Questions and Answers

By Diane Condon-Boutier

Here are questions and answers that have come up recently.

And if you have your own questions, go here to ask them, or to comment on any of the questions and answers below.
• How do you say someone is beautiful in French?
• Is it worth going to Paris for the day?
• I want to study French this summer in France. Where do I start?
• Which is the best city in France to study French during the summer?
• Which country should I visit, Germany or France?
• What is the weather like in Paris in April?
• How much would it cost for two to travel to Paris for about 2 weeks?
• What is it like living in France?
• Do you tip a tourguide/ bus driver in France?
• What do you recommend for a seaside holiday in the south of France?
• What presents should I buy my host family when I go to France for an exchange program?
• What's the best way to get from Orly Airport to Charles de Gaulle Airport?
• How many days should my family plan on spending at Disneyland Paris?
• What are the advantages to learning French?
• Why do the French love Edgar Allan Poe so much?
• What are the special cities in Haute Normandie?
• Do I need a voltage converter for my electronics?
• Tell me about Le Quartier Latin?

How do you say someone is beautiful in French?


Are you saying this to someone who's a native French speaker? A young person? If so, for a woman, I've had a variety of phrases used on myself, some of which are more memorable than others. such as:

T'es très belle = You're very beautiful T'es magnifique = You're magnificent Qu'est-ce que t'es belle!= How beautiful you are! (rather common phrase by the way) Tu es jolie= You're pretty T'es une belle femme= You're a beautiful woman (but means more like: you're an attractive specimen...also quite common)

Vary your answers, "Tu es très belle", becomes a bit boring after awhile, and I'm thinking you're looking for some maximum effect....?


Is it worth going to Paris for the day?


Mais oui (or heck yes)! A chance to visit any city for even 6-8 hours is worth it, IF you're prepared when you get there.

Get yourself a map of the city center, with underground lines on it and plan what you'd like to see either during your train trip or beforehand. Map out your day in a logical geographic order.

It's reasonable to visit two museums, or a museum and a tourist spot, shop a bit and have dinner during your time. Determine what you want to see.

Trying to see the Louvre in one day is unrealistic and even insufferable. If you want to visit it, good, but find out what sections contain what you want to see and do those specific sections. Spend no more than two hours, and you'll understand that you need to return at a later date to do another section. Same goes for the Musée d'Orsay. Maybe try a smaller museum such as the Rodin museum. I loved that one.

Note that lots of museums are closed on Tuesdays, since they're open on weekends. Avoid going on Tuesday or check opening times on the internet before you book. Wednesdays are days off for school kids. There will be kids everywhere on outings. Try Thursday?

Want some lively, tourist area stuff without a museum as such? Try the Montmartre area with the Sacré Coeur basilica. Greatest views of Paris aside from the Eiffel tower. It's free! Don't forget to wander about in the streets to the left side of the church, (when you look at the front doors, turn left), such as around the Place du Tertre.

Go inside Notre Dame Cathedral. Fabulous architecture, and nice stained glass windows, and also free! From there, take a walk along the Champs Elysées and window shop, people ogle, and eat dinner somewhere in that vicinity.

Leave and get your train home. Once on the train, take off your shoes, rest and scan all the photos you took, then plan your next trip back. Enjoy!


I want to study French this summer in France. Where do I start?

Why not try being an aupair person for the summer? Granted it's not terribly rewarding pay or intellectually stimulating BUT you'll get to speak lots of French and maybe make some friends in the area you choose.

Check out any number of organizations which deal in finding families and workers for the summer. Or you could look at the "Alliance Francaise" which organizes summer programs for students wishing to learn French. Not sure about the cost, but they have host families who take students. Good luck!


Which is the best city in France to study French during the summer?


Toulouse is a university city, and geared to young people, but during the summer, classes are out. There isn't a summer session like in the states. It's also in the south, so nice and sunny an ... hot. Not too awfully far from the Mediterranean, you could have weekends at the beach.

Nice is completely tourist driven, and Paris migrates there for July and August. Everything useless about Parisians and Paris will be multiplied by 1000 there. But then again I'm not 19.....

Another university town, inhabited by real French people is Nantes. It does not fold up for the summer and is also near the Atlantic beaches and about 3 hours from Paris by train, so you could do some of both. It is also MUCH, MUCH cheaper to survive in than Nice which is superbly overpriced in the summer.

Just some things to take into consideration. I too, albeit long ago, was a student looking to improve my French over the summer and I ended up in Rouen, also a cool city, more historic, (but you won't be able to escape history anywhere you go it Eurpoe, cause let's face it, it's old!!) Have a smashing time, you'll meet tons of people and maybe end up living here for good. That's what I did!


Which country should I visit, Germany or France?


While Germany is no doubt a lovely country, France is my choice.

The scenery is fabulous and the variety of climates, regions, scenery and mini-cultures is amazing for such a small country. Hop in your car, drive 4 hours from wherever you happen to be, and you've got a completely different vista in front of your eyes.

And the food is wonderful. The freshest ingredients, lovely fruits and vegetables, great cheese, perfect crusty bread, high quality meats and seafood. Not to mention lovely wines.

The people are very nice, IF you make the effort to learn a few phrases in French and try and communicate with them first in their language, and they'll be happy to speak what English they know with you, and voilà! cultural communication is bridged!

The history of France is very rich and varied. There's so much to do and see here. Everywhere you turn, a castle sits nestled around the next bend in the road.

Nice mild climate, not a lot of snow, (except this freaky year, of course) and lovely beaches. What more could you ask for? Enjoy your next visit!


What is the weather like in Paris in April?


What a lucky person! Paris in April is likely to be sunny and drizzly, cool and warm. Not the answer you were hoping for, but keep up your spirits!

If you're having 0°, you're in for a treat. This past week in Normandy, about 2 hours north of Paris we've had a temperature swing from 73°F back down to 55°F or 20°C back down to 10°C. It was sunny, then drizzly, then warm, then cool.

Soooo, what to pack clothing wise? No flip flops or bare legged sun dresses, BUT you can throw in a few light weight tops as well as a sweater or two. You will want to do the layering thing, that you can add on or take off as need be.

But, you can leave your really heavy winter coat home. A spring trench type coat will get you by if you have a warmer sweater under it.

And don't forget a small umbrella that you can slip in your purse or backpack, or your sunglasses!


How much would it cost roughly for two to travel to Paris for about 2 weeks?


Sounds wonderful, yet are you certain that you want to simply stay in Paris itself for 2 weeks? There's so much to do elsewhere and if you purchase a rail pass for at least part of your stay, you be able to include fabulous extras like the Loire River valley castles, the invasion beaches in Normandy, the Mont St Michel, the Riviera, and so many other sites too numerous to count.

If you're interested, go to my B&B page and have a look at the travel service outlined there for some time in Normandy and the Atlantic coast, and the Loire river valley. The prices are outlined pretty clearly for a circle type trip with me as your guide in a private car, staying in my B&B accomodations.

There are some Parisian hotel suggestions as well.

The air fare is much cheaper by the way if you fly into Frankfurt or Brussels and then use your handy rail pass to bring you into Paris.


What is it like living in France? What are the people like? The culture? What money do they use? Things to watch out for? What are the major attractions? What are the main industries? Is it a good place to go to learn about interior design?


The people are friendly enough if YOU make an effort to learn their language, and to try and fit in with their lifestyle. Of course the welcome you'll be shown will vary depending on where in France you are, whether it's a very large city: Paris, Lyon or Marseille, or a smaller one. Think of New York City compared to Orlando for example. Very different.

They use the Euro (€) which is worth about $1.40 just now.

Things to watch out for: big city = higher percentage of shady characters like every big city.

Major attractions? France is FULL of historical places of interest. If you're interested in history, architecture, the arts, and simply beautiful scenery, France is a fabulous place to visit. It's been called the "carrefour des civilsations" or the crossroads of civilisations and it is. A huge melting pot of different nationalities and cultures. Very cosmopolitan. And, just imagine looking out of a bus window and seeing a 16th century castle complete with drawbridge, moats, etc looming up from a field unexpectedly. Or walking across a stone bridge and realizing that Richard the Lionhearted walked on those same stones. Mind boggling! You'll find that here.

Culture? Well everything! Fashion, excellent food, art museums,(and you can go to the sites you see depicted in the paintings you see, now that's a rush!), music, theater, ballet, you name it, Paris has it.

Main industries: everything from metallurgie, agriculture, fishing, I.T. technology, aerospace industry, to tourism. France is the European country which boasts the highest number of foreign visitors per annum.

And YES! France is a wonderful place to go to learn about interior design. France has always been a leader in avant garde fashion, and design of every sort.


Do you tip a tourguide/ bus driver in France?


Yes, tour guides and bus drivers, not the public transport bus drivers, mind you, but if you have a bus driving you around for your own group needs, they expect a small tip, but keep it small. From a student 50 cents (euro cents) is enough.

A waitress should get about 1€ per person, and your tour guide, the same, if they're with you for a substantial amount of time, like a guided tour lasting over an hour. Otherwise drop it back down to 50c.

In a café, a drink merits a tip of just 10 cents, no more! Don't forget, in France, everybody earns at least minimum wage, has 5 weeks of paid vacation per year and full medical/life and retirement insurance. They do not live off of your tips, including the wait staff. (This is so not the case in the States!)


What do you recommend for a seaside holiday in the south of France?


Biarritz, St Jean de Luz, Noirmoutier (not as far south but a lovely island where you'll be safe with fabulous beaches! Much less expensive than the Riviera and the weather is hot and sunny!)

Definitely not Marseille! It can be a dangerous city. Do be careful though and watch the movie "Taken" with Liam Neeson, at least you'll be aware of the worst case scenario....

Have fun and stay in a group, never let a girl go off with a guy alone, ever, under any circumstances...



What presents should I buy my host family when I go to France for an exchange program?


Any type of fashion jewelery or a cute wooly scarf (unless you're going to the Riviera) for the girl, or a CD of your favorite music from the UK.

And for the boy, any little souvenir thingie from your specific area, and or a t-shirt from London or other London souvenir stuff, like pens.

Bring along a couple of bags of Walkers flavored crisps, like the chicken ones, the French think they're really unusual and tasty. The crisps in France have finally moved on from plain to vinegar flavored, so some exotic ones will be a surprise that everybody can enjoy.


What is the best way to get from Orly Airport to Charles de Gaulle Airport?


There's a shuttle bus that links the two airports together. Go onto the website for Aeroports de Paris and you should find the info regarding the pickup spots, cost and estimated travel times.

You can take a taxi which could be quicker depending on the traffic and that depends on what time of day and what day of the week and what time of the year you're travelling....it will obviously cost more.

Good luck, and next time try and spend some time in Paris, at least overnight, it's a fabulous city!


How many days should my family plan on spending at Disneyland Paris?


Disneyland in Paris is much less expensive than in the States, but also MUCH smaller! You'll enjoy two days there at the most... more would be boring and a waste of your precious time in France.

Most people would say skip it altogether, but I'm a big fan of Disneyland and go there a couple times a year - but just for the day. It does seem a shame to come all the way over here and then re-immerse yourselves in such a typically American thing for a long period of time.

Limit the time spent there and instead try and get out of Paris to somewhere different, where you see how the French really live...try Normandy, it's only two hours north of Paris and real people live there... Bon Voyage!


What are the advantages to learning French?



You'll be wiser, more open to new things and tolerant of things and people you didn't understand before you started learning.

French is a language which governed a good portion of the globe for a long time and still is very widespread in use, it is also a Latin based language and once you've mastered it, you'll have a notion of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese without even realizing it, kind of a package deal! Bon courage!


Why do the French love Edgar Allan Poe so much?


He seemed to be a rather dark tortured person and French literature is filled with writers of that type - meaning guys like Zola, and the other romantic literature types who enjoyed writing about the darker side of human nature and the struggle to survive with one's morality intact in a corrupt world.


What are the special cities in Haute Normandie?


It depends on what you mean by special.

The largest city is the regional capital - Rouen. It's chock full of history and has a really nice old city center with a fabulous cathedral painted by the impressionist artist Monet lots of different times for the different effects of light on it's facade. The heart of Richard the Lionhearted is buried in the crypt. You remember him from Robin Hood. And yes, Joan of arc was imprisoned, underwent a scary inquisition and was subsequently burnt at the stake there.

Dieppe, my town, is a charming little seaside town with a very nice beach although it's a rock beach, a very old castle and nice pleasure craft harbor. You can catch a ferry over to England from here for about €30 round trip.There was a little known raid on Dieppe in 1942, two years previous to the Normandy invasion that most Americans know about. It was a disaster and many young Canadian soldiers lost their lives here. Every year there's a commemoration on August 19th and lots of Canadians come to participate.

Very impressive chalk cliffs line the coast here and you can follow them down to Etretât where the famous needle chalk formation is found. It's a tiny town but a nice place to visit for an afternoon.

Le Havre is a bigger city with lots of oil refineries which unfortunately smell pretty awful most of the time, and is not a nice place for a seaside holiday. It is a university town and has a really nice shopping district and a ferry port to England as well, but the trip is farther than from Dieppe.

There are lots of little towns which have their share of charm, and Haute Normandie is definately worth a visit!


Do I need a voltage converter for my electronics?


If you have an input for up to 240v that's fine, but since it's 220v here, you might need to flip a switch or something on your charger before plugging it in using the wall socket shape adaptor. On my phone charger i have a little button to chose between 120v and 220V. If you're not sure, then play it safe and get a voltage converter as well.

You won't need a voltage converter for any appliances which have a 100-240v input. Do be careful to check every appliance you want to use, most hairdryers don't. Beware, beware ... However you'll need a wall plug adapter so that your plug can fit in the wall socket here. The plugs are shaped differently in France.

If you'd like to read an amusing anecdote about an adaptor experience gone wrong, go read this story on electrical appliances, and have pity on us who did not ask before leaving.... :)


Tell me about Le Quartier Latin?


The Latin quarter is very old, probably dating from the middle ages - I'm guessing like 1300's or thereabouts.

The name comes from the concentration of university students attending university located there. They learned everything in Latin and spoke it to each other, much like the clergy at the time. This language was necessary because it was the monks who copied by hand the texts used, before the printing press was invented. This kept a very special class of knowledgeable people at the top of the totem pole. Reading was only for the very smart, very affluent, very noble gentry of the time.

Who built it? The colleges associated with the catholic church, I think.

And today, it's pretty much the same thing. The most famous university you'd know of is "La Sorbonne" and it's located there, although nobody speaks Latin anymore. It's now an area of the city teeming with young people and nightlife, cool bars, restaurants and things to do. Lots and lots of bookshops, some of them specializing in antique books, others just in university textbooks.


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