Have a good weekend!

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It is an especially happy Friday for me because my friend of almost 25 years is coming to visit on Sunday, AND she is bringing my winter coat from New York, AND we’re going to visit Sancerre together.

I also bought a ticket tonight for a day trip to Luxembourg in mid-November. At some point over the past year I realized that I was 37 years old and had been to 38 U.S. states and 37 countries, if you count Puerto Rico, England, Northern Ireland, and Scotland individually. I decided that I’d attempt to keep my country and state counts up to or ahead of my age for as long as possible. I turned 38 this week, and I haven’t been to a new country since I left Senegal in March… so no time like the present. I have heard there are lovely fall colors in Luxembourg and I’m hoping the leaves stay on the trees long enough for me to appreciate them.

In the meantime, I’m continuing to love Paris in the fall, and I’m filled with even more joy knowing that in two short days I’ll have a puffer coat to hide out in as soon as the temperature drops.

I leave you for the weekend with some interesting things I read this week:

Proof of what I have long known to be true about speaking foreign languages while tipsy.

Some useful French idioms. Avoir le cafard (to have the cockroach, i.e. to be sad) is my favorite, obviously.

Want to travel around the world for a full year, writing for the New York Times? So does like half the planet.

The official guardians of the French language have a problem with gender inclusive writing, not surprisingly (since they are textbook fuddy duddies).

Even on our own, we’re always in translation. (A beautiful letter of recommendation.)

An ‘accidental dictionary’ explores how errors created the English language.

Have a lovely weekend!

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Aix-en-Provence

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Aix-en-Provence is a gorgeous town that I will forever associate with Candyland, because within five minutes of my arrival I happened upon the most wondrous food festival – in celebration of the local confection, the calisson – in the plaza a few steps from my AirBnB.

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In addition to the star attraction in every color and flavor, there were wedges of nougat as big as wheels of cheese, macarons that looked like watercolors, marshmallows in soft pastels, every kind of jam and jelly, and a variety of cookies for good measure. Continue reading

il fait quand même beau

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I turn 38 in a little more than an hour, and I’m resenting France for getting me there six hours sooner than New York would have. Not looking forward to my new age, though 37 has not been a walk in the park either. The world went ass-backwards mere weeks after my birthday last year, and it has remained fairly challenging, let’s say, since then – both globally and personally.

But as I was sitting here staring sourly at my computer screen, wanting to write something nice about the weekend but not feeling a bit of real positivity, I decided to put Spotify on. I guess based on my prior activity, the app suggested I listen to a playlist called “New Music Friday France” and out of curiosity, I hit play. The first song was French rap, which 99% of the time I find super awkward. But then I listened to the words and, since I’m always looking for and finding meaning in the flimsiest of “signs,” I became convinced that this song – La Pluie by Orelsan – was sending a direct message to me:

Toujours autant de pluie chez moi
Mais il fait quand même beau, il fait beau.

(Translation: “Always so much rain where I’m from, but it’s nice out anyway, it’s nice out.”)

The thing is, the song really is speaking to me, in ways I don’t feel like going into here. Suffice it to say, there’s been a bunch of both literal and figurative rain in my life lately, but for the past month or two, it feels nice anyway.

The song continues (this is a word-for-word translation because I can’t be trusted to do a more interpretive one): 

“Where I’m from, there’s sun 40 days a year

You could spend most of the year waiting for it.

I used to look out the window, closed up in my room,

I used to pray for the end of the downpour and to go skate the ramp.

I knew the sound of the rain, the smell of wet concrete.

If I left, it was because I was afraid of rusting.

Soaked, I would have never thought,

That in the end I’d miss the bad weather.”

(The last line could also be interpreted as, “That in the end I’d miss the bad times,” since temps can mean weather or time. I’d guess it was an intentional play on words here.)

What started out as a slightly annoying song really grew on me, and now I think it’s incredible and I’ve listened to it like six times in a row. Here it is, if you’d like to give it a go yourself. 

And now I feel buoyed enough to face the cruel march of time. 

Have a good weekend! I hope that whether warm and sunny or rainy and cold chez vous, quand même il fait beau, so to speak. 

how do you say catch-22 in French?

 

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Here’s a fun way to make your head explode:

To be officially hired for a particular job in France, I have to pass a criminal background check. Since I was born outside of France, by law the documentation can only be sent to me directly, not in care of a third party. I know this because I received a rejection notice after I tried to have the letter sent to my would-be employer.

There are no apartment numbers in the building where I live (a mind-boggling Parisian tendency), and the mailman or guardian or whoever it is slides the mail addressed to each resident underneath the resident’s door. God knows why there is no mailbox and they make that poor person climb seven flights of stairs daily. Regardless, he or she has no idea of my existence, so without the name of the official resident somewhere on a letter addressed to me, it wouldn’t get further than the lobby. I suppose I could tape a note to my door that says, “Please leave mail for Ruth Fertig here.” But the person who sublet the apartment to me is doing so without permission, and I don’t want to risk getting him into trouble.

*

There does not seem to be a P.O. box system in France the way there is in the United States and even if I am wrong about that, I am pretty sure the background check can only be sent to residences.

You can apply for a proxy fixed address through a community center in your “associated” arrondissement, so that you can pick up all your mail there. But I have heard from someone who works at one that all 40 or so of the centers in Paris are overwhelmed and not accepting new applications, which are subject to two months’ processing time in any case.

The only way for me to get my own fixed address is to officially lease an apartment… but you cannot rent an apartment here without providing proof of employment. You see where this is going.

*

And just to make things really interesting…

To be paid for the job, I need to have a French bank account.

To open a French bank account, I need to submit proof of a salary. And an address.

*

Around and around we go.

 

Marseille

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When I arrived in Marseille I headed straight to the Old Port, where my friend Gilles met back up with me and offered to take me on a moto tour of the city. The mistral winds were blowing something fierce, and I had never been on a scooter before. This did not seem like a winning combination, but I said “pourquoi pas” anyway and off we went.  Continue reading

Arles

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After a strong start in Montpellier, my whistle-stop tour of the South of France continued in Arles, a town that interested me because it was once home to Van Gogh, my favorite painter. I wanted to see the place that had inspired him to create some of his most beautiful work. Continue reading

felicitations à moi!

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Today I had my very first job interview in French. I stumbled in places, and trailed off in others, but it didn’t seem to matter. I think I did just fine overall.

Whether I get the job or not, making it through my first interview in a foreign language feels like an accomplishment in itself. When I talked to my dad a couple of years ago about his own experiences learning a second and third language, he revealed that he had gone on job interviews in English before he really knew how to speak it. I was in awe. At the time, I couldn’t imagine ever being capable of putting myself on the line like that.

And yet, I just did. And now I’m really proud of myself, and I’m eating a big pot de crème to celebrate.*

* Though let’s be honest, I would have eaten it anyway.

have a good weekend!

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This Saturday in Paris is La Nuit Blanche, when art installations and performances pop up all over town and museums stay open until late into the night. I’m excited about it. I hope cafes stay open late as well because I’m going to need a recharge at some point if I’m going to wander around until the wee hours.

Meanwhile, this week I did more Internet-browsing than usual, and I have a bunch of interesting links to share.

Have a good weekend! I’ll try to put up my Arles pix next week…

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Cartoonist Roz Chast draws a love letter to New York City – cockroaches and all.

Why am I a nomad?

The Smithsonian wrote about the “Lost State” of Franklin, an intriguing side note in American history that at one point I really wanted to make a documentary about. It’s a fascinating story, though the article barely touches the surface.

10 ways Prague keeps it weird…

While Japan’s bathroom ghosts keep it strange and terrifying.

Beautiful photos from Les Halles, Paris’s main market in the 1950s. Sadly, it no longer exists – replaced by a mall, of all things.

I’ll teach my dog 100 (Yiddish) words.

The 20 best road trips on earth, according to Fodor’s.

Duping the tourists who went “slumming” in New York City’s Chinatown.

And finally, I really hope that by the time I leave Paris I will have my own love story to tell about the city. In the meantime, here is a beautiful one written by an Irish actress.

Montpellier

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My original France plan was to 1. arrive in Paris, 2. spend a month doing informational meetings with the heads of communications for agencies and organizations that could give me work making videos about the European refugee crisis and other humanitarian issues, and 3. then head to the South of France to wander town to town until I found a sustainable place to base myself.

For various reasons, that never happened, and for better or worse, Paris seems to be becoming my home in France. But I did finally take a whirlwind tour of the South to at least see what I was missing. I spent five nights visiting five cities in Provence and Languedoc that I suspected I would love. And love them I did, though want to live in them, I did not – until my last stop.

But to begin at the beginning: Montpellier. I had seen such beautiful images of this place, I was convinced it would be heaven on earth. Here are some pictures: Continue reading

for the love of lettering

A roundup of some of the fabulous signs and storefronts I’ve wandered past in my strolls around Paris. IMG_1378

I would be willing to foot this store’s electricity bill and even throw in some replacement light bulbs if it meant I could see this sign in all its lit-up splendor.

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My second sighting of a hair salon named after Obama. (First was in Benin.)

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This sign is cool and also reminds me of the Godard movie, making it seem even cooler.IMG_2275

I just realized I’ve got three hair salons in a row. This one is housed in an old Art Deco dairy shop. The inside is super fabulous as well. IMG_1274

It’s a shame that I passed this bakery at a time of day when the brilliance of the gold-leaf artwork and lettering couldn’t be fully captured. It’s also a shame that it was closed for the summer holidays, as a peak through the windows revealed an interior seemingly unchanged since the Belle Epoque – pastel scenes painted on the molded ceilings, intricate tile on the floors, and lots of other beautiful details.

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More Art Deco magnificence. IMG_1340

More neon / hair salon magnificence. IMG_8521

Still more Art Deco magnificence.IMG_0349

And the one that takes the cake. I know it’s sort of cheating, since this building’s star power comes from way more than the lettering. And it’s not even a storefront, it’s a very famous theatre. I tried to get inside but couldn’t get past the not-very-ornate lobby since it was too early in the day. I’ll just have to come back some time. Maybe I’ll even see a show!