Archive | June, 2011

La Isla del [En]canto

30 Jun

I decided to brush off my political hat and throw it on my neo-Parisian head to bring you this slice-of-life from one of the places I call home, Puerto Rico.  A fellow Puerto Rican friend shared the link below with me, and I felt it important to share it with you.

By the way…

La Isla del Encanto translated means ” The Island of Enchantment”. La Isla del Canto loosely translated means “The Island of Song.” Why the Island of Song? Because with a strong, independent cultural foundation, Puerto Ricans shout out/sing out against the odds to fight the hard fight to save the island they love.

http://aljazeera.com/programmes/faultlines/2011/06/2011627132222888846.

Now mind you, as with any country, there are my political perspectives on the island. This is just one of them.

With love to all my Puerto Ricans out there raising their voices against all odds, I stand in solidarity from far away.

Ode to David Bowie and Lionel Richie

22 Jun

I normally don’t write about particular cultural events that I partake in, as I leave those kinds of postings to all the travel blog writers in the world…and trust me, there are many.  But I figured this particular event merited a little bit of mention.

Yesterday, I had the wonderful pleasure of experiencing what is now my most favorite “holiday” ever. That is, yesterday I got to enjoy my first Fête de la Musique (translation: one hell of an awesome street music festival.) It is an annual event that happens all throughout France (and a handful of other countries) on the 21st of June where hundreds of musicians gather in the streets, bars, and cafes, giving free performances of everything from jazz and rock to hip-hop and orchestral music.

Paris was ALIVE and KICKING! It was a full blown party in the streets where on any and every street corner, park  or cafe you would adventure  upon a new party with a new melody. We were literally dancing in the streets… all night long! (Thank you, David Bowie and Lionel Richie!)

(I wasn’t able to upload my video, so alas this will be a still photo adventure.)

First, we wandered through the Bastille over to the Marais. After hearing a bit of roots reggae and rock from Quebec, we came upon a cool little blues band.

Blues and Tabarin

We continued our journey into the Marais…and found a little folk rock in the window. (The small tiny grey-haired dot is the attraction in this pic.)

music and martinis...excellent combo

We kept along our course, when in the near distance I heard the booty shaking rhythms of a batucada! Now that’s my kind of jam! Mojitos and percussion made this moment heavenly. Not to mention, that we were partying in the backyard of what was once Victor Hugo’s home (you know, Victor Hugo…the guy who wrote Les Mis…the book, not the Broadway musical!) 

Batucada in the streets!

After about 30 minutes of  solid cardio,  we came upon the cool down portion of the workout… a 5 piece band featuring a guy on a very tiny accordion playing what I think is French folk music. ( I asked my hubby for the exact genre, but he had no idea either, so I’ll just call like I hear it.)

taking it old school

After a rousing 2-step dance, hubby and I continued our venture about town. We were sure to hit up the Marais to see how the Rainbow section of town was celebrating…and let me tell you, it was quite the partay.  Sadly, my photos of the event don’t do it justice. But I will say this…house music and leather abounded!

Then…we decided to go see how the tourists were taking it in. The riverbanks were lined with revelers clustering around all sorts of music and there were even some very cool boat parties happening. (I had thought about pulling a James Bond and taking a dive off the bridge onto the boat, but with my luck, I’d end up belly-flopping past the party and into the brown water.)

River cafe at Notre Dame

This was a stationary boat. No need for bridge-jumping adventures…

Lastly, we strolled down the Left Bank making our way home. That last stretch of journey took us around the world and back as we heard a bit of blues, some salsa, more unnamed French folk music, a splash of tango, and even a high school band’s rendition of Abba’s Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight.)

Once home, we kicked off our shoes  and propped up our tired feet while the heavy bass sounds of the ongoing festivities pumped in through our windows. The party was still going strong. But I decided to call it a night. After all, I did have me a man after midnight…;)

Dear Friends…#2 (Food Wars)

21 Jun

Dear Friends,

Summer has started out with a bang! The weather is fantastic, and the city is buzzing with life. The cafes are packed as eager Parisians populate all the sidewalk terrasses everywhere. One thing I can’t quite figure out though…how do the French stay so thin?!  I mean, their entire cuisine is carb based and tends to consist of at least 3 butter laden courses. Not to mention, they drink wine as if it were going out of style! Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE it all, especially the wine part, but if I so much as look at a croissant, I feel the pounds claiming their place on my thighs instantly. What’s a non-French gal to do?  Perhaps it the whole “you are what you eat” thing? In which case, I should eat a baguette, so I too can be long, thin, and irresistibly fresh!

Enjoy your summer!

With love,

Sra. Blanc

Where do I begin?

From [Paris], With Love #2

19 Jun

Bonjour  my fellow weekenders!

Hope you’re all having a fabulous time, wherever you may be today! Here’s a little something to tickle your fancy.  More random pics from life out and about…

Fouquet, you say?

Sometimes you just gotta say …

"So...what do you think about my hair? Too much?"

Slash called. He wants his hair back.

There's no place like home...

The one-shop for all your sex and drome needs. (Okay, so I took this picture last Christmas, but I just had to throw it into the mix.)

I call this one...A Wanker in the Park

This lovely statue (yes, it’s a statue…as in a work of art) lies lazily along the Seine River decorating its idyllic banks. I’ve seen children climbing it.  I bet you this guy shops at the Sexodrome.

Anti-Colonialism ...and Buffet!

I bet you more revolutions would be won …if they all served food.

Wonder Twin Powers…Activate!

14 Jun

Form of…Google Translator! Shape of … accent aigu … or grave … or the little triangular hat one!

If I could have one superpower, it would be the ability to speak every language known to humankind. Actually, it would be the ability to communicate with every living thing, but besides the fact that in saying that I might come across as a granola-eating, Birkenstock-wearing, tree-hugging hippie from Northern California (and part of me is, sans Birkenstocks), I also realize that such a wish might, in the end, be more annoying than awesome considering that the tree I just hugged might yell at me for stepping on its roots. So for now, I’ll keep my superpower to just the languages.

Now mind you, I understand that having such a superpower might make life a little less exciting being that it would definitely limit the amount of humility-inducing mistakes that come with learning a new language in its home country.  For instance, I can’t describe the amount of entertainment it brought to everyone at the hair salon when I told them that I was going to wear a small bicycle on my head for my wedding (and by bicycle, I meant veil), or the amount of confusion that was brought on by my telling my parents-in-law that I was going to the Middle Ages, when, in fact, I just wanted to go to the second floor.  These are indeed those small, yet key moments in life that humble one’s ego and create a new sense of self-awareness often necessary in “keeping it real.”  But for me, you can take those moments and les fourrer dans votre traducteur de Google.

just to be clear...

I suppose this whole wish goes with the fact that I love to talk and get to know people, and that’s just not possible when I have absolutely no idea what they are saying. I have become a master of the game ‘Guess What They Are Saying’, but more often than not, I’m playing that game all by myself.

And although I have perfected the “I understand you” nod along with the appropriately timed “oui,” I long for the moment when I can have a real, substantial conversation that doesn’t include the price of something, the location of the toilets, or a half-assed explanation of why my name may sound like the name of their language, but that in fact, it is an actual name spelled a bit differently. (My parents did not name me after you mother tongue, I promise.)

    “Je m’appelle Frances, pas française!”

More than anything, what I would love is to have the ability to express myself fully, to say what I’m thinking, and for people to get to know the “real” me, all existentialism aside, that is.  There are so many things I’d love to share, but am unable to due the fact that my vocabulary is close to that of the pre-kinder level (at family gatherings, I end up talking mostly to my 3 year old nephew. He gets me.) Not to mention that up to this point, I’ve pretty much only conquered the present tense. This is mostly useful when describing current occurrences or becoming a Buddhist.

And forget about trying to have a sense of humor in a new language. Funny doesn’t always translate well, giving or receiving. Although I did attempt a joke the other night at a dinner party, but ended up calling the host a gay pedophile. Much explanation ensued. (I swear, French people, I’m actually funny in English!)

Now, with the above said, there are some upsides to being language-impaired. For example, it is quite handy to be able to get out of any uncomfortable situations or telemarketing phone calls with a simple, “I’m sorry. I don’t speak French.” (My hubby loves to pull this one despite the fact that his accent is reminiscent of that of Pepé Le Pew’s. He ain’t pulling the brie over anyone’s eyes with that move.)

                  “Sorry, I don’t speak French…yet.”

It’s also really nice to be able to escape to my “language bubble,” where all the background clatter of surrounding conversations becomes calm, white noise, and I can be left alone with my non-Francobased thoughts to enter into an almost meditative state of observation and thought. (I actually do find this really enjoyable.)

But, when all is said and done, I’m eager to give it the old college try and add one more language to my slowly-growing roster. There are over 6,000 different languages (depending on the whole language vs. dialect debate…but that’s a completely different blog) on this planet. I’m at 2 ½ and counting.

Where does one begin?

And hey, if I’m already dreaming in French, I’m only 575-600 class hours away from actually speaking it in real life. That’s just around the corner.

However, until then, I’ll take that superpower, please.

I wonder if this is what they thought I meant??

From [Paris], With Love #1

5 Jun

Greetings weekenders!

I’ve decided to start a photo series to honor all those little things I find along my journey that strike my fancy as funny, amusing, interesting, or just plain random. Hope you enjoy!

Selling everything from beds to friends

Initially, I thought this was a place where I could buy some cute little friend or maybe a fun gang member, but alas it’s just a place to buy couches and beds.

To detect or not to detect?

If I ever find myself in the middle of a Film Noir, I know where to go.

Cleaning up stereotypes one napkin at a time

Come on, Frenchies…really? You could at least leave the banana at home.

Serving up stereotypes...on the rocks

This one goes out to my Spanish speaking homyz;)

Painting entitled: Old Stereotypes Never Die

Turning the stereotyping eye back on themselves…this does make me chuckle though cuz it’s still true! (I have seen cadavers on bikes carrying baguettes and a basket of veggies. I swear!)

Smoking will make you a revolutionary!

FYI…This is a pack a cigarettes! I’m pretty sure that when Che led his revolutions, this is not what he had in mind. (By the way, the label on the bottom warns that “smoking gravely damages your health…” I would imagine that Che would argue that the most damaging thing to his health was the Bolivian government.)

Spacepod or self-cleaning street toilet?

This space-pod looking thing is a public toilet that not only offers much needed relief after many a bottle of wine, but it also cleans itself after every use! No need to smell the reminders of all the previous users. After you’re done in the pod, all the filth is washed away. Kind of like an urban baptism.

(*Drop it in the mail: If  along your journeys you find anything funny, amusing or random that you’d like to share, feel free to send it to me.  I’ll be sure to share it with the world…or well, at least those that read my blog!)

I Love Paris

1 Jun

First, let’s begin with a little tune that sums up my general feeling, shall we?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WF_yN1R2b5M

Now, I can continue…

Last Saturday marked the first full weekend day that Pierre and I had together that didn’t involve either a trip to Ikea (phonetically pronounced “Ee kay ah” here in France), apartment redecoration, or a family gathering. Ecstatic to get out of the house, we decided to do what one does best in Paris….stroll. And since the weather was absolutely perfect for a day hike through the city, we put on our best walking shoes (I’m still learning what are my best walking shoes as the ones I chose to use were not them) and hit the town.

As soon as we stepped out of our building, we quickly realized we weren’t the only ones with this brilliant idea. The streets were packed! People of all shapes, colors, genders, ages, and socio-economic status were enjoying the, what I came to find out later, unusually warm and sunny Spring. In my mind, this is exactly what I pictured springtime being like in Paris…sunny, warm, and romantic. After all, if Cole Porter and Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole sang so lovingly about it, there had to be something to this whole Spring thing here. However, according to all the Frenchies with which I have spoken, May normally brings showers while June offers up the flowers. Hmmm…perhaps that would explain the exorbitant amount of people outdoors? Regardless of all that, Paris in the springtime will remain in my mind just like this…until further notice.

Books galore!

Our jaunt took us down the quais than run along the Right Bank of the Seine. One of my favorite things about promenading the river is that both banks are dotted with cute, worn bookstalls that sell everything from used books to cds to posters to souvenir trinkets. You can get a book on Charles De Gaule’s early years and a pocket Eiffel Tower for the price of a crepe. Trust me. In France, that’s a bargain. And as a lover of books (and trinkets and all things old), I always make it a point to stop at least at one or two of the stalls and peruse their goods. One of these days, I’ll actually know what the books say. Til then, I’ll just keep checking out the cover art.

We kept on strolling all the way to the Louvre where we stopped in to meet up with a group of people I appropriately met on MeetUp.com. In case you have never heard of it, MeetUp.com is a website that offers the world’s largest network of local groups. Very cool if you want to meet people of similar interests in a new town as they have meet ups for any topic of interest possible. The group I joined is called Married to Frog. Being that I am married to a frog, I figured it would be a perfect fit.

Frog love

And there we sat…a group of international expats and their “frogs” enjoying wine and conversation passing the time exchanging survival tips, sharing stories of assimilation or lack thereof, and laughing at all the awkward moments that occur when cultures clash. It was really nice to know that I’m not the only one out here having problems communicating with the in laws. Comfort in numbers, I suppose.

Now, I’ll tangent a moment here to explain that I had brought back from the States a handful of bags of Reece’s Pieces and Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups to offer as souvenirs. Peanut butter is not a staple of the French diet (with the exception of these peanut butter flavored Cheetos-thingies, which if I may add, are really gross,) so anything with peanut butter is quite a novelty here. Pierre had the brilliant idea of bringing a pack with us to eat as a snack along our journey. Well, I pulled them out at during our cocktails with the expats, and needless to say, they were devoured in minutes. Ah…comfort food.

After the gathering wound down, Pierre and I hit the streets again, ready for one more adventure before day’s end. Still buzzing from our earlier glasses of wine, we figured more wine was in order. When in France, you know. And since I had not had the pleasure of experiencing a French picnic yet (definition of French picnic: take a bottle of wine, some bread and cheese and sit anywhere you damn well like as all ground is fair game when it comes to a picnic in the city), we made one happen.

nothing like dining along the river

We took our bottle of rose, our herb-spice goat cheese, and our organic gluten free breadcrisps (hey, a girl’s gotta watch her diet out here), found an empty spot along the river after giving all the other loving couples sitting in the prime spots the evil “get up and leave” eye for about 20 minutes, and laid out our feast.

Right there along the Rive Gauche behind Notre Dame and in front of the hundreds of picnic-ers around us, we watched the sunset and celebrated our first picnic as husband and wife…and the completion of our first full Spring day together in Paris. You have hand it to the French, they sure know how to enjoy life.

If only Cole Porter (and Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole) could see us now…

living the good life

(This is a little something I wrote about 3 weeks ago that I had originally posted on a different blog site. I figured, might as well spread the love and put on this one. ;))