Our French Valentine’s Week Cake Thursday, Feb 16 2017 

To celebrate Valentine’s Day this year, my husband and I decided to make a nice French dinner at home here in France. I drew the lucky straw and got to come up with dessert and the sparkling wine. On the other hand, my husband spoke up for the main dish – God bless him. He had been wanting to try a recipe from one of our vintage French cookbooks – Veal Scallops with Tarragon. So I said, “Vas-y”. “Do it!” “Go for it!” I thought, how can you miss with a recipe that includes beef broth, tarragon and brandy? Simple answer, you can’t. It was divine.

Then for the dessert. As my French Affaires’ French Cookbook club friends and guests know, my French culinary roots run deep. I would have been game to try a challenging dessert recipe. Goodness knows, the French offer quite an array of sweets choices from every region of the country. But on Tuesday, I was running errands in our neighboring village of Milly-la-Forêt… mini-market for a few staples, boulangerie for baguettes, pharmacy for aspirin. And then, I remembered THE CAKE.

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For months, I had been wanting to try the signature local dessert from the Milly pâtisserie (pastry shop) called Le Pavé de la Halle. Also named le pavé de la Halle, this gâteau (cake) is a dream – rich butter pound cake laced with candied orange peel and candied bigarreau cherries and infused with cherry liqueur… then the whole thing is enrobed in a luscious layer of marzipan. Wow. Why had I not tried this before? I think I just had gotten distracted by the various French tartes, desserts and pâtisseries from other pastry shops in town. So I thought, THE special cake for the special day – le jour de Saint Valentin.

So I marched straight over to the pastry shop and said, “Bonjour Madame, un pavé de la Halle, s’il vous plaît.” Of course. She scooped it up from the pastry display case and placed it carefully in the square box made for this ultra-special, original cake. She gently handed me the dessert box. It was nice and heavy, and it just felt delicious. Then she said in French, “Be sure and cut it into tranches fines (thin slices). It tastes better that way.”

On Tuesday evening, I served the lovely cake chez nous with a nice crémant de Bourgogne (champagne-like wine from Burgundy). It was out of this world. With marvelous flavors and not too sweet, the taste was satisfying in every way. And in true French fashion, not only was it a culinary masterpiece, but it had special cultural meaning as well. For in honor of the pastry shop’s location facing the 15th century market in town, they had named the cake a ‘pavé de la Halle’ – a paving stone from the market square . The shape of the cake itself is formed to look like a square cobblestone. In addition, they modeled the almond marzipan on top to resemble many little paving stones. You’ve got to love France – they’re always putting great cooking, culture and history together with outstanding results. Here’s a great old postcard photo of the Milly 15th century market with the signature paving stones all around it. Looks a bit like the top of the cake, no?

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Our French Valentine’s Day gâteau has stretched into the Valentine’s week cake – we’ve enjoyed a wonderful tranche fine every day. And we’ve appreciated the thought and meaning behind this local specialty tied to the local architecture and history. Whoever said history was dry and boring wasn’t thinking about France! So next time you’re in or around Paris, you might think about making a detour by the delightful town of Milly-la-Fôret for a taste of this fabulous local dessert – and there are other great sights to see here too. Bon appétit et bonne visite!

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Hello from France! and France Travel 2017 Thursday, Feb 9 2017 

Bonjour France-loving friends! Greetings from my 17th century stone house in the French countryside near Paris. Life is good here in our little village of Courances, and French Affaires had another wonderful year sharing the real France with you through our trips, classes and events. Though I must confess, our newsletter pause to finish our new website lasted a lot longer than planned! Renovations on our French house have proceeded at the proverbial snail’s pace (anyone who’s read ‘A Year in Provence’ by Peter Mayle will know this side of France) and took much of our attention – we have our fingers crossed that everything will be finished this March. Whew. So we are now putting the finishing touches on the new French Affaires’ website, and it will go live very soon. Stay tuned for a whole new look with great stories and things to experience here in la belle France.

Despite the house finishing delays, my husband and I have still been able to enjoy the stunning beauty of French country life and the soul filling rhythm of the French seasons. Life is full too with saying hello to our neighbors on our walks to the boulangerie, with catching up on the latest village news from Madame la boulangère or Madame la charcutière ,and with having aperitifs or dinners with our friends here and in the villages around. And our French puppy Marcel continues to entertain us with his antics. Monsieur Marcel, as I like to call him, is growing up fast body-wise so he looks like a full-grown dog. But he still acts like a puppy through and through – puppy mind, adult body. Whenever any workmen or delivery people cross paths with Marcel, they immediately say, “Mais c’est un bébé!” (but he’s just a baby!) Here he is as a little tyke in our garden a few months ago:

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In addition to rolling out our new website for 2017, we have our 2017 France travel calendar ready to go. We’re featuring some client favorites this year including the “Paris Antiques Trip 2017″, “Provence Painting and Culture Workshop 2017″ and “Fall in Southwest France 2017″. As with all our French Affaires’ trips, these rich journeys allow our friends and guests to experience France at its finest. Our special custom trips leave behind touristy clichés and focus on personal contacts with locals, artisans and experts; the best places and sights to visit often with insider access; culinary excellence with special chefs and purveyors; and more. And best of all are the wonderful friendships and warm camaraderie that unfailingly develop amongst our travelers both on our trips and at home afterwards. Hopefully this will tempt you to come travel with us. Below are brief descriptions of this year’s trips – and come and join us for a real taste of France!

 

Paris Antiques Trip – September 25 to October 2, 2017

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Join us for a marvelous week in Paris filled with French antiques, vintage finds and heirlooms. We’ll spend a day at a special twice-a-year antiques market outside Paris featuring over 800 dealers. Also included in our trip are visits to the main antiques flea markets of Paris itself. We’ll get plenty of decorative arts, antiques and cultural inspiration during our private guided visit of an extraordinary historic mansion on the Right Bank filled with beautiful furniture, paintings, sculpture and objets d’art. As part of our special French decorative arts immersion, we’ll enjoy a fabulous gourmet dining experience at a private Paris townhouse-turned-restaurant where each salon is decorated with lovely antiques and period decor. Another great part of our trip is a visit to Paris’s principal auction house where fabulous finds and bargains abound. And so you can look for great French antique finds with confidence, we’ll share our special insider tips and strategies for navigating the markets and bargaining for your treasures. Be part of our unforgettable week of French antiques and decorative arts in and around Paris!

For the detailed Paris Antiques Trip 2017 trip itinerary and registration information, please email us at French.culture (at) frenchaffaires.com . This special trip is limited in size for a highly personalized travel experience.  

To see a recap of one of our previous antiques trips with great photos, please click here.

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Provence Painting and Culture Workshop – September 22 to October 1, 2017

Provence is possibly the most beautiful and rewarding region in all of France. It is known for its charming villages, stunning 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.

  

Everything is arranged for your perfect French art and culture adventure – private apartment accommodations in the heart of lively 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, 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.

 For the detailed Provence painting trip itinerary and registration information, please email us at French.culture (at) frenchaffaires.com . This special trip is limited in size for a highly personalized art and travel experience.  

 

Fall in Southwest France – October 18 to 27, 2017

Southwest France is one of the country’s best kept secrets – a remarkable region still steeped in glorious French history & tradition. From medieval villages clinging to sheer cliffs to majestic fortress castles overlooking the Dordogne River to ancient cave paintings to exquisite topiary gardens to lush vineyards to fabulous cuisine & wine, Southwest France offers amazing opportunities to travel through time & culture across the French countryside. On our itinerary: the delightful towns of Sarlat, Bergerac, Trémolat, Rocamadour, St. Emilion and Bordeaux; gourmet meals with local wines; vineyard visits and tastings – maybe we’ll even catch the grape harvest like last year!; guided visits and tours with local experts; shopping outdoor markets; special viewings of authentic prehistoric cave art; and of course, enjoying the spectacular landscapes and ambiance of Southwest France in the fall (our favorite time to be there!). Join us for this rich immersion into spectacular Southwest France!

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For the detailed Fall in Southwest France trip itinerary and registration information, please email us at French.culture (at) frenchaffaires.com . This special trip is limited in size for a highly personalized travel experience. 

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Paint in Provence this September! Wednesday, Feb 8 2017 

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 2017, 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 trip organization 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 22 to October 1, 2017

Everything is arranged for your perfect French art and culture adventure – private accommodations in modern apartments in the heart of lively 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 by French Affaires, 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

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

Outdoor & studio painting classes with celebrated artist Jill Steenhuis

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 Connection to Provence 

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: Friday, Sept 22 – Depart your home city & fly to Marseille.

Day 2:  Saturday, Sept 23 – Arrival at the Marseille Airport, Transfer to your apartment, Walking tour of Aix, Welcome bistrot dinner

Day 3: Sunday, Sept 24 – Cezanne art tour, French country lunch, Jill’s art studio, Creative activities, Artist’s palette

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

Day 4:  Monday, Sept 25 – Provence Painting Workshop Continues: Landscape Painting en plein air

Day 5:  Tuesday, Sept 26 – Provence Painting Workshop Continues: Charming Port of Cassis on the Mediterranean  

Day 6: Wednesday, Sept 27 – Van Gogh’s Art in Provence: Arles & the Arles’ Countryside St. Rémy’s charming town, Bistrot lunch

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

Day 7:  Thursday, Sept 28 – Provence Painting Workshop Continues: Aix Flower Market, Free time in Aix, Sunset painting

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Day 8:  Friday, Sept 29 – Provence Painting Workshop Continues: Still Life & Garden scene painting, Hang artworks, Free time in Aix

Day 9: Saturday, Sept 30 – Aix Market Tour & visit, Time to shop, Jill’s home for Art Exhibit & Celebration Cocktail Dinner 

Day 10: Sunday, Oct 1 – 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 in size for a highly personalized art and travel experience.  

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

“We 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!”

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French Affaires Update ~ French Kings and Queens Wednesday, Jun 1 2016 

Bonjour France friends! It’s been a very full spring at French Affaires which has meant a slight pause in sending out our French Affaires Weekly newsletters. We thank you for your patience and look forward to sharing a great line-up of new French cultural and travel features in the weeks to come. In today’s post, we thought we’d highlight the latest news including photos from recent group trips to France, our newly designed website which will debut very soon and also the big news that my husband and I are now living in France. Yes, we’ve got a real French house complete with a real French wine cellar and a real French puppy. More on all that below!

French Affaires kicked off the 2016 France travel season with our annual “Paris Antiques Trip” in March. Our great group of intrepid antiques lovers scored lots of fabulous finds all week. And our special decorative arts culture excursion featured a private guided visit to the exquisite Musée Nissim de Camondo, a gorgeous 19th century Parisian mansion filled with extraordinary furniture, art, sculpture, porcelain and more.

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Next up was our custom ”Springtime in Paris” trip for the darling ladies of the Dallas Garden Club. Our special week in and around Paris was filled with luscious gardens, flowers and châteaux. In particular, the ladies received a royal welcome at the gardens and château of Chantilly from Frederic Nancel, Director of Special Events, as well as a unique opportunity to tour with Chantilly’s head gardener.  The trip even included a private perfume workshop where we learned all about various floral elements and created our personal scent to take home. Talk about the ultimate Paris springtime treat!

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Then we kicked off our two-week “Provence Language and Culture Immersion” in historic and lively Aix-en-Provence. Our fun and enthusiastic group savored French lessons, art and culture excursions, culinary delights and daily living in France. Below is a charming view of Arles from our ‘In the Steps of Van Gogh’ visit one afternoon. The inhabitants of this Arles house should win an award for always having the best flower boxes in town! On another day, our group enjoyed art and afternoon tea at the stunning new Aix museum known as the Hôtel Caumont. A former aristocratic mansion then music conservatory, the Hôtel Caumont now hosts wonderful temporary exhibitions – the current show is on Turner – and features restored period rooms and beautiful gardens.

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This spring, we’ve also been hard at work on French Affaires’ new website which will be launching very soon. For those of you who are Instagram fans, we’ve been posting great travel and culture tidbits on the photo sharing app. Here’s a recent posting from May Day in France where everyone gives muguet – lilies of the valley – to their loved ones. For photos that will transport you to France at a glance, come follow us on Instagram at ‘french_affaires’ .

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Last but not least, the move to France! As many of you know, I’ve been spending a good amount of time here each year hosting Americans on special France travels, all the while teaching, speaking and sharing the best of France back in the U.S. This spring, my husband and I moved to a small village near Fontainebleau, about an hour south of Paris. It is a beautiful corner of the world out in the French countryside – see our 17th century house below in spring – but with Paris right on our doorstep.  I will continue to create one-of-a-kind stays in France and also will be in the States regularly to speak and teach (come join me for a special seminar on “French Kings & Queens” on June 15th at SMU in Dallas). The best of both worlds!

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With the launch of the new French Affaires website, I’ll have many stories and cultural happenings to share from life over here in la belle France. There will be some great features on our small village of Courances – population about 350! – and on our new neighbor, the stunning Château de Courances. In the meantime, we have just found out that our village is going to be on French TV on June 7th. It’s one of 13 French towns up for the “Le Village Préféré des Français 2016″ award on channel ‘France 2.’ Hosted by Stéphane Bern, the show began five years ago and each year, the charming candidates are presented via spectacular footage. Before the show airs, the French vote on their favorite and the winner is announced at the end of the show. Click here to see a short preview of the Courances segment (you might be able to see the entire show later on the French channel TV5 Monde if you subscribe to it in the U.S.). And YOU can vote too – please click here to vote for our village of Courances by June 3rd. Merci beaucoup!

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UPCOMING FRENCH EVENT IN DALLAS, TEXAS:

If you need a French fix soon, I’ll be in Dallas for various events and talks including the rich seminar “French Kings & Queens: A History of the Monarchy of France” that I am teaching on Wednesday, June 15th, for the SMU Continuing Studies program. See the lecture details below:

“French Kings & Queens”: Come join us for this exciting overview of French royalty throughout the centuries! Discover the essence of French history with this special course focused on the monarchy of France. Through illustrated lecture, Dr. Elizabeth Seitz will trace the French royal dynasties through the centuries such as the Valois and the Bourbons. We’ll learn about the lives of known and lesser known French kings and queens as well as the castles and monuments they built. Remarkable stories and intrigues of the French court will add color to the rich content of this class. You’ll also receive travel tips on how to experience French royal history in France as well as a reading and film list for further exploration. Advance registration is required through SMU. Please click here for more details.

 

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!

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