Sunday, 30 March 2008

Le Renard et l'enfant at le Denfert

Okay, from my posts, you can see I've seen a lot of movies this week (not to mention the fabulous opera, Le Temps des Gitanes). Today was no exception. I had been wanting to see this movie about a girl who befriends a fox for some time, and we finally had the chance.

What an enchanting movie it is! The beautiful nature footage is as compelling as the storyline. The main character is a ten year old girl who lives in a most beautiful region of France (and Italy as it were because some of the footage was taken there). She spends hours of her days outdoors in prairies and forests. After seeing a fox, she is compelled to find it, and later, befriend it. Trying to connect to the fox actually takes a few seasons, and finally, slowly they "tame" each other. (I have to say, it kind of reminded me of the Little Prince's taming of the fox in Antoine de St. Exupery's story. I wonder if the story was inspired from this?)

The fox and girl spend many days adventuring together in the great wild, and danger is often close at hand. We often wondered where the parental supervision was, but were secretly glad those potentially pesky parents left her alone to discover the stunning and unpredictable world of nature that she enters. The kids were on the age of their seats. I won't spoil the ending to this movie as I have in the past. I do recommend it highly for people of all ages.

We viewed the movie at le Denfert in the 14th. This little theatre shows about 17 diverse films a week, all in the same room. Here is an example of what can be seen this week: La graine et le mulet, Caramel, Persepolis, La vie des autres, Jours d'hiver, Ratatouille, etc. And most are in their version originale, so if you want to see Into the wild in English, there you go. The theatre is entered by going down steps and entering the lower level, or you can go up a few steps and watch from the balcon. We found the seats very comfortable and the theatre clean. I love these little Parisian cinemas!

A day in Bois de Bologne

We had a one day reprieve from the bad weather, and we headed to the Bois de Bologne for some fresh air and a birthday party.

My daughter and I rented a couple of bikes (5 Euros an hour each, or 4 hours for 10 Euros each), and rode around the trails for an hour. It was great to bike along the scenic route on a very flat path. Be sure to bring along a map if you do go for a ride (or a walk) as the many paths can be confusing.

Meanwhile, my son was shooting targets and riding rides at the Jardin d'Acclimation (inside the Bois de Bologne) with his buddies. We met up with him and rode a few rides ourselves.

Kids' pics of Notre Dame

"It's every girl's dream to visit Paris!"

My little niece who gushed these words was visiting us this week, and the heat was on (not weather wise, as it was damp and rainy). She had such high expectations of Paris; I was already worried about her disappointment. Not that Paris isn’t wonderful, it’s just that when a 10 year old arrives with such big expectations, there’s no way it can measure up, I figured. But I was wrong.

I greeted little A at the airport, and without having much sleep, she was full of questions. “How do you say `I would like a vanilla ice cream cone, please’?” she would ask, and then would quickly jot down the answer in her journal/ self made dictionary, along with many other entries. “Merci beaucoup, Madame,” she could be heard saying when interacting with French women (and with me- very darling).

People seemed to really appreciate that she was speaking French, and she received a lot of positive attention and goodwill from people. She is now among the artists to have a painting hanging in a café in Montmartre. Waiters charmed her as she charmed them.

While touring the Louvre, A, along with her brother and cousins, was intensely involved in drawing a sphinx as well as an Egyptian tomb. They copied some hieroglyphics off of a mummy case.

From their home, A and her family had done their homework. They knew what they wanted to see, had practiced saying things like “please”, “thank you” and “excuse me” and brought books like The Louvre up close which had the kids looking for fun details in paintings.

Even A’s little brother loved Paris. While sitting in a café with the awning separating him from the drizzle, little F. belted out over his chocolat chaud “I love France!” No dampened spirits here.

This family has done its share in promoting Franco-American relations. And more importantly, Paris lived up to the very heady dreams of a 10 year old girl.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Double Feature

I got hit with a nostalgic craving for a good old fashioned kid movie. The weather was gloomy, and I’d been wanting to take the kids to a show. Today was the day. I was in luck, there was a double feature at 5:35 showing on rue Strasburg at L’Archipel for le Ballon Rouge and Crin Blanc.

The theater itself was a throwback in time. The screen looked half the size it normally is, as if the screen weren’t pulled down completely. There was what appeared to be a stage under the screen. On this stage, there was a piano covered with a red velvet cloth. There may have been 15 rows of seats in the theatre, intimate. When the vendeur finally came down, we bought our tickets and entered the queer little theatre.

Soon, the crackling movie started. Crin Blanc was actually going to be the first up. I hoped it wasn’t going to be very scary or sad, because I really had no idea about this one, something about a boy befriending a horse. It’s billed as a movie without dialogue, but there was indeed a bit of dialogue that I would relay to the children. I kept thinking that since my daughter couldn’t get through The Adventures of Milo and Otis (the slow paced pug and cat story) because she was so sad, I wasn’t sure how she was going to react to this.

It was totally a simple, French 1950’s film, like I was hoping for. The boy has been watching the wild horses of Camargue when he notices some cowboys have rounded them up. All except one, and that is Crin Blanc (White Mane), who fights an ongoing battle to remain wild. The young boy is able to earn the trust of the horse and they become friends. So you have the bad guys- the cowboys, the good guys- the horse and the kid. The region of Camargue is quite scenic and some of the scenes with the horses racing through tall grasses , dunes and the marsh are quite stunning at times. Although simple in its story line, as a spectator you are completely sucked into the plot and it is even thrilling. Of course my kids and I don’t see many movies, so this was like an adventure film for us, and we all quite liked it. To avoid a totally sad ending, the narrator states that the boy and horse swim off to a land where horses and “man” are friends.

Right away, the second film begins, Le Ballon Rouge (the Red Balloon) which is a whimsical story of a boy that “sets free” and “befriends” a balloon . I had been wanting to see le Ballon Rouge for years now, knowing it was vaguely about a boy, a balloon and scenes of Paris. Kind of like Crin Blanc, but with a balloon. The balloon hovers outside the classroom when the boy is in school, and it flies just out of the reach of the mean neighborhood boys who try to steal and stone the balloon. It even flies along behind a bus (the cool old style buses that were open in the back), when the conductor tells the boy the balloon can’t come aboard. There is great footage of a Paris gone by, as it shows the streets of Belleville and Menilmontant as they once were, complete with Citroens and schoolchildren in old fashioned outfits.

I don’t know if the film is supposed to be allegorical, but when the balloon finally is stamped to its death, instead of being a sad moment, something quite joyous happens. The liberation of all the balloons in Paris takes place, which is fun to see. You see two blue balloons flying out of two tiny twin’s hands donning red coats. Balloons work their way out of those chambre de bonne windows in the roofs of apartment buildings. They all get together and surround the boy and you can almost feel the joy of the boy surrounded by so many colorful balloons . He fashions them all together, and then he is lifted into the sky where he floats above the same skyline that began the movie. Again, kind of like Crin Blanc, one disappears at sea, and the other, in the sky.

In all, they were both fun films to see, as well as cinema classics. My children enjoyed the films, especially le Ballon Rouge because the balloon had taken on a mischevious personality that they (and I) could relate to.

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Easter Sunday or career day in Paris

Okay, it wasn't an original idea, Notre Dame on Easter Sunday. But with our visiting family we made the Pilgrimmage, hopping on the RER and popping out at the Notre Dame. We saw a huge crowd out front, which I assumed was just passing tourist groups. It turns out that the big crowd all had the same idea, "hey let's do Notre Dame for Easter," they WERE all waiting in line to get in. A closer look revealed that there were actually two lines, one for mass and one to just visit. So when the time came, we smugly walked toward the front and were practically carried in a wave of pushing to the entrance doors.

The 11:30 mass began at 11:45 which is never good with four kids. My sister-in-law smartly snatched up the first two seats she saw. I tried to find more, but the church filled up in a matter of a few minutes. The number of people was slightly disturbing. Even the outer rim which is usually tourists only was thick with people wanting to participate in the service. You better believe that the collection baskets also made it to this outer level. The mass followed the usual international format, songs in Latin and French, readings in English, French and German and prayers in all the above plus Spanish. The choir sounded beautiful, and the organ music was ominous. We thought it would take days to get communion, but it turned out that they launched out a number of communion distributors, so before we knew it, there was someone seven feet away passing out communion which Q said was his favorite host so far in France.

We spent time in the park next to Notre Dame where the kids had a good time playing together and seeing the "invisible man". We also spotted a choir girl having a smoke between masses. It looked hilarious, her innocent look with the blue choir robe against the backdrop of the Notre DAme and the smoke going to and fro furiously from her lips.

We then headed to the Pompidou Center where more street performers entertained us. Come to think of it, the invisible man wasn't really a performer, as he just sat there. Easy money. But silver man and the fortune teller at Pompidou worked a little harder for their money, doing little sprite like dances or translating fortunes into several languages.

Later, after a lively Easter dinner with much of Sean's family, the kids took it to the streets to see if they could make a few Euros entertaining people. Of course our neighborhood is kind of quiet, but between the diablo juggling and harmonica playing (and the impish look of the children), they managed to make 2 and a half Euros in a matter of minutes. This is the kind of thing that might have us be the proud parents of a magician and circus geek in the next decade.

A great day in all, and the kids were happy that the French "Easter bells" had hidden eggs about the house. Easter in France was pretty cool after all.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Culinary Patrimoine?

Why the big controversy over Sarkozy’s proposition that French food be part of UNESCO’s cultural heritage? No one would argue that French cuisine isn’t one of the first things people think of when conjuring up France. I mean, come on, it’s the country of countless cheeses, boeuf bourgignon, savory sauces often made with regional produce, tarte aux pommes, soufflé au chocolat. Need I go on? The cuisine ranks up there with the tricolor flag, the Revolution and the Loire Valley. More likely the difficulty lies in the fact that cuisine is not really a site or monument, and if France’s cuisine qualifies, why not that of India or Brésil?

From UNESCO's website:
“One of UNESCO's mandates is to pay special attention to new global threats that may affect the natural and cultural heritage and ensure that the conservation of sites and monuments contributes to social cohesion.”

I couldn’t agree more that France’s cuisine is a part of its heritage and that there are indeed threats to this cuisine, be they global, national or at a community level. While I love France and her cuisine, where I differ from Sarkozy is that I think all or most countries have this patrimoine or heritage. Think New Orleans’s Jambalaya, Spanish Paella, Indian Saag hcoley, Texas or Cincinnati chili, German sauerbraten, even if they don't make your mouth water as perhaps a mousse au chocolat might.

If these cuisines from all over the globe are threatened, perhaps communities, and not just nations, could apply for UNESCO aid. The aid could be in the form of money being set aside for local chefs or volunteers to give classes on regional cooking.

In a way, this is what is being done right now here in Paris, and other cities throughout France. As part of the Accueil des Villes Françaises (AVF), members can join groups that meet to explore the city, see movies together, play tennis or bridge, and many more interesting activities. The AVF in Paris is largely a francophone group, but it does provide language conversation classes for those interested in practicing English, French and Spanish. And finally, one of the best kept secrets of Paris is the AVF’s French cooking classes. One Thursday a month the smallish group, no more than 6 people, meets at a volunteer’s home. It is in the person’s kitchen that we see, taste and learn the culinary heritage of France. Among the tasty delights we’ve had privy to include magret de canard, medallions de veau, salade des endives, and a fluffy rich dessert called vacherin.

In fact, I think culinary heritage is not the only thing being regained through the AVF. It gives people a sense of community and a sense of place which can be elusive, especially in such a technologically advanced age. It brings people together to learn about a city or region’s cultural, culinary and recreational heritage.

So I say to President Sarkozy, go ahead and apply for a UNESCO heritage protection for French cuisine. But let’s not reserve this opportunity for France alone, but any country or region that feels threatened by loss of culture, be it culinary, artisanal or otherwise. And let it happen through community organizations like the AVF which provides a structure that brings people together to learn about their heritage, as well as to have fun.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

C'mon get happy!

Where's the big happy Partridge bus when you need it? We have the Partridge family coming into town for a reunion, or maybe it's the Brady Bunch, I'm not sure. We have the two squeaky clean, smart, talented and daring (not to mention darling) parents who have decided to leave their rich, carefully laid out existence in Cincinnati and take the tour on the road to the city of Lights. Greg, Marcia, Jan, Cindy and Bobby are now grown with their own children. Peter is gay and living in the Marais, despite the facade of a beautiful wife, and definitely a colorful element in the Parisian tour. During the tour, there are some out of town gigs planned for Brussells, Luxembourg and the Normandy coast. You can be sure that this musical family will be singing Jacques Brel in French and English along the way.

There will be mishaps along the way as the family can't quite find the right song to sing for the "war tour" of the Normandy coast. Greg insists on singing Jim Morrison's "THis is the End" while Marcia wants to sing Peter Paul and Mary's "Blowin' in the Wind". Of course, Peter has them blend the songs in a showtune medley sort of way. Also, in the confusion of scheduling and picking up people for different parts of the tour, Cindy and her daughter Mrs. B get left at the airport for three days.

But in true Partridge or Brady style, the parents give thanks for the mishaps, realizing that it's the hard times that really pull them together as a family. "Yes," they tell the grandchildren, "it's not about the hot flaky croissants, or the thrilling ride up the Eiffel Tower's elevator, or the big red bus tour, or even the hot chocolate at Angelina's; no, it's about trying to ask for directions in French, and waiting patiently while a stranger tries repeatedly to correct your pronunciation of "rue" instead of giving you an answer. Yes, little ones, this is what this is all about."

Marcia is still mad at Jan, however because the mime in front of the Pompidou Center chose Jan to be a part of his show. Marcia said it was because Jan pushed her way to the front of the crowd. None of this matters, however, because soon it is discovered that Bobby's son, Bobby, is climbing the supports of the Pompidou Center.

The family's finale is a gig where the family performs a fundraiser to build a writer's wing onto the American Library. Peter encourages the family to end with
"I think I Love You" in honor of his "friend" that he has been "hooking up with" at the library "to write". In all, the tour is a success, the family all returns to their corners of the world, happy from shared experiences, and happier still to have a bathroom all to themselves.

Imagine killing your favorite author

It has been speculated for years that the Little Prince author, Antoine de St. Exupéry was shot down in his plane by German WWII pilot Horst Rippert in July of 1944. His disappearance remained a mystery, although artifacts have been discovered over the years that included a piece of St.Exupéry’s plane as well as a bracelet that bore the name of his wife and his publishing company.

This week, all the evidence came together with an admission from Rippert.* Rippert himself had suspected for years he may have been the one to take St. Exupéry’s plane down on that fateful mission on July 31st, 1945. Rippert was not happy to have shot down St. Exupéry’s plane that took its last flight from Corsica in a reconnaissance mission. In fact, he admitted that had he known it was St. Exupéry, he wouldn’t have done it. St. Exupéry was one of his favorite authors. He was an author and pilot most known for his book, le Petit Prince, which while not as autobiographical as his other works, does begin with a pilot stranded in the desert which he himself had been in 1935 after his aircraft went down in the Saharan desert. In the story, a little prince appears to the pilot seemingly out of nowhere in the desert requesting a drawing of a sheep.

Through the Little Prince’s adventures to different planets, Saint Exupéry makes fun of what is often held as important in the world- amassing wealth, prestige, and power, as he watches adults perform tasks that he perceives to be meaningless. The Little Prince observes, “Grown-ups love figures. When you tell them that you have made a new friend, they never ask you any questions about essential matters. They never say to you, “What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies?” Instead, they demand: “How old is he? How many brothers has he? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father make?” Only from these figures do they think they have learned anything about him.”

The Little Prince realizes the importance of the simpler things like watching sunsets and caring for his rose (despite her thorns). He realizes, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

Can you imagine being the guy who downed the author of the Little Prince? I kind of feel for Rippert. But that’s war. You may be destroying one of your favorite authors, or her/his children, or an entire civilization, or a researcher who was close to finding a cure for cancer, or the neighborhood crazy. I guess that’s why we have to demonize the enemy, so that the killing “makes sense”. Propaganda is a necessary tool to lead people to believe that the enemy is not human, and a threat to our own lives, and thus, needs to be wiped out.

I’ll stop my ranting with one final Little Prince quote. “To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world…”

*See for original article and additional information.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Not so cushy couchettes

There were a couple of surprises upon taking the night train to Paris from the Alps. We had couchettes, which meant our tickets included little bunk beds to sleep on during the ride that began in Aime at 21:50 and ended in Paris the next morning at 6:20.

I had assumed a couple of things about our tickets and the couchettes. I assumed there were only four beds to a room, thus we'd have the compartment to ourselves. No one told me this, it is something I thought I remembered from having taken a night train sometime maybe twenty years prior. So the first surprise is that there are 6 beds to a tiny space. "This must be what it was like for the astronauts," I thought.

Next, I realized that all four of our tickets weren't even in the same compartment. Dang. We had to split the family up. We were a couple of rooms apart, but we would make do.

I almost forgot a third surprise. A family had hunkered down in our couchettes, but thankfully, they scampered when they realized they didn't have the tickets to be there. I was grateful that a train steward (although reeking of alcohol) came by to verify everyone's tickets.

At the next stop, I switched my couchette which was to be the top bunk with a friendly chap who came on board so that I might be closer to my son. Later on, a trio of snowboarder dudes dropped off their baggage and equipment, despite the fact there were only two beds left. (There was already someone tucked in on the right top bunk when we arrived. He was watching a film on this laptop.) For the next couple of hours, these dudes kept coming in and out of the cabin rooting through their things. I was quite annoyed.

Soon after, I reached for my purse that I tucked between my head and the wall, but it went missing. I checked all over my bed, but nothing. Thank goodness the "dudes" weren't around right then, or I may have accused and cursed them. I felt around some more and noticed that there was a big section of my bed missing (about one third). I got up and was panicked about my purse (having just had my wallet pinched the week before in a cafe in Paris). I looked on my son's bed below me. Sure enough, there was my purse, right next to the door, and not too far from the third of my bed that had fallen down onto my son's bed. I tried to push it out of his way as best I could (there was no getting it back up to my level).

I then began my light slumber in which I dare not turn over for I would fall of the bed because of the fallen part. It was like sleeping on a plank. It seems that I was asleep only 10 minutes when we arrived at Gare d'Austerlitz, but it must have been more, and I felt alright. It was a little tricky evacuating 6 people with lots of gear from the little room. We had to cooperate and take turns moving which was kind of getting to me.

I'm still amazed that six normal sized bodies (not midgets or hobbits), as well as luggage and snowboards, were all able to fit in about a 7 x 7 x 10 foot cube, and spend over 8 hours together. Only in France. It wasn't quite like in the picture above, but it was sort of cozy. In a creepy sort of a way.

(Picture from

Monday, 10 March 2008

Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis

I succumbed to the fervor. I had to find out first hand what kind of film this was that appealed to everyone between the ages of 7 and 70. It had a fraction of the budget of Asterix et les Jeux Olympiques, while it was quadrupling it in the number of spectators. It was being compared to a Louis Funès film, La Grande Vadrouille, which I'm told is a not-to-be-missed classic, which is itself compared with Jerry Lewis films.

Indeed, the film was quite silly, taking a lot of its humor from a poke at the North of France, where the main character has been transfered, to his horror. In this Northern town of Bergues, the residents have a strange speech pattern, to which the main character, Philippe, mistakes as a speech impediment. It is difficult for me to catch 100% of the dialogue in a French film, but with the added /ch/ sound where normally an /s/ sound should come out, I was about at 65-70% comprehension. For example, "C'était le sien" would come out of a Berguesian mouth as "chétait le chien", which of course creates comical mishaps. Thankfully, in this sort of slapstick film, all the dialogue need not be understood. However, the cast did a fine job of speaking in this unusual fashion.

Overall, it was an amusing film, both in the story line, as well as the poke at French regional stereotypes. Additionally, it is a fun film to see at the cinema because the audience was loud with laughter, some even launching forward out of their seats with a sudden burst of giggles. In all, chétait un achez bon film.

Final scenes of Tunisia

Tunisia was a mix of Italy, Florida and Mexico to me. The green hills and groves of olive trees could have been in Tuscany. The ever present orange, which we often had fresh squeezed, as well as the strips of white one story buildings was reminiscent of Florida. The warmth of the people, the enthusiasm for soccer, and the readiness to negociate at the markets took me back to Mexico.

Here is a parting look at Tunisia:

A litte bit of Tuscany

There were several carloads of men and boys riding crazily on the highway heading to a big soccer match between to Tunisian teams, sitting on the edges of the windows while flying their team's flag.

Q and M wouldn't get near the camel fearing it would spit at them.

These were a couple of nice folks whose restaurant we frequented. They gave us a big bag of oranges the day before we left.

View from the hotel.

Dates growing in a tree.

Being different

We stood out in Tunisia. Having two blonde haired kids attracted a lot of attention. Most of the time our daughter was okay with the cheek pinching and hair patting. One of the strongest reactions was from a carload of teenage girls who pulled up next to us in the tourbus. They saw our kids, and pointed, smiled and laughed. Next a carload of teenage boys did the same. Our kids seemed to enjoy the attention.

Even though we didn't like how the vendors demanded we enter their stores, it was fun to hear them guess where we were from. We had many people guess us as German, Swiss, Norwegian, Russian, English, French and Austrian. I would say yes, whenever they got close. For example, is someone would say "Schweiss?", I would say "yah" because technically, my name being Schweitzer, along the way someone had indeed come from Switzerland. I have to say that at no point did anyone guess American or Irish. Not a lot of Americans visit the area. We felt special even though we pretended to be Canadian at times.

Sidi Bou Said

Sidi Bou Said is a beautiful town set on a lush hillside perched over the Gulf of Tunis and the Mediterranean Sea. A resident has opened up his house to give the tourist a look at a typical home in the area and in return he is earning money for a restoration.


Carthage was a grand Phoenician civilization until it was destroyed by the Romans over a four year span. I have to say, I don’t think that all that dang baby sacrificing to the gods early on in their history helped the Phoenicians out- they were wiped out all the same. Come to think of it, if those babies had become Phoenician citizens, maybe they could have held their own against the invaders. The Romans later rebuilt Carthage and it again became a glorious and important port. Ruins from both civilizations can be seen today. Modern day Carthage is a gorgeous area, surrounded by the Mediterranean, the Lake of Tunis and mountains in the distance.

Hammamet and The Bardo

Hammamet is a pretty area with a promenade along the Mediterranean. Its medina is enclosed within fortified walls, which made it even more maze-like and thus more difficult to get to the outside where there were no venders. Now, I'm not totally anti-capitalist, but I'd rather not purchase items from people blocking my path and telling me to enter their stores, one after another.

The Bardo was a palace turned museum near Tunis that specialized in mosaics as well as archaeological artifacts. Some "early man" artifacts at the Bardo.

A tile in the likeness of Jesus from 400 A.D.

Thursday, 6 March 2008


I've always wondered what North Africa was like. I had met Algerians and Tunisians years ago in Paris, and they'd tell me about their beautiful country and share some of the regional music with me. One of the advantages of living in Paris, is having the continent of Africa nearby. It was but a 2 1/2 hour flight to Tunis.

First Impressions of Tunisia
Blue Skies
Palm Trees
Friendly People
Distant Mountains
Olive Groves
Sheep in Green Patches
Women Stooped in a Field
Goats on a Slope
A Lone Sheep Tied to the Guardrail

Medina of Tunisia
Labyrinthine streets.
Storekeepers beckoning.
Deutch, Francais, Anglais? Norwegien? All an effort to better entice you.
Colorful tunics, sequined slippers, not so essential oils, pottery, carpets, fezzes.
Where is the way out? You seem to just get sucked further and further in.
Stop and snack on nut balls. Tasty. Eventually the nearby traders leave us alone as we huddle around our snack.
We find our way back to the opening of the medina. Open space. Sunshine. No venders.

Tunisians react to Maggie and QuinnWaiters won’t let her pass at the restaurant, with smiles on their faces.
Her head is patted twelve times in one day.
A carload of teenage girls, and another of teenage boys smile and point at Q and M.
Policeman makes quick movement in a crowd to come over and pat M on the head.
A waiter comes up to her at dinner and make animal sounds in her ear.

Saturday, 1 March 2008


One of the reasons I chose Plagne 1800 for our ski destination was a picture in the catalogue of a nice family eating a hot meal. This lodging included an option of having dinner and breakfast as part of the package, and I knew that after a day of panic-stricken skiing, I would want to belly up to a tasty meal without having to cook. After having had Tartiflette, a tasty potato, cheese and ham dish early in the week, I was hoping that a dinner choice would include Raclette at some point in our stay.

As I read the menu board our last evening, I was delighted to see Raclette aux trois fromages on the menu. This is one of those French traditions that hasn’t really caught on in the U.S. I was happy to have my whole family experience Raclette, because it was too hard for me to explain, and to truly appreciate the idea, it had to be tasted. The very friendly servers explained the procedure: get a plate, choose some thinly sliced meats and/or boiled potatoes (and perhaps pickles?), then approach the three offerings of raclette: raw milk, smoked and goat’s cheese. It was an interesting set up. The half rounds of cheese were placed under a heat source which toasted and melted the cheese. Enter the plate of meat and potatoes. The raclette is then angled toward the plate and the server scrapes off a layer of the tangy pungent almost liquid cheese that is nicely browned. I was so psyched, and had a bit of all the cheeses on my potatoes and charcuterie. It’s definitely not a quick way of serving a crowd. People waited in line with their hot potatoes, meat and gherkins, to be topped with the hot oozing cheese of their choice.

It was a wonderful way to end our happy week of skiing. I have to say I was a little choked up (and not because of all that cheese) at saying goodbye to the warm and friendly staff as well as some of the people we’d met. Another little something JP Sartre would have agreed to: Hell is meeting other people, growing to like them, and then saying goodbye, knowing you’ll probably never see them again.

Adieu les Alpes.