Monthly Archives: September 2011

La Seine and Paris

La Seine and Paris


“We don’t have Venice and its moon, nor its breeze, nor its lagoon, but we have la Seine.”

Popular song favored by Parisian canoeists in the 19th century
Canoeists were right. Paris may not be the center of the universe (some would argue it once was,) but Paris has always been a unique place, and the city has largely been defined by the famous river that meanders through it, la Seine.
Paris was born over 2000 years ago on the island known as Ile de la Cité (one of the three remaining islands in downtown Paris today.) A tribe of Celtic fishermen named the Parisii settled the area in the 3rd century BC. From the start, the Seine provided both livelihood and protection. The Parisii were able to push back countless invaders and remained independent until Julius Caesar, (who knew a strategic location when he saw one,) took over. Paris became Lutetia under Roman rule, for about 500 years. From the island, it spread to the Left Bank first, and much later, to the Right Bank. One of the world’s most iconic cities was born.

The Seine and the island where it all started… 
(author unknown)
Lutetia, as depicted in the Asterix and Obelix French comic book series
“Our story begins in Lutetia, the most prodigious city in the Universe”

It can be argued that if Paris has always been the center of France, la Seine has always been the heart of Paris. La Seine borders ten of the twenty arrondissements (districts.) Most of the noteworthy and iconic buildings in the French capital are either built by the Seine river, or within a few blocks of its banks, museums, government buildings, parks and monuments. They are all there, a feast for the eyes, best admired from one of the tour boats, the famous Bateaux Mouches, or Bateaux Parisiens. The Eiffel Tower competes with the river as the city’s best vantage point. When the lights magically turn on at sunset, the river banks start glowing, even on dark, overcast days.

Les Bateaux Parisiens
Notre-Dame from the Seine 
Orsay museum at sunset
Grand Palais at sunset
Notre-Dame: Even more spectacular at night
Eiffel Tower

The city layout was also largely determined by the Seine. Every year, millions of visitors learn the difference between Rive Gauche (Left Bank) and Rive Droite (Right Bank). Once you realize that street numbers were assigned from the river, it becomes really easy to find your way or locate an address in downtown Paris: If a street runs perpendicular to the Seine, counting starts by the river. If a street runs parallel to the Seine, numbers follow the river flow, and go east to west. Logique, non?

It is tempting to believe that the Seine was born on the French coast, flowing inland. It is quite the opposite in fact. The river’s spring lies near Dijon, in the heart of Burgundy, flows west towards Paris. It meanders through the French capital, then heads for the sea, finally running into La Manche (the English Channel) in the major port city of Le Havre. It is France’s most famous waterway, but it is not the longest one (La Loire is.) The reason for la Seine‘s enduring fame and success is its high navigability for most of its 780 kilometers (485 miles.) Commercial barges are a familiar sight in downtown Paris, all the way to the city of Rouen, located inland, where the river is deep enough to welcome big cargo ships. 

La péniche (barge) with a million dollar view

There are 37 bridges spanning the Seine in downtown Paris. Like the city and its famous river, they have inspired generations of writers, musicians, painters, and movie makers. Today, pedestrians, cyclists and cars are the only familiar sights on Parisian bridges, but in the Middle Ages most had buildings on them. There were exceptions. The iconic Pont-Neuf (named “the new bridge,” it is actually the oldest bridge in Paris,) was the first not be lined with houses and the first Parisian thoroughfare to offer sidewalks. Voilà a handful of Paris’ most recognized bridges.

Parisian bridge in the Middle Ages: Is it a wonder so many collapsed?
(author unknown)
A section of Le Pont Neuf (completed in 1606
 and renovated in the 1990’s for its 400th anniversary)
Pont Alexandre III,  Paris’ most ornate bridge (built 1896-1900)
Pont au Change (1858-1860)
Pont Notre-Dame, built for the first time during Antiquity.
The current version was inaugurated in 1919

The Seine riverbanks, les quais de Seine, are as emblematic of Paris as the river itself. At the street level, above the water, things can get quite hectic, pedestrians rushing on the sidewalks, cars and motorcycles zooming by. Les quais de Seine are so illustrious that they became a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1991. 

Legendary sights include les bouquinistes, used-book sellers who have traded their wares along the river since the Middle Ages. Un bouquin, in conversational French, is a book. There are only 245 bouquinistes in Paris, manning their outdoors stalls (mere boxes) permanently affixed to the quaysides. 

Bouquinistes, Jean-Henri Pontoy (1888-1968)
Junior, browsing a bouquiniste’s selection on a hot summer day
Locked bouquiniste stalls at night 

Should you feel overwhelmed by the sounds and commotion of the big city above, you need only take a few steps down to go back to the river, and the past. Wander on les quais (the river banks.)  Feel the ancient cobblestones under your feet. Follow the Seine, under a bridge, and watch the world go by. Timeless activities. Familiar faces. Parisians walking their dogs. Lovers. Painters. Fishermen. And beggars, who call les quais “home,” for a few hours every day.

Quais de Seine

Paris in the springtime: Sun worshippers return 

La Seine is beautiful, mesmerizing, and alive. La Seine is also dangerous, dirty, and grim, a favorite location of unfortunate souls indulging their suicidal tendencies, for others, the perfect spot to dispose of a body. Yet, Parisians used to swim in the river, and still did 60 years ago before commercial barges and pollution interfered. In the 1940s, people flocked to the river in the summer. Where did Parisians celebrate the end of World War 2 in the summer of 1945? By the Seine, bien sûr


Today, swimming in the Seine is prohibited, but since 2002, the city of Paris has made it possible for locals and tourists alike to gather on the riverbanks. “Paris-Plage” (Paris Beach) has proved a successful endeavor, imitated since in other European capitals. Imagine the scene: For three weeks at the end of July, Paris becomes a beach, complete with sand, lounge chairs, palm trees, street artists, crafts, volley ball, pétanque games. And pickpockets.

Paris-Plage (author unknown)
Paris-Plage (author unknown)

Sometimes, la Seine gets upset, and the water level goes up, way up. It usually calms down after a few days, under the Zouaves watchful eye. The old river was not always that predictable, and the Parisians know it.

Le Zouave (*)

No matter the Seine’s mood, the Parisians forgive. Paris needs the Seine like France needs Paris. In his will, Napoleon I wrote: “I desire my ashes to rest on the banks of the Seine, amid the French people whom I loved so much.” His wish was not granted. After his army was defeated in Waterloo in 1815, the British sent him away as far as possible from Paris, the Seine, and the French. He arrived on St. Helena, a remote island off the Coast of West Africa where he died in 1821. In 1840, the British government allowed the transfer of his remains back to France. His ashes sailed across the Atlantic to the English Channel where they were transferred on a steamship. Fittingly, the French emperor’s last voyage continued up the Seine river through the towns of Le Havre, then Rouen, all the way to Paris where he was given a national funeral. Napoleon’s final resting place is inside the dome of the famed Hôtel des Invalides… one short block away from the Seine. 

A bientôt.

(*) Le Zouave: This statue of a soldier that belonged to the French light infantry in the North African colonies was inaugurated (with the Alma Bridge it stands under) by Napoleon III in the mid-19th century. For more than 155 years, the venerable Zouave has warned Parisians about potential flooding of the Seine River. When his feet get wet, the French capital takes notice. Everyone still remembers the terrible flood of 1910. That year, the Seine reached the Zouave‘s shoulders. Quelle histoire!


Unless otherwise indicated, all photos by Savoye Images Photography.

18 Responses to La Seine and Paris

  1. I recently discovered your blog and I love it. I love blogs that inform and educate. I enjoyed your older posts on french culture… restaurant etiquette, ordering coffe and how sales are done twice a year and are regulated by the government. Fascinating! Merci!

  2. I have just found your blog after seeing your comments chez Dash and about and am very glad that I did! This was a wonderful little article–nope, not post, article. As in the genuine article. 🙂 Merci!

  3. Your posts immerse me into the atmosphere of France. In this one, you have shown your own perspective of such an iconic place as the river Seine. I have taken the boat down that river. How long ago this was!

  4. Dearest Véronique,

    Finally I make it into reading some blogs… It is so hard for catching up after a trip. We also went for the weekend to Atlanta to a birthday party of a dear friend. Fun, but again two days on the road.
    This is a great post about Paris and the Seine. Brings back fond memories.
    Did you already have a chance to read some of your gift of Belle Inspiration?
    Personally I wish we had far more time for reading and lingering…
    Love to you,


  5. Oh you’ve taken me to all my favorite places today. The photographs are beautiful but I don’t think I can be tempted to dip my toes in the Seine! 🙂

    BTW, a friend gave me a huge vintage reproduction map of Paris in the 1700;s. Hangs over my mantel, a daily reminder of the city j’adore!

  6. Thank you for visiting the market. I loved this piece on the Seine. When I first started visiting Paris, years ago, I would always stay at the Jeu de Paume on the I’ll St. Louis {next to the Il de la Cite}, love it, it is so centrally located. It has wonderful history and it is a wonderful place to walk. I love the Plage Paris, perfect.

  7. Oh ma belle Véro,

    Tu as raison. Une petite pause fait du bien, parce que je m’en fait trop. Mon boulot, oh là là….quelques individus sont si difficiles et me laissent crévée!!! ET je suis d’accord. CE BLOGGER, quel idiot, BIEN SÛR! Mais tes commentaires me font du bien, et l’amitié dans le BLOGLAND et incroyable. Merci pour être venue, et je t’embrasse tendrement. Anita

  8. Hello Veronique!

    I’m speechless by your style of blogging!

    Well, in fairness to frenchgirlinseattle.blogspot, this is not just simple blogging, it is more than a coffeetable book, or even deserving a magazine column!

    Everything is very informative and Le Husband’s (I call mine, “H”..) photos are so professionally taken! You should write a book! (I’m serious….hehehe)

  9. What a fascinating post Veronique! I am having a blast looking at a lot of your past posts. (i have a long way to go, but i’m savoring every one!) 🙂 I’ve read about the Seine and its banks in many novels, (i love Georges Simenon’s, for example,) but i learned so much in this post. 37 bridges! Wow! And i thought here in Portland, OR we have a lot of bridges! LOL There is no comparison. Must visit the bouquinistes when we come to Paris! Every time i read a blog entry of yours i think to myself.. and we have to do this! We must walk here! And we have to visit this place! Love love love your ‘French Girl in Seattle’ blog.

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The 2 CV: A French legend

The 2 CV: A French legend

Young French driver in her Deux Chevaux (2CV) Her nicknames range from affectionate (Deux chevaux; Deux pattes, Two Paws; Deuche; Dedeuche;) to dismissive and derogatory, especially when the car was first launched (Tin Snail; Umbrella on Wheels; Old Tin Can; Le Canard, the Ugly Duckling.)   No matter. 72 years after the first prototype was manufactured in France by…

27 Responses to The 2 CV: A French legend

  1. This is clearly a special car you’ve described in your post. Maybe it’s not profitable anymore, but there is something charismatic about it. No wonder there are so many fan clubs. Great post!

  2. After reading all the hard work you put in to a blog post, I’m ashamed of my meager photo a day! I love these cars too and have posted a few on my blog. You’re right, impossible not to smile!
    PS Thanks again for the translation help today!

  3. V-i have waited for this post for F-O-R-E-V-E-R!i have been in love with them since i first laid eyes on one back in 1981…what is that called -a coup de foudre- well that is exactly what i felt -lightening bolts- and in the summer of that same year i rode in one ,laughing with great excitment and happiness,promising myself that someday i will own one. that day has not yet arrived…oh but it is coming! THANKS FOR ANOTHER TOTALLY AWESOME POST! hope all is well with you!!-g

  4. Another fascinating post Veronique, I love them, we don’t see very many of them anymore, the originals are getting rarer. I saw a lovely green and cream two toned one though in Sanary, complete with flowers, had obviously just been used for a wedding, am going to post the photo at some point.

  5. — Olga — Agreed. La Deux Chevaux practically INVENTED the word charisma ;-).
    — Sandy — I bet there were other kids or teenagers who were very embarrassed when their parents drove them to school in one of these cuties!
    — Virginia — I HAVE to do research and write interesting posts since I can’t take pictures as great as yours!
    — g — I hope you find la Deux Chevaux of your dreams soon. Did you check out that last link at the end of the post? They have a couple of good ones for sale…
    — Winterludes — Tres cool, la Deux Pattes a pedale, n’est-ce-pas?
    — Dash — Welcome back. I can’t wait to see your photos of the cute Sanary Deuche!
    — Olga — Thank you for thinking about me. This is my first blogger award. I will try and make you proud 😉

  6. Bonjour! This was a stupendous post. Loved the pics, especially the wedding car! My husband and I had a classic Citroen for a couple of years when we lived in New Zealand (at that time you could hardly buy a modern car over there!) We still cry about not keeping it! It was gorgeous.I’ll let Monsieur Aussie see this post of yours just to make him drool.

    Letting you know I’ve posted some cool pics of the Sahara Desert here:
    and more pics of France on

    I hope you can visit.

    A bientot


  7. v-yup…. visit all your links and suggestions..including other bloggers who comment. red is my favorite color…so that first car peut-etre…love the old fiat 500 too “the lady bug”, an itialian friend told me getting the new re-issue mainly for the shore. we , meaning my brothers and sister, grew up driving a 67 mustang….i think that is where my love for old cars comes from…but something about the deux chevaux makes me smile from ear to ear. v -i really do adore your blog….g

  8. — Kimberly — You CAN get one here. Check out the last link in the post! There are a couple for sale around Seattle.
    — L’Aussie — Loved your pictures and left a comment on your blog. If Monsieur Aussie still has a pic of his old 2 CV, I would love to see it 😉
    — g — Welcome back, chère amie. It’s perfect then. You can buy the red one, and I will go for the beige one (I find it very elegant.) How smashing we would look in our “Deuches” — You do realize they would not go as fast as your old Mustang 67, though?!
    — Pierre — Merci de cette visite. C’était un réel plaisir de passer du temps avec la Deux Chevaux!

  9. I always learn something new from your blog and I love it! 🙂

    This car is incredibly fabulous. It looks familiar to me, but I can’t tell if it is because the design is so nostalgic, or perhaps I have seen one in a film…

    I love the Hermes one the best. Hehe.

    I don’t blame families for keeping this car in the family for generations. It is not only a beautiful keepsake, but it seems like a part of history, which one should keep. Plus, it seems very high-quality, like a car that would last a long time.

    Such a shame that it didn’t last. Good things never do.

  10. A brilliant post! The Dedeuche is a legendary, “incontournable” car, and I am so happy that after years of oblivion it is making a come-back in France as more and more collectors re-discovered its “simple and humble beauty”! A pity, though, that you should need a mortgage to buy a car that was supposed to be an “economical” one! 😀
    Thank you for such a detailed and interesting article.
    Merci d’avoir visiter mon blog. Je vais te suuivre aussi car j’adore les blogs de qualite comme le tien!
    Bonne journee 🙂

  11. — Jennifer Fabulous — Always my pleasure to find you here. Of course you love the Hermès 2CV. I wonder what has happened to it? I can’t imagine they sold it because if they did, the price must have been astronomical!
    — DeeBee L. — Welcome chez French Girl. Love your blog too and will visit again later. There is a ton of good info there. Reviens quand tu veux! V.

  12. Quel joli poste, plein de nostalgie et de bons souvenirs pour nous, et surement tres instructif pour nos amis americains.
    Bienvenue sur mon blog, j’espère que la visite vous rappellera de bons souvenirs de vacances!

  13. yes I agree it is such an immediately recognisable icon of France – just as the VW taxi is in Mexico City – although they are in the act of disappearing right now – wonderfully informative post, and such great shots – love the wedding shot…Greetings from the Riviera…

  14. Hi Veronique, I left a comment but I think it must have disappeared… but said something to the effect that your wonderfully long and thoroughly researched posts really amaze me, you go to great lengths to give us plenty of info and photos to sink our teeth into… Ah, the belle deuche, they certainly captivate my attention when I see one go by… with their trademark noise and sweeping curves…

    Just in case :

    Have a great weekend… oh, and now I see where you pasted the comments text… Thanks so much !

  15. — Malyss — Merci beaucoup! Quelque chose me dit que je te rendrai visite très souvent…
    — Catherine — So, life is still good in Nice? Lucky, lucky girl.
    — Owen — Bonjour l’ami. Thank you for your comment (you, of all people, know comments mean a lot to us bloggers 😉 Loved your post on la Deuche. Thank you for sending me the link!

  16. Bonjour ma belle Véronique!!!

    SARLAT…j’ai remarqué cette photo que tu a mentionnée au sujet de mon village préférée dans La Dordogne. Quel bon souvenir pour mon mari et moi….la cuisine, la meilleure! Et merci bien ma chère pour tes mots de tendresse. C’est vrai, n’est-ce pas, que ce monde de bloggeuses et vraiment “FÉERIQUE” et lorsqu’on se rencontre, on crois qu’il y a un pouvoir de l’amitié. Mais quand on partarge les passions de la vie, ÇA C’EST VIVRE!!

    Je voudrais avoir une voiture comme celle-çi: petite, rare, jolie et une qui économise!

    Je te souhaite un week end plein de rêves et amour…Anita

  17. Je découvre votre blog par l’intermédiaire de celui de Malyss, superbe occasion de lire de l’anglais et de redécouvrir des coins de France vus d’ailleurs ou la Deuche comme icône nationale.

  18. Have so many fun memories of the 2CV on summers in France in my teens. Later we had a Peugeot 604 in the US and although she was malade quite often, it is still my favorite car we ever had.

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Histoire d’enseignes. A story about signs (2)

Histoire d’enseignes. A story about signs (2)

Panneaux. Enseignes. Ecriteaux. Pancartes. If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know I love signs, all kinds of signs.  As we were traveling in Europe this summer, I took many pictures of panneaux, enseignes, écriteaux et pancartes and saved them in a special folder on my faithful MacBook Air so I could go back…

21 Responses to Histoire d’enseignes. A story about signs (2)

  1. What an exciting series 🙂

    While I agree that it’s nice to read about the history of Place des Vosges in Paris, it’s also quite distressing to see the number of ‘no’ signs below it : no dogs, no playing ball, no walking on the grass… 🙁
    Paris gardens are as proper and well-mannered as the city’s inhabitants.

  2. Chère Veronique,
    Merci beaucoup for the mention of my blog and the link. You have now inspired me to capture signs the next t rip to Paris!!!

    BTW, did you know that Genie and I met when she contacted me after following my blog? She and I have been to Paris together and conspired to create her blog right here in my home! We are the best of friends now. Blogging is a wonderful way to meet interesting and fun people, n’est-ce pas?

  3. v-lost my comment so i am trying again…i adore all the pictures of signs…little snipets of history/art right before our eyes…but my most absolute favorite this time aroung is… the GREAT picture of jr. in the underground alongside one of my favorite literary characters..that boy has style…and certainly his mom and dad have some part in that!v-i so enjoy my monday mornings with you … always a bright spot no matter what else is going on. looking at the french word for pumkin…i know i would have trouble with it like armchair, piece of paper, welcome(not bienvenue)…any word making use of type sounding matter how much i practice…have a wonderful week..your happy reader on the opposite coast!!-g

  4. — Nathalie — Welcome, and thank you for leaving a comment. I agree, all these “no” messages at the bottom of the sign are a bit distracting. Parisians may be well-mannered but they are not famous for following rules 😉 I distinctly remember seeing dogs inside the park when I stopped by… V.
    — Sandy — Great to hear from you. Don’t you just love that chunky yellow lab? That dog has a good life, let me tell you!
    — Olga — Thank you for stopping by this morning. I did my best with the pictures. Your signs would have looked a lot better 😉
    — Virginia — I had guessed you and Genie were good friends, and I agree with you. I have “met” some wonderful people through blogging. Who knows? You, Genie and I might actually meet in person in France one of these days…
    — g — Welcome chez French Girl, dear friend from the opposite coast. It makes me feel good that you look forward to my posts on Monday mornings. I will let you in on a little secret: I look forward to your comments! 😉 I will pass on your compliments to Junior. He has not been wearing the Fedora hat much lately and has switched for a biking helmet (he got a brand-new bike this weekend!) A bientot!

  5. Wow, you certainly do have a passion for pancartes, as this prolific collection attests, chapeau ! Some real gems in there…

    I too have a strong urge to photograph certain signs from time to time, as a few previous posts can illustrate, should you have a spare moment or two, there are only about 57 currently indexed as sign-posts, no pun intended :

    You sure do cover some ground when travelling !

  6. — Chez Loulou — You’re welcome. I enjoyed your last post too– and the sign!
    — Owen — Ha! Thanks for letting me know about your 57 signposts! Will have a blast looking at all of them.
    — Kaydee — Merci mon amie. I actually had a shot of a sign that said: “Toutes Directions” and almost added it. Will forward it to you!

  7. Another amazing post with a wealth of information about the signs. Of all, I think that the “Flanerie” is my favorite for its detail and lush setting among the green. The road signs as one drives in France are not as confusing as those in Tuscany where one navigates by quickly scanning the last four or five letters to discern the town while zipping by… the list of six towns all have similar spellings!

    Thank you, Véronique, for linking to my blog and I do hope to enjoy meeting up with you, whether in France or in Seattle! Merci mille fois, ma chère.


    (Do I get extra credit for spotting the Wallace fountain in front of the pâtisserie? hehe)

  8. — Genie — Extra credit indeed, student Genie! You have a great eye for detail (but of course I already knew that 😉 Thank you for stopping by. As my friend Kaydee pointed out in her comment, driving in France is not that hard: When looking for a specific place, just follow the “Autres Directions” or “Toutes Directions” signs until you find it!

  9. I loved your posts on Eze and Nice. I also love Nice. It has been a while since I went there with my husband and youngest daughter – at least 10 years. Since then I went to Antibes, alone, but took a train to Nice for a day. Looking at your pictures made me homesick for Nice. I did not know your family was from Boufarik. I stayed there once, for work. The house in front of the hotel was exactly like the house my grandparents had built in Courbevoie near Paris, so it must have been from the standard French “pavilion” architect. Your pictures from Cours Saleya were so inviting! I bought two dozen of the hand-milled perfume soaps in Marseille two years ago and placed them in my carry-on; the dogs at the US Customs sniffed my bag – I told them it was only soap – but I had to empty my bag!

    I loved your post sur l’école – cela m’a fait bien penser à la mienne. Oui, on avait des encriers et l’encre était violette. Mon grand-père était Alsacien et était né pendant que l’Alsace était allemande mais je ne connaissais pas les bataillons scolaires. Le post sur les enseignes et autres panneaux est très intéressant – quelle variété!

  10. — Catherine — You are one lucky lady if you can actually see some of these signs in your neighborhood right now 😉
    — Vagabonde — It was wonderful to read your long, thoughtful comment and to hear about your own experiences sur la Côte d’Azur. So your family roots are in Alsace, a beautiful part of France as well. Did your grandfather teach his children any German while they were growing up? It must have been so difficult to live in Alsace way back when. Some people like your grandpa were German one day, and then expected to become French the next. Crazy times. Come back soon.

  11. Dearest Véronique,

    This is almost like being home… Guess that through the French occupation, my province of Limburg has so much French influence that it is similar in many ways. Like the boulangerie-pâtisseries is a way of life in your home country, also in mine. Here you have to make do with a limited selection at the grocery store. Not the same as the smell and display is a feast for the eye in itself.
    Enjoy your weekend, we just got back yesterday at 2:00 AM after a 16-day trip to The Netherlands and Germany.
    Love to you,


  12. — Mariette — Thank you for visiting. I am glad you have experienced life in a neighborhood where you could take daily visits to a boulangerie! There is nothing quite like it the world. 😉 I certainly hope you will be posting some pics of your recent trip. I have never been to Germany but used to visit the Netherlands on a regular basis. Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

  13. Veronique, I am a bit of a sign junkie too, so much so that when we named our house, I went to the local Quincaillerie and ordered a typical French blue enamel street sign with white writing, for our gate post, the shopkeeper was a bit surprised to begin with, it was a first for him and he explained it could take few weeks as it had to be ordered from a special place! When I went to collect it, the sign was perfect and me and the shopkeeper admired it together, he thought it was tres originale and wondered if he should start offering it as a normal service!

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Once upon a time, French schools

Once upon a time, French schools

  It is impossible to discuss French schools without mentioning la rentrée. This is a magical word in the French language, and a special time in French life. La rentrée is when tanned vacationers go back to work, government members go back to whatever it is they do for France, members of trade unions go back to…

25 Responses to Once upon a time, French schools

  1. V-i want to write SO much here…i fear the length would be TOO much-another TOTALLY great and VERY educational post-as i said before la rentree is a mixed bag, like you, i am a “lifer” with education/classes- but i love the summer, my favorite time of year…i have changed life course a couple of times which involved more and more school and if i am away from it too long…i find a reason to return to the classroom…hence the last 2 years of french instruction-building on my highschool/college foundation…i just hate saying good bye to the easy laid back summer life style. i still smell new text books and copy books-i prefer writing with pencil ( love the smell of a freshly sharpened pencil) so much more to share… alas- it should only be a comment-so in concluding i will say ONE OF THE BEST POSTS E-V-E-R!!

  2. I love the smell of school supplies, the freshly-sharpened pencils, new notebooks, new/old books of all types… I can get almost woozy when I smell a large box (48 count) of Crayolas! We are cut from the same cloth.

    I have been a perpetual student forever and unexpectedly wound up as a university professor for 5 years. Seeking knowledge and understanding, learning a new language, and knowing more about other countries and cultures… photography, art, music, math theory (!)… all keep me young, or at least I claim it!

    I loved this post and have poured over the details. There is no better story than one told first hand as you have done here… fabulous!!


    (off to sniff some crayons)

  3. God how I hated school Veronique… but you make your experience sound rather lovely. I never quite fitted in and couldn’t wait to leave!
    But having lived in France I can’t speak too highly of the French educational system or French kids. I think that their manners and their outlook on life put most other nationalities to shame.
    Brilliant post as always.

  4. Wow this took me back to my first day of class in France. I was probably around 7…apparently I was a chatter box. All I remember is my teacher’s high heels stomping the wood floor towards me- and a little yank to my hair and that’s all she wrote. I never talked in class again!lol

  5. — g — Thank you, friend. I must say this was a special post to me and I had a great time researching it, then writing it. Glad you enjoyed. Sounds like you are another “etudiante professionnelle,” eh?
    — Genie — Thank you for stopping by. I hope you have recovered from smelling all those crayons (it sounds more harmless than smelling glue, I must say.) Another professional student. What is it with us ladies?
    — Olga — You sound like my brother 😉 Thanks for visiting.
    — Craig — You sound like my brother too 😉 Thank you for your kind comments about French children. I know quite a few French moms who would be proud to read this. I am. 😉
    — Sandy — Consider yourself lucky. The teacher “only” yanked your hair. She could have had you wear “le bonnet d’ane” all day. Yikes. 😉

  6. Such a wonderful post! I wish we Americans would know our geography and history…body and soul.
    “The children you have been entrusted with are French. They must know France, its geography, and its history: its body and its soul.”

  7. Veronique, I am typing this, really quickly before the wifi goes again! Just to let you know I really appreciate your comments and love your blog, I am looking forward to sitting down with a glass of wine and reading all your recent posts, especially your travelogue, which kept appearing in my sidebar, every time I clicked on it the blooming wifi would go again, very frustrating.
    back very soon.

  8. — Virginia — Thank you. Coming from a former elementary teacher, this means a lot.
    — Coastalharp — Thank you for visiting. My son was born in the United States and he studies American history and geography at school (6th grade.) It is my job to teach him about France as well. He is very fortunate to have one foot in each country!
    — Dash — Welcome! Hope your wifi connection improves soon. Let me know what you think about the Nice posts, won’t you? I loved your last story on la Villa Ephrussi de Rotschild. Can’t wait to go and visit next year.

  9. Véronique ma belle!

    J’ai bien aimé cette histoire de l’éducation française. Tu sais, j’enseigne dans une école d’immersion ici à Minneapolis et j’adore mon boulot. Les enfants s’appliquent (bien sûr, il y en a certains qui ne le font pas…:)

    Mais, cette première semaine de la rentrée, je suis vachement CREVÉE!!! Et toi? Tout ira bien car être prof est super. BELLES PHOTOS, BELLE HISTOIRE; je te souhaite une année pleine de PROGRÈS!!! Merci pour être venue chez moi, Anita

  10. — Mariette — Welcome back. Those documents from the French Etat-Civil are amazing. Glad to hear there is also a little bit of French blood running through your veins 😉
    — Anita — Merci pour ton message. Mes cours n’ont pas encore repris et mes eleves (des adultes) sont un peu plus calmes que les tiens! 😉 Ravie que tu aies apprecie mon histoire.
    — Kid in the Front Row — Welcome. You and I have a lot in common. Signed: Another Kid in the Front Row.

  11. This was absolutely delightful to a Francophile. I love your next post too. I travel to France a lot to get my fix and just returned. This time as well as visiting Paris (I have a blog dedicated to her) we drove Normandy and Brittany also, two provinces (?) we’d not yet visited. Loved Normandy especially. So regal and imposing.

    I’ve followed you and hope to read many more posts of yours.


  12. je découvre ton blog à l’instant —amazing— et si je peux me permettre, j’ai envie de commenter “what does not kill you makes you stronger”. et c’est parce que je n’y crois pas que j’ai scolarisé à la maison chacun de mes cinq enfants à un moment ou à un autre (ce qui n’empêche pas les plus grands d’avoir intégré des écoles d’art intéressantes, les arts décoratifs, entre autres). car l’école est en effet trop rigide et castratrice à mon goût, les enfants sont déresponsabilisés, humiliés (obligés de s’asseoir selon l’ordre alphabétique!!!) et soumis à la pression des notes (en sciences humaines, l’évaluation se fait en fonction du groupe et non de la pertinence du travail rendu) et du classement. bref, une entreprise de démolition et non de construction. ainsi que l’avait conclu un prof de maths dubitatif d’environ 30 ans “selon vous il est bien plus important que votre enfant soit bien dans sa peau que vraiment bon en maths? ou ! (je ne saurai jamais si c’était une question ou une exclamation, nevermind!)”.
    désolée, je devais le dire.

  13. — Winterludes — Merci de ta visite. Je t’ai déjà répondu sur ton blog, donc je ne vais pas me répéter ici. Après avoir visité ton blog et vu une sélection de tes créations, je comprends d’où vient le sens créatif de tes enfants! En français, on dit: “Les chats, ne font pas des chiens,” n’est-ce-pas, et tant mieux! Veronique

  14. Wow Veronique, a fascinating and wonderful post, I will be revisiting it, all your hard work and research is much appreciated. The French education system is a very hot topic amongst all my British ex pat friends whose children are currently going through it, the complaints are usually negative, the most common one being the teachers reluctance to teach self expression or ‘thinking outside of the box’. Always good for a lively debate between my French and Ex pat friends around the dinner table!

  15. –Dash. Thank you. I feel honored you have spent so much time reading my posts today (with a glass of wine, it’s true, but still… 😉 Did you read Winterludes’ comment above? She is a French lady, and she has chosen to homeschool her five kids. This alone says a lot about the French education system. Most French people I know here in Seattle have always claimed the school system was better in America. Then again, most of their kids ended up in private schools… No system is perfect, that’s for sure. Veronique

  16. Bonjour, Quel travail de recherche ! Pour moi qui adore découvrir comment les Français sont perçus à l’étranger, leur vie là-bas, ou la vie des anglophones en France, c’est un régal. Stéphanie

  17. First I thought; this is long. Do I have the time to read it now? Then I read… and with great pleasure! Bravo to the author! Of course, my own school life did not take place in France, sp my experience of French schools is more related to my kids … and now my grandkids. My just six-year old (today) grandkid, starts real school next week (of course he has been in some kind of school since 3 or 4 years already); he has got his “cartable” and all the material – what an exitement! Hope that he will be as exited about school also the coming years!

    I appreciated your “history lesson” about the public school system, free education for boys – and girls! I just finished a book about Condorcet (700 pages by E and R Badinter) who already before and during the revolutionary years did a lot in this direction. I learnt a lot! As you say, never stop learning… and blogging is one way!

    Have a nice weekend!

    • Well, Peter, you know me: My posts – especially the old ones – tend to be long. 🙂 Glad you decided to stick around and enjoyed your visit. That book about Condorcet sounds promising. I may have to look it up. Come back soon!

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