Qui veut voyager ? Now that many countries are loosening their COVID restrictions, we can turn our travel daydreams into travel plans! We’ve compiled a list of some great vacation spots in Francophone countries and cities to get your planning started. Make sure to prepare for your trip with some French classes here at the Alliance Française!
If you’re a newbie to traveling in France, Paris is a fabulous place to start! Our friend Jess over at the Golden Girl Blog shares some of her best secrets to make the most of your time in Paris. She has great recommendations, such as only bringing broken-in shoes, buying your tourist tickets ahead of time, and more. Find her list here, and take a look at her other blog posts about Paris, too!
The gorgeous Avignon is located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region of Southeastern France. With a Mediterranean climate, it’s a go-to spot for anyone who loves to get their tan on!
You can peruse some ideas for activies in Avignon here, including wine tastings, historical tours, and seeing their famous lavender fields!
If you prefer to go off the beaten path, head to the Loire-Atlantique department! Besides Nantes, which is a lively mid-sized city, you can find Pornic, located on the western coast.
Pornic is home to great sailing and windsurfing, la Crêperie de la Source, and beautiful seaside views!
The Pyrenees are a mountain range straddling the border of France and Spain. Our sporty and outdoorsy readers will love the hiking, skiing, and hot springs. And who doesn’t love a beautiful mountain view? Take a look at travel and activity recommendations for the Pyrenees at Explore France!
If you’re heading to Montreal or Québec, hit up the great tours of historical landmarks, botanical gardens, and beautiful museums.
Travelers bringing high schoolers should check out McGill University, the alma mater of our Learning Center Coordinator. Learn how a Francophone education can set your student up for a lifetime of French language and culture!
Switzerland may be tiny, but it’s mighty: backpacking, skiing, train tours, and never-ending landscapes make this Francophone country the ideal destination for any traveler. Head to MySwitzerland for travel ideas and tips to make the most of your time in Geneva, Bern, or the gorgeous mountainous regions of Suisse !
Lonely Planet shares, “Simultaneously exhilarating and tranquil, Senegal is captivating. Perched on the tip of a peninsula, Dakar, the capital, is a dizzying introduction to the country: elegance meets chaos, snarling traffic, vibrant markets and glittering nightlife, while nearby Île de Gorée and the beaches of Yoff and N’Gor tap to slow, lazy beats.”
Check out their description of fun activities and information about traveling in Senegal, a Francophone country with endless history and culture to discover!
The Alliance Française de Chicago team is gearing up for an exciting Bastille Day celebration this weekend! In honor of La Fête Nationale, we wanted to round up some of our most anticipated events on and around the holiday.
Below you’ll find a list of AF Chicago-approved French activities in the Windy City and virtually:
Using ¼ cup of framboise, evenly drizzle one cut side of each slice of pound cake. Evenly spread the preserves onto the same cut side of each slice. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, add six ounces of blackberries and six ounces raspberries. Using a dinner fork, gently smash the berries. Add six ounces of blueberries, the cut strawberries, and remaining ¼ cup of framboise and stir together. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, add the heavy cream, lemon zest, sugar, and salt. Cover the mixer with a clean kitchen towel (to prevent the cream from splattering everywhere!), and gradually raise the speed to high. Whip for 45 seconds, or until the cream forms soft peaks.
In a small bowl, add the lemon curd and 1 cup of the whipped cream. Stir together, then gently fold the mixture into the remaining whipped cream.
To assemble the trifle, spoon a layer of the lemon whipped cream into a large glass bowl. Add a layer of pound cake, breaking the slices into pieces to fit. Then add a layer of berries and their juices. Continue to make 2 more layers, finishing with a layer of lemon whipped cream.
Dress the top of the trifle with the remaining raspberries and blueberries to resemble the French flag. Serve within 30 minutes.
Kitchen Tip: If you want to make your own pound cake, here is my recipe for Lemon Pound Cake. The recipe makes two; one for now and one for breakfast during the week!
If you would like to get a signed copy of Marc Siever’s cookbook, click here.
To find out what else is happening at the Alliance Francaise de Chicago for Bastille Day, click here.
Take part in the Bastille Day new membership exclusive! Make sure to check here for the deal which will only last from 12 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. on today!
Aussi loin que je me souvienne, j’ai toujours adoré voyager, pouvoir visiter des nouveaux pays, et surtout découvrir d’autres cultures, c’est très enrichissant. S’informer sur la culture et les habitudes d’un pays, c’est bien, mais s’immerger et vivredans sa culture, c’est encore mieux. Cela fait un peu plus de trois mois maintenant que je vis aux États-Unis, à Chicago; et je peux vous dire que passer d’un village de 350 habitants en pleine campagne à la troisième plus grande ville des US avec 3 millions d’habitants, eh ben ça change la vie !
Place maintenant au top 10 des différences entre la France et les USA, pour le meilleur comme pour le pire !
1. La communication et l’amabilité
Les Américains sont super amicaux et extravertis. Ils vont même parfois saluer leurs amis et leurs connaissances avec un gros câlin #hug. Ils sont avenants, et la communication est très informelle ici, alors que les Français sont plus formels. Dès que je suis arrivée, j’ai entendu des “Hi, how are you?” à tout-va ! D’autre part, les Français n’utilisent pas le prénom d’une personne à moins d’être invités à le faire, alors que les américains vont spontanément appeler les gens par leurs prénoms.
Construire des relations amicales est quelque chose d’important en France, mais cela prend généralement du temps. Il est rare de voir un français discuter de sa vie personnelle avec un étranger. Les français peuvent donc paraître froids aux yeux des Américains au début, mais une fois que des amitiés seront nouées, elles dureront des années. Aux États-Unis, c’est souvent le contraire qui se produit : au début, les gens sont très ouverts et amicaux, ils partagent plus facilement des informations personnelles que les français, mais l’amitié peut paraître superficielle par la suite.
Vous vous en doutez, je suis obligée de mentionner la nourriture parmi les différences entre les États-Unis et la France… Pour tout français normalement constitué, le fromage et la baguette font partie de notre quotidien et sont des aliments incontournables qui nous manquent beaucoup ici. Aux USA tout est plus gras, plus sucré, plus salé, et plus gros (par exemple pour les boissons, leur taille Small est notre taille Large).
4. Les tips
Aaaaah les fameux tips… au début, c’est vraiment déroutant pour un français de toujours laisser un pourboire aux US, que ce soit au restaurant, au bar, chez le coiffeur, pour prendre un taxi, etc. Parce que soyons honnêtes, en France si tu as vraiment adoré le serveur, tu vas lui donner 2€ ou 3€ de pourboires (et un avis positif sur Tripadvisor) et tu passeras pour quelqu’un de super sympa.
Aux États-Unis, les serveurs de restaurants sont mal (voire très mal) payés, et dépendent des pourboires laissés par les clients pour compléter leurs revenus. Combien donner de tips est LA question que tout français fraîchement débarqué ici se pose : selon si vous êtes satisfaits du service ou non, vous devez laisser entre 15% et 20% de votre addition. Parfois, en bas du ticket de carte bancaire vous avez les montants correspondant à 15%, à 18% et à 20% de la note qui seront proposés, comme ça pas besoin de faire le calcul ! Par exemple, pour un total de $30, il vous sera proposé de laisser $4.5, $5.4, ou $6 de tips. Si vous réglez en cash, il vous suffit de laisser quelques dollars de plus. Si vous payez par carte bancaire, le ticket qui vous sera présenté à signer comportera une case, gratuity, pour vous permettre d’ajouter le tip directement à votre paiement par carte. Il vous suffit d’écrire le montant de votre choix, et de reporter le montant du nouveau total juste en dessous, puis de signer votre ticket. Et comme le serveur aura envie que vous laissiez le maximum de tips, logique, il sera plein d’attentions à votre égard : à peine vous aurez bu une gorgée de votre verre qu’il viendra vous le remplir à nouveau, il passera toutes les cinq minutes pour savoir si tout se passe bien, il sera toujours souriant et avenant… C’est dans la culture, mais parfois cela peut être un peu oppressant ! D’un autre côté, en France, les serveurs peuvent parfois se montrer arrogants, c’est bien connu, donc à choisir…
5. Les unités de mesure
Toutes les unités de mesures sont différentes ici, mais vraiment toutes… Vous ne compterez pas en Kilogramme mais en Livre, pas en Mètre mais en Pied, pas en Litre mais en Gallon, etc. Vous pensiez essayer une nouvelle recette ? Vous n’aurez pas besoin de peser le sucre ou la farine car ils utilisent des « cups » (¼ cup of, etc). Vous voulez demander combien de kilomètres vous séparent de votre supermarché préféré ? On vous répondra en miles. Vous souhaitez connaître la température du jour ? Celle-ci ne sera pas donnée en degrés Celsius mais en degrés Fahrenheit… Un vrai casse-tête pour tous les Européens (merci l’appli de conversion qui fait les calculs à ma place).
6. La santé
Aux USA, il vaut mieux ne pas être malade, car la moindre consultation à l’hôpital ou chez un médecin peut coûter très très cher, même avec une bonne assurance (le comble !). Je crois que plus jamais je ne me plaindrai que ma sécurité sociale met trop longtemps à me rembourser les 25€ que j’ai dépensé chez le médecin… De même, la retraite : ici, il vaut mieux avoir bien économisé pendant toutes ses années de travail car les retraités ne reçoivent pas d’aide de l’état.
7. Le patriotisme
Les américains sont TRÈS fiers d’être américains, et ils le montrent : vous verrez souvent des drapeaux américains à l’entrée des maisons. De plus, il me semble que les américains sont beaucoup plus respectueux que les français envers les forces de l’ordre.
8.Le système scolaire
Aux États-Unis, chaque État est responsable d’établir ses normes en matière d’éducation. En France, on dit 6ème, 5ème (etc) jusqu’à la terminale. Aux USA c’est l’inverse : first grade, second grade, etc). Ici les lycéens ont beaucoup de projets à réaliser, et les activités extra-scolaires sont très valorisées car cela « présente un véritable atout pour les candidatures aux universités » : les sportifs sont un peu l’élite, avec les pom-pom girls (oui, comme on le voit dans les films), et il y a aussi les club lecture, club d’échec, club de théâtre… Aussi, les élèves ont une pause de seulement 30 minutes le midi pour manger, contre 1h30 ou 2h pour les petits français !
Et enfin, l’université : il y a très peu de financement public donc la majorité des étudiants doivent obtenir des prêts étudiants. Sinon, ils peuvent obtenir une bourse d’études s’ils sont excellents ou sportifs. Les frais d’inscription à l’université me semblent tellement exorbitants que j’ai fait mes propres petites recherches : pour l’année scolaire 2019-2020, le coût moyen des frais de scolarité était de $41.500 dans les université privées, de $11.000 pour les résidents des États dans les université publiques, et de $27.000 pour les étudiants hors État dans les universités publiques. Et vous savez quoi ? Ces coûts de scolarité ne sont pas pour la durée des études mais pour UNE année ! Aussi, aux USA le bachelor (équivalent de notre licence) dure 4 ans, alors qu’en France, une licence dure 3 ans. En moyenne, un diplômé américain quitte l’université avec une dette d’environ 30.000 dollars. Voilà voilà. Dois-je préciser que les frais d’inscription dans une université en France sont de 170€ en licence et 243€ en master ou pas ?
Une des choses que je trouve incompréhensible aux États-Unis, c’est le rapport à l’écologie : rien ou presque n’est fait pour la planète. Laisser la lumière allumée tout le temps, démarrer les voitures une heure avant pour être sûr qu’il fasse assez chaud / frais quand on monte dedans, utiliser encore des sacs plastique pour rapporter ses courses à la maison, tout cela serait mal vu en France mais est totalement normal aux USA. Sans parler de la climatisation… C’est une vraie institution ici, et il est impensable pour les américains de vivre sans. Et quand ils la mettent, c’est pas pour semblant, il fait même froid ! Il y en a partout : dans les restaurants, les magasins, les hôtels, les bus… Je sais déjà que je prendrai un pull partout avec moi cet été !
En France, les gens ont tendance à être politiquement engagés, à tous les niveaux de la société. Comment parler des français sans parler des grèves ? Si le gouvernement ne se conforme pas à leurs attentes, ils sont prêts à faire la grève, c’est bien connu. Aux États-Unis, les gens ont tendance à préférer que l’État intervienne le moins possible dans leur vie. Ici, faire la grève ça n’existe pas vraiment, ou alors il faut vraiment que le sujet soit très très important, et encore. Et la raison est simple : si les américains ne vont pas travailler, ils risquent fortement de se retrouver licenciés le lendemain. La sécurité de l’emploi ici est bien moindre qu’en France. Une autre raison est que les américains se plaignent beaucoup moins que les français !
Que pensez-vous de ces différences ? S’il y a des expats parmi vous, des français vivant aux USA ou des américains ayant vécu en France, n’hésitez pas à partager vos propres expériences !
I have a confession to make – I hate Dr. and Mrs. Vandertramp. If you’re not familiar (and I envy you, hypothetical reader), DR MRS VANDERTRAMP is the acronym French students are often forced to learn in order to help them remember the list of irregular verbs that take “être” rather than “avoir” when conjugated in the passé composé. Here’s the problem – the Vandertramps are boring as hell. You may be thinking that it’s odd to pass such judgment over an anthropomorphized mnemonic device, but I’ve spent more grammatical time with the good doctor and his wife than I’ve really cared to over the years, and they are the dullest imaginary friends ever. When I reach into the rattling void of my mind, straining to remember whether “devenir” is an unpretentious verb or one of those annoying ones that deserves special treatment, I’m greeted by the mental image of a buttoned up couple of nevilles who look exactly like the dynamic duo from American Gothic. There is nothing glamorous about the Vandertramps. No sex appeal. No danger. Their favorite drink is warm milk and their favorite movie is the American Airlines pre-flight safety video.
I believe the French-learning public deserves a better standard, so I’ve poured blood, sweat, tears, and approximately 30 minutes of brainstorming into the following list of 8 Superior Acronyms for remembering the être verbs. I think you’ll find that these dynamic alternatives offer more mystery and excitement per letter than any other acronym on the market, and they’re not even, like, THAT hard to remember.
DR MNRVA STAMP RED R
(Doctor Minerva Stamps Red R)
Dr. Minerva is a no-nonsense medical practitioner, right up there with Nurse Jackie, Dr. House, and Dr. Dre. She stares down the patient who has been caught with a counterfeit scrip for benzos and brings down the metaphorical gavel. The man slouches out of Dr. Minerva’s office, his fraudulent form stamped with a crimson consonant. In the context of the acronym, this R might stand for “rentrer” – but for the purposes of our story, it can mean nothing other than REJECTED
A DPRST RAVEN MRMRD
(A Depressed Raven Murmured)
What’s that? You’ll need to speak up, bud. This poor fella is down in the dumps about something, but it’s hard to tell what. Mysterious! If you’re ever in a pinch and need to know whether “arriver” is going to ruin your life for the next 2 minutes, remember this gothic example of a downtrodden bird who just can’t find the voice to voice his concerns.
MME DARA RSVP T DNRR
(Madame Dara, RSVP to Dinner)
Madame Dara will not, in fact, RSVP to dinner, as it is being hosted by the Vandertramps and she hates those yawn farmers. Dara will instead spend the night as she spends any other, meeting clandestine lovers in a smoky jazz lounge and shopping for clothes on the internet.
MM, D TAPAS VENDRRRR
(Mm, the tapas vendor!)
This one is especially convenient and easy to remember because it is the realistic inner dialogue of a man confronted with a great lunch option. Try not to become overwhelmed with hunger as you deliciously remember thatj’ai allé is a grammatically incorrect clause. Pay no mind to the four R’s tacked haphazardly to the end of this mouth-watering acronym.
SEND PARM T MR VADRR
(Send Parm to Mr. Vader)
Well? He’s waiting… Even sith lords deserve timely service when they order at an Italian restaurant, and Vader just so happened to have skipped lunch. This is an acronym you are guaranteed to never forget, as it simply drips menace. There will be consequences if Darth doesn’t get his dish, just as there will be consequences if you confuse “revenir” with “retourner.”
REMV RAD ST. DAN MR RP.
(Remove Rad St. Dan, Mr. RP)
Dear Mr. Roland Pettifer,
Look. I get it. Saint Dan is like, the coolest saint. He’s the patron protector of stuntmen and people who can do that thing where they light a match on their jeans. But frankly it’s inappropriate that his votive candle is pizza-scented and it’s making the sacristy smell really gross. I think the congregation would prefer that he goes, like… elsewhere.
RRRR SVEN MAD AT MPD
(RRRR, Sven Mad at Miami Police Dept.!)
Sven isn’t always great at articulating his feelings, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less valid. That parking citation was way out of line, and now our gentle giant needs to take a moment to do some breathing exercises. This was supposed to be a nice vacation, and he’s not going to let heightened cholesterol ruin it. Pay no mind to the four R’s tacked haphazardly to the beginning of this emotionally-heightened acronym.
Hey francophiles. Crazy week, huh? (It doesn’t actually matter when you read this; I’m sure that week has been crazy too)
In an effort to distract myself from the mounting horrors of the outside world and the mounting responsibilities of the inside world, I’ve started regarding my pile of books with a special kind of attention usually reserved for savants or madmen. From these hours of nervous-avoidant reading, I’ve come to realize that one of my favorite things about the French language is its propensity for having wildly better names for animals than English does. Sure, we can concede that simply everything sounds better en français, but there’s no arguing that the French know how to name their critters. I don’t really have any criteria for my ranking system, other than the explosive need to share these really great-sounding words with you. I will provide a rationale for each entry, so bear with me. Also, if it weren’t already apparent, this is not a list of cool French suggestions for pet names. As a piece of consolation, “Gigi” normally works fine.
So without further rambling and scrambling, I present to you my Top Ten French Names For Animals Because Why Not At This Point:
1)Une chauve-souris (Bat): Hey, if you were to describe a bat to someone who had no concept of them, but knew what a mouse was, what key differences would you draw on? If you answered “well, bats are bald,” congratulations! You are French and also a crazy person. Chauve-souris, translated literally, means “bald mouse,” and frankly, that alone does not touch on what I would argue to be the core features of a bat. Namely that is has wings. Nice try French, but if someone were to alert me to the presence of a wig-snatched rodent, I would assume they walked in on me watching the ending of Beau Travail, not a bat in the rafters.
2) Un raton laveur (Raccoon): I’m sure you saw the hyphen here and went “uh oh, this one is gonna be some weird, misleading rebus also.” Never have you been more wrong, dear reader! Raton-laveur literally translates to “little washer rat,” or more adorably, “baby washer rat.” Raton is the diminutive form of rat, and laveur means washing machine or washer, so we could more colloquially call these scary little bandits “mop-rats”, “soap-scoundrels”, or “detergent vermin.” So it’s not a weird misleading title, but an endearing, uncomfortably accurate one! Don’t raccoons look they’ve been through the wash one time too many?
3) Un porc-épic (Porcupine): You could probably guess this one from sounding it out, and it makes a good deal of sense when translated. A porc is a pig and the –épic part likely comes from some denomination of prickly words, either piquer meaning “jab” or “prick” or épée (sword)/épine (thorn, spine). So a porc-épic is basically a prickly pig, not to be confused with the porc épique, which is a pig of epic proportions. It’s also just very cute as far as nomenclature goes. Also related is hérisson (hedgehog), which takes the verb herisser (to prickle) and makes it a diminutive noun – LITTLE PRICKLER!!!!
4) Un blaireau (Badger): Okay, I’ll come clean – this one has no crazy etymology or literalized translation. I just think it’s a dapper name for an dapper animal. Blaireau is the name of your rotund uncle with too-small reading glasses who gives you an almanac for your eleventh birthday. Blaireau is the name of the wealthy baron whose prissy attitude hides a sincere love for poetry. Blaireau is a reverse mullet, blaring with presence at the beginning of the word and streaming together in tidy roundness towards the end. Blaireau is also, coincidentally enough, the French word for a shaving brush, but I’m willing to concede precedence to the animal here.
5) Un mille-pattes (Centipede): If you know even the slightest bit of French, you’ll probably be scratching your head at this one. And all I have to say is, YEAH me too dude! As we all know, centipedes have 100 legs (or feet), with their name deriving from the latin “cent”, meaning a hundred, and “ped” meaning foot. This is how we differentiate them from their infinitely creepier-crawlier cousins, millipedes, which have “like, a thousand feet”, according to whoever etymologized that one. So why are the French so willy nilly with their roots as to designate the humbly hundred-legged centipede the name of “thousand paws?” Well, the simple answer is that there is no casual differentiation between centipedes and millipedes in French, despite the two arthropods belonging to two different taxonomical classes. If you’re academic or lazy, you can just throw out the word “myriapodes” – a Greek loan word meaning “many feet.” Cheater!
6) Un papillon de nuit (Moth): Speaking of confusing two insects for one another, how about showing some love to our good friend, the “night butterfly?” I love this one, as it has both the poetic elegance of metaphor and the stark bluntness of someone trying to describe to you that thing they just saw. French gets a pass on this one because I totally get it, but I think a lot of people don’t think as kindly of moths as they do of butterflies. In our cultural mythologies, butterflies are beautiful agents of pollination, symbols of rebirth and beauty. Moths are ugly little dowagers that eat clothes. Shame on you, popular imagination! We could learn a thing or two from the French and their moth-positive outlook on life.
7) Un Élan (Moose): You’ve surely heard someone speak about their élan vital in reference to something they can’t live without. Élan vital, translating to “necessary moose” is an expression that comes from an old Québecois aphorism that advises hunters to keep their eyes peeled for moose as this “vital” animal would surely provide adequate sustenance for the foreseeable future. Just kidding, that’s totally false, “élan” really means “spirit” or “essence”, though when it’s used without the affixed “vital,” it’s pretty safe to assume the person you’re talking to means moose. Funnily enough, “moose” in Canadian French is original, which is just begging to be tacked onto “with cheese.”
8) Une Méduse (Jellyfish): Every language has a better word for jellyfish than English does and I’m mad about it. Spanish, French, and Italian all treat these bizarre creatures with the mystery and mythology they deserve, referring to them as some derivation of “Medusa,” that famous gorgon of Greek legend with the serpentine hair. And how appropriate is that? Aside from the fun visual comparison of tentacles to snake-locks, there’s also this baked in appreciation for the tension between awe and danger that these creatures inspire. And the widely accepted English translation? Jellyfish. Like, a fish made out of Jelly. Très inspiring. You know, now I feel kind of bad for making fun of the chauve-souris – what better example is there of ugly Americanism than naming such a mystifying creature after the culinary staple of the 1950s? The French are on to something here, or more appropriately, we’re off of something. Let’s just start calling them Medusas from now on and forget this whole thing ever happened.
9) UnBuffle (Buffalo): Let’s face it – the English term for buffalo is already really, really, good. Its versatility as a word means you can make an entire, grammatically correct sentence just by repeating it 8 times. What I love about the French translation, however, is that it’s impossible to say without sounding profoundly apathetic. Try it. It’s like the concept of the buffalo is so inherently exhausting that you just give up halfway and resort to kind of grunt-sighing as a plan B. Also, if it’s a hot day, the amount of air that you just huffed out of your mouth will cool you and your conversation partner off without either of you having to find an awning or cheap novelty motorized fan. Granted, the number of occasions you will find to mention the noble buffalo in French is probably pretty slim, so it’s advised that you seek out bilingual ranchers if this is something you’re serious about.
10) Un ver (Worm): Ohoho. Ohhhhhhhhhh. I hate this word. I mean, I love this word since I put it on this list, but it’s a love that comes from a deep masochistic appreciation for its phonetic trickery. You may have realized this by now, but there are a LOT of words in French that look and sound VERy similar to our friend Mssr. Ver here. I shall illustrate with a sentence not unlike the Buffalo construction referenced above:
“Le ver vert est allé envers les véritables vers écrits en verre vert” “The green worm went towards the true verses written in green glass”
I know, you encounter that very common sentence almost every day. The green worms do love their scripture. But linguistic frustrations aside, I adore how miniscule and unpretentious this little noun is and I think it’s a phonetically suitable match for the unsung, unseen heroes of our planet. Vive le ver!
So here we are, dear reader… on a new adventure. Why would we stop at La Martinique when another Francophone pocket of the world calls. Let’s trade shipwrecks and volcanoes for island deserts, tropical rain forests and big discoveries and head to Madagascar!
So, Madagascar… know anything about it? Given a second thought beyond the beloved children’s animated movie? I hadn’t either, but now I do! Let’s get down in the dirt and discover Madagascar together. Now, I don’t pretend to amuse the idea that an entire country can be discovered in one small blog post. HOWEVER, we can catch a glimpse into Madagascar’s rich ecological and environmental history and go from there.
“Why focus on the ecology and environment of Madagascar?” Good question. Well, Madagascar was once a part of the super continent Gondwana but later split off to form the island it is today. Hold on, this becomes relevant. The animal and plant species stuck on the island after it split became isolated and started to form their own adaptations and subspecies which are unique only to Madagascar. Think Galapagos islands and all of Darwin’s special discoveries of new species. It’s the same deal with Madagascar. If this doesn’t interest you, let me see if this helps: a photo of Madagascar’s national tree – the baobab.
Look at this tree, people. Is that not one of the most magnificent things you’ve ever seen? If you say no, then this is not the post for you because I am truly in love with this tree and am dedicating the rest of this article to it… This is the Adansonia grandidieri, one of the six species of Baobab trees on the island of Madagascar. There are more species of Baobab trees found in Australia, Arabia and Africa, but this specific species is unique to Madagascar. The Adansonia grandidieri was named after Alfred Grandidier, who apparently was a big shot scientist in France. He made many discoveries in Madagascar, discovering about 50 new species of amphibians and reptiles. Bravo les scientifiques!
Okay, back to the trees. The Adansonia grandidieri can get up to 3 meters wide and 25 – 30 meters tall (this is the Alliance Française, we use the metric system). They produce vitamin-C rich seeds that are fresh or used for their oil. Just image a tree that large in your front yard… food and climbing for days!
Researching and getting to know the Adansonia grandidieri isn’t all fun and games. Unfortunately, with the growing need for agricultural goods, agricultural lands are swallowing up the Adansonia grandidieri habitat. There were once forests full of Adansonia grandidieri, but now they are now dispersed over large agricultural fields. Consequently, they fall prey to fires, competition from weeds and seed predation, all of which hinder their ability to reproduce and for little baby trees to grow. And this specific species of baobab tree is the most exploited in Madagascar, due in part to it’s rich seed.
However, efforts are being made to protect and boost the survival of the Adansonia grandidieri. And thank goodness for that, because these are gentle giants and beauties to behold. If you are curious about more species unique to the island of Madagascar, check out this website and keep fuelling your curiosity!
Time to stop treating la France Hexagonale like it is the only part of France that matters. Let’s travel to Les Caraïbes and explore La Martinique.
Now, if your interest is sparked by the past and adventure, then you are like me and Martinique is the place for you. I don’t know about you all, but reading only cold hard facts about La Martinique sounds a little boring. Although, it is important to know that La Martinique is very much a part of la République Française, is on the euro, was known (economically and culturally) as the Paris of Les Caraïbes in its heyday, and that the majority of people there speak Créole Martiniquais. No,I am looking for the spooky, and eerie… you know, in the wake of Halloween and all.
Now that you followed me all the way to Martinique, you might as well continue on my adventure to the city of St. Pierre, on May 8, 1902. Imagine a city filled with tourists, merchants, the people of St. Pierre of course, all happily going about their day. And then… BOOM! an earth-shattering and life-altering rumble from Mt. Pelée, the active volcano that looms over St. Pierre. Soon, fire fills the town and smoke surges through the city and reaches la bord de la mer, where many merchant and cargo ships were anchored. Not even the seafaring vessels were able to escape the fury unleashed by Mt. Pelée. Boats were being torn in half, pummeled by lava and debris. The cracking of wood and the cry of sailors were muddled only by the screeches of the volcano herself. However, the smoke finally cleared and revealed a once thriving city now demolished and left with few survivors. Close to 40,000 people died, according to The New York Times. One of the only survivors was a prisoner who was so well imprisoned that his cell protected him from the chaos of the volcano.
Okay, I get it, you’re thinking “Jane, what is this? I didn’t casually open up this blog to suddenly get so sad.” Well, dearest reader, out of all chaos and devastation must come something beautiful, right? To show you, let’s travel 115 years into the future, to Martinique aujourd’hui. Here, you find a town who never truly recovered from the catastrophe that was the eruption of Mt. Pelée. Even though St. Pierre never reverted back to being the “Paris of the Carribean”, it is now a quaint town known for history and the arts.
You could say that both history and art drew me to St. Pierre. Even after 115 years, evidence of the catastrophic volcanic eruption remains… in shipwrecks. Many many shipwrecks. Both haunting and inviting, these shipwrecks drew me in like fishermen lure in fish. I was hooked. More than 10 serene ships lie beneath the calm waters of St. Pierre teaming with wildlife and history. While you might have to look harder onshore to see the effects of Mt. Pelée’s eruption in 1902, its memory lives on in vivid beautiful blues and rusted reds below the waterline in a ship graveyard.
RAISINIER were all casualties of the eruption. They all lie right off the coast of St. Pierre as relics and reminders of what happened on May 8, 1902. They lie anywhere between 50 and 200 feet underwater. While they have all been scoured for treasure and swept for trinkets, they are still beauties to behold. Buried under the sea, these ships hold wonder and capture the attention of the adventurer and detective inside us all.
So, dearest lecteur and fellow adventurer, I will leave you with this task: pick up your scuba gear and don’t just read about this legendary ship graveyard. Go visit these shipwrecks for yourself. Swim with the wreckage, explore the vessels and then report back. I’ll be waiting.
Your favorite Alliance intern here. If you are anything like me, you enjoy a good cup of coffee. I know some of you aren’t fans of coffee, and I get that… you’re just wrong. No disrespect, I just needed you to know who you’re talking to: an avid coffee drinker and lover. And as that coffee lover, I have come to encounter many cups and different types of coffee, including the famous French café.
As an American, ordering un café in France for the first time was both fun and confusing. Because what you get is a shot of espresso, and not a massive, diner sized cup of joe that we are all so fond of and used to. But hey, after a while I got used to my little espresso shot and actually began to enjoy it.
Now, there must be something in the air in France that allows people to have a shot of espresso 5+ times a day and still sleep through the night because it seemed to me that everyone would prend un café all the time. This quite impressive French tolerance and infatuation with coffee got me wondering… is there something special about French coffee?
Turns out, it isn’t the coffee necessarily that is so special, but it is the ritual of going to a café to order un café that is so special! You see, cafés (the place not the drink) since the 17th century have served as important meeting places for social, political and culinary innovation. In Paris particularly, going to a café was oftentimes more useful than reading a newspaper when it came to getting information, news, or gossip. The café turned into a place where you could eat, talk, drink, meet new people, share ideas and be a part of society. They were also a hub for artists and writers alike, such as Voltaire and Rousseau. No wonder they are si populaires and found on every corner in France!
“Ah ha!” I think. So it is the history and tradition of the café that fuel the French obsession with espresso shots at any hour of any day. Next time I find myself with a piping hot espresso, in a Parisian café, whether in my dreams or in reality, I will be thinking of the centuries of café drinkers, socialites, inventors, artists and politicians that potentially sat in the very same seat, and I will smile.
Does America’s pastime translate to the langue de Molière ? Mais oui! Learn les positions de baseball en français and meet some of the many big-name players have connections to France. Here’s a rundown of just a few.
Eric Gagné, lanceur de relève
For a time, the most dominant pitcher in the MLB was Eric Gagné, a crafty closer for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Most baseball fans know him for his trademark goggles and consecutive save streak. Francophone fans might also know him for his name*. Eric grew up in Quebec, knowing only French until he moved to the States. After retirement, he has spent time in France, including a stint as the national team’s manager in 2016.
*Gagné is the past-participle form of gagner, or to win. So, one can say that Eric a gagné 33 matches. An impressive career for a stoppeur from Canada.
Claude Raymond, lanceur partant
Known by his teammates as “Frenchy”, Raymond was the first québecois player to named an MLB All-Star. In 1969, Quebec gained its own MLB team, the Montréal Expos. Raymond pitched for the team from its inaugural season to his retirement. After his playing career, Raymond took on an even bigger role with his hometown franchise, broadcasting games in French for thirty seasons. Sadly, the Expos, now known as the Nationals, have since moved to a non-francophone region: Washington D.C.
Melissa Mayeux, arrêt-court
While Melissa has not yet stepped on an MLB field, she has already made history in the league. The shortstop became the first women eligible to sign for a team in 2015. As an arrêt-court, she is the most important defensive player on her team. Her unique combination of athleticism and intelligence has caught the eyes of scouts. Being added to the list is only the first step in many on a journey to the majors, but this young woman from Louviers has changed America’s pastime forever.
Extra innings… Les positions!
Pitcher = Lanceur
The French term is much more literal than ours: lancer means “to throw”, making lanceur “thrower”. A lanceur partant starts the game, and a lanceur de relève comes to help out of le bullpen (some words are the same in both languages).
Catcher = Receveur
Another literal interpretation, as recevoir means “to receive”.
First baseman / second baseman / third baseman = Joueur de première base / deuxième base / troisième base
While you might expect to see première basehomme as a match for our “first baseman”, such a thing does not exist. Instead, one adds joueur de in front of the noun.
Left fielder, center fielder, right fielder = Joueur de champ gauche / champ centre / champ droit This follows the pattern used with the infield positions. You just add joueur de to the area of the field and you’re done.
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