Monday, March 28, 2016

le café

‘so,’ asks becky, ‘if a coffee is un café and a café is also un café, how do you know which one you’re taking about?’
the french glance at each other, shrug frenchly.

the french love their coffee. it’s a habit, an institution, the closing punctuation to a meal. something consumed from a tiny cup while you stand at the counter of a brasserie or sit on a cane chair smoking, your dog at your feet. (I LOVE french cliché!)

but it’s also nearly always bitter and/or grainy, made with a grimy espresso machine, or served at home from a lukewarm percolator. 

(but sometimes there's a time and place for this style of coffee)

not long before I left for my holiday, my friend hannah posted this link on my facebook page.

popular french coffee shops in paris, according to instagram

challenge accepted.
challenge not always photographed.

café kitsuné:

coffee club (this one is actually in montpellier):

honor café:

boot café:

and a sneaky london lunch at monocle cafe:


Thursday, March 17, 2016

la lecture

I don't know about you, but I believe one of the best things about going to France is THE BOOKS.* And behold my haul.

As you can see I was quite reserved, really. I shopped in Bordeaux at an enormous (absolutely staggeringly big) bookshop (i got lost once) called Mollat, in Les Enfants sur le Toit, a children's bookstore in Montmartre, and at Chantelivre in the 6th arrondissement.
  • Cupidon Power by Luc Blanvillain, published by l'école des loisirs (MG), in which a young boy has the magical ability to make people fall in love with each other – but he can't benefit from it himself.
  • Dysfonctionelle by Axl Cendres, published by Editions Sarbacane (YA). Fidèle has a pretty crappy home life – Dad back and forth from prison, Mum from the psych ward – but she's clever, and so goes to a posh school in a nice suburb. I'll take a torn-between-two-worlds story ANYDAY.
  • La pyramide des besions humains by Caroline Solé, published by l'école des loisirs (YA). This one was recommended to me by Coline Ribue, a publicist at l'école des loisirs who was kind enough to meet with me and chat all things book – answering all of my questions about how 'surely france respects books above all else' and hearing back that actually, like here, kids books get pretty overlooked in terms of reviews in mainstream media ...more about this another time – and she walked me around Chantelivre, the indie bookshop right next door to the office. This YA novel is about a reality TV show based on the idea of Marlow's hierarchy of needs. I'm going to have to read it to understand more...
  • Quand le diable sortit de la salle de bain by Sophie Divry, published by Notabilia (adult fic) about a young woman, unemployed and bogged down in her novel. I try not to think about this one being too close to home. Sophie, the character, has a personal demon called Lorchus, so we're different that way.
  • C'est chic! by Marie Dorléans, published by Seuil Jeunesse (picture book). It's about a merchant who can't shift his wares, until one day he gets a touch of heatstroke and begins pitching very strange goods: coffee shoes and rain carpets?? And the snobbity rich folks, well they think these things are just so unique!
A closer look at all things chic...

Isn't it magnificent?

  • Le merveilleux dodu-velu-petit by Beatrice Alemagna, published by Albin Michel Jeunesse (picture book) and which is about a little girl who just wants to get the best present for her mother's birthday – better that anything her sister could get...
 I couldn't not buy the Beatrice Alemagna, even though she's pretty often translated into English – and this title is already, it's called The Wonderful Fluffy Little Squishy – but I had read an article about this one last year, in which Beatrice was asked (I believe) to redraw a scene in which a butcher brandishes a bloody, dripping knife at our little main character Eddie. American sensibilities etc. I don't know if she had to censor it in the end, but I know I wanted the bloody knife version for myself.

I'm excited, though a little overwhelmed, at all the reading-in-a-second-language I'm about to do. I'm trying to improve my French from basic-conversation-fluent to something a little more nuanced and sophisticated. Books is the answer, I think.

Do you read in foreign languages? How do you source your books? Do you feel, like me, that we would all benefit from an increased amount of works translated from other languages in this country? How can we make this an affordable process?

 *croissants, baguettes and rocamadour cheese obviously a close, tied, second-best.