French language and culture commentary from the U.S. capital

A la une


French Faux Pas and Other Survival Tips


French culture, customs, and etiquette can often feel very formal to Anglophones, leaving many feeling uncomfortable or a tad offensive. Here is a quick rundown of some essential faux pas to avoid and do your best to fit in en France. 1. No bread on the plate (and don’t butter your bread!) You will always be served bread with your meal, but do not expect a bread plate (unless you are dining very… Read More

Famous Parisian Cafés

Enjoying one a Ladurée's charlotte aux fraises et à la menthe with some tea / Photo courtesy of Ashley Estes

There is perhaps no place more beloved or revered in French culture than the café. For the French, the café is more than a simple spot to grab coffee – it’s a meeting point for discussions with old friends, an opportunity to read Le Monde and reflect, a corner table to work on your developing novel, or just a venue for a café au lait and people watching. Everyone has his… Read More

Lavender: The Beauty of Provence Inside and Out


Vibrant violaceous lavender blooms sweeping the arid fields of Provence is one of the most emblematic postcard images of France—and extends to the point of legend. The story goes that a young girl named Lavandula was dismayed when she saw the wasted bounty of the Lubéron land and her resulting teardrops were scattered across the region, sprouting to form the colorful blooms that now mark the hilltop towns of Apt and Gordes, as well… Read More

Five Ways to Sound More “French”


Many French students remark upon their first visit to France that spoken French is very different from what they have been taught in school. Indeed, spoken and informal French make major departures from the formal way of writing and speaking that is taught in French lessons. So, if you want to “sound more French” and when you speak, follow these five tips to better understand the language when it’s spoken and to add some fluency,… Read More

Discovering the Périgord


The Périgord region is a traditional French province in southwest France that now is mostly contained in the département of Dordogne. Renowned for its cuisine (particularly its truffles, confit de canard, and foie gras) and wines (red and white Bergerac and Monbazillac), it is also known for its lush, natural setting and abundant wildlife. Many may also be familiar with the Périgord – the so-called “cradle of mankind” – thanks to the prehistoric cave… Read More

The Raw Truth About Steak Tartare


Steak tartare, a dish made from minced or chopped raw beef mixed with a variety of spices and sauces, is a staple on classic French bistrot menus. While this divisive dish makes some go miam (“yum”) and others go beurk (“yuck”), it holds mythic status in France, in addition to being the center of many misconceptions. This classically French dish initially had two variations. The first was originally called “beefsteak à la Tartare,”… Read More

Back to school: La rentrée littéraire 2015


“La rentrée” is a magical season in France. Just as the autumn air grows crisp, the French emerge bright-eyed and bushy-tailed from long vacations at the seaside and in the mountains, ready to embark on a new school year and geared up to get back to work. La rentrée also marks the start of the cultural season in France, with a new season of theater and museum openings. In addition, September marks… Read More

NightSwapping: Traveling for the Culturally Curious


Have you ever wanted to travel the world and experience each culture authentically? A new company called NightSwapping has answered your prayers! In an age where you can cross the Atlantic in six hours, NightSwapping is giving travelers the opportunity to experience different cultures from an alternate perspective. I had the pleasure of interviewing Joshua Hibbard, Press Relations Officer for the United States, to get answers on what NightSwapping is really all about. Give me an overview… Read More

La Cornuelle: One Cool Cookie


If you thought French pastries solely consisted of croissants, beignets, and éclairs, then think again! It turns out that these culinary French staples are not the only ones to get excited about — each region of France has its own specialty. Today, however, we are looking at one traditional baked good hailing from the commune of Villebois-Lavelette in southwestern France: la cornuelle. La cornuelle (also known as la cornue due to… Read More

Join Us Sunday for La Fête de la Musique in Dupont Circle

It’s summertime in France – picnics begin on the Seine; lavender blossoms in the south; the beaches on the Côte d’Azur fill up with les français and tourists alike. In June, all French eyes turn to one cultural phenomenon – la fête de la musique. Transforming cities across l’hexagone with a slew of music-driven festivals, this year’s French solstice celebration invites everyone to “vivre ensemble en musique,” using the festival to… Read More

Northern Lights: Chartres en Lumières 2015


Even with extended daylight hours of summer, the town of Chartres will not be leaving anyone out in the dark. The annual Chartres en Lumières (Chartres in Lights) festival kicked off on April 11th. Every evening from April to October, the French city of Chartres highlights its natural and historical heritage, illuminating 29 cultural and architectural sites with original lighting, music, theater and video scenographies. This is also the perfect opportunity to… Read More

Off the Beaten Path: Discovering Île de Ré


Île de Ré, a small island located off of France’s Northern Atlantic coast, near the port of La Rochelle, is a long-popular beach holiday destination for the French, although not as widely known abroad. This island, famous for its huîtres (oysters), crevettes impériales (among some of the most famous shrimp in the world), organic local beer, soaps, donkeys, and extensive cycling paths is one of France’s best-kept vacation spots, far from… Read More



The Cannes Film Festival is now underway, running from May 13 to May 24, the glitterati of the world of cinema have now descended on the quiet city on the Côte d’Azur. On April 16th, the initial Official Selection of films nominated for the Palme d’Or, the highest honor awarded at the Cannes Film Festival, was announced. Besides being a glamorous gathering of world cinema, the festival also serves as… Read More

%d bloggers like this: