29 December 2015

A chocolate thought for the day

In all its various forms, chocolate must surely be one of the essential accompaniments to any end-of-year celebration, and the papillote, the sine qua non of the December holiday season in the Rhône-Alpes, is certainly no exception.

Once again, these festive chocolates "appeared" under our Christmas tree on the 25th morning. And, as is always the case, they have been quickly dwindling in number since.

Each papillote is wrapped in a slip of paper which contains a famous quotation, proverb or aphorism.

Yesterday's degustation provided me with the following, both of which seem appropriate as we sit down to candle-lit tables to share food with friends and family.

Creole Proverb
Be sure the candle is lit
before you throw away the match.

Richard Whatley
Never argue at the dinner table,
for the one who is not hungry
will always have the last word.



14 December 2015

Cuisinez-vous le français? — A Review

However you found your way to this post of GFiMP — whether you hopscotched from another blog, landed here by accident, or sought us out deliberately (thank you!) — chances are you too probably have a little bit of France in your pants.

Maybe you know it; maybe you don’t.

Maybe your interest simply lies in knowing more about the French people and what makes them tick. Or maybe you’re more interested in everything from the country’s history and recent events to its music and language, art and food, or holidays and cultural celebrations. Maybe it’s a combination of the above, or something else entirely.

Whatever the case may be, you might be happy to know there is a great new way to help you mâitriser two of the most enjoyable yet sometimes daunting elements of French culture that Francophiles must one day come to terms with: French grammar and cooking.

Introducing Cuisinez-vous le français?, a concept that blends learning French grammar with cooking authentic French food. The project was created by Langues & Nature, a company that has been offering French language immersion courses for adults and teens for more than 30 years.

How it works
Once a week subscribers to this innovative service can access a new video via computer, tablet or mobile phone, and then watch, listen and repeat (subtitles are optional) as teacher and chef work side by side in the gorgeous kitchen of the Château de la Mazure in North-West France.

Watch. Listen. Repeat. Cook.
I recently had the opportunity to take Cuisinez-vous le français? for a test drive and found the online interface simple to use, the recipes well within my current culinary reach and the grammar rules a good way to review—and improve!—my language skills. Here are some suggestions, then, for how you can take full advantage of what Cuisinez-vous le français? has to offer.

Watch and listen   First, take the time to watch the video at whatever speed is best suited to your current language skills. Also, use the subtitles if you need to. Watch and listen as many times as you want. The videos are short enough that even several viewings won’t take up much of your time. [The text explaining the grammar rule and the video transcript are conveniently located on the same page].

Repeat   Then, once you feel comfortable, repeat along with the instructor using the subtitles. The next step is to turn the sound off and read along with the subtitles. Just remember: it doesn’t help if you only repeat inside your head, so make sure your repeat out loud.

Cook   And finally, once you have watched, listened and repeated several times — and collected your ingredients — it’s time to head to the kitchen. There you can watch, repeat and prepare the recipe alongside the chef. Soon you are not only speaking French, you are also cooking le français and learning some French culinary secrets at the same time!

An added bonus you'll appreciate is the tip, located at the bottom of each lesson, for which French wine to associate with the dish you’ve just created, as well as some informative dietary advice about the ingredients.

Learning as fun
There’s a school of thought that says when learning is made fun, it becomes extremely effective, more effective, some say, than conventional or traditional teaching methods. We retain and recall information more quickly and with greater precision and ease, factors which can definitely give you an edge when learning a new language.

When I think back to how I learned French, it wasn’t a whole lot of fun. Too bad Cuisinez-vous le français? wasn’t around back then; my apprentissage would definitely have been more ludic, and rather than feeling threatened by iron-fisted teachers such as Claudine, I might have been up and running much sooner when it came to things like la maison d’être and the ever intimidating subjunctive verb tense.

Now it’s your turn
There’s only one thing left to say: get yourself over to Cuisinez-vous le français? today and sign up for a year’s worth of French language and cooking lessons.

52 videos.
52 grammar rules.
52 iconic, seasonal recipes that have helped make French gastronomy so appreciated the world over.
52 opportunities to delight your friends and families with some delicious regional specialities.
52 chances to have fun.

How much is it? Only 52 euros for a one-year subscription. That’s 12 full months of French language/cooking lessons for less than what many people spend on coffee in a single month!

And with Christmas nearly upon us, why not offer yourself, or someone you love, a gift of fun? As someone recently noted, it will make a change from socks and scarves!

So click here to steer your web browser over to Cuisinez-vous le français? today and have a look around. You’ll be hard pressed to find the same unique combination of French language and cooking lessons all wrapped into the same fun package.

For more information, you can check out their Facebook page here or read this article in France Today magazine.

Happy cooking, happy learning, and happy holidays!

08 December 2015

December 8 — Festival of Lights

I've already posted about the Festival of Lights in Lyon (here), but the shows being cancelled this year due to the terrorist attacks in Paris on 13 November have made it all the more poignant.

Lyon is still going to celebrate though, and pay homage to the victims from Paris, they way they have for decades — by putting little lights out on their window sills. Public announcements have sprung up at bus stops, in the metro and at kiosks throughout the city these past few weeks encouraging everyone to illuminons notre ville.

So if you are in Lyon tonight, I encourage you to look up. And why not put out a candle or two of your own and spread the light.

18 November 2015

Just Another Face

Walking around my neighborhood last night I was thinking how refreshing it is that, despite the recent tragic events in Paris, people here, total strangers even, still have the courage to look one another in the eye, something I don't remember happening too much, if at all, back home. 

The story below was written many years ago during a prolific writing spree that lasted nine months. Observing the men and women and children on the sidewalk last night, all of whom looked me in the eye as we passed, reminded of the anecdote below. Somehow it feels appropriate to bring it out and share now.

* * *

She's just a face in a window.  I can see her from our apartment.  Straight, dirty-blonde hair falls to her shoulders as she sits, hunched over her desk, chin resting on a fist.  She taps at her keyboard with two index fingers, then stares at the flat computer screen.  Waits.  More tapping.

Occasionally she picks up the telephone, then dashes away from her desk in one fast, black blur, carrying files and papers, important-looking things.  She's always dressed in black — pants, jackets, shoes.  She wears white blouses, though.  The cuffs are always showing out the ends of her sleeves like curls of whipped cream.

An anonymous face.  Bank worker probably.  Something to do with numbers, market trends.  Stocks perhaps.  Must be nervous work the way she's always snacking on something — chips, lollipops, her nails.  Her desk sits next to the window and never once does she look out or even up to see if clouds are passing overhead.

At the end of the workday she'll probably take the elevator with shiny silver doors to the ground floor and walk out onto the street, blending into pedestrian traffic.  Blending in.

Maybe we've crossed paths before, asked each other the time.  I, too, often find myself on the street.  Inside me, a rush of sounds and thoughts and images always swirl about, dancing the dance of the butterfly, never resting on any one thought for too long.  "How do I say that in French?  Je voudrais, no, J'aimerais verifier que…encore…or it is toujours?  Merde!  I never remember…" My sons are sleeping…It's 12:55pm…conscious in breath…Like this the dance continues. 

Hands stay in pockets if it's cold.  Someone in front of me takes a long drag on a cigarette.  Holding my breath, I pass with my head down and to the side, inhaling again only once the smoke is safely behind, consciously sidestepping the dog turd on the curb.

People pass one another without words, lost in their own thoughts, talking on cell phones, smoking, rushing to appointments, school, the doctor, the store.  Fast fast fast, never looking up to spot the blue ribbon of sky through the city canyons or to appreciate the centuries-old architecture.  Everything else is so important.  We're like planets, with our own civilizations, sometimes crossing paths, orbiting around our own centers of interest, sometimes brushing one another, often never taking notice.

There are truly human moments though, moments that can send shivers through to the bone.  They come through the eyes, a silent, penetrating look.  "I see you," they say, sometimes flirtatiously.  Souls exchange whatever it is they need to in that moment, then move on, generous but detached.

Some don't move.  They are the pillars, the still points, sitting on sidewalks with plaid blankets, German shepherds sleeping at their feet guarding stainless steel water bowls and plastic cups with coins.  Sometimes we offer them a nod, a clinical bonjour, a coin tossed in the cup if we're feeling moved or generous that day, a handshake and a few words if we're willing to slow down.  Then we're back to business, gotta get there, off we go, bonne journée, go, go, go!

But they are the ones who see the poplar and cherry trees blossom in spring and the swallows chase one another over the rooftops.  They know what the sky looked like at the end of each day.  They see us, too, possibly thinking, "Thanks for the coin," or "Just another busybody," or "Just another face in the window."

14 November 2015

Paris — City of Love, City of Light



"Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."
- Martin Luther King Jr.

10 November 2015

Did You Know...? Part 14

Throughout history the French have made quite a name for themselves, innovating and making discoveries that some say have changed the world.

From Pasteurization (Louis Pasteur) and the aspirin (Charles Frédéric Gerhardt) to the first motion picture (the Lumière brothers), French inventions span multiple categories across the centuries: Arts & Entertainment, Chemistry, Physics & Mathematics, Medicine & Biology, Communication, Transportation, Clothing and, of course, Food & Cooking.

Here are a few honourable mentions that may (or may not) surprise you:

  1. Aqualung - invented in 1943 by Jacques-Yves Cousteau, this device gave divers an unprecedented level of autonomy by allowing them to stay underwater for several hours at a time.
  2. Braille - in 1829, Louis Braille invented this system of raised dots, giving blind people an easy way to read and write, a method still in use today.
  3. Hot air balloon - created by brothers Joseph and Jacques-Etienne Montgolfier, they launched their first hot air balloon, called a Montgolifère, in 1782.
  4. Mayonnaise - Sources differ on this one. Some (the Spanish) claim it was created by them on the island of Menorca. The French, of course, say the contraire. But whoever whisked together same-temperature egg yolks and oil for the first time has undoubtedly made a grand contribution to world food culture ever since.
  5. Modern Bikini - in 1946 two Frenchmen, Jacques Heim and Louis Reard each introduced, independent of one another, their redesigned "skimpy" versions of the two-piece swimsuit in vogue at the time. Heim called his the atome while Reard named his the bikini, a direct reference to the atomic testing going on in the Bikini Atoll at the time.

It might at first seem paradoxical that the same culture is responsible for what may appear to be diametrically opposed innovations — mayonnaise and the bikini.

But that just points to a mystery that many people have been trying to solve for ages — how is it that French women stay so darned thin?

It is a just question, and one whose answer deserves its own post for a future date. 

Stay tuned!

23 October 2015

"Bon pied Bon oeil" Photo Competition

The results are in!

"Nature in the city" or "Urban Nature" was the theme of this year's contest sponsored by la Maison Rhodanienne de l'Environnement. 80+ participants submitted more than 120 photos between 20 March and 30 August.

Winners were announced at the awards ceremony on 1 October 2015 at the bookstore Raconte-moi la Terre in Lyon.

If you visit the expo (tip: the photos are exposed in the café part of the bookstore, in the back), you just may recognise a photo from a previous Got France in my Pants post (here) hanging on the wall. It doesn't say so, but this photo was the public jury's choice for second place.


To see all the photos that were submitted for the contest, click here.

You can see all 12 winning photos at Raconte-moi la Terre until 2 November.

06 October 2015

Did You Know...? Part 13

public domain image
Of the 34 species of bat (les chauves-souris) found in France, 30 of them can be observed (right place, right time) in the Rhône-Alpes region.

The Rhône-Alpes region contains 8 départements — Ain, Ardèche, Drôme, Haute-Savoie, Isère, Loire, Rhône and Savoie — all of which offer the bats a rich variety of habitat of mountains, river basins, hills and plains, and a Mediterranean zone.

All species of bat living in Europe today are insectivores, meaning they help regulate insect population, everything from the smallest mosquito to the larger grasshoppers and June bugs.

In France, all species of bat are protected. What's threatening them? Human activity mostly, i.e. urban sprawl, loss of natural habitat, light pollution, wind turbines, etc.

So the next time you are in the Rhône-Alpes region and it's dusk, look up. You just might catch a glimpse of a winged shadow darting above your head, the ancestors of which flew through the same air 55 million years ago.

public domain image
And if you want to know more about bats, check out the book "Les chauves-souris de Rhône-Alpes" (Bats of the Rhône-Alpes) published by La Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux Coordination Rhône-Alpes (LPO Rhône-Alpes).

It's a beautifully illustrated, 480 page work (in French only) that, if you manage to read it all, will make you a living expert in the only mammal to have conquered flight like birds.


Any detailed information about bats cited above, which I certainly did not know before, came from this source:
Groupe Chiropètres de la LPO Rhône-Alpes (2014), Les chauves-souris de Rhône-Alpes, LPO Rhône-Alpes, Lyon, 480 p.

04 October 2015

Blood Moon, Supermoon

A lot has happened around the world in the six days since the moon slipped into, and then back out of, a total eclipse. Here are a few pictures of how it looked from Lyon, France during the early morning hours of 28 September 2015.

The next full eclipse of the moon will take place on 31 January 2018.

(click on the images to see a larger view)


04:47 GMT +2 - The moon in maximum eclipse


05:12 GMT + 2 — exposure time 2 seconds


05/16 GMT +2 — exposure time 4 seconds
The dots of coloured light come from an airplane passing in front
of the moon during exposure.


05:30 GMT +2 — exposure time 2 seconds
The moon on its way out of the eclipse.
images are ©Alex Quici

02 October 2015



The Canucks played hard, they played fast, but it wasn't enough to overcome a strong French team.

And how did Rémy Grosso do in his début match? He scored a try in the 74th minute.

This link here will take you to a highlights video of the game on the Rugby World Cup website (with commentary in English).

Up next for the XV de France — Ireland on 11 October to decide the winner of Pool D.

30 September 2015

Rémy Grosso — First Game With the XV de France

France's Rugby World Cup adventure continues with a match against 4th placed Canada this Thursday, October 1st at the Milton Keynes Stadium 70 kilometres north of London.

From what I've been hearing (radio, TV news), the odds are in France's favour, having already won their first two matches, first against Italy and then Romania (Canada lost first to Ireland then to Italy). And historically, the XV de France have beaten Canada in each of their last five meetings.

Rémy Grosso powers past an opponent
during the Rugby Sevens Tournament
in Lyon on 14 June 2015.
Joining the national team for the first time is Rémy Grosso, who plays wing for Castres Olympique in France's Top 14 league. Grosso was called up at the last moment to replace Yoann Huget who injured his right knee during the game against Italy.

Grosso is a powerful, explosive player — a "puncher" as he's been called by Philippe Saint-Andre, France's coach — who started playing rugby at the Rhône Sportif club in Villeurbanne next to Lyon. He eventually went on to play for
Lyon's pro team, the LOU (2008-2013) before joining Castres Olympique.

This past June, Grosso was one of a handful of players from the Top 14 to join France's national Sevens team to help them qualify for the 2016 Summer Olympic in Rio. The Sevens team got their ticket to the Games after winning the July tournament in Exeter.

The kick-off for France's third match in this year's Rugby World Cup is set for 9:00 pm CET. Grab your popcorn and beer and hopefully, at the end of 80 minutes, we'll have something to cheer about.

Allez Rémy, and...

from wollux.com


03 April 2015

INCITY — Lyon's Newest Skyscraper


Four years ago this month, when presenting Lyon's newest skyscraper, the Oxygen Tower (2010), I mentioned that the city also had plans to construct another in the Part-Dieu business district. You can read that post here.

I also promised to give an update on any new developments if I was still in Lyon. I am, and the new building is nearly finished. It's called INCITY, and in January of this year it passed up the Crédit Lyonnais building (165 m) to become the tallest in the city. When inaugurated this coming October, the tower's 39 floors will have reached a culminating height of 200 meters, offering clients 42,000 square meters of rentable office space.

According to the tower's website, the new skyscraper is the first downtown high-rise in any French city to boast the High Environmental Quality (HEQ) rating. A sustainable development design, it's a low-energy consumption building with solutions that allow for natural lighting, integrated ventilation openings and wind-powered energy production.

Here are some recent photos of the newest addition to the Lyonnais skyline. Click on each photo for a larger image.


From the Croix-Rousse on 1 February 2015.
The river in the bottom-right corner is the Rhône.



1 April 2015.
View from the same stairs as in the April 2011 post.


The last two photos were taken from the garden outside the Maison Villemanzy restaurant in the Croix-Rousse on 1 April 2015.





You can read more about the INCITY tower (French only) on the official website here.

Or go here for a nice write-up in English.


01 April 2015

Poisson d'Avril

Happy April Fools' Day!

In France, kids play jokes on people today by sticking a fish to someone's back then shouting Poisson d'Avril!.

If you want to know why, check out this explanation.



(image source: PublicDomainPicturesDomain.net - Eddie Fouse)