Un Poste Bilingue (A bilingual post)

My Francophile friend ‘Sue-Suzette’ spends time in France every year. She is  in St. Palais-sur-mer (located between Nantes and Bordeaux) and provided this bilingual description.

The sun doesn’t always shine along the coast of St. Palais-sur-mer. But rain and cloudy skies bring a different sort of charm. I woke up to big rain drops and a chilly wind. Nevertheless, I decided to take my umbrella and go for a walk.

Il ne fait pas toujours du soleil á St. Palais-sur-mer.  Mais la pluie et le ciel couvert ont un charme différente.  Je m’a réveillé et il y avait des grand gouttes de pluie et des coups du vent.  Néanmoins, j’ai décidé de faire un promenade,parapluie en main.

At the beach, the grey sky matched the color of the waves crashing on the rocks. Some hardy soul was swimming beyond the waves. As I watched, I saw that it was a woman, a modern day Diane de Poitiers, the celebrated mistress of King Henri II, who swam every day in the Loire river.

Á la plage, le ciel gris était le même couleur des vagues qui se brisaient violemment sur les roches.  Une âme intrépide nageait au-delà les vagues.  C’était une femme, une Diane de Poitiers contemporaine, la maîtresse du Roi Henri II qui nageait tous les jours dans la Loire.

Walking into the neighborhoods, I happened up the old clock tower.  This is all that remains of an 11th century church. It is surrounded by a graveyard with both old and more recent tombstones.  Today the door was open so I wandered in to find an exhibit of modern art.  Starting at the ground floor then climbing six flights of stairs, 170 steps in all.  It was interesting to see bright, vibrant modern paintings and sculptures against ancient stone walls. The artist Kael has a gallery in town.

Le vieux clocher

En marchant dans le quartier, je suis passé le clocher.  C’est la ruine d’une église du onzième siècle qui est entouré par un cimetière qui contiens des ancien et des tombes d’aujourd’hui.  La porte était ouverte donc je suis entrée.  Il y avait un exposition d’art moderne qui est monté de la rez-de-chaussée au cinquième étage, 170 pas en tout.  C’était intéressant à voir des tableau modernes pleins de couleurs vives contre les vieux murs.  L’artist Kael a une galerie en centre ville.

After a hot chocolate to warm my bones, my fellow travelers and I drove down the coast to St. Georges-de-didonne, stopping for lunch at a seaside restaurant.  The variety of shellfish here is amazing.  In addition to shrimps such as langoustines and crevettes, there are oysters, mussels, clams, whelks and snails.

Two more friends, Sharon and Jolie, enjoy large beautiful plates of fruit de mer.

Plus tarde, mes amies et moi sommes allés en voiture le long de côte á St. George-de-didonne ou on a déjeuné au restaurant balnéaire.  La grande variété des fruits de mer ici est stupéfiante.  En plus de crustacés comme les langoustines et les crevettes, il y a des huîtres, des moules, des palourdes, des bulots, et des escargots.

Continuing down the coast, we arrived at Talmont-sur-Gironde, a charming tourist village at the Gironde, an navigable estuary formed at the mouth of Dordogne and Garonne Rivers.  It has an 11th century romanesque church built high above the rocky coast, buffeted by the storms of the  Atlantic.  We wandered the cobbled streets and into the shops until it was time to drive home.

On a continué notre séjour à Talmont-sur-Gironde, un joli village sur la Gironde, un estuaire crée par les fleuves Dordogne et Garonne.  Il a une église Romanesque qui était construit dans un colline au-dessus le littoral rocailleux et qui sont battu par les orages d’Atlantique Océan.  On a flâné les rues pavés et dans les boutiques jusqu’à l’heure de rentrer.

Ah France – the most popular vacation spot in the world.  Merci Sue for providing us a glimpse of this corner of the country.

(Ah France – le lieu de vacances le plus populaire au monde. Merci Sue pour nous donner un aperçu de ce coin du pays.)


Two Weeks between PARIS and LA MANCHE (continued)

Honfleur was the end of the line for a cruise down the Seine before we retraced our steps (or rather the river flow) up-stream to Paris. The protected port is over a 1000 years old.

I really enjoyed strolling narrow alleys and cobblestone streets,

and the wooden church, dating from the second half of the 15th century, constructed right after the Hundred Years War.  It gives the impression of an upside-down ship’s hull.


M.Ages wooden church Hnflr_08 ps29

Medieval Wooden Church of Sainte-Catherine (photo CCM)


Market-day alongside the church.(Rob Little)

From Rob Little, photographer and an English tour guide: http://letstourengland.com/blog/2012/05/30/more-photos-from-honfleur-such-a-lovely-place/

We also visited Deuxville, where  A Man and a Woman was filmed and a film festival is held.

Deauville 02_16_39_16_Pro

With Marie at the beach changing cabins.   (I’ll be Shirley, you be Bette.)

Back to Rouen ((photo Rob Little)

Market in Rouen  (Rob Little)





Two Weeks between PARIS and LA MANCHE (the English Channel)

France is on my mind after the events of last week. I flew home from Paris only three weeks ago. After a peaceful trip with some lovely people, it’s hard to imagine the horrors of the terrorist attack last week. I’ll focus on the former in honor of the world’s most beloved culture and le joie de la vie française.   WP_20150929_21_02_02_Pro

My friend Sue asked me to share an apartment with her for a week in Paris.  Not wanting to fly all the way to Europe for only a week, I looked for something else a single traveler could do. I hit upon a four night cruise down the Seine and back with a French cruise line which was reasonably priced and had a very low single supplement fare.

We started in Paris in the evening, which is where all my pictures from this previous post came from: https://cindamackinnon.wordpress.com/2015/10/15/paris-at-night-city-lights-photos/

hotel de ville i thnk_41_06 psThe 95% of the cruisers were French and the rest were Europeans and Canadians, while only three were Americans. This gave me an excellent chance to practice my French, although twice I got lost in one on one conversations that went on for another ten or more minutes. I had a vague idea of the topic, (at that time the main topic of conversation was the refugees), but I was too embarrassed to tell the man at that stage that I had no idea what point he was trying to make!

Croisieuro boat en Rouen ps

The itinerary stated we would “pass through the town of Vernon…. arriving in Les Andelys.” Now wouldn’t you think that would mean that we could get off in Les Andelys? No, not allowed! Only those who were going on the rather expensive excursion by bus could get off, but they didn’t get to walk around the charming town of Les Andelys either. I had not signed up for the excursion because I didn’t want to spend 6-7 hours on a bus (especially since I had jet lag).

Les Andelys

Les Andelys

The bus folks met us that night in Rouen, the former capital of Normandy and home of Joan of Arc.

church Rouen

Rouen Cathedral – difficult to photograph as other buildings prevent you from stepping back to get the whole edifice in your view finder.

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A close up of the intricate details and in slightly different lighting.









William the Conqueror was present for the original consecration of Rouen Cathedral in 1063.  It later destroyed but rebuilt over the centuries in the Gothic style so admired by Claude Monet who created some 30 paintings of the facade in a variety of lighting.

Next time: Honfleur, Giverny and Rouen. …and there will be a quiz 😉


Paris monuments are beautifully illuminated at night – well worth a separate tour by taxi, bus 69 or…does anyone know if the Batobus (boat) operates after dark? All of these photographs were taken on or along the Seine.  Once the tallest structure on the world (1050 feet/320 meters), the iconic Eiffel Tower was built as the entrance to the world’s fair in 1889.  Visitors can climb up stairs to the first two levels or take a lift all the way to the third and highest level.

I don’t remember the flashing light show years ago, but you can see it all across the city at night.

tour eiffel fr below 15_46_psAnd above is another angle of the tower: taken from below, looking up.

Musee d’Orsay – originally a Beaux-Arts railroad station (Gare d’Orsay) built in 1900.  It was converted into the fabulous French art museum in the 1970’s and houses the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces by painters including Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cezanne, Seurat, Gauguin and Van Gogh.

De Orsay i thnk_49_15_Ps


Below is the dome of the Pantheon.  Marie Curie, Victor Hugo and other notables are buried here in the building which used to be a church.

Pantheon_45_58 ps_


The entrance to the Louvre at night – the largest museum in the world.  The Louvre was begun as a fortress in the 12th century and added onto over the next 500 years to become the Palais Louvre of the French kings.  It began its young life as an art gallery as early as 1750 and after the French Revolution was officially transformed into a museum.




La Rive Droite under a full moon.

Rive droit under full moon_50_33ps


Everyone knows the Statue of liberty in NYC (first photo below) was a gift from France.. but here is a model (second photo below)  installed on the Seine.

The Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island Ferry, NYC.

The Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island Ferry, NYC.

statue lbrty model seine_10_00_ps

Model of the Statue of Liberty with the Eiffel Tower behind –which looks closer than it actually is because the tower is large and the statue is relatively small.


Frenchmen-francophiles who can identify this landmark building below?

hotel de ville i thnk_41_06 psThese pictures were all taken with my cell phone; for some gorgeous shots of Paris at night (esp. the bridges) by a professional see: http://ianmacdonaldphotography/paris night

For this global nomad, botany buff and blossoming novelist, a picture says…

The Displaced Nation

Cinda 1000 Words CollageWelcome to our monthly series “A picture says…”, created to celebrate expats and other global residents for whom photography is a creative outlet. The series host is English expat, blogger, writer, world traveler and photography enthusiast James King, who thinks of a camera as a mirror with memory. If you like what you see here, be sure to check out his blog, Jamoroki.

My guest this month is Cinda MacKinnon, an American who grew up overseas and is the author of an award-winning novel set in one of her former homes, Colombia. Called A Place in the World, the book was featured almost exactly a year ago on the Displaced Nation.

Cinda shoots mainly “macro” (extremely close up) pictures, a habit she developed because of her interest in nature and plants—especially wildflowers. A writer, former university lecturer, and environmental scientist, Cinda is trained…

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Me Talk Pretty One Day – Difficulties in Learning another Language

I am reading David Sedaris’ funny personal essays « Me Talk Pretty Someday .» I know everyone else must have read it years ago, but I had no idea it was about an American struggling to learn French while living in France, or it would have made it to the top of my reading list long ago.   Reading in bed the other night I let out a whoop and startled my husband; another time I laughed so hard I almost cried. The following are excerpted from his book (my asides are in these shaded boxes).  CM

MeTalkPrettyOneDayCover (wikipedia)

David Sedaris

David Sedaris




Meaning to say “Do you understand me?” instead Sedaris says:

“You will understand me” (and) the citizens of France responded with blank stares. I picked up a few new words, but overall the situation seemed hopeless. Neighbors would drop by and I’d struggle to entertain then with a pathetic series of simple nouns. “Food, ashtray, drink?”

“Yes,” they’d agree. “That is an ashtray all right.”

CM:  It reminds of MY  first trip to France when my back went out and I could not sit in those white plastic chairs ubiquitous in European cafes. Upon entering a restaurant I proceeded to explain that I was “mal de dos” and could I please have different “assiette?”

This made sense to me as a seat or chair is an “asiento” in Spanish, but the maître looked puzzled and asked me to repeat my performance. I took a deep breath and repeated “mal de dos” and “autre assiette SVP?”

He told me “We  have only these assiettes,” while gesturing to a set table… with assorted chairs.The whole restaurant is watching now as I point to a nice wooden chair across the room.  “That one?” I asked hopefully.

After a pregant pause he replied, “Mais Madam, that is not an assiette,” and bringing me a dinner plate – c’est une assiette and…that (pointing to the chair)  c’est une chaise.”  The diners looked away hiding their smiles, while I slunk to my chaise.

un chaise et une assiette_auto0599

une chaise et une assiette


(Back to Me Talk Pretty One Day):  I’d hoped language might come on its own the way it comes to babies, but people don’t…hypnotize you with bright objects and fuss over you when you finally say “wawa.” It got to the point where I’d see a baby in a bakery… and instinctively ball up my fists, jealous over how easy he had it. I wanted to lie down in a French crib and learn the language from scratch.

I returned to Normandy the following summer and resumed my identity as the village idiot. “See you again yesterday!” I said to butcher. « Ashtray, food ! »

Village in Normandy

Village in Normandy

I found words in the dictionary and typed them onto index cards, and committed them to memory. By the end of the month I’d managed to retain 300 nouns, none of which proved the least bit useful.

2. jardin 0266ps - Copy

On my fifth trip I limited myself to words that people actually use. From dog owners I learned “Lie down,” “Shut up” and “Who shit on this carpet?” …The grocer taught me how to count… I’d learned a total of 1,564 words and kept my vocabulary in a wooden box… and worried that if the house caught fire, I’d be back to square one with “ashtray” and would lose the intense pleasure I felt whenever I heard somebody use a word I’d come to think of as my own.

Mont St Michel, Normandy

Mont Saint Michel, Normandy

My confidence hit a new low when my friend Adeline told me that French children make mistakes, but never with the sex of nouns.  “We hear the gender once, and then think of it as part of the word. There’s nothing to it.”  It’s pretty grim world when I can’t even feel superior to a toddler. Tired of embarrassing myself in front of two-year olds, I’ve started referring to everything in the plural, which…has solved a lot of problems… in saying the melons, you use the plural article which does not reflect gender… Ask for two or 300 melons and you are off the hook. I use the plural when shopping… the problem is finding a place (in the refrigerator) for 4 lbs. of tomatoes, two chickens and a pair of pork roasts.

 In Paris David Sedaris takes a French class with a bunch of immigrant students from a sarcastic teacher. When asked a question he writes:

The teacher’s reaction led me to believe these mistakes were capital crimes in France… She (scolds), “Even a ticiwelmun knows that a typewriter is feminine.”

I absorbed as much of her abuse as I could understand, thinking that I find it ridiculous to assign gender to inanimate objects incapable of disrobing…  these things could never live up to all their sex implied.

Tour EiffelThe teacher proceeded to belittle everyone… German, Japanese, Thai, Dutch, Korean and Chinese – we all left class foolishly believing that the worst was over…but my fear crept beyond the borders of the classroom. Stopping for coffee, asking for directions… these things were now out of the question… I was convinced everything I said was wrong.  My only comfort was that I was not alone. Huddled in the hallways and making the most of our pathetic French, my fellow students and I engaged in the sort of conversation commonly overheard at refugee camps.

“Sometimes me cry alone at night.”

“That be common for I, also, but be more strong, you. Much work and someday you talk pretty…maybe tomorrow okay.”

 Have you read Sedaris? Do you have a story to share about learning a language?