Summer 2013

Brittany vs French Riviera: Which is the Real France?

June 15, 2013

Before returning to France’s extreme southeast for the summer, Philippe, Lolo and I stop to visit France’s extreme northwest.  Geography, weather and architecture aside, the country’s regional differences narrow as we encounter a series of typically French displays – namely, strikes.  We extend our northerly stay.  When, finally, will we reach the “real” France?

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Saving Bellevue: The Skyrocketing French Wealth Tax

June 22, 2013

Thanks to the Socialists’ sweep to power in France, an enormous surge in Bellevue’s tax bill threatens to terminate our family’s long association with the Côte d’Azur.  An unlikely triumvirate heads to the courts.  Can a fidgety, wild-haired tax accountant, a property expert with a posh surname and a long-lost-cousin Quebecker win back our cherished Bellevue?

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The Châteaux of Bordeaux: A Hedonist’s Paradise

June 28, 2013

French Lessons heads to the prestigious winemakers of Bordeaux for lessons in the production and tasting of their famous nectar.  In addition to discovering the centrality of raw egg whites and French (as opposed to coconut-imbued American) oak in the creative process, we also challenge our social graces and beltlines at a ten-course, Michelin-double-starred feast.

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French Language: Form Over Substance

July 4, 2013

Mastering the French language is fairly impossible if you begin as an adult, but local endorsements of your competence en français can bring a certain self-satisfaction – until, of course, you’re put in your place.  Thanks to manicures and blue cheese, we learn it’s more than a wide vocabulary and decent grammatical sense that holds the key to success.

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Astérix for Foreigners

July 12, 2013

The popular French cartoon character Astérix invades our household as Philippe introduces Lolo to a childhood favourite.  Like language, we learn that comic strips are best introduced at a young age.  As father and daughter howl over this classic series steeped in double-entendre and edgy cultural stereotyping, I realize the butt of the jokes is often my very (non-French) roots.

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Monaco’s Fête Picasso: The Art of Fashion

July 19, 2013

Monaco’s latest Picasso exhibition marries over a hundred masterpieces with a retrospective of his time spent in our hometown of Antibes.  When not enthralled by the truly remarkable dress sense of other visitors to today’s preview, French Lessons tumbles, Alice-style, down a rabbit hole of enchantment considering how the celebrated artist may have interacted with our Bellevue.

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The Côte d’Azur: The World’s New Silk Road

July 26, 2013

An impromptu wine-tasting, a celebrity invitation and an esteemed golf tournament – all transpiring in a single, long breath of time – blend the foods and talk, traditions and table manners of France, India, Austria, Germany, Russia, China, the United States, Slovakia, Russia, Canada, Switzerland and Saudi Arabia in the Côte d’Azur, a modern-day melting pot.

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Sunny Summers in the Côte d’Azur: Keeping Up Appearances

August 2, 2013

While hosting North American teens, our daily life shuttles from a massive, shock-and-awe storm to an explosive fireworks fiasco and an audacious, record-tempting jewelry theft – each event creating its own media frenzy.  In spite of jaw-dropping troubles, one guiding principle never seems to change during the Côte d’Azur’s high season:  The show must go on.

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Bellevue: On the Heels of World War II

August 9, 2013

A postscript in the story of Bellevue:  A local man who grew up within our grande dame by the sea pays us a visit.  He brings stories from the end of World War II, when daily meals were created from the simplest ingredients and, down in Bellevue’s gardens, German prisoners of war performed a most relentless and dangerous task.

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Readers Write In: French Lessons’ Summer Postbox

August 16, 2013

Spurred on by the season’s posts, the French Lessons community provides smart and wide-ranging feedback.  We correct an Astérix goof and hear personal takes on the French taxman, meeting celebs, a Wisconsin-style “wine run”, why learning French might not matter, and a local resident’s sudden connection with that World War II submarine.

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Antibes’ L’Armoise Restaurant: Survival of the Smallest

August 23, 2013

Seated at a favourite table in Antibes, Philippe and I share pet stories about a local dentist, doctor, cheese seller, toy shop, bakery and swimsuit shop as we ponder the slippery notion of French profitability – all in an effort to figure out how this delightful-but-tiny, gastronomic restaurant can stay afloat.  The truth shocks us.

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France’s Remaining Optimist: Sailing in Antibes

August 28, 2013

French Lessons offers a round up of this summer’s blog posts – from taxes, history and comic strips, to wine, fashion and celebrity – while sharing one final, forward-looking story.  Antibes’ picturesque bay provides an ideal setting for Lolo’s first sailing class – even if her abounding optimism is hardly what distinguishes her among her peers.

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