Even here - the paparazzi find me!
French National Radio Interview
After trying to duck (le cannard) him for weeks, the well known talk show host Pierre Dans L'Important finally caught up with me to do an interview on the French National Radio show "Nous Vous Savons".
My staff have translated the interview below:
Pierre: Well, Monsieur Charls - you have now been in France for over 10 days. Where have you been and what are your first impressions?
Me: Thanks for having me Pierre. We think it's pretty damn nice here so far. We have been to Bordeaux, Beynac, Bergerac, Biron and la Boisserie. So we were worried that everything here started with the letter "B". We decided we had better move into the "C" places so we went to Carcassonne and Colliure on our way to Chateaneuf du Pape. Then it struck us that we missed the "A" places so we have now stopped at Avignon. Obviously, we still have a lot to see.
Pierre: that's an interesting way to travel, but then again, you Americans do things differently.
Me: that's the whole point....tomato - tomahto, potato - patahto, you know all the same, but different.
Pierre: Ca va (OK). What have been the best things about France so far?
Me: Well, where do I start? The first thing that come to my brain is my stomach. The food!! The food!!! You French really know how to whip up some fabulous food! Also, the way it is presented is divine! The food is regional, fresh and interesting. We have had duck several times prepared in different ways and it was more like beef filet than chicken. Since we have been in the Mediterranean, fresh seafood has been abundant. Everything seems lovingly cooked to perfection and the wait staff always seem proud to serve it. However, there seem to be two things that you do better than anyone. Sauces and desserts. The sauces marry with the food so well, and the desserts....(is this a PG or G show?) as the best word to describe them starts with an "O".
Pierre: Yes, we know good gastronomics. What other things do you like about France?
Me: The scenery is pretty outrageous too. You are wandering through the back roads and you look up on a hill and there is a Chateau that makes the Vanderbilt's mansion look like a shack. The really amazing thing is they are all over and while it seems the French appreciate them, they take them in stride - and seem amused as our jaws drop to the ground in amazement.
Pierre: You Americans do seem to over-react.
Me: That was George Bush, we are better now. Anyway, give me a break, it is pretty amazing and incredibly beautiful.
Pierre: Ca va, d'accord (agreed). What about the people? We hear that Americans think the French are snooty. What do you think?
Me: Those Americans are probably fat people from Florida. Our experience has been the opposite. I find myself saying "Vous etes tres gentil" (you are very kind) several times each day - mostly because it's true, but also because it's my very best French phrase that I can actually remember and say. Actually, it's true - virtually all of our interactions with our French hosts have been sincere, kind and understanding. I think some Americans confuse snootiness with pride. The French are very proud of their heritage, culture and traditions. We have seen a few Americans that think the US is the center of the universe and I can understand how other cultures could resent that. If you come here and say/think "Why don't they speak English and eat hamburgers?" - you probably won't ever find the beauty in this country.
Pierre: So are there things you dislike about France?
Me: Well, if you promise not to tell....there are some things. The damn toll roads for one. I'll bet we have spent 100 euros on tolls Although they are super nice roads. Also, the pizza is nothing to write home about. I've actually grown to appreciate the traffic circles after the millionth one (Corvallis explodes in shock). Once you get the hang of them - they do help traffic flow - even if they also raise blood pressure.
Pierre: What about the language?
Me: I'm hanging my head in shame. Despite two classes at LBCC, several private lessons and daily online practice for 6 months with two language apps (Duolingo and Rosetta), I seem almost back to square one with my French. When I left, I probably knew a couple hundred words and was working on learning the correct ways of putting them together. Unfortunately, after 5 weeks in Spain, my 64 year-old wine fried brain just balks when spoken to in French. I was hoping to do better. Perhaps by the time we get to Paris in two weeks, things will improve.
Pierre: Lastly, what about the wine in France?
Me: Well Pierre, we have been to Bordeaux, St. Emilion, as well as the smaller wine regions surrounding Bergerac, Cahors and the very south around Colliure. We have found many wonderful bottles of both vin blanc and vin rouge. Tonight, in fact we are drinking a Cotes de Provence - actually a pink rose wine - which the Monsieur who owned the magasin de vin (wine shop) here in Avignon said is all many of the French drink between April and September. It is very clear the French love their wine. In fact, we were amused to see that in many of the larger traffic circles, you have planted wine grapes! All that said, there is no doubt in my mind that over the next two weeks - both here in the Southern Rhone and the following week in Burgundy, we will experience my favorite and most anticipated wines. In the next week we will visit wineries in Chateaneuf du Pape, Gigondas and Vacqueyras and areas between.
Pierre: Merci beaucoup Monsieur Charls. Bon Voyage!
Me: Da rien, Bon Appetite, Viva la France! (Pardon, ou est le magasin de vin?)