The internet is a wonderful thing, but the reality is sometimes it makes us lazy. Having since discovered this great site called Worldlingo, which has a cunning auto-translate facility, I've been cockily 'writing' all sorts of things in French. Last night this backfired a little though when my landlord responded to a letter I had written to him - in person. Writing in French is one thing - but speaking and understanding spoken French is an entirely different matter. So there he stood, at the threshold to our flat, parley-ing FranÃ§ais at a speed and expecting me to understand what the hell he was going on about. Lesson learned. Next time I shall add to the end of my letter - "Veuillez rÃ©pondre dans l'Ã©criture" (please respond in writing).
In France there doesn't appear to be such a thing as a 'big' chicken. In the UK, when you visit the supermarket meat section - you might be faced with three or four different sizes of the fowl, from small through to extra large. In France however - 'small' and 'not quite so small' appear to be the only choices. Why is this the case one wonders? There are only two possible explanations as far as I can work out: French chickens smoke at least thirty tabs a day (Gauloises or Gitanes most likely)British Chickens are about as steroid-free as an Austrian Nordic skiing teamOf course there's no need to panic if you like a large bird - in France you can always opt for a nice big Coq! (though they do tend to be a bit hard and chewy)
Last night we slummed it with a bottle of cheap-cheap wine from the local corner shop. It was so cheap in fact that it didn't even warrant a screw-on cap. It just had a little rubber stopper which you simply flipped-off with a well placed thumb. Granted, it wasn't the best bottle we've ever consumed - but it was far from being the worst. How cheap? EURO â‚¬1.90 which is equivalent to GBP Â£1.29 ! Okay so some other things here are much more expensive than in the UK - but then I don't recall a time when I felt the need to wash down my evening meal with half a litre of Marmite.
... is the question we get asked every other day. "Okay, France yes, but Strasbourg - isn't that kind of ... German?" Yes, and that is exactly the point. I've never had a problem with Germans personally, except very tall ones, and if they deter my fellow countrymen from coming here - then so much the better. If I wanted to be surrounded by my fellow countrymen - I could move to Bognor Regis.
This morning I discovered that we urgently need to replenish our supplies of both museli and toilet paper. And I can't help thinking that these two items are inextricably linked in some way!
Last week I finally finished reading 'A year in Provence' by Peter Mayle. This is the book which, it is claimed, first started the trend for the British middle class exodus to France. If you haven't read it - in essence - it is a charming tale of Anglo-Saxon naÃ¯vety. Of how a smug semi-retired couple buy a house and vinyard in Provence, and spend a year there - spending money. Every Frenchman they come into contact with appears to need their cash (though this is never acknowledged). The question is though - did Peter Mayle's willingness to part with his money tar all us Anglo-Saxons with the same brush? Why is it, for example, that every French person I meet assumes I'm loaded to the gills with cash and am just looking for ways to part with my hard-earned wonga? Perhaps if Mr Mayle had learned to do his own DIY things might have turned out differently?
...is how the French prefer to eat their meat. Or rather, their ham, as they don't appear to eat anything else. You can buy cured ham, smoked ham, dried ham, salted ham, rolled ham, thin ham, thick ham, roast ham, boiled ham, turkey 'ham', belly ham, processed ham, fresh ham and of course "Bacon Anglais" (which is simply smoked ham with 'bacon' written on the packet). One might be forgiven for thinking that buying the occassional sausage instead might offer your palette some relief from this ham obssessed diet; but most French sausages are made from - you guessed it - ham. Don't be fooled by their mysterious names either. Here's a quick bit of jargon busting to help you at the meat counter... Toulouse sausages = ham sausages Paysage sausages = ham sausages Chiploatas = ham sausages Merguez = ham sausages Saucisses a grillee = ham sausages Knacks = processed ham sausages Avergne = dry ham sausage What I wouln't give for a pound of Cumberland pork sausages right now!