August 26, 2013


Like any weekday afternoon when I don’t have class, I was sitting at home in my UCSB sweatshirt and thick, winter tights studying (okay, watching tv), when suddenly there was a knock on my door.

I was surprised and unsure what to do. To get into my building one has to be buzzed in, or have a key, and it was the first time someone knocked on my door without my previously having let them into the building. I’m only on “bonjour” terms with my neighbors, so I was surprised one of them would be knocking.

Pompiers (firemen)!” a gruff male voice cried from beyond the door.

My fear intensified. Was there a fire? Or some other dangerous activity taking place nearby?

I looked through the peep whole to verify the man was wearing his firefighter uniform, and indeed there was a firefighter outside of my door.

I opened the door, not even bothering to put on pants, when this firefighter explained to me that he was there to sell me a calendar.

Quoi (what)?” I stood there in disbelief, realizing that I was pantless and there wasn’t any emergency to be had.

C’est la calendrier des pompiers, vous pouvez l'acheter en donnant autant que vous voulez (It’s the firefighter calendar that we give in exchange for a donation of any amount)."

Now, a new type of stress came over me.

Never having dealt with this type of interaction before, I had no idea how much money would be appropriate to donate. Plus, I’m a poor, starving student and really don’t need a firefighter calendar.

I felt bad just sending him away empty handed, so I got out a 2euro coin. He thanked me, handed me the calendar, and went on his merry way.

And that's how I ended up with a four page calendar featuring all of Troyes' lovely firefighters.

Some of the region's firefighters.
Source: Mairie Creney

August 20, 2013

Summer Ice

I’ve always wanted to see a glacier while there still are glaciers. Luckily for me, France is known for its glaciers at Mont Blanc.

The boyfriend's parents live a measly two and half hour drive away, and so we decided to take a trip up to see one of the world’s most famous glaciers, la Mer de Glace (the name translates to: a sea of ice).

If you haven’t heard of it, don’t feel bad, as I hadn’t either. All I knew about glaciers is that they are big, made up of blue ice, and stay frozen all year round. But after I was told about its grandeur by monsieur pommettes, I couldn’t wait.

After the drive, it’s a twenty minute train ride up a very very steep mountain, with an arrival directly at a platform overlooking the glacier. But to my eyes, there were no glaciers nearby. Only dirt.

La Mer du Glace.

Still, I could see glaciers that were at the far end of the mountain, and even that was pretty cool. Disappointed that we were so far from the Mer de Glace, I started listening to the guide.

Turns out, that pile of dirt actually is a glacier! In the past, the glacier was able to remove debris that landed on it. Nowadays that doesn’t happen.

Sometimes glaciers wear camouflage.

Despite its appearance of a dirt valley, we decided to make the climb down to see it closer up. There was supposed to be a nice view from a grotto.

Climbing down the mountainside, and then down 400 metallic steps attached to the cliff, we were there. Only, this wasn’t some rock alcove; it was a cave carved out of the glacier. We literally got to walk inside of a glacier.

Me in a glacier!

And the ice was bluer than I imagined.

August 11, 2013

C'est Trash

Most of the time, when people (myself included) talk about things they love about France they bring up baguettes, cheese, wine, the language, the architecture… stuff that is pretty classy.

But that’s not all there is to France. She's got another side, a trashier side, and, well, I love it too!

Here are four trashier aspects of French culture that I can't get enough of:

1. “Les Ch’tis à ___________”
One of my favorite French TV shows is a reality TV series that follows a group of young people from the North as they travel to new places. So far, they’ve made it to Ibiza, Mykonos, and Las Vegas to name a few. It’s basically like a French version of the Real World. There is roommate drama, hook-ups, and they are supposed to be finding jobs. It’s pretty low class TV, but I can’t wait for the next season. End of August!

Les Ch'tis à Las Vegas.

2. La Vache Qui Tache
While drinking games exist everywhere, it isn’t exactly a classy activity. In France, it gets even less classy beause they play a drinking game where you are literally marked up with soot as you loose.

La vache qui tache is a drinking game using a tongue twister, and if you mess it up, you earn a "tache” (or stain, which is also the same word for spot, as in a spotted cow, hence the fun playonwords).

Voilà the phrase:

“Je suis la vache qui tache numero ______ avec _____ tache(s), et j’appelle la vache qui tache avec ______ tache(s) numero ________.“
(I am the cow number ____ with ____ stains, and I pick the "spotted/stained" cow with ______stains number________.)
It doesn't really translate all that well.

Good luck saying that after a couple of beers (and numerous facial markings).

3. BB Brunes
People often ask me if I like French music, and in truth I feel like I can’t answer that question because French music encompasses almost all music genres. While I do enjoy listening to Edith Piaf and feeling classy, since moving here I've realized she's not all France has to offer. I have discovered some French pop bands, including my new favorite: BB Brunes. They are popular amoung 12 year olds, and are similar to those good ol’ American boy bands (except they actually do play instruments). I love the cheesy pop music and love songs.

BB Brunes. So dreamy!
My favorite song by them right now is called Afecionado, if you want to give 'em a try.

4. L’amour est dans le pré
Another reality TV show, this time showing various farmers all over France looking for true love. They do so by being interviewed, then people mail them letters, then they select from the letters people to do speed dating with, then from those people they choose two to visit them. The farmers themselves tend to be pretty interesting characters. They are from way out in the country, which leads to some impossible accents.


France turns out to be a pretty well rounded gal. There's a lot more going for her than just being hoity-toity. While I certainly love the classier aspects of France, like drinking champagne while listening to Edith Piaf and eating macarons, I also love that I can get an order of fries and watch crappy reality TV and still be experiencing French culture.

Vive la France!
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