French Extraterrestrial Prepares to Invade the NBA

Today is one of the most important dates in the basketball calendar, when the teams of the  National Basketball Association (NBA) select the players who will join their teams the following season. The selection process takes the form of a player draft, with teams selecting players in a predetermined order. The worst teams pick first and the best teams last, to try to give weaker teams the chance to improve.

There has been considerable buzz this year, as the first player selected will be Victor Wembanyama of France. He’s the most anticipated young player in decades, so good he’s been called an “alien” (meaning his talents are otherworldly.)

What makes young Victor so special? Is it his immense height, his slick ball-handling skills, or perhaps his 3-point shot “as smooth as crème Chantilly“?

Read all about it in Frenchly!

Pick a Practical College Major…Like French!

We seem to live in a world of STEM Über Alles, where if a young person doesn’t learn to write computer code, he or she is condemned to a life as a dog walker. But are engineers destined to rule the world? Perhaps not.

The ultimate STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) archetype might be Mr. Spock of Star Trek fame, but let’s think about who is it that commands the Starship Enterprise. It’s not the ultra-logical Mr. Spock, but rather the clever and quick-thinking Captain Kirk.

What does this mean for today’s college students, faced with choosing a major field of study that will set them on a course for life? Should they pick a ‘practical’ major in the STEM field, or—god forbid—something useless like French?

Read all about it in My French Life!

10 Surprising French Inventions

France has a long history of innovation, in fields ranging from science to consumer goods to fashion. You might already know, for example, that the French invented photography, motion pictures, hot air balloons, and the hair dryer. But that’s not all!

How about the Etch a Sketch? Or margarine? Or the bicycle? Yes, they are French inventions all.

Read all about 10 surprising French Inventions in France Today!

A Fun Quiz About Provence

So you think you know Provence? Let’s find out!

I’ve written a series of articles called Only in Provence for the marvelous publication My French Life, and now I’ve created a short quiz about them. All of the answers can be found in the articles, or you can just go ahead and try your luck.

There are 14 questions in all and here are two of them.

Why did the ochre quarries of Roussillon go out of business?

    1. The quarries were depleted of their ochre
    2. French labor laws made the quarries uncompetitive
    3. New synthetic dyes were cheaper
    4. Earth tones didn’t go with groovy 1960s fashion

A transhumance is:

    1. When an alchemist turns lead into gold
    2. What Nostradamus predicted as the future of humanity
    3. The movement of sheep to higher pastures for the summer
    4. What you experience if you drink too much pastis

You can find a link to the answers at the bottom of the article. And if you add a comment, you’ll be eligible to win a free copy of my new book, An Insider’s Guide to Provence! 

Here’s the quiz. Good luck!


Leaping Lizards! Fun French Words About Animals

We use lots of different words to describe animals. It’s a flock of sheep but a herd of cattle. A pride of lions but a gaggle of geese. A litter of puppies but a swarm of bees.

Do the French use the same terms? Yes and no. Many are the same but not all, and that raises some interesting questions. For example, English-speakers refer to a chattering of starlings but in French it’s a murmur (murmure.) Does this mean that French starlings are better-behaved? Or maybe they’re just shy?

I list some of the fascinating words that are the same in both languages, like an exaltation of larks. And I explore the differences and what they might mean, like why French mice should be avoided and why you run from English crows like your life depends on it.

Read all about it in France Today!

Book Review: Lavender, Loss & Love at the Villa des Violettes

“Families come in all shapes and sizes.”

This phrase, spoken by one the women in Patricia Sands’ new novella, is a good summary of what this lovely book is about. And what families they are! United by love, friendship, and sometimes even biology. Sands shows us how families bind us together, forming the center of a life well-lived.

As with all of her books, Sands does a wonderful job of capturing the sights, smells, and flavors of this unique part of the world. We see the stunning ocher mines of Roussillon, the austere beauty of the Abbey de Senanque, and the magical sound & light show inside the Carrières de Lumières. We learn about Provencal traditions like la vendange—the grape harvest—where each new vintage begins with a joyous celebration. And of course, there are meals, lots of meals, with tables bursting with the bounty of Provence.

Learn more about this fun new book at Perfectly Provence!

Questions We Ask About Provence

Google knows a lot about us, A LOT. We ask it billions of questions and it keeps track of every one of them, constantly tallying what we really want to know. For example, a few of the top questions that Americans asked last year were, “Where is my refund?” (tax day), “Can dogs eat apples?” (yes), and “Is Europe a country?” (time to go back to school!)

Google uses its vast database to aid us when we pose a question, using auto-fill to complete what it thinks we are going to ask. So when we type “Why is”, Google might complete our question with “the sky blue?”—another of last year’s most popular queries.

This means we can use auto-fill to find out what people really think about a subject. As an American who lives part-time in Provence, I was curious what my fellow citizens ask about this magnificent corner of the world.

Find out what I learned at Perfectly Provence!

Book Review: A Season of Surprises by Patricia Sands

Patricia Sands is at it again! The author of the popular Love in Provence series has just published a novella, A Season of Surprises at the Villa des Violettes.

Readers are treated to a new chapter in the lives of our favorite Love in Provence characters—newlyweds Kat and Philippe, their wise neighbor Simone, Kat’s wacky friend Molly, and all the rest of the gang. Kat is opening a bed and breakfast at the Villa and preparations are frantic as the first customers are about to arrive. But then something goes terribly wrong…

Read all about it at Perfectly Provence!

A Sad Day

As I’m sure you know, the great cathedral of Notre Dame suffered a terrible fire on Monday night. Many words have been written about the tragedy and I think some of the most beautiful were in Le Monde. Please find my translation below.

France Touched To The Heart

Like a majestic stone ship enclosed by the two arms of the Seine, Notre Dame has always maintained a singular dialogue with the history of mankind and the eternity of the gods. The terrible, voracious, long-lasting flames that ravaged the Cathedral of Paris did not put an end to this dialogue. But they will add to it the staggering pain of the catastrophe, the tragedy of the Parisians, the mourning of a France touched to the heart, and the immense wave of sadness that has traveled the planet.

The emotion of all was mixed with the sobs stifled by many. For Christians, first of all, the Church of Our Lady has been for more than eight centuries – or fifteen centuries including its former Merovingian form – one of the high places of a faith that has shaped Europe through the ages. Unlike many other houses of worship, if it had not always withstood the ravages of time, the cathedral had escaped the flames that had destroyed so many others. Its medieval roof, this mysterious “forest”, is today in ashes.

Notre Dame, enthroned in the heart of the island where the city was born, with its long and high nave, two massive towers and the spire which collapsed in flames yesterday, was for Parisians the eternal silhouette of the city, almost its magnetic pole. And for all lovers of art and civilization, the cathedral was a sumptuous Gothic jewel, a miracle of architecture, and a priceless museum that will take years, even decades, to repair and restore.

Geography, history, and literature have made Notre Dame the epicenter of the country. On its forecourt is the “zero point” from which is calculated the distance to every town in France. Its nave has hosted some of the richest chapters of the national novel. Kings were crowned in Reims and buried in Saint-Denis, but for centuries the monarchy came to kneel at Notre Dame, to celebrate marriages and military victories. A decade after the Revolution, which did not spare it completely, Napoleon had himself crowned emperor in 1804.

The French republic has often made it the place of its triumphs and sorrows. It was the great bell of Notre Dame which first sounded the victory of 1918. It was in this cathedral, under rifle fire from the desperadoes of the Collaboration, that General de Gaulle came to celebrate the liberation of the capital in 1944. There again, all the great people of the planet gathered to salute, during solemn Masses, the death of three French presidents: de Gaulle, Pompidou and Mitterrand.

“On the face of this old queen of our cathedrals, beside a wrinkle, we always find a scar,” wrote Victor Hugo, chronicler of Notre Dame. The scar, this time, will be indelible. “We will rebuild this cathedral,” Emmanuel Macron assured us on the evening of the disaster. But this commitment will not be able to erase the terrible images of the immense fire that spared Notre Dame only its skeleton of stone, nor will it erase the memory of a poignant evening of mourning, both for France and across the globe.

Congratulations to our Winner!

Congratulations to Marjorie from California, the winner of our “write a book review” contest! She wins the lovely Provence gift basket pictured below, which is on its way to her now. Marjorie’s name was chosen randomly from among the several dozen readers who entered.

A big thanks to all of you who have written reviews of Are We French Yet? I so very much appreciate your time and effort. And to those of you who are thinking about writing a review…there’s no gift basket but I’ll appreciate you just as much!