Waiting for the bus, never looked so good… Paris, je t’aime!

No matter where you live, it’s so easy to get caught up in life’s little details. We run from one appointment to the next and living in Paris is no different… except that when we do actually pick our heads up, we’re blessed with views like this.

Pont Neuf, Paris by Bellanda

Pont Neuf, Paris – Photo credit: Bellanda

 Waiting for the bus, never looked so good… Paris, je t’aime.  I really need to look up more often!

 

 

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French Theater in Paris… luckily, it’s not just for French speakers anymore!

Ah, Paris… oh, how I love you, and oh, how I love immersing myself completely in all you have to offer. I love theater and had always jumped at the chance to see shows in New York, London and Amsterdam, but they had something Paris didn’t when I moved here… they had shows in English.

Show Poster at Théâtre Edouard VII - Paris, France Photo Credits: Bellanda

Théâtre Edouard VII – Paris, France Photo Credits: Bellanda

After studying French, the day finally came when I felt comfortable enough with the language to understand conversations and express myself. It was far from perfect, but when opportunity presented itself, I didn’t hesitate to join my dear sweet French man and a group of his French friends to see a show. We had only been living in Paris a few months, and I was so excited to see the inside of French theater.

Here I was, living the dream. Paris, theater… what’s not to love? Well, about 45 seconds into the piece, I began to sweat. I looked around, and everyone seemed to be following along. The audience even began to laugh. I thought, Yep, it’s not the actors. It’s me! At first, I kept fixating on why I was having so much trouble understanding everything, but after about 40 minutes, I didn’t care or even bother to try to figure out what was being said. My brain was on overload. So much for my French!

I’m an optimist, so I tried to enjoy the fact that I was inside a French theater. I examined every detail of the décor, watched the expressive faces of the actors and the reactions of the audience. Eventually, my mind wandered off and I caught myself running through a list of things that I needed to do the next day. I know… shameful! I quickly brought my attention back to the show, and tried not to look so ridiculously lost.

Now, there is nothing worse than realizing all of the hours you spent studying hasn’t paid off… Oh wait, there is something worse. It’s when your boyfriend and his friends look over repeatedly during the show, with a kind but cringing half-smile, as they mouth the words, ça va?  Of course, I nodded that all was great. I even added a big smile.

Who was I kidding? I knew in my heart that they had all realized that the vocabulary, play on words and speed in which the actors delivered their dialogue was as if I had never taken a class. So much for living the dream! I mean, really, what was I thinking?  The French are masters of using tongue and cheek, and their dialogues are amazing. Did I actually think that the fact that I was just getting by with my French was enough? I still ordered 3 croissants instead of 1 because it was easier in French to say trois than to make a mistake using un when it was supposed to be une. I know, you’re wondering what happened to 2 croissants. Well, that wasn’t an option either because when I tried to pronounce it, it sounded like do or du, and it left the person serving me with a perplexed expression. Anyway, trois was easier…and as long as it was, my French was apparently not ready for theater in Paris.

Psychologically speaking, I think that this experience back in 2003 turned me off from even the possibility of seeing a show here, and the lack of confidence in my French remained. It didn’t matter that my current French accent is at times decent enough to fool even the French; I avoided French Paris theater as much as anchois in my Salade Niçoise.

That said, a few years ago I saw, How to Become Parisian in One Hour. Which, by the way, was a fabulous show… 100% in English! It’s a definite must, but it still didn’t satisfy my need to truly immerse myself into a real French show, with a French audience, while watching fabulous French actors.

Fast forward to 2018. I heard about a company called, Theatre in Paris that claimed to have a service that gives non-French speakers the opportunity to experience French theater. I did a little research and found out that they use a sort of English subtitling. I’m familiar with reading subtitles for films, but I couldn’t figure out how all of this would work for a live show.

I kept thinking about the concept. Could this really work? Would you be able to read and watch the show at the same time? Could I help my friends, family and readers avoid what happened to me? I decided to test out Theatre in Paris for myself. It would certainly help with the anxiety I had developed about Paris Theater, and I figured that it could help all of you if their service lived up to expectations.

A little further research, revealed that apparently I’ve been living under a rock, because Theatre in Paris began as a Parisian start-up back in 2014. Yes, 2014! Their English website makes ordering tickets easy, and their partnership with various theaters across Paris gives theater goers a chance to see a variety of shows: comedies, musicals, classical and more recent drama adaptations. Some of the shows are in English and others are 100% French.

I wanted to try to see one of the shows in a larger theater, with well-known French actors, and of course, it had to be 100% French. My heart did a little skip when I saw that Théâtre Edouard VII was on the list of theaters. It dates back to the early 1900s. Somewhere in this life (Quelque part dans cette vie) was playing there. Although I’m terrible with knowing the names of actors, I had actually heard of both Emmanuelle Devos and Pierre Arditi who star in this show. Perfect!

Upon arrival, Theatre in Paris greets their guests with an English speaking staff member and it’s all so very subtle. I was afraid of being pointed out like a fish out of water and was relieved not to see someone holding up a stick with a flag, yelling, Over here, you non-French speaking losers trying to fit in. I know, I’ve been told that I have an over active imagination.

We did a quick visit of the theater and discovered that we should have arrived earlier… what a place!

lounge bar etc

Théâtre Edouard VII – Paris, France    Photo Credits: Bellanda

theater

Théâtre Edouard VII – Paris, France Photo Credits: Bellanda

As my dear sweet man and I were shown to our seats, we were given a complete program of the show in English. It included a Synopsis, Notes on the play, Creative team member and actor biographies, as well as, a brief history of the theater.

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Subtitles projector for Theatre in Paris – Photo Credit: Bellanda

Once seated, I was relieved at how painless and efficient this all was. In addition, I loved that there was nothing to distinguish us from the regular theater goers. Theatre in Paris had selected seats that were located in the center of the first row of the balcony. We had a perfect view of the stage and of the English subtitles which were projected on a black background above the stage directly in front of us. This made reading text and watching the scene as easy as possible. (Word of warning for tall folks… there wasn’t much leg room with these seats, but it was a perfect view).

I wanted to show you a photo of how the subtitles appear above the stage, but of course, my phone was off during the performance. I’m someone who can’t help following rules… no matter how hard I try! Luckily, Theatre in Paris came to my rescue and were kind enough to send me a photo of a different show at this theater. Below, you can see how easy it was to read the English text and watch the performance at the same time.

Photo Credit: Theatre in Paris … Thank you, Jessica and Amanda

What a pleasure! Not only was the show fantastic, but Theatre in Paris has taken away the language barrier that has kept so many non-French speakers from enjoying Paris’s theater. They’ve made the whole process easy with a translation service that was great.

When I began this theater adventure, I had hoped that their service would help, but they’ve far exceeded my expectations. I can’t wait to take my Mom to see her first show in Paris!

For more information about Theatre in Paris:

Website: https://www.theatreinparis.com

Twitter: @_Theatreinparis

Intragram: Theatreinparis

Facebook: theatre.in.paris75

 

Medieval buildings in Paris

There is nothing like wandering around the streets of Paris to make you feel like you just jumped back in time… for the history that lies within this city is magical!

11 and 13 rue François Miron, Paris - Photo credit: Bellanda

11 and 13 rue François Miron, Paris – Photo credit: Bellanda

Not far from one of my favorite cafés, La Caféothèque, I stumbled across two examples of medieval architecture that can still be found here in Paris. These historically classified buildings are located at numbers 11 and 13 of rue François Miron and their medieval structures date between the 14th and 16th centuries. The half-timbered buildings have been restored multiple times for security & fire safety reasons, with the most recent renovation dating from the end of the 1960s.

I love that each building has its name engraved on the façade:

  • 11 :  maison À l’enseigne du Faucheur (Faucheur means Reaper)
  • 13 :  maison À l’enseigne du Mouton (Mouton means Sheep)

Let’s just say, that I’ve been inspired by these names and have been making up names (albeit silly) for each building I see… wishing my own building had an interesting name and story to go along with it.

11 and 13 rue François Miron, Paris - Photo credit: Bellanda

11 and 13 rue François Miron, Paris – Photo credit: Bellanda

No matter how long I’ve lived here, this city continues to hold little surprises for me… Paris, je t’aime!

 

Paris never gets old…

As old as it is, Paris is a place that never truly gets old. Walking down its historic streets, soaking in the sights, I can’t help but notice that its beauty never ceases to amaze me. The light changes with each day, casting new shadows and highlights.

Paris, France

Paris never gets old… nor does this view.    Photo credit: Bellanda

Yes, in the grit and grind of any passing day, it’s possible to focus on the negatives and on the imperfections that this and every other city hold… but for today, after the 2 year anniversary of November 13th, I choose to focus on the beauty of Paris, on the courage of its residents and on this city’s resilience. Paris, Je t’aime…

Paris se souvient... Nov 13th

Paris se souvient… Paris Remembers… November 13th   Photo credit: Bellanda

Together, We Stand Strong…

Together, we stand Strong... Bellanda ®

Together, we stand Strong…
Bellanda ®

It’s been exactly 2 weeks since the attacks in Paris brutally reminded us of the changing world in which we live. It’s a world where children are now exposed to things we’ve tried to protect them from, and lives are taken in the most cowardly of ways.

Today, President Hollande has asked everyone to unite and display the French flag in remembrance of those lost in the Paris attacks. To many of us, such a request would seem only natural. As Americans, we proudly display our flag every chance we get, but France’s love for their flag has been a bumpy one. The French flag has evolved, and has taken many forms since the days of Kings and the Revolution. It wasn’t until 1794 that the Tricolore as we know it came into existence. It has since been readopted several times.

Over recent years, the French Tricolore has increasingly been associated with far-right groups, like Le Pen’s National Front party. To distance themselves from the views of such groups, many French have backed off from displaying the flag. Political parties, like that of President Hollande, have also shied away from its use.

The President’s request to display French flags is a big deal, and I couldn’t agree with him more. It’s times like this that everyone needs to come together, breaking through political differences… after all, they’re all French!

As I walked through the streets today, it was obvious that no matter what political party they were from, flags were everywhere. I’m proud of how this country has pulled together to remember what they have in common: liberty, equality and fraternity.

Together, we are far stronger than those who would like to do us harm…

Stand Strong Paris - Bellanda ®

Stand Strong Paris –
Bellanda ®

Getting thrown a medical curveball while living the dream in Paris, France

When living the dream throws you a curveball... All rights reserved -Bellanda

When living the dream throws you a curveball…
All rights reserved -Bellanda

As some of you know, I haven’t been as active as I was when I first began this blog about life in Paris. It’s not that I ran out of ideas, nor that I got bored with this amazing city. Unfortunately, I have been suffering from an illness that showed its first signs back in 2006. The symptoms have increased to such an extent over the last three years that my days of running around have been limited. Gone, for now, is my pink super cape that I wore figuratively to juggle my activities & different roles throughout the day. Here, is a new day… one that exposes me to things I never would have imagined… one that challenges me to rise above and to truly see what is important. Here is the day, when I will share something far more personal than my latest visit to some glorious place in Paris.

So, what’s it like being ill in Paris? Well, I guess it’s safe to say that being ill sucks no matter where you are… but I’d rather focus my attention on the positive, because I am lucky… lucky for each day that I get to spend with my dear man & supportive family. I’m lucky for each precious moment that I get to be with and watch my little ones grow up in this gorgeous city.

There are far worse places to be ill than Paris. Walking the streets of this beautiful city, while soaking in its history, always lifts my spirits. Yes, I wish I had more energy to run around and take part in all it has to offer, but knowing I’m near, gives me hope and inspiration to be able to fight this thing.

Looking at Paris from the medical standpoint… there again, I am lucky. I don’t know where I would be without the incredible medical system in France as well as the medical facilities here in Paris. Actually, I do know… I probably wouldn’t be here.

In 2009, unrelated to my present illness, my doctor ran a test based on a hunch… I can’t even imagine trying to explain that to an insurance company back home. It turned out that he was onto something. They found and removed a cancerous polyp, informing me that if they hadn’t removed it, I would have had no more than 5 years before it was too late. To this day, I am still too young for this kind of test to be approved randomly in the USA. As proof, even though my brother’s insurance company knew about my cancer scare, they wouldn’t allow him to have the same test performed until he was what they considered the right age, 50.

Since then, doctors have found and removed two other tumors in two other locations… and have been working hard to put my best medical interests at heart. My kids joke that I’ve been in just about every hospital in Paris, and upon seeing one I haven’t been to ask, “When do you get to go there?”

So, yes, I am thankful that if I had to have an illness, that it is being taken care of at one of the best facilities for rare diseases. I’m with one of the finest doctors in the field & can see him or any other doctor of my choice when I need to and not when the insurance company decides I do. I have access to medications that can hopefully slow down the progression of the illness with next to no out-of-pocket money, and doctors who will run tests to make sure that my well-being is priority. I’m not rich, nor do I have connections who hooked me up with these doctors. This is something available to all residents. All of these things make having a long-term illness easier, because let’s face it, it’s hard enough knowing that you’ll have to tackle health problems for the rest of your days.

I will continue to try to convert the not so great into something positive & humorous… as I did in my article: “Leave it to the French to Make Medical Stockings Sexy!” https://bellandainparis.wordpress.com/2012/12/13/leave-it-to-the-french-to-make-medical-stockings-sexy/  It’s a daily battle that isn’t always easy, but considering the alternative, I’m one of the lucky ones.

So, why so many illnesses? Do I blame it on bad genes? Probably not… my genetic line on both sides of the family live well into their late 90s. Bad luck? Perhaps, but it most likely didn’t help growing up in a small town in the USA that was poisoned by a local factory. They illegally dumped chemical toxins that severely polluted the ground, air & water to dangerous levels for almost 100 years before it ever became public.

Sadly, my story is far more common than one might expect. Remember the film, Erin Brockovich? I was not from this particular town, but their story is a familiar one. Today, people are fighting to get towns like these cleaned up. I recently read a fabulous book on this subject entitled, The Brook, by John Sinsimer. It was inspired by a true story. Having grown up in a place exactly like the one in this book, I want to thank Mr. John Sinsimer for all he has done to bring this kind of a subject to the forefront. It is both well-written and captivating.

The Brook by John Sinsimer

The tragedy that surrounds such environmental events is mind-boggling. When you have witnessed friends and loved ones die at a young age… and others who are battling disease just to get through the day, you realize what is most important. My energy is too precious to focus on being angry, and hating the world is not my style. I prefer to be a lover of people, places & cultures. I decided long ago that I could either get angry, or I could take whatever energy and time that I have on this earth and live the dream as best I can. There are things we can control and other things we cannot. How we decide to handle the things we cannot control, makes all of the difference in the world.

In this Social Network age, that links complete strangers from across the globe, we often don’t truly know what someone is living unless they decide to open up. Until now, to so many of you, I was just another gal living it up in Paris. I’m still that gal, I’m just a little more real.