Slacking on French Lessons

I am so excited to get my butt moving to France! I actually have trouble expressing my excitement in words. You know how when you attempt to explain to your partner how much you love them, and nothing you say really measures up to your feelings? Well, this is a similar kind of excitement.

I am going to France and I will obtain a job and hopefully meet a bunch of people. Speaking French is going to be a must, a total necessity. My problem would be that I am simply a beginner at French. Even worse, a French lesson slacker!

I know I must practice in order to reach the goals I have set out for myself. I must, I must, I must practice. I started my run well (run being the study of French). I practiced and studied every single day, I was consistent with the date and times of my lessons, I reviewed over and over again, read and looked up vocab like a mad woman. And now, the one hour lesson a week is all I put into this (although I do practice conversation an awful lot with FB).

If I had taken this slacker attitude with the financial aspect of getting this visa, I would have never been able to achieve that goal, but throughout that time period, I remained determined, knowing that all my efforts would pay off. And now that the plane ticket had been purchased and all is in place for the attainment of this visa, I need to take on that same attitude with the learning of this beautiful language.

Discipline it is! And not for any blind reasons such as thinking that I need to be disciplined because discipline in itself is a good quality. I do not necessarily agree with that. I do not believe discipline is necessary all the time. But I do believe that all dreams and goals are attainable, no matter how impossible they seem. And attaining these dreams and goals doesn’t simply come with expecting it to happen without any effort. Action is key. And the action I choose to take is the dedicated effort and discipline to set firmer, more concrete goals (like the monetary value of the money goal) and really make this a reality.

So here they are, my new French language goals. Necessary, if I want to be successful in France:

  • Become completely functional within 2 months of being in France (November 15). Becoming functional means speaking all the time and understanding others.
  • Dedicate at least one hour per day to some French activity. This can be reading, studying verbs, the lesson, watching TV, practicing conversational skills. It doesn’t matter what, it just has to be French.
  • DOING MY FRENCH HOMEWORK. I have never been good at doing homework. Throughout my life I have been more of the kind of student who slaps together a magnificent project in the last minutes. Would that style cut it for learning French? Not sure, but I am going to do the homework this time.
  • Post at least one French Language post per week. Yes I will!
  • Remember these goals!

You cannot become a runner by talking about running!

Until next time…

Filling out the long term visa application for France

The title of this post spells out exactly what I will write about today.

As you may know, one of the very first steps I took towards moving to France was researching the types of visas and choosing one. After I chose the youth working holiday visa (2E) I logically printed out the online package (as linked on the right of this blog).

What I am trying to say is that I have had this visa package full of instructions, guidelines and the application forms themselves  for nearly 5 months. I could have filled out the forms months ago but instead I decided to save all the money needed, write my cover letter en francais, get the insurance, the photos, the photocopies, all-in-all, EVERYTHING completed. Yet, until a couple of days ago, these form lay unattended. I had peaked at them 10 or maybe 20 times over these 5 months but never dared touched them.

Why? You may ask. This seems like I pretty basic thing to do. Well, not when you are me! When this has been your dream for 10 plus years! When any mistake on those two pages can hinder your ability to obtain that visa! Ok, breather. I guess it is not that big of a deal. But when I looked at those forms all I could see were the side panels which read “for administration use only” and underneath this column lays two boxes (one to be checked off by the administration) reading “granted” and “not granted”. They will literally choose whether or not to give me the visa, right before my eyes, on that very application form. I better freaking fill it out correctly! On top of the pressure to fill these babies out perfectly, they come with a little glitch: The page attached explaining what goes into each box is wrong. The explanations do not match the boxes on the form so therefore I filled them out how I thought I should and had to disregard the instructions. French consulate, please review that page and fix it!

Finally, on Sunday, I built up enough courage to once and for all tackle these forms. I was as honest as I could have been, was very straight forward in all the boxes and I also have a verbal explanation ready for the boxes I filled out that may be ambiguous to someone trying to figure out what my plans are exactly.

Thankfully I have my boyfriend’s parents in France who are serving as my “home-stay” family just in case anything goes wrong while I am there. I added them into my application and their address as the place I will stay, even though I also wrote I will immediately look for a place in Lille. I am sure this could seem a little confusing to the consulate. “She says she will live in Lille when she arrives but she also says she will stay in Reims.” I tried my best to make the situation very clear to them. But anyway, I am ready with responses to any of their questions.

That box will be checked “granted” I am sure!

France, A Love Story

The title of this post is also the title of the latest book I just read.

The book is edited by Camille Cusuman but is a compilation of stories from many women, talking about their love of France.

The short stories’ authors include M.F.K. Fisher, Ruth Reichl, and Alice Kaplan, well known female writers mainly from the U.S.

Some of the tales are of woman moving to the country. They introduce life in their towns, their neighbours, and everyday tribulations.

Some stories tell of women who take a vacation and experience love with a French Man.

The book introduces the love affairs women have had with the food of France, the people, the lifestyle and the French language.

Definitely give it a read if you want first hand accounts of the life in France as a traveler.

My Mini Quebec Adventure (part 2)

Bonjour mes amis!

I am on the VIA train right now, heading home from my Quebec adventure. I have to say that my experience here far past any expectations I could have had.

I have a reader who just emailed me and said that he traveled to France and really enjoyed his time. The key to his enjoyable time was detaching himself from all expectations during the trip. This is kind of/sort of the attitude I took for my short Quebec adventure. I left my expectations behind and was committed to having a great time with Mon Homme.

All of the food in Quebec was mouth watering. We dined on typical French cuisine the entire time, sometimes splurging on a multi-coursed dinner and other times scrimping our wallets and purchasing la nourriture from the grocery store (supermarché). It was simply all délicieux.

Here is the list of the top 5 things we did:

  1. Les Chutes de Montmorency (The Montmorency Falls)- They are massive! The local transit bus “800” took us all the way there (it was around a thirty minute ride from Old Quebec). We were led from a small walking path to a huge bridge that takes you right over the falls. Honestly, we were not expecting much but they sure are impressive. We then proceeded to walk down what seemed like 2000 stairs to the bottom of the falls to get soaking wet. It was an all around awesome time!
  2. Lower Old Quebec- Little did we know until the evening of last night that Quebec has a “secret” area full of cobblestone roads and cute little shops. Most of old Quebec is built around the Chateau Frontenac, near the top of a large hill, surrounded by the walls of the historical fort. The roads are paved, there are many shops and restaurants and a lot of tourists. We had walked the streets at least ten times until I turned to Mon Homme and said “I remember that Quebec has an area with cobblestone roads”. To arrive there we had to find the staircases behind most of the main roads that took us to the lower Quebec. This area is so charming and we found our restaurant for the second night here!
  3. Shopping- I don’t know if it is completely true, but clothes and shoes just seemed cheaper. We really needed to sift through the tons of tourist shops to find the true gems, a cute dress shop, another maple syrup store, some other crafty places. If you travel here, dedicate at least one day to shopping.
  4. Eating- Go anywhere! The price range is the same for every single restaurant so just  choose one! Besides the delectable wine and beef tartar, the sausages, burgers and soups are some of the finest too!
  5. Speaking French-I am happy to report that I was able to function with the French language. It is not the same French that is used in France as the languages really evolved differently since the French settled here eons ago. But, never the less, everyone speaks only French (it really is hard to squeeze the English out of them) and I loved the feeling of being able to understand and speak.

If you are traveling to Quebec any time soon, please drop me a line and I could recommend some great places for you to visit!

Thanks for reading!

My Mini Quebec Adventure (part 1)

I am in Quebec City for a mini French adventure. I left the bustling, busy GTA and began my journey with Mon Homme on Sunday. It was a spur of the moment decision for both of us but the desire to come here had been hanging around for a couple of months. Why not? This is an excellent opportunity for me to practice my French and eat real French (Canadian) baguettes and croissants.

Is Quebec City real a francophone city?

Yes! I actually could not believe this myself. Quebec is the only francophone province in Canada (with the exception of a part of New Brunswick), but even so, the number of anglophone inhabitants is enormous. I was expecting to arrive here and have trouble finding people (such as restaurant servers, hotel concierges, tourist guides and so on) to speak French with. I have traveled to the province of Quebec before, stayed in Montreal and also Quebec City itself (eons ago). When I had attempted to speak French then, and the people realized I was anglophone, they would automatically switch over to English.

Well this trip is slightly different. I have my French Homme with me and I have asked him to only speak French. When people approach us or we need to speak with them, they will automatically begin the conversation in French and this time, instead of me using my broken French to try to communicate, Mon Homme steps in and voila, the francophone conversation is sparked. I stand there, absorbing as much information as possible and add in a “oui” (yes) or ‘merci” (thank you) here and there. The thing I find most fascinating about all this is that I can actually understand! And answer and ask questions back! The waitress asks me, in French, what I would like to order, and I asked back in French, “Do you have fruit?” (Est-ce que vous avez des fruits?). She answers back with a “Non, bla bla bla bla bla bla petite dejeuner” (No, ……….breakfast) I didn’t catch the whole sentence. But I definitely know that it means we only serve it at breakfast and I proceed to order the French onion soup. Awesome, I mastered my first French conversation! My months and money investing into private French lessons is completely paying off, and this confidence was well needed. Thank you Quebec City!

If you want to travel to Quebec City and do not know French, do not worry, most people will speak to you in English. Try to know a few phrases though because it seems obvious to my bf and I, that when we speak in French, all the Quebecois’ faces light up and we are treated better.

Is the food in Quebec divine?

The food in Quebec City is divine! Most of it is authentically French and from what we have had, it is all just simply wonderful. There are not chain restaurants in the old city and when you sit down at a French restaurant, expect the freshest food!

I guess, because this is a very large tourist hot spot, the prices are quite high. We have yet to find a cheap French restaurant alternative. With little or no alcohol, the average bill for a lunch or dinner we have had it $35-$40. But this is generally choosing the lower costing items on the menu.

Before I go on I must tell you about the latte from heaven that I had (Cafe au lait en francais). Starbucks lattes go from around $3.20 and up. What is the outcome of paying that price? The same boring drink, every single time, mass produced, a long line up, a headache from the smells of over processed foods being grilled and an average taste. For the same price here in Quebec, I had a latte, plus grande (bigger), made with the richest espresso I have ever tasted, served with the flare of adding latte art to top the drink off, and what tasted like the freshest milk ever. We ended up ordering two! Starbucks has lost my business.

Corner convenience stores also sell baguettes and cheese and wine and everything divine. To save some money today we will grocery shop for breakfast and lunch.

Accommodations

We are staying in a two star hotel, I found for an extremely great price on Expedia.ca. I honestly was not expecting much. The pictures online were not that awesome, although the place did look clean and the location was extremely ideal. Seeing that the reviews were mainly good, I decided to book. My main focus, of course, is getting to France, so I simply do not want to splurge on a last-minute four-day trip.

We walked in, Mon Homme spoke French and the woman we dealt with was wonderful. She signed us in, gave us the key and even listened to our conversation and provided us with the internet password without us even asking. On top of this, before we headed up stairs, she asked us if we knew the city or had a map. We didn’t, so she gave us an awesome map and directions on how to get to the old city (less than 10 minute walk away!). So far, so good!

We unlock the door to our room and to our delight, it was and still is, charming, way more than we could have asked for. The room in spotless, it comes with a fridge and cable TV (with every channel). The bathroom is spotless and well equipped. The bed is comfy and has a giant, bright white duvet to add to the awesomeness. Well worth the price (which was not much).

Getting around the city on a budget

The first thing we decided to do was go shopping. There are plenty of cute shops and we had to check them out. Upon exiting the first show store, I already had a new pair of shoes in hand (or on my feet this time!). I simply couldn’t resist the French flare the shoes had. They were perfect for style and comfort! A girl has got to invest in a pair every so often to keep her sanity!

The weather here this week is terrible so indoors has been the theme. We checked out some awesome art galleries, featuring Inuit sculpted art and another gallery with abstract painting. This of course, was free (gratuit).

We were hiding out, from the cold in the bottom level of the Chateau Frontenac where there is a strip of stores to be seen. After following the corridor (and checking out the stores) we arrived at a crowded area with a woman in costume at a desk. Castle tours were happening! We had to check it out and for $20 for two people, we would be entertained for an hour. Three words for you: DON’T DO IT! It was boring, we were led through a couple of hallways and given the boring (yes boring!) historical facts. We didn’t get to see the awesome suites, the swimming pool or anything that would, as Mon Homme says, “Make us dream”.

We then proceeded to the tourist information office across the street to see where the nightlife is in the city. Not only where we told where the nightlife is (too tired to check it out yesterday), but the kind gentleman also told us all the free museums we could attend and how to take the local bus to get to the waterfalls. Awesome! Today, we have a busy (low-cost) day ahead of us!

With all this said and done, if you have the chance, GO! This city is fun, funky and quite easy to navigate, I might add. My eagerness to hop on the airplane to arrive at my real destination has and is growing with every step on these Quebec streets. Now I know for sure, I MUST go to France! The real deal lays across the ocean, no anglophones chiming into the French conversation, no choice but to order my food in France, espresso and baguettes and food that I can only imagine, and a zest that I’m sure cannot be compared to this small Canadian city. My confidence is up and I cannot wait.

Until I write again, thanks for reading!

Useful links:  for travel to Quebec City check out these two websites: Quebec Region and Bonjour Quebec

A French in Canada

Soon I will be a Canadian in France. I will have to face the challenges of speaking the language and getting a job, supporting myself, and integrating into a new culture. I will be making new friends, finding my new fav places to shop and eat and starting with only two suitcases of my stuff.

My boyfriend, being a French in Canad, shows me how some of these challenges may play out when I am in France. As he, himself, has had to go through this process when he stepped off the plane (his English was already pretty fluent though!).

He needs to obtain a internship work permit here in Canada.  He already has a job offer and yet has to wait up to 44 days for the permit to be approved! How stressful this is to wait to work for a job that has already been offered!

My lesson learned, expect to wait in France and be financially and mentally prepared for this. I will also apply as early as possible.

Liability Insurance

Ok, so I have hit another obstacle. I do not own a car or a house and therefore I do not have an insurance broker. What does this mean? I am finding it extremely difficult to find liability insurance.

Here is the liability insurance journey so far:

  • I researched where to find this type of insurance and found out that one could obtain it from the same insurance broker that you have with a car or home
  • As I do not have a car or house, I decided to ask around
  • I had a lead: Tenant’s insurance with liability. I had heard that this would probably be my only option
  • I called up a well recommended insurance company and told them the situation. They told me it would probably be no problem and to call them back when I was ready to obtain it.
  • With my appointment one month away, I decided to get this insurance set up. I called the insurance company. The gentleman asked me to give him a week to do some research and he would get back to me.
  • A week and a half went by and I heard nothing, so I called him and had to leave a message.
  • I received a message in my inbox saying that he could not provide me this insurance and as far as his research went (which sounded pretty far), no one else was willing to provide me with this insurance either.

And now here I am…

The application gives you the option of signing an affidavit stating that I will obtain liability insurance upon arrival in France. The insurance broker did recommend I do this. My only worry about this is that I would have absolutely no idea how or where to get the insurance in France. What if I ran into the same problem that I have run into here? I will email the consulate asap and tell you how it goes. Even thinking about this gets my tummy flipping a little with nervousness.

The other option is to get my aunt to call her insurance company and add me into her plan with liability (I live with my aunt). I will do this asap as well.

I hope I will shortly have this problem sorted out.

If you know anything about this topic, or have been through the same situation, please let me know!

Thanks!

French Spinach Turnover

Last Friday and Saturday were crazy days for me. I was to host my sister’s bridal shower beginning at 1pm on Saturday afternoon and I had a lot of work to do come Friday evening. I was really set on making the shower as traditional and awesome as possible. Now writing about the shower almost a week later, I can say I completely accomplished this goal!

I was keen on having all the food homemade, rather than store-bought. I wanted all the guests to go home feeling the love from their food. I swear by this method of cheering people up. I am known for needing my space while cooking in the kitchen and I tell people the same thing every time they pick on me for it, “I have to concentrate on putting my love into the food!” Its understandable, right?

I made 48 homemade chocolate cupcakes with a pink butter cream icing I whipped up. They were sure winners! I also had other family members whip up some delicious meals to bring to the party.

Among all of this delicious, love-filled food, was Julia Child’s French recipe for a spinach turnover. This recipe took the most labour (well worth the labour I should add), it took the most love, the most time, and it also got the best rave reviews from my hungry guests.

In total, the recipe took about an hour to prepare and once prepared, it sat waiting for a couple of hours getting ready to be baked. Once the guests arrived, I plopped the turnovers in the oven for 1/2 hour and they came out ready, warm and delicious, in time for lunch.

I browsed through the pics of the shower, but not one of the turnovers was captured. The picture up top is exactly how it looks though, if you need a reference. I have also posted the original video before if you want to watch Julia.

Here is the recipe:

  • Enough pastry for 2- 9″ crusts (you need dough, not the shells! I bought a package of puff pastry and it worked well, you can also make your own)
  • 9 oz fresh spinach
  • 4 oz mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup diced ham
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 2/3 cup hot milk
  • 1 egg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1-2 egg yolks for glazing
  • 1/2 cup cream or milk (I used milk because I forgot to buy cream, Julia uses cream)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup shredded Gruyere cheese

Here is the method:

  • Start by washing the spinach and removing the stems. Plunge the spinach in boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Drain spinach and plunge into cold water. Squeeeeeeeeze out all excess water. Chop up aggressively!
  • Clean mushrooms and chop them up, chop the ham too
  • In a saucepan, saute the mushrooms and ham with the tablespoon of butter. Set aside.
  • In another, larger saucepan, saute the one onion in low heat with a 1/4 cup of butter (no skimping!)
  • Remove half of this onion mixture and place in another saucepan with the spinach. Cook on low heat for about 10 minutes or so.
  • SO! Going back to the onion alone in the saucepan. Add the flour and cook for a couple of minutes. Whisk in the hot milk and beat quickly until it is a thick paste. Take the pan off the heat, add an egg, whisk right away! Add the pinch of nutmeg.
  • Take about a 1/2 cup of this mixture and stir in with the now cooked spinach. Set the spinach aside.

It is now time to make the sauce to pour on top of the finished dish…

  • In the thick flour/milk mixture you made, add the cream and simmer for ten minutes. Season to taste. Take it off the heat and sprinkle with the cheese to prevent a skin from forming. Before serving, bring the sauce up to temperature again by using low low heat.

Now let’s assemble the pastry!

  • Roll out the dough into a long rectangle. (10″ by 15″) about a 1/4 inch thick. Glaze with the egg yolks
  • Smear a thin layer of the spinach on one half. Leave about a half-inch of edge bare on the dough. Add the ham and the mushroom and then more spinach. Turn over the other half of the dough and pinch edges to seal. Glaze with the egg yolks.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes at 400 degrees

For a party, make a few, and cut into thin slices. Don’t forget to serve it with the sauce!

Et Voila!

Bon Appetit and thanks for reading!

I Dream Of Consulate Appointments

I would love to have the “I dream of Jeannie” theme song for you to begin this post, but I am yet to be that computer savvy (I am sure it will come with time). Here is the written version: Do do, do do-do do do, do do, do-do do do do, do do, do-do do do do, DO! I am sure that will be difficult to understand if you have never seen that TV show!

Last night I dreamt of my appointment at the consulate. I remember the dream very clearly as it was the last dream I had before I woke up. Here is what happened: I am called to the desk by an older gentleman. I walk up to the desk, dressed casually with my folder in hand with all the documents. I remember having a gut feeling that I was not prepared enough and would not be granted the visa (of course my worse fears would be played out in the dream). The man begins to speak to me IN FRENCH! And I speak back in French, a very slow, broken French. I remember speaking, and saying things that made sense but at this point, I have no clue what was actually said. He decides to switch my case over to a younger woman. She spoke in English. She was going through the documents and I realized that I had forgotten to provide the necessary photocopies and I had not typed up the documents. The letter, for example, was hand written, in pencil, on lined paper (worst case scenario!!). I realized what I had done wrong and decided, on a whim, to ask her straight up, “So, can I have the visa?” She of course said that they would not provide the visa. Well, me being myself, decided to tell her that even though they would not grant it today, I had booked another appointment a couple of days later. I remember trying to reach the humanity in this lady and said, “Please, as a friend, since I will be back anyway, tell me what I can do to obtain the visa in a couple of days.” She looked at me, pitifully, and sighed. Then, she proceeded to tell me that I needed to type out my documents, provide the necessary photocopies (obviously!), dress professionally and use Aveda skin lotion on my face.

You heard me right! I needed to use Aveda skin lotion on my face! How this would help me obtain the visa, only my subconscious mind will know.

Even though this is a dream, it really brought me some insight. I need to take this seriously. My broken French cannot save me if I am not fully prepared. And because of this dream, I will dress professionally for my appointment!

I am now also seriously debating buying some Aveda skin lotion for good luck!

I woke up right after the dream. Mon homme lay beside me sound asleep, but not for long. I tapped him, calling his name, “Max! Max! Max!” He answered with a muffled yes. “Today, can we go over the letter to the consulate again?” he answered with another muffled yes and we both fell back asleep.

And with that I leave you with this: If you want this visa, use Aveda!

Thanks for reading!

Books On France

I have been itching to get my hands on some awesome books that detail life in France. I am way more interested in hearing about real people’s experiences than a fictional character’s story, but both will do.

I was completely inspired after walking into the library in my neighbourhood last November (shortly after Mon Homme et moi started dating) and finding “My Life in France” on display. This is the novel about Julia Child’s life in France as she tells it to author, Alex Prud’homme. This book takes you through many regions of the country, the food, and the amazing people she meets along the way. It is definitely a winner if you want to learn more about the French life. Just a fair warning though: This book takes place quite a while ago and France has apparently modernized since then. The world is becoming more of a global playground where traditions are not worth as much value as the next dollar. I refuse to believe that France has lost most of its flavour, because if what I hear about the French is anything close to being true, these people keep preserving the culture close to their hearts. I will not be able to actually report on the truth until I experience it for myself.

I have also read a charming fictional novel written by American, Sandra Byrd called “Bon Appetit“. I have written about this one before. Because of the seemingly parallel story to my own life, I could not put it down. It is about a young woman traveling to France to study at a pastry school and work in a bakery, while trying to find love and increase her faith at the same time. It was cute and quick, exactly how I like those fiction novels. Give me a 2000 page food encyclopedia and I’ll read the whole thing in detail over time, pass me a fiction novel and I will hope for the ending the entire time!

So because my travels will be arriving in a few short months, and the reality is beginning to set in with the purchase of my plane ticket and insurance (although the visa is yet to be obtained) I am trying to get my hands on a few more great (English) books that can tickle my mind with a French experience. And because I am trying to save every single penny I have, I am extremely appreciative of the public library system in my area.

I went online to research some awesome books that really outline the culture of France, plus I asked around. The books that I have chosen are as follows:

  • France: A Love Story: Apparently a compilation of many different stories written by actual women who traveled to France and fell in love.
  • A Moveable Feast (by Ernest Hemingway): A true story about the life of Ernest Hemingway in 1920’s Paris.
  • France For Dummies: The dummies series of books are totally awesome! You can learn anything from scratch by reading these books. I know this book will outline all the key tips and tricks on navigating and fitting in with the French.

I will let you know how they go!

I ordered these books on my library’s website. They will be shipped in from a further library in a few days and I can pick them up just a couple of minutes down the street from where I live!

I am so ready to get my French on!

Thanks for reading….