Paris, The bright and colorful Capital of Freedom

Paris is the Capital of France. Paris is the city of lights. Paris is a dream for all the lovers. Paris is the place for all Epicurean delights. Paris is the symbol of freedom. Paris is the destination for the artists. Paris is…

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THE FRENCH LIFESTYLE

I went to Paris and I planned to write an article on the best venues in the city. It would have made you envious to visit the Capital. My work was easy. Between the good restaurants, the wonderful architecture and the nightlife, I had a lot of ideas. I was happy to see my friends and walked in the streets, with the sun and the warm weather that is unusual at this time of year. The nice thing about Paris is, that there are many restaurants with terraces. It is the perfect place to relax with family and friends. Indeed, in France we like to take time after work to go out with pals. Why? Because Paris welcomes people from all over the world who want live in the French capital. They are students or artists who come find to inspiration, or just a better life, totally immersed in the Parisian lifestyle…

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Courtesy of Céline

AND SUDDENLY…

Life in the capital never stops. I can still hear the laughter, the music on every corner and the perfume of freedom in the air. I remember everything, but I can’t write something about Paris without mentioning the horrible events of November 13, 2015.

I was wandering the streets of Paris in November when terrorism struck the nation and left families suffering. I could have been one of the innocent people killed at the sites of these coordinated attacks. I could have been on Rue de Charonne or Rue de la Fontaine, where at least 23 people were murdered. I could have been on the terrace of the restaurant Le Petit Cambodge, drinking innocently, when bullets took the lives of 12 human lives. I could have been one of these 89 bodies killed mercilessly in Le Bataclan.

130 is the number of souls that flew away. It’s the number of smiles that disappeared in one night. But 130 isn’t just a number. It’s the faces, the names, the people. They were children, spouses, parents. They were simply human beings. They may have been the love and the universe of someone, and now they are gone. You were between 17 and 68 years old. You were Catholics, Muslims, Atheists. You were French, American, Chilean, Belgian, Turkish, German, Spanish, Portuguese, British, Romanian, Tunisian, Algerian, Moroccan, Mexican, Swedish, Venezuelan, and Italian. You represented Europe and the world. You are in our memories.

The terrorists responsible for these attacks hurt our liberty. They made us falter but we will be stronger. Whoever they are, they will not take our joy for living.

Paris, continue to sing L’Hymne à l’amour, continue to make resound La Marseillaise. The show must go on. I want to hear the music roaring in our ears. Paris, please continue to glisten, to make eyes shine, and to let us love freely.

Today we are all of the Generation Bataclan. As long as there is life, there is hope, even for a city in mourning.

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Courtesy of Julie Verdier

LIFE CONTINUES…

Today, as a tribute, I am going to drink excessively, I am going to wear a shorter skirt, I am going to listen my Rock music on high volume, I am going to live for you, for freedom, for our youth. I am going to dance even though my body is broken. I am going to laugh, even though my heart wears your grief. I am going to stay strong. We are threatened but free. So young people, rise to fight for our “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.” Rise and live because there so many things to do. Paris, your lights are not turned off.

Terrace Montmatre

Terrace Montmatre

Follow me to Montmatre, the most picturesque place, with all these amazing painters and its small and cobbled streets. Let us discover Le Sacré-Coeur (the Basilica of the Sacred Heart) and its view on Paris. The scene is magical, especially by nightfall. Walk in the 7th district and take a seat on the terrace of Café Varenne, in front of Le Palais de l’Elysée, and taste a typical meal from the local gastronomy. The dishes of Sylvain Didier and his wife, the owners, are unique and authentic, and their reputation is known to the United States. Everything is homemade. Eating here is like sharing a meal with family. The atmosphere is convivial, around the fashionable drink, called “Spritz”, which came from Italy.

Café Varenne

Café Varenne

Ponts-Bateau Mouche

Ponts-Bateau Mouche

Take my hand and let’s go lay down in the 11st district, in a beautiful restaurant and a very girly tearoom, Rose Thé. Since 2002, Corinne, the owner, has made homemade quiches and pies, both salty and sweet. The chocolate cake without flour is delicious and you can buy and taste various kinds of tea. Take the Bateau-Mouche and discover the city sailing over the River Seine. Kiss on the Mirabeau bridge. Come to discover the decadence of the girls of Folie’s Pigalle or the mysterious dancers of Le Moulin Rouge. Drink to innocence at the Bar La Vue. Situated at the 34th floor of the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Paris Etoile, near La Place de la Porte Maillot in the 17th district, the bar offers a panoramic view of Paris. Its selection of wine, spirits, and cocktails is for all tastes. The bar is a must-do activity during a trip to Paris, especially if you are looking for a romantic and glamorous backdrops.

PHOTO BAR LA VUE

Bar La Vue

Courtesy of Duc

Courtesy of Duc

In memory of those who lost their lives on November 13, 2015…

Stéphane, Pierre, Nick, Jean-Jacques, Anne-Laure, Cécile, Thomas, Guillaume, Alva, Chloé, Emmanuel, Maxime, Quentin, Macathéo, Elodie, Ciprian, Lacramioara, Nicolas, Baptiste, Anne, Pierre-Yves, Nicolas, Precilia, Marie-Aimée, Elsa, Nicolas, Patricia, Vincent, Asta, Manuel, Romain, Lamia, Lucie, Elif, Milko, Fabrice, Romain, Thomas, Mathias, Marie, Claire, Germain, Antoine, Romain, Grégory, Christophe, Julien, Suzon, Mayeul, Salah, Véronique, Michelli, Matthieu, Cédric, Nohemi, Juan Alberto, Stéphane, Thierry, Olivier, Stéphane, Frédéric, Pierre-Antoine, Raphaël, Mathieu, Djamilia, Mohamed, Nathalie, Marion, Halima, Hodda, Jean-Jacques, Hyacinthe, Nathalie, Guillaume, Renaud, Gilles, Christophe, Cédric, David, Charlotte, Emilie, Isabelle, Fanny, Yannick, Cécile, Luis Felipe, Marie-Charlotte, Justine, Quentin, Victor, Christophe, Hélène, Romain, Bertrand, Christopher, Aurélie, Manu, Anna, Marion, Franck, Caroline, François-Xavier, Sébastien, Armelle, Richard, Valentin, Matthieu, Estelle, Thibault, Raphaël, Madeleine, Kheireddine, Lola, Hugo, Claire, Maud, Sven, Valeria, Fabian, Ariane, Eric, Olivier, Stella, Lola, Alban, Cédric, Cécile, Djalal, Justine, Vincent, René, Marie, Amine, and all those who remain anonymous.

And for all 350 who were injured.

Once upon a time, in a land called Marseille…

I am going to tell you a story about a city in France. Everybody all over the world knows Paris, but my story is about a town in the South of the France. Maybe some of you had heard about it, maybe in a positive way or maybe in the negative way. This city, snuggled up at the heart of Provence and on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, is also commonly known as la Cité Phocéenne (The Phocaean City). Marseille, town of a thousand facets, fascinating and bewilderingly complex, is my city.

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Marseille, Land of Immigrants

I was born in Marseille in 1984, to Italian immigrants parents. Why Marseille? Because  for many people who make the choice to leave their country, the city has a big port open on the Mediterranean sea. Near Spain, Italy and North Africa, the town has welcomed many different culture over the years. When you are in Marseille, you just need to drive 3 hours to cross the Italian border. Easy! The new inhabitants arrive also by boat, trying to built a better life. Marseille has never closed its arms in front of any wave of immigrants. This made it strong, a multicultural city. Everything isn’t perfect, because some differences can create conflicts. Indeed, language, religious, or cultural differences can cause real integration problems. Despite that, Marseille stays the most welcoming city in France, a town where my siblings and I have grown up and where we proudly carry our Italian heritage and our dual citizenship.

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Marseille, Land of  Authenticity

If you like beautiful and authentic attractions, Marseille is made for you. When I think about my city, I can’t forget the smell of the sun on my skin, its daylight beauty, and its mysterious side at sunset. Rich in history, Marseille is where ancient architecture combines with the new face of the city. The first thing to do, even if you aren’t catholic, is to visit la Basilique Notre Dame de Garde, commonly refer by the Marseillais to “La Bonne-Mère.” Built on the hill overlooking the town at 490 ft, the view on the top is wonderful. The best moment is early in the morning when everything is still quiet. With a 360 degree view of the city, it was consecrated on June, 5th, 1864, and each year, the pilgrimage for the Assumption Day, on August 15th is really popular event. This Neo-Byzantine church supports a monumental statue of the Madonna and her child, which is 27 feet tall and made of copper gilded with gold leaf. La Bonne- Mère, is the guardian and the protector of Marseille. The other religious site is La Cathédrale de la Major, built from 1829-1874, in a Byzantine-Roman style. With a capacity of 3,000 seats, it’s one of the largest cathedrals in France. It’s 469 ft long, with a main cupola of 231 ft high.

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But in Marseille, there is another strong religion: football. Not in general, but the football team of the city, l’Olympique de Marseille (OM). Taking place in the famous Stade Vélodrome, the night of home matches are events not to be missed. The ambiance and the fans are considered  as the best all over the world.  Built in 1937, the stadium welcomes 67,394 spectators and is also used for shows. Indeed, le Vélodrome is a wonderful stage for several artists, such as The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, The Police and AC/DC. The other site associated to the team is La Commanderie, it’s the training center of l’OM. Many fans from all over the world come to see their idols and dedicate jerseys.

The town is also known for its different authentic districts, such as le Panier, which is located in the oldest part of the city and surrounded by famous places such as l’Hôtel de Ville, les Grands Carmes and La Joliette. With narrow streets, shops and its own old architecture, the district is considered the most picturesque place in Marseille. It’s defined as a popular area because it was the first place of the immigrants in the city.  It soon became a tourism venue and many artists opened studios because Le Panier served as a place of inspiration as for the famous local TV show, Plus Belle la vie, shot in Marseille. You can also visit La Vieille Charité, a a museum and a cultural center and former almshouse for the poor. This Baroque structure was constructed between 1671 and 1749 by the architect Pierre Puget. It is filled with beautiful architecture such as structure with pink and yellow tinted stones. In the center of the courtyard a round church was built. If you continue to walk, you will arrive on the MuCEM, (Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations), inaugurated on June 7th, 2013, the year Marseille was designated as the European Capital of Culture. The museum is near the wonderful site of the 17th century le Fort Saint-Jean, built by Louis XIV at the entrance to the port. The two places are linked by a high footbridge.

There are so many places to see that the best way for you to take it all in will be to book a ticket and fly Marseille. But if you want more right now, I of course have to talk about le Vieux Port (the Old Port), which is located at the the end of the most historic street of Marseille, La Canebière. Since 2013, it’s mainly for pedestrians with few cars. Each morning it welcomes the fresh fish of fishermen. It is the historic and cultural center of the city since it dates back to sixth century BC. From the port you could take the ferry boat to visit the islands of the Phocaean City, such as, the archipelago of Frioul and le Château d’If, fortress and prison known for being one of the settings of Alexandre Dumas novel, Le Comte de Monte-Cristo.

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If you continue towards the Southern districts, you will follow the ledge called la Corniche du Président John Fitzgerald Kennedy, named after US President Kennedy. It extends from Les Catalans beach to Le Prado and its famous for its naked statue of David. It offers one of the most beautiful landscapes of Marseille, with the Mediterranean Sea and its islands on the horizon. On the way you could see the famous fishermen sheds, “cabanons”,  houses of the 19th century (Villa Valmer, Villa de Gaby Deslys), hotels and famous restaurants (Le Petit Nice, Peron, Chez FonFon), where you could stop to eat the inimitable, bouillabaisse (fish soup). Under La Corniche, hides the little but picturesque port of Vallon des Auffes, where the time seems to have stopped.

I can’t finish this part without talking about the amazing Calanques de Marseille. The massif is the best place to hike and climb with is wild and rugged landscape between Marseille and Cassis. The site is the one of France’s great natural beauties. The geology and ecosystems are protected — In 2012, the Calanques were declared National Parks due to their uniqueness. Even though nowadays we can’t visit it, the Cosquer cave is located underwater, in the Calanque de Morgiou. It’s a cave of the Paleolithic area, covered with paintings and engravings of animals dating between 27,000 and 19,000 BC. The Calanques can be see by boat and if the weather allows you should swim in this warm, blue water. But please be a responsible tourists! Protect this land of dreams.

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Marseille, Land of Pleasure

Oh my taste buds quiver with pleasure evoking the food in my city. Okay, I’m vegetarian but even though Marseille has the best fish restaurants, we are also known for the best pizza. Remember, Marseille is a city of immigrants with close proximity to Italy. We are the city with the most pizza in France. In each area, you can smell tomato sauce and wood fire. I could damn myself for one of these piece! If you want make your own pizza, the best venue is Sapori di Napoli. It’s a little Trattoria in Château-Gombert’s district, which combines a shop full of Italian products with a restaurant. The owner, Raffaele Paparone, imports products such as the mozzarella di Bufala, Panettone, wine and deli meat from Napoli.

If you like different kinds of food, I recommend la Baie du Dragon. It’s a Vietnamese restaurant on Notre Dame du Mont district. The place is perfect for vegetarians and the chocolate nems are just divine. It’s my king of headquarter, the go-to for when I have to celebrate something, such as my departure for the USA.

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In Marseille you can easily find all kind of restaurants — Indian, Italian, French, Moroccan, Japanese etc, and for all your events. Even though Marseille has some good restaurants, for me, the best place remains my family home, with the real meals made by la Mamma. But take your ticket and wait your turn, because I can’t invite you all in the same day.

It’s time to say goodbye to Marseille, with a little twinge in my heart, thinking about these venues, the food and my mother’s arms. But do you smell the perfume of the Mediterranean? Do you smell the garlic, tomatoes, basil and olive oil? Do you smell the flavor of freedom?

If yes, you are made for Marseille, the city of the Epicurean

Sorry, I have to leave you, it’s now time for l’apéro, (a kind of happy hour, after work where you drink and eat snacks), the most important moment in a day in Marseille, to drink the legendary Pastis.

Allez santé! Salute! (Cheers!)

Along The King’s Highway: Mission San Diego de Alcalá

Those who were born and raised in California may remember learning about the state’s many historic missions in grade school, often starting with the one located closest to their hometown or city. Learning about the missions, as well as the novels of John Steinbeck and the great natural wonders the state has to offer, are only a few of the many educational pursuits that contribute to the formation of one’s identity as a Californian.

For those who may not have spent their formative years as a resident of California, the state’s historic Spanish missions may come as a pleasant surprise. Not only do these locations offer a living snapshot of California’s storied past, but they are beautiful places to visit and a perfect excuse to take a day trip with friends or family.

An old travelers map of California's El Camino Real.

An old travelers map of California’s El Camino Real.

This Cityseeker feature series titled “Along the King’s Highway” will focus on each of the California missions and provide background on their history and their relationship to the cities and towns in which they were established. Beginning with California’s first mission, Mission San Diego de Alcalá, this series will cover each of the 21 Spanish missions established along the state’s historic El Camino Real in the order in which they were founded. In addition to being educational, we hope that the information you learn about California’s historic missions will prompt you to get out this weekend and take a tour of the one closest to you.

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For nearly 350 years the Mission San Diego de Alcalá has stood as the earliest reminder of California’s Spanish colonial history. Founded in the summer of 1769, the mission was the first to be built by Father Junipero Serra and his fellow Franciscan missionaries. The founding of the mission marked the successful beginning of an expedition led by Gaspar de Portolà, known as the Portolà Expedition, with the primary goal of securing Spain’s claim to the Pacific Coast territory by establishing a strong military and religious foothold in regions throughout.

Portrait of San Diego de Alcalá by Francisco de Zurbarán (1651-1653)

Portrait of San Diego de Alcalá by Francisco de Zurbarán (1651-1653)

The Mission San Diego was named after Saint Didacus of Alcalá (known in Spanish as San Diego de Alcalá) who was a 15th Century Franciscan Monk known for his work as a missionary in the Canary Islands, then a newly-conquered territory of Spain. He was later canonized in 1588 by Pope Sextus V. Due to being the city’s namesake, Saint Didacus was fittingly selected by the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego as its patron saint.

Photo of the mission façade by Allan Ferguson (Flickr/CC 2.0)

Photo of the mission façade by Allan Ferguson (Flickr/CC 2.0)

The mission is perhaps one of the simpler looking missions in California. The building’s main facade is comprised of whitewashed adobe (a type of organic brick and plaster made from mud) and is situated next to a four story bell tower (campanario in Spanish) that was used to announce meal times, special occasions, and daily mission services. The tower houses five bells and all five are rung only once a year on the Sunday closest to July 16, the date of the mission’s founding.

Photo of inside Mission San Diego by Rachel Titiriga (Flickr/CC 2.0)

Photo of inside Mission San Diego by Rachel Titiriga (Flickr/CC 2.0)

The mission church interior looks very much the same as it did several centuries ago despite being rebuilt five times over the course of its history. The interior is mostly sparse with the exception of an ornate altar situated at the front of the church. The length of the church is a hallmark of most Spanish mission churches, and so are the high windows, which were placed in such a way so as to protect those inside from attacks on the mission.

Statue of St. Francis of Assisi in the mission garden. Photo by  Rob Bertholf (Flickr/CC 2.0)

Statue of St. Francis of Assisi in the mission garden. Photo by
Rob Bertholf (Flickr/CC 2.0)

Outside the mission church is a lush courtyard garden that residents could use for peaceful contemplation. The garden features a variety of plants, memorials, as well as statues of important figures to the Franciscan Order, such as Saint Francis of Assisi, who founded the order in the 13th Century. The statue of St. Francis also acts as a wishing well for making the dreams of visitors to the mission come true.

Photo of the Junipero Serra Museum by Gary J. Wood (Flickr/CC 2.0)

Photo of the Junipero Serra Museum by Gary J. Wood (Flickr/CC 2.0)

Once you wrap up your visit to the mission, it’s highly recommended that you take a short 15 minute drive west on the Mission Valley Freeway to the Junipero Serra Museum at the top of San Diego’s Presidio Hill. Where the museum now stands used to be the original site of the Mission San Diego de Alcalá. In addition to being able to view artifacts unearthed from the original mission and presidio, visitors can enjoy gorgeous views of the City of San Diego and the Pacific Ocean.

Photo of Carmel-by-the-Sea by J Klinger (Flickr/CC 2.0)

Photo of Carmel-by-the-Sea by J Klinger (Flickr/CC 2.0)

In our next installment in this feature series we’ll take a long trip north on El Camino Real to visit the second mission established by Father Serra in Carmel-by-the-Sea. If you’re a fan of Carmel and its environs, this next part of the series shouldn’t be missed!

How to Speak Like a True Marseillais

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Photo by Caroline Marongiu-Ingargiola

Ah, Marseille! It only takes one visit to fall in love with the sound of cicadas, the smell of the sea, and its famous sing-song accent. The second largest city in France after Paris, Marseille is a culturally rich and diverse city. Located on the coast of the Mediterranean sea, the Marseillais people come from Italy, Spain and North Africa, making Marseille a true melting pot. It isn’t just a city, it’s the city to visit in France.

I already hear the protests, “Why? It isn’t Paris?Malheureux, va! [ma.lœ.ʁø] (Little devil)! If you want to meet warm and friendly people and not have any trouble, please don’t mention Paris while you are in Marseille. It’s like saying LA is the best city and has the best baseball team to someone from San Francisco. The rivalry between Paris and Marseille is most notable, maybe, because Marseille has all the best of France. We have beautiful beaches, more than 300 sunny days each year, the Calanques [kalɑ̃k], the best food—prepared with olive oil, no butter, please—and a rich history. In Paris, let me think, they have… the rain and Paris Plage. What is Paris Plage? It’s a joke! During the summer, the city throws sand on the quays of the Seine and people lay on the banks of the river and pretend they are at the beach. In Marseille, even though we like saying we are a city full of gangsters, the people are quite friendly–not like in Paris, where the people are as cold as the weather.

The real rivalry is between the cities’ soccer teams, L’Olympique de Marseille and Paris Saint Germain. In Marseille, we have the best fans in the world, while in Paris, they try. In Marseille, soccer is a religion, in Paris it’s just money. But even with all the money, there is one thing that they can’t steal: our pride to be Marseillais.

Courtesy of Thibault Houspic

Calanque d’En-Vau, courtesy of Thibault Houspic

The city’s culture is rich and unique, and is reflected in the way people speak. Marseille is a city of exaggeration. For example, when someone is late, we say “I’ve been waiting for, like one hour,” or even “Gosh, I’ve been waiting for 100 years.” We say that even if we‘ve only been waiting about 20 minutes. The city also has its own vocabulary, of course there is the Provençal dialect from the South, but we also have some very Marseille-specific expressions. Here are some examples:

T’es en bois” (You’re in wood) means that you are really bad for something.

Vé moi ce boucan!”[bu.kɑ̃] or “Chapacan” [tʃa.pa.kɑ],  has  three different meanings:

  1. The person isn’t good-looking.
  2. He/she likes making messes.
  3. Making noises.

Un cabanon” is a small space without comfort. The word is used to describe a small, rustic shack on the beach.

Un cafoutche” is a small storage room for things you don’t use but don’t want to get rid of.

Une cagole” [ka.ɡɔl] is the stereotypical girl from Marseille. Typically she has a heavy accent, is not very clever, uses too much make-up, wears a jogging suit or a short skirt, and is always chewing gum. Cagole is usually used for girls who aren’t natural beauties. A cagole ia girl with exaggerated qualities, similar to the famous Jersey girl in America. For a man, we say, KéKé [ke.ke]

Je vais caner”, literally means “I am gonna die”. Of course, now you understand that people from Marseille like to exaggerate. You use this expression when something is boring, long and tiring. So don’t call an ambulance if someone tells you that.

Y a dégun” [de.ɡœ]̃ means that there is nobody, that a place is empty or filled with just few people. The opposite is cafi.

Arrête de m’emboucaner”, has three three meanings:

  1. Take somebody for an idiot.
  2. Have a heated argument.
  3. Smell bad, to stink.

Fada” means that a person is crazy.

Marronner” [ma.ʁɔ.ne] is to act in bad faith, to sulk.

Se faire pointer” is to refuse someone entry to a party or a place. Essentially, to turn someone away.

Un pastaga” — You have to know this one because it means Pastis, the famous anis flavored liquor from Marseille. You can also say, un 51, un Ricard, un petit jaune… We typically drink Pastis with ice and water.

Minot” refers to a child, or someone young.

Mettre un taqué” means to slap someone.

Etre esquiché” is to be squished. Specifically when a place is very crowded, and you are in a tight space.

Ton t.shirt est réné” means that your t-shirt is ugly and old. This word is used to describe something or someone who is out of style, or simply bad.

Etre tarpin beau / belle” [taʁ.pɛ̃] to define someone or something very beautiful, or with a good taste. Tarpin means very, a lot.

Vas te jeter!” This means to “go throw yourself.” However, if someone tells you that, please don’t think that we you want to commit suicide. It’s an expression used to force somebody to leave. This is similar to “get lost.”

J’ai quillé le ballon” means something is stuck somewhere and it’s inaccessible. For example, losing a ball because it is stuck in a tree and it is too high to reach.

Se bastonner” [bɑs.tɔ.ne] means to fight!

Oh fan de chichoune!” This is used to express the deepest surprise, or annoyance.

Il faut aller chercher Molinari” Litterally this means “we need go find Molinari.” This expression is used to describe having an insoluble problem and that you need help. There are several stories about the identity of Molinari. One of them, date of 1826, where Mister de Rocheplatte have to come in Marseille to help the Egyptian frigate. The person who will help him to get in the sea will be the very skillful Mister Molinari.

Oh mazette!”  [ma.zɛt] is an exclamation used to express admiration.

Peuchère” [pø.ʃɛʁ] two meanings

  1. That a person is unlucky or unfortunate.
  2. To show pity.

Une rengaine” [ʁɑ̃ɡɛn] is something that we repeat a lot, like an old story.

Faire Fanny”, is an expression to use when someone loses a game. We can also use, “Embrasser Fanny, Etre Fanny, or Se prendre une Fanny.” “Kiss Fanny” means kiss the bottom of a woman named Fanny. Usually using during the game la pétanque [petɑ̃k], which is similar game to bocce ball.

"Kissing Fanny" postcard from 1896

“Kissing Fanny” postcard from 1896

Escagasser”[ɛs.ka.ɡa.se] has two meanings:

  1. To annoy somebody
  2. To damage something

Mains de Pati” (broken hands)  is an expression that is usually used when someone spills his glass or breaks it. This means that a person is awkward and clumsy. This is similar to the expression “butterfingers”.

La Bonne Mère” (The Good Mother) is a familiar and affectionate name for the basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde.

The list will be longer if I kept writing, but I let you discover other expressions on your own. Last piece of advice: In Marseille we don’t use punctuation at the end of the sentence, but just some poetic words such as, “Putain, con, merde…” you’ll get the hang of it.

Yes, my dear travelers, Marseille is a city full of surprises, which will either seduce you or drive you crazy.

Oh! I almost forgot, please don’t put an “s” at the end of Marseille, this city is unique. We don’t need a plural when there is only one Marseille.

San Francisco Pride

I’m Florent, from Grenoble, France, a small city located in the Alps, “my mountains”. I finished my studies a year ago and I decided to spend six months in an American city to improve my English. I studied English for three months in a school in downtown San Francisco, and am now working as an intern at Wcities. It has been a valuable opportunity to improve my English speaking daily with Americans in a professional atmosphere.

Pink Saturday

I knew before arriving in San Francisco that the Pride Parade is one of the most legendary events in the colorful city. I also knew that San Francisco is open-minded and liberated, but I couldn’t guess how much. During my first week in the city, I was strolling by Fisherman’s Warf with my friends when I saw two guys, completely naked, skating towards the Golden Gate Bridge. I looked at my friends and said, “Is it usual to see naked guys here?” They laughed and answered me: “This is nothing, in San Francisco, there are the Up Your Alley Street Fair, the Folsom Street Fair, and the biggest Pride Parade in the world,” they said. The Up Your Alley Street Fair is a summer fetish fair, and the Folsom Street Fair is an annual BDSM and leather subculture street fair.  It was at this moment I knew my six months in the city might be a bit kinky.

On Saturday of Pride Weekend, I looked for a costume shop to buy some items and put myself into a proper state of mind. At five o’clock, we ventured to the Castro neighborhood to experience a night on the street. We went to this eccentric neighborhood by subway and many people wore costumes.

Photo by Florent Bridot

Photo by Florent Bridot

Photo by Florent Bridot

Photo by Florent Bridot

 

Walking on the street or entering a pub was almost impossible because of interminable lines. My costume was a real success and a lot of people asked to take pictures with me. I wondered what place I had set foot in when I saw throughout the night maybe one hundred naked guys. That was a bit strange, but I had fun, sharing moments with gay, lesbian, transsexual, and heterosexual people. For the first time in my life, I did not see any difference, judgment, or barriers between genders. Everyone was really friendly and outgoing, perhaps because of the impressive amount of alcohol in their blood. At 2am, we were on the way back home, and we realized the party wasn’t only in Castro but everywhere in the city: a day, a night, and a whole city dedicated to Pride and equality.

I didn’t expect such an evening. I participated in the Pride of Montpellier, my home city in France, and it was more relaxed, less extravagant, and much smaller. This is strange but awesome: when a crowd gathers with the same values ​​and beliefs, and for a specific event, all social and behavioral boundaries disappear.

 

Sunday Morning: The Pride

The next morning, I had a difficult time waking up after such a surprising night in the Castro. At 10am, I was on the way to the Pride Parade that kicked off on Market and Beale Streets. The entire city was dressed as a wonderful rainbow, the same rainbow I saw on peoples’ cheeks, t-shirts, and flags. Market Street was closed to cars, and boundaries were placed along sidewalks. The ambiance of the Pride Parade was similar to Saturday night’s, but I had the impression the goal was different. Indeed, families with their children, old couples, students, and workers stood across the barriers, celebrating the values and beliefs of Pride. The parade was less extravagant and anarchic than Pink Saturday.

In order not to miss anything, we watched the parade from the foot of San Francisco’s City Hall, where Harvey Milk, the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California, once stood and addressed Pride-goers more than thirty years ago. After thirty minutes of waiting, the first contingent of the parade came towards us. Every contingent looked different, with Djs and dancers on some of them, and politicians and celebrities on others. Many groups walked the route, and I can say that each one was a real surprise for the little Frenchi that I am.

 

Photo by Florent Bridot

Photo by Florent Bridot

Photo by Florent Bridot

Photo by Florent Bridot

Photo by Florent Bridot

Photo by Florent Bridot

 

After seeing more than 200 contingents in four hours, with a heat approaching 90 degrees, and especially after the awesome party in Castro, I was really exhausted but it didn’t matter. The colors, joy, and madness that reigned in the streets and on the faces of everyone gave me enough energy to stay.

 

 

Photo by Florent Bridot

Photo by Florent Bridot

Photo by Florent Bridot

Photo by Florent Bridot

Photo by Florent Bridot

Photo by Florent Bridot

 

Afterwards, I remember thinking that there was no specific age, profile, or mindset needed to participate in the fantastic and open-minded event. I saw on the street a young girl, she was around 7 or 8 years old and was carrying a banner that said, “I’m not gay but I love rainbow.” It is difficult to describe the feeling I had watching her. It was moving, and the girl seemed happy celebrating Pride spirit.