At the time I didn’t pay attention to the news and thus knew nothing of these cases, but I soon learned all about them. At the meeting, a sit-in was planned for the next morning.Having heard of how violently Leonarda and Khatchik had been sent back to their countries, I felt it was my duty, and especially as a student supporting my comrades, to fight for their cause. I went to the sit-in at 7:30 and helped motivate students to sit with us. Our school was one of the most involved in the whole affair: many students went to the demonstrations. We had banners, we wore « war paint », we screamed slogans at the top of our lungs… We were quite impressive when we arrived on the large Place de la Nation and occupied the square. From all directions (the Place de la Nation is the crossroads of several main streets) came running hundreds of students from different schools: what an amazing scene it was! We all started to walk down the Fbg St-Antoine towards Bastille.

Everything seemed quite romantic: thousands of teenagers uniting to fight for the rights of their friends. But something felt wrong. Themedia thought we were ridiculous, and though sometimes they were just trying to insult us, they were right. First of all, students kept saying « sitting » instead of « sit-in » (I guess the French are just really bad at languages). Second and worst of all, a large part of these supposedly « angry teenagers » were just using this whole thing as an excuse to skip class. Those were the ones that were the most vehement about the demonstrations, screaming things such as « Valls démission », when I’m sure they didn’t even know who Valls is (he is the Home Secretary) and whether or not he was truly responsible for these expulsions. It got even worse on Friday, when Hélène Boucher (my school) organized a « blocus »: students stopped other students from going to class. It started raising questions among us, as many of us thought that it was ridiculous to fight against violence with violence. And then at last, we lost all credibility when only few of us showed up for the demonstrations during the holidays, although many were back in the streets after the holidays. They tried a “blocus” again in early November, but we were all mostly fed up with these chaotic protests, and it ended up in a sort of fight in front of school: I had to fight my way through the crowd to get inside!

 

flore4               flore2

 

But after this peak of violence, the administration intervened, putting a full stop to these absurd demonstrations. The really involved students went to the marches, not caring if it was on a school day or on the weekend; and others went to school as usual. We regained the credibility we had lost, asking for specific changes in immigration laws, and not just reciting sentences given by adults trying to benefit from our naiveté.

Flore, 17, Paris

 

Loving Sabotage – A Belgian novel

Loving Sabotage, written in 1993 by the Belgian writer Amélie Nothomb, is a short novel about a young girl whose family has been posted to Peking. There, she falls in love with her friend Elena, who rejects her, and she ends up learning some life lessons at a very young age. It’s set in the Seventies, and is written from the point of view of a seven-year-old, which makes for very interesting reading. Living in an enclosed expat world, the young girl offers us an insight into her life. What makes it work is that although it’s written in the first person as a seven-year-old, the language is very sophisticated (far more so than your average little kid’s…) and the similes are though-provoking and unusual. The author has succeeded brilliantly in letting us into the mind of the girl (who we in the end find out to be the author herself)  whilst at the same time not using a patronising, juvenile style.
It has been described by critics as being “The funniest book I’ve ever read about the cruelty and delusions of childhood”, and speaking as a teenager myself (because clearly, my opinion is worth soo much), I’d have to agree. It’s sad and naïve at times, but at others, what the critics say is true: it’s laugh-out-loud funny – not something you’d necessarily expect, reading the blurb of the book.
The length of Loving Sabotage – 135 pages – makes it ideal to read during school time, because you don’t have to dedicate large chunks of time to getting into the story. The downside to this, however, is when you’re done with it, you want it to be longer… It’s worth bearing in mind when reading that it was originally written in French – something you really don’t notice when you’re in the middle of it, perhaps because the translation is so good.

Les Intouchables – A French Movie

Although it came out a year and a half ago in France, this movie only hit our screens last September, and had mixed reviews (from real critics). To be honest, we have to disagree with what most of the critics said… It was suuuuch a great movie, and absolutely hilarious in parts. The acting is really, really good and it’s not as clichéd as it could have been… We’d definitely recommend it (although half the newspaper reviewers wouldn’t).

This is what Philip French of the Observer has to say about it:

“Based on a true story” but more than a little tweaked, this popular movie is to be France’s entry for the best foreign language film Oscar. It’s a polished account of the odd-couple friendship between Philippe (François Cluzet), a rich, handsome, cultivated quadriplegic, and his new carer, Driss (Omar Sy), an intelligent, charismatic, uneducated young working-class west African who has done time for robbery. What draws them together is their total honesty, sense of humour and contempt for stuffy bourgeois hypocrisy, and the general gaucheness of nearly everyone around them. It’s as slick as an oil spill, as sugary as an eclair, and many moviegoers will find it irresistible.”

Le réveillon and Bûches de Noël – France

Although the number gets smaller every year, some French people attend Midnight Mass on the night of Christmas Eve – December 24. When they get home – in the middle of the night! – they gather with their families for a big meal called le réveillon. This name comes from the French word réveil, which means “waking”. This is because participating in the feast involves staying awake not only until midnight, for the Mass, but into the small hours of the morning, for the meal.  They usually eat oysters, snails, seafood, smoked salmon, or caviar as a starter.  As the main course, people eat a roasted bird: this is normally goose. For dessert, each family has its own tradition, but  a Bûche de Noël (like a Yule Log) is commonly eaten. People try and make these look as log-like as possible,with chocolate buttercream textured to look like bark. The bûche is then decorated with powder sugar resembling snow, berries, leaves and moss, which are often made out of a meringue-like mixture.

    

 

3 of the Best… French Singers

There are, of course, thousands of great French singers, so while these 3 might be some of my favourites, it’s very subjective…

1. ZAZ

ZAZ, otherwise known as Isabelle Geffroy, sings super uplifting jazz-styles songs. My favourite is ‘Je Veux’ – released in 2010, it was a massive hit and kinda makes you want to be her…

She has been described (in the French magazine Telerama) as having a  “sacred voice” – listen to this and see if you agree: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tm88QAI8I5A

2. Gérald de Palmas

His album “Marcher dans le sable” got him the Best Francophone Album of the Year in 2002, and here’s a fun fact: Celine Dion translated his song ‘Tomber’, and sang it in English titled ‘Ten Days’.

Here’s the his and hers version… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1eDGbuQ_uE

3. Carla Bruni

So France’s ex-first lady is not only famous for posing naked, being involved with Mick Jagger and being married to Nicolas Sarkozy – she actually has a really good voice (and writes her own lyrics too). Her first album  ‘Quelqu’un m’a dit’ was successful in French-speaking countries, and various songs from it have been used in other things – some in movies, and one in an H & M advert.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XvyMG0z0FZY

Paris Nuit Blanche – a report

On Saturday night (and until very early Sunday morning) was the Nuit Blanche. The program was quite exciting at first: DJs on boats on the Seine, cranes transformed into Calder mobiles, art installations and music all over the place! But unfortunately… it rained.

Many of the exterior events were closed or ended earlier, and some places usually packed with people were empty. It was a bit disappointing compared to the previous years, but some attractions were as good as always. On Place Sainte-Catherine, there were, as usual, very artsy short films being played on large screen in the middle of the square with a carpet for people to sit on. At the Blanc-Manteaux Center, there were some kind of weird, psychedelic, fluorescent lights with creepy music.. also as usual.

But the place where the ambiance was really exciting was Beaubourg. A band played techno-dance-but not very good music on the 2nd floor and the whole crowd danced, or should I say “danced” to the “music”. After a while of feeling our stomach vibrating to the pound of the bass, we got bored and went to the quays, which was the worst idea ever. The only thing fun we saw while walking next to the water was a boat with flamethrowers on top (it was pretty cool, but it seemed as though the boat didn’t really know where it was going..).

The previous years, there had always been dancers at the “arcades”, but this year there were only a dozen people standing in a line a few meters apart that were doing some moves that were apparently supposed to be “contemporary dance”. From where I stood, it looked more like a bunch of people stretching after their evening jogging than professional dancers dancing in a synchronized and artistic way. Sorry for all the bad feedback, but the rain was certainly the main cause for all those disappointments. Maybe people weren’t as motivated as they were before? I don’t know, but I’m sure next year will be a lot of fun.

– Flore, Paris