Tuesday, July 30, 2013

THE WHITE PAPER PROBLEM

Recyle more and better
Famous French cat Pompon poses in a wastepaper basket to launch his own campaign for selective white paper recycling. France, where white paper, cartons and wrappings are usually mixed together in one recycling bin, is miserably behind in this domain. According to Géraldine Poivert, general director of Ecofolio, it costs 250 € per ton to sort the mixed paper at a recycling center; a considerable savings for all concerned could be realized if sorting were done by users at the source.

Vocabulary
le recyclage:  recycling
un corbeil à papier:  a wastepaper basket
un centre de tri:  a sorting center
l'emballage:  packaging

©2013 P.B. Lecron  

Monday, July 29, 2013

BIG MAC CULTURE MIX

We weren't expecting to see this kind of takeaway when we went food shopping in the Paris Chinatown today. But why not?  
McDonald's restaurants in France do make an effort to blend in; they are almost always uniquely and specifically decorated to harmonize with the regional or local environment. 

The neighborhood, which has a high concentration of Asian restaurants and businesses, forms a triangle bounded by Ivry and Choisy avenues and boulevard Masséna in the 13th arrondissement.

Vocabulary
vente à emporter:  takeaway
McDo:  what the French call McDonald's (pronounced Mac-Doe)

©2013 P.B. Lecron

Sunday, July 28, 2013

LA VESPA: CUTE AS A BUTTON

La dolce vita en rose
The incontournable Italian Vespa scooter launched by Piaggio in 1946 has always been a French fashionista favorite. This brand-new shiny pink model was parked under a platane tree on a shady Uzès  street  in the Languedoc-Roussillon. The word "vespa" means wasp in Italian.

Vocabulary
incontournable:  inescapable, not be be avoided
mignon comme tout:  pretty as a picture
joli comme un coeur:  cute as a button
une guêpe:  a wasp
un deux-roues:  a two-wheeled vehicle

©2013 P.B. Lecron

Friday, July 26, 2013

ET TU, BASKETS?

Ad hoc culture
A cool and collected alternate rocker, Julius Caesar (or more likely his adopted heir, Augustus), with fluoro guitar, Ray Ban sunglasses and Converse sneakers--what the French call "baskets"--advertises local cultural events in Nîmes. The huge poster hides some of the restoration underway at the antique Roman arena in the city's center.

Vocabulary
baskets:  any kind of tennis shoe, running shoe or sneaker
une arène: an arena
Jules César:  Julius Caesar

©2013 P.B. Lecron

Thursday, July 25, 2013

ZZZZZZZ

I swore I wouldn't leave Provence without having snuck up on a cicada.

Il ne fait pas bon travailler quand la cigale chante.
This proverbe Provençal means that it's not a good idea to work in hot weather.


Vocabulary
une cigale:  a cicada
jurer:  to swear

©2013 P.B. Lecron

Sunday, July 21, 2013

THE FRENCH INDIES

At the Festival de Poupet
This blog post is more about the occasion giving rise to the nomenclature of its title than about the Antilles. In fact it is not about the Carribean islands at all, but rather the coinciding of my 16-year-old-indie-music-loving niece's visit to France and shepherding her to a performance of her favorite group, Vampire Weekend, at a small and relaxed outdoor music festival in an out-of-the-way agricultural area. 

The instant of actually selecting today's title occurred well before the event, yours truly thinking that the pun would fit nicely if I were to photograph the attendees' attire, because "indies" refers to a set--or perhaps a subset--of people tagged as being independent. Independent that is, as far as I can surmise, in choices of music, attire and other cultural affects. With the exception of the above photo of the back of someone's pretty head, my project to photograph French indie fashion plates fell far short of my intentions. A good deal of the Vampire Weekend concert goers seemed to be locals of all ages who were either looking for something to do or who simply wanted to show support for their community's major summer event. A number of them, however, were donned in very practical and comfortable pedal pushers. All were pleasantly surprised by the intimate encounter with the sophisticated  New York band.
The Festival de Poupet is a month-long annual musical festival featuring a variety of performers held in what's called the Théâtre de Verdure, an amphitheater set outside the rural village of Saint-Malo-du-Bois. It's in the Vendée and not to be confused with the Brittany seaport, Saint-Malo. Fortunately for me, because I left the insect repellent in my hotel room in Cholet--the first large town within a 20 km radius of the hillside event--the area around the bandshell was carpeted with artificial turf. And, despite the standing only designation on the festival's website, there was some bench seating available toward the back of the viewing area. My niece, however, luckily counted among the mostly female fans who lined the edge of the stage. This is a music festival where proximity to performers and visibility is prime; entry is limited to no more than 3,000 persons. For Vampire Weekend, the crowd was divinely small--only 1,300.
I used to have a skirt that matched the stage backdrop which hid the pastures behind.
Lead singer Ezra Koenig, polished but at the same time très bon enfant. Interesting sounds and lyrics come from this well-trained band of former students of music.


Vocabulary
un anti-insecte; un anti-moustique:  insect repellant, mosquito repellant
bon enfant: good-natured, easy-going
écarté, insolite:  out-of-the-way

©2013 P.B. Lecron

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

MONA LISAIT

News that wouldn't make Mona Lisa smile: the small French chain of stores selling new and used books has recently been placed in receivership. We're hoping for the best for this bookshop bearing the punny name--meaning Mona used to read.

Vocabulary
un redressement judiciare:  a receivership
la Joconde:  Leonardo da Vinci's portrait of Mona Lisa
lisait:  the third person imperfect form of lire (to read)
une librairie:  a bookshop


©2013 P.B. Lecron

Sunday, July 7, 2013

SPANKING CLEAN

Those of you who are familiar with 29 avenue Rapp will be pleased to know that the building's ornate façade has recently been given a toilettage.  The sensual Art Nouveau edifice built in 1900-1901 is the work of architect Jules Lavirotte, and is an easy-to-find Parisian must-see just off the Pont de l'Alma. Incontournable.  The unidentified artist, incidentally, was sketching a view of the Eiffel Tower.
Vocabulary
un toilettage:  a grooming, a tidying up
incontournable:  uncontestable, inescapable, a must
une properté éclatante:  spanking clean

©2013 P.B. Lecron

Saturday, July 6, 2013

CULTURAL FABRIC

The tie that binds...
From the heart of the Bois de Boulogne overlooking a profusion of roses: the Kiosque de l'Impératrice. It's one more example of a fabrique de jardin, an appeasing decorative garden structure, which like roses, has universal appeal.

Vocabulary
apaiser:  to appease, to calm

©2013 P.B. Lecron

Thursday, July 4, 2013

A HAPPY MARRIAGE INDEED

Do like the gardeners at the Parc Bagatelle and plant clematis at the feet of climbing roses along the garden wall; the roses provide excellent support for the vines.

Expression
Mariage pluvieux, mariage heureux:  a wedding on a rainy day makes for a happy marriage. This make-the-best-of-bad-weather maxim actually is a deformation of another French dictum: mariage plus vieux, mariage heureux. The older the couple, the more likely the spouses are wisened, thus increasing the chances of a happy marriage.



Photo courtesy of Anna Byrd

©2013 P.B. Lecron

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

NEVER SMILE AT A CROCODILE

Ne jamais sourire à un crocodile...
The words of the famous song would be good advice for this tiny fellow. At first glance we thought this was a close-up of a crocodile's eye. No, it's a baby frog that friend Sylvia raised from one of the many tadpoles she saved from her pool in the south of France.

Vocabulary
Capitaine Crochet:  Captain Hook
il était une fois:  once upon a time
Pays Imaginaire:  Neverland
Clochette:  Tinkerbell
une fée:  a fairy

For an account in French of what has become of the crocodile found thirty years ago in the sewer system of Paris, click here.

©2013 P.B. Lecron