Some tidbits of trivia

Having been in Nice for five years now, I have done a few walking tours, along with some additional research. I would like to share with you some well-known, and some not so well-known, factoids and trivia – Enjoy!

Do you know?
Provence area:
~ the first area to be planted with grapes by the Greeks in 600BC; Rose makes up about 60% of wine production
~ total sunshine averages around 300 days per year, with hot/dry summers and mild winters
~ the violent wind that originates from North Africa is called the “mistral” which comes from the word “mistrau” meaning master; these winds can be around 200 km/hr. (124 mph) and last 3-10 days; the saying goes, it can “blow the ears off a donkey”
~ the provencal language differs from French in openness of vowel pronounciation
~ provencal food features garlic, tomatoes, olive oil, and olives
~ Nicois specialties include Pissaladiere (onion pie), Tourte de blettes (swiss chard pie), Farcis Nicois (stuffed vegetables), Beignets de fleurs de courgettes (deep fried flowering squash), Socca (chickpea-flour crepe), Pan-bagnat (sandwich)
~lavender originated from the Canary Islands and was brought in by the Romans
~ symbols include: sunflowers, herbes de Provence (thyme, basil, rosemary), fabrics called “Indiennes” with the most well-known brand being “Souleiado”; kir – white wine with creme de cassis; pastis – licorice flavored alcohol mixed with water; Petangue/Boules – also known as Bocce
~ Monet lived in Antibes; Renoir in Cagnes-sur-Mer; Picasso in Juan-les-Pins; Chagall in St. Jean Cap-Ferrat
~ Mediterranean France is like a tapestry with threads of history woven into it with a mix of architecture – Roman, Medieval, Baroque, Modern
~ Monaco is the world’s most populated country, second smallest independent nation, and the smallest French-speaking country

~ the meaning of Nice (Nikaia in Greek) is the Goddess of victory; it became part of France in 1860
~ the Opera burned down in 1881 and was re-built in 1882; the 4 rooftop statues represent theater/dance/music/song
~ original name of the Promenade des Anglais was “La Strada del Littorale” and it was originally made of marble
~ Albert 1st park is named after a Belgian king and is the oldest garden in Nice
~ the Carnaval has been a tradition for 700 years
~ the name “Cote d’Azur” was coined by the writer and poet, Stephen Liegeard, in 1888
~ the destruction of the castle on Castle Hill was destroyed in 1706 by Louis XIV, but this resulted in the city’s growth
~ Nice’s traditional flower is the carnation; Nice’s specialty olive is the “caillette”, and tapenade is called the “caviar of Nice”
~ candied fruit was a favorite delicacy of Queen Victoria
~ Cours Saleya market was named after the sun “soleil” and has been Nice’s main market since the Middle Ages
~ Architecturally: Italian colors are ochre and yellow; French colors are beige and white – as seen in Place Massena

Hope you get to visit this area and enjoy in person all that it has to offer!

Defining ‘French’ moments!

This morning I just didn’t feel like dealing with the traffic and the stress of scootering to work, so instead, decided to take the bus – relaxing for me and also a great opportunity to people watch.

I was sitting next to a senior-age, French lady – who, by the way, fit the stereotype of elegance. She had short cropped silver hair, wore makeup, a black denim (just above the knee-length) skirt, black jacket with a accents of red, nylon stockings (not worn at much here as in U.S.), and close-toed/ankle-strapped 2 inch heels – impressive! (Shoes are the first thing I notice about a person, as I am a shoe-aholic!)

Suddenly, we both saw a refrigerator-type, delivery truck with the driver, wearing white overalls, walking down the sidewalk with two whole (with head intact) skinned pigs slung over his shoulder (Ewww!) The French lady next to me seemed surprised too, and said “Dites, donc!” (Hey!/Oh, my!) and then amusingly added that the local butcher shop was probably getting ready/set up for the Easter holiday (Paques) – maybe – but not so sure I’ll be eating any pork!

Grammar panic attack!

Most students of French (myself included in my days of study) fear! — no, don’t understand! – no, intensely dislike! – the verb tense, the subjunctive, and avoid it like the plague! Oui, it is another formation of verbs to memorize, and its usage can be a little complicated: I will try to simplify it once and for all!

Subjunctive: Grammar denoting a mood of verbs used when the content of the clause is being doubted, supposed, feared true, etc., rather than being asserted. (Source: The Free Dictionary)

Requires the subjunctive:

1. Two different subjects in two clauses of the sentence

EX: I want you to do it. = I want (that) you do it. = Je veux que tu le fasses.

2. follows ONLY the conjunction “que” or “qui”

EX: I am happy you are going. = I am happy (that) you are going. = Je suis contente que tu ailles.

3. The expression of an wish, emotion, feeling, doubt/uncertainty, fear, regret, necessity (Il faut que..) in the main clause (as opposed to stating something sure or perceived as certain)

EX: I don’t think she is coming. = I don’t think that she is coming. = Je ne crois pas qu’elle vienne.

4. With certain expressions (+ que) that convey a subjective idea (these require memorizing)

EX: Il faut, il vaut mieux, il est important, il est dommage, avant que, just to name a few.

Once you learn the verb conjugations, of which there are many irregular verbs, using this tense is a matter of memorization and practice – but if in DOUBT, use the SUBJUNCTIVE! (fun interactive quiz with this link)

Symbolism – Then & Now for Chanel

One day, some friends and I decided to get out of town! We decided to have lunch in the vicinity of a nearby castle, where we had planned on doing a guided visit and degustation (wine tasting). The drive up into the heart of the Bellet vineyards took about 25 minutes, as we meandered our way up into the hills behind Nice.

Stopping in Colomars, we walked around and discovered a hotel/restaurant, L’Auberge du Redier, nestled into a hillside and with magnificent gardens. The staff was very welcoming, and after lingering in the beautiful gardens, we were seated at a table in front of one of the large windows in the light and spacious dining room. The food was excellent and the service was top rate – combined with the lovely surroundings and warm ambience, this lunch was special, affordable, and a great find!

In keeping with our planned itinerary, we drove to the Chateau de Cremat, noting for future reference that we could take bus #62 from Nice = no designated driver needed! The castle, built in 1906, was strikingly beautiful, with panoramic and breathtaking views. The doors and stained glass windows were impressive, etched with the castle’s symbol.

We heard and saw how the wine is produced, still some in oak barrels, and that it is AOC (appellation d’origine controllee) – an official label, which identifies a product’s geographical origin, standardized method of production and know-how, and authentic quality and characteristics. We were getting thirsty and ready for the wine tasting that followed the tour! (another point for taking a bus, to avoid missing out on the best part!)

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We learned that the castle had several owners in its history, and in particular, an American woman, who hosted many high-society parties. As the story was told, one of the guests that the owner befriended was Coco Chanel, to whom the owner gave the right to use the official symbol of the castle’s name: the two intertwining C’s – seen in the doors and windows at the castle! (three short videos in this link)

In 2001, the castle was bought by Cornelius Kamerbeek as a private residence; he rehabilitated the abandoned vineyards, a total of about 25 hectares/62 acres, modernized the wine caves, and added a boutique/wine tasting area. The original symbol (initials of the castle) can still be seen there, but the official symbol is the current owner’s initials: the intertwining letters a backward “C” and a “K.” (see slideshow photo)

I ended up buying a couple bottles of wine and a bottle of olive oil, as souvenirs, to end the day’s visit to a castle with TRUE fashionable style!
Informational video in French

ALL RISE! (LEVEZ-VOUS!): A crime in Nice

Last August, I was at the National Police station, and two weeks ago in a courtroom at the Palais de Justice – No, I wasn’t arrested by the pooper-scooper patrol in Nice!

It all started with having lunch with two lady friends, after which I wanted to go look at shoes (yes, I’m a shoe-aholic!). So there we were, on a city bus chatting away, but noticed a young guy standing close-by – noticed because he accidentally stepped on one of my friend’s foot – it was nothing serious and apologies in French were exchanged.

We were getting off the bus, at the corner of Galeries Lafayette department store, when one of my friends noticed her purse was unzipped and wallet gone. Thinking the perpetrator was still on the bus, I started pounding on the bus door, so the driver wouldn’t pull away. Then, one of us noticed the same guy (who was next to us on the bus) had also gotten off at this stop and was just standing around, like he was waiting for someone or another bus.

I approached him and yelled at him, asking if he had stolen my friend’s wallet and, of course, he said no. By then, the small crowd that was waiting at the bus stop began to wonder what was going on (one lady even took this guy’s photo with her phone). I then asked the guy to turn around, thinking he had the wallet in the back pocket of his jeans, and he (surprisingly) obeyed! As he was turning, and as the jacked that was draped over one wrist moved ever so slightly, my friend saw her wallet in his hand. Just then, as I was explaining to two nearby French men what was going on, the guy took off running up the sidewalk.

Immediately, a Galeries Lafayette security guard (who just happened to be standing outside the store’s side entrance) gave chase after the guy, who by now, was somewhat far ahead. As (more) luck would have it, this guard noticed, and yelled up ahead to, one of his colleagues who was coming on duty walking towards the running guy – the assailant was nabbed and the two guards escorted him into the store’s private back room (I assume where they hold accused shoplifters) and called the police. We waited and waited…..

So much for shopping for shoes! Our afternoon was blown, as all this took a lot of time – this IS France, after all! Next, our friend had to go to the police station to file a report (she rode in the same police car as the perpetrator, with lights flashing and siren wailing, while my other friend and I had to take the tram and find the National police headquarters.

FAST FORWARD: Two weeks ago was the court date for my friend to testify against the accused “serial pickpocket,” who had also given a false name – no surprise there! I offered to go with my friend: as a witness, for moral support, and for interpreting purposes – the court doesn’t provide translators. We were there with a lot of other people, victims and perpetrators alike, all sitting on hard benches, waiting for our case to be called. It was chaotic and noisy, with attorneys and courtroom staff talking all at once to the judge and milling about, all in black robes with fuzzy white poms-poms hanging around their neck and click-clacking shoes – the acoustics were terrible, which made it doubly hard to understand.

Suddenly, our guy entered the room with a woman, but after quietly speaking with one of the courtroom officials while another case was being debated, he left – what the hell was going on? We had already waited an hour or so, and the court had even been adjourned for 15 minute (a coffee/cigarette break? – this IS France, after all!)

When the court came back into session and a case was being heard, I crouched over to the same official to ask why the guy had left and was told he needed to go get a document, and we needed to wait. So, having no choice, we listened to a few petty crime cases with the judge handing out sentencing, as well as two serious crime cases where the accused had already been held in prison – these guys were brought out in handcuffs, escorted by a couple of policemen, and had to stand behind a plexiglass, screened area on the right side of the courtroom – the funny thing was – it wasn’t that high in front and these guys could have jumped over it in no time to get to the judge!

Finally, ‘our’ guy came back in and the case was called. We all had to go up front where my friend positively identified the guy as the one who took her wallet, and (with my translating) gave a resume of events on that August day. The guy’s defense was telling the judge that he didn’t know who he was, where he was born, and that he had been adopted by gypsies who made him steal – all he wanted was to work and live a normal life with his wife (apparently the lady who was with him). The judge then asked him where he worked, to which he answered that he didn’t have a job, to which the judge gave a “of course” type smirk.

The judge then continued to read outloud this guy’s long rap sheet of pick pocketing crimes, with quite a few done on public transportation (seen as criminally more serious). The guy again repeated his sob story, with tears in his eyes, trying to emotionally sway the judge – who obviously wasn’t buying any of it, sentencing the guy to eight months in prison and thanking my friend for doing her civic duty in showing up to testify. I have to admit, we both felt a little bad for the guy (we are human, after all), but also felt vindicated and proud we persevered!

We never did get to shop for shoes that day, and next time, we’ll WALK!

Combining object pronouns

Replace the italicized words with two object pronouns.

1. Elle emprunte un livre a son frere.
2. Ne mettez pas les pieds sur la chaise.
3. Ne raconte pas le secret a Helene.
4. Vous montrez la photo a Marie.
5. Envoyez les fleurs a vos grandparents.
6. Je lis l’histoire aux eleves.
7. Nous envoyons le colis a mes parents.
8. Il prete un Euro a mon ami.
9. Tu verses du vin dans le verre.

Answers :
1-Elle le lui emprunte.
2-Ne les y mettez pas.
3-Ne le lui raconte pas.
4-Vous la lui montrez.
6-Je la leur lis.
7-Nous le leur envoyons.
8-Il le lui prete.
9-Tu y en verses.

Personal recommendation

HI BEACH is one of Nice’s seaside restaurants, with a relaxing bar area and, of course, beach loungers/matelas to rent for the half-day or full-day. So, what makes it special? For me, it is the zen-like ambiance and their focus on well-being and tranquil setting (the location is near Boulevard Gambetta on the Promenade).

I have especially enjoyed, on several occasions, listening to the sea there, while having an upscale continental-type breakfast: coffee, a basket of viennoiseries (bread and pastries) with choice of jams and butter, and fruit juice – as well as, a large cup of creamy yogurt topped with fresh fruit. I felt satiated and relaxed (and yes, more zen-like) – a great way to start the day!

Common idiomatic expressions

The ball is in his/her court. Le balle est dans son camp.

It has nothing to do with it. Cela n’a rien a voir avec ca/cela

To cost an arm and a leg. couter les yeux de la tete

It’s raining cats and dogs. Il pleut des cordes.

A piece of cake. Simple comme bonjour.

That’s it! Ca y est (can be a statement or question)