Transcript for Episode 492: Two Faces of Provence: Art and Pizza!

Category: Provence

Discussed in this Episode

  • Vence
  • Avignon
  • Gordes
  • Pont du Gard
  • Haribo Candy Museum
  • Uzès
  • Tomato Bleu
  • Pizzeria O'Reilly
  • Chapelle du Rosarie designed by Matisse
  • Cagnes-sur-Mer
  • Renoir's home
  • Arles
  • Palais du Papes
  • Van Gogh Fondation
  • Hotel d'Europe
  • Place Crillon
  • Saint Paul de Vence
  • Arles
  • Tourrettes-sur-Loup
  • Les Halles
  • the Luberon
  • Oppede-le-vieux
  • Menerbes
  • Bistro Stank
  • Jean Mouzon
  • Bonnieux
  • Le Clos Du Buis
  • Les Domaine les Martins
  • Fondation Maeght
  • Eze
  • La Chèvre D'Or
  • Fragonard
  • Nice
  • Sheraton
  • Novotel
  • Saint Jean Cap Ferrat
  • Villa Ephrussi Rothschild
  • Simier
  • Bonnieux

[00:00:00] Annie Sargent: This is Join Us in France, episode 492, quatre cent quatre-vingt-douze.

Bonjour, I’m Annie Sargent, and Join Us in France is the podcast where we take a conversational journey through the beauty, culture, and flavors of France.

Today on the podcast

[00:00:31] Annie Sargent: Today, I bring you a trip report that I’ve entitled ‘The Two Faces of Provence’, where Joseph O’Reilly recounts the unforgettable moments of his travels in France.

Joseph and his wife embark on a journey that is more than just sightseeing.

From engaging in artistic endeavors in Vence, alongside the talented Ginny Fergus, to trying their hand at the art of French cooking in Avignon, then on to taking in the tranquil beauty of the Pont du Gard and its age old olive trees.

This episode brings you a rich tapestry of experiences. So stay tuned whether you’re planning your own French adventures, or just love vicarious travel.

Podcast Supporters

[00:01:12] Annie Sargent: This podcast is supported by donors and listeners who buy my tours and services, including my Itinerary Consult Service, my GPS self-guided tours of Paris on the VoiceMap app, or take a day trip with me around the southwest of France in my electric car.

You can browse all of that at my boutique:

Patreon supporters get new episodes as soon as they are ready and ads free. If that sounds good to you, be like them, follow the link in the show notes.

The Magazine Segment

[00:01:44] Annie Sargent: For the magazine part of the podcast today, after my chat with Joseph O’Reilly, I’ll discuss why French people both hate speaking English and won’t stop speaking English with you. Which is it?

Welcome to Join Us in France: A Traveler’s Tale

[00:02:06] Annie Sargent: Bonjour Joe O’Reilly, and welcome to Join Us in France.

[00:02:10] Joseph O’Reilly: Bonjour, Annie, ça va?

[00:02:12] Annie Sargent: Très bien, et vous?

[00:02:13] Joseph O’Reilly: Merci.

Exploring France: From Paris to the Dordogne

[00:02:14] Annie Sargent: Okay, we are going to talk about your wonderful trip that you had in France with your wife. This took place in September 2023, so this is pretty recent.

[00:02:26] Joseph O’Reilly: Right, right.

[00:02:27] Annie Sargent: So, how many times have you been to France and what path did you take, more or less?

[00:02:32] Joseph O’Reilly: Well, this was our third time to France. When I turned 50, and that’s many, many years ago, my wife took me to Paris. We were there about four or five days. We weren’t on a tour, we did see a lot of things, but on the way home she said, you’re the only person I could talk to for four or five days. I couldn’t even eavesdrop in conversations in restaurants because I couldn’t understand people.

And she had taken French in high school and some in college. But, you know, when you hear speakers, it comes at you pretty quickly.

[00:03:02] Annie Sargent: It’s harder isn’t it?

[00:03:03] Joseph O’Reilly: She was disappointed I was the only one she got to talk to. Then last year, we got to go to the Dordogne. We spent a week in Paris with some friends, and we spent a week in the Dordogne at Saint Jean Nicolas, it was really wonderful.

Learning and Traveling with Ginny Fergus, a Painting Trip

[00:03:18] Joseph O’Reilly: So this year, we have a good friend who comes to Louisville twice a year for, she’s a great watercolor painter, and she comes twice a year for art shows, big outdoor art shows. And I was talking to her about a year ago, and she was telling me about, she takes five one week trips a year, three to Italy, and two to France, and she brings people with her and they paint.

[00:03:41] Annie Sargent: Oh!

[00:03:42] Joseph O’Reilly: And she said, you should come. I said, well, I don’t paint. She said, well, that’s not a problem. Well, so we started talking about it, and I decided I better learn how to paint a little bit, and I did. And we went over there with her group, for the last eight days of our trip. We were in France about 18 days.

The last eight days were with Ginny Fergus and her group, and it was great. And that was in Vence. But the first week, we were on our own, and we went to Avignon for five days, and Gordes for two days.

We didn’t know about your podcast a year ago, so we worked with a travel agent and made our accommodation plans.

Then I started listening to your podcast, and we talked to you, and you gave us a great itinerary for that first week we were in Avignon and Gordes and got it to us virtually overnight, about a 70 page document, and it was wonderful, it was very helpful. And that’s how we negotiated our first week in France, but it is a glorious trip.

We had a great time.

[00:04:42] Annie Sargent: That’s great. Yeah. So it’s true that it really helps if you spend the right amount of time in the right places, because Gordes, as you know, I mean, you know it now, it’s pretty small, right? It’s really not a big place. And if you decide to spend a whole week there, well, without a car, it’s like boring. But you had a car, right?

I don’t remember what we discussed. I’ve done so many of these.

Uzès and the Haribo Candy Museum

[00:05:04] Joseph O’Reilly: Yeah, we picked up a car after about four days in Avignon. We picked up the car, and at that point, we drove to Uzès and the Pont du Gard. And we stopped at the Candy Museum.

[00:05:19] Annie Sargent: Yes.

[00:05:20] Joseph O’Reilly: And we went through the Haribo Museum. That was very interesting. And then we got to Uzès and walked around a beautiful place.

We were a little late to eat lunch. We went to the tourist center, I guess you’d call it, and we had a fun time with a lady in the tourist center. She was very helpful. She had a good sense of humor. I was asking her about Tomato Bleu, the pizza place, one of the pizza restaurants you had mentioned, or one of the restaurants you had mentioned, and she told me about a pizza place down the street, it was basically O’Reilly, Pizzeria O’Reilly, kind of a French version of O’Reilly, and we walked over there, unfortunately it was about 2 o’clock and they had closed.

[00:06:01] Annie Sargent: Yeah.

Ancient Olives Trees at the Pont du Gard

[00:06:02] Joseph O’Reilly: We didn’t eat lunch in Uzès, we had some ice cream, and then we went on to the Pont du Gard, which was fantastic, amazing, can’t believe they didn’t use any mortar when they built it, and it looked wonderful, I mean, it doesn’t look like it’s falling down at all. Saw the oak trees that you talked about, that was amazing to see trees.

Olive trees that had been around since 900 or so, and I’m surprised they were able to transplant them and that they survived.

[00:06:30] Annie Sargent: Yes. So this is interesting. These trees are a couple thousand years old, but they were transferred in the 60s or 50s perhaps, I can’t remember, because they were in a mountainous place in Spain and they were not thriving. They could tell that they were not going to live much longer.

So they transferred them to the Pont du Gard. There’s two of them and they look like they’re happy as can be there. Yeah.

[00:06:55] Joseph O’Reilly: They’ve got a lot of character. You know, when a person gets older, their skin gets a little wrinkled and everything unless they’re dealing with Botox. These trees have a lot of character. They’re very gnarly and majestic.

[00:07:06] Annie Sargent: They sure do.

[00:07:06] Joseph O’Reilly: And they were wonderful to see. And they’re paired well.

They’re paired well with the Pond du Gard. Both very, very old places that have retained their dignity and are very impressive. It was wonderful. That was a good day.

[00:07:19] Annie Sargent: Let’s talk about your favorite activities on this trip. You did quite a bit. I want to know what, what ended up to be the best for you.

[00:07:26] Joseph O’Reilly: Our favorite activities, and I’m speaking for both of us, and I think I can do this, Marybeth’s not here right now, but, we’re painting with Ginny Fergus and her group, she takes these trips over there, you know, two times a year, once to Italy, once to France, and the name of her company is En Plein Air with Virginia Fergus. And it was nine people. We stayed in Vence in a wonderful old family hotel and restaurant that only had five rooms in it, so we occupied the whole hotel. The restaurant was open to the public at night, so other people would come in at night, but during the day we felt like we had our own private residence, you know.

The family was wonderful. A young couple, and the wife’s mother run the hotel and restaurant. They have a dog named Cache, or Cash, who, we were missing our dog, and Cache would approach you if you wanted to be approached. He didn’t bother you if you didn’t want, if you didn’t like dogs, he would leave you alone.

But if you wanted to be approached, he would come and be with you.

And it was wonderful. When you’re missing your dog, it’s great to have a dog around. He was wonderful. So it was like a family. It was a family setting and we felt very much at home. But we got an opportunity to paint and get some instruction from Ginny and to paint in different places in the Côte d’Azur area.

And it was, it was really special.

[00:08:44] Annie Sargent: That’s great. So is this like a, it’s not watercolor… it’s…

[00:08:48] Joseph O’Reilly: It is watercolor.

Yeah, it is watercolor. Which is, you know, watercolor is hard to control, but it’s a lot easier to clean up. If you were traveling with oil paint, the cleanup and transport would be probably a lot harder.

[00:09:03] Annie Sargent: That’s true. That’s true. You’d have to, yeah, bringing it home would be difficult. You’d have to pick it up on your next trip, I guess. Give it time to dry.

[00:09:12] Joseph O’Reilly: And that was our favorite activity.

Cooking Class with Local Avignon Chef de Cuisine Gina Trevier

[00:09:15] Joseph O’Reilly: But a second favorite was when we were in Avignon, we made arrangements to have a cooking class with a local chef. And this chef brings people, she goes to Les Halles, in the morning and you get to decide what you’re going to eat, and she picks out the food, and you get to see that.

Les Halles was a wonderful indoor market in Avignon. All the food was very, very beautiful and it was very impressive. This lady’s name is Gina Trevier and she used to run, I think, a brasserie in Paris. She was very pleasant, very funny. Once we were with one other couple, there was only four of us, and this other couple was a mother daughter.

The daughter had just completed her master’s degree at University of Edinburgh in nuclear physics. So she was very, obviously very bright, but very down to earth, very friendly. We had a wonderful time with them.

Chef Gina walked us to her apartment, which was a short distance from Les Halles. And we helped her prepare some of the vegetables and fruit.

She did a provencal meal on the stove, chicken and leeks. And she did a zucchini, she had a machine that turned zucchini into spaghetti and she did pesto and olives and garlic and low and slow, in her small but perfectly organized kitchen. We had a great time with her preparing the meal, and then we were able to go to the roof.

She had a terrace on the roof overlooking the Palais du Papes. And it was a really beautiful and special way to eat and enjoy a glass of rosé with this beautiful meal. And she prepared some pears with honey and the vanilla ice cream was the dessert. And that was wonderful. It was a great meal. That was our second favorite thing.

[00:11:12] Annie Sargent: So, you know, it’s interesting, how did you find this person?

[00:11:17] Joseph O’Reilly: Well, you had given us a number of recommendations, some of which weren’t available, and the one we really wanted was the chef, and we couldn’t get in touch with her. I don’t know if she’s not doing it anymore or not, but we found it on, we googled Chef’s Cooking Classes in Avignon, and we found her, and she was on that website that…

[00:11:39] Annie Sargent: Something with locals or something?

[00:11:41] Joseph O’Reilly: Viator.

We got her through Viator. And it wasn’t inexpensive, but it was well worth what we paid for it. It was a four hours, we spent four hours with her. And it was really neat to see a local person’s home and have some contact with her. And it was a really pleasant experience. We loved it.

[00:12:00] Annie Sargent: You know, there’s a lot of tours like that where you start at the, at Les Halles or at some market and you do your shopping and then you go prepare it together. I think that’s, most people really enjoy that. It seems to be a very popular activity, not just in Avignon, but in a lot of places.

[00:12:22] Joseph O’Reilly: We loved it. It was really wonderful. And she was just a lot of fun to be with as well as being a very good chef.

[00:12:30] Annie Sargent: Yeah, and you know, overlooking the Palais du Papes isn’t bad, I mean, that’s a nice terrace right there.

[00:12:35] Joseph O’Reilly: Oh, it was beautiful. It was really beautiful.

Visiting the Chapelle du Rosaire designed by Matisse

[00:12:38] Annie Sargent: All right, let’s talk about your third favorite activity.

[00:12:41] Joseph O’Reilly: Our third favorite activity, when we got to Vence, one of the things that caused us to choose the trip to Vence, because one of her other trip was to Bonnieux, in the Luberon. but I’m a big fan of Henri Matisse. And when Matisse was older, one of the places he moved to was Vence, and he was ill, and a lady who used to be one of his models helped nurse him back to health, and she became a Dominican nun. And the Dominican nuns wanted to build a chapel, or a new chapel, and she asked Matisse if he would help. And in 1947, 48 and 49, he got involved. He designed the chapel. He did the stained glass windows. At that point he was not in great health, but there’s pictures of him sitting with a long stick with something on the end of it that he could draw on the wall.

He drew the Stations of the Cross, and they’re very pared down Stations of the Cross. They’re almost stick figures. And sometimes it’s hard to figure which station you’re looking at. He designed the vestments for the priests. He designed the furniture. It’s a very simple and plain chapel, but it’s very powerful.

And from our hotel, outside our hotel, we could look across the valley, and we could see, there are a lot of things, a lot of buildings in the valley, on the mountain, we could see the chapel Du Rosaire, which is the chapel. And the first day we got there, we walked about three quarters of a mile around to the chapel and got to go in it.

And it’s so powerful in its simplicity. I think it’s, there’s so many beautiful churches in France and in Europe and they’re all beautiful in their own way. This was beautiful in its simplicity. And that was our third most favorite thing.

[00:14:21] Annie Sargent: Wonderful. And so as a chapel, it’s probably not a very large church.

[00:14:25] Joseph O’Reilly: Very small. Very, very small. Because it was mainly designed for the nuns, and I don’t know how many nuns there were, and there are probably fewer nuns now than there were then. So it’s not big. But if you’re ever in Vence, please do yourself a favor and go see it.

[00:14:40] Annie Sargent: Yes, I think I will. I’ve been to Vence, but I don’t remember seeing this chapel. I would remember it, I think, as Matisse. I mean, that’s something that you remember.

[00:14:49] Joseph O’Reilly: And for a while, he lived in a home near there. They’re going to turn it into a museum at some point, but they haven’t yet.

[00:14:56] Annie Sargent: Mm hmm.

[00:14:57] Joseph O’Reilly: And he lived in a few other places. When we were in Nice, they showed us this big hotel in Cimier, where the Regency, I think, it was built for Queen Victoria when she came over, and that’s where he was living when he died. He’s buried in a cemetery not in Cimier, not far from the hotel.

[00:15:14] Annie Sargent: Very nice.

[00:15:14] Joseph O’Reilly: But that was the third most favorite thing.

Renoir’s Home

[00:15:16] Annie Sargent: Okay, let’s move on to number four. So far they’ve been great.

[00:15:20] Joseph O’Reilly: Well, number four, we went to Cagnes-sur-Mer, and saw Renoir’s home, and Renoir’s garden, and he had some beautiful olive trees in his garden. And there was a story, whether it’s true or not, I don’t know, that part of the reason he bought that property was to save the olive trees. Apparently, they were in some jeopardy, and he wanted to preserve them. So we got to tour his home, and he had, I’m sure he had more than one home, he had homes up north too, but this was a beautiful home, and we saw his studio, and there was his wheelchair was there.

Towards the end, he was, he had bad arthritis in his hand, and they showed a film of, like a documentary, not a documentary, but like a home movie that somebody had taken, and he was sitting in his wheelchair, and he had, literally appeared to have brushes strapped to his hands. And he looked very old and very infirm, but he was still painting away.

That was impressive. We had a picnic lunch there. And then we had an opportunity to paint in his garden. And we, not all of us did that, some of us, we had three cars, a couple cars went back, but some of us stayed and painted in his gardens and until the rain drove us away, but that was our fourth most favorite thing.

[00:16:32] Annie Sargent: Wonderful. That sounds like fun as well. You know, that’s one I know for sure I have not seen. I didn’t realize you could tour this. Is this something that’s open to the public all the time?

[00:16:44] Joseph O’Reilly: It’s open to the public. There’s a nice little visitor place where you buy your tickets and there’s some lockers, you could store things there. And then there’s, I don’t know, they might have had some vending machines. We had brought our food with us. We went to a bakery early in the morning in Vence and got some sandwiches, and we were well provided for when we got there.

[00:17:02] Annie Sargent: And did you have to have special permission to be able to paint there or was it just something you could do?

[00:17:08] Joseph O’Reilly: It is something that Virginia arranged, and I don’t know how difficult it might have been. We did have a guide while we were there.

And the guide took us around, and Ginny got permission, I don’t know how hard it is to get permission, but it’s something, we didn’t just do it without asking, she had arranged for that. And her trips were great.

We not only painted, but we went to wonderful places, and we ate at good places, too.

It was really uplifting, it was a wonderful opportunity.

Visiting Arles

[00:17:35] Joseph O’Reilly: The fifth place, we went to Arles. The first day we were there, we toured the Palais du Papes and used the histopads, and at one point you could, you know, insert your face in a picture of a Pope’s regalia, so we got nice pictures of ourselves as Popes.

[00:17:51] Annie Sargent: Now the Palais des Papes is in Avignon, not in Arles.

[00:17:54] Joseph O’Reilly: Avignon, yeah, it’s enormous. There were about seven French popes there and each one added new stuff onto it, so it kind of looks like the castle that Jack built, but it’s very, it’s impressive.

And that’s what we did on Sunday, but on Monday, we walked to the train station, which, the Gare Saint Paul, which wasn’t very far, and we took the train to Arles.

It only took about 20 minutes, 15 or 20 minutes, it was close by. You get off pretty close to the old town, short walk, and we came to the old town, then we came to the room in Arènes, we spent time in the Arènes, which was very awe inspiring. Talk about a place that was built to last!

[00:18:32] Annie Sargent: Yes, the Romans always did this. They just built amazing stuff.

[00:18:37] Joseph O’Reilly: And the fact that they didn’t use border on there is amazing. I don’t know how they got those big blocks of stone where they got them. But you know, it was set up for a bullfight. They’re still using that arena, and it was set up for a bullfight. And I understand bullfighting, at least in Arles, is not fatal to the bull.

They try to take ribbons off the bull’s horn, rather than, you know, injure the bull.

And when we walked outside, there was a picture of a painting done by Van Gogh, where he had been to a bullfight and he had, he drew the crowd and, you know, they quoted what he had to say about it. So that was pretty neat.

[00:19:11] Annie Sargent: Mm hmm

[00:19:11] Joseph O’Reilly: Then we walked around to the tourist center. And that was a pretty healthy walk. We might not have chosen the most direct route. I’m not sure. We went by a very moving memorial to the members of the Resistance, which was very interesting to see. We got to the visitor center. It was busy.

They were helpful. We ended up then going over to the Van Gogh Fondation, and that was interesting. They don’t really own any Van Goghs. They had five on loan from other places. Van Goghs are so valuable now, I’m sure they have trouble affording them.

But they had a very interesting exhibit about female abstract painters, from all over the world, and including five from New York. There’s a book called The Ninth Street Women about some abstract painters in New York, like Lee Krasner, who was married to Jackson Pollock, and Elaine de Kooning, who was married to William de Kooning, Joan Mitchell, Hartigan, and there’s one other, Helen…

I’m missing that on Helen’s name, but I’d read this book, but I’d never seen their work.

And it was interesting to see their work. And there was work by other women artists from all over the world. That was really neat.

[00:20:25] Annie Sargent: That’s the great thing about places like this is that yes, they can’t own Van Gogh most. I mean, you know, they’re so expensive. It’s just crazy that he only ever sold one painting when he was alive and now they go for fortunes. Such is the world of art, I guess.

But it’s always good that usually in these places, they have some sort of exhibit, you know, of other artists, and it’s usually very interesting.

[00:20:53] Joseph O’Reilly: It was. And I’ve thought of the name of the other artist, Helen Frankenthaler, is the other artist I was trying to think of. So their work’s really interesting. And they, you know, they were doing the same work as the men, as well or better. But, you know, they didn’t get any publicity.

[00:21:07] Annie Sargent: Mm hmm.

[00:21:08] Joseph O’Reilly: That’s just the way it was.

[00:21:10] Annie Sargent: Yeah.

[00:21:10] Joseph O’Reilly: And then we got some ice cream and walked back to the train and took the train back to Avignon. And we stayed at a hotel in Avignon called the Hotel d’Europe. It was close to the Palais du Papes and there was a big plaza in front of it, the Place Crillon, and it had four or five restaurants, that had outdoor venues.

So a number of nights we ate at different restaurants on the Place Crillon. It was very convenient. The first night we got there, we didn’t get there until 8:30 because our flight, we flew through Charles de Gaulle to Marseille, and the flight out of Paris was delayed two hours, so it was a little later when we got there.

The lady at the desk was telling us to go to the Place de l’Horloge, to some really nice, outdoor café, and we tried to get to the Place de l’Horloge, but it was dark, and we weren’t sure where we were going, and we just decided, heck, there’s all these restaurants in front of the hotel, we’re going back and eating in front of the hotel.

We eventually made it to the Place de l’Horloge, which was a neat place, there was a merry go round there, and a theater, a big statue of Moliere in front of it, the theater might have been named after Moliere, I don’t know. Big church, and it, that was a neat place.

There was a restaurant there that you had recommended, that we ate at twice, we liked it so much. The Carré du Palais, I think, was basically in the shadow of the Palais du Papes. It was a really nice place, we ate outside. Virtually, everywhere except our hotel in Vence, we ate outside and it was really nice.

[00:22:36] Annie Sargent: You know, September in France was very nice. The weather was perfect. It wasn’t super hot, but I mean, we had some wind, but no rain that I remember. It was just a beautiful, beautiful month of September.

Enjoying Saint Paul de Vence and Pétanque

[00:22:48] Joseph O’Reilly: It was! We got a little rain, one day we went to Saint Paul de Vence. And we were going to paint in the afternoon in Saint Paul de Vence, but we kind of got rained out. But we had a chance to walk around Saint Paul de Vence, which is a really neat place, really neat, old hilltop town, wall town. And outside, there was a big patanque, court or boule court, we got to see a bunch of the men playing boule. That was neat. We played bocce ball when we go to the beach here. The balls are wood and they’re a little bigger, but it’s basically a very similar game. But they, these people were really good.

They really knew what they were doing.

[00:23:24] Annie Sargent: Yeah, it was championship level.

[00:23:27] Joseph O’Reilly: Oh my goodness, I don’t know, but they’re a lot better than we ever were on the beach, I can tell you that.

So, but it was interesting to see that.

[00:23:34] Annie Sargent: It’s always fun to watch, because in France, on French TV, you can actually watch Pétanque championships. These people are athletes. They actually keep themselves in really good shape. They’re buff. They have really good eye hand coordination.

They’re good! They’re good.

[00:23:54] Joseph O’Reilly: Now, in Pétanque, do they have to stand in a circle?

[00:23:57] Annie Sargent: No, they don’t have to. They just throw their metal ball as close to the wooden… I don’t know what you call it in English, the cochonet, the piglet? Did you call it the piglet? I don’t know. In French, it’s a piglet. So it’s a team sport, so there’s a bunch of rules, how many points you get, but if several people on the team get close to the cochonet, that’s however many points and… I don’t, I mean, I’ve only ever played this game just for giggles. I don’t even know how to count the points, but it’s very fun just to throw, you know, just to just, just stand around and it’s usually a beautiful day and it’s pleasant.

Exploring the Charm of Petanque and French Clubs

[00:24:33] Joseph O’Reilly: Well, you know, it’s a way to be outside with your friends. It’s kind of like golf, only a lot less expensive, a lot shorter period of time, you know?

Better than golf.

[00:24:41] Annie Sargent: You don’t walk as much as golf.

[00:24:43] Joseph O’Reilly: It doesn’t cost as much.

[00:24:45] Annie Sargent: No, it’s actually, you have to have a licence de Petanque, you have to pay a yearly fee, but it’s probably what, 30 euros for the year, and then you could go to any Petanque club in France and play, use their facilities.

[00:25:00] Joseph O’Reilly: That’s really neat.

The sixth thing we like was the Pont du Gard. We already talked about that.

A Day at Villa Ephrussi Rothschild: Art, Gardens, and Painting

[00:25:05] Joseph O’Reilly: The seventh thing, we got a chance to go to Saint Jean Cap Ferrat, to the Villa Ephrussi Rothschild, Baroness Rothschild was one of the members of the family who married a gentleman named Ephrussi, who apparently was a big gambler and a bit of a rake, and eventually she divorced him. But she built this really interesting home on the top of a big hill on a spit of land going out into the sea, and she had land on both sides of her, and she outbid King Leopold of Belgium for the property, and she’s got, oh, about eight or nine gardens, different types of gardens all around.

So we got a chance to tour the villa. We got a chance to eat in the restaurant, which was very good. And then we got a chance to paint in the gardens outside. So we spent one part of that day painting at the Villa Ephrussi Gardens.

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Transportation during the trip

[00:25:53] Annie Sargent: So I was going to ask how you got there, but obviously there was a van or something.

[00:25:59] Joseph O’Reilly: Three of us had rented cars. There were only nine of us in the group. Three of us had rented cars, so, you know, we…

[00:26:05] Annie Sargent: You got around that way.

[00:26:06] Joseph O’Reilly: We wanted an automatic, so we rented an automatic, and the car was a Mitsubishi, probably, it seemed to be a little bigger than some of the cars on the road.

I was kind of intimidated a lot of the time driving. I was afraid I was going to sideswipe somebody or be sideswiped. And a lot of the parking spaces were not overly big, so I had to kind of squeeze into the parking spaces. The good news about towns on top of hills is they’re beautiful.

The bad news is they’re on top of hills and you’ve got a lot of curves, a lot of curves to get up there, and I was always kind of worried as I went around a curve, or hoping there wasn’t somebody coming around at the same time.

[00:26:45] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Well, you know, so did you get any speeding tickets?

[00:26:50] Joseph O’Reilly: Not yet. You know, I understand you can get them months later. They can show up in the mail. I haven’t received any yet. I didn’t get any live speeding tickets.

[00:26:58] Annie Sargent: Did you see any flash, any bright flash?

[00:27:01] Joseph O’Reilly: Not that I can recall, but if it was during the, if it was during the day, I might not have noticed it so much. Sometimes I was just so nervous about where I was going.

We’re going on through all these rotaries, and everybody would tell me when was the right time to turn. The good thing about rotaries is if you miss your turn, you keep, keep going around until you get it right. So that’s good. I kind of like that part of it.

[00:27:23] Annie Sargent: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. And it’s true that the tickets can appear a few days later or a few weeks later, rather. I’m actually, myself, wondering if I’m going to get one of those because I did get a flash when I was traveling through Bordeaux and the Atlantic coast. But I haven’t received it yet, and it’s been a month already, so perhaps, and I hope, that it’s because… I mean, I was speeding, but it wasn’t my fault.

There was this truck behind me with extra lights on it. You know how some trucks install brighter lights or whatever, and he had his brights on and I just tapped on the gas to get away from him because it was blinding me, and boom, I got a flash. And hopefully whoever, because they do look at the photo.

The circumstances, yes. And hopefully they could tell that there was something super bright behind me, but I don’t know. I’ll keep you updated.

[00:28:21] Joseph O’Reilly: Well, we’re coming up on two months and we haven’t gotten it yet, so hopefully we won’t get one.

[00:28:26] Annie Sargent: You’re probably okay.

[00:28:27] Joseph O’Reilly: But I was pretty nervous. I was pretty nervous driving a lot of the time. Next time I would like to get a smaller car. I don’t know if I could get an automatic in a smaller car. And I mean, this car wouldn’t have been considered big by over here, but it seemed bigger to me than a lot of the other cars.

[00:28:41] Annie Sargent: Yeah, yeah, so you can get automatic in all sizes by now in France. As a matter of fact, most cars that French people buy are automatic because they’re more efficient.

Yes, yes. This has changed tremendously in the last 10 years. Finding an automatic car is not difficult anymore, even in the smaller cars, it’s fine.

It’s true that it’s intimidating when you’re used to wide roads and wide parking spaces and wide everything. Oh, this tightness is a bit much.

[00:29:12] Joseph O’Reilly: One day we were driving, when we were leaving Avignon and going to Provence and Luberon, we were driving to Oppede-le-vieux.

[00:29:22] Annie Sargent: Oppede-le-vieux, yes.

[00:29:24] Joseph O’Reilly: And we’re following the directions we thought of the GPS, but we get on this road that I swear, it looked like a one lane road. I don’t know how, if anybody was coming from the other side, I don’t know what we would have done.

I didn’t know if I was going the right way or the wrong way, but we went through this one lane road, we get to the town, go up the hill to get into town, couldn’t find a parking space, and everybody was looking at us like we were doing something wrong. I wondered if I was going the wrong way, or not, but we turned around and got out at Oppede-le-vieux.


[00:29:53] Joseph O’Reilly: We never did stop there. We ended up going to Menerbes.

[00:29:57] Annie Sargent: Oh, which is also pretty spectacular. And has a parking lot.

[00:30:01] Joseph O’Reilly: It did have a pretty good parking lot, but it was market day, so it took us a while to find that parking lot. I had read Peter Maille’s book: ‘ A Year in Provence’. And for a while he lived in Menerbes, and I wanted to see Menerbes, and it was neat, we ate at a place called the Bistro Stank, the food was okay, it wasn’t the best food we had, but it had a beautiful view looking over the valley.

[00:30:26] Annie Sargent: In Menerbes, it’s about the view. Yeah.

[00:30:29] Joseph O’Reilly: And then, you know, we had our luggage in the car because we were coming from one hotel to another, and we had backpacks. So when we were walking around, we had our backpacks. So we walked up the hill, and you know, I wasn’t as inclined to walk too far with the backpack. I didn’t want to leave it in the car because I was afraid it might not still be there when we got back.

We found a little park dedicated to Jean Moulin, and we sat in the park resting with our backpacks off our backs and thought about Jean Moulin. It was very nice. It was very low key, but very, very nice.

And then we went to Bonnieux from Menerbes because Ginny’s group was staying that week in Bonnieux at Le Clos Du Buis.

Le Clos Du Buis, I think is the name, is a little hotel there. They liked it very much. And we got to see Bonnieux. And then we went back to check in to Gordes. We were staying at a place called Les Domaine les Martins, run by a couple that used to work in New York, and they bought this, I don’t know if it was a farmhouse or not, they fixed it up beautifully, but we had a real trouble finding it, the signage was tough, and we were listening to this GPS, and the GPS would tell you, you’re here, and it was like, we were looking around, where?

You know, we don’t see it.

No, we’re not!

So we had a lot of time finding it, but when we did find it, it was a wonderful place. And we had a good time there.

[00:31:47] Annie Sargent: Wonderful.

[00:31:48] Joseph O’Reilly: One thing that we liked a lot, we went to the Fondation Maeght in Saint-Paul-de-Vence and got to see the art there and a lot of the beautiful outdoor art there, Giacometti and gosh, I’m blanking on some of the other artists, there’s a lot of, Frédéric Leger, I think is there.

[00:32:05] Annie Sargent: It’s been so long since I’ve been there that I don’t remember who all is there, but it is a beautiful museum. Yeah.

[00:32:10] Joseph O’Reilly: Alexander Calder was there. They had a lot of outdoor art as well. It was pretty neat. It was like you’re going through a big park, looking at art by famous artists.

[00:32:21] Annie Sargent: And clearly you love art. I mean, if you love it enough to learn how to paint, you love it.

[00:32:26] Joseph O’Reilly: Well, I paint like a beginner, but I enjoy it and it was fun. And Ginny’s a good teacher, and the people on the trip were very nice. Mary Beth wasn’t planning to paint, but she painted because she felt so comfortable and everybody was encouraging her to do so.

So it was really neat. It was really neat.


[00:32:43] Joseph O’Reilly: One of the other things we did that we liked, two vans picked us up, and there were three, one of the ladies had three of her family members there, so there were 12 of us at that day, and we had two vans, and we drove to Nice. And we got to see the seashore, and Old Nice, we walked around Old Nice, which was really interesting, and then we got back in the vans, and we drove up to Eze. And we ate at a wonderful place overlooked, we had great pizza at a patio overlooking the sea, and then the La Chèvre D’Or was the name of the hotel and restaurant.

[00:33:19] Annie Sargent: Fancy place.

[00:33:20] Joseph O’Reilly: It was a fancy place, I shudder to think what it cost to stay there. A lot of the meals were included in what we paid for the trip, so I don’t know what the pizza cost, it was probably the most expensive pizza I ever had, but it was a great setting. The pizza was good, and it was, oh, to look out over the sea, you’re kind of up high, it was really neat, and then we walked through the town of Eze, which is really interesting.

A very old, very interesting, very high. They said there were only five people other, there were two big hotels in Eze. I think the other one, the Hotel Eze or something like that, but both of them look very, very nice. And they said there were only five other people that own land in Eze. And so everybody’s waiting for them to pass away so they can buy their land, you know.

[00:34:05] Annie Sargent: Wow.

[00:34:07] Joseph O’Reilly: On the way down, we stopped at the Fragonard.

[00:34:10] Annie Sargent: Museum?

I mean, the fragrance stuff.

[00:34:13] Joseph O’Reilly: It’s like a, they make some things there, but they also sell some things there, and they have a museum there. I think we just used their restrooms, and we had already seen Fragonard in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, and bought some souvenir type stuff there, so… that was nice.

[00:34:29] Annie Sargent: Very nice. Well, it sounds like you liked all the places you went. Is there anything you did not like?

[00:34:34] Joseph O’Reilly: Well, on the way home, we had a travel agent who really helped us the first part, and she decided it would be nice if we stayed in Nice the last night rather than rushing to catch our plane, because we flew from, direct from Nice to Kennedy Airport in New York, which was nice. We didn’t have to go back to Charles de Gaulle.

And so we stayed at the Sheraton on the Promenades des Anglais. It’s kind of a new hotel, very hard to find. The GPS was telling us we were there, we couldn’t figure out. The signage was bad, they had parking underneath with a lot of other entities. And so, and that was not an inexpensive place. I would never go back there.

They had a restaurant. They said on the first floor, well, we couldn’t find a restaurant. Then they said, oh, it’s upstairs. Up by the pool, they had a restaurant, which would have been, it was a kind of an outdoor place. It would have been a nice place to get a drink and a snack or something, but it was kind of windy.

We ended up going next door to the Novotel and eating in their restaurant.

And I had pizza again. It was really good. France has good pizza. I like pizza.

[00:35:38] Annie Sargent: Especially Provence, yeah, Provence has good pizza.

[00:35:41] Joseph O’Reilly: Oh man, it was really good.

In fact, when we were in, Gosh, where was it? Uzès. We were dealing with the lady in the tourist office. I was talking about pizza a lot, and she said: Why didn’t you go to Italy? You know, you like pizza so much. Why didn’t you go to Italy?

There was one other place we went, Tourrettes-sur-Loup. It’s another mountain town.

[00:36:01] Annie Sargent: Tourrettes-sur-Loup.

[00:36:02] Joseph O’Reilly: It looks like Tourette, in English, we would probably, it looks like it would be Tourette sur Loup.

[00:36:07] Annie Sargent: Okay.

[00:36:08] Joseph O’Reilly: And it wasn’t too far from Vence. We went there one afternoon, it was a beautiful, beautiful place, another one of these gorgeous hill towns with these windy little roads and interesting shops.

[00:36:19] Annie Sargent: Yeah, in Le Luberon, there’s so many, and they’re teeny tiny, I mean, some of them, you know, you blink, you miss it, but it’s very, very scenic a lot of these places.

[00:36:30] Joseph O’Reilly: Beautiful church. And another beautiful, there was a beautiful church in Vence with a Marc Chagall mosaic. Marc Chagall, who lived around there, and is buried around, not necessarily Vence, but, uh, he might be buried in, around Nice, I’m not sure, but he did a mosaic in their church, it’s a lovely old church, and it was a really neat mosaic.

[00:36:51] Annie Sargent: Again the art, you like the art.

[00:36:53] Joseph O’Reilly: A whole lot of these churches have priceless art, and that’s probably priceless too.

I do like the art. We also went to the Pont Saint Benezet when we were in Avignon. We got to see that.

[00:37:05] Annie Sargent: Pont Saint Beneze, Le Pont d’Avignon. Yes.

[00:37:08] Joseph O’Reilly: Yeah, that was really neat.

[00:37:09] Annie Sargent: Did you sing and dance?

[00:37:10] Joseph O’Reilly: We didn’t dance, but we saw the lyrics of the song. They were printed out on the side. I took a picture of it.

I couldn’t translate it, but took a picture of it.

That was just great. I mean, you live in a beautiful country. The whole country could be on a painting. Everything in France could be on a painting.

[00:37:28] Annie Sargent: Well, not everything. You were in a particularly scenic part of the country, you know, Provence, Luberon, Nice, Eze, I mean, this is all gorgeous territory. Not all of France is quite that beautiful, but it has its charms. That’s for sure. That’s for sure. And it sounds like you really enjoyed the time you spent with groups and with, you know, activities that were, where you had a leader that was just showing you how to paint, or how to cook, or things like that.

And that’s pretty common. I think people really enjoy those experiences.

[00:38:01] Joseph O’Reilly: It was, you know, the first time we went to Paris, we were by ourselves, and that was great. It was great to see things. But it’s nice to be with other people, too, and have interactions with them, and it adds to the richness of the experience. And I just want to mention again, in Vence, the L’Auberge des Seigneurs, the hotel and restaurant where we were.

It was run by the family. We were in Vence eight days. We ate, not the whole group, but Mary Beth and I ate at that restaurant five times. I haven’t had lamb chops five times in my life. I had lamb chops five times. You know, it was just a wonderful place and they had relatively small dining room with a roaring fire and two chickens basting, you know, grandmother, Danielle, would baste the chickens and if two people ordered beef or veal, you could get it, you know, cooked over the open flame in the restaurant.

Everything else was cooked in the kitchen, including the lamb chops. The lamb chops were out of this world. I had lamb chops five times, more times than I’d have them in my whole life. They had wonderful rest. They had wonderful dessert. I can’t say enough good things about the restaurant. Each room was named after a painter who had painted in the area.

Underground Parking and Gas Stations

[00:39:13] Annie Sargent: So it sounds like also you had some trouble finding your way, the typical, I mean, the problem with the Sheraton in Nice, yes, a lot of, in a lot of cities, parking is underground in France. And so if you’re looking for a sign above ground, you’re not going to find it. If you look down to this ramp that goes down, because that’s where French people would be looking for it, because we know that in cities, the parking is often underground. So we’d be looking for down the ramp, is there a sign for the Sheraton, but if you look for a normal sign above ground, you’re not going to find it. This is just one of these kind of cultural differences.

Americans are not used to looking for parking lots underground, or gas stations. In Paris, most gas stations are underground. And so you drive around Paris and you’re like, I never see a gas station. What is this? They’re there. They’re just, and your GPS will tell you there’s a gas station here.

And you’re like, no, there’s not. And you got to get into the parking garage and it’s underground. So that’s just a difference, because in America you have so much land. It’s such a big country. You have land everywhere. You can put stuff on the surface.

[00:40:29] Joseph O’Reilly: Yeah, Well, when we were in the Dordogne, when we were in the Dordogne in Perigueux, it was market day, and we parked underground, and I swear I only had about two inches clearance on each side of the car, and I had to back in, and there were cars behind me. So, there was an underground parking garage in Vence, but I avoided it. We parked in the Marie Antoinette lot, which was not too far from the hotel. So, and of course, I could remember that name, and, and, as Ginny had said, that’s one of the lots that you can park in.

[00:40:55] Annie Sargent: Would you say it was stressful overall? Your trip, was it more stressful, more restful, more discovery memorable? I don’t know. What adjectives would you put on it?

[00:41:05] Joseph O’Reilly: The only thing that was stressful was the driving, but the trip itself was just invigorating.

Invigorating, awesome and invigorating are the two, I mean, I could think of a lot of adjectives, but it just, it was not, the trip itself is not stressful, it’s getting to and from, that’s always stressful, flying and all, you know, possibility of delays and stuff.

But being there is worth whatever stress you experience in the process of getting there.

[00:41:31] Annie Sargent: Did you find that the differences between Paris and the rest of France is huge, isn’t it? I mean, it’s just so different.

[00:41:38] Joseph O’Reilly: It’s a different pace of life. You know, it’s just like I grew up in around Chicago and it’s the difference between a big city and in a smaller place. Big cities are awesome. You get to see and experience things that don’t exist in other places, but quality of life is better outside big cities, in my opinion.

You know, we live in Louisville, which is big, but not so big, you know, in Chicago, you might drive an hour and a half to go to a party. In Louisville, you can get most places in 20 minutes. And I think that’s probably the same in the country of France. When we were in Saint-Jean-de-Côle, it was just very, very interesting and fun.

And, you know, I think the quality of life is better. And I felt that way when we were outside, you know, in the countryside, as opposed to Paris. I love Paris. I could spend a month in Paris and…

[00:42:23] Annie Sargent: Yeah, and not get bored. So much to do in Paris. Yeah, so much.

But it’s not the same as the rest of the country.

[00:42:29] Joseph O’Reilly: No, no, it’s charming. The rest of the country is really neat.

The whole country. I mean, you live in a wonderful place.

[00:42:35] Annie Sargent: Well, thank you, thank you.

Reflections and Advice on Traveling in France

[00:42:36] Annie Sargent: So, any words of wisdom for people who are considering this sort of strip? Advice for fellow travelers?

[00:42:43] Joseph O’Reilly: Don’t get a big car and get some Eurocoins, you know, you can get paper money, you might not want to leave a 5 Euro tip everywhere, you know, get some coins and hang on to them, you know, that’s something that, you know, we could get Euros here before we go, but we can’t get coins.

[00:43:00] Annie Sargent: Right, and if you get Euros in the US, make sure they don’t give you 200 Euro bills, because nobody will take them, or even 100, even, I mean, 50 is the biggest you want, because, you know, if you just need to buy a few items, and it’s going to be 8 Euros, they’re not going to take a 100 bill for, for that, like, it’s just not.

[00:43:19] Joseph O’Reilly: The other bit of advice I’d give is eat dessert, don’t hesitate, eat dessert, eat the pastries, eat the croissants, baquette, eat everything. You can walk it off, and we did walk a lot of it off, but even if you don’t walk it off, you’re not going to get the same stuff at home, so take advantage of the opportunities that you have.

[00:43:39] Annie Sargent: French people eat dessert. Like French people, if they go out to eat, they’re going to do, first of all, we don’t go out to eat as much as Americans. So you know, you might go out to eat twice a month or something in France. Well, in America, we used to go out to eat. Twice a week was nothing.

So when we do go out to eat, we eat the whole thing. We get an appetizer, a main and a dessert and a coffee afterwards and all of that. Whereas in America, it’s more like, Oh, I want just this one item with this, with the dressing on the side or whatever. Oh no, French people are like, no, this is a time to celebrate.

We’re happy to be here. So we’ll have everything.

[00:44:15] Joseph O’Reilly: It was wonderful, and the restaurants we ate at, L’Auberge they had kind of two, you could get an appetizer and a main course was one price, or you could get an appetizer, main course, and a dessert, that was another price. And it was, they were good deals. The dessert special, every time, and I had it every time, was profiteroles.

[00:44:32] Annie Sargent: Uh huh.

[00:44:33] Joseph O’Reilly: Oh my gosh, chocolate, ice cream, pastry, all rolled up into one.

[00:44:38] Annie Sargent: You’re making me hungry.

[00:44:40] Joseph O’Reilly: Perfect dessert. If you go there, get the profiteroles and the lamb chops.

[00:44:43] Annie Sargent: Wonderful. Wonderful. Well, well, well. Fantastic advice, Joe. It’s been a delight to talk to you. So do you think you’ll come back to France?

[00:44:53] Joseph O’Reilly: Yes, yes, we’d like to go back on another one of Ginny’s painting trips, you know. She hasn’t issued the information for next year. And to tell you the truth, as much as I’d like to see the whole country, if she goes to Vence again and stays in that hotel, I’d like to go back and do that, we enjoyed that family so much. Wonderful.

Join Us In France Podcast

[00:45:13] Joseph O’Reilly: Yeah. Thank you for what you do. We didn’t discover you until after the first of the year, but I’ve already listened to more than 500 of your 475 podcasts, and I look forward to getting caught up with all of them. You just bring the country alive, you and Elyse, bring the country alive. I was a history major and I like art, so I love listening to what she has to add about history and art, and everything else. It just brings France alive, and when you are francophile, you can’t get enough of it, and I wish I had known about the podcast sooner, but I’m making up for lost time by listening to everything I can.

I don’t know how you do it, you do so much, just based on what I know of what you do. I don’t know…

[00:45:57] Annie Sargent: Yeah, well…

[00:45:58] Joseph O’Reilly: You must not sleep very much.

[00:46:00] Annie Sargent: Oh, I, I sleep plenty. That is something that I sleep, but I, you know, recently I cut down on the VIP Itineraries because it was just too many and too much work. And that’s working out very well. Now that I offer a Bonjour service, it’s better. It’s better for my mental health.

[00:46:18] Joseph O’Reilly: Well, if we go next year, we’ll touch base with you, and the, your new service where you talk for an hour or so and don’t get bogged down in paperwork.

[00:46:27] Annie Sargent: Exactly. Exactly. Merci beaucoup, Joe.

[00:46:30] Joseph O’Reilly: Merci, Annie. It’s been a pleasure.

[00:46:32] Annie Sargent: Au revoir.

[00:46:33] Joseph O’Reilly: Au revoir.


Thank you Patrons

[00:46:40] Annie Sargent: Again, I want to thank my patrons for giving back and supporting the show. Patreon supporters at any level get the new episodes as soon as they are ready and ads free. If that sounds good to you, be like them, follow the link in the show notes. Patrons get more exclusive rewards for doing that, you can see them at

And a shout out this week to new patrons: David Shen and Sheree Noell. And to all my current patrons, it is wonderful to have you on board in the community of francophiles who keep this podcast going. My thanks also to Susie Greenberg for your one time donation using the green button on that says ‘Tip your guide’. Susie added a message about how she can never thank us enough for the podcast because a trip to France with a relative was the occasion to create deep connections with a family member who has since passed away. Thank you, Susie for sharing your journey with me and Elyse, and for your kind support of the podcast.

And to support Elyse, go to

And if you’ve been a $5 patron for a year or more, and you’re going to Paris, message me within Patreon and I’ll give you a free code to one of my VoiceMap tours of your choice.

This is also good for people who join at the $5 level and select yearly support. They’ll get a free tour code in return for their wonderful support. Thank you very much. I’m always looking for new patrons because I gained some and I lose some, and so it’s important to grow the listenership and the patronage.

Reviews of the Montmartre Tour

[00:48:34] Annie Sargent: Today, I’m going to read some reviews of my Montmartre tour. I love that my older tours have hundreds of positive reviews, but please, if you’re in Paris, walk my new food tour of Les Halles. It needs reviews, it’s so new, and it’s just as good as the other ones, I assure you.

So one person says: ‘We have been to Montmartre many times, but we saw so many things that we had not before, the history descriptions so informative and interesting. The stories we loved, and the wonderful instructions made it so easy to use’.

Another person wrote: ‘Great tour with lots of information, would highly recommend it’.

A third person wrote: ‘Really nice tour, not too long, not too short, good info. We did get lost twice, but maybe that’s just us’. Yeah, it’s, you know, some people find it easier to navigate than others. That’s just how it works.

And one last one: ‘Absolutely fabulous. We arrived to Montmartre and throngs of people. Without the expert guidance, we would have been overwhelmed and completely unsure of where to go. 10 out of 10’.

Thank you so much for your reviews. And like I said, please walk my food tour, it is excellent, you will love it, and it needs reviews. And the only people who can review are people who take it.

So, that’s why you are very important in this operation.

French Peopple’s Reaction to Foreigners Speaking Frenchx

[00:49:58] Annie Sargent: Let’s talk about how French people react to foreigners speaking French.

Here I’m going to talk about the psychology of French people when it comes to speaking English. What gave me the idea is that someone named Robert Bennett Levin wrote this on Quora: ‘I’m fairly fluent, having studied and spoken the language for 50 years, since I was 15, I never cease to be amused here in Paris, where I live, that if I say to a French person: Parlez vous Anglais? I’ll usually get a peaked facial expression and an answer of ‘No, or ‘un petit peu.’ A little bit.

However, as soon as that person learns that I’m a francophone, they’re off with the English. And that’s the language that they want to use with me’.

Yes, it makes a big difference. I think most native speakers who live in France have experienced this. Most French people hate being put on the spot and forced to speak English, but as soon as they know that that’s your native tongue and that you also speak some French, they want to practice their English with you.

By the way, when I lived in the US for a long time, and people found out that French is my native tongue, not a one of them insisted on speaking French, possibly because they didn’t know any French at all? I don’t know, but it’s a very different experience for French people who go to the US. But it’s a fact that French people are really, really self conscious about their English pronunciation. Perhaps the endless teasing on American TV about French accents has something to do with it? You know, think Pépé Le Pew, for example. Not only is that character overly confident, he’s relentlessly pursuing Penelope Pussycat, but he stinks, and he has a strong French accent. What’s not to tease, huh? Now I don’t remember ever seeing that cartoon on French TV growing up in France. Somehow that cartoon did not sell well in France. But sentiment that French guys are clueless, obsessed, hard to understand, has been prevalent on American TV. Another example of that is Inspector Jacques Clouseau, you know, he’s a bumbling fool, incompetent, and with a very pronounced French accent.

So there’s been more positive characters with French accents on American TV, but it’s clear to me that negative portrayals are in the majority still. There’s a lot of teasing of French people about their accents. So, since we mostly watch American TV in France, that’s why French people, very young, get the message that, yeah, you’re going to be made fun of.

So, French people think that their accent, when speaking English, makes them seem stupid, even if what they say is grammatically correct, even if they learn the language very well. The other thing is putting your tongue between your teeth to make a correct ‘th’ sound, it makes French people cringe when they first try it, and perhaps making a correct French ‘r’, like (pronouncing r) has the same effect on you, to make the right sounds in a new language, you need to move your tongue and your mouth in ways that don’t feel natural, and I’m sure you’ve experienced this when learning French or any other language than your native tongue.

So, learning a new language is difficult. There are barriers that are emotional in nature, like the fear of being teased or looked at as less intelligent, the fear of looking strange, doing weird things with your mouth.

That’s why, if you’re a native English speaker in France, as soon as you expose yourself by speaking French with an accent, you reveal that you’re okay using French with an accent, then people who are close to you will love practicing their English on you. After all, you live in France full time and they don’t get to speak English enough.

So they, you know, they will want to speak English with you. That probably won’t be the case if you’re just coming through France on a visit, but if you live here, there are people in your life who just want to speak English with you, even though you speak French.

So… French people have a strange relationship with English, but the one thing that you should never do is approach someone and just speak English with them, especially if you don’t at least say: Bonjour! to them to begin with, that’s the first thing that should come out of your mouth.

My thanks to podcast editors, Anne and Cristian Cotovan, who produced the transcripts. Next week on the podcast, a trip report with Talin Janjik, who chatted with me about family, fun, and France.

And remember, patrons get an ad free version of this episode, no matter what their level of support is, click on the link in the show notes of this episode to be like them, and if you would like a free tour code, become a patron at the $5 level with yearly support, or if you have been supporting at that level for a while already, just send me a message within Patreon and I’ll send you a code.

Thank you so much for listening and I hope you join me next time so we can look around France together. Au revoir.


[00:55:29] Annie Sargent: The Join Us in France travel podcast is written, hosted, and produced by Annie Sargent and Copyright 2024 by AddictedToFrance. It is released under a Creative Commons, attribution, non-commercial, no derivatives license

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Category: Provence