French Easter ~ Your French Easter Basket Saturday, Mar 26 2016 

This past week in France has been la Semaine Sainte (Holy Week) in the Christian tradition. The culmination of the period of Lent or le Carême, it started off last weekend with Palm Sunday, le dimanche des Rameaux, and has continued on to le Vendredi Saint. In France on Good Friday, faithful Catholics often attend Good Friday prayer services and participate in the “Way of the Cross” liturgy. Of course, Notre Dame in Paris is a majestic place to be part of French Holy Week and Easter.

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But further afield, one of my favorite places in all of France to experience le Chemin de la Croix is in the breathtaking cliffside town of Rocamadour in Southwest France. A major pilgrimage stop on a key pilgrim route leading down to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, Rocamadour is full of history and worth a visit at Easter or any other time of the year. And its stunning Way of the Cross path zigzags up the cliff to arrive at the 14th and final station hewn out of the rock, highlighting the spiritual culmination of Easter.

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On a more secular note, Easter in France also makes a splash at pastry and candy shops across the country. Colorful displays of chocolate eggs, chickens, chicks, rabbits, fish and more tempt shoppers of all ages. You’ll also see lots of chocolate bells both in chocolat noir and chocolat au lait. The presence of candy bells in France harkens back to the legend that on Maundy Thursday, all the cloches (bells) in French churches would fly away to Rome for the culmination of Holy Week. Then on Easter Sunday, they would fly back to France dropping chocolats and bonbons for the children on the way back. But whether you prefer the story of the Anglo-Saxon Easter bunny or the French cloches, they all make darling additions to Easter baskets. You can see the lovely array of French Easter treats below for just a sampling of items to add to your French Easter basket!

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French kids also love to go on Easter egg hunts to search for eggs and candy. In Paris, there are numerous options for the chasse aux oeufs across the city on Easter Sunday. This year, over 20,000 eggs will be hidden at the Champ de Mars park by the Eiffel Tower, an event sponsored by the French children’s charity Le Secours Populaire. In addition to the egg hunt, there will be lots of other activities including face painting, games, sports and dancing. The event lasts from 10am to 5pm, and the 5 euros per child supports a great cause.

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There are a couple of other important things to note about this Easter weekend this year. The French change their clocks for daylight savings time tonight – so everyone in France will be moving their clocks forward one hour. And Easter Monday is an official holiday so many businesses and official entities are closed on that day.

Wishing you a wonderful Easter – Joyeuses Pâques!

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French for Travelers 2016 Wednesday, Feb 3 2016 

Bonjour! This little French word is quite possibly one of the most important a traveler can use while in France. Why so? Well, it means ‘hello’ so saying it at appropriate times is a practical necessity. But the real importance of ‘bonjour’ has much more to do with politesse (politeness) and courtoisie (courtesy), two critical aspects of French culture.

Along with having a few French phrases handy, knowing the French habits of politeness and respect go a long way to avoiding any ‘faux pas’ when traveling in France. Just for fun, check your French culture knowledge with this short travel quiz below:

When saying goodbye to someone in France, you can say:

a)      Bonsoir

b)      Au revoir

c)      A bientôt

d)     All of the above

When served bread at a French restaurant, you should:

a)      Put it on the edge of your plate

b)      Eat it directly from the bread basket

c)      Place it on the table next to your plate

d)     None of the above

When invited for an aperitif at a French person’s home, you should:

a)      Stay for half an hour

b)      Arrive late and stay for 20 minutes

c)      Stay for an hour or so

d)     Stay until the family starts to sit down for dinner

When interacting with a French waiter at a restaurant or café, you can:

a) Call him over with a loud “Garçon!”

b) Address him as “Monsieur”

c) Address him by his first name as noted on his name tag

d) All of the above

If you’re intrigued by the French politeness associated with ‘bonjour’ as well as the answers to the little quiz above, I’ll be talking about it all in depth along with French etiquette, attitudes and much more in my annual “French for Travelers” seminar coming up at SMU in mid-February. For the ninth year in a row, we’ll explore how making an effort with the language in France goes a LONG way to a great travel experience there, even though many French speak a bit of English these days.

In this special mini-intensive course, I will also teach essential phrases for a variety of situations (including restaurants – how to order, what to order, what NOT to order – tête de veau, anyone??), French customs and vocabulary for a variety of contexts (table manners, shopping, hotels, museums, how to ask for gift wrapping!), indispensable pronunciation tips, and a long list of French travel essentials. Real life stories and anecdotes about travel in France and interacting with the French make this a lively and fun class. You will also walk away with specific tips and strategies about traveling well in France (by train, Metro, air) and also the confidence to really enjoy your time there.

If you already have some French, this course complements previous study of the language, though no prior knowledge of French is required. The class includes six hours of rich instruction plus comprehensive handouts so you will walk away with a great toolkit and guide to take on your next trip to France. Please note that this class is conducted primarily in English with lots of good practice in French. You can bring your France travel questions too! Advance registration is required through SMU’s Continuing Studies Program(Please note that this is the only time in 2016 this course will be offered – just in time for the spring, summer and fall travel season!)

“French for Travelers 2016″

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday – February 16, 17, 18, 2016

SMU Continuing Studies – Main campus location

For registration information and to contact SMU, please click here

What does one say to call over this busy French waiter??

For those who live outside of Texas and might like to take this course via webinar (online seminar) format, we are exploring this option. Please let us know of your interest in the comment section below. Merci beaucoup!

Paint in Provence This September! Monday, Feb 1 2016 

Provence is possibly the most beautiful and rewarding region in all of France. It is known for its charming villages, picturesque countryside, warm sunshine, lively markets, fragrant gardens, flavorful cuisine, wonderful wines, and relaxed culture. And Provence’s stunning light and color have inspired artists for centuries.

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In September 2016, your can have your own French art experience with French Affaires’ upcoming “Provence Painting & Culture Workshop” featuring southern France artist and resident Jill Steenhuis and hosting by France expert Elizabeth Seitz. During this hands-on week plus of French painting and culture, you’ll discover various motifs including Provençal landscapes, village architecture, outdoor markets, still lifes and more while working on composition, brush stroke and color mixing. Cultural visits to Cézanne’s art studio, Van Gogh’s painting sites and more will deepen your understanding of the real Provence. Jill’s artistic expertise, energy and poetic spirit plus Elizabeth’s deep cultural knowledge, warm welcome and desire to share the riches of this region make it a creative journey you won’t want to miss!

“Provence Painting & Culture Workshop”

September 15 to 24, 2016

Everything is arranged for your perfect art adventure – private accommodations in modern apartments in the heart of Aix-en-Provence, painting lessons for beginning to experienced artists with celebrated painter Jill Steenhuis, superb cultural excursions in the steps of artists Cézanne and Van Gogh, wonderful lunches and dinners featuring Provence cuisine with wine, visits to colorful outdoor markets, trip organizing and hosting by Elizabeth Seitz, airport transfers and land transport, and more. You’ll love soaking in the art and ambiance of Provence during this personal and unique painting trip in southern France.

Provence Painting & Culture Workshop Highlights

Nine days, eight nights in your modern, centrally located Aix apartment

Outdoor & studio painting classes with celebrated artist Jill Steenhuis

Cultural activities & trip hosting by France expert Dr. Elizabeth Seitz

Guided cultural tours of Cézanne’s & Van Gogh’s Provence

Gourmet Provence lunches & dinners with wine

Colorful Provence outdoor markets & villages

Full day excursion to the Mediterranean coast

Your wonderful paintings & sketches as souvenirs of your trip!

Your Provence Trip Hosts

 Jill Steenhuis, Artist - Jill Steenhuis, an Atlanta native, is a French impressionist painter living in the south of France. Jill earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts at Sweet Briar College in 1980. Upon graduation, she studied at the celebrated Leo Marchutz School of Painting & Drawing in Aix-en-Provence, which follows in the tradition of Cézanne. Since then, she has become an acclaimed artist & has sold more than 2300 works to private collectors, museums & art enthusiasts. She regularly exhibits her work at art shows in France & the U.S. Jill has lived in Provence with her French husband for more than thirty years & has three sons.

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Dr. Elizabeth New Seitz, French AffairesA native Texan, Dr. Elizabeth New Seitz is a specialist in France & French culture. She is the founder of French Affaires, a unique company celebrating French travel, culture, language & l’art de vivre. She received her B.A., M.A. & Ph.D. in French from Vanderbilt University & studied at the Sorbonne in Paris & with Vanderbilt-in-France in Aix-en-Provence. She has lived, worked & traveled extensively in France since 1983. Her specialty is making France personal & special to everyone through her trips, classes & lectures. Elizabeth lives in the French countryside near Paris & travels regularly to the U.S. to speak about French culture to groups across the U.S.

Provence Trip Overview

Day 1: Thursday, Sept 15 – Depart your home city & fly to Marseille.

Day 2:  Friday, Sept 16 – Arrival at the Marseille Airport, Transfer to your Apartment, Walking tour of Aix, Welcome Bistrot Dinner with Jill & Elizabeth

Day 3: Saturday, Sept 17 – Aix Outdoor Market Tour, Cezanne’s Art Studio, Jill’s Art Studio, Cocktails & Dinner at Jill’s Provence Home

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 Jill’s beautiful home just outside Aix-en-Provence 

Day 4:  Sunday, Sept 18 – Provence Painting Workshop Begins: Color Palettes, Sketching, Painting Demonstration by Jill  

Day 5:  Monday, Sept 19 – Provence Painting Workshop Continues: Landscape Painting en plein air

Day 6: Tuesday, Sept 20 – Provence Painting Workshop Continues: Charming Port of Cassis on the Mediterranean  

Day 7:  Wednesday, Sept 21 – Van Gogh’s Art in Provence: Arles, Abbaye de Montmajour & St. Paul de Mausole, St. Rémy’s Charming Town & Market, Bistrot lunch

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Van Gogh’s Asylum near St. Rémy with reproductions of his works in the garden

Day 8:  Thursday, Sept 22 – Provence Painting Workshop Continues: Aix Flower & Vegetable Market

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Day 9: Friday, Sept 23 – Provence Painting Workshop Continues: Still Life & Garden Scene Painting, Hang Artworks, Evening Art Exhibit, Cocktail Party & Farewell Dinner 

Day 10: Saturday, Sept 24 – Farewells & Trip Departure

About Aix-en-Provence

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Aix-en-Provence is a gorgeous, vibrant city in the heart of Provence. With a rich history & welcoming southern French culture, Aix provides a superb base for our stay in France. Aix is known for its majestic monuments & architecture, beautiful old town, centuries old fountains, fascinating museums & cultural institutions, wonderful cuisine, colorful outdoor markets, popular universities& schools, lively arts & music scene, & grand boulevard the Cours Mirabeau, noted by many to be the prettiest main street in all of Europe.

 For the detailed Provence Painting Trip itinerary and registration information, please email us at French.culture (at) frenchaffaires.com . This special trip is limited to 8 to 10 participants for a highly personalized art and travel experience.  

A personal invitation from Jill to the “Provence Painting & Culture Workshop”:

Elizabeth and I look forward to welcoming you to Provence for an intensive week of painting and cultural inspiration! Our French art workshop is designed for both experienced and beginning painters alike. The focus is on experiencing nature and culture in Provence through the senses in order to engage one’s inner poetry — to see, hear, smell, taste and feel, which will lead you to create new paintings expressing these experiences.

Out in the fields of wheat, sunflowers and lavender in the Provençal landscape, at the seascapes of Cassis or in the flower and vegetable markets of Aix, we will celebrate color. Our workshop will begin with learning to mix a harmonious palette at l’Abeille, my Provence studio and home, which will be our headquarters for the week. After warming up with special drawing exercises, each participant will do a landscape or garden painting in order to get used to the colors and light of Provence. The rest of the week we will draw and paint in the landscape and see places that inspired geniuses like Cézanne and Van Gogh, always seeking to release our creative spirit. Ideas come to our fingertips. Brush strokes go on the canvas. Immediacy is a key element to being able to let go of the intellect and let the paint fly onto the canvas without thinking and calculating, allowing artistic grace to happen. The exhilarating joy of being there to paint, to create from what is visually there in front of you, the sublime fragile beauty and translucent light of Provence will make it an unforgettable experience. A bientôt! Jill

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Be at Home in Provence This May! Tuesday, Jan 19 2016 

Dear friends - For a little winter pick-me-up, today we are spotlighting our upcoming Provence immersion trip this May. Provence is possibly the most beautiful and rewarding region in all of France. It is known for stunning countryside, amazing weather, picturesque villages, flavorful cuisine, wonderful wines, colorful markets, fragrant gardens, charming locals and relaxed culture. Please join us for this extra-special France language and culture immersion experience where you will have the chance to really ‘live in Provence’ for a glorious two weeks in May of 2016. 

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We’ve arranged everything for a perfect, easy stay – private accommodations in modern, fully furnished apartments in the center of Aix-en-Provence, French lessons for your level at Aix’s premier language school, superb cultural excursions in and around Aix organized especially for our group, excellent guides and hosts, wonderful dinners and lunches featuring Provence cuisine with wine, visits to colorful outdoor markets, time on the Mediterranean coast, chances to meet and interact with Aix locals, and more. You’ll love soaking in the ambiance of Provence during this unique immersion into the best of southern France.

I will lead our Aix-en-Provence immersion experience and connect you personally with French culture, the language and the people. This trip is ideal for individuals, couples, friends, and even families traveling together. After our Provence adventure, you’ll be speaking French like never before – and you’ll have a lifetime of memories of your time in Aix! A bientôt, Elizabeth 

P.S. I also call this our ’semester abroad for busy adults’ trip – so if you ever wanted to really be at home in France, this is an ideal way to do it!

Highlights of Our Provence Immersion Trip – May 6 to 21, 2016

Fourteen nights in your bright, modern, centrally located Aix apartment

French classes according to your level at Aix’s premier language institute

Gourmet Provence dinners & lunches with wine

Aperitifs at a private Aix home

Special tastings of local wines, cheeses, calissons

Excursions to Marseille & Cassis on the Mediterranean

Avignon’s amazing Palais des Papes, the Popes’ 14th century home

Roman Aqueduct of Pont du Gard still in amazing condition

Special Tasting at the Vineyards of Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Visit to the wonderful Provence town of Arles & Van Gogh sites

Guided tour of Cézanne’s Provence by artist & Aix resident Jill Steenhuis

Colorful Provence outdoor markets

Experiencing ’strawberry season’ in May in France

Meeting Aix locals & residents

Living for two fantastic weeks in Provence & so much more!

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 Arles, the lovely Provence town where Van Gogh lived & painted

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 Our private tour of the stunning Roman Aqueduct the Pont du Gard includes a walk on the aqueduct itself!

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 Provence’s outdoor markets are always a feast for the senses

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Aix’s incredible new museum – a 17th century restored mansion in the heart of Aix

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We’ll get a great private tour of the 14th century Popes’ Palace in Avignon

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 Provence’s always delicious ’salade niçoise’ – perfect with a nice glass of rosé!

Your Provence Trip Host Dr. Elizabeth New Seitz

A native Texan, Dr. Elizabeth New Seitz is a specialist in French and founder of French Affaires, a company celebrating French travel, culture, language, and l’art de vivre. She received her B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in French from Vanderbilt University and studied at the Sorbonne in Paris and with Vanderbilt-in-France in Aix-en-Provence. She has lived, studied, worked and traveled extensively in France since 1983. Her specialty is making France personal and special to everyone through her trips, classes and lectures. She still loves to teach the French language and is regularly asked to speak to groups, organizations and businesses in the U.S.

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About Aix-en-Provence in southern France

Aix-en-Provence is a gorgeous, vibrant city in the heart of Provence. With a rich history and a welcoming southern French culture, Aix provides a superb base for your immersion stay in France. Aix is known for its majestic monuments and architecture, beautiful old town full of winding medieval streets, centuries old fountains, fascinating museums and cultural institutions, popular universities and schools, lively arts and music scene, and impressive boulevard the Cours Mirabeau, noted by many to be the prettiest main street in all of Europe. There is nothing better than to immerse oneself in French daily life – and Aix is the perfect place to do it. So come relax, learn, enjoy and experience that magical French ‘joie de vivre’!

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The two-week Provence Language & Culture Immersion trip cost is $4950 (double occupancy) & includes 14 nights accommodation in modern apartments in the center of Aix, 10 mornings of French language & culture lessons at Aix’s premier language institute, multiple special cultural excursions, daily breakfasts, many lunches & dinners with wine, various tastings, aperitifs, transfers to & from the Marseille airport, interaction with Aix locals, a personal introduction & connection to Aix by Dr. Seitz throughout the trip, & more. For the detailed trip description & to reserve your space, please email us at french.culture (at) frenchaffaires.com. You can also reach us at 214-232-5344 – we’d be happy to discuss the trip details with you!

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One of our previous Provence groups taking in the wonders of the Pont du Gard

Bonne annee ~ The Year in Pictures at French Affaires Thursday, Jan 7 2016 

Bonne année à toutes et à tous! Happy New Year to all!

As 2016 begins, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you a ‘très belle année 2016’ and thank you warmly for your support, readership and participation in French Affaires’ classes, cultural events and trips to France this past year. It has been a fantastic time of sharing the best of French language, culture, travel and l’art de vivre – and it has been our most wonderful year ever, thanks to you. Still, as France is endlessly rich in culture, history, travel and more, I can promise that there will be some terrific new surprises coming shortly in 2016 as well as a continuation of great language, culture and travel offerings. But before we get to some of the 2016 French goodies, I’d like to share a few highlights of French Affaires 2015 in photos. Join us for this virtual year in pictures below - and maybe get inspired to come away with us to France this coming year!

Highlights of French Affaires’ annual “Paris Antiques Trip this past March were the big Paris flea market at St. Ouen/ Clignancourt and the bi-annual foire à la brocante at Chatou just west of Paris. St. Ouen is the world’s largest marché aux puces, or flea market, with everything from bric-a-brac to museum quality pieces. We could have spent several days there alone as there are many different sub-markets spread out over the sprawling, easy-to-get-lost-in complex. On the other hand, Chatou is one of my favorite Paris markets perhaps because it doesn’t happen all the time. Running for about ten days each spring and fall, the fair showcases several hundred antiques vendors from all over France. It is a collector’s dream - café au lait bowls, confiture jars, regular silver, hotel silver, pottery, china, pewter, paintings, portraits, chairs, tables, chests…it is all there. And bargaining is a definite must at this market. Our antiquing group this past year found loads of fabulous finds at these markets and more during our treasure-hunting week in Paris. For info about our 2016 Paris Antiques Trip, please email us at French.culture@frenchaffaires.com.

While hosting the Paris antiques trip, I tasted several versions of one of my favorite French comfort foods – les oeufs mayonnaise. Afterwards, I posted an article on “Eggs in France” which hit home with many French Affaires’ readers. You can click here to read (or reread!) some of the great ways eggs are done in France.

Spring was a riot of flowers and gardens on our French Affaires’ trip designed especially for the Dallas Garden Club this past year. The Dallas ladies came to France in May for the “Great Gardens of Paris & the Loire Valley – a nine day joyous extravaganza of everything gardens and châteaux. Our lovely French hosts gave us a warm welcome everywhere, and nature cooperated by gracing all our destinations with exquisite flowers, plants and landscapes. Quel bonheur!

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In late May and in September 2015, we spent lovely light and color filled weeks in the south of France for the “Provence Painting & Culture Workshops” co-hosted with wonderful artist Jill Steenhuis. From color mixing tutorials to composition discussions to painting en plein air to following in the steps of artists Van Gogh and Cezanne to enjoying the gorgeous scenery to sharing wonderful French meals with wine, our painting groups’ creativity and enthusiasm knew no bounds.

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Since we’re on the topic of Provence, as readers of our French Affaires’ newsletter know, we can’t get enough of this region of France. So this coming May we’ll be doing our “Provence Language & Culture Immersion” trip again from May 6 to 21, 2016. It is a fabulous and laid-back opportunity to “live” in France and really experience the people, the landscapes and the culture – including the art. It’s also a great chance to take tons of incredible photos since everywhere you look is just Provence picture perfect! For full trip details, please email us at French.culture@frenchaffaires.com.

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This past fall, a wonderful group of French Affaires’ trip-goers immersed themselves in the riches of Southwest France. We spent many glorious days in the cool, crisp weather of the Dordogne, the Lot and Bordeaux. The distinctive history, architecture, landscapes, culture, food, wines and people made this a once-in-a-lifetime journey. Our pictures of this harder-to-get-to French region tell it all…

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And of course, faithful to my French professor roots, I was able to share all manner of lovely things about France in illustrated culture courses through SMU’s Continuing Studies program and in French Affaires’ language offerings. We covered the incredible chateaux near Paris in January – perfect for planning day excursions from the French capital. In late spring, I designed a course on “French Kings & Queens: A History of the Monarchy in France” which was an amazing journey through French time and royalty. “Gourmet Paris: A Culinary Tour of the French Capital” was also on our culture course list – and our annual “French for Travelers” reached a sell-out crowd for the eighth year in a row. If you’re planning some travel to France soon or just want to get acquainted with French attitudes, etiquette and basic conversation, you might want to join us for this year’s edition of “French for Travelers” which runs from February 16 to 18, 2016, in Dallas, Texas. Please click here for more details and registration information with SMU’s Continuing Studies program. And more French language and culture classes will be coming in 2016 so stay tuned to this space.

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We do want to pause to remember the terrible events in Paris in November and January of last year. For a short article on our thoughts and support for the French, please click here. The French are strong – and Paris will always be Paris!

Last but not least, our special “French Cookbook Club” and “French Cuisine & Culture Workshops” immersed us in French culinary delights all year long. The hands-on “Spotlight on French Vinaigrettes” was a festival of French tastes and flavors – with nary a bottled salad dressing in sight. And the “French Cookbook Club” – now in its fifth amazing year! – has been an extraordinary coming together of great French Affaires’ friends, great cookbooks and great cooking. We are looking forward to this year’s final celebration dinner and weekend in France – and I’ll be on the hunt for next year’s special new theme.

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So, again, je vous remercie de votre fidelité et je vous souhaite une extraordinaire année 2016. I look forward to sharing more of wonderful France with you this year. Come have some fun French style…A très bientôt!

Paris will always be Paris Sunday, Nov 15 2015 

Our French culture article for this week will have to wait. We’ll get back to all the wonderful things that make France the beautiful country that it is. But the terrible events in Paris on Friday have left us sad and in shock. Thank you to all those who have called and written – I am currently safe in the U.S., just back after two months working in France including Paris. My heartfelt thoughts and prayers and condolences go out to those affected by this tragedy and to all the French.

This weekend, France has been top of mind. I have been on the phone and on email with my Paris colleagues and friends to see if all are ok. Thankfully, so far, so good. And I was interviewed by a local Dallas television station as events were unfolding late Friday. As I mention in the clip, France is experiencing its own sort of 9/11 moment. Yet despite the tragedy, the French are incredibly strong – and Paris will bounce back better and stronger than ever. (To see the interview, click on the video below or you can click this link.)

It has been encouraging to see France and countries across Europe mobilize quickly to get on top of this terrorist threat. French president François Hollande immediately offered stern words about ISIS and confronting such barbarism. French police and military forces were deployed almost instantly. And when the French get serious, they are very serious.

Security threats in the French capital and the French response are not new. When I was living in Paris for graduate school in 1990-91, the First Gulf War broke out. Rumors spread like wildfire that enemy missiles were going to hit Paris. Anxiety was palpable. To prevent any terrorist attacks and to keep order, the French government deployed hundreds of police and national guard troops in the streets of Paris. At the time, I happened to be living across the street from the French Defense Ministry in the 7th arrondissement. For weeks on end, French troops were posted right in front of my building. Anyone passing through the area was required to show official ID to the military. So to reach my building’s door each day, I had to show my passport. It was surreal. But I was very glad for those soldiers out there day and night. Paris was secure.

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La France – America’s oldest ally – will recover from this tragedy. Its democratic motto of Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité will stand firm. The City of Light will burn brighter than ever. Again, prayers for Paris’s recovery, for the world’s response and for peace globally. Paris, see you soon. And long live France - Vive la France!

French Events & Classes This Fall! Thursday, Nov 5 2015 

Put a little France in your fall with some of French Affaires’ upcoming events and classes. From “Gourmet Paris” this Monday evening to Beginning French and Intro to French Conversation to the French Vinaigrette Workshop to the French Cookbook Club, there’s something for every Francophile!

“Gourmet Paris: A Culinary Tour of the French Capital” on Monday, November 9, 2015

Experience the best of Paris restaurants, food shops, open-air markets, cooking schools and culinary highlights in this class focused on all things gourmet in the French capital. In this visually illustrated session, we’ll tour Paris’s best venues for food, cheeses, chocolates, breads, pastries, wines, teas, cookware and more. We’ll also cover fabulous restaurants, bistrots & cafés for every budget. And we’ll include a virtual tour of several Paris cooking schools for those who want to take their culinary skills to new heights. Essential to our gourmet Paris experience will be learning key French food words and phrases so you can enjoy your culinary travels to the fullest. Come join us for a visual French feast–and walk away with a gourmet guide to Paris perfect for your next trip!

Date: Monday, November 9, 2015
Time: 7 to 9pm
Cost: $39 early registration; $49 regular registration
Location: Hosted by SMU Continuing Studies – click here to register with SMU.
Date: Monday, November 9, 2015
Time: 7 to 9pm
Cost: $39 early registration; $49 regular registration
Location: Hosted by SMU Continuing Studies – click here to register with SMU.

“Beginning French Part 1″ starting Tuesday, November 10, 2015    2 spaces remaining

Learn the basics of French in this beginning French course taught by French Affaires’ founder Dr. Elizabeth New Seitz. We will have fun covering key French words and phrases, essential pronunciation, and beginning language structures while mastering real cultural situations. Our class size is small to ensure an optimum language learning experience. Come prepared to absorb, participate and learn the essential elements of the French language in a supportive environment. Please note that this course is designed for those who have had little to no French instruction prior to joining our group. Cost: The class fee is $95 per person and includes all language instruction, cultural lessons, special handouts, and personalized language coaching. Advance registration is required.

Date: 4 Tuesdays – Nov 10, 17, Dec 1, 8, 2015

Time: 6 to 7:15pm

Cost: $95 per person – please click here to register.

Location: Central Dallas location. Classroom & parking information provided upon registration.

“Intro to French Conversation” starting Tuesday, November 10, 2015    2 spaces remaining

We’ll take your French language skills to the next level in this class devoted to French conversation. With other France lovers, you will learn to converse in French in a structured and positive environment – with plenty of French language support and input provided. Dr. Elizabeth New Seitz will lead discussions on interesting French cultural topics so you’ll get some French culture along with your conversation. Practice more extended communication in French while adding to your French vocabulary and strengthening your French grammar. Our class size is small to ensure an optimum language learning experience. Come prepared to absorb, participate, converse and learn the essential elements of the French language in a supportive environment. Please note that this class is for those who have some French background already. Cost: The class fee is $95 per person and includes all language instruction, cultural lessons, special handouts, and personalized language coaching. Advance registration is required.

Date: 4 Tuesdays – Nov 10, 17, Dec 1, 8, 2015

Time: 7:30 to 8:45pm

Cost: $95 per person – please click here to register.

Location: Central Dallas location. Classroom & parking information provided upon registration.

French Cuisine & Culture Workshop:

“Spotlight on French Vinaigrettes” on Saturday, December 5, 2015

For the French, making excellent vinaigrettes is as easy as breathing. In this hands-on cuisine and culture workshop led by Elizabeth New Seitz, we will discuss key ingredients for a variety of French vinaigrette dressings and then make several different salads using classic vinaigrette recipes. Our workshop also includes a French mustard tasting and vinegar tasting as well as a salt tasting–essential elements of many vinaigrettes. We’ll enjoy the fruits of our culinary workshop labors with a sit-down lunch of our salads, accompanied by hearty French quiche and followed by dessert. After our French vinaigrette class, you will never want to buy bottled salad dressing again!

The cost is $95 per person and includes the hands-on vinaigrette making class, cultural lessons, tastings, recipes, lunch, and French vinaigrette to take home.

Date: Saturday, December 5, 2015

Time: 10:30am to 1pm

Cost: $95 per person. Advance sign-up required – please click here to register.

Location: Central Dallas Location

French Cookbook Club 2015-2016: “The Food of France: A French Culinary Tour”

For the fourth season in a row, French Affaires is offering a great twist on the classic book club idea with our ‘French Cookbook Club.’ Every quarter, we read and cook our way through a specially chosen French-themed cookbook. We gather for a seated multi-course dinner to taste our recipes and enjoy an evening of great French cuisine, wines and conversation. It is a unique chance to really get to know French cookbooks already in your culinary library or to add to your cookbook collection as the French Cookbook Club continues. And of course, it’s a festive occasion to make friends with other gourmets interested in French cuisine and l’art de vivre!

Our 2015-16 French Cookbook Club theme is “The Food of France: A French Culinary Tour.” Via our quarterly cookbook selections, we’ll be transported to the many rich culinary regions of France. What are the key ingredients in Normandy cuisine? What are the great wines of Burgundy? What gives Provençal cuisine its wonderful character? How would you know that cassoulet and foie gras are from Southwest France?

Through our recipes and special visual presentation by our host Elizabeth New Seitz (a new part of the French Cookbook Club this year!), we’ll get an overview of the culinary map of France as well as visit Burgundy, Normandy, Provence and Southwest France in particular. And, as extra amazing treat, our final cookbook club session will be an amazing culinary long weekend in France designed especially for French Cookbook Club participants. Come join us as we explore the best of French culinary traditions and get a real feel for what makes French regional cooking so special!

TOF

Monday, December 7, 2015 – A Tour of the French Regions: “The Taste of France” (1983) by Robert Freson

This is one of my favorite French cookbooks ever! “The Taste of France” is a gorgeous illustrated tour of all the French culinary regions and serves as a great introduction to our French Cookbook Club year. We’ll see how geography and climate as well as cultural dimensions have contributed to regional differences in French cooking. After this evening, you’ll have a good grasp of France’s various regions and their gourmet highlights. Please note: As this book is no longer in print, you’ll want to collect your copy second-hand through Amazon.com or from your local used bookstore.

Dates: Monday, December 7, 2015

Time: 6:30 to 9pm

Location: Central Dallas location

Cost: $45 per person and your choice of recipe from that session’s cookbook selection

Registration: For more information & to register, please click here.

France’s Best Garden Festival Friday, Sep 18 2015 

Following our last garden post on the marvelous Bagatelle in Paris, we just have to mention another not-to-miss garden experience in France – the stunning International Garden Festival of Chaumont-sur-Loire. Arguably the best ‘festival des jardins’ in the country (though of course there are many worthy contenders), Chaumont’s yearly garden extravaganza features remarkable landscape and garden designs created by specialists from around the world.

Located in the Loire Valley about 185 kilometers from Paris, the Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire comprises a magnificent 15th century château, 19th century stables, beautiful gardens and an extensive park. Designated a UNESCO world heritage site, the medieval fortress-turned-Renaissance pleasure castle overlooking the Loire river is worth a visit, but to my mind the real Chaumont star is its annual garden festival. Wild, elegant, interesting, thought-provoking, and just plain fun, the festival is a must for gardeners, nature lovers and France lovers alike.

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This past May, I had the great opportunity to take a lovely group of Dallas Garden Club ladies to Chaumont as part of a special garden trip to France. We were personally welcomed by the Director of the Domaine de Chaumont and its International Garden Festival, Chantal Colleu-Dumond, who gave us an up-close introduction to the incredible garden creativity and innovation going on there. We were also accompanied by French Affaires’ good friend and colleague Eric Sander, the celebrated garden photographer, who collaborates regularly with Chaumont on many projects (click here for a previous French Affaires’ interview with Eric).

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Madame Chantal Colleu-Dumond (right), Director of the Domaine de Chaumont

During our visit with the talented and enthusiastic Madame Colleu-Dumond, she described the background and impetus of the world-renowned garden festival. In existence since 1992, Chaumont’s festival is actually a competition, or ‘concours,’ where a few projects are chosen from hundreds of entries submitted by landscape and garden designers the world over. Innovation, invention, creativity, diversity, boldness and passion are just some of the driving forces behind the winning selections. This year’s theme of ‘Jardins extraordinaires, jardins de collection(“Extraordinary Gardens, Collectors’ Gardens”) showcases the love of collecting, saving and multiplying plant treasures. She noted that each garden project for 2015 is a fascinating interpretation of the collecting theme using innovative plant materials, designs and displays.

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Madame Colleu-Dumond led the way as we walked through several of this year’s 30 fabulous garden designs. Easy on the eyes was the ‘Bougainvillea Garden,’ a riot of pinks, reds and purples celebrating multiple varieties of this plant…

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The color and lushness of the bougainvillea was in stark contrast to the ‘Garden of Orpheus,’ an impressive though somber collection of various cacti and succulents seen from above thanks to a long raised pathway…

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Wonderfully intriguing was the ‘Porte-Bonheur’ or “Lucky Charm” garden which displayed an extensive collection of four-leaf clovers mounted in glass plates…

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Then we saw the clever ‘A Table’ – “Time to Eat!” - garden celebrating one of life’s greatest pleasures – sharing a meal. The long table was ‘laid’ with a collection of amazing heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables, many of which belong to very old species…

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Colorful and informative was the ‘Jardin du Teinturier’ or “Dyer’s Garden” which featured a collection of plants whose pigments form natural dyes. This garden reminded us of the usefulness and practicality of plants – and also human ingenuity in extracting the colors…

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Then there was the ‘Carnivore Parc,’ an unexpected display of carnivorous plants in a rich peat bog arranged like works of art. There was even a picture sign telling guests not to ‘Feed the plants,’ a clever twist on the usual ‘Don’t feed the animals’…

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My favorite design of the festival was the contemplative and thought-provoking garden called ‘Nuances.‘ The simple white frame with a stunning arrangement of lovely blue and green hued plants was presented as if it were a painting in a museum. A living painting. I was tempted to sit on the bench and take in the beauty for a while. Intriguing too was the photo below - which turned out to be frame within a frame within a frame…

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Finally, another very memorable garden was the visually arresting yet peaceful ‘Carré et rond,’ “Square and Round.” Appearing like a red ribbon in the landscape, the garden design highlights the juxtaposition of curves and straight lines to marvelous effect. And the pathway is walkable, inviting visitors to interact with the landscape itself…

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Putting on this over six-month long garden festival is no mean feat. From the choice of the yearly theme to the organization of the contest and voting by the jury to the installation of designs (every winning design is given a budget to carry out their vision) to the maintenance of the gardens over the spring, summer and fall growing seasons (a team of gardeners helps maintain and replace plants as needed) – it’s an amazing accomplishment. Our hats were off to Madame Colleu-Dumond and her colleagues at Chaumont for creating this extraordinary annual garden experience in France. When we asked her about her favorite garden among this year’s 30 winners, she wisely replied that they were all her favorites. “They’re like my children!” she laughed.

After our garden tour, we enjoyed a seated lunch in Chaumont’s gourmet restaurant Le Grand Velum. Of course, in true French style, the restaurant’s menu is inspired by the garden festival. When our strawberry dessert appeared, it reminded me immediately of the curved ‘red ribbon’ garden walk we had just experienced. What a superb way to end our beautiful day at the Chaumont festival!

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The Chaumont International Garden Festival runs from spring to fall each year. This year’s festival concludes on November 1 so there’s still time to catch this marvelous event. And if you don’t make it there this year, think about trying to see it next year. The festival’s 2016 theme has already been announced (designs are due October 16, 2015, for all the landscape designers out there!) and is ‘Jardins du siècle à venir’ - “Gardens for the Coming Century.” 2016 is also the 25th anniversary of the festival so it’s sure to be a great celebration.

Chaumont is open daily all year round except for Christmas and New Years’, with the Festival open daily during the festival dates. You can click here for information on how to get to the domaine. For a fantastic virtual visit of this year’s festival gardens (including designer names and plant varieties) in French, please click here – for English, please click here.

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French Take-Out ~ La France à emporter

A beautiful keepsake from Chaumont is the lovely book written by director Chantal Colleu-Dumond with luxurious photographs by Eric Sander. Written in both French and English, the inexpensive volume can be purchased on site at Chaumont or on Amazon’s French website by clicking here.

JC

Paris’s Best Kept Garden Secret Friday, Sep 4 2015 

It all started with a bet. French queen Marie-Antoinette wagered her brother-in-law that he couldn’t build a château on his large property west of Paris in less than three months. Famously, the Comte d’Artois won. Sparing no expense, he had his petit château built in a record 64 days in 1777.

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To celebrate the completion of his folie known as the Bagatelle (or ‘little trifle’) the Comte d’Artois threw a housewarming party in honor of his brother king Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. Unfortunately, he was able to keep his pleasure abode and its beautiful gardens for only a few years as he was forced give up the property during the French Revolution. Miraculously the Bagatelle château and park survived the revolutionary mobs and several owners in the ensuing years.

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In 1905, the City of Paris purchased the Bois de Boulogne property to save and maintain this architectural and bucolic jewel. In addition to keeping harmony and beauty of the preceding garden designs, it also set out to turn the Bagatelle into a botanical paradise. Special gardens showcase peonies, irises, clematis, perennials – plantes vivaces, in French – and roses. Today, I think the Bagatelle is one of the best kept Paris garden – and château! – secrets as many visitors to the French capital don’t even know it’s there.

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Come warmer weather, one of my favorite Bagatelle garden views is the fluffy clouds of white wisteria…

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The Bagatelle’s hundreds of blooming peonies are a also must-see in Paris in the spring…

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And the irises! Beautifully trimmed hedges surround the iris garden, giving it the feel of an outdoor ‘iris room’…

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But the Bagatelle park’s pièce de résistance is the magnificent rose garden, renowned for its more than 10,000 rose bushes comprising 1200 different species. Every June the Bagatelle hosts one of the most famous international rose competitions in the world. Of course, to really understand what these roses are all about, I find it helps to organize a visit with a premier English-speaking French garden expert in Paris – who also happens to be a Bagatelle rose competition judge!

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In addition to the floral and botanical riches of the Bagatelle, there are many other wonderful garden features including grottoes, rocks, bridges, waterfalls, ponds, peacocks, and a 19th century Chinese pagoda. A beautiful orangerie also graces the grounds.

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To keep the gardens looking their best, Bagatelle patrons are gently reminded de ne pas piétiner les plantes de bordure – not to walk on the border plants…

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Or on the grassy areas where bulbs come up in spring!

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So how does one visit this fabulously romantic garden getaway practically a stone’s throw from the Champs-Elysées? Located in the Bois de Boulogne, the park is open to the public every day from 9:30am to 5, 6:30 or 8pm, according to the season. Entrance is free unless there is a special exhibition going on at that moment. The easiest transport to the Bagatelle is by taxi. Or for public transportation, you can take the 43 bus direction ‘Neuilly-Bagatelle’ to the stop ‘Place de Bagatelle.’ Alternatively, you can take the metro to the stop ‘Porte Maillot’ on line 1 and then catch the 244 bus direction ‘Rueil Malmaison RER,’ and get off at the stop ‘Bagatelle – Pré Catelan.’ From the bus stops, it’s a short walk to the park grounds.

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It is good to know that while the gardens are open every day, the exquisite château is not. Guided visits of the gardens and château take place every Sunday and major holiday at 3pm from April 1 to October 31 for 8 euros per person. Or if you want to treat yourself to an extra special Paris experience, French Affaires can help organize your own private guided visit of the gardens and château according to guide availability.

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Last but not least, as if the gardens and little castle weren’t enough, you can enjoy the Bagatelle with music. Every summer, the Chopin Festival takes place at the Orangerie of the Bagatelle. This year’s festival marked the 32nd anniversary of the piano concerts that take place over three weeks in June and July.

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There is also a lovely chamber music series in late July and August. And right now, classical music lovers can head out to the Bagatelle for the charming ‘Solistes à Bagatelle 2015.’ This festival celebrates young up-and-coming piano talent from all over Europe. The current concerts go on through September 13th, 2015. Enjoy!

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Route de Sèvres à Neuilly
75016 Paris

French Take-Out ~ La France à emporter

For your own lovely copy of the Parc de Bagatelle brochure, please click here to download. (Note that it’s in French!) It includes a detailed map of the gardens and also a wonderful guide to when the various flowers are in bloom each year. The brochure is available at the Bagatelle as well for a nominal fee.

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Parc de Bagatelle
Route de Sèvres à Neuilly
75016 Paris

A Very French Wedding Thursday, Aug 13 2015 

When traveling around France, you can often happen upon the most festive of occasions – weddings. How charming to pass by a wonderful historic church and see a happy couple and wedding guests spilling out into the square!  

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Somehow I get treated to seeing a French mariage nearly every time I am in Arles down in Provence. Whatever my reason for being in town, I always make a detour through the impressive Place de la République (above) to take in the gorgeous west facade of the cathedral of St. Trophime (below). A jewel of Provençal Romanesque architecture dating from the 12th century, St. Trophime’s tympanum depicts the apocalypse in sculpture. The figure of Christ sits in the center with the evangelists, apostles, saints and other biblical scenes carved in the surrounding stone.

Sure enough, on this particular day, a nice French wedding was happening just as I passed through la place. My attention was drawn to the pretty bride and uniformed groom as they emerged from St. Trophime, military salute and celebratory air bubbles included…

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Of course, it’s always more fun to be a part of a wedding than just to see it in passing. A few weeks ago, I attended a very French fête de mariage near Fontainebleau south of Paris. The daughter of dear friends was getting married in a little village church with the wedding reception following at the village château. What a fairytale weekend!

Following the lovely garden party rehearsal dinner on the Friday night, wedding guests gathered at the village church on Saturday afternoon. The local French Catholic priest conducted a heart-warming service complete with communion for the radiant bride and handsome groom. One of the bilingual guests translated his French for the Anglophones in attendance…

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Given that we were in France, hats were a must for some wedding guests particularly the French and British ones…

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After the ceremony, guests stocked up on rose petals to shower on the exiting bride and groom. The floral confetti rained down on the happy couple as they made their way to the magnificent horse and carriage. Even some of the villagers hung out of their windows to watch the festive proceedings…

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We guests then walked the short distance to the 17th century château where champagne awaited. The weather was picture perfect…

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My dapper husband and I were glad to have our French hats on such a sunny – and warmish - afternoon…

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When plenty of champagne had been had by all and endearing toasts offered to les nouveaux mariés (the newlyweds), the wedding party enjoyed a marvelous seated dinner in the formal salons of the château…

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After dinner, guests were asked to step outside as the night was getting dark. A special surprise was about to begin…

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Wedding fireworks against the backdrop of the château - c’était étonnant (it was amazing). But the festivities didn’t stop there. Wedding cake with sparklers was followed by dancing in the vaulted cellar of the château. As we departed late that evening, lighted candles floated in the castle’s 17th century moat. A most special of French weddings for the most special of couples. Could it get any better than this?

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