Saturday, May 28, 2011

Albert et Charlene

So, the big news here in Paris this weekend is the highly anticipated airing of an interview TF1 did with Prince Albert II of Monaco and his fiancée, Charlene Wittstock about their upcoming nuptials. A two minute clip of the interview has been available online for the past week. What strikes me most about this interview is the fact that, despite being Al's girlfriend for SIX years, Charlene apparently does not speak passable French (since her answers are all in English). She also has no reaction to what the interviewer is asking so apparently she doesn't understand French, either. The Parisians are very hard on those who don't speak their language and I'm guessing that the Super Rich Super Snotty Monegasques are even more so. I can't wait to see the rest of this interview. Bonne Chance, Charlene. You're gonna need it.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Reverse Tiger Mom

It was only a matter of time before this happened. In a weird twist, these people are the reverse of that overbearing Yale law professor who bereats her kids in Chinese. Both Kathy Witterick and her husband, David Stocker, lamented the fact that parents make 'so many choices for their children, it's obnoxious' Thus, they decided to give the latest addition to their family an ambiguous name (Storm) and not reveal the baby's gender to anyone. I was a bit surprised to read that these folks hailed from Toronto. I felt sure they made their home in California--specifically Freak Central (Venice Beach). Although I wonder why they even chose a name for the kid at all. Why not call them 'you' or 'it' until the child can decide what they want their name to be? Furthermore, why communicate with them using English? Isn't that making a choice for the child as well? Why not let them choose which language they want to communicate in when they grow up? Until then you can communicate with them using grunts, just like the cavemen used to do (which would be perfect for these folks 'cause clearly they are neanderthals).

Monday, May 23, 2011

Rebecca and the Prince of Egypt

Last summer I flew my second cousin’s 13 year old daughter, Rebecca, here to be our ‘fille au pair.’ Basically her job entailed taking the girls out to the park for few hours each day. She had every afternoon off to explore the city, although not speaking a word of French my husband wondered how she’d get along all alone in a foreign capital. He need not have worried. Rebecca, who is not only bright but also very beautiful, already had a friend in the City of Lights. His name was Raphael. She met him at the prestigious Phillips Exeter Academy Prep School in early June where they both were taking an accelerated math class. Raphael was three years older than Rebecca and thus, I was constantly quizzing her on where they went and what they did while hanging out with his friends. She would regale me with stories of eating at fancy restaurants all over Paris and going to see American movies in French. All of which was paid for by the very wealthy, Raphael. Then one day she said something very interesting. She informed me that Raphael had told her he was the grandson of the last King of Egypt, thus making him, the last Prince of Egypt. I found this more than a bit amusing since she had also told me that Raphael’s family was Jewish and I’m pretty sure there had never been a Jewish King of Egypt. It was shortly thereafter that I had to put the brakes on Rebecca’s relationship with the Prince of Egypt. Raphael had asked her to fly with him to his family’s house in Cannes for the weekend.
“Can I go?” she asked anxiously
“Are you serious? Of course not!”
“Why not?”
“Why won’t I let you accompany a 16 year old stranger of the opposite sex to his family’s home 600 miles away?” I asked her sarcastically. “Come on, Rebecca, you know why you can’t go.”
“That sucks!” she said and stormed off to her room.
Luckily, Raphael’s request came at the end of July and just a week later his family left Paris for the month of August, like all Parisians do. By the time they returned in September, Rebecca was safely back in the US. Nearly a year later, his ardor for her clearly hasn’t waned one bit. I know this because I got a call on my cell phone the other day from Raphael. He had my number because I had given my phone to Rebecca while she was here so I could always get in touch with her.
“Bonjour! This is Raphael.”
“Who?” I asked.
“Raphael, Madame,” he said all politesse. “Rebecca’s friend.”
“Ah, oui,” I said. “What can I do for you, Raphael?”
“Please, Madame, will Rebecca be returning to you this summer.”
Unbelieveable! The little horn dog was calling to see if his escaped conquest would be back!
“Non!” I said forcefully and hung up.
And that was the last I ever heard from the Prince of Egypt.

Monday, May 16, 2011

There is no FUN in French

You can tell that having fun is not natural to the French because they do not even have a word for it. That's right FUN does not exist en français. They had to steal our word (but with their accent it comes out sounding like 'UN'). They seem so serious all the time you wonder if they would even know FUN if it came up and bit them on the derrière. Even for French children there seems to be very little FUN allowed. At birthday parties they don't even play games like pin the tail on the donkey or musical chairs. They just let the kids run around unsupervised until their parents return to pick them up. I've tried to educate my French friends by introducing them to traditional American ideas of fun. For example last year I hosted a Toga Party on my birthday and while all our American friends got it, the French did not. Instead of coming dressed in sheets they bought sheets, wrapped them up and gave them to me as a gift. Oh, well. C'est la vie!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

You must have proof!

One of the more interesting lessons I learned after moving here is that if you have to send anything by mail, you must send it registered mail. Otherwise, the person won't get it. Well, they will get it, of course, but they'll SAY they didn't, thereby buying themselves more time to do nothing about it. Take for example, our letter of cancellation of cable services. We wanted to sever our ties with one internet provided and hire another. Our first cable company, Noos, said we had to send them a letter stating our desire to end our contract with them. Fine. I typed it up and sent it off the next day. Although the following month I noticed our bank statement said we were still being billed for their services. I called them up to ask what gives and was informed they never received my letter of cancellation. So, like a dummy I sent them the same letter, again. And the following month, we again were billed for their services, even though our cable had been switched 2 months ago to another company. Finally, a Parisian friend clued me in to what was happening. By not sending the cancellation letter registered mail, I had no proof I asked them to cancel our service, thus allowing them to bill us for two months of internet use we never received. At that point, I decided to go to the post office to find out exactly what was going on. I shouldn't have even bothered because they are in on it, too. They told me to get lost unless I could produce proof. So, bottom line? Don't send anything more important than a postcard without that little, yellow, registered mail sticker on it.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Getting to the Bottom of Things

The first time I went to Paris with my husband he was insistent that we visit Le Musée des Égouts de Paris. Even though I had been to Paris several times before, I had never heard of this particular museum and thus agreed to go because #1 it was cheap (about 4 euros per person) and #2 there was little or no wait time to get in. Once inside, however, I quickly discovered why it was so cheap and empty: this is an active sewer. The stench was almost unbearable. There is literally CRAP floating by you as you travel along the walkways. Luckily, I had a small vial of perfume in my purse and I rubbed the scent under my nose so I could make it to the exit without vomiting. My husband, an engineer AND a history buff, was fascinated by it all and insisted on reading every single sign posted on the wall. I met back up with him in the museum gift shop which featured (and I swear I am not making this up) postcards with a picture of a rat on the front. I bought several of them and sent them to my in-laws with “wish you were here” written on the back. Of course, the best souvenir of all is free: the stench that stays on your clothes for hours after you’ve left!