From loving America on Bastille Day to incorrectly applying American expressions like hot dog to wearing the clothes of the fashion defenders (defenders since 1986) to having stores dedicated to a very specific industry to eating at a restaurant that doesn't label you in the most positive light - France has quite the sense of humor.
I think I know why they have such a good sense of humor:
Good news - I said yes!... or oui... or maybe I said "the cat is under the table and the car is blue" but whatever I said in french resulted in cheers and confetti and a hell of a party. The bridezilla I didn't think lived inside me made a brief appearance before the ceremony began when I was a giant marshmellow packed in a hot car because people wouldn't get their french fannies inside the church, including my now-husband (The whole big reveal tradition was important to me). Obviously I didn't want be so be sweaty you could smear me and my marshmellow dress on a graham cracker and top me with a Hershey's chocolate bar. I finally was able to exit the car and all of us were about to begin our walks down the green mile... I mean the aisle... when I realized I had forgotten both my veil and bouquet. Luckily the best man, FM, and his girlfriend, Charlotte, who I now knight as an honorary bridesmaid, hopped in the minibus and went back to the hotel to grab those items despite my insisting it was OK and that I didn't really need them. I'm guessing the near tears in my eyes were a bigger indicator of what needed to happen more than my words. Meanwhile my 3 American bridesmaids said all the right words like "You're such a beautiful bride" so convincingly that I award them an Oscar for their performance. But, in my defense it would have been a federal offense to NOT accessorize myself with the GORGEOUS bouquet which consisted of a few white flowers (don't ask what type... I don't do plants) and a lot... like lots and lots... of different types of green leaves from fatter leaves to little whispies. Utterly gorgeous (and I don't give a crap about flowers or plants... don't tell my mother-in-law who arranged flowers as a hobby or LPZ who has spent so much on the gardens... hey I came around to the awesomeness of the boardwalk...well and more so the beer serving cafe alongside it...ah how I miss our volunteer happy hour(s...s...s)). I believe the word you're looking for is...anyway...
We played tons of games... it's both a french wedding thing and even more a Dimiccoli wedding thing. 1st of all everyone was wearing a sticker namebadge (yes, we forgot to take them off for some of the pictures so it will forever be immortalized). On the namebadge were little circle stickers of different colors: red, yellow, orange, pink, some with a dot drawn in the middle. There were also hearts drawn, etc. So each sticker meant you were part of a group and the task was to figure out what your yellow dot with a drawn dot in the middle, or your heart, or your pink dot meant. Some were confusing like a group I was in which was all french people and me. I was the odd link there. As Sesami Street would say... or sing rather: "One of these things is not like the other" (OK, well my generation will get it). Turns out the group was... drum roll... Parisians. That's me now! I totally forgot. Anyway it was a great game and really mixed everyone together.
Another game was, everyone at the table had to draw someone else at the table. We were given a regular blank sheet of paper and colored pencils and we all went to work... and this is wear I lost any mascara laughing so hard I cried. Turns out artists are rare or at least amongst my friends and family. It might have started some wars between couples: "That's what you think I look like?! I'm a cross between a Frankenstein head and and a linebacker body in heels!" or "Is that my pregnant belly or my fat?!"
2 more games:
1. Manu and I were called up to the front of the room and made to sit in chairs facing away from each other. We were then handed a sign. On one side: a picture of Uncle Sam doing his famous point and wanting you... on the other side... can you guess? yes, a mustache & baguette toting Frenchie in a striped shirt, beret, and well your imagination is doing a better job than my words. We then received questions about which is better, the US or France, for:
- Beer: winner - US (le duh)
- Raising children - France
- BBQ - US (but i wanted a picture of the country of Texas)
- Food - France
- Getting married - flipped the picture back and forth to indicate tie but it wasn't allowed.... so we weren't lynched, we said france, but...........
the idea was at the end, the country who won is where we should live. Winner? USA
2. This one was the most physically demanding and got a little down and dirty. It revealed our friends and family who are cheaters, that's for sure (*cough-marie celine&caline-cough*). Each of the 12 tables selected a representative to go to the front and sit in 1 of the 12 chairs. Marie and Muriel (my new mother & sister in law) read the table representatives an item, such as a pamphlet from the church ceremony, that they had to retrieve. It was read in English then French or vice versa and when they finished reading the item in the second language, all 12 peoples ran out of there chairs to search for the item from their tablemates and make it back to the now only 11 chairs remaining. As physics tells us that 2 objects cannot occupy the same space, you can imagine that 1 person was left standing. Alas, a loser. The 1st person who lost was then told what they had to do for us in September and the 2nd loser in October and so on until every month was covered and 11 people were out. One example of a loser's task was to have us for a picnic... which we will do with Alex and Simone in Zurich in November. Marie Celine will have us for dinner and she lives in the south of France so we'll go down to see here in March. Notice how we're doing all the traveling for our rewards (ok, this was voluntary). Finally the winner... we will invite the winner to celebrate our 1 year anniversary with us.
Eventually it was time for the 1st dance. We began the slow dance to a Jack Johnson song (he's like your typical acoustic guitar, love song singer). Manu and I don't have the moves so this rocking back and forth continued for about 30 seconds when the DJ came on and said (in French), "Guys, this is nice for y'all but pretty boring for everyone else. Let's get this going so how about each person who is going to have a dance comes up and does their own dance for a while... starting with the parents of the bride"
- My mom and dad came up and led Manu and I in their style of dance (a combo of disco dancing and basic bobbing and waving hands in the air) to the song Joy to the World by 3 dog night for about 30 seconds. Then the dj said, "Ok, now the parents of the groom."
- Marie and Pascal came up and led us to their dance (swing dancing... and they do it very well) to the song Great Balls of Fire by Jerry Lee Lewis. Then the dj said, "ok now the groomsman"
- The 3 guys came up jumping around like hooligans to a very famous french rock song of their generation. As the sour look on your face correctly indicates, it was bad. ;) Then the dj announced the bridesmaids
- The 3 girls came up and danced to "Miley Cyrus, Party in the Usa." After 30 seconds of that, the dj announced that everyone could join the dance floor as Miley kept singing and thus the dance party began.
Dancing was interrupted to cut the cake and by cake I mean a table full of like 10 cakes on different levels with sparklers coming out of it and my favorite song called Colors by April Smith (if you don't know it, listen!), was playing. When entwined our arms to sip our champagne which actually wasn't too bad considering neither 1 of us like champagne all that much. Plus when you drink too much of it, it gives you a wicked headache... I've heard.
A few last shenanigans... Manu rented about a polaroid camera and brought a slew of costumes so after some drinks and dancing people began to dress up as Manu walked around and photographed people in blonde wigs, stick on mustaches, Kanye glasses (I realize some of you won't know what that means... just ask someone). Around 4am the dj played 2 specific songs. 1 song was Zorba the Greek (yes, the French stole the greek tradition to call it their own) and everyone got in a circle with the hands on the shoulder of the person next to them and they kick their legs and turn in the circle and it gets faster and faster and faster until you're just kicking everywhere. The 2nd song was for Paquito. Basically all the guys sit on the floor with their legs spread and they're tucked into the lap of the guy behind him so it forms a line. They rock forward and backward shouting "HEY!" and the bride and groom run toward the line, jump, and hope the line of guys catches you. They did! And then they pass you backward till you reach the end. Ok, good imagination but now imagine it with a big poofy dress. It actually takes some talent because if you're not stiff you arms go 1 way and your legs the other and well you're like speghetti going everywhere. Luckily, this wasn't my first time at bat so I succeeded and so did manu.
Around 5:30am the DJ played the last song and we went to bed... for 4 hours... before waking up for the day after picnic with guests from the wedding...
Bref (It's French for "in summary"): It's good to attend a Manu & Jessie wedding.
Double bref (It's Jessie for "ps"): There will NOT be a 3rd... Thank goodness!
How proud am I to ask for the tobasco at a brasserie and have the waitress look at me like I'm crazy. How I smirked when I asked the guy making my street-side crepe to add more hot sauce. How confidently I ate every bite of the smoked pork which had marinated in all sorts of pepper seasonings for a day while the rest of the family fanned their mouths.
As Justin Timberlake once sang, what goes around goes around goes around comes all the way back around...
in the form of beef tartar. That's raw beef.
The Texas stomach could take a bullet if it's made of pepper (or beer) but apparently if I were the great, mighty Achilles, we'd all be calling that tendon our raw beef heel. Because, it took me down, hard.
No details but T+4 days and I'm still not fully recovered. Ah how the mighty have fallen. Ah how I cower with my tail between my legs. Ah how my toilet laughs every time I run toward it. It's that evil French laugh too, I just know it. You know that one. Haw-haw-haw!
Brief: don't eat a full plate of beef tartar by yourself. Share it with the table. Either the amount is little enough to not affect you all or at least you'll be in the same boat. Though I hope that boat has more than 1 toilet and a lot of Febreze.
I know we can credit a lot to the French for awesome things that crept into our culture:
French skin care products
(OK half of these aren't really French but they sell better if we think they are. Or we reject it and rename it Freedom Fries... which are actually Belgian... like the waffle.)
So in this quickie post I thought I'd share a few words we thought were our own but we actually yanked from the French... serves them right.
Vinegar - In French it's Vinaigre. Success! A word I don't have to learn from scratch! But while for us it's the name of something we use to clean with, make salad dressings, or functional volcanos for a 5th grade science project, for them the name is actually a description, and a very true one. Vin-aigre. Did you guess it? Can you now? Most of you know vin (I'm shaking my head at you in disapproval - winos!). But yes, vin is wine. And aigre? Any guesses. What face do you make when you so desperately want to sip that wine from last week with your pasta you're eating this week? Hello bitter beer face! Yes, aigre means bitter. So there you have it. A very true description of the substance. Vinegar of vinaigre - bitter wine.
Cul de sac - Ok clearly this ain't no English word but did any of you guess it's French? On top of that you might be shocked to know, you shouldn't let your 5 year old say such a vulgar word. The last half of this word is easy. De sac is of sack. But what is that cul word? Your right cul doesn't sound French but as with the majority of French words, you don't pronounce the last letter of the word... letters are their frosting on a cake... not necessary but pretty. So pronounce this word without the last letter, l, and when you say the u, say it aaalllll nasal. Go ahead, say it. Cul.
Nice job, potty mouth! You just said ass. That's right and we're not talkin' donkeys for all you zoo folks trying to get outa this one. Cul de sac means sack ass. Think about the shape. Now place that shape at the circular dead end of a street. DING DING DING! Same shape. And thank you France for that little gem.
Because of my poor memory, or the fact that we had a housewarming party with a bit of non-bitter wine, I can't remember the others so I will continually post my etymological discoveries in something I've called "Les Petits" which will be little short posts.
Click on the link above to check out a VERY true pros and cons list of living in Paris or in France in general. It didn't even hit on the trains which fall into both the category of love and hate. For example here is a map of the Paris metro system::
Now here is a map of the "El" (elevated trains...though some run underground) in Chicago:
And those of you who don't live in Chicago or Paris probably don't have a public transit system that wouldn't mean losing your wallet and jewelry if you took it.
So for this, I love the Paris metro system. However a few days ago, a "security issue" delayed train after train which read "retarde" on the screen (it means late...it's not offensive) and then train after train switched to "supprimer" which means cancelled. When Manu asked the lady working there asked if we could take any other train, she very politely (it's always a polite no) said no, that all trains are affected. As you'll see in a minute, customer service (as noted in the article above) is another thing to lament about Paris (really most of Europe doesn't really get it). So as we're standing there debating whether or not to go home or wait for a train that would put us late for a meeting (if it even ever shows up) with a representative from my MBA program, we saw a train go whizzing by from a town farther from Paris than Les Clayes (Manu's parents' town). Turns out the train employee was wrong. Or not wrong but unable to think outside the box and really help us out. Some trains were running between towns before getting to the affected area in Paris. Which means we could have taken a train one stop backward and transferred lines and taken a different route to Paris that wasn't affected. After that, it was give-up-city for us! We decided to walk home... about 20 minutes away. It was a lovely walk home followed by an apology email to the lady at my school and a rescheduled appointment.
Now the charm of France is what happens on any given day. I'm convinced that the whimsical hours spent here and the ups and downs of life can you put you in much more unexpected situations than we have in US where things are so efficient that detours and setbacks are a rarity. Our lives are much more liable to following a routine. After this unexpected setback, Manu and I took a lovely walk through Les Clayes. It was the first time we had done anything leisurely since we got here. After accepting defeat from the earlier obstacle (a common part of life here) the walk was exactly what I needed to finally enjoy some time here... and I didn't even know I needed that.
On the walk, we encountered a little boutique. The contents that drew us to enter the store? An entire wall of beer including a Boston lager. Here we met Jerome, the owner of the store. When we entered the store, We received the quintessential "Bonjour" with its melodic sincerity (much prettier sounding and genuine than our "hello" in America). After hearing us speak English (I know, I know...I should be speaking French but...) he responded, "Ohh I guess I should have said hello and welcome"). We stayed in his store for about an hour. We spent 15 minutes looking at his vast array of unusual products by French standards and comfortingly recognizable products by my own: horseradish, whiskey (Jack Daniels is royalty here), and a wall of beer. The next 45 minutes were spent conversing with Jerome about his store, stories, and generally talking about this and that. All this was done at the expense of his customers who were waiting in line patiently. This is the true form of a real French conversation. When you've broken the ice, there is no small talk and then a goodbye. When you think the conversation is over, it just switches topics. Long pauses mean nothing. And, it's really really nice...... because I had no where to be. Don't get me started on trying to leave a party when Manu hasn't said hello to someone yet. Jerome was a delight and moved me to start keeping track of great people I meet so I can hopefully keep in contact with them and build a solid network here. He's someone I'm happy to know.
An up for the day!
Later that day, we were trying to buy all the accoutrements for our new smoker. This is no easy task here because the only smoker they know are the ones who light up cigarettes. After checking out a few stores, we had one more stop to make and the GPS said we'd get there just before closing so off we go. Well any of you who have been to Europe, specifically Italy or France, know where this is going. We walked up to the door with about 7 to10 minutes left before closing time.... to be turned away by a man. Manu calmly explained in French that we just need one item to no avail. He begged and the response was, everyone working here has already gone home. Oh OK, so by closing time at 7pm, you mean your staff is home by 7pm. Got it. Lesson learned. I may have started a slight altercation but to maintain my reputation, I won't go into details. And don't worry, I didn't scar the reputation of the U.S. because the guy told me that we people in the UK don't respect anybody. Sorry UK.
Next chapter - tails of smoking meat in France which is like us seeing horse meat on menu: curious but skeptical. Also up next, hunting for an apartment in Paris... which is harder than finding a good man in Chicago (ladies am I right?)
This is a post just to get it started... so Blogspot doesn't think I'm a robot blogger without anything to say.
VOILA! I have arrived in France. Not Paris yet but at the lovely home of my 1/2 in-laws. I saw 1/2 because Manu and I are only 1/2 married. We're fully married in August once his grandfather, the deacon, marries us in the church. I prefer the term 1/2 married to saying I'll have my 2nd marriage in August. That's a pretty quick turn around. ;)
Anyway, I never thought we'd get here and yet here I am, basking in the French sun with a cool breeze. It never gets really hot here. To most of you this sounds like perfection but for a Texan, this means real summer never arrives. It's not summer till you can feel your skin baking. Anyway, this along with not having spicy food, fried food, or any sort of Mexican food are the things of life for the next year.
I look forward to telling you all about my adventures and hope you find it amusing as well. Please comment so I can see some English besides my own. I'd also like to hear from you.