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Christiane Taubira,  « On n’y échappera pas »

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Taubira… Ce nom porte des consonances différentes pour chaque personne vivant en France, mais il est rarement inconnu. Il évoque souvent une loi, celle de 2013, qui a valu à son auteure les insultes les plus féroces d’une grande part de la population et du personnel politique mais aussi le sincère respect d’une autre part de la population, probablement plus nombreuse encore. Mais pourquoi une personnalité aussi importante dans le paysage politique français vient-elle ici, à Chicago, dans un pays dans lequel son nom ne suscite le plus souvent ni la colère ni le respect tant il n’est que rarement prononcé ?

Ma question peut paraitre naïve. Il suffit de se rendre sur le site de l’Alliance pour connaitre le motif de sa visite : parler du livre de Ta-Nehisi Coates – Le procès de l’Amérique – et de la préface qu’elle a rédigée. Pour elle, un tel livre est nécessaire afin de revenir sur les traumatismes de nos sociétés, en l’occurrence le crime de l’esclavage, et d’en parler pour espérer les guérir. Elle l’écrit : « Nous savons que nous n’avons pas d’autre choix que de rester ensemble, qu’il faut pour cela nous mettre ensemble, et la condition est de porter ensemble [ce passé]». Mais je me suis encore demandé en quoi son regard d’ancienne ministre de la justice et de femme engagée dans la société française peut nous intéresser lorsqu’il s’agit de l’Amérique ?

Si je lui posais directement la question, sa réponse serait plus simple et surement meilleure. Mais pour cela, il faudra attendre le 26 octobre…Pour patienter, voici quelques pistes :

D’abord, Christiane Taubira, ce n’est pas l’homme politique classique à la française, né en région parisienne, sortie des grandes écoles et ayant milité dans un des partis politiques « traditionnels ».  Comme vous ne manquerez pas de le remarquer, elle est une femme. Ensuite, son intérêt pour ce qui se passe de ce côté-ci de l’Atlantique n’a rien de mystérieux : elle est née à Cayenne, en Guyane et a milité au sein de mouvements demandant l’indépendance de ce territoire – ancienne colonie – vis-à-vis de la métropole avant de fonder son propre parti, le mouvement Walwari. Mme Taubira a ainsi porté et partagé une des ambitions fondatrices des Etats-Unis, la volonté de rompre un lien de dépendance entre un pays européen et un territoire américain.

Ensuite, outre sa candidature à l’élection présidentielle de 2002, Christiane Taubira est connue pour deux lois et un refus… trois éléments de son parcours qui font largement écho aux débats ayant agités les Etats-Unis durant les 20 dernières années. Commençons par ce dernier élément. De quel refus parle-t-on ? Je parle ici du refus de cautionner certaines mesures ayant fait suite aux attentats qui ont secoué la France en 2015. Le 27 janvier 2016, alors ministre de la Justice depuis 2012, Christiane Taubira démissionne du gouvernement en grande partie par opposition à la volonté du chef de l’Etat de déchoir de la nationalité française les individus accusés d’avoir participé à des attentats terroristes. Selon elle – elle l’explique dans Murmures à la jeunesse –, « un pays doit être capable de se débrouiller avec ses nationaux ».

Venons-en aux deux lois Taubira. Celle de 2013, dont je parlais au début de ce petit article, ouvre le mariage et l’adoption aux couples de personnes de même sexe. La vigueur des débats et des manifestations de soutien ou d’opposition à ce texte fait écho à ceux ayant traversé la plupart des Etats des Etats-Unis, et en particulier l’Illinois, à la même période. Mais la première loi Taubira, celle de 2001, a, à mes yeux, encore plus de résonnance dans le contexte américain. Il s’agit de la loi tendant à la reconnaissance de la traite et de l’esclavage comme des crimes contre l’humanité. La place de l’esclavage dans l’histoire de la France est peut-être, en apparence, moins sensible que dans l’histoire des États-Unis. Mais une des personnes les plus aptes à évoquer ces blessures encore vives dans nos deux pays est sans doute celle qui, le 18 février 1999 à l’Assemblée Nationale, a prononcé ces mots :

« Nous sommes là pour dire que si l’Afrique s’enlise dans le non-développement, c’est aussi parce que des générations de ses fils et de ses filles lui ont été arrachées (…). Nous sommes là pour dire que la traite et l’esclavage furent et sont un crime contre l’humanité (…). ».

Maël Ginsburger

Edith Piaf lives through “Piaf! Le Spectacle”

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Edith Piaf.
If you don’t know her name, you surely know her music. Her raspy yet smooth, inviting voice has captured the hearts of millions of people over the decades and all over the world. Her life, plagued with hardship and sorrow laid the foundation for her songs that tap into the hearts of millions world-wide. Songs like La vie en rose and Je ne regrette rien capture the love, happiness and sadness that all people feel. The passion and emotion embodied by her singing have been able to reach people of all generations and all cultures. So much so, that her songs remain relevant today.

It is precisely her voice and her soul that have inspired Piaf! Le Spectacle – a musical celebration of her life and music starring Anne Carrere. Anne Carrere embodies Piaf like no other. Gil Marsalla, the director of the show was as taken with her talent as France was taken with Edith herself, “I have worked in show business- on and off stage- for 25 years and produced shows around the world, but to this day, Anne Carrere is my greatest artistic discovery yet. Do not dare touch or polish her, she is a diamond you want to keep raw- such is the nature of her pure and natural talent.” It is this raw and untouched talent of Carrere that allows her to transform her body and soul into Edith Piaf, who was unapologetically uniquely organic.

Piaf! Le spectacle has already enchanted over half a million viewers in over 33 countries, and is now coming to dazzle Chicago at the Athenaeum Theather, October 8th! So, dive into the world of Edith Piaf, see how she became l’âme de France (the soul of France) and  voir la vie en rose.
Alliance Francaise members enjoy a 20% discount. Buy tickets here.

Jane Eagleton

 

Superfluous: An Architectural Project

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J’ai rencontré dans la rue un jeune homme très pauvre qui aimait : son chapeau était vieux, son habit était usé ; il avait les coudes troués ; l’eau passait à travers ses souliers, et les astres à travers son âme.
(I have met in the streets a very poor young man who was in love. His hat was old, his coat worn, the water passed through his shoes and the stars through his soul)
-Victor Hugo ; Les Misérables (1862)

If you were to walk in the alley behind the Alliance Française, you would notice an odd amount of moss on the ground and red dots painted on the wall without explanation. If you were to be curious, like myself, you might find yourself talking to one of the many people watering the moss or painting these red circles. And if you aren’t the talking to strangers type, you’re in luck because I already did all of the detective work and will let you know what is happening. Free of charge.

The buzz in the alleyway has to do with the upcoming vernissage of Superfluous: An Architectural Project. This project is an effort to use “architects as social agents” and to “trigger [people] to think about shelter”, as Odile Compagnon, a professor of architecture at the Art Institute of Chicago, describes it. Odile encourages her students to use their skills and talents as architects to make social change and this has brought her and her students to the Alliance Française de Chicago.

Pretty cool, right? But you’re still a little confused as to what the project is, aren’t you? Don’t worry, not even some of my coworkers knew what this project entailed and that is why I put pen to paper (well, rather finger to keyboard) to open their and your eyes to the magic that is happening in the alley of the Alliance.

Let me key you in to some connections as this story unravels. Odile points out, that this project is both a way to “open the Alliance to the community” as well as to “make French more accessible”. You know, French doesn’t always scream “language of the people” (insert pretentious French stereotype here), but it truly is. Odile and her students are helping to highlight that.

Well, okay, that is cool, but what does that have to do with architecture and the students at the Art Institute of Chicago? Let’s travel back in time to the famous Victor Hugo for our answer. (That Hugo quote at the beginning of this post is now making sense, huh?)

Hugo, infamous writer, inspiring leader, speaker for the people wrote Les Misérables and tore down the barrier between poverty and luxury by illuminating homelessness, wealth and the disparity in between. Many French writers, not just Hugo, and artists have been captivated by the superfluous and consequently what it means to have nothing but still be someone, an individual. Odile is simply keeping this conversation alive through architecture. Eleven of her students created models for projects that could be built in our courtyeard and her student Nicolas Dessotel’s project, named Clairvoyance, was chosen. Nicolas is the blonde student in the photo below cheesin’ hard because he gets to see his project come to fruition.

Clairvoyance was chosen because it breaks down the wall between the private and public spheres, the wanted and the unwanted and spills out into the ally of the Alliance. I mean, literally there is a hole in our courtyard wall. “His project is transporting you into a world that you may not be comfortable with,” says Odile as she admires the installation go up. While I am very excited for you to experience this world growing in and challenging our alley, I won’t tell you more about the physical nature of the project because a) I can’t spoil it for you and b) Nick and Odile can give an explanation more justice than I could.

So, please, I implore you to come and experience Superfluous: An Architectural Project for yourself on September 14th (register here). Engage in the conversation about homelessness and the superfluous, see the other contestant project models, learn how French literature inspires architecture, and enjoy the exhibit. The exhibit will run during our business hours until October 16.

A bientôt!

Jane Eagleton

Immersion Day: A fun French day

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Being a new intern at the Alliance Française, I am still learning about the many classes, workshops, and events that go on here, including Immersion Day. For weeks now, we have been gearing up for Immersion Day, and to learn more about what exactly that is, I set out and did a little research. Follow me as I learn more and as I implore you to participate this September 9th. Why not join in on the fun to be had?

With notepad in hand, I head down to the office of Elodie Kaplan, co-director of the school to learn more. “It’s a great day to use the French people know and discover more,” Elodie begins as she describes the day in question. Discover what? Glad you asked. Immersion Day is a special day at the Alliance where we offer trial workshops for advanced beginner, intermediate, and proficient levels. “Woah!” I thought to myself. In my short 1.5 months here at the Alliance, I have very much wanted to join a cooking or language workshop. And to think I could attend those and more on one day had me interested.

Continuing on, she adds, “people can use their French for actual activities… for real life, not just for class.” You see, during Immersion Day, we transform the large Salon into a French vendor’s market called the Petit marché. Local vendors selling French items or who speak French will be selling goods and services. I don’t want to give anything away… but there will be free chocolate samples. Not to mention, the director of the Alliance Française de Chicago will be cooking, so you do not want to miss that.

Satisfied that I got the answers I needed and confident that I know what adventures lie ahead on Immersion Day, I leave her office with a simple merci before heading back to my office. Now that we have the gist of what the day entails, I thought I might clue you in to what workshops are offered. After all, we are all interested in different workshops. Take your time reading these options, but afterwards, don’t wait one more minute before signing up for Immersion Day and the workshops that interest you! You can sign up and see the workshop schedule on our webpage.

A bientôt mes amis !

 

List of workshops

Conversation:Meet our French staff and talk about their personal experience in the US, and French culture at large.

Phonetics:Practice makes perfect! Work on your pronunciation and learn the, literally, life changing difference between ‘poison’ and ‘poisson’.

TV5-current affairs:Come discover a piece of worldly news by watching and discussing a clip from francophone TV.

The blunder fixer:whether it is faux amis (words that look similar but actually have different meanings) or homophones (words that have the same sound but different meanings and/or spellings) tackle and get rid of the typical challenges any learner of French faces.

Pardon my French-French slang:For once les gros mots (curse words) and informal language are allowed in the classroom, but only for the love of linguistics and to avoid misunderstandings and faux-pas.

Brush-up: Feeling a little rusty? Enjoy the immediate benefits of this grammatical review and enrich your speaking and writing skills.The art of listening:“What was that?” With this class get rid of that sometimes frustrating feeling when dealing with oral comprehension.

Littérature: discover popular and polarizing author Michel Houellebecq. He is without a doubt France’s most contemporary and controversial writer as well as a must-know.

Jouer en français: Play your favorite board games, in French (Pictionary, Scrabble…) and discover new ones, while learning how to use your French in a whole different way.

Improv en français: Build self-confidence and develop creativity while learning to have fun in French. Through improv’ games, you will become even more comfortable speaking French and think on your feet!

Voulez-vous “crochet” avec moi ? Tricot social: Explore the history of crocheting and how it is used in fashion and the arts today. Learn how to crochet by using basic patterns to make hats, scarves and ornaments.

Wine tasting: Need we say more? This year a focus on lesser known white wines from red country!

Jane Eagleton

FrogProv – Your time to shine?

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Theater buff? Improv fan? Don’t pass this by, this post is for YOU!
We recently learned about a fantastic project involving French AND English language… Forgprov!
Since this kind of mix is what we love best, we thought you would be interested too!

***

C’est quoi ?

Frogprov is a collective of Chicagoans who improvise in both English and French, sometimes at the same time! This family-friendly short-form improv show promises cross-cultural entertainment while breaking the performers’ tongues and brains.

C’est quand ?

Every Monday in August at 8:30 p.m.

C’est ou ?

Judy’s Beat Lounge, 230 W. North Ave., Chicago, IL 60610

C’est combien ?

  • $10 General / $8 Student / $5 TC Student

Pour plus d’informations

And great news ; if you want to go a bit deeper, in the Fall, the Alliance Française de Chicago will offer TWO different improv classes! Are you excited? We certainly are!

A bientôt

French woman, science, wit and “bonheur”

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On June 8, the Alliance Française de Chicago will re-create a “Salon parisien” inspired by a significant woman of her time Émilie, Marquise du Châtelet. Zoé Moore tells us more about it;

 

American women love French women, so much that they try to become them and understand their attitudes and lifestyles through books and movies. Ladies like Josephine Baker and Jean Seberg serve as a golden standard of Americans turned French. I can attest: it’s hard to live in France and not get caught up in the expat life, making a haphazard attempt at fitting in, becoming French. But with influential female figures like Simone de Beauvoir, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, Jeanne D’Arc, Catherine Deneuve, Simone Veil, and even Anne Hidalgo, it is easy to want to become une femme française. Their strength, knowledge, elegance, and wit make them remarkable role models that stand the test of time and have managed to travel all the way across the ocean to the United States. They all have remarkable stories and wisdom that has been passed down to my own modern American life.  So when I learned that we would be creating a Parisian Salon, a common social and intellectual gathering to inform and entertain in the 17th and 18th centuries, celebrating Emilie, la Marquise du Châtelet, I was definitely curious.

 

Science

Gabrielle Émilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, Marquise Du Châtelet (1706-1749), or as I shall refer to her, Emilie, was an amazing woman who I knew absolutely nothing about one week ago. As a girl, Emilie attended her father’s salons with elite men and women, rapidly learning through discussions on science, philosophy, and literature in lavish Parisian hôtels particuliers. This introduction to le salon and academic life put her on a path to becoming one of the greatest minds of her time. Emilie’s short biography refers to her as a major contributor to physics and mathematics, having promoted and participated in the debate on vis viva, known today as kinetic energy, and as the translator of Isaac Newton’s Principia (her French translation is still standard today). She also published the scientific book Institutions de Physique / Foundations of Physics in 1740, which reaffirmed her grasp of the domain, sparked conversation, and gained popularity during her life. Many of her ideas were published posthumously in Denis Diderot’s well known Encyclopédie.

She is widely known as Voltaire’s lover. Emilie invited him to live and work with her in her home, the Château de Cirey, where they stayed and influenced one another intellectually throughout the 1730s. Despite this mutually productive relationship, Emilie is often left in Voltaire’s shadow. She died at the age of 42 due to childbirth complications, her pregnancy the result of an ardent affair with the captain and poet Saint-Lambert. The large strokes of Emilie’s life are enticing enough, but there is surely more to the story. To do this well-bred woman of le siècle des lumières justice, it was up to me to uncover her true nature and spirit. What was she like? How did this woman manage to make a name for herself as a reputable scientist in the 18th century?

 

Words and wit

Luckily, Emilie loved to write letters. Even more luckily, many of Emilie’s letters and works were published and are now in the public domain. I dove into reading her letters to M. de Maupertuis, a great man of science and one of Emilie’s tutors (and possibly lovers),

Château de Cirey

that date from the mid to late 1730s, during Emilie’s academic prime living in the Château de Cirey with Voltaire. They detail her life, her thoughts, her passions, and get down to who she is as a woman and scientist. She has a voice that is serious and funny, surprisingly modern and accessible.  I have come to know a very witty, loving, and smart woman who teases and challenges her mentor amidst inviting him over to chat or keep her company.

 

Et le bonheur dans tout ça ?

Another one of Emilie’s publications is Discours sur le bonheur, or Discourse on Happiness. These kinds of ruminations were common for men of her era to publish, but not women. Emilie takes on what happiness means through female eyes (finally!). The takeaway is clear and much of it is still relevant today: be free of prejudices, be healthy, have tastes and passions, and be susceptible to illusions. It’s okay to have illusions? This last one jumped out at me, I didn’t quite understand where she was coming from, but I had to give some faith to my dear French sister.

Institutions de Physique, one of Emilie’s publications.

To understand this theory that one must be “susceptible d’illusions” to be happy, we must turn to Emilie the lover. Women are known so often as the lover, the extra, the emotional, but Emilie brings fresh air and meaning to love and being passionate. She stipulates that love is one of the greatest illusions and yet it provides some of the grandest happiness; it is important to trust and believe in love or you have no chance of experiencing this ultimate happiness, even if you know that it is an illusion that will eventually dissipate. Emilie remarks that even if you connect with someone on every level, the time comes to let them go and move on. She explains that this is an extremely painful experience, but you must not lose faith that you can and will love again. If I were to translate some of her sentiments to modern day language, she advises us that if someone doesn’t want you, you are better off without them! Emilie’s letters to her last lover, Saint-Lambert, illustrate her willingness to give herself to this illusion and be happy, even after her intimate relationship Voltaire, and even if it means enduring sadness or misery.

One of the most moving lines she writes while quite pregnant in 1749:

      « Quand je suis avec vous, je supporte mon état avec patience, je ne m’en aperçois souvent pas. Mais quand je vous ai perdu, je ne vois plus rien qu’en noir »

                “When I am with you, I endure my state with patience, I often do not notice it. But when I have lost you, I see only the dark side of things.”

 

I would like to personally thank la Marquise for her contributions to science, philosophy, and the female legacy and let her know that she remains a role model for people around the world in the 21st century. I am thrilled to have met another amazing French woman and can’t wait to bring her words and thoughts to life in our Salon on June 8. It is going to be a truly amazing evening where we discuss her philosophy with Irina Ruvinsky, hear excerpts of her letters by Melisha Mitchell, and enjoy an incredible cello performance by Titilayo Ayangade, an all-female cast to create a salon that I think Emilie herself would have appreciated.

I hope to see you all then!

A bientôt !

Zoé Moore

 

 

Indulge in some French comfort food

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Comfort food is an almost universally known concept. You have a hard day, you come home and you eat a gallon of mac and cheese and maybe you just feel a little bit better. Or maybe you had something a little more interesting to sate your hunger. If you identify with this, maybe it’s time you learned a little bit more about French comfort food!

A Croque Madame

The first documented mention of the croque monsieur was in the second volume of Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time” 1918. The sandwich itself is a masterful combination of bread, cheese and ham. If you add a fried or poached egg on top, the sandwich becomes a croque madame. Due to the simplicity of the basic sandwich, there are almost endless possibilities when it comes to modifying the sandwich to suit different tastes. Some things people love to add are tomatoes, blue cheese, smoked salmon, sliced potatoes or even pineapple!

 

 

The origins of the special sandwich is unknown but there are quite a few popular legends that have circulated for some time. One is that a sandwich was left out in the heat and the cheese melted. Another is that a restaurateur had run out of baguettes and wanted a way to have crunchy bread.

Pain Perdu

Another comforting bread-based French food is pain perdu (also known as French toast). Funny enough, it has existed for so

long that we don’t really know the origins of the dish. It is known to be a decedent of the roman dish aliter dulcia (which translates to “Another Kind of Desert”)which is a cake-type item mostly made up of ground nuts with a custard.

In medieval Europe, the dish took on a form closer to what we consider pain perdue as a way to transform stale bread. This was when it became bread soaked in milk and/or egg existed in a variety of forms.

Today we have a variety of types of pain perdu that are eaten for breakfast, dessert or just as a snack. Since it is so versatile you can make it sweet or savory depending on your tastes. If you want to learn how to make croque monsieur and pain perdu hands-on, join us for our next cooking class! It will be this Saturday, April 29 at 11:15 a.m.

Sources:

http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2010/11/french-toast-was-not-invented-in-france/

http://ouialwayshaveparis.com/2015/08/11/croquemonsieur/

How to plant your thyme seeds!

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If you want instructions on how to grow your thym (thyme) seeds from Earth day, you’re in the right place! Thyme is excellent for container planting inside and outside. If you do plant outside, it is very attractive to bees which is great for the rest of your garden and the environment.

For the seeds we gave you, here is what to keep in mind as you plant them:

Days to emerge: 10-15 days

An example of the thyme plant.

Seed depth: 1/8”

Seed spacing: A group of 5 seeds every 10”

Row spacing: 12”

Thinning: When 1” tall, thin to 1 every 10”

Sow outside: 1 to 2 weeks after average last frost, and when soil temperature is at least 68°F.

Start inside: 6 to 8 weeks before average last frost. Ideal soil temp for germination is 70° – 80°F.

Height: 12”

 

Once it grows, make your thyme shine in some French recipes:

https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/8175-french-lentils-with-garlic-and-thyme

http://www.seriouseats.com/2012/12/french-in-a-flash-salmon-with-thyme-and-three-lemon-creme-fraiche.html

 

If you want to learn more about French culture or the French language, visit our website or the Alliance itself (810 N. Dearborn St)!

La francophonie behind the scenes

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During the entire month of March, we at the Alliance Française de Chicago have hosted a variety of events as part of our Festival de Francophonie. By the end of the month you’ll have had the opportunity to learn about Russian and French cultures influencing each other, hear about books from around the world, eat amazing food, and see films that explore a variety of Francophonie experiences. While we have a lot of fun presenting you with these events and we hope you have fun attending, we thought it would be good to also give you a little bit of background on why exactly we celebrate Francophone cultures and International Francophone day beyond just the fun of experiencing new cultures.

This past Monday, March 20 was the annual International Francophonie Day. It’s observed in the 80 member states of the Organization of La Francophonie (By the way, that’s 274 million people) and is meant as a day to celebrate the French Language and the cultures of those who speak French.

Logo of Organisation Internationale de la francophonie

Why March 20th though? It turns out that beyond just

being the first day in Spring, this date also commemorates the signing of the Niamey Convention on March 20 1970. This established the Agence de Coopération Culturalle et Technique which later became the International Organization de La Francophonie. On the website of the Organization Internationale de la Francophonie their mission is said to be “to embody the active solidarity between its 80 member states.” To accomplish this the organization “organizes political activities and actions to promote the French language, peace and sustainable development.”

We like to do our little part to expose people to different francophone cultures with our events. Our aim is for people to learn more about cultures that they might not know very much about. We hope that this exposure can kindle previously unexplored interests and deepen understandings of what we can learn from cultures that are different than our own.

Karel, a twelve year old attendee of soirée commune had the following to say about the event:

“I think that the Soirée Commune was a very fun event because it brought a lot of people together to share their country’s culture and get a glimpse of the culture of other countries. This was very important to me because at school they teach kids about the country they live in. Like what happened in the past, what is happening now, or what might occur in the near or distant future. Because of this, kids are often ignorant about what is going on in other smaller countries and what the culture  their is like. This event showed that there is more to Switzerland, France, Haiti and other countries, then the shocking news that is broadcasted worldwide and the general perspective that foreigners have on this countries. Overall, the whole experience was wonderful. I think the way they set it up was really brilliant. I enjoyed walking around to each booth or “country” and getting a taste of their food. I also think the passport idea made it a lot more fun too”

https://www.francophonie.org/Sites-specialises.html

https://www.francophonie.org/Welcome-to-the-International.html

Finding Love at the Alliance Française

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By Monica Fredette (With input from Yves Fredette)

I met the love of my life on March 10, 2007 at Le Festival de la Francophonie at Chicago’s Alliance Française.

It all started with a look at current events in a “Time Out Chicago” magazine while awaiting my hairdresser, Parto Nadiri.  As I searched for upcoming events, I circled quite a few things of interest, but quickly honed in on the French event since I felt very at ease using my language skills learned in college and while studying in France.

At the time, it was a $15 ticket and I had a few friends who I thought would join me for an evening celebrating a culture I loved.  Unfortunately, none of my friends were free that night.  It was only due to my mother’s insistence that I go (because I had reported many wonderful experiences with FAC in NYC), that I braved it alone.

On that night, I decided to wear a beautiful Carolina Herrera dress because when I called to find out the dress code, a gentlemen at the Alliance responded:  “Madame, the ambassador of Haiti will be in attendance!”

So in I went with my navy Inès de la Fressange wool swing coat and high heels.  No one at the desk informed me that there was a coat room after I checked in, so up the staircase I went.  It seemed like a much bigger and wider staircase than in reality, but I was nervous about who I would see once I got to the top of the stairs.  I figured I would leave if I felt uncomfortable.

My eyes instantly caught sight of a very handsome man standing close to the top of the stairs.  It was obvious, I was out of place in my coat, and without hesitation, I said (as Polly Platt of “Savoir Flair” would have suggested):  excuse me, sir, but where is the coat check?”  Of course, she would have advised me to say “excusez-moi, Monsieur, mais où se trouve le vestiaire?”

My husband apparently winked at the man with whom he was chatting (confident he would spend the rest of the evening talking to me), and whisked me down the stairs to help me with my coat.  I guess he did not want to be presumptive that I wanted to go back to the party with him, so he left me on my own after hanging my coat….

Back up the staircase I went.  For no reason other than it was the first

La Raclette cheese at Soiree Commune 2017

room on the right, I walked into Canada.  It turns out my husband is a French Canadian, and he seemed to be on his way out as I walked in.  I made the visit brief, then entered the Switzerland room across the hall and got in line for my all time favourite thing, La Raclette.  There was the heavenly nutty fragrance of the melted gruyere cheese that they were sliding onto boiled potatoes and serving with cornichons pickles, cocktail onions, a dash of paprika, and a glass of white wine — an incredibly seductive combination!  (I don’t ski, but am told this is what everyone eats in the mountains après-ski).

Even more seductive was the man who had helped me with my coat had reappeared in line behind me!  All I know is we never took our eyes off one another the rest of the evening.  We went back at least 2 more times for more raclette. We conversed about all the ways his French name was spelled throughout history:  Fradet, Fradette, Fredette, Frédette….and he wrote all spellings on a Romanian Consulate card (another guest at this event).  Then he wrote down 2 of his phone numbers and an e-mail!  We perused a table full of French books for sale, and I bought “Lisa in York,” which I still have on our bookshelf.  Throughout the night, we spoke French.

Eventually, he offered to walk me home.  It was a beautiful night as we slowly strolled toward Chicago Ave.  Not far from the Alliance is Holy Name Cathedral, which we saw as we approached the corner of Chicago and State.   I told Yves that Holy Name was my church.  He said he went there, too!  Who knew that in 2008, we would be getting married at that very church?!

Just this past week, we went for our 10th year in a row to Le Festival de la Francophonie.  It happened to fall on the exact day we met 10 years ago!  The funny thing is that my husband had been going to this particular event on and off for 10 years prior to me showing up.  Guess luck was on my side that night as it was my first time going.

We cannot thank the Alliance enough for their dedication to bringing all French cultures together for this special night and for all the cultural events they host throughout the year.  We have met so many interesting people with whom we connect based on our shared love of the French language, French food, film, cooking, literature, decorative arts lectures, etc.   We feel incredibly lucky and fortunate to have this cultural institution within walking distance from home.  It has transformed our lives!  Thank You Alliance Française for making our lives better!!!