March 31, 2012

La Déesse

In the beginning of the First French Republic, many countries challenged the authenticity of this new government and saw it as an opportunity to take over parts of France. Lille was subjected to attack from Austria in 1792. After several days of cannon fire, Lille won the battle.

To commemorate Lille's victory, a statue was erected in the Grand'Place (or la place du Général-de-Gaulle) in 1845. The statue is known as La Déesse (the goddess) because of her mural crown. Her left hand points to an inscription of the Mayor at the time's refusal to surrender the city.

Lillois enjoying the sun while sitting around La Déesse.

She is meant to watch over and protect Lille. She holds in her right hand a boutefeu, a stick with which one ignites a cannon.

A close up on La Déesse and her boutefeu, as well as the top of the tower of the Chambre de Commerce.

Although originally just a column in the middle of the square, La Déesse is now surrounded by a beautiful fountain. She is a meeting place for many a rendez-vous in the city center, as well as big cultural events (like when Lille won La Coupe de France). If you stop by during la rentrée (the return to school) in September, you will often find college freshmen plunging themselves in the fountain.

La Déesse and her fountain in the center of la Grand'Place.

It's a great place to stop, sit, and enjoy the beautiful Flandres architecture that surrounds la Grand'Place. Especially when the weather is nice.

Check it out:
Place du Général-de-Gaulle, otherwise known as la Grand'Place

March 23, 2012

Comment Dit-on?

One of my family's stories is about my Uncle Gene. Gene studied abroad while he was in college, spending a semester living in Vienna, Austria. When he came back from being abroad, my mother says, he used to flaunt it in everyone’s faces, continually asking, “oh wait… how do you say [insert German word] in English again?”

I would always laugh at how pompous Uncle Gene had been, sure of the fact that he was just being snobby and shoving his German knowledge under everyone’s noses.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have become Uncle Gene.

Since moving home, I am often times unable to think up a word in English. My sentences no longer flow. I find myself starting a sentence in a way that only makes sense in French.

I’ve been home for quite a while now, and yet I continue to find myself in situations where my brain is unable to come up with an American equivalent of what I want to say.

Sure, when I came home after a semester of studying abroad in Paris I didn’t have this problem, but when I compare my study abroad experience to my uncle’s (I got to Skype home every weekend and spoke English at school; he never got to call home and was immersed in a German university), I say he really did earn the right to forget English words.

And while I still do feel ridiculous and pretentious every time I forget a word in my native language, I know I’m not doing it on purpose or to show off.

It’s made me “rethink” my opinion of my uncle.

Have you moved back home after a long period abroad? How long did it take you to feel like your English was back to Native-Speaker-Normality? It's been 4 months already, brain, get it together!

March 13, 2012

Wine More Time

While in Bordeaux, I wanted to drink lots of Bordeaux wine. So while at the office du tourisme, I asked for a list of wine bars. FBF and I decided to try one called Wine More Time because it had an awesome name and a view of the grosse cloche (fat clock).

The bar au vin (wine bar).

The view.

We sat down, selected a wine from the list of vin au verre (wines by the glass) and also got the cheese plate.

The menu.

When the man came back with our wine and cheese, he asked us where we were from (no doubt hearing my accent).

When we told him where we were from, it was surprisingly not the girl from California but the boy from le Nord who was the topic of conversation.

Moi, je suis de Toulouse, qui est aussi plus nord d’ici, mais pas assez au nord que vous!” (I’m from Toulouse, which is north of here, but nowhere near as far north as you!) he told FBF.

Vous ne buvez pas du vin là bas, non?” (You don’t drink wine up there, do you?) he continued.

FBF confirmed that in le Nord people are more partial to beer than wine.

I then learned a little bit about the opinion the rest of France has towards Lillois.

Ça c’est parce que vous n’êtes pas les vrais français!” (That’s because you aren’t actually French!) he exclaimed, brimming with pride to be from le Sud (the South).

FBF had the good nature to laugh, but I was taken aback. It's one thing for Americans and other foreigners to view the French as nothing but red wine drinking baguette lovers, but actual French people thinking the same thing? I was astounded.

Then I realized that half the time I tell people about Lille, I talk about how we're more Belgian than French anyway. Maybe all of France knows this, too.

And really, what's so wrong with a having a preference for beer?

March 9, 2012


In school we’re taught that après means after. After as in subsequent to, for example “after we eat diner, we do the dishes,” and not as in to resemble, for example “he takes after his father.” While that second one is a phrasal verb, when I thesaurus-ed “after” it came up with both.

The French don’t seem to have such a rigid view of the word après, and it took me quite a while to get used to it.

When we first started dating, FBF would often ask me if I wanted to do something après.

To which I would reply, “after… What?”

He would reply with things like, “oh, after we finish eating” or “after the game is over” and would put it into a more concrete context.

But once we were finished with the designated activity, we wouldn’t always do what was supposed to happen après immediately after.

After much frustration and confusion, one day it dawned on me. I had to stop thinking about after quite so literally.

Après when used like this is actually similar to the dreaded American usage of “later.” Later as in some unidentified time in the future, for example "I'll call you later."

Later holds all the annoying flexibility that the French put into the word après.

I wonder if the use of après when said by one's crush in relation to an activity the two of you are going to do together sends French girls into a fit of over-analysis just as "later" did to 14 year old me.
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