Archive | July, 2011

The Tour de France – the ultimate endurance race

29 Jul

Tour by Tuileries Phto by Jennifer FlueckigerA fellow sufferer suggested the title for this post. We endured 3 hours of a terrible one-man-band busker, children crying, sore legs and bottoms, cringe-inducing over-loud pronouncements by fellow Americans, constant moaning by my husband, all with the knowledge that we could be on a cafe terrace somewhere with a glass of wine, for this:

I am quite convinced that cycle road racing is a terrible spectator sport.  And we were the lucky ones.  Most people along the 3430.5 km route of the tour only got to see the 5 second blur once.  We were positioned by the Seine on the tour’s final circuit around the Tuileries Gardens and up and down the Champs Elysees to the finish line.  We got to see the blur 5 times. 

The first pass by made me feel sick to my stomach.  Trying to make out individual riders in the mosh pit of the peloton made my head hurt.  Was that it? Shit! I’m glad that was it. Wait, was that it? What had just happened? The attention of the bewildered crowd moved from the road back to themselves. We all looked at each other searching for clues. 

“Dude, that was so, like, quick man. Shit,” the young American college guy standing in front of us was unlikely to provide answers.

We had 7 minutes to recover for the next lap. I needed it. I tried to prepare myself a bit better for the next flash. Focus. Try to actually see something, anything other than just a smudge. We could feel them coming. We first heard the hum of the TV helicopter over head.  Then the roar of three police motorcycles passing in formation. Then 6 yellow cars with yellow bikes gripping their tops – vroom vroom, vroom vroom. The ripple of cheers was getting closer. There they were! First sight above the crowd, helmeted heads bobbing up and down, a smear of brilliantly-coloured lycra, legs pumping, metal frame, razor-thin wheels, gone. 

Vroom Photo by Jennifer FlueckigerThis time it was a bit different.  No mosh pit, but a leading group.  Several cars, followed the front-runners, vroom, vroom.  The peloton followed, then gone. Darn it! I’d still not made out a single rider. And, what was going on? Was someone making a move?

I spotted a couple several groups along from us looking intently at their iPhone.  When they arrived 2 hours earlier I’d noticed the high-tech pram/stroller with wire-spoke wheels, the man’s hairless legs, his over-developed calf muscles and his green t-shirt that said ‘work hard – bike home’.

“Do you speak English?” I asked.

He screwed up his face. “Yes,”  he said in a British accent. Of course he did. French men over the age of 25 don’t wear t-shirts and tennis shoes/trainers.

“What’s going on?” I asked excitedly.

He looked at me for a minute judging if I could take it. I think he decided I couldn’t. “How about I give you the bullet points?” he asked.

I conceded that that was all I could handle since I’d yet to actually identify an individual cyclist in the blur, I didn’t know any of the cyclists by name and really had no idea how the race worked.

“We’re getting text messages from home,” he started. He then went on, “ Blah blah blah Cavendish, green jersey. Blah blah time trial winner. Blah blah HCI team train. Blah blah blah likely to catch break away blah glory lap for sponsors. Blah blah blah strategy blah blah cyclist’s name and team name, another cyclist’s name blah blah may be a threat  blah blah blah blah blah blah.” He continued in a similar vein for a while. It turned out he didn’t speak English and even the bullet points were too much.

“Thanks so much,” I said enthusiastically when I guessed he was done and went back to my group.

“What did he say?” my husband asked expectantly.

“Well, I’ll keep it simple for you,” I said. “He said they are likely to catch the breakaway group … I think. And something about a British guy and an Australian. Wait, here they come again.”

Whip of helicopter blades overhead, vroom, motorcycles past, vroom vroom, yellow cars with bikes, vroom break away group, vroom, cars. Then quiet.  My husband started to count out the lead. 30 seconds! Vroom. The rest of the peloton. I actually saw a green jersey that time!

The next round he set his watch to time the lead.  It was bigger!

Knowledgable Bike Man, affectionately named by my patient friend who also named this post, came running over. “They think the break-away group is too far ahead. They might not catch them.  They may have blown it!”

Tour fans at the Tuileries Photo by Jennifer FlueckigerI didn’t have any idea who he was talking about but it did all sound a bit exciting. Could they, whoever they were, do it? Could they catch up? We had around 6-7 minutes to wait for further clues and the anticipation of the crowd was building.

The tell-tale sounds started again. The helicopter, motorcycles, cars, cheers, this time really big cheers … yes! They’d caught up!  One big mass whizzed by. The peloton had pulled the glory riders back in.

Knowledgeable Bike Man ran over to us again, “Did you see it?  It looks like it’s on. The team is all lined up and Cavendish is tucked in.”

I, of course, hadn’t seen what he was talking about. I was still looking for the famous yellow jersey, to no avail.  It all sounded good though and the crowd was very excited.

That was the last pass before the inevitable sprint finish on the other side of  the park. Everyone clutched their phones anxious for the result, then cheers all around. Knowledgeable Bike Man’s wife grabbed their baby out of the pram/stroller, “We won sweetie! We won!” and kissed him on his fluffy blond head.

Cavendish, the British guy had won.  But he hadn’t won, the Australian guy had won. Wait, what? Knowledgeable Bike Man looked at me with pitying eyes and explained, “Cadel Evans from Australia won the tour, Cavendish won the stage.”

“Oh,” I said like it all made sense. And it kind of did, I guess. 

Was is all worth it? What do you think?  Just remember to bring your smart phone, good friends to laugh with and a picnic with a bottle of  fiz.

Patient friends at the tour Photo by Jennifer Flueckiger

US fan in a foreign land – Women’s World Cup Final

22 Jul Watching Super Abby Photo by Jennifer Flueckiger

Watching Super Abby Photo by Jennifer Flueckiger

On Sunday night I watched the US women’s soccer team lose to Japan in a Scottish pub in France. At half time a large group of drunk/high Australians harassed the bar. With the exception of France, I have lived in each of the countries listed above for at least a year.  The bringing together of all of these nations – Scotland, Japan, Australia, USA, France – in one place, in such a random way was a bit surreal. It was at once familiar, foreign, comforting and confusing.

behind the bar at the Auld Alliance pub paris from watched the game at the Auld Alliance pub, the go-to spot for Scottish TV to show the Tartan Army (the collective name for travelling Scottish sports fans) after a big game in Paris.  The Auld Alliance has 8 screens to watch sport, friendly staff behind the bar, beer from the Caley Brewery on tap, and haggis on the menu. Like many Scottish pubs there was more room for standing than sitting, however there were still a few seats at the small number of tables when we arrived.  We chose a table. My back was to the bar but my husband, sitting on a rickety folding chair, could survey what was going on. 

“This is all very strange,” he said. “It’s like we’ve just stepped out of Paris and into Scotland.  This is just like a real Scottish pub.” He continued to look around searching for what exactly made it feel so un-Parisian. “It’s got an edginess to it …”

“Grittiness?” I volunteered.

“Yeah, gritty, that’s the word. It feels a bit unpredictable, like you just don’t know what might happen.”

I took another look around. It did have a ‘spit and sawdust’ feel that we hadn’t seen since we’d been in France.  You wouldn’t be surprised if the large floor space in front of the bar had been sticky with beer.  A polyester ‘Bonnie Scotland’ flag that still bore fold creases was hung unceremoniously with thumb tacks/push pins over the door.  The slightly rancid, heavy cooking oil smell of the 10 euro burger+chips+beer deal was thick in the air. 

bonnie scotland at the Auld Alliance pub paris from, it was a Sunday night, we were in to see a women’s soccer/football match and it wasn’t that crowded. I thought it was unlikely that there would be any trouble, but my husband seemed less comfortable. Two British guys propping up the bar with their bellies shouted, “When’s the real footy starting?” suggesting they’d rather see a men’s game. Maybe my husband was right.

The match started and I felt a bit sick to my stomach.  I don’t get to be an American fan very often and soccer/football is my game. In the first minute, the US forced the Japanese keeper to make a save.  Then wave after wave of good attacking play by the US resulted in a ball in the outside of the net, a bad miss, a shot off target, 3 more shots off target, an excellent save by the Japanese keeper, a shot that bounced off the goalpost, a corner, a shot that went off the crossbar, another off target shot, and another… but no goals.

Halftime and I was exhausted. We needed to score. One quick counter attack from Japan and all of that good US attacking play would be for nothing.

My husband went to the bar and I noticed the place was really filling up. It was then that the Aussie’s arrived. The fact that they were Australian was really incidental, as the cocktail of youth, alcohol/drugs and being abroad in a large group can reduce normally well-behaved people of any nationality to bad behaviour. In fact I am sure I have behaved badly in similar situations.  While they looked like they were probably nice little rich boys on a college trip when sober, the large size of the young men, their saucer-shaped pupils and their erratic movements made them feel a bit scary.

Being an American fan abroad always makes you a bit more likely to be a target.  While fairly indiscriminate about whom they harassed, several of the young men decided to pick on me.  My husband at the bar heard, “You’re from Ohio” in a loud, mocking American accent, and then turned to see two of these guy’s faces literally in my face. He quickly came over to my defence. It was first time in our 20-year relationship he had felt the need to do so – the gesture was unnecessary, but, I suppose, sweet.

Others in the group had taken over a table occupied in the first half by a US fan.  I told them that the table was taken and they pretended to only understand French.  The US fan came back, started yelling at them in French and the group looked at me and whined, “Do you understand what that lady is saying?”

My husband tried to talk these guys into leaving us all alone. The Scottish barman intervened, “I don’t want these drunken children in my bar.” He then asked my husband, “Are you their teacher?”

Shocked by the misunderstanding and wounded that someone could think he was old enough to be this group’s teacher my husband scowled, “No mate, I was trying to help get rid of them. I’m just sitting here watching the game with my wife.”

After being told they were not going to be served and after a few flares of drunken, pathetic bravado the large Aussie crowd started to leave.  As they left, it looked like a group member was stealing a women’s handbag. I grabbed it so he could not get away. It turned out to be a false alarm and I got a lot of abuse from the ‘non-thief’. The whole incident left us a bit riled up and feeling a bit old. I reflected that there was a time when I would have handled the whole thing with much more ‘charm’, and less like a narcy teacher. My husband decided he needed to go out and get new trendier glasses to make him look younger.

Thankfully the second half started and stopped us crying in our pints. It meant more of the same from the US: a shot that went off the post, 2 more off target, a corner, a good save by the Japanese keeper.  Frustration! The US kept knocking at the door with no luck.  Then finally it happened.  After a long ball from the back, substitute Alex Morgan shot from the top of the box, GOOOOOAAAALLLLL  USA!!!!

At last! The sense of relief rolled through me and made me feel a little faint. However, breaking the haze of my euphoria was the sound of the big bellied boys at the end of the bar cynically chanting, “USA! USA!” just so they could make fun of any fans who joined in. Whatever – we’d scored! We were ahead in the World Cup final! (USA 1 – Japan 0)

Before the game, I watched a series of Nike produced videos detailing the US team’s preparation for the World Cup entitled ‘Pressure Makes Us’. Several in the series featured the range of physical tests that the team goes through – agility, tread mill, yo-yo, squat, sprint.  None of them mentioned any mental training that might help a player and a team become a champion.  Yes, soccer/football is physical sport but you must have the mental strength to make good decisions and the concentration and determination to make goals and defend well.  Probably the hardest thing for people who have never played to understand is that you also need mental toughness to be able to hold on to a lead and win.

I wish the US team had done a bit more mental strength training. After they scored, you felt their relief but they lost focus.  It was all Japan. With only 10 minutes left to go, sloppy defending let Japan get a sloppy equaliser.  (USA 1 – Japan 1)

There was a huge cheer. A Canadian man excitedly shouted, “Game on!” At the start of the game, most of the Auld Alliance crowd was neutral or disinterested.  Now however, the large crowd was gripped by the drama and quality of play. Most had chosen to cheer for Japan.


At the same time a very loud, high-pitched squeal cut through, and almost silenced, the other cheers.  Earlier in the game I’d enjoyed hearing the familiar sound of excited Japanese coming from the woman at the next table. Not so much at that moment.

“HEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” she continued.

I’d seen Japanese soccer fans when I lived there so I was not nearly as surprised as the rest of the bar by the sound that seemed much too big to come from such a small person.

 “We’ve got a squealer at table 18,” said the startled Scottish barman with a wink and a smile to the rest of the bemused spectators.

It quickly became clear that the game was headed for a draw and two 15-minute periods of overtime.  Overtime play started and the US looked focused and dangerous, but they needed a goal. A US corner, a shot, another shot and save, another shot, then Japan on the counter attack.  “EH!EH!” a few more squeals from the next table. Then, the US, the ball down the left, a beautiful cross into the middle – Yes! Yes! Yes! –  the amazing Abby Wambach powered the ball into the back of the net with her head! Yes!

“We’ve got another squealer at 17b, “ said the barman.  This time he was talking about me.  Damn strait I’m squealing! We were back in front! (USA 2 – Japan 1)

But could we hold on this time?

The second fifteen minutes of overtime was predictably all Japan. The US looked a bit more in control at the back than before. Maybe it was going to be the dream win.  Japan shot off target and then a battle in the midfield for possession of the ball.  US substitute.  Japan shoots and is denied by US goal keeper Hope Solo. 3 minutes to go.  Japan corner kick. The kicker takes a few steps back then looks to her teammates in front of the goal. She takes two steps forward, thud, the beautiful cross is in the air and then the ball is off Homare Sawa’s head like a bullet into the back of the net. (USA 2 – Japan 2)

‘EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!’  No one in the Auld Alliance, indeed no one watching the game, could believe what was happening.  Japan, the team that had never once won a single game against a European or American team in its history before this tournament, was back in the game at the World Cup final against multiple world champions, the USA.

The US couldn’t believe they lost their lead … again.  They needed to score or it was a penalty shot out. They got the ball, shot. A Japanese player was given a red card and sent off for dangerous play. The US shoots again and again. The whistle blows and it is time for penalties. 

I leaned over and said, “Ganbatte ne!” or “Go for it/ Good luck!” to the Japanese woman at the next table just before the penalty kicks … and, I almost meant it. I understood why most of the pub was cheering for Japan.  Discounting the bellies propping up the bar and probably others who weren’t cheering for Japan, but against the US, this was an amazing underdog/come-from-nowhere kind of story that any sports fan would love.  In addition, everyone wishes nothing but good things to happen for Japan after the horrors of the last year.  However, as far as I was concerned, Japan coming in second place would have still been a great sporting story.

It was time for penalties. I didn’t fancy the US’s chances of holding it together for the penalties after seeing them fail to protect their lead twice.  But, I still had hope!

The hope didn’t last long. They fell apart even more than before. First US shot, saved by the goal keeper. Japan scores. Second US shot misses the net! Japan scores. Third US penalty, saved by the goal keeper, again! Japan scores. US player Abby Wambach put the ball in the net to keep the smallest hope alive. Japan scores. Game over. USA 2(1) – Japan 2(3)  Japan – World Champions.  Wow, what a game.

The loneliness of defeat was punctuated by being in a Scottish bar in Paris surrounded by people who enjoyed the game but largely didn’t really care. Even my husband, can’t just take up the American cause with the same passion. I had to phone an ex-teammate in the US for proper commiseration and a wee cry.

I have passionately supported Scotland, Japan, Australia and France in various sporting occasions, and even against US athletes, in some instances.  This is because I love sport generally and love hearing about athletes and team stories. I find these stories much more interesting than nationality.  This game told a great story that will be remembered for a long time for the historic nature of the win but also as a great advertisement for football.  However, no matter how good the story, when it comes to women’s football, for me it will always be USA! USA!  The team are amazing and should be very proud of what they achieved.  Thanks for the wonderful ride ladies!

To see highlights of the match and to get more information about the Women’s World Cup Finals, click here

[Photo credit: Photos of Auld Alliance Pub from]

7 things I wish I’d known before Bastille Day

15 Jul

Nice hat Photo by Jennifer Flueckiger1. The French like to practice

Last Wednesday morning around 10 am I heard the low droning sound of what I’d grown up to recognise as a tornado siren. It starts loud, progressively gets louder, and then gets quieter again a bit like someone slowly revving their engine.  In Ohio, this siren meant get your bottom to your basement or get in a safe place because a tornado might touch down. However, Paris is not tornado country.

What was this about? It took a matter of a millisecond and the help of my overactive imagination for me to jump from a conversation I had with someone about Paris during WWII to, oh god, these air raid warnings! Where do I go? What do I do? I ran to the window to see if I could detect any activity or clues. As you would expect, it was quiet and everyone was going about their business.  I sort of remembered hearing the same sound about a month ago on a Wednesday, ah a monthly drill…

However, when I heard the unmistakable roar of fighter planes flying very low and almost directly above my building only a few hours later I started to get scared again. There were five in v-formation, then three more, then a bomber and two more jets. I kept thinking it was over and then another roar would bring me to my window. There were too many for this to be an exercise! Was this connected to the sirens I heard in the morning?  What was I supposed to do? What about my husband? My neighbours were also taking a look. But everyone was calm, even taking pictures.

Anxious, I put a call out on twitter, the most obvious thing to do in an emergency:

Sirens this am, 6-10 low military jet flybys over central #Paris just now – Is this all prep for Bastille Day or do I find a shelter?

One reply came from @EvelyneLetawe

@JenFluke Don’t look for shelter in Notre-Dame 🙂

Planes over Notre Dame photo by @EvelyneLetawe @ linked to a picture of plane flying over the famous towers of Notre Dame with the caption ‘Neat terrorist attack on Paris Notre-Dame or rehearsal for July 14?’

2.       You get a wake up call

Sorry to go back again to my Ohio roots, but on the 4th of July, American Independence Day, a network of volunteers who did not like friends would drive around my town at some ungodly hour shouting through a bull horn, “It’s the 4th of July! It’s time to get up for the Parade!” I always thought this was a quant custom from a small town in America.  However, yesterday at 8am in central Paris I also got a wake-up call.  About 100 military-men in smart red uniforms on horseback blew trumpets at the end of my block. I hate to say it, but this was a slight upgrade from the bullhorn.

3.       When they say military parade, they mean military parade

Tanks down rue Royal Photo by Jennifer FlueckigerA friend who has lived in Paris for 20 years gave us the top tip for watching the parade.  After the parade passes the French President and other dignitaries on the Place de la Concord, it takes a left up rue Royal and past the Madeleine where it finishes. This area is much less crowded than the zoo that is the Champs Elysee. We arrived about 30 minutes before the parade started, got two spaces on the lower steps of the church and had a great view. We even got to see the flybys I’d watched them practice.

This parade is a military parade and is a lesson in different marching styles and variation in military uniforms.  If this is your thing, you will be in heaven.  While this was interesting to me for a while, I like a bit of music with my parade. Some of the groups that pass did sing, but most just march.  The only band brought up the rear of the parade.  Don’t expect to see floats either.  Military hardware is the closest thing. We saw everything from tanks to digger trucks all covered with men and women with guns.

4.       Wear comfortable shoes and carbo load

Quite a lot of walking is required to take in all the Bastille Day sights and activities.  Public transport is running but very crowed so often you will have to walk.  There are also many distractions.

Galleries Lafayette, Paris Photo by Jennifer FlueckigerShopping and looking at the view – I was surprised that most bigger stores were open on the national holiday. The legendary summer sales are on in Paris. Our parade viewing spot was close to Galleries Lafayette, one of Paris’s largest and oldest department stories, and we had to have a look.  Galleries Lafayette is a beautiful store that features a 7-story stained-glass rotunda over the main sales floor. It also has decent food options on the top floor and has one of the great views of Paris from its roof.

Museums– Many of the main museums are free on Bastille Day including Louvre, Musee d’Orsay and many others.

Fair at the Tuileries Gardens – A huge Ferris wheel and other fairground rides are set up in the Jardins des Tuileries. This is also close to the parade route. (Apparently, Madonna and her kids were spotted there yesterday.)

5.       Recharge you camera battery between the parade and the fireworks

No explanation needed, other than this is why I have no good pictures.

6.       The Eiffel Tower is not everything

I must have read 20 times that the fireworks are shot off from the Trocadero, the complex on the other side of the Seine from the Eiffel Tower. However, in my mind the Eiffel Tower was the centre of the fireworks display.  While the Eiffel Tower does play a large part in the finale and is lovely to look at as you stand with everyone waiting for the show to start, the bulk of the fireworks go off on the other bank and many don’t reach the height of the top of the tower.  Keep this in mind when you are choosing a spot to view the fireworks. Just because you can see the Tower does not mean you will have a great view of the show.

We watched on the Pont de l‘Alma and did have a great view of the spectacular show. However, next time, short of finding friends with a flat with a good view, I would probably brave the crowds in the Champs de Mars or the Trocadero.  This is what you would have seen of the finale of the Paris Bastille Day fireworks from the Champs de Mars last night.

Alternatively, it looked like you could get reasonably priced food (read picnic style food and self-service) and a table with an amazing view at the Palais de Tokyo. A few tables were still available when we passed by at about 9pm. Sadly, as newbies, we pressed on. It would be worth checking this option out for next year.

7.       Save a little for after

Tired from a wonderful and full day we staggered from the metro stop at Saint Paul to head home.  As we neared the rue Sevigne we could hear the music pumping out of the Fireman’s Ball at the Marais fire station.  Fireman’s Balls are held as fundraisers in fire stations all around France.  They all have a different personality, but the one in the Marais has a reputation for being one of the liveliest and most popular.  It looked like great fun and we wanted to join the party, however we saw the queue that stretched down the block and we felt our aching legs. Next year!

Really helpful sites:

[photo credit of planes flying over Notre Dame  by @EvelyneLetawe @]

Into the monster

5 Jul

Leviathan Photo by Jennifer FlueckigerI thought it felt like I was slowly being digested in a monster’s stomach. My sister said she thought it was akin to what it must have been like in the womb, pre-birth. My husband said it was like he had landed on another planet.  None of us had experienced anything like it before.

Each year an artist is invited to do something with the huge exhibition space in the Grand Palais, just off of the Champs-Elysees.  This year, Indian-born British artist Anish Kapoor was given the task and quite literally filled the space with his creation ‘Leviathan’, a giant inflated bulbous, sensual and sensuous structure that could be experienced both inside and out.

I was certainly not prepared for my first experience with Leviathan.  My sister had seen the warning signs (yes, literally) advising visitors about the pressurised environment we were about to enter. I had not and went through the revolving door unsuspecting. 

MONUMENTA 2011- Anish Kapoor – Leviathan – Vue Intérieure de l'oeuvre. Photo Didier Plowy – Tous droits réservés Monumenta 2011, ministère de la Culture et de la Communication.The shock of going from the day light into a darkened space combined with the impact of feeling the pressure of the air inside the giant balloon stopped me short.  However, once my eyes became accustomed to the darkness, I could release my sister from my tight grip of fear and take in the huge chambers.  After the initial fright, or maybe because of it, it was thrilling and beautiful – deep red, rounded, soft, cozy, warm.  I felt compelled to reach out and touch the sides and feel the smoothness. It felt like it was made out of thick but squishy inner tube rubber.

However, after a few moments of bliss, the pressure started to get to me. I felt like I was being digested, the pressure slowing crushing my body. I thought my head might explode. I needed to get out fast or I was going to pass out.  I wasn’t the only one. A few people were making hasty exits. On my way out, I noticed a line a wheel chairs just outside the front entrance suggesting that others had not made it out in time.  Not everyone was as affected. My husband said he felt different, but not uncomfortable.

Into the face of a giant Photo by Jennifer Flueckiger

After a few moments to recover we went to view the monster from the outside. The exterior was also soft and rounded, but in the daylight under the glass roof, Leviathan looked deep purple rather than red.

The size is hard to describe other than to say it was huge. The exhibition space in the Grand Palais is the length of two soccer/football fields and half a field high, the highest like it in Europe (to see the inside of the Grand Palais see this cool 2 min video). Leviathan filled this space.

Inside the work felt intimate, but outside you were dealing with a giant. However, it was a big, friendly giant that begged you to interact and play with it – and people were. They were running their hands along it, trying to get under it, running around and between parts of it, taking silly pictures of themselves interacting with it.

Molly holding back the tide Photo by Jennifer Flueckiger

How the simple curves of the piece interacted with the architecture of the art nouveau structure of the Grand Palais was also beautiful.   A piece like this can make you remember that great art can fill a place inside of us that nothing else can, even despite a little pressurised discomfort.

Photo credit: MONUMENTA 2011- Anish Kapoor – Leviathan – Interior view. Photo Didier Plowy.

With a little help from my friends …

1 Jul

Basic French Photo by Jennifer FlueckigerIn response to my post last week To learn or not to learn, some friends on Facebook volunteered a few of their favourite French phrases. Please let me know your favourites in the list and suggest any you think I should add:

  • avoir besoin – to need
  • c’est la vie – such is life
  • pas trop cher – not too expensive
  • Pourquoi est-ce que votre singe mange mon dîner? – Why is your monkey eating my lunch?
  • jusqu’ici, tout va bien – so far so good
  • il est très beau aujourd’hui – it’s a great day
  • Il n’y a rien que je peux y faire. – There is nothing I can do about it.
  • comme il faut – as it should be  Comment that came with suggested phrase – “More often heard in the negative. Always thought it had a very hauteur/Anna Wintour air about it and then last year my 3 yr old niece used it meaning I was putting her shoes on wrong.”
  • Je suis espion. – I am a spy.
  • Il n’y a rien que je peux y faire. – There is nothing I can do about it.
  • Zut alors – Jings crivens help ma boab – sorry, no translation given :0)

My personal favourite and one I think I will use most often came from my Dad with this message:

“Dad’s favorite saying in French is ‘Je ne sais ce que vous dites’– I don’t understand you. This is after attempting 21 hours of French courses to get the 12 hours required to get my undergraduate degree! I hope you have some of my good points too!”

Special thanks to the following for submitting their faves: Sarah, Chris, Tom, Dave, Elizabeth, Niall, Eliott and my dear father, Robert, from whom I sadly inherited my foreign language skills.  All the translations and spellings are their own. :0)