The Independent Traveler's Newsletter                                         PAGE TWO

Ici et Là
This column is intended to advise you about cultural events, news and happenings
in France or France-related events taking place in the United States 
between now and the publication of our next issue.

o  Monet and His Contemporaries:  On the Thames will be the exhibit at the Brooklyn (NY) Museum of Art from May 27 through September 4.

o  Chanel -  The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York will host a long-awaited exhibit of more than 50 designs and accessories exploring the history of the House of Chanel both thematically and chronologically.   Coco Chanel's legend and her tributes to the sophistication, elegance and strength of the modern woman is shown through her designs.  Period examples will be juxtaposed with the work of Karl Lagerfeld who, in 1983, revitalized the spirit and identity of the House of Chanel through his interpretations and refinements of her work.  May 5 through August 7, 2005.    For more information:

Max Ernst:  A Retrospective - The surrealist artist and sculptor's work, including 180 paintings, collages, drawings, sculptures and book illustrations,  will be exhibited through July 10th at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.   It is the first exhibition of the artist's work in New York in thirty years.  For more information:

o  Jacques Louis David:  Empire to Exile -  June 5 through September 5 at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts.  The exhibit celebrates the artist's post-Revolution career with 60 drawings and paintings.  This is the first major showing of his work in the United States.

o  New Web Site -  a joint effort of the United States Library of Congress and the French National Library, this bilingual web site explores the history of the French presence in North America from the sixteenth to early nineteenth centuries.   The site examines the role that France played in events such as the French and Indian war, the American Revolution and the Louisiana Purchase.  In English, 'France in America' can be accessed at,and the French language version, 'La France en Amérique', can be found at

o * * PREHISTORIC & MEDIEVAL FRANCE TOUR  * *  - the web site, au Château and Le Prieuré au Château de Biron present two tours, planned for June 20-27 and September 26 - October 3, 2005.  The Prehistoric & Medieval Southwestern France Tour begins and ends in Bordeaux.  Guests on the tour will stay at the magnificent Prieuré au Château de Biron in the Dordogne, pay visits to the many sites of early man in southwestern France, and will explore medieval villages such as Rocamadour and Sarlat, the bastide towns of Monpazier and Domme, art museums and historic sites.  Accommodations, breakfasts and evening meals will be enjoyed at the priory, and all ground transportation and entry fees are included in the price of € 1225 per person (single surcharge
175).  Each tour can take a maximum of ten people, and each is organized to allow some free time for participants and to be enjoyed at a comfortable pace. For other details, current US dollar or other currency cost,  or to book your reservation please contact

o  French Etiquette tips -  here are a few pointers to keep in mind when visiting France. 

  • Always hold the door open for anyone behind you when entering any building.  It is expected and is the correct thing to do.  Be sure to thank the person who does the same for you.
  • A handshake is the typical way to greet anyone familiar to you such as a neighbor or shopkeeper you know well ~ women can deliver a kiss on the cheek to another woman or a man they know quite well such as friends or business colleagues.  If you are uncertain, let the other person make the first move.
  • If you invited to dinner in someone's home, bring a gift such as a bottle of wine or flowers, or a dessert or cheese if discussed beforehand with your host or hostess.  Do not expect your wine to be served with dinner as the host and hostess have most likely selected in advance the appropriate wine(s) for the food they are serving.
  • When dining in France, you forearms should  rest on the edge of the table.  Keeping one hand in your lap is considered impolite.
  • You can acknowledge the people dining at the next table in a restaurant with a smile and nod, and before looking away from them, wish them 'bon appétit'.
o  Jazz in the Var -  A new jazz season is beginning near Lorgues in the Var of Provence, so if you are in the region, do join in the musical evenings:  May 22, June 12, June 26, July 3, July 14 and July 30.  For ticket information and exact location, contact Anita Rieu-Sicart by email at  And, you can subscribe to Anita's monthly English-language newsletter, the Var Village Voice, to learn about all the goings on in her corner of Provence including witty and entertaining articles and occasional tales of 'battles' with the bureaucracy.   Visit her web site at for a glimpse of what the Var Village Voice is all about. 

o  Pastry School opens in Perpignan - L’Ecole Internationale de Pâtisserie Olivier Bajard has just opened in the city of Perpignan in Languedoc-Roussillon and is accepting students at the professional and non-professional level.  Olivier Bajard is an award-winning pastry and dessert chef, and you can read about him and the school at his web site  Or contact the school by phone 33 (0)6 03 20 26 62, fax 33 (0)4 68 38 78 85 or email at

Three Rooms of Ham
                                                                                                                   by Marcia Mitchell

My fellow Americans, bonjour! Are you practicing your French in preparation for your vacances?  It's a good idea, especially if you plan to leave Paris and head out into the hinterlands.

Don't be afraid. I live in rural Provence and, believe me, vacation vocabulary is a piece of gateau compared to what I deal with. While you're in that chic restaurant looking up ‘kidneys’ so you don't order them, I'll be at the hardware store asking for a plunger and a couple of lug nuts.

You're in a better linguistic position.  Everyone knows you're on vacation, so at least they'll understand the context of what you're trying to say. For example, I once asked a butcher for three rooms of ham. He knew that was too much, even for a super-sizing American, and gave me three slices instead, with only the slightest raising of one eyebrow and a hint of a smile.

That's nothing. An American friend of mine asked a French hairdresser to trim her rear end.  Mistakes like that happen when you try to translate word for word.   It's better to buy and study a phrase book ~  especially one of those that give you situations like the airport, the restaurant, and shopping. In the morning as you sip your café au lait, learn the basic phrases you'll need for what you're planning to do that day. The French appreciate it when you make the effort.

Here are some simple tips that will help you come across as suave as you really are. 

 - Start every exchange with “Bonjour, Monsieur, Madame”, use “S'il vous plaît” and end with a “Merci,  Monsieur, Madame”.  These words are like the chocolate chips in a cookie, and they'll absolve you of all your verbal blunders.

 - Speaking of blunders, remember “pardon” and “excusez-moi” ~ they'll come in handy.  When they answer “je vous en prie”, it means they're praying for you. Just kidding. 

 -  Don't walk up to someone and start speaking English, unless they're standing under a sign that says, “We speak English”.  (Would a stranger speak French to you on your turf?)  First, do the “Bonjour” thing,  and then ask if it's okay. “On peut parler anglais?” On puh parlay anglay?

 -  Take a pocket dictionary with you so you can point to the word for something you want. That'll save you and the person who's trying to help you a lot of frustration.  They can use it to tell you things in English, too.

 - You summon the waiter or waitress by raising your hand and saying “Monsieur?” or “Madame?”  After you've finished, the waiter will ask you how it was:  “ça était?” and you will hopefully say “très bien.” You will ask for l’addition ~ lah dee see ohn ~ and when you leave you will say “au revoir”.

~ When you enter a French shop, it's polite to greet the shopkeeper, and when in the marketplace greet the vendor at his or her stall.  Always say a pleasant “Bonjour,  Madame, Monsieur”. If the shopkeeper responds with something you don't understand, it probably means, “may I help you?” to which you can reply “ juste regarder”  ~ zhoost ray gar day ~ just looking.  And, when you leave,  you always say "Merci, au revoir". 

Just remember, no matter how badly you mangle the language, a polite and respectful attitude will make your words music to French ears. I hope you passez un bon séjour and that every day you spend in France is une bonne journée.

And now you say what?


That's right. Bon voyage!

    Marcia Mitchell lived in nine of the United States plus the District of Columbia before she
                  discovered Provence and settled in the Luberon village of Saignon. Marcia and artist/painter
                  Andrew Petrov invite you to visit their village for charming accommodations, good food,
                  painting, cooking or French lessons, or just to say “bonjour”. 
               Her Maison des Remparts offers all the comforts of home.
               Look for more of her witty essays in future issues of FRANCE On Your Own. 

            Visit their site at

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