A French in New York City in 10 facts

nycAlmost two years in NYC, and the Frenchie that I am has never felt more French, or more American. Let me explain. Being so far away from home made me realize how French I was and how much my country’s traditions were well rooted in me. However, the more I live in NYC, the more I feel like a true New Yorker. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, what matters is where your heart is. And right now, my heart is in NYC.

Being an expat, I can’t help but comparing the culture I was raised in and the culture I now know. The country that gave birth to me, and the country that I now call home. The friends who’ve been part of my life forever and the friends I made as an adult. So here are a few differences I noticed about me the past couple of years. Differences in language, behavior, reactions. Because moving abroad and leaving everything you know behind might not fundamentally change who you are but it fundamentally changes your life.

 

europe1. I no longer say France, Spain, or the UK (although since the Brexit happened, I probably should!). I say Europe. I understand now why people coming from America don’t just visit one country but rather travel around the Old Continent. It makes total sense now. Europe is like this one big country to me. Now that I live in the US, I realize how similar European cultures are. You just need to step outside of Europe to realize it. Experiencing that big a shift in perspective is amazing.

 

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2. I go to the nail salon ALL THE TIME! 10-minute massage? Yes. Mani-pedi? Yes yes yes! You’ll find them at every corner; it’s an institution here. No need to make appointments and spend a fortune on treatments, you can feel rejuvenated in 10 minutes and it will cost you 15 dollars. Now I wonder how I could live without them my whole life.

 

 

3. I stopped apologizing all the time. I should mention that I spent 5 years in London, where the only interaction nyc-subwayyou’ll see on the subway or on the street is “sorry” and “thanks”. That being said, I also stopped apologizing for who I am. You’re free to be who you are in this country. American people are unapologetic and I like that. I love how they easily talk to you, speak their mind and think aloud, even for the socially awkward me. Which brings me to number 4.

 

4. I talk to people and people talk to me. On the street, at the grocery store, everywhere. At first, I was never too sure if I should reply or start a conversation, but now I just go with the flow and talk back even when I know they’re just thinking out loud.

 

credit5. I have a bunch of credit lines. Like any good European, I didn’t want anything to do with credit, but eventually surrendered when I realized there was no way around it! You have to build your “credit score” (the score shows how reliable you are when it comes to paying your bills) in order to do anything. I have 4 credit lines to this day.

 

6. I tip everyone, everywhere. This is something I do because I have to, but I seriously hate it. You cannot go the tippinghairdresser’s, the spa or the restaurant without having to tip around 20%. Even the guys bagging your groceries expect a tip at my local supermarket. Everywhere you go, you’ll see people begging for a dollar. Even though service is included in Europe, I became a great tipper there too, force of habit!

 

carrie-hot-day7. The AC is my best friend. You cannot live in NYC without one, it’s become part of my life and I simply couldn’t live without it (in the summer, that is). Summer in NYC is extremely hot and humid, nothing like what I experienced before.

 

 

 

8. I celebrate Thanksgiving. And I love it. I love the atmosphere, the food, the colors… It’s the American version ofthanksgiving Christmas. I’m not going back to France for Christmas this year but I’ll be flying to Paris on Thanksgiving Day, so my mom is organizing a Thanksgiving dinner just for me! See… I even Americanized my family.

 

9. I try to eat local, fresh & organic when I can. Not because I turned organicinto a hipster (I do live in Brooklyn though) but because I need to! Food regulations in the US are different from those in Europe, and you need to be careful what you eat. Same goes with cleaning & beauty products. I buy all my cleaning products from The Honest Company, this is the only brand I know and trust here.

 

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10. My friends date. Terms like “dating”, “exclusive”, “seeing other people” are totally foreign concepts to us Europeans. On one hand, I couldn’t do it – not knowing if you’re actually with someone would freak me out – but on the other hand, I wish I could experience it and get rid of this feeling that I’m missing out on something that is so big in this country. Even my single French friends do not date, they meet someone, and they’re either together or they’re not. And even if they’re seeing someone and are not too sure of what their relationship status is, they still don’t call it “dating”, simply because the term does not exist.

Xx

Lili

Ege, a Woman of New York

egeIs there a better topic than theater when you’re a blogger in NYC? I don’t think so! For my first article of 2016, I interviewed Turkish Actor, Director, Writer and Acting Teacher Ege Maltepe.

I met Ege at one of her improv workshops in Central Park last summer and she gave me a whole new perspective on theater! She made me realize that being a foreigner was not an obstacle to performing and improvising, that improv was not about trying to be funny and that there were techniques to make it work. She’s now directing her sixth play, Women of New York, and is performing in it next month in Manhattan. It is a great fundraising project supporting women, and you can be a part of it now, so go get your tickets right away (ticket info at the end)! But who better than Ege herself to tell us about it…

First of all, who are you, Ege Maltepe?!

I recently turned 33, I love growing older. I grew up in Istanbul, Turkey. I went to acting school in Ankara, (BA), thenege-mike-nichols-2 got a Fulbright scholarship and got accepted to the New Actors Workshop in NYC. A new page in my life opened. I attended Mike Nichols’ master classes for 3 years, got introduced to Spolin improvisation and method acting. I got the chance to meet people like Philip Seymour Hoffman, Kevin Kline, Stanley Tucci and hear their insight. I graduated in 2009 with a thesis project named Variations After Joe, and the process made me realize that I was more than an actor, I could write and direct as well.

ege on stage 2I started a company called SPOLIN-IST; spreading Viola Spolin’s work. I worked in a school (New Actors Workshop) as an assistant teacher and stage manager. Became a Lab Artist at LaGuardia Performing Arts Center in 2011 with my play TEA for 3. Wrote and performed a one woman show named TITS in 2013-14. Became a member of 4th U VDay, co-directed the Vagina Monologues with a cast of 40 women! Each time, I realized what the real meaning of theater was, touching people’s lives and hearts and minds. To me this is a social art form, not just entertainment. Theater can change one’s life.

I love love love New York. Now after almost 10 years, I grew a little weary of the city. But if I leave one day, I will definitely miss the ever moving stage picture of NYC.

Could you tell us about your play and what inspired you to write it?

Women of New York is a comedic play chronicling stories of women of NYC in the course of a week, right before a women of ny posterhurricane hits the city. While communicating the struggles and dilemmas of contemporary women, it takes quirky snapshots of NY moments.

I’ve been a part of 4th U Artivists, formerly 4th U VDay, for the last 6 years. Every year the work touched me in a different level; working with a large group of women was a little scary at first, now I love it! Creating theater can be a therapeutic experience, of course if a company functions well. And we have been. Making a real solid contribution to a greatly important cause through the thing I am in love with; it simply is a great match for someone like me who constantly seeks meaning in life.

We were a V-Day group, producing shows by Eve Ensler. Starting from this season we decided to become a new brand, working for the same cause, and came up with the idea of creating our own show. I wrote the play specifically for 4th U Artivists during this summer. The idea of sharing everyday stories of New York women is exciting to me. Every day I think of a new story, or I meet someone or witness something that inspires me, but obviously a play can only have so many pages. I feel like I could write about this forever!

Which organizations are you partnering with this year?

This season’s beneficiaries are Restore NYC, HerJustice and V-Day. Restore and HerJustice are local organizations, Eve Ensler’s organization V-Day’s efforts are global. You can read about them here: http://4thuartivists.com/beneficiaries/.

Could you explain your work as an “Artivist” and how it makes a difference?

women of ny rehearsalI think the salvation of our generation is in the culture and arts. More precisely it lies in changing the culture that is run by the idea of “my ignorance is as good as your knowledge”. When you think about it, violence and intolerance are the major consequences of ignorance.  In order to change that we need to communicate. Not educate but communicate. An artwork touches us on a personal level. An artist can have a direct communication with people from all social and economic classes. It just brings everyone together. Especially theater, it literally brings people together in one room. It’s the best form of art for communication; music, movement and words can all come together. And it’s right in front of your eyes, not on a screen. I believe that art can change you. And I love the idea of raising your voice through creative work. I feel like the reason for me taking space on this earth lies in projects like this.

One thing you couldn’t live without?

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One quote on NYC…

If you see something, say something 🙂

One quote on women!

Stop fixing your bodies and start fixing the world! – Eve Ensler

Last but not least, one word that represents you?

Freedom

 

More info on the play: www.womenofnewyorkplay.com

More info on 4th U Artivists: www.4thuartivists.com

More info on Ege: www.egemaltepe.com

 

Lifestyle series: meet my friend Thav, from Montreal

thav profileWe all live in different parts of the world and have a lifestyle that is our own. Let’s celebrate everyone’s unique way of living life in this exclusive interview series!

This week, my friend Thav Chhieng, a singer/composer from Paris, is telling us about his adoption city: Montreal!

 

Could you describe your city in a few words and tell us why it is so special to you?

Montreal is a very dynamic city! You can always find something to do here cause we have lots of events every week, if not every day! The best festivals in the world are in Montreal! Most importantly: Montrealers are the nicest people ever! And doors are pretty open here. I love Montreal very much because my friends are so sweeeet and because the city offers more chances and opportunities than anywhere else to artists like me.

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What is a typical day in the life of Thav?

First thing on my mind when I wake up: ‘What am I gonna wear today?’ Coming from Paris, I’ve learnt to be superficial. Still, now that I’m here, I dress as simple as possible to ‘fit in’ with the people in the street! So a typical day starts with me putting on a Tee-shirt and a cap on my head. Then I’ll be rushing to see my friends, go to Kpop or Hip Hop class with them, take a bubble tea together, check the ads in search of the words ‘Singer wanted’, and basically always discovering a new place and asking my friends tons and tons of questions about it. Hopefully the night should end in a club or in company of a romantic date.

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Can you share with us some of your favourite places?

When I first came to Montreal, there was a place I would often go to named ‘NosThés’. It’s a Taiwanese venue/bar/restaurant in the gay Village where they make the most delicious bubble teas in the galaxy! Seriously! I would go so often that I became friends with the whole staff, cause everyone there is so kind! Still in the Village, there’s that club called ‘Apollon’. I go there nearly every week because they have great events. Some nights you can go there to play video games on a huge screen on stage! You can imagine what it’s like when we all play ‘Just Dance’ there…

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Finally, a quote about your city?

I got this one from a beggar and I thought it was major! It sums up very well my vision of life since I started a new one here: ‘If you fear change, leave it here!’ 🙂

 

More lifestyle interviews soon, stay tuned!

A.

 

Kpop: http://kpopcanada.com/

Nosthés: http://nosthescafes.com/?lang=en

Apollon: http://www.apollonmtl.com/

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,500 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 25 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

My quick and funny encounters with movie stars

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Celebrity… It is a strange concept. We’ve all been fascinated by someone famous at some point… What makes us blush and say “Oh my god, look who it is”?! I’ve been there, several times!

auteuilI walked past the very famous French actor Daniel Auteuil on the Champs Elysées when I was a teen and I just had to stop him! Which I did… I had just enough time to say “I want to be an actress, could I have a picture?”. This nice man was in a rush, he took my hand, apologized and said good luck!

 

elijah woodI sat for two whole days a few seats away from Elijah Wood on the set of the Oxford Murders in 2007 and all I said to him was “Could I get a picture?”, which I did!  I was so focused on getting a picture with him that I completely disregarded John Hurt for two days… only afterward did I realize who he was! For the record, shooting a film is not glamorous at all, I’d even say it’s a bit boring, Elijah Wood was playing crossword puzzles in between takes…

 

Keira-Knightley.-Pirate-au-coeur-meurtriI walked right past Keira Knightley on Tottenham Court Road in 2008, she was with boyfriend of the time Rupert Friend and she looked so beautiful as always, I couldn’t help but staring! She was pouting, obviously.

 

 

love-actually-andrew-lincolnAndrew Lincoln (Love Actually, The Walking Dead) walked in my shop during the summer of 2008! He looked around and walked out to go next door!! Argh

 

Gerard Butler Getting Into His Hybrid Mercedes-BenzWalking down Perry Street in NYC (Perry Street will sound familiar to the Sex & the City fans) in the summer of 2009, my friend and I arrived on the set of the Bounty Hunter. I walked past Gerard Butler without realizing and only saw his back. End of story.

 

 

s bakulaMy dear colleague Leah got me a ticket to see a play called Terrible Advice starring Scott Bakula at the Chocolate Factory in London a couple of years ago. You know who he is, right? You surely remember Quantum Leap (or Desperate Housewives maybe?!) He took his shirt off on stage and I can tell you he looked very hot for his age! He came out for a chat after the show and was very nice.

 

diane-kruger-and-chanel-ribbon-headband-galleryYou might know that Diane Kruger speaks fluent English and French… She was dubbing herself in Benjamin Gates when I was an intern at France’s largest dubbing company (Dubbing Brothers) and I met her in the ladies toilet… She looked at me and said hi. I said hi back. How exciting. (I didn’t take a picture, I believe it would have been weird.)

 

 

10393824_10152462226596438_206343846907763363_nI had the pleasure of meeting Kristin Davis after watching her perform in Fatal Attraction at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in London last month. She said I was sweet and replied to my tweet, she made my day!

 

 

 

Ok, I have to admit, this isn’t the most elaborate post… I’ll do something deeper next time, promise! 😉

A.

Paris seen by Brassai

brassaiOne of my favourite things to do in winter is to cosy up in my pyjamas and enjoy “Brassaï Paris” with a cup of tea.

I bought this photography book a few years ago when I was living in Paris, in the 1st arrondissement. I would just walk around the neighborhood and soak up the atmosphere. Paris is filled with book stores, so I would regularly go in and browse their photography collections. As I moved to London in 2010, I took this little piece of Paris with me.

Brassai (Gyula Halász) was a Hungarian photographer, sculptor, writer and filmmaker. He moved to Paris in 1924 and became a French citizen in 1949.

His depictions of Paris are beautiful and powerful, especially the mystical pictures of ‘Brassaï Paris’. He is famous for being part of the Humanist Photography movement, along with Henri Cartier Bresson, Willy Ronis, Robert Doisneau, among others, which developed after WWII.

Here are some of my favourites from the book, enjoy!

 

PARIS BY NIGHT

Morris Column, 1933

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Staircase in the rue Rollin (Nestlé poster), 1934-35

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Lighting the lamps, 1932-33

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Two lovers on a public bench and a tramp, Boulevard St Jacques, Paris 14e, 1932

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Kiosk, 1930-1932

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Lovers beneath a streetlight, 1932

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Lovers in a small café, Paris 13e, 1932

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Couple at the “Four Seasons” Dance Hall, Rue de Lappe, Paris 11e, 1932

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 Môme Bijou at the “Bar de la Lune”, Montmartre, 1932

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SECRET PARIS

 The Duchess of Zoë at the Homosexuals’ Ball at “Magic City”, 1932

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Streetwalker, Paris 13e, 1932

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At Suzy’s, Paris 6e, 1931-32

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Getting dressed, Rue Quincampoix, Paris 4e, 1932

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DAY VISIONS

 Hotels used by prostitutes in the rue Quincampoix, Paris 4e, 1932

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The kiss, 1935-37

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Marlène, 1937

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Professor Louis Dimier, Member of the Institute, on the bank of the Seine, 1931-32

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Notre-Dame de Paris (devil and pigeon), Paris 1er, undated

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The Dream – Shop window on the Boulevards, 1934

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ARTISTS OF MY LIFE

Picasso, Paris 6e, 1939

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Jean-Paul Sartre at the Café de Flore, Paris 6e, 1944

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Dali and Gala at the Villa Seurat, Paris 14e, 1932

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Henry Miller standing in the doorway wearing a hat, 1931-32

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I hope you enjoyed the travel back in time!

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Brassaï Paris, TASCHEN

Happy Sunday!

A.

What’s your name again?

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Ariel, Aureile, Aurlie, Lorelei, Aurelia. I’ve been all these and more since I moved to the UK. Having a French name is not easy here. My name is Aurélie and I constantly have to spell it out. Not to mention my last name: Thérézien, no one ever gets it right, and can we blame them? (This is from Brittany by the way, a northwestern region of France I am proud of!). For a long time, I didn’t like my first name. I thought it was too classic, too boring, too ordinary.

My name was supposed to be Sophie but my mum changed her mind for a name that was less common at the time (I’m surrounded by Sophies in the office so thank you for that!). 1986: it boomed! Aurélies everywhere, five just in my classroom in high school! So much for feeling special. We had to find nicknames for everyone, but more about that later.

My name is of Latin origin and means gold (Aurum). So I have a golden name but no one here can pronounce it right. No one but the hundreds of thousands of French people living in London obviously. It also means “dawn” in Greek, funnily enough, I can’t say I am a morning person.

So I never really liked my name. Maybe because of the millions of Aurélies out there? Or maybe it was my mum’s tone of voice when she would call me. She would always call me by pet names (“flea”, “duck”, “rabbit” (this is a French thing…), and the list of animal names continues) unless she was mad at me, then she would call me “Au-ré-lie”, oh oh.

But I wasn’t Aurélie for long. There came the teenage years, where other kids would twist your last name into something funny. In that regard, my last name was a piece of cake for them: in Thérézien, you have “Therez”, and that is a super funny one in France! You could say it’s an old maid’s name. Also famous for sex jokes and an iconic character in the French comedy called “Le père Noël est une ordure” (literally: “Santa Claus is a bastard”). Let me find an English equivalent… how about Gertrude? You see what I mean now? (Please don’t be offended if your name is Gertrude!)

The worst part is that I actually liked it. It started when I was 14 and some of my closest friends still call me that. This nickname is close to their heart for some reason. My brother wasn’t too happy about it. Can you imagine, he fought against this nickname with all his pride when he was a teen, and then I ruin everything, letting everyone call me Therez.

This name had such an impact on me. Everyone would call me that, and many people would actually think that it was my name, saying things like “Is this really her name? Poor girl…”. Laughing out loud. I even heard my philosophy teacher call me that in class (the kind of teacher who would give me a cigarette at the break!). And Therez derived into 13, because it sounds similar in French and symbolizes bad luck. Of course it was a joke, but it stuck too! I didn’t matter as long as I was no longer the generic, all-too-common Aurélie.

Then there was uni. Moved towns, my best friends and I grew apart for a while, and I was Aurélie again. A very sad and cold Aurélie. This is also when my long-term relationship started and I became “babe” to my boyfriend. Changing my identity once again.

Years passed by. I moved to Paris, then London, where I became Aurélie again. A brand new one. Funny fact, I started to like my name. Here in London, it is not so ordinary; people ask about it and even find it beautiful (when they actually get it!). Of course, I never know how to say it when I speak English, and I always give a fake name when getting a toastie at Eat (“What’s your name?” –  “Lili”; much simpler, don’t you think?). Working in languages, I met my lovely Frenchies at work (the “Sophies”) who call me Auré. I had never been called Auré before, it’s like being born again.

“It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to.” – W.C. Fields

Bottom line is: I think I like my name after all. Very much. Thank you mum & dad for the lovely gift!

A.

This article is part of the weekly writing challenge:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/03/17/writing-challenge-names/

I also found this article from the Guardian to be funny and so very true:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2010/dec/28/say-my-name-british-foreign

My own little food tour of Europe…

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

The Duck & Waffle, London (UK)

Let’s start with London since this is where I currently live! The Duck & Waffle is the highest restaurant in Europe. Located on the 40th floor of Heron Tower, right above Sushi Samba (next up on my list!), the 360° view is beautiful! The place is open 24/7 and has a bar area where you can look down on the Gherkin while sipping a cocktail.

The food is not cheap, but it is innovative and sophisticated. If you eat meat, you ought to try the “Duck & Waffle”. Don’t let the name put you off, the duck confit/egg/waffle/maple syrup is a mix that works very well!

http://duckandwaffle.com/

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Eggs & Co, Paris (France)

Here’s a place I like to visit every time I go to the City of Light! Located in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, this cute little restaurant is perfect for Sunday brunch. There is a cosy and rustic feel, and if you’re lucky, you might sit by the fake henhouse! Important detail: the food is to die for. The brunch menus all come with a fresh juice, a warm beverage and pancakes & fruits. My personal favourite (and many people will agree) is the Eggs Benedict, they are sooo good! I’ve been trying to reproduce them at home, with no luck… I am really looking forward to going back in May!

http://www.eggsandco.fr/

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Le Bistro du Fromager, Nice (France)

I know, France again… What can I say, French cuisine is the best! Our friends took us there a couple of years ago during a weekend in Nice, and we absolutely loved it. You are led down the stairs to a charming stone-walled and cave-liked little room where you will enjoy one of the cheese specialities. No need to know anything about wine, the host will recommend the best one to go with your food. The food is fresh and authentic, the service is excellent and the whole experience will be enchanting! I definitely want to go back at some point.

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bistro fromager

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El Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid (Spain)

This isn’t a cozy place where you can sit down and relax but if you want to try the best of Spanish food, this is the place! It is very busy so be prepared to stand while you eat and even share tables with strangers. This buzzing covered market has everything from tortilla, paella and croquettes to fresh fruits, sweets and pastries. We spent four days in Madrid and ended up going there (at least) three times!

http://www.mercadodesanmiguel.es/

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mercado de san miguel food

Ristorante Joseph, Rome (Italy)

I am lucky enough to have friends living in beautiful Rome. My boyfriend and I went to visit them for a week, and they took us to various typical places. Although I really enjoyed the late-night gelatos and tiramisu, this lovely Italian restaurant is one of my best food memories from Rome!  I ate buffalo mozzarella for the first time and savoured a true risotto: my favourite Italian dish. And it’s not just the food that is good, you will also be charmed by the setting.

http://www.ristorantejoseph.com/

joseph entrance

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A choupana, Portimao (Portugal)

Having a Portuguese boyfriend, I get to travel to Portugal regularly, and I must say the food there is amazing, really tasty. Vegetables for instance, they just taste the way they should taste! You won’t find the best food in the touristic areas though, the best food I had was in those tiny, remote places in the middle of nowhere.  A choupana is located along a road, and if you’re not looking for the place, you won’t find it (we nearly didn’t find it, even though we were looking for it!). We initially went there to try their roast suckling pig (Leitao in Portuguese), but I found everything to be super delicious!

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All this made me hungry, I will leave you now and go enjoy my dinner. Bon appétit everyone!

A.

5 films I will never forget

“I demand that a film express either the joy of making cinema or the agony of making cinema. I am not at all interested in anything in between.” François Truffaut

The Chaser (original title: Chugyeogja), 2008 chaser1

Director: Hong-jin Na

In short: The Chaser is a stylish South Korean thriller about a policeman-turned-pimp who tries to capture the serial killer preying his girls.

Things happen. You meet people who change your life. You listen to music that inspires you. And you watch a film that will stay with you forever. And you don’t see it coming. It happened to me in 2009 when I watched The Chaser. I read the synopsis, thought “why not”, and only decided to watch it a few months later. To be honest, the pitch wasn’t so great, and I approached the film with a “been there, seen that” attitude. Big slap in the face, but a good one. Probably because I didn’t expect much from it. It is so gripping and captivating you’ll be on the edge of your seat until the very end. This film is extremely violent yet quiet. Graphic yet realistic.

Yes, it is shocking, it is disturbing, but it is cinema. An intense piece of cinema.

The Virgin Suicides, 1999the-virgin-suicides-18

Director: Sofia Coppola

In short: A group of young boys become obsessed with five mysterious sisters who are sheltered by their strict, religious parents.

The film is adapted from the 1993 novel by American writer Jeffrey Eugenides.

Sofia Coppola is one of my two favourite directors (the other one being mentioned a little later!). Everything she touches turns to gold. Her style is unique. She has only made a handful of films but each and every one of them is a gem. I was 13 when The Virgin Suicides was released and it made quite an impression! As a sensitive and tormented teenager, I could relate to these five sisters. Their melancholy really struck a chord. Just like this group of male friends, you, the spectator, will become obsessed with these mysterious and inaccessible creatures, especially Lux Lisbon (played by Kirsten Dunst), the playful one. And there is also the music. Sofia Coppola is a master in the art of putting image and music together (Highschool Lover and Playground Love by French duo Air are perfection). Sofia’s poetic depiction of this tragic story is deeply moving. Her film-making is truly beautiful and powerful. If you haven’t watched any of her films (or all of them!), I suggest you do so now!

Dracula, 1992dracula

Director: Francis Ford Coppola

In short: is the pitch really necessary here??

No wonder Sofia Coppola is so amazing, look at who she has for a father! Of all the films he’s made, this one affected me particularly. I started watching horror films at a (very) young age, and that’s probably why this one affected me so much. I remember being terrified of Gary Oldman’s Dracula because of one nightmare I had. I was in my bed, helpless, and he was coming for me. Of course, I watched this film again several years later, and it struck me for different reasons. The poetry, the beauty of it. The beast can fall in love. The reincarnation theme also adds to the mystery of the story being told. All these elements, the scare, the blood, the love and the supernatural, make this film one of my all-time favourites.

Midnight in Paris, 2011 midnight

Director: Woody Allen

In short: While in Paris with his fiancée’s family, a nostalgic screenwriter finds himself mysteriously going back to the 1920s every night at midnight.

Oh Woody Allen, you really get me! While this piece is not the only one I love from Allen’s work, it definitely is the one that I can relate to the most. Owen Wilson plays a nostalgic character whose dream is to live in Paris in the 1920s. Nostalgia, i.e. a sentimental longing or wistful affection for a period in the past, is at the heart of this film. Nostalgia is a big part of me too. I’m not saying it’s good, but that’s the way it is, I can’t deny it. So when this character, Gil, finds himself surrounded by the most prestigious figures of the 1920s, I can’t help but be envious. I too want to meet the Fitzgeralds, Picasso, Wilde, Dali, Buñuel… But the lesson is that the past is not any better than the present, it is what we make of it in our mind that is so appealing. Just like the present day is insignificant to Gil, the 1920s are boring to the character played by Marion Cotillard, simply because “it’s the present, it’s dull”. So, instead of brooding about the fact that I didn’t get to live in the 30s or the 60s, I can now enjoy going back to these times through films and be thankful for the present.

Oh, and the film is funny too (obviously!). Check out my favourite scene.

The Red Shoes, 1948red shoes

Director: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger

In short: A ballet dancer is torn between the man she loves and the pursuit of her dream to become a prima ballerina.

I’ve always liked ballet, but it’s only when I watched this film during my film studies in London a few years back that I realized I could watch it for hours. The Red Shoes is originally a fairy tale by Danish poet and author Hans Christian Andersen about a young girl whose red shoes take control over her: the shoes are stuck to her feet and she can’t take them off. Nor can she stop dancing. The moment she removes the shoes is the moment she dies. At the core of this surrealist piece of cinema is the ballet, the art itself, as a projection of the ballerina’s subconscious. Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky, 2010) reminded me of it for its mise en abîme and tragic ending. Both films really chime with how I feel about ballet. I must say that the dancing scenes are my favourite parts.

What about you? I want to know all about the films that changed YOUR life, don’t be shy, leave comments! And stay tuned for more cinema postings…

A.

To reverse, or not to reverse?

stack_of_booksDid you know that the French language has a very strange slang called “verlan”? Being French and having been raised in France, it never occurred to me that it could be something specific to my language and very odd to other people. I realized that when I told my former British housemate about it. His reaction? “You reverse words? Like in “table/ble-ta”? That is stupid!” And yes it is, when you think about it. So for those of you who never heard of this French invention, “verlan” (which is “l’envers” (“reverse”) reversed and adapted) is a slang that plays around the syllables. It is similar to pig Latin but many terms are actually spoken in France!

So, to form the verlan of a word, simply divide it into syllables, reverse them, change the spelling so that it’s easier to pronounce and you’ve got it! Example with the French word for “shame”: “honte – hon-te – te-hon – tehon”. Some terms are so common that sometimes we don’t even realize they were verlaned: ripou (pourri=corrupted cop, which is in the dictionary!) or meuf (femme=woman). This technique developed during the Second World War as an encrypted language and was most active in the 90s but we can still find terms in our everyday communications: I, myself, use a lot of “relou” (which means annoying, verlan of “lourd”=heavy) and “chelou” (verlan of “louche” which means dodgy).

What’s the point, you might say?

Well, reversing the word is not just about creating a coded language, it also alters and/or emphasizes its true meaning. So, before today, I had never thought about how strange it could be for foreigners, but now that I think about it, I can’t help but wonder: are the French the only ones doing this? I’ve checked with my European coworkers: Spain: no, England: nope, Portugal: still no. And I’m not the only one wondering if this is a French thing: other people posted the question on the web and it turns out that this type of slang is also used in Japan, Argentina (as well as Peru and Venezuela apparently) and in Wolof-speaking countries (as far as I know!). Well, I don’t speak much Japanese, let’s not talk about Wolof… But I happen to speak Spanish and I was very intrigued! Naturally, I googled “palabras al revés en Argentina” (words in reverse in Argentina) and I found “hablar el vesre” on a forum, how funny is that! A few examples: “feca” for “café” (dropping the accent), “jermu” for “mujer”, “novi” for “vino”… That’s quite simple, the thing is to know exactly what words they actually reverse! I’m not planning on going to Argentina in the near future, that will leave me time to do some more research and become a pro at “vesre”: “un feca por vorfa”?, not quite yet… I also discovered that some people from there or who have been there have no idea that kind of slang exists in other countries, what a shame.

So, to answer my question: no, France is not the only country doing that, and here I was thinking that my home country was special… Well, it may not be the only country speaking verlan but it certainly is the one where it first developed. I’m not talking about the 90s, no… Did you know it actually started in the Middle-Age? Ok, it wasn’t really verlan, but people used metatheses (putting the words in a different order). It expanded during the 20th century in literature but was only used orally much later. It was conveyed through music and cinema: I’m thinking rap music or even Renaud (famous French musician) with the famous “Laisse béton”, Claude Zidi (French director) and the “Ripoux” as well as Jacques Dutronc (another French musician) who wrote an entire song in verlan! From the 70s on, it became active and was most spoken in the (underprivileged) suburbs: verlan was the signature of the people living there. I could go on and on about this amazing invention but there is just so much to say about it. And what about the future? It’s only 2014, who knows what kind of twisted language game people will coin in the years to come… As T.S. Eliot cleverly said: “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language, and next year’s words await another voice”. I’ll let you think about it…

For those interested in the Spanish slang, check out the article below:

http://www.speakinglatino.com/argentine-slang-in-reverse-vesre/

Here’s French slang explained in music:

And here is the Jacques Dutronc song:

Enjoy mis amigos!

A.

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