In Which Gail Worries About France

I am going to France in a little over a month, Fashionable reader. I’ll be in Saint Malo of Les Etonnants Voyageurs Festival (May 18-20) and then Epinal for Imaginales (May 23-26)! If you are in the area and can come and see me, the details of my French trip can be found on the Gail Carriger sightings page. After that, the AB and I will explore of the countryside near the German border and end with a few days in Paris. I am excited, of course I am excited, but I am all scared.

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I have been to France briefly before but I don’t speak any French and I’m terrified by the language and intimidated by the culture. I excavated in Italy, I speak decent Spanish, and many of my friends in graduate school were Greek. As a result, those tend to be the Mediterranean counties I gravitate towards. This is a wonderful opportunity to get to know a part of Europe I’ve never really explored before, but I do suffer from travel fatigue.

no more
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Of course, I am attracted by the fashion, the food, and the wine. I understand all about the romance and the beauty. But I’m still scared, and the fear is blocking me from getting as enthusiastic as I want to be about the trip.

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I thought I might appeal to you for help, Gentle Reader. Have you visited France? Have you always wanted to visit? Do you simply love France, or French culture? Would you mind telling me one exciting thing about the country or the people? Something that is not common knowledge? Something fun and unusual? Something a crazy tea drinking octopus centered glove wearing steampunk author might latch on to?

All thoughts appreciated.


Your Moment of Parasol . . .
1865 The Los Angeles County Museum of Art
1865 The Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Your Infusion of Cute . . .
Felted Octopus spotted in Jack London Square

Your Tisane of Smart . . .
Quirky Victorian Term explained: Ambergris “Ambergris (or grey amber) is a perfume found in the intestines of the spermaceti whale, of floating on the sea; it is an unctuous solid body, of an ash colour. The Europeans value it only as a scent; the Asiatics and Africans use it in cookery.”
~ Mangnall’s Questions, 1830

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .

Book News:
Not only I had a good time at AnomolyCon.

Quote of the Day:
— The man is a fool who, when asked for his candid opinion, gives it.
~ Punch December 1853

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  1. Riayn said:

    Nothing terribly fascinating or exciting but something that might help alleviate your worries. I was in Paris at the beginning of March and what I learnt there was that most people speak really good English and will love you if you try to speak a tiny bit of French, even Excusez-moi madame/monsieur, parlez-vous anglais? (Excuse me madam/sir do you speak English?) will earn you a smile and good service.

    Ok now for something interesting: the French do not believe that the Easter bunny brings them their eggs on Easter Sunday, but instead they are delivered by a Church bell.

    And something delicious: If you order a café gourmand, you get not only a cup of coffee but also a taster plate of tiny desserts.

    Enjoy France, it is a wonderful country with amazing food and lovely people!

  2. Salsta said:

    I have visited France and loved it. I found the people warm, helpful and engaging – and I got no opportunity to practice my barely existent but terrible French. They all insisted on speaking English with me.

    Of course, I am Australian and therefore the French are predisposed to like me. However I also attribute my good experience on one more thing. When I approached anyone, I did now speak English. I always used the term "Pardon, parles vous Anglaise?" A creaky way of asking in French, excluse me, do you speak English.

    Most did and were very pleased to do so. As I said, I would have liked to speak a little more French to practice and didn't get the opportunity.

    I'm very sure that the fact that I was trying to communicate in French, and not presuming that they spoke English, helped me a great deal.

    Try to memorise that phrase alone and I'm sure you'll get a long way further than if you try to speak in English.

    The French are a proud people and making presumptions that they should accommodate others linguistically in their own land can go down very badly. I witnessed plenty of tourists getting the cold shoulder (and upturned nose) from local people, who were in turn lovely and warm and helpful to me.

    Best of luck! It' s lovely there. Make sure to see the Rodin Museum, Napolean's tomb and Les Invalides. They're all very near the Eiffel Tower so it's easy.


  3. Anonymous said:

    I love France and especially Paris, and I agree that people are generally kind and polite if you make an effort with the language.

    One of the places I remember most strongly (after three trips) is the Cluny Museum. If you have time for the Louvre don't miss the basements. The exposed foundations are amazing, and it's much less crowded than around the famous works.

    Sensible walking shoes are mandatory, and trainers were still rare last time I was there.

  4. Anonymous said:

    My dear,
    I have not been there but I am from French descent and have read many a translated French book. Be confident in yourself and/or express love of something in France, and I think you will have no problem partly because of your fashion sense. And a certain je ne sais quois. 8^)


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