Posts Tagged ‘France’

2:37 am

La Fête de la Musique

June 21st was the Fête de la Musique. In honor of the occasion, there were musicians, mostly amateur, playing in just about every public square and most restaurants, cafes, and some bars had shows as well.

I exited from the oral part of the DFA to the sounds of a rock band in a nearby square. Coming home from the metro, I could hear music, another rock band, coming from the corner bar, while there was African music coming from the African restaurant a few doors down from my building. Over at Jules Joffrin, across from the mairie, an accordionist was playing, while the corner cafe had a group setting up their instruments.

And I had dinner at my favorite restaurant, La Table d’Eugene, which had arranged for a jazz group, the Jazz Mooners. For the dinner, the proprietor, Joël, had pushed the tables together for communal dining (as well as to leave room for the instruments), and I was seated next to a very nice French couple. The music was not, in fact, all that impressive: they basically played American standards with soft jazz arrangements. Surely there’s French jazz? But they were certainly competent musicians and so it was an enjoyable evening.

By the time I left, it was just getting on to midnight, and I could still hear music from some of the local establishments. I thought about doing a little more "music hopping", unfortunately, I was tired and even a bit headachy (the DFA and the fretting over it had taken a lot out of me), so I just went home.

1:37 am

Diplôme de Français des Affaires, 1er Degré

For the past few weeks, I’ve been kind of antsy, and I couldn’t figure out if it was because of the impending Diplôme de français des affaires, 1er degré (DFA) or due to my upcoming relocation to Prague.

Well, I completed the DFA yesterday: it was mostly the DFA. (When I think about Prague now, I get a little tense, but nowhere near as unsettled as I had been.) In truth, it really wasn’t anything to worry about, and I’m confident that I passed. I didn’t do as well as I’d been hoping though: particularly on Tuesday’s written exam, there were some words and concepts that we hadn’t touched on in class, and I was obliged to guess. I had thought that perhaps nervousness was coloring my perception, but I’ve talked to some of my classmates, who confirmed my take.

The oral exam yesterday, though, was much less scary than I’d feared. The two examiners were both very non-threatening and the articles I had to work with were relatively easy. The English article was about the success of the owner of two Chicago-based pizzerias; the French article discussed the problems attached to the large number of people who live near the coast. (According to this article, 60% of the world’s population lives within 60 km of a coast.) The vocabulary wasn’t particularly complex, and I was able to sum up both articles easily.

It’ll be at least a month before I have my results. As I said, I’m confident that I passed: the threshold for passing is only 60 (out of 100). In fact, I’m even pretty sure that I’ll have managed a mention bien, which requires a score of 70. The real question in my mind is whether or not I pulled off a mention très bien, which requires at least 80. In the simulations that Mme Sainlos gave us in class, I consistently fell just below that level. On the one hand, Mme Sainlos suggested that our letters, résumés, and oral presentations would not be graded quite as strictly as she graded them, and on the other hand, this exam was harder than the simulations. So I just have to wait and see…

10:15 am

Next Stop: Prague

Well, I’ve decided that Paris is really not for me, at least not just now. So, with the end of classes and the lease on my apartment next week, I’m moving on to Prague, where I’ve signed up for a TEFL/TESOL Course.

After that, I’m not sure what I’ll do. I’m kind of toying with the idea of China. Or maybe Russia. Or I may decide on Central or Eastern Europe. Or I may backtrack to Western Europe.

It all depends on how well I take to Prague.

See, here’s the thing: moving to Paris was relatively easy (once I got over the whole "Oh my God, I’m completely and totally insane" phase with which I was boring people). France is, after all, a Western, industrialized nation and I was already familiar with the language. So on the comfort scale, France isn’t all that far out there. In fact, I think that’s the problem: it’s not far enough out there. So I’ll try a little farther out the comfort scale, i.e., the Czech Republic.

If it turns out that Prague is just way too uncomfortable, I’ll backtrack, if not to France, then to Western Europe. (Spain or Portugal might work.) On the other hand, if Prague is still not uncomfortable enough, then I’ll push out the comfort scale still further. Then again, if the comfort level seems just right, then I’ll stay. In brief, I’m doing a Goldilocks number.

I’m also partially motivated by a concern for hanging out someplace that’ll look good on my resume when I get home. And really, Western Europe has been done to death. As for France, in particular, not even the French are trying to start careers in France.

4:07 am


This week’s little excursion was to Fontainebleau, about 1/2 hour (by train) southeast of Paris.

The trip and Avon, where the station for Fontainebleau is located, are not particularly interesting. The suburbs of Paris through which the train passes look largely industrial; it doesn’t get pretty until after Melun. As for Avon, I suppose I really shouldn’t judge by what I could see from the bus, but I certainly didn’t see anything that made me want to linger.

The château has been there since the 12th century, and was used and renovated by kings and emperors through the Second Empire in the 19th century. Most of what remains now was built on what François Ier put in place in the 16th century, but very little is in an "original" form. There are rooms where the ceiling panels are from the time of François Ier, but the panelling on the walls dates to Louis XIV, while the furniture is from the reign of Napoleon III. (In fact, one of the artists who worked on the restoration painted DeGaulle and one of his ministers into some of the trim in the Hall of Trophies, so you could even argue that the renovations continued right on up to the Fifth Republic.)

The main approach to the Château is now across the Court of the White Horse (named for a statue that’s been gone since the 17th century); also known as the Court of Adieux, since it was from here that Napoleon made his farewells before going into his first exile.

The audio guide that’s included with the price of admission to the Château is very good, and quite complete. The guided tour, on the other hand, was pretty much a waste of time. It mostly covered rooms that are also done in the audio guide, and the tour guide was uninspiring. She seemed more interested in getting the tour over with.

The gardens are lovely, through: spacious and green, with lots of fountains and ponds. I don’t quite get what’s going on with the topiary cones, though.

The carp pond in back of the Château has this little pavilion in the middle, where the King could entertain his mistress. One hopes that they remembered how well sound carries over water!

And a view of Fontainebleau from the far side of the carp pond.

12:07 pm

Musée Rodin

Last week’s sightseeing trip was a visit to the Musée Rodin, one of my favorites. They had just opened a new exhibit, Le Rêve Japonais (The Japanese Dream), which includes both Japanese selections from Rodin’s private collection as well as Japanese inspired works of Rodin.

I was not all that blown away by the exhibit, although that says more about my tastes than the exhibit. The reason I really visit the Rodin is to wander in the garden and visit my favorite sculptures. The Thinker, for example:

Or The Burghers of Calais, which is just heartbreaking:

The Three Shades I find fascinating: it’s three of the same figure, just turned differently:

And of course, I could pour over The Gates of Hell indefinitely:

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