Sunday, January 31, 2016

learning French

When in college I thought I might be a language major, until I realized that I am totally incapable of speaking a foreign language.  Despite living in Spain for two years as a teenager my speaking ability in Spanish is at a survival Spanish level, although I can read reasonably well and can hold forth on the concept of honor in 14th century Spanish literature with the best of them.  Even though I was hopeless at speaking a foreign language I loved the idea of it and so I plunged into intro to French.  I lasted two semesters until the morning I was rendered totally mute when called on in a Spanish class which immediately followed a French class and realized I was unable to even pronounce a word of English.   At that point I realized I needed to be a literature, not language student, and I should just give up on French.  Especially since my almost two semesters of French  had only gotten me to the level of counting and saying "my name is J..." and "I don't understand."  It was pretty clear that French was a lost cause.

Now, move forward almost 50 years.  We are going to Paris and I really do need at least a basic tourist level of French to get some directions, find the bathroom, and read a menu, so we've started Duolingo on our phones.  I remain hopeless.  I can do the reading, can't conjugate any verbs and have decided that if I can just put a few nouns in sequence they'll figure it out.  I can't get the speaking thing down at all.  All the words sound the same regardless of their endings.  The plurals and singulars are all pronounced the same as are all the verb endings.  I believe that the way to speak is to pronounce the first part of the word and then just THINK the ending without saying anything.  Someone recommended that you push your lips out a la Donald Trump and pronounce the words from the front of your mouth, not the center or back.  That helps a bit only because I can't really pronounce anything that way so it sounds very French although it may not actually be any word.

Last night we watched a French movie on Netflix and if I had played a drinking game where I took a drink whenever I understood a word I would have remained sober. Luckily I could recognize  "bonjour', "merci", "d'accord", "de rein", and "pardon" which may be the most important words for me.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

April in Paris

Just before Christmas I was sitting at the kitchen table looking at Facebook on my phone when I saw an Iceland Air ad for a flash sale with RT fares to Europe at just over $600.  Absolutely too good to be true!  But it was true and I snagged two RT tickets to Paris for around $1260, which is less than the price of one ticket in the on-season.  So off to Paris we go in April for 9 days...... We've never been to Paris and my French is limited to saying "my name is ...." and "I don't understand"  but being fearless I booked us an apartment in the 2nd arrondisment and we will just rely on the kindness of strangers to make it all work.

I've been doing my research and welcome any suggestions anyone has on funny, special little things to see or do. We are spending all of our time in Paris and the local area so hope to not be so rushed we can't do some of the off-the-beaten path things we enjoy.

And now I'm starting on my packing list - colors are black, naturally since it's Paris, and dark plum. Today I went to the outlet mall to return a Christmas gift sweater and I scored a fabulous sweater jacket in black and white that is oh, so Parisian!  and a scarf to go with it!  A new plum colored shirt is on order from Eddie Bauer (you know, like my favorite shirt but with long roll-up sleeves) so I feel like I'm already packed and ready to go!

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

holiday review

It was a spectacular holiday season!  All children (now that they are in their 30's I really should find a word other than children but.....) were home and made things very special.  We started with Noche Buena which was made even more special by the unbelievable weather - we had the porch open and people were out on the deck sitting around the picnic tables and I had the air conditioner on in the house!  It was close to 80+ degrees here and HUMID!  I was wearing a sleeveless top and sandals.  It was the Florida Christmas my husband always wants.  Other years people have had to walk through piles of snow just to get to the house.   This was the first Christmas ever where we all hung out on the back porch into late into the night.

Then all too soon the children had to leave and the house was quiet.  I actually enjoy the opportunity to get things cleaned up and stop providing meals. I'd forgotten how much people can eat.  When the children were growing up I always had 5 people for every meal, and then usually had an extra nanny, child or my parents at the table.  I could whip up dinner for 8 on no notice.  Now, buying and cooking those quantities doesn't come as easily.

We had a quiet New Years Eve followed by a brunch and an open house at friends homes here in our neighborhood.  We walked from one party to the next on New Years Day.  The following day was my favorite of the whole holiday - the day we took the decorations down!  I actually hate Christmas decorations and celebrate when they can be put back into the crawl space until next year.

Finally, there was a cocktail party at a friend's home on Sunday evening to cap off the holiday season. We all laughed that we were going to have to have a detox since we'd all partied so much over the holiday season.  I think that fasting should also be part of our January plans although I tend not to eat much when I've cooked the food so I didn't actually gain any weight.  Now I've thrown out all the cake, cookies, and pastry and frozen all the meats for future meals so we are back to normal foodwise.

And finally yesterday, the weather got cold cold cold so I made plane reservations for Florida to escape the cold.

Happy Winter!