The two faces of Lorraine

Lorraine tends to be off the beaten track for the international tourist in France, but I found it to be quite an interesting destination. It is fair to say that the huge, flat plain of Lorraine is not the most picturesque landscape. If fields of corn don’t depress you as much as they do me,Continue reading “The two faces of Lorraine”

The Alsatian chocolate box

Firmly in France but forever looking East to Germany, Alsace is not only incredibly pretty, but also a fascinating place to explore for its culture. Already in the Vosges, I could feel its cultural influence. Red and pink geraniums on every balcony and windowsills. The culture of turning fruits into delicious liqueurs and eaux-de-vie. PretzelsContinue reading “The Alsatian chocolate box”

Little Red Riding Hood in the Vosges

When I arrived in the Vosges, I had a simple problem: I didn’t know where to go. After visiting the Pyrenees, the Alps and the Jura, what new experiences could the Vosges possibly give me? Compared to the other mountain ranges I visited, the Vosges are confusing: they don’t follow a general direction. There isContinue reading “Little Red Riding Hood in the Vosges”

The two sides of Annecy

In Annecy, a random change of perspective made me re-consider my whole impression of the place. I was drawn to Annecy after people told me of the turquoise waters of its lake, its beautiful mountain landscape and its fantastic outdoor sport scene. As I drew closer, all I saw was a town built around cars.Continue reading “The two sides of Annecy”

Along the Pyrenees 1: Béarn

From the Basque country, I drove westwards along the Pyrenees, staying on the French side of this magnificent mountain range. Straight as an arrow between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, a natural border between France and Spain, between the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts. If you want to go anywhere fast, stay in theContinue reading “Along the Pyrenees 1: Béarn”

Bayonne and the Basque coast

We often say France is the most beautiful country in the world, because of the variety of its landscapes, its fabulous food culture, and its stylish lifestyle. Frankly, the Basque country could say the same. This pocket country, a picturesque and characterful kaleidoscope of coast, mountains and cities, packs quite a punch. The Basque country,Continue reading “Bayonne and the Basque coast”

Sea, sand and pines

The Atlantic coast, between the huge Garonne estuary and Bayonne, is essentially one long, straight, North to South line. The untameable and infinite Atlantic Ocean squares up with the Eurasian continent, in the shape of the huge Landes de Gascogne. In between, the Côte d’Argent, the Silver Coast, a 250 km-long beach. The vast andContinue reading “Sea, sand and pines”

Home abroad

Somewhere between Montluçon and Limoges, I drove past a sign informing me I was entering the “pays d’oc”. As a linguist and an explorer of France, I got very excited. First of all, entering a new country is always exciting. The French language has the word “dépaysement”, for the feeling of being in a newContinue reading “Home abroad”

Musée d’Orsay or the spirals of art

On Friday we revived an old tradition, the day-long family outing to a Parisian museum, and we visited the Musée d’Orsay. We had been there many time before, but this time was special. The pretext for our outing was a temporary exhibition, called “Les origines du monde” (“The origins of the world”). The title isContinue reading “Musée d’Orsay or the spirals of art”

The French art of conversation

The French are famous across the world for their love of debate (some say, their love of arguing). So let me explain how to think (and argue) like the French. Let us start with an example of how the French take a compliment. Person A says to person B “Your hair looks lovely today”. PersonContinue reading “The French art of conversation”