Category Archives: Travel

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,

Water Tower, Promenade du Peyrou,

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.

Les Trois Graces,

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,

Place de la Comedie,

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

Institut Européen de Français:

LSF Learn French Montpellier

Comparison of Montpellier French Language Schools:

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!

Montpellier Danse!

© Jessica’s Franglais 2015

French in Brooklyn Part II

Un repas sans vin est un jour sans soleil

A meal without wine is like a day without sun” – French Proverb

If you didn’t check out their popular Bastille Day celebration photos on my last post, here is another chance to virtually visit this cool 60’s style French bistro aptly named Bar Tabac. This post was originally written for my Brooklyn Blog, Le Quartier Francais, back in 2010. It’s still a wonderful place to eat and drink…

If you arrive after 8pm, you might catch the rattle of a drum beat or hear the jazzy guitar riffs drifting out of the open doors on a live music night. After a long day of walking, you may be enticed by the abundance of outdoor seating available on the “terrace,” a frenchy way of saying you have the option to dine right on the sidewalk. Equally appealing are the cherry-red awning that wraps around the whole place and the old fashioned gold lettering on the windows announcing “restaurant,” “bar.” Oh yes, this is a French bistro. This is Bar Tabac.

Image credit:

Image credit:

Inside, dark wood panels line the walls in the front, while exposed brick does the job in the back. An abundance of lightweight mahogany chairs and tables ensure that there’s a seat for everyone. Antique ad posters on the walls tout classic French liqueurs like Suze and Ricard, while the occasional Parisian street sign makes one feel as if they were on a European vacation. A foosball table is also known to make appearances just outside the entrance in fine weather- you just might have to wait your turn. The waiters and waitresses are all European expats or stylish Brooklynites who make you feel like you’ve made the right choice by coming here.

In need of a drink? Feel free to approach the bar to the right of the entrance. This is one of the few places in the neighborhood that serve special Belgian beers like Leffe and Duval on tap. From the bargain-for-your-buck Côtes du Rhône to the more sophisticated Châteauneuf du Pape, Bar Tabac offers a solid wine list for only being one page in length, and also includes several vins du monde to add to the French selection. Lucky for us, one may also order bubbly by the glass!

Image credit:

Image credit:

For a brunch affair, the organic egg menu is full of tasty delights- the poached egg is served milky white and firm with a perfectly thick liquid golden yolk running down the side once punctured with a fork. On a cold day, the goat cheese salad served warm with beets, apples and walnuts dressed in raspberry vinaigrette is the best tangy accompaniment to the rich, comforting classic onion soup. If you’re in the mood to share, it is highly recommended to get the moules frites– a heap of steamed mussels cooked in a creamy sauce flavored with white wine and shallots, coupled with a small barquette of crispy French fries with both ketchup and the European choice: mayonnaise, for dipping. You won’t be sorry! You will also notice after your order arrives that each surrounding table will subsequently be brought the same thing. Hmmmm.

The dinner crowd will be pleasantly satisfied with the French bistro classics- steak frites, coq au vin, salade niçoise, duck confit and even the truite amandine. That’s right, they do have it all.

If you are not afraid of being labeled a gourmand (somewhere between a glutton and a gourmet) please order the raspberry cheesecake. One can only justly compare it to a fluffy slice of cloud brought straight down from heaven. Bon appétit!”

Bar Tabac

128 Smith Street (at Dean St.)
Brooklyn, NY 11201

Metro: F or G train to Bergen St.

© Jessica’s Franglais 2015

French in Brooklyn Part I

When I lived in Brooklyn, I adored mon petit quartier français: my little French neighborhood nestled into Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens. We enjoyed French cafés, bars and restaurants, and even heard little school children speaking French in the streets as there is a bilingual school in the area: P.S. 58 The Carroll School.

Every Bastille Day since 2006, they close off Smith street for a pétanque tournament and the French establishments serve their Frenchest food and drink. Check out Bar Tabac’s website for more information.

Recently, a French TV station mentioned ce petit coin as a francophone destination:

TV5 Monde Destination Francophonie #115: Brooklyn

Notice the yellow café in the video? That’s Provence en Boîte. While there are many French restaurants in Brooklyn, this one was my favorite. I loved this place so much my husband and I had our last breakfast there before moving to Paris. Oui, c’est un resto francais, bien sûr. We simply had to have our last café et croissant before heading to the motherland.

Here is a post, or a love letter really, that I wrote to Provence en Boîte on my old blog Le Quartier Français à Brooklyn before we left for la tour Eiffel:

“Even from the outside, it’s easy to see that Provence en Boîte has a bright character all its own. Quite literally a sunflower-yellow box plopped down on the corner of Smith and Degraw in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, this petit bistro warmly welcomes every passer-by to come in and discover the delights of Provence.

Installez-vous sur la terrasse

Installez-vous sur la terrasse!

Guests are seated at simple copper-topped tables and served water from French bottles. The golden colored walls are covered with eclectic paintings and photographs of Provence and Brooklyn, while antique French tins and bottles of Ricard and Lillet line the wooden shelves. Diners are tempted by the glass case at the center of the restaurant filled with fruit tarts, éclairs and decadent chocolate pastries. Above the pastry display sit rows of puffy croissants, glistening pains au chocolats and fresh baguettes just begging to be taken away.

As a resident of the neighborhood, I myself am drawn to this sanctuary like a moth to a lamp. Every brunch experience there is filled with fluffy egg and creamy goat cheese omelets, real French bread, rich espresso, perfectly vinegretted salad and mimosas that taste like sunlight on your tongue. I often see Jean-Jacques and Leslie, the charming French owners and executive chef (Jean-Jacques), making their rounds to the tables, saying “bonjour” and making sure that everything is delicious. Sometimes even les petits, their young children Andrea and Jacques, come around to collect the bill. Quite possibly they are in training to take over the restaurant from their parents one day.

Not one to forego new dining prospects, I noticed one evening that the yellow bistro is open for dinner as well. My boyfriend and I decided to stop in and see what was being served. Transformed for the evening with lights dimmed, a candle flickering on every table, and a track of smooth jazz playing, we found ourselves in a slightly more sophisticated version of the daytime hotspot.



That evening we were the only diners, but instead of feeling awkward it seemed as if the place had been reserved especially for us. We both ended up choosing the prix fixe menu, which was $22 for soup or salad, fish or entrée of the day, and crème brûlée for dessert.

The smooth and attentive waiter swiftly brought us our house salads with dark mixed greens and cherry tomatoes, which were to the same acidic perfection as when ordered during the day. Next for my boyfriend was the chicken special: a large thigh with crispy golden skin in a red wine reduction sauce, accompanied by creamy mashed potatoes and slices of savory portabella mushrooms. Quel paradis! On my plate sat a generous portion of thick buttery white monkfish smothered with an olive tapenade atop a chunky bed of ratatouille. The olive oil infused vegetables burst with flavor and complimented the fish superbly.

Topping off the evening with a bit of sugar, we gladly savored the vanilla custard of our home made crème brûlées down to the very last spoonful. Well, I savored. My boyfriend gobbled ravenously.

Crème brûlée. Photo credit:

Crème brûlée. Photo credit:

At the end of our lovely meal after paying our bill and saying our merci’s, I couldn’t help but notice chef Jean-Jacques sitting in the back of the restaurant watching a French drama on TV5. That evening, as he was privately enjoying a little bit of home, I hope he knew that Provence en Boîte had also brought a little bit of France to us.”

263 Smith St (at Degraw)

Brooklyn, NY 11231

Metro: F or G to Carroll St

What’s your favorite French place in Brooklyn?

Stay tuned for Part II!

© 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:


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.


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:

Photo credit:

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:

Photo credit:

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:

Photo credit:

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.


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