Sunday, September 1

I ponder tu vs. vous, baguettes, and other cultural issues and finish getting ready for Normandy.

"Tu" versus "vous". A couple of stories.

We had a substitute prof for a few days. She introduced herself and made quite a point out of saying that we could use "tu" with each other, but not with her. She would use "vous" with us, and we were to always use "vous" with her. Using "tu" with a prof would be an enormous mistake here.

At our first gathering in a bar several weeks ago with some of my classmates, we were all still using "vous" with each other. After a few beers, I said "this is stupid, vous, vous, vous, too complicated, we should use tu". We laughed and have used "tu" ever since.

When I first met Jordi I used "vous". At some point he said something to me and used "tu". So I started using "tu" with him too.

Hard to get used to but not too bad. And we all still make mistakes but everyone understands and it's not a big deal.

Nice to use "tu" with someone. Don't think I've ever done it before. Back home in my classes with other students we used "vous". Hell, we talked to each other in English nearly all the time. Wasn't an issue.

Faire la bise is fun too. Very charming. I used to do it all the time with Robin's relatives because I think it was an inherited tradition from their Eastern European Jewish heritage. Handshake, faire la bis, hug, pat on arm or back? Who knows? Ça depend! I've noticed that faire la bis is mostly done by the women who've lived here in Paris already for some time. With the newbies here not so much, and we mostly just have no idea what to do. The Brazilians prefer pats, hugs, and punching in the shoulder. The Japanese, a firm brief handshake. The Americans and Brits, nothing at all, or maybe a wave hello. Quite amusing, all the cultural differences.

One of the lecturers talked about those cultural differences. Told a funny story about a colleague from Asia, same sex, who wanted to hold hands while walking down Boul St-Michel. "Alors, nous sommes des petits amis maintenant?" Had the audience laughing pretty hard.

Here in Paris I've noticed lots more people walking hand-in-hand, arm-in-arm, arms around shoulders, etc., than we're used to in the States. And faire la bis all the time. Lots of men walking hand-in-hand, but most of them are rather clearly gay. Women walk hand-in-hand quite a bit, and for them it's not necessarily gay. I think. I sound too much like an expert here. I really don't know what I'm talking about. But it's all very fascinating to me.

Pretty much ready for my Normandy trip now. Looked up things to see and where they are located on maps. Have interactive maps of Caen and Cherbourg, and a static map of Bayeux, all of which I can use off-line on my pad as I walk around. Boy scouts - be prepared!

The interactive maps are wonderful. You can zoom in and out with the pinching gesture of course. And tap an icon to show your current location and what direction you're currently pointing the device. Used one for Paris all the time and would have been hopelessly lost without it. Downloaded ones from the same company today for Caen and Cherbourg, but they didn't have one for Bayeux. For Bayeux I just used Google Maps, took a screen shot, annotated it in Pages, converted it to PDF format, and used iTunes to add it to my collection of PDFs in iBook. Sounds harder than it was.

Trying to think. No big MacBook in Normandy. Just the pad. Am I really ready? Anything else I need to get onto the pad? Hmmm. I have to be at Gare Saint Lazare by about 9:30 tomorrow morning, and it's almost 8 pm now. Time to think about last minute details! Getting pretty excited!

Have started packing. Everything will fit in my Armani cartable. Eat your hearts out, girls. Oops, I mean, women.

It is going to feel so strange to speak and hear English when I get back home. Goodnight!

Breakfast. Using up all those eggs.

Fridge now down to milk for the coffee, half a tub of butter, quite a bit of cheese, and half a jar of jam. Guess I'l get some more bread and make grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner tonight and breakfast tomorrow. After that, no more cooking.

Just made a grilled cheese. It was so good I made another. Feeling bloated. On last glass of wine. The cheese is from the fromagerie. Comté âgé 24 mois. Told Jordi I made cheeseburgers with that fine cheese. Should have seen the disgusted look on his face. Love to tease the French.

Someone asked about baguettes and whether they come in different varieties like whole wheat and so on. Yes, they do. Here's more info about baguettes in general.

A regular traditional baguette is called "une baguette de tradition". I usually ask for one of these by name, or a "demi", half of one of these. If you order this, you know what you're getting, because French law defines quite precisely what may be sold under this name. It is one of mankind's greatest creations. We can't get them in Chicago, only pale yucky imitations. In Chicago, you can sell a piece of dog shit and call it a "baguette" if you want to. E.g., if it doesn't start to go stale within a few hours after you buy it, it's not really a "baguette". Additives of any kind are strictly prohibited.

From Wikipedia:

A baguette (/bæˈɡɛt/ French pronunciation: [ba.gɛt], feminine noun) 
is "a long thin loaf of French bread" that is commonly made from 
basic lean dough (the dough, though not the shape, is defined by 
French law). It is distinguishable by its length and crisp crust.

A standard baguette has a diameter of about 5 or 6 centimetres 
(2 or 2⅓ in) and a usual length of about 65 centimetres (26 in), 
although a baguette can be up to a metre (40 in) long.


The "baguette de tradition française" is made from wheat flour, 
water, yeast, and common salt. It does not contain additives, 
but it may contain broad bean flour (max 2%), soya flour (max 0.5%), 
wheat malt flour (max 0.3%).[8] Standard baguettes however may 
contain a certain number of additives.[9] Depending on those used 
either in the original flour or those added separately to the bread 
ingredients, a baguette — or any other French bread — may not be 
considered vegan or kosher.

It's amazing. Every meal in every restaurant is accompanied by this bread. You just rip off a chunk with your fingers and eat it plain. No butter or anything else. Doesn't need it. That good.