Montmartre is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Paris so far. It could be the Sacre Coeur, maybe the slightly hipster feel to it, with cool bars and interesting people, or possibly that its the biggest hill in Paris – aka the closest thing I’ll get to a mountain whilst living here. Regardless, I found myself there again on Saturday, for the joint celebration of my buddy birthday and my own, as well as the yearly weekend long festival celebrating Montmartre and the wine they make there. Montmartre has the only winery still in the city proper.
My buddy Alex and I started off wandering around his neighborhood, an area in the 18th near Barbes-Rochechouart notorious for being scary and dangerous. A lot of immigrants without jobs populate the area, yelling at people and trying to sell stuff, either stolen or knockoff seemingly. Its primo for cheap clothing, but I wouldn’t want to be there alone at night. Although we did find 4 packs of Guinness pints at the supermarket for 2 euro. That’s over a 90 percent saving compared to a Guinness at happy hour, more during normal hours.
The first great thing we saw at the festival was the parade. All sorts of groups were there, from marching bands to farmers to wine-makers, all in costume. But by far the most memorable were the drum lines. I’ll let a video speak for me (speak to about 20 seconds in to start):
We then ate some great food, drank some great wine and kept some great company until the grand event of the evening le feu d’artifices (fireworks). Sitting on the stairs in front of the Sacre Coeur, with champagne, we were treated to the best firework show I’ve ever seen. There was fabulous narration, classical music in the background, and a well planned out show that was epic from start to finish. I’m ashamed to say I’ve never seen fireworks this great, even for the 4th of July. Thanks to the internet for this great picture. I had Sacre Coeur behind me and the fireworks in front, so you can just imagine me in the middle.
While on the subject of Montmartre, I went there this evening to meet with four French moms who live there. I’ll be speaking English with their 12 year old kids once a week to make my lunch money. I met one of them today and he was awesome. I’m excited for the job, and to be required to be in Montmartre once a week.
A few things about French
I’m getting a lot better at French, speaking it, understanding it, reading it, writing it. It helps that I do all of those things, but what helps the most is that I think in French as often as I can. Often, when I have a thought, my first reaction is Comment est-ce qu’on dit ca en Francais? (How would I say that in French). If I don’t know, I write it down and look it up. Same for things I see or hear and don’t understand.
My first thing I’ll share about French is the use of the impersonal subject. You probably didn’t notice, but what I wrote about, while I translated it to I, actually uses the impersonal 3rd person. The French use it all the time. From on verra (we’ll see) to a professor asking est-ce qu’on a d’autre? (does anyone have anything else to add), the French seem to avoid seeing we or you or I as much as possible. We definitely don’t do that in English.
The next is the necessity of adverbs. They are a very important part of speaking like the French. In my grammar class at UPS, we grazed over them for a day or so, but never really used anything other than bien (good). I first noticed the trend here with the seemingly over usage of vraiment. It translates to truly, but one seems to use it to express certainty or passion behind a statement. For example Il vraiment pense qu’il va etre celebre. It is like really in English. It adds a lot of stress to the point. Franchement (frankly) is another good one. I had a whole list but promptly forget by the time I got to writing. In addition, there are tons of adverbs of place, time etc. So they are super important.
One day I’ll understand enough French to talk with French kids my age or sit through a Sorbonne class and truly understand everything. Or close to it. But for now, I work through it day at a time.
Like my favorite person recently told me “Fundamentals are the building blocks of fun.” Once I make it through these adjectives, and tenses, and all the other French quirks slowing me down, then I’ll really have fun with it.
Oh also I ate French onion soup at Cafe de Flore yesterday, a super famous cafe where Sautre, Camus and Beauvoir (among many other famous thinkers and writers) ate and postulated. It was delicious. Beef stock with caramelized onions and croutons, with gruyere and parmesan melted on top. Although they ought to teach Americans how to eat the cheese before handing out year long visas…