Jumping on a one-way plane to Paris and submitting to a year of lingual humility was my way of learning French. Although I have mastered everything except for the French art of negotiation, my bilingual brain is continually at a loss for words, my speech peppered with long pauses and tortured hand gestures. With my brain tuned to Franglais, I have started translating from French to English, leaving me with a strangely proper speech pattern. Is this one of the proven benefits of bilingualism?
Nevertheless, here is an imagined conversation between two expats inspired by my bilingual bêtise:
A. How do you go?
B. I go well. I am enchanted to finally meet you!
A. Would you like to take a coffee?
B. Yes, it would make me pleasure.
A. I know a bar in the Marais which is quite agreeable. The prices are correct for the neighborhood. Although the music is strong, it is the most interesting option.
B. Yes, that has a sympathetic air.
A. What do you take to make pleasure?
B. I am feeling greedy. I will take a chocolate good and hot, if you please.
A. I must go. Embrace your boyfriend very strongly for me.
My family has been through an international Diaspora since I packed my bags for Paris. As foolish as it sounds, Istanbul is the most convenient place for all of us to camp out for the holidays. With my parents in Japan, my brother in Turkey, and me in France, the idea of home has never been as perplexing. It makes myself equally as interesting and pretentious introducing myself at aperos. But without Chicago as a home base, even on bad days, I never consider packing my bags and buying a one-way ticket back to an Italian beef sandwich. But thankfully, my roots have grown much deeper in Paris. Since comfort has finally outweighed insecurity, I suppose Paris is officially my home.
Albeit wrangling a phone book of photocopies for my visa renewal rendezvous, I was missing mon mari’s bank statements from November and December 2011. Hence, the Prefecture can conclude that we are neither married nor living together. With the next available rendezvous in February, I am trapped in the EU until then. Our Kanelos Kristmas™ is postponed. Yes, no Yuletide pillow sprawling, tea sipping, Turkish delight deciphering and Midwest dreaming.
“I’ll be home for Christmas” and “Have yourself a merry little Christmas” are no longer department store seasonal sludge. They tell my story. But enough self-pity. I have committed to making this Christmas a good one. I already exhausted Sufjan Steven’s new Christmas album on mon mari’s twee-resistant ears. The halls will be decked! The vin chaudwill run like the River Jordan! I will finally attempt the kitsch-iest dessert since the Baked Alaska, the bûche de Noël! Although nothing can replace the presents presence of my family during the holidays, every cookie I bake, every wreath I hang and every spontaneous, short-lived Messiah sing-along (note: twee AND opera-resistant ears), will be a sweet reminder of them. And I will anticipate the mystery destination of our next holidays together.
Having lived out of a suitcase for the last four years, I have saved all my money for practical things like rent and plane tickets back to Paris. But I must admit that my soap, water, and red lipstick regime has served me well through these minimal post-graduate years. But now that I am a madame (no, not THAT kind), having officially unpacked my bags in Paris for good, I have finally indulged in the grownup luxury of skincare. Much like mastering that blown-out bedhead or the masterful undone/done approach to dress à la française, my eyes and pores have opened up to the transformative lure of French beauty.
Over the summer, mon mari and I were invited to the bar mitzvah of 2012, a splashy, baby blue, four-day event in Monaco. It was also my official unveiling to my new extended family. How did a shiksa girl from Chicago even keep up ? My mother in-law quickly equipped me with makeup removers, eyecreams, moisturizers, and her own personal makeup bag to prep me for the event. Although I resembled an opera singer more than myself at the bar mitzvah, my favorite drugstore red lipstick could not suffice on its own. There was so much more to this ritual of getting ready. « Geez, what’s wrong with me ? » was followed by « maybe I should try this for myself ? » Nevertheless, I was once again confirmed that I will never be as glamorous as my 70-something French mother-in-law.
But recently, on a mundane trip to the parapharmacie to pick up my favorite French oat milk soap, I was quickly asked if i needed help by an unusually friendly parapharmacist. Since the bar mitzvah, I have made a mental note to invest in a beauty regime. But in the matter of moments, this parapharmacist was the French bff I have been in the market for years. She was everything a best friend should be. She spoke the truth. She shockingly revealed that I have combination skin. (The horror!) She was empathetic. A fellow chronic smiler, she had a handful of answers and a basket full of cremes for my condition. She was inquisitive. « What kind of night creme do you use?», she inquired during our getting-to-know-you diagnostic. «Oh, you know. It’s blue and it has got some kind of pharmaceutically aquatic name?» I lied, hoping she did not see the Nivea hand creme on my cheeks. Frightening me with the threat of water on the skin, she had me filling up a frequent flier card in no time.
Although my pocketbook can not maintain this fair-weather friendship, I am forever thankful for this parapharmacist and its resulting “a-ha!” moment. My life pre-beauty regime and now is like night and day creme. Coffee is no longer the first thing on my mind in the morning. It is most certainly my luxurious routine. I ceremoniously layer each one on, one after the other. With my fully-lubed mug, I am now one of the sticky-faced women I exchange the bises with at vernissages. It must be the goji berries.
There is so much love for Paris in the blogosphere and beyond. How about a little negativity for once, people! To truly uncover the enchanted Paris of real French people, we must be more negative. A big part of living abroad is occasionally dealing with a colossally, irrepressibly bad day. I am talking about the kind of day where I don’t have a red balloon to follow or there is an unromantic downpour en route to an important rendezvous. Whenever I lament over a bad day with people stateside, I am promptly reminded that I should have no worries living in my glittering Never Never Land. This is promptly what inspired a new spinoff of thefrancofly.com, Paris, Overrated. It will visit every last institution in the City of Darkness and question why it is just so very bad…
I cannot understand how people can mistake French people as being sophisticated. They never stop cutting their fingernails on the Metro. If I lose an eye to their poor public grooming, then the joke is surely on me.
How can cafés slap a WIFI sticker in the window when it isn’t even free??? “Oui, allô? This is the 21st century calling! I’ve got important poking to do! ”
Their dogs are too pure bred! Come on, someone throw me a Golden Doodle!
Don’t people know they are listening to Christmas music when shoe shopping in the middle of July? Damn you France, how would you know I whip out my coin purse the second I hear “Little Saint Nick“…
At the end of the day, all these French women are trying to emulate Coco Chanel. That is, like, so 100 years ago.
I’ve never cared much for dog poop anyway.
Yes, the buildings are majestic, but at the end of the day, they are all just so old!
After 5pm, every other person is carrying a baguette. Way to break the clichés, Parisians! But wait, isn’t cliché a French word?
I recently recounted on the HiP Paris Blogmy discovery of the latest bedding sensation to hit the City of Lights when the lights go out. The Couettabra, a fully-functional blanket with armholes which will do wonders in spiking productivity in bed. Yes, my friends, it is precisely a French-ified Snuggie®. In a country with a strict separation of public and private, this could be a complete phenomenon that I will never know about. But at 300 euros for a double Couettabra, the price is not right to even jokingly gift this to mon mari on our upcoming anniversary. But with 2 MacBook Pros and a family-sized hachis parmentier, it could make for one cozy automn. Professional investment? Is that tax deductable?
As a component of my September self-promotion blitz, I broke down and personified thefrancofly™. When Facebook loses its interest, what better way to create one’s idealized self than through a self-portrait? And invent some dream sunglasses and trim off a few extra holiday kilos at the same time. I need to draw people more often! After a week of indulgences over the vacation, Body by Bretagne is not becoming past August. But unlike people (and myself), sandwiches will always be more forgiving. Allez, back to the beef.
This being the first Sunday of the month, do not forget to check out a selection of Paris’s museums for free. Find the complete list here. We have our eyes set on the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature in the post-brunch hours.
Long before thefrancofly had pictures, illustrations, or Paris as its backdrop, I was working as a costume production assistant in New York. Glamorous moments, yes. Knee-deep in snow in one of the brutalist winters to date, where no boots were waterproof enough, about to pass off a bowl of chili to my boss on set, Phillip Seymour Hoffman walked over and asked, “You gonna eat that?”. “No, it’s just keeping my hands warm,” I murmured bug-eyed. Completely frightened, I handed the paper bowl of chili off to Phil and I skipped away as quickly as I could. But for every moment like that, there were weeks were I was lugging around garment bags and Starbucks orders to unknown destinations in New Jersey. Nevertheless, at times like those, I was thinking fondly of Paris. But I had no idea how I would ever make it back. Or let alone, what I would ever do if so.
But what started out as a few foodie musings direct from NYC has morphed into an illustrated snapshot of my new transcontinental exploits in Paris, France. Thefrancofly has transformed into a tremendous creative outlet, reigniting my passion for both writing and illustration. With wider eyes, I am appreciating the beauty of Paris a little more every day, a city in which since most recently I only had lukewarm feelings for. And if anything else, with so many wacky transitions (the phonebook of paperwork, the sky-high price of peanut butter and low-tech downgrades), thefrancofly has become a wonderful source of catharsis, making this new world a little bit funnier and a little easier to swallow.
So dear readers, if the sentimentality has not lost you already, I just want to say thank you for joining me along the way.
Over the vacation, one of my foodie dreams came true. Foraging for mushrooms! Nothing gets this city girl more excited than an outdoorsy hunt for something that draws the line between delectable and deadly. So far so good, I have lived thus far to say so.
After our culinary adventures in Nice, we spent the final leg of our vacances high in the mountains of La Cévennes in South Central France. We were camped out at a friend’s grandmother’s home. Luckily, I already have a sentiment for old, musty summer homes. As a kid, I was first acquainted with mildew and shag carpeting at my grandparent’s groovy Michigan farmhouse. But flash-forward to 2012, imagine a turn-of-the-century, 3-story roadside hotel. The stairs are laced with Grecian keys. The walls are ripe with tropical fruits. It was all a little too reminiscent of The Shining. But who needs to sleep on vacation anyway, right? Nevertheless, our days were spent seeking out swimming holes, ‘borrowing’ currents from the neighbors garden, and an intensive ping-pong tournament in site of Rio 2016. Although outnumbered, I am happy to report that team America did just fine.
Although a rainstorm would usually put a damper on our summer fun, it promised a new crop of mushrooms!
A cork board in our host’s kitchen proudly collaged photos of cèpes, porcini mushrooms even bigger than portabellas. Local gossip insisted that mushrooms were left and right, just waiting to hop into a sautee pan. Flaunting my American optimism and my hankering for an amazing omelette, I insisted we take along two baskets just in case.
But after two afternoons of hunting, foraging, seeking, and/or destroying, the only thing in our baskets was a single pied de mouton, or hedgehog mushroom. Like all things French, it was treated with egality. It got chopped up into tiny bits and thrown into some fried fingerling potatoes. Tant pis.
Many thanks to the frog behind thefrancofly, mon mari, for the delicious snapshots of the hunt.
P.S. Thefrancofly is now on Pinterest! Share your favorite foodie illustrations with all your friends, both virtual and real.
Although I intently packed my watercolors with high hopes of capturing the many hues of the Côte d’Azur, I have fully embraced both my idleness and writer’s block. Viva les vacances! Grammar-be-gone! Me lazy. Nevertheless, because I cannot say it well with words, here are a few snapshots of a few Niçoise discoveries.
The zucchini flowers are in bloom! And they fry up beautifully. Find beignet de fleur de courgette, legumes farcis and other traditional Niçoise specialties at Le Safari (1 Cours Saleya 06300 Nice).
Along with coming to the realization that I will never be as glamorous as my 70-something mother-in-law and resident of NIce, she has been more than generous with sharing her secrets to aging flawlessly, eating impeccably, and inviting me to sneak a peak into her Mediterranean kitchen.
Despite her disapproval of my self-inflicted summer bob, here is one thing that is mother-in-law approved. Stock up on zucchini flowers and the freshest fish at the Marché de Libération, specifically these little macarels at Poissonerie Gris.
Purple green beans? I beg your pardon!
Another seasonal treat from the Marché de Libération were these tiny mara de bois fraises. Intensely sweet and bitingly acidic, they were a strawberry reawakening . Surprisingly enough, although France is home to the best pastries in the world, yogurt and fruit are the most common ways to finish off a well-balanced meal. In my dream world where baguette has nutritional value, I would eat profiteroles everyday for dessert. However, these little beauties were a perfectly satisfying addition to a well-rounded dinner of fried fish and heirloom tomato salad.
Yesterday, we got up early and perused the crowded stalls of the weekly Cours Saleya flea market. I have been in the market for a wedding ring since mine split in half shortly after we got hitched. Not the best metaphor for marriage, but so far so good otherwise. At the market, an antique aquamarine rock jumped onto my finger and my husband could not resist. “It’s the same color as your eyes,” he cooed. Although my eyes are green, I was undoubtedly charmed. Sold. Since we had neither a proper proposal nor an engagement photo session, I indulged in a Titanic “Heart of the Ocean” moment overlooking the sea from the Parc de la Colline du Chateau.