Tag Archives: paris

Sunset view of Paris from Montparnasse Tower

Aside from having to queue, there is one major drawback to viewing Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower, and that is that you can’t see the Eiffel Tower! So I went up Tour Montparnasse which is quieter yet provides an incredible panoramic view of Paris. Go at sunset and you’ll not only see Paris drenched in the pastels of the evening light – you’ll also see the Eiffel Tower light up and sparkle on the hour (every hour after dark) for 10 minutes. Unbeatable!

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Learning French in Paris

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One of the objectives of my trip was that I would live in Paris for one month and learn French. After months of deliberation earlier this year I selected a school called L’Atelier 9. I’d done what I usually do when looking for things….search on Google, read reviews and ask questions. From the beginning they were always very quick to answer my emails (and not to mention, super friendly) and the school was competitive on price. Plus, they arranged home-stay accommodation for me at no extra cost. And when I had an absolute nightmare with Paypal for the deposit, the Director, Stéphanie, was amazing and so patient!

I was placed in an Intermediate Level class with Céline as our teacher. We started off as a group of girls from Israel, Czech Republic, Holland, USA, Germany, UK and South Korea, and two weeks into it some of the girls left and we were joined by another American girl and an Australian guy. At no point was there more than 9 students in total. 

The classes were all in French and with the small size we were given plenty of opportunity to practice speaking. In one month my French improved dramatically, to the point where I managed conversations on the metro (mostly complaining about the heat) and had a chat about the football with a waiter at the café next to my house. He’d seen me in my Argentina football top and called me over to the café to express his sympathy about the hammering we received from Germany! Céline was an incredible teacher and she would write down pretty much everything so there was never any confusion about spelling or structure. What I really liked in particular was that we also learnt how people actually speak (slang and idioms) rather than merely basic, formal French.

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There are plenty of schools in Paris, including prestigious ones like the Alliance Français and La Sorbonne, but I was really after something more laid-back. With L’Atelier 9 there was homework daily but there were no tests and that suited me fine; I wasn’t there to improve my French for any professional reason – it was purely for self-interest. The school also provides many free services, including information about events in Paris and a handy tips and hints session for newcomers to the city. Coffee and tea is on tap at the school, and there is free Wifi also. During my month there I also took part in a theatre workshop session after class one day, and an aperitif gathering to meet students in other classes.

Of course, the whole experience was made all the better with the homestay I was placed in. Laurence welcomed me with open arms and we shared many laughs and evenings of long chats over wine. On my final night she prepared a delicious dinner of escargots, foie gras and macarons to share together along with Amalie, a Danish girl who’d taken the second spare room in the house during my final week. Also incredibly convenient was the location of my homestay in relation to the school. I was living in the 18th arrondissement (close to Montmartre), and the school was a 25-minute walk away in the 9th arrondissement, close to Galeries Lafayette. 

Four weeks isn’t long but it’s long enough to get to know some great people, and be missing them ever since. Some of us formed quite a tight-knit group and I look forward to seeing them all again!

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Escargots, confit de canard et macarons (Snails, duck and macarons)

Due to frogs being out of season while I was in Paris I had to try some other traditional cuisine before departing. And it doesn’t get much better than this:

  • Escargots (snails) which were prepared with a butter/garlic/parsley sauce
  • Confit de canard avec pommes persillées (duck with parsley new potatoes)
  • Macarons (a sweet biscuit that comes in all sorts of flavours, including anise, berry, chocolate, vanilla, caramel…etc)

All of these delights were delightful, even the snails which were actually so good that I had them another time.

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Copyright

All images appearing on this blog (solange.posterous.com) may not be reproduced, copied or manipulated without the written permission of Solange Francois© 2010

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Salade au Chèvre Chaud (Hot Goat’s Cheese Salad)

Cétait délicieux!

That’s what I said to my waitress when she cleared away my bowl of what had been Hot Goat’s Cheese Salade. How can you go wrong with a bowl of salad leaves mixed with walnuts, tomato, bacon, roast potatoes, fried egg and three generous portions of grilled goat’s cheese on top on toasted bread? 

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Île Saint-Louis and its wonderful shops

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Back in 2004 I fell upon Île Saint-Louis after visiting the nearby Notre Dame Cathedral. Due to it being mostly residential, it is relatively quiet and far less touristy than its neighbour, Île de la Cité. The other day I went back and there are three shops in particular that caught my eye.

1) Berthillon – I can’t vouch for it as yet, but supposedly this is an ice-cream haven and there is always a queue outside. What caught my eye? The store typography and the wooden exterior.

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2) Clair de Rêve – A quaint little puppet store that also houses themed watches, collectible cars and French character statues.

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3) La Cure Gourmande – A chocolate-lover’s dream. The Olives Au Chocolat are to die for and the biscuits and nougats also look incredible. To top it off, they package your purchases in beautiful bright yellow bags.

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Photos: Fête de la Musique in Paris

Held every year on the 21st of June since 1982, this brilliant festival of music lights up the streets and hearts of all who come within its reach. And you almost have no choice in taking part since all of Paris’ arrondissements have musicians or bands sharing their talents until the wee hours of the morning.

I headed to the 6eme arrondissement at 7pm to meet up with three girls from my French course, and we first headed to the Jardin du Luxembourg to watch a passionate group from Ecuador charm the crowds. One of the members was Bolivian, and the Bolivian Ambassador was present to enjoy the festivities. 

For me, the festival is a reminder of the power of music in bringing people of different cultures and beliefs together and simultaneously pacifying the soul. My host-mother Laurence told me that although it’s one of the busiest nights in Paris, problems are few and far between because music (whether it be jazz, rock, classical, hip-hop or any other genre) makes people happy. She couldn’t be more right.

Copyright

All images and videos appearing on this blog (solange.posterous.com) may not be reproduced, copied or manipulated without the written permission of Solange Francois© 2010

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First glimpses of Paris

Copyright

All images appearing on this blog (solange.posterous.com) may not be reproduced, copied or manipulated without the written permission of Solange Francois© 2010

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