Category Archives: Leisure

Work-Life Balance France vs USA

As I watched my husband regularly working from his laptop at night and as I found myself putting in a few hours from home on Sundays, I began to wonder: why do we as Americans work so much? Here in Silicon Valley, salaries are surely higher, but this comes with living in an area with million dollar homes on every block that average people can’t afford to buy. So what are we working towards? Can money buy happiness, or is it time off that provides us with this luxury? Let’s compare numbers with our French counterparts:

Déjeuner français/French lunch break. Photo credit: todaywecook.fr

Déjeuner français/French lunch break. Photo credit: todaywecook.fr

In France, the average employee enjoys 35 hour work weeks, leisurely 1-2 hour lunches, 6 weeks of paid vacation and laws protecting employees from working after-hours or on Sundays. French women benefit from at least 16 weeks (26 weeks for a third child) paid maternity leave at 100% pay. Currently, fathers get 2 weeks paternity leave, but French president François Hollande recently pushed to move that to 6 months.

American lunch. Photo credit: abcnews.go.com

American lunch. Photo credit: abcnews.go.com

In the US, the average workweek is 47 hours, lunch is often eaten in front of the computer screen, employees are lucky to get 2 weeks off and are often expected to be available to work on nights and weekends. Except for 4 states, Americans are offered no guaranteed paid parental leave, although we do have the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which provides 12 weeks unpaid, job-protected leave for family and medical reasons.

Parental Leave Around the World. Photo credit: huffingtonpost.com

Parental Leave Around the World. Photo credit: huffingtonpost.com

With the French provided with more time to spend with family and friends and to relax on their own, it would seem to me that one is better off living in the Hexagon. But why this imbalance? Why is the quality of life and the balance between work and private life protected so much more in France and other European countries than it is in the US?

Les Vacances à la française/French Vacation. Photo credit: radiovl.fr

Les Vacances à la française/French Vacation. Photo credit: radiovl.fr

For one thing, there is much less worker protection in the US, with the possible exception of discrimination laws. Here, one can be hired and fired from one day to the next. In France, you have a 2 to 4 month trial period for hiring someone, and the laws on firing someone are fairly complex. As the second richest country in the world (congratulations, China), it’s clear that the US has devoted itself to the dollar at all costs.

What the US government and American companies haven’t figured out yet is that working longer hours isn’t making us more productive. US workers are often more stressed out and less healthy than our European counterparts. Without as much paid time off, parental leave, affordable childcare or worker protection laws, we Americans are left to fend for ourselves instead of benefitting from social programs and time to unwind that would help to keep us satisfied and productive both in the workplace and in life.

For more information on holiday working hours around the world, check out this article at findmyshift.com.

Qu’en pensez-vous? What do you think? Will the US ever take a hint from France that balanced workers are more productive workers?

© Jessica’s Franglais 2015

Learn French in Montpellier!

This student city in the South of France is one of the country’s best kept secrets. One of the few in the sunny South without a Roman or Greek foundation, Montpellier is the 8th largest city in France and the fastest growing over the past 25 years. Home to the University of Montpellier, one of the oldest in the world, the metropolis also boasts a handful of Grands-Écoles in science and business.

Water Tower, Promenade du Peyrou, jessicasfranglais.com

Water Tower, Promenade du Peyrou, jessicasfranglais.com

Last summer my husband and I vacationed here while attending a wedding and visiting family. We loved walking through the lively medieval streets and finding all kinds of little independent restaurants and bars. There may be a lot of students here, but you won’t be hearing English everywhere like you do in Paris. In Montpellier, most people are French, European or North African.

jessicasfranglais.com

Les Trois Graces, jessicasfranglais.com

The central area of the city, Place de la Comédie, dates back to 1755. Here you will find la sculpture des Trois Grâces created by Etienne d’Antoine in 1790. This is a great people-watching or meeting place. If you enjoy art, the musée Fabre hosts a vast array of European paintings from the 15th century through the 20th, and also includes sculptures and ceramics.

Place de la Comedie, jessicasfranglais.com

Place de la Comedie, jessicasfranglais.com

If nature is your pleasure, visit the Botanical Gardens, one of the oldest in Europe, created by Henri IV in 1593. If you prefer the beach, you can take a bus to enjoy the warm Mediterranean waters at Carnon Plage, Palavas les Flots or La Grande Motte.

A great way to discover all of this is to come here as a student in a French language program. No matter your age, Montpellier is home to 16 language schools which accommodate all levels and learning styles. Maybe it’s the weather or the laid-back atmosphere, but 15,000 people come to study French here every year! The language schools work in conjunction with the Montpellier Office de Tourisme in order to help visitors and students alike enjoy their stay. Here is a special clip about this:

TV5 Destination Francophonie: Montpellier

Below you will find links to some of the top rated schools as well as a break-down comparison of costs and offerings:

Ecole Klesse

http://www.ecoleklesse.com/index.php

Institut Européen de Français:

http://www.institut-europeen.com/

LSF Learn French Montpellier

http://www.lsf-france.com/

Comparison of Montpellier French Language Schools:

http://www.languagecourse.net/schools-montpellier.php3

As a former study abroad student myself (I studied in la ville rose, Toulouse, another gem in the South of France) I can’t recommend the experience enough. What better way to dive into the language and culture than to stay in the country itself?

Et vous, where did you study abroad or learn French?

Montpellier Danse! jessicasfranglais.com

Montpellier Danse! jessicasfranglais.com

© Jessica’s Franglais 2015

French in Portland

On a recent trip to this hip, green city in the Northwest, I discovered many things French. From restaurants to art to the upcoming Bastille Day celebration, here’s how to make your stay un peu plus français:

Celebrate

Portland Bastille Day Festival with the Alliance Française de Portland

Saturday, July 11, 2015 12-6pm

Image credit: AF Portland

Image credit: AF Portland

One of the largest celebrations on the West Coast, the 13th annual Bastille Festival will be held on the Portland Art Museum grounds in conjunction with its exhibit from Paris’ École des Beaux-Arts (more information below). This free event will include music varying from accordion to opera, aerial performers providing entertainment, and children’s activities in the sculpture garden. Sip and snack on food and drink supplied by local French bakeries, cafés and bars while you peruse the marché with authentic French products and experiences on offer.

Admire

Gods and Heroes Exhibit

Portland Art Museum

1219 SW Park Avenue

June 13 – September 13, 2015

 

If you’ve ever dreamed of visiting the Louvre or had the privilege of actually going there, you’ll appreciate this exhibit from Paris’ École des Beaux-Arts “the original school of fine arts in Paris and a repository for work by Europe’s most renowned artists since the seventeenth century” which includes approximately 140 paintings, sculptures, and works on paper dating from antiquity through the nineteenth century.

The museum’s website explains the exhibit as such: “At the École, learning how to construct persuasive and powerful paintings from carefully delineated anatomy, expressive faces, and convincing architectural and landscape settings was understood to be the route to success and recognition. The ideology was rooted in the study of the idealized human form as envisioned in classical art. The exhibition features extraordinary works that served as models for the students, including ancient sculpture, a drawing by Raphael, and prints by Albrecht Dürer and Rembrandt van Rijn.” During my visit, I found the competitions such as the torso drawings to be strikingly realistic.

Eat and Drink

Chez Machin

3553 SE Hawthorne Blvd

Photo credit: bunrab.com

Photo credit: bunrab.com

Opened by a Frenchman from Chartres and currently run by an American woman married to a Frenchman with 30 years experience in the hospitality industry, Chez Machin’s food is based on local and rural French cuisine. Expect to find traditional French food such as crêpes (savory and sweet), moules (mussels), boeuf bourguignon, escargots, and soupe à l’oignon. Open for brunch, lunch, dinner and drinks.

Cocotte Bistro & Bar

2930 NE Killingsworth Street

Photo credit: relevantstudios.com

Photo credit: relevantstudios.com

This is a modern Parisian-inspired bistro that uses local ingredients to fuse French with New American cuisine. Offerings include chicken liver mousse, seasonal oysters, frog legs, and gigot d’agneau (leg of lamb). For cocktails, try the French Intervention (Lillet Blanc, Mezcal, Suze, Yellow Chartreuse) or the Cocotte Old Fashioned (Basil Hayden, Angostora, Raw Sugar, Orange Peel). Open for dinner and drinks.

Le Bouchon

517 NW 14th Avenue

Photo credit: Le Bouchon

Photo credit: Le Bouchon

If you’re looking for an authentic French dining experience, look no further. Owned by a French couple with 45 years experience in “classic French cuisine with a country flare,” you’ll find traditional French fare like confit de canard, entrecôte de boeuf, and medaillons de porc demi glace (porkloin). Open for lunch and dinner.

Le Pigeon

738 E Burnside St

Photo credit: swimming.ly

Photo credit: swimming.ly

Winning Best in Class in 2014 on the Oregon Live website, you’re sure to enjoy an elegant night out at this French gem. Choose between its namesake Grilled Pigeon Breast, the beef cheek Bourguignon, or the foie-gras profiteroles. For a special occasion or just because, try the 5 or 7 courses with a wine pairing. Open for dinner.

Laugh

Portlandia Bastille Day

This post wouldn’t be complete without a nod to the fantastically bizarre show Portlandia. Here’s a clip of Fred, Carrie and their roommate frolicking French-style in The Rose Garden in celebration of le 14 juillet:

Et toi? How will you celebrate Bastille Day?

© 2015 Jessica’s Franglais

The Pleasure of the Picnic

Edouard Manet: Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe

When is the last time you had a picnic? You know, went to the store and bought a baguette, some cheese, cold cuts, maybe some strawberries and a bottle of wine and brought it to the park to consume on a blanket in the grass?

For many Americans, it has been a long time. Not only because it is winter, but because a picnic seems like a frivolous thing. Who has time to laze about in the grass when there is so much that needs to be done? We need to clean the house, run some errands, and prepare for the week ahead. But if we can’t make relaxation one of our priorities, we aren’t really living at all.

The word picnic comes from the French pique-nique, a term used since the 17th century to refer to when a group of people shared food together at a restaurant and brought their own wine. In the 18th century after the French Revolution, the royal parks were open for the first time and became a place where people would come to enjoy a meal together outside, with each person bringing something to share. This is where our modern definition of the word picnic comes from.

Leave it to the French to put pleasure first. What is more pleasurable than spending time enjoying food with friends and family in the great outdoors? When I lived in France, this was one of my favorite things to do. In Toulouse, we would stop at the neighborhood Spar (a small chain of grocery stores) for supplies and spread our blanket out at the Prairie des filtres along the Garonne River or in the Jardin Raymond VI next to the slaughterhouse-turned-art gallery les Abattoirs (strange but true).

Picnic in Jardin Raymond VI, Toulouse

Picnic in Jardin Raymond VI, Toulouse

La Prairie des filtres, Toulouse

La Prairie des filtres, Toulouse

 

In Paris, we trekked to the mountainous and seductively savage parc Buttes Chaumont. Because nearly the entire park is on a slant, you have to keep an eye on your wine bottle to ensure it doesn’t go rolling down the hill and perhaps hit other innocent picnickers. Otherwise, we might sit along Canal Saint Martin and watch the sunset turn the ripples in the water pink as we emptied our Kronenbourgs.

Parc des Buttes-Chaumont

Parc des Buttes-Chaumont

Canal Saint Martin Night Picnickers

Canal Saint Martin Night Picnickers

Here in California, despite the magnificent weather, there really isn’t a picnic culture. Sure, we have parks, but we have more of a barbecue culture, and there usually has to be a birthday or some other event to warrant it. On beautiful days when I walk outside, I often find myself alone, thinking “where is everybody?”. In New York, at the slightest sign of a mild day, restaurants had their chairs and tables outside and New Yorkers were showing off their pale skin sunbathing on any patch of grass they could find.

Yes, Californians are active. We bike, hike, run, surf and swim. But when it comes to leisure time, not exercise, many of us are inside staring at our screens, whether it’s the computer, the iPad or the TV. In our frazzled lives, technology can provide instant pleasure, but it is fleeting. Spending so much time inside connected to technology disconnects us from the world and from nature. I’m sure that’s why many of us are depressed. I would argue that the moderate pleasure we get from watching a movie inside is nothing compared to the pleasure we get from spending time eating, drinking, and socializing outside. When we live outside, we are connecting with nature and with each other, which I believe is deeply satisfying yet seems to be becoming a lost art in the US.

A picnic takes time to plan and prepare for, but the excitement leading up to it and the actual event bring so much pleasure it’s worth the time and effort invested. The anticipation even makes it that much sweeter. If you live in California or somewhere where you are lucky enough to have warm weather now even in February, do yourself a favor and plan a picnic. You won’t regret it. If you have any doubts, just ask a French person. I think they will back me up.

When is the last time you went on a picnic? Where were you?

© Jessica’s Franglais 2015