Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Snow in October

Wikipedia map

I recently traveled to the Pyrénées-Orientales departmentof France, which is the most southeast department in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France, bordering Spain.

The weather was nice and sunny, but cool in the evenings.  One morning, I was surprised to suddenly see snow on the Pyrénées – what mesmerizing beauty!

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Royal Commute, “Sire” – “Your Majesty”

I am so excited, on cloud nine, over the moon, etc.   I absolutely love anything to do with Versailles, and actually, am traveling there soon.  The RER-C commuter trains, running from Paris to Versailles, are being re-decorated inside to ‘match’ the interior of some areas in the Chateau de Versailles (link in English).  How totally cool is this!

All aboard — Especially me!

Photos Credit:

French TV3 Video:

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Resort/Restaurant/Hotel in La Gaude

 I recently spent a “get out of town city" day at the Sunset Hotel and Resort, a four-star establishment in La Gaude, a town situated between the mountains and the sea – about 10 km (6 miles) from Nice. This historial town is a hiker’s paradise and was home to Marcel Pagnol, the French writer famous for the novels, Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources, later made into films.

The resort has several tennis and squash courts, a large outdoor pool, charming terraces, a bar area & restaurant, a playground and a rabbit pen to amuse children. It was a nice sunny day, as I enjoyed playing a little tennis and dining al fresco with a view overlooking the pool. A Nice quiet day outside of NICE!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Local Fashion Show: “Journée de la Mode”

To celebrate the season changing from summer to winter, a local town held a fashion show to promote its local businesses. Not exactly haute couture, but entertaining and charming, in presenting fashion and beauty to consumers, to brighten an otherwise gray and overcast, rainy day (videos below). One of the male models certainly brightened my day!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Another Scam Alert

Recently, a friend of mine was eating lunch, with a group of about 25 others, at a restaurant in Nimes in the Langedoc-Roussillon region of France. A young man asked one of the ladies if she had dropped something and pointed to the floor, and when everyone bent over to look at what he was talking about, he stole her purse, that had been hanging on her chair, and ran away. (Yes, her passport and credit cards were in it!). Of course, these type of scams happen in Nice, but can happen anywhere.

It’s easy to think that everyone is trying to be helpful in cases like the above, and it’s sad that we have to mistrust everyone nowadays.  Here’s a link that may be helpful, but here’s hoping that you never need this info.

Be alert, be aware, be travel smart!

Art Exhibit at the Port in Nice

The “vernissage” for charity, featuring paintings done by a friend, was well attended.  The works of art merged powerful women’s faces, provoking images of an interesting ménage à deux.  Everyone mingled, nibbled, and enjoyed the artful ambiance. Can you guess who the featured/paired women are? What two powerful women would you add to this collection?

Monday, October 22, 2012

"What's Up Doc?" - Les Carottes

Carrots make me think of the American cartoon, “Bugs Bunny,” and I don’t really think of eating them other than, maybe, sliced in a salad or added to a pot roast.

I recently stayed with French friends, where one evening, the entrée/appetizer was Carottes Râpées.  I was surprised at how tasty grated carrots can be, not to mention visually appealing.  So, here’ s my friend’s recipe, which I am adding to my petit French cooking repertoire:

Carottes Râpées

Peel carrots and grate the carrots (using a food processor makes this easier; result as in the photo), then stir in lemon juice, olive oil, and parsley.  Arrange in the center of a plate.  Add slices of tomatoes (sprinkled with parsley or pepper) for contrasting color and flavor, as well as for added decoration around the carrots. Quick to make, simply delicious, and healthy!

Vocabulary:  a food grater = une râpe (pronounced like wrap)

Voila! Bon Appetit!

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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Wine Robotics X 2

#1 A new robot (known as Wall-Ye) has been designed specifically to help winemakers with its ability to prune vines — in fact, its creators say that it can prune up to 600 each day. And for vineyards, the machine has more to offer than just manual labor, as Wall-Ye also has the added ability to record data on plants and soil using six built-in cameras. It also includes a GPS and gyroscope that serve as a security feature, so that the robot knows when it’s not where it should be. “If that happens, the hard-drive self-destructs and the robot sends a message to the winegrower: ‘Help!’” says creator Christophe Millot. Wall-Ye will soon perform sales demonstrations for a number of vintners in the country, though those who want the robotic helper will need to spend around $32,000 for its services.



Some hypermarchés (see list below) have installed a robot-like wine sommelier (wine waiter) to help consumers with which wines to select: just type in a food selection and Max makes a few wine recomendations. You help narrow the search by selecting a region, price range, and type of wine, as shown in the below video.

The list of  Carrefours with “Max le Sommelier”:

Aix en Provence, Athis, Barentin, Claye-Souilly, Collegien, Dijon Toison Or, Ecully, Flins sur Seine, Givors, Ivry sur Seine, Labege, Lattes, La Ville du Bois, Les Ulis, Lormont, Merignac, Mondeville, Montesson, Nice, Ormesson, Pontault-Combault, Purpan, Rambouillet, Saint Andre les Vergers, Saint Brice sous Forêt, Saint Pierre des Corps, Tourville, Venette, Venissieux, Villabe, Vitrolles, Wasquehal.


Friday, October 19, 2012

McDonalds is “McDo” in French

According to a recent issue of The Wall Street Journal, 14,000 McDonalds in the U.S. will begin posting calorie counts on their menu boards. Surprisingly, the highest calorie item is not a “Big Mac,” but is the “Big Breakfast.” Beware though: the healthy sounding mango pineapple smoothie (32 oz.) is equal to the grilled chicken sandwich in calories (350).

Although many chains already post calorie content, McDonalds is heading off a federal labeling requirement, where restaurants with 20 or more outlets will be required to post calories on menus. McDonalds also wants to portray their menu as not only containing junk food, with apples having been added to the kids’ meals. Americans now consume about 1/3 of their calories from restaurants and spend about 1/2 of their food budgets at restaurants.

Studies show that when calorie content is publicized, consumers generally decrease their intake, while other studies show no correlation.###

What do you think – do you pay attention to posted calorie content when ordering at a restaurant?

There are 15 McDonald’s in and around Nice, and although I haven’t been in one, when I pass the ones on the Promenade des Anglais and on Ave. Jean-Medicin, there always seems to be a lot of customers. I frequently see advertisements on the television for McDonalds too, so they are imbedded into the French landscape now, and whether this is positive or negative, seems to be a part of current French culture.
I happened to notice a automated ordering station in a nearby McDonalds as I was walking by (no calories posted) – I’m not sure these are to be found everywhere – has anyone used one (see video)?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

NICE is Nice!

Living in NICE is Nice….VERY Nice!

Nice’s mayor, Christian Estrosi, is proactive in improving Nice and has big plans for the capital of the Riviera in the coming five years:

- Place Pierre Gautier near the Cours Saleya is to be renovated, giving the heart of Old Town a fresh look
- Rue des Ponchettes will be the site of a green, rooftop walkway to stroll and enjoy views of the sea and Old Town
- Line 2 of Nice’s Tramway is in the works, linking the Port of Nice to the Airport of Nice
- A future TGV train line will link Nice with Marseille

In 2016 Line 2 of Nice’s successful Nice Tramway, Nice’s tramway system will be completed. The route will connect the airport to Place Massena, before slipping underground to Nice Port and up to the city’s northern suburbs, allowing passengers to hop off a plane and into town in around 15 minutes. The council’s magic wand will also be passed over the old Gare du Sud in the Libération area (which will host new stores and a media centre).

And finally, in 2025, a new TGV high-speed train line will link Nice with Marseille in just over an hour. The final journey from the capital of the Riviera direct to Paris will be just under four hours.

Photo credit: Conseil Generale

Saturday, October 13, 2012

French Winemakers Concerned Over ‘Chateau’ Change

“French winemakers are concerned their US competitors may be given permission to use the symbolic “chateau” label on bottles exported to Europe, destroying the meaning of the term.

Photo credit: ALAMY
A committee of representatives from the Bordeaux region were among the first to denounce the initiative, which they claim would confuse French consumers, and ruin the tradition of chateau wine production.
In France, wine labelled “chateau” is associated with a product entirely made from grapes grown on a “terroir” – a specific patch of land- giving it a unique identity and flavour.

But a new proposal by the European Commission, to be addressed later this month, would allow American wines made with a mixture of grapes purchased from different growers, to use the title as well.

A committee of representatives from the Bordeaux region were among the first to denounce the initiative, which they claim would confuse French consumers, and ruin the tradition of chateau wine production.
Representatives, who base much of their sales on the use of coveted chateau titles in their region, are to meet on Monday in an attempt to push the French government to veto the initiative.

“There is a great danger that the notion of the chateau will disappear in France … the consumer is going to feel lost,” said Laurent Gapenne, president of an organisation that guarantees wine labels represent their geographic origin and quality in the Gironde region, which includes Bordeaux.

Speaking to Le Parisien newspaper, Mr Gapenne added that the “chateau” label accounts for up to four fifths of sales for winemakers across France, because it represents “a reference of quality” for consumers.
“It is unthinkable that the European Commission, which is supposed to defend our interests, approves of this measure,” he said. “In the United States it’s different, they use the term chateau to create a brand name like Coca Cola or Nike.”

Mr Gapenne said the proposal was made as part of an “exchange” that would allow European wine producers to rely more on the American labelling system, which traditionally highlights grape variety, rather than where the fruit was grown.  He said that if Stéphane Le Foll, the French agriculture minister, refuses to fight the measure, wine producers could seek legal action.

French winemakers also fear that if the move is successful it could spread to other countries, and spike competition with American wines. “Today the importation of American wines in France is marginal. That could change with this opening,” said Mr Gapenne. Bernard Farges, vice president of the Federation of Great Wines of Bordeaux, said: “Such an authorisation could create a precedent for the ensemble of the terms synonymous with winemaking,” such as ‘cru’ (vintage) and ‘domain,’ among others.”

EU representatives in charge of the measure could not be reached for comment. The European Commission’s Common Organization of Agricultural Markets will preside over the discussion of the measure later this month.”

Source: The, written by Devorah Lauter, Paris

Friday, October 12, 2012

Yes - You "Cannes"

Cannes France, is one of the best-known cities of the French Riviera, a busy tourist destination and host of the annual Cannes Film Festival. The population was 70,400 as of the 2007 census. Cannes is the home of numerous gated communities. The city is also famous for its various luxury shops, restaurants, and hotels. (Source: Wikipedia )

Seems everyone who visits the French Riviera wants to go to Cannes (pronounced like can) because of the notorious film festival. I had recently eaten lunch in this famous city and enjoyed a leisurely stroll, while window-shopping – or to be more exact, window hopping. I have also watched the International Fireworks competition from a boat anchored in the bay of Cannes – a really amazing sight/site!
Have you ever visited Cannes?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

French Bureaucracy – Oh, la, la, la, la!

As followup to my previous post about the new driving laws in France, there has been a new development reported – there’s a new deadline!

The requirement to have a alcohol breathalyser in your car has been pushed back four months until March 1, 2013, due to continual problems in supplying the demand for the kits in time for the already revised deadline.

Interior Minister, Manuel Valls, reportedly stated that the increase in the time for the legislation to come into force would be used to review the effectiveness of even requiring motorists to have an ethylotest – Allez savoir !

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Wine Rip-off & Tourist Trap

I was meeting friends (and their out-of-town friends who I hadn’t met before) for un aperitif at one of the cafés at the Port in Nice, before going to another friend’s “vernissage” held just around the corner. When I arrived, I found them sitting out front of  “Le Privé du Vieux Port“; they had just ordered a bottle of  rosé wine. We were busy making introductions and chatting when la serveuse  brought the wine, and began opening it.  I did notice out of the corner of my eye that she unscrewed the top, as there was no cork – a bit strange I mentally noted.  After we all tasted it and agreed it was too sweet and didn’t really like it, we checked the bottle label – “Gallo” from California.  My friend told me she had ordered “a rosé Provençale/locale” and that the girl had brought the wrong wine.  In the meantime, the waitress brought a bottle of red (with a cork) that one of the group had ordered – also “Gallo” brand.  As we debated and discussed the rosé error, with the bottle having been opened and 1/2 already poured into glasses, it was left undrunk, as we sipped on the red (better tasting, but still just an ordinary table wine).

We needed to get going, so decided to chalk it up to a live and learn moment ….. until ….. we got the bill:   60 Euros for the two bottles on wine!!  I asked the group if they had ordered from a wine menu – No!  Now it was time to verbally tackle the waitress (I also wanted to physically) and state that the price was outrageous for this wine, albeit “imported” from California, that most quality wines don’t even cost that much, and that she had in fact given us the wrong wine (apparently, the Provençale wine would have been even more expensive).  After arguing (politely) with her and a male worker, they finally reduced the bill to 50 Euros.

There were errors made on “both sides” of the table, to be sure, but I personally felt that they were taking advantage of foreigners/my friends.  There was a chalkboard propped near the entrance door that apparently had wines and prices listed, but my friends hadn’t noticed it nor had it been presented to them by the waitress.


- always ask for “la carte de vin” (wine/drink menu) before ordering
- ask the price if it’s not listed or you aren’t sure
- check the bottle’s label BEFORE it’s opened, in case of a misunderstanding
- don’t be shy or afraid to confirm any information you are clear about
- don’t let one incident dictate your overall perspective or viewpoint

As the saying goes, “you’re never too old to learn” – some life lessons just cost more than others!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Should’ve, Would’ve, Could’ve….

I believe having regrets is a waste of time and energy, and that it’s best to learn from our past in order to move on.  However, in everyday language we use the expressions, “should’ve/would’ve/could’ve” often to justify, reason, and explain a given situation, especially by adding the word “if.”

In French, “should have, would have, could have” is expressed by the past conditional tense:  formed by using the conditional of the helping verbs “avoir” or être” + the past participle of the verb.  It takes practice, so here’s some sentences to translate (and a beautiful song):

(See answers below)

1.  I would have gone to France, but I didn’t have enough money.
2. I would have liked to see her.
3. We would have returned to see the movie.
4. I would never have done that.
5. You could have done it yourself.
6. He should have been there.
7. She ought to have saved some money.
8. They could’ve driven to Monaco tomorrow.
9. We should have left early.
10. We would have arrived on time, if he had not come late.

1-Je serais allé(e) en France, mais je n’avais pas assez d’argent.; 2-J’aurais aimé la voir.; 3- Nous serions revenu(e)s voir le film.; 4-Je n’aurais jamais fait cela.; 5-Tu aurais pu le faire toi-meme.; 6-Il aurait été là.; 7-Elle aurait dû économiser de l’argent.; 8-Ils auraient pu conduire à Monaco demain.; 9-Nous aurions dû partir plus tôt.; 10-Nous serions arrivés à temps, si il n’était pas venu en retard.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

“Une Affaire” To Remember

I am a nervous flyer – always have been. When I travel to the U.S. to visit family, I always dread the long flight in coach class. However, for my recent trip, I decided to buy a one-way upgrade to business class at a reasonable price – the difference was like night and day, and I even forgot, well almost, where I was!

It was very interesting to see how the ‘other half’ flies! I had priority status, which included access to the Air France lounge in Paris, where I ate a free breakfast and hung out until flight time. The height of the ramp to the upper/top seating level of the aircraft matched my upper level of anticipation and excitement for being able to totally recline in the oversize seat and have quality & service. True enough, I was drinking champagne before the cabin doors were closed and sitting alone, like a queen on a throne.

In contrast, on the return flight in coach class, I was lucky enough to have an empty seat next to me. So, I had more space and wasn’t as crowded as usual, which was nice. That being said, it wasn’t quite the same an flying in “La Classe d’Affaires” – a very pleasant and memorable trip, and now I’m spoiled!

Priority Airport Lounge

Vocabulary Lesson

Toiletry Kit
Foie Gras appetizer
Dessert plate
Vegetable Crumble