Category Archives: With Elyse

Tips for Visiting Montpellier, Episode 105

Tips for Visiting Montpellier, France

Neo-classical MontpellierNeo-classical architecture


Montpellier is a city of 500,000 people and growing all the time. By comparison, Toulouse has twice as many people but feels like a smaller city. Montpellier probably gives this impression because it has bigger buildings, a more open city center, and being on the Mediterranean, which is a popular place to live, it is surrounded by other fairly large cities.

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The Rodin Museum in Paris, Episode 102

Rodin Museum Paris photo Yann Caradec
Rodin Museum Paris photo Yann Caradec

The Rodin Museum in Paris

Rodin is the sculptor who brought us the Thinker, the Gates of Hell, the Kiss, and the Burghers of Calais. A museum dedicated to his work re-opened early 2016 in the 7th arrondissement in Paris and showcases his best and most famous works as well as many pieces you may have never heard of but will astound you with the emotions they will bring out in you. In this episode Elyse describes why this museum is so important and why both Elyse and Annie recommend that you go visit it next time you’re in Paris.

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Lourdes, Episode 100

Lourdes in France, people walking in front of the BasilicaLourdes in France

Lourdes is a Place of Pilgrimage and History unlike any other in France because the events that made it famous are only 160 years old, and there are pictures of the most important protagonist: Bernadette de Soubirous.

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Art Nouveau in France, Episode 97

Art Nouveau in FranceArt Nouveau in France

Today Elyse explains the Art Nouveau movement in France, in particular, Hector Guimard and the specifics of how this art movement manifested itself in France.

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Art Nouveau happened in many countries, but under different names and with different stylistic choices. In England for instance it was called “The Modern Style”. This movement began in Scotland but soon took off in many countries. It only lasted officially for 20 years, from 1890 until 1910. In France, Belgium and Catalonia gave shape to the idea that nature needed to be represented in all its organic forms, with curvy lines and pleasant shapes.

Episode Highlights

  • Art Nouveau in France
  • Daum, Gallé and Lalique in the city of Nancy
  • The Difference Between Art Nouveau and Art Déco
  • Where to See Art Nouveau in Paris
  • French Tip of the Week [1:05]

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Table Manners in France, Episode 93

Table Manners in FranceYou are planning to take your significant other out to a very nice restaurant in Paris. Possibly at the Tour d’Argent or maybe the Jules Vernes on the Eiffel Tower, but are table manners in France any different from they are in North America? What do you need to know? Elyse and Annie explain and Elyse also tells us that the French used to be rough around the edges at the table until Catherine de Medici showed us how it’s done.

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2:30 Elyse’s thoughts on the attacks of November 13, 2015. The French are not going to be defeated or surrender even though these events have given us much to worry about. Advice for people coming to visit France soon after a terror attack.

Why do Wine Glasses Have Stems?

14:20 Long stem wine glasses were invented to be able to avoid getting poisoned because servants never touched anywhere near where the liquid was, they kept their hands on the stem. For the longest time poison was the best way to kill an enemy.

16:20 Listener question on Parks and Gardens in Toulouse: what is the difference between a park and a garden? A garden is a found within a park.

What Are All Those Utensils For?

20:00 Why is there a special fork and knife for fish? What do they look like? The fish knife looks a little bit like a butter knife, but since the French don’t serve butter with their bread, that’s not what it’s for. French soup spoons are very large, almost the size of a serving spoon.

How Glass Became Common

25:00 The Venetians developed the technology to make glass on a large-scale and glass became popular starting with them

Why Do French People Say “Tchin-Tchin” When Clinking Glasses?

Why do French people say when “Tchin-Tchin”  when they clink glasses? Once people realized that it was possible to avoid getting poisoned by holding their glass by the stem, someone decided to be even more sure that the drink was safe it would be good to clink glasses and spill some of your drink into the other person’s cup. If everyone does that, it shows that nobody has tampered with the drink.

Filling Your Glass More Than Half is Bad Form

30:00 Americans use very large wine glasses every day, but French people use smaller glasses and never fill them to barely more than half.

Formal Table Utensils in France

33:00 Fancy flatware in France includes forks for escargot, fish fork and knife, and many other things that more people would not know what to do with.

Catherine de Medici Introduces the Fork to France

35:30 Catherine de Medici introduced Italian utensils in France, to the great dismay of French people who mostly ate with a knife and spoon and used dried old bread as a plate.  Today you may order a “tartine” at a restaurant which is a whole meal on a large slice of bread. Catherine de Medici introduced the fork to France and it was not well received at first, especially by the clergy who thought it was evil and made men effeminate!

Table Manners in France Beautiful table
Photo Luc Bergeron
A Formal Meal at a French Restaurant

43:30 In the 1800s table manners went over the top and French people started to use five or six forks, 5 different knives, five glasses to go along with their meals and you had to know what to use when. That is not the case any more, at a four star restaurant they will bring you whatever utensil goes along with your meal at the right time.

What a Home French Meal for an Occasion Is Like Today

47:00 You start with Apéritif, which may take one hour. Then you get your Entrée which does not mean the same thing as it does in the US. In France the Entrée is the appetizer (you enter into the meal). Then you get your main meal, and for every part of the meal you get different wines to go with. There are also traditional different drinks served to men and women. There may be a salad served at the end of the meal along with the cheese, but that is not done any more now. Mostly you will get a cheese dish served with bread, not crackers. Then you get dessert. The whole process may take four hours because we take pauses between meals. It is strange how small water glasses are in France.

Differences Between French and American Restaurants

58:00 When you sit down in a French restaurants, they will not normally bring you ice water or bread or anything until they bring you the food you’ve ordered. Things are changing a little bit, but not everywhere. French Style Service means that they bring you the dish, show you the dish, then cut it up for you, then bring you a little bit and bring you some more if you want more. It is really awkward for most people and it is unusual unless you’re at an expensive and probably starred restaurant.  In France we used to use knife rests, but they are unusual any more.

How French and Americans Hold their Knife and Fork

1:00:00 In France most people hold their fork with the left hand, cut with the right hand and eat with the left hand. In America most people in formal situations cut with their dominant hand, then put down the knife, then switch the side of utensils and eat with their fork in their dominant hand. French people keep their hands above the table at all times and they can use bread to scoop food onto their spoon or fork. Most restaurants will not give you a bread plate, you can set your bread next to your plate. French people always eat their dessert with a spoon and not a fork.

French Tip of the Week and Listener Question

1:11:11 French Tip of Week and listener question. How to express sadness in French about the terror attacks in Paris: C’est terrible ce qui s’est passé à Paris, j’epsère que vous n’avez pas été touché” (what happened in Paris was terrible, I hope you were not affected) or C’est afligeant ce qui s’est passé à Paris (I am saddened by what happened in Paris) or “C’est triste ce qui s’est passé à Paris” (what happened in Paris is very sad).

Cordes-sur-Ciel, Episode 88

Cordes-sur-Ciel photo Thierry Llansades
Cordes sur Ciel photo Thierry Llansades

Cordes-sur-Ciel, Most Beloved French Village

On today’s show Elyse tells us about Cordes-sur-Ciel. Cordes was elected France’s favorite village because it is so beautiful, situated within gorgeous landscape, and it is rich in history. It is so close to Albi that you could visit both in one day and see very different places within a short time. Should you see it or should you skip it? It has its disadvantages (STEEP hills!) but we give you ways to work around those. Enjoy the show!

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To Prepare for Your Trip: Tales from the Hilltop: a summer in the other South of France (Free right now on Kindle Unlimited).

  • [1:19] French Tip of the Week: how do you pronounce the name “Manon” in French? Examples: oncologie, le Lubéron, Ontario, le baron, la Gironde.
  • [4:20] What’s the secret to making good soup?
  • [5:20] The new Exhibition at the Orsay Museum on depictions of prostitution in paintings.
  • [10:00] New Exhibit at the Grand Palais Picassomania, on Picasso and his legacy. If you want to get in you should get your tickets in advance.
  • [13:00] Discussion on Cordes-sur-Ciel.
  • The name Cordes-sur-Ciel is new, based on a work by a poet who  renamed it in 1993. The name Cordes is much older because this village was created in 1222. Today it is in the Tarn department.
  • Cordes was a heavily Cathar town in the Middle Ages. Cordes was on the northern edge of the territory that belonged to the Count of Toulouse, Raymond VIII.
  • Cordes was a charted town (a “Bastide”) where the people knew they would be protected (walled city), where they’d get tax rebates, every resident would be treated equally, the residents would be protected by his armies if needed. Raymond VII had the trust of the people, so he got a lot of people to go colonize this new area.
  • Why is Cordes named Cordes? Because of Cordoba in Spain which was a capital of textiles and leather work. Within the space of 30 years the town was so successful that they had to expand the wall 5 times!
  • Cordes is a steep town, walking all the way up is a bit of a hike. May 1st thru Sept 30th for 3€ you can take the tourist train at Place de la Bouteillerie and be dropped off at Porte de la Jane.
  • There are 32,000 villages in France. We’re not sure what the official definition is according to the INSEE, but that’s a lot of places for a small country. What makes a village special is its architecture, the site where it’s built, and its history. Cordes gets an A on all of these!
  • Cordes has the most civilian Gothic architecture in France. By 1250 it was the richest town in the south-west of France besides Toulouse.  The people of Cordes threw the Inquisitors down the well because they didn’t want to put up with it.
  • [36:30] The story of the water well in Cordes.
  • The bird business “ormeau” is NOT a bird or a tree, it’s a sea shell. The name “place de l’Ormeau” has to do with Saint Jacques de Compostelle!!! Elyse is embarrassed and Annie shall tease her about that for a long time 😉
  • [53:00] How long should you plan to stay in Cordes?
  • French people are not very tough about visiting places like Cordes when it’s raining, so if you go on a rainy day you’ll be mostly alone.
  • Cordes-sur-Ciel does not have a big cathedral, but the church it has is worth visiting.
  • Cordes-sur-Ciel est steep, it’s possible that in the Middle Ages they used mules a lot. You may want to even today!
  • Elyse recommends visiting Albi and Cordes in the same day. You have time for both.
  • To hire Elyse to give you a tour, look her up on Facebook: Toulouse Guided Walks.


Cordes sur ciel seen from Grain de Sel photo Adrien Béronuntitled
Cordes sur ciel seen from Grain de Sel photo Adrien Béronuntitled