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Wednesday will mark the one-year anniversary of my journey to Marseille, the one that I thought was going to end with me sleeping in a pile of fishing nets in Martigues, the one that had me begging sad student dorms to let me sleep there, the one, in short, that necessitated the creation of this blog. To commemorate this, I am going to honor one of the things that makes me wish I were still in France: silly yet beautiful interpretations of movies with an obsessive element of social commentary. THAT IS RIGHT DESIGN FETISH IS BACK! (more…)

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I have been back in New York for a week now, working at a small private bank where for the moment I collate and staple, but where I will hopefully eventually work in business development with an international client base.

I am sitting at a desk, where I’ve been for the last 7 hours with few interruptions, with a can of Coke Zero and an empty Snickers wrapper on the table in front of me.

Hardly a healthy lifestyle, I think we can all agree, and I can already feel the heart disease setting in, as a tiny French voice whispers in my ear that I should be taking two-hour-long lunch breaks and shopping at the market unless I want to end up as an obese American.

But then, in the way that reading 131 news articles in a day from boredom tends to encourage, the Internet comforts me with this tidbit:

As the United States struggles to cope with obesity rates, France is often looked to as a counterexample. Yet obesity is on the rise there as well now, and though French culinary traditions are often credited with keeping people trim, some worry those eating habits are under assault.

The most interesting part about this article to me is how it doesn’t even try to argue that typically French eating habits aren’t fundamentally healthier than their American counterparts. Home-cooked meals = good. MacDo’s = bad. And the problem here is that the American culture of convenience is infringing upon France’s right to two-hour lunches.

As you can maybe tell, I am incredibly conflicted by this assumption. On the one hand, yes, moving away from the traditions of French gastronomie is proving detrimental to France’s collective waistline. But on the other, I find it lazy to blame this shift entirely on American influence. France is a strong nation with a strong national culture, and to say that individuals in France are the victims of a tyricannical American fast-food culture is ridiculous. France is the second-largest McDonald’s market, not because it was forced upon them,  but because they like Big Macs just as much as anyone (perhaps even more so, because they’re willing to pay like $15 for a medium value meal).

Luckily, France is never going to be as fat as the US. Their appreciation for good ingredients and ceremony in their dinner routine is, at least in my experience, stronger than an urgent desire for convenience. And although the article points out that rural residents who drive everywhere are more likely to be obese, they are likely to walk more than their American counterparts. Unlike the suburban sprawl and SUV wastelands that I know all too well, even most small towns in France have a definable city center, where residents can and often do walk to get their daily baguette. But I digress.

The lesson, children, is that a balance between convenience and health is possible, both in France and America. A home-cooked meal is important, even when you’re all I LIVE IN NEW YORK I’M TOO BUSY, but Parisians aren’t going to start riding around on mobility scooters because of their lunchtime jambon-beurres. Everyone just needs to calm down. Jeez.

[“The French Are Getting Fatter, Too” via NPR]

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Cheap-en-Provence

You’ve already gotten a brief introduction to the small-town charm espoused (and subsequently marketed) in Aix-en-Provence. It is exactly what you’d expect a French town to be, with it’s narrow, winding streets, innumerable fountains and plethora of delicious-smelling bakeries. Which is precisely why the place is overrun with foreigners, come to experience a “quintessential France” while still being able to shop at American Apparel.

I take the bus to Aix every weekend to give conversation lessons at the English bookstore (generating a firmly negative income as I spend my class earnings immediately on books and scones), but I rarely visit Aix outside of the well-traveled route from the bus station to the bookstore and back. So recently, I decided it was high time to get around to that, and in a way that didn’t make me absolutely poor. It was a great success, a perfect way to spend a sunny spring day in Provence. And, in the spirit of my personal hero, I accomplished the whole day on less than 10€ (not including the copy of The Three Musketeers that I weakly bought at the bookstore). (more…)

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I happened upon Ma part du gateau somewhat accidentally. It was  Printemps du cinéma and movies were 3€ that weekend, so a friend recommended it to me and I figured, nothing to lose, right? And then I arrived in the theatre to find that this is the latest work from none other than Cédric Klapisch (L’auberge espagnole, Les poupées russes), moving on from issues of youthful motivation and life direction to a heavier domain; capitalism, globalization and social inequality are at the heart of this drama, and despite its general awkwardness and heavy-handed treatment of Good and Evil in the form of Socialist and Capitalist, Country Girl and Corrupt Big City Man, it effectively conveys a pressing sense of desperation while making me feel sort of guilty for speaking English. (Warning: Spoilers. But like you’re ever going to watch this movie…) (more…)

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Gangs of Marseille??

So it has recently come to my attention that there is a significant portion of the American tourism handbook industry that is actively telling people not to come to Marseille. The section on Marseille in France for Dummies (actually entitled “Marseille: Crime and Bouillabaisse”) includes such gems as “don’t take your car [to Marseille] as it will almost certainly get broken into or stolen” and “make a quick tour of Marseille…a major transportation hub in the South.” Transportation hub?? Also, they suggest that everybody that comes to Marseille pretty much only does so for prostitutes and/or drugs. I even read one online source that (legitimately?) warns travelers who are not up to date on their vaccinations of the potential risk of hepatitis A.

Well consider this post a rebuttal to “Crime and Bouillabaisse” from someone who has not only never been robbed/attacked in Marseille (I mean, knock on wood I guess) but is also a vegetarian and has never had a 60 euro bowl of fish stew. Furthermore, I did not come here in search of prostitutes and drugs. Ok maybe a few prostitutes, but listen, Marseille is great, and I’ll tell you why: (more…)

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Upon leaving Paris, my erstwhile home, I set out on an eastward course, landing in a place where I not only didn’t know the city at all, but where I couldn’t even speak the language. (I always feel guilty when this happens, when I don’t even really understand the structure of the language enough to string together the few words I do know. At least in Italian and Spanish, if I’ve got some nouns and verbs, I can make myself understood because I can figure out what order to put them in. German? Lost cause. Incidentally, I did get really good at saying Einschuldigung…but I digress.) (more…)

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You Knew This Already

BONUS!

An on-topic treat for my French-speaking readers: this choice article, published in today’s Monde.

 

The literati of France’s newspaper of record examine American Christmas traditions in a way that is both hilarious and slightly inaccurate (They misspell several of the reindeers’ names and COMPLETELY OMIT Rudolph, which is frankly egregious). I did, however, learn several things, like how Coca Cola gave Santa a red suit in the early 1900s, and how Clement Clarke Moore thought of his flying sleigh in 1823.

There is also this brilliant, if super French literary comparison:

A côté du Noël de Tchaïkovski, il y a Dickens. Dans le premier, on s’arrache les cadeaux les plus chers. Dans le second, on se précipite à minuit pour acheter du lait pour biberon : c’est l’heure à laquelle les chèques d’allocation chômage arrivent sur les comptes.

I think it’s interesting, though, that they accuse Americans of an obsession with Christmas. I think it’s true that we do it in a very uniquely “American” way (inflatable Santas, anyone?), and it’s got to strike foreigners as extravagant, BUT AS I WILL LATER ARGUE, the spirit and the energy and the magic is more or less the same.

 

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