100 Funny Things.

This is officially my 100th post – Cue the fireworks and free bottles of champagne! Yaaaahoooooooweeeee!

(I’m totally ignoring the fact that this being only my 100th post in about a year means I really need to try harder to post more often. But who wants to rain on their own champagne infused parade? Let’s just consider it New Year’s Resolved.)

Looking back through all my anecdotes and diatribes has made me realize just how much we’ve all learned over the past year. You readers are so totally prepared for life in France now! You’ve got Paris covered, no sweat. Why? Because I’ve shared all there is to know about dog poo covered sidewalks and how to call someone a “nice beetch.” You know all about hoo-ha molds, danger bees, and of course, baby jesus in velvet pants. You have been well versed in the many merits of champagne and pain au raisins for breakfast. And the looming danger of butter brain.

And let’s not forget the informative pieces on pictogram ovens, boob vocabulary and most importantly, sharts.

There have been bike trips and toenail clippings, giant vats of chocolate mousse and master bites. There were lessons on pre-pubescent pickpockets and avoiding Sephora at all costs. I’ve given you the lowdown on castle dwelling in the Loire, excessive wine sipping in Bordeaux, and tan seeking on the Cote d’Azur. I’ve shared the critical details of proper Oktoberfest attire. And just for your sake, I’ve repeatedly tasted and reported on eating oysters, rabbit, rare steaks, pigs feet, kilos of pizza, duck fat fried anything, beignets, baguettes, croissants, pâté, fois gras, pork belly, and cheese. Lots and lots of runny, dead-body-smelling cheese.

After all that, I’d be shocked – SHOCKED! – if you felt you needed a real travel guide to France. Fodors and Lonely Planet? Pshaw. They’ll just recommend a bunch of touristy restaurants and point you straight toward hell on earth, otherwise known as the Louvre. Me? I’ll show you how to get nice and tipsy at the perfect picnic, then make an ass out of yourself trying to speak french to the locals.

So yes. You’re welcome.

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Update: I’m back, I’m no longer jet-lagged, and I’m ready to write. So we’ll return to our regularly scheduled programming starting next week!

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A year of learning.

It’s probably a gross understatement to say that I’ve learned a few things since starting a life abroad just a year ago. It’s actually more like I’ve had to rewire my brain to understand a foreign language, automatically dodge dog poo and maneuver a granny cart full of spaghetti sauce up 4 flights of stairs.

It’s been a humbling experience to say the least. But I can confidently say that I now have a vast and varied repertoire of expat knowledge, far beyond anything you’ll ever find in a guide book. Such as:

1. Baguettes are better when they’re pas trop bien cuit.

2. Champagne should be consumed cold and quite regularly.

3. The Louvre is hell on earth.

4. So is EuroDisney.

5. 95% of Parisian women will be skinnier, more beautiful and better smelling than you.

6. Pain au raisins with a Diet Coke is in fact a breakfast of champions.

7. If you desperately need something from the market or a specific store, you can count on it being closed.

8. Wearing heels here is next to impossible.

9. You will probably never be able to pronounce or conjugate s’asseoir.

10. But you’ll get good at conard, merde, and putain.

11. No one will care if your internet connection goes out for weeks at a time.

12. Talking on the phone will make you break into a sweat.

13. A chèvre is a goat. A cheval is a horse. Police ride chevals, not chèvres.

14. Actually, the plural of horse is cheveaux. Not to be confused with cheveux – the hair on your head.

15. A big glass of wine will make most embarrassment over your language skills disappear.

16. French ovens are crap. So is the metric system.

17. It is possible to eat a three course meal at lunch AND dinner.

18. But you may have the sharts afterward.

19. You’ll hate Paris sometimes.

20. But love it even more.

Bon Anniversaire.

Exactly one year ago today I said a (very) tearful goodbye to family and friends and then hopped on a plane to France, ready to live out a 2 year adventure in the City of Light.

Actually, before the plane part we drove around like maniacal Amazing Race contestants in a borrowed minivan, desperately seeking our travel visas. Then while Husband checked out at the office, I had my last radio sing along with Lady Gaga. Papa-papa-RA-ZZI! And then the car battery died.

So that’s the story of how we almost didn’t make it to France, and how Husband almost killed me right there on the corner of 22nd street. They should put up a plaque!

But thanks to $50 and the Exxon gas station just around the corner, I survived and we did in fact fly to Paris. I remember how disorienting it was: all of my worldly possessions either packed in a shipping crate, sold off or stored in Big Daddy’s basement. No cellphone. No serviceable French language skills.

We arrived jet lagged and emotionally exhausted, but somehow still bursting with excitement. We were in Paris! City of smelly cheese and fresh baguettes! Land of bubbly champagne! So much of it felt like wonderland, except of course for the hideous temporary Ikea couch.

Then Husband went to work and I…did not. With no internet connection, no job, and not one single friend to go drinking with, I was just a wee bit out of sorts those first couple weeks. And just in case you weren’t one of the lucky few getting morose phone calls from France last fall, you can watch me grappling with early-retired/housewife/loser status here:

After watching this, I am shocked. Shocked! Who is that girl!? (I blame it all on France: the mood, the hair, the wonky nose). All I can say one year later is, thank you little baby jesus in velvet pants for helping me come so far.

Vocab Friday: Pompette

So I don’t usually condone day-drinking. It gives you a headache, ruins you for any evening activities, and can often make you seem like a sad lush. But as I’ve nearly reached the ripe old age of 31, I feel as though I can confidently steer my younger readers toward what I think are the exceptions to this rule:

1. Oktoberfest.

When they expect you to drink beer at breakfast, all bets are off. Just hydrate, pace yourself, and eat lots of pretzels.

2. Visiting Bordeaux.

It’s the epicenter of the wine universe, so tasting wine throughout the day is absolutely unavoidable. It’s actually recommended, and made all the better if you have a knowledgeable guide to help you decipher the subtle differences between the 2006 Saint Emilion and 2008 Medoc (here’s a clue: after 2 glasses, not much difference at all!)

3. When a friend sneaks you in to a fancy lunch.

Exceptional circumstances call for exceptional measures. That’s why I spent my afternoon sipping champagne at a lunch thrown by a catering company for some of the city’s big-time party planners. I also got to make my own truffle-oil infused ravioli and savored an entire lobster tail on the side. Meaning I now have indigestion AND a headache. C’est la vie!

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pompette

Pronunciation: pom-peht

Definition: tipsy, a little looped, slightly inebriated. As in,

“Please excuse any grammatical mistakes in this post, I’m a little pompette!”

 

Vocab Friday: Une Dinde

I know what you’re thinking: I’ve skipped ahead to Thanksgiving and totally missed the upcoming Halloween festivities! What the hell?!

Well, they don’t celebrate Halloween here in France, so I really don’t have anything to report on that front. In fact I’m going to Bordeaux for the holiday, and I plan on dressing up as an inebriated American who likes to speak bad french. Should be pretty easy!

But wait uh minute, the French don’t celebrate Thanksgiving either!

That is correct astute readers! Although you’d be really surprised at how many people ask about T-Day celebrations here. They’re the same people that ask me if my twin brother and I are identical (um, we’re not).

The point is, this here is my blog, and I want to take a minute to talk turkey. You see, I’ve been reading this book about factory farming practices and it’s totally rocking my world. In it, Jonathan Safran Foer makes an exceptionally rational, well researched case for the urgent need to totally change the way we think about, buy, slaughter and consume meat. Which believe me, is a tough thing to follow when you dream nightly about the best steak you ever had. But his words make sense. The factory farming business in America is mostly abhorrent and is in dire need of an overhaul.

Also I’m a tree hugging dirty hippie at heart, but shhhhhh, don’t tell.

Anyway, upon reading about the franken-turkeys that are pretty much the only birds available at the store (yep, even most of your organic, free range, slept in a bed of golden hay and received daily waddle massage turkeys are the same breed as a standard Butterball), I became inspired to find a heritage breed turkey.

And being the big nerd that I am, I proceeded to go into deep research mode, reading countless pages about historic breeds and wild turkey provenance. I spent an entire afternoon trolling through the Maryland Turkey Farmer’s listings and the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy site. So when I finally settled on a small place raising Standard Bronzes, I dashed off my email order with the zeal of a woman who was smugly sure she was about to get her hands on the ultimate Thanksgiving Master Bite.

I was quite pleased with myself. I even challenged my sister to a turkey taste-off, to see if this heritage breed stuff was really worth it. But the next day, a troubling email from the farmer informed me that my search for real turkey had hit a brick wall. Literally:

I have no heritage birds this year. Fireworks from the Antietam Battlefield scared them so bad they flew into netting and sides of pen killing themselves.

Sorry!

Katherine

Oh my. How does one respond to something like that? Please give my regards to the families of the birds in question? I was at a loss for words. So I settled on:

I’m so sorry for your loss. Better luck next year!

And then I found a butcher selling Kentucky Bourbons in Fredricksburg. They seem like less hysterical birds anyway. Plus, I like anything to do with bourbon. So barring any unforeseen turkey tragedies, we’ll be having one helluva heritage Thanksgiving dinner. I hope to hell it tastes good!

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une dinde

Pronunciation: oon dahnde (but real nasaly)

Definition: Turkey. Turkey Lurkey. Gobbler. Hokie even. As in,

“Perhaps next year we’ll make sure our heritage dindes have ear plugs for the 4th of July festivities.”

How to celebrate Bastille Day in 8 easy steps.

1. Commence le pique-nique, preferably 3 hours before fireworks.

2. Eat.

3. Wait.

4. Worry about clouds.

5. Relax.

6. Get ready.

7. Cover your ears.

8. Fall in love with Paris all over again.


Vocab Friday: The Crazy Edition

Yes, that is a Sephora box you see there. Of course I still hate them, but it just so happens that they’re the only people who carry my most favorite shampoo, so I have to cross the picket line every now and then in the name of good hair.

Good hair that I almost lost today in the midst of mid-day Parisian traffic, because wouldn’t you know it, the crazy continues! This time on two wheels!

See, rather than wait 15 minutes with my bookbag and shopping bag and Sephora box for the bus, I decided to haul it on over to the Velib station and rent a bike. Really, why waste a perfectly beautiful day ensconced in the safe confines of a bus when for just 1 euro I could be cruising on a public rental bike through the streets of Paris? Without a helmet?

So after tipping over twice, I gained control of my bike and sped off. In the wrong direction. Faced with an impenetrable roundabout/intersection, I pedaled down a narrow side street, only to be confronted by angry delivery trucks and shouting pedestrians.

Sweating and swearing I finally popped out on the Champs-Elysees. You know, that 6 lane death trap of lawless french drivers. Oh boy. With a white-knuckle grip on the handlebars I took a deep breath and swerved into the flow of traffic. Just picture it: Me on an overweight beach cruiser, sporting baby blue fake Raybans, pedaling furiously between taxis and frantically ringing my bike bell. SSSSPRRRIIIIIIIIING!

Which finally leads me to today’s vocab. Because reading that story probably made you think, sweet geezus she is nuts. Well, if you were French, you might ask instead:

Tu as fumé le moquette?!

Which means literally, Did you smoke the carpet? or in essence, What kinda crack have you been hitting?

My answer: the pain au raisins and champagne kind.