ARTE program on the Teutonic Order of knights

ok so I turned on french tv to ARTE*. and there was this program about the Teutonic Order** in Vienna, Austria. and I heard some wild stuff. the program is hosted by this anthropologist historian.

so the Teutonic Order is a chivalric order. basically armed and dangerous. authorized by the pope. founded in like 1197 or something. knights and stuff.

one cool thing on the program was that they show this treaty which is a huge piece of paper with 190 seals (!!!) of wax on it. like all together in this weird artistic jumble. at first I thought it looked like an art piece that was a pile of tiny clocks. but it was all these seals. awesome.

ok but the wild part was that at one point he goes to this cathedral. and he’s talking about how they buried their dead. and how the Hapsburgs imitated the practices of the teutonic order. and so he goes “these bodies are all emptied of their hearts and organs”. um. okay. then he continues on. “when someone died, especially while on crusade or on sacred land, their heart and organs were removed.” the heart and organs (“or viscera if you like”) were placed in two separate urns “with aromatics”. and then the corpse was either “boiled until it was bones” or “smoked like a ham” (YES. he verbatim said “smoked like a ham”). and then all three pieces were sent home. the smoked ham corpse “smelling very good”. and each of the three parts was given to someone important (or something. I was still processing the smoked ham corpse thing, honestly). I mean. that’s like mummification or whatever. the part that made me lose it was the way he talked about it and the mentions of “aromatics” and then “smoked ham” corpse. like, omg.

so next thing he goes down into the catacombs. and it’s not bones it’s like urns and small closed casket things. anyways. he approaches this shelf of urns of varying sizes. the shelf is inset into the wall and it has those old school european church locked mesh doors on it. but with the grating being large enough that you can stick your hand through. and so he sticks his hand in and brushes off some dust off the top of an urn to read a name or whatever. and it’s a tiny urn. the guy’s heart. and then he picks the damn thing up and he actually fucking shakes it. and goes “yeah, that’s really dried out”. like. I CANNOT. then he sticks his face close to the urns and goes “you can still smell the aromatics”. and he smells a large urn and goes “yep, smells like camphor”. and reads the date and it’s like 1805 or something. hundreds of years ago. anyways. so he puts that one back down and then just like walks off. like dude, you just told me 1800 viscera with aromatics still smells like something and you were holding a dried out heart. I NEED A MINUTE.

and then I couldn’t watch the rest of the program because I had to write that stuff down. oh man. I fucking love french tv. like. seriously.


* ARTE is a a cultural channel that is a co-production between france and germany. it airs on regular tv. it’s the fucking best.


I googled it. you can, like, buy the episode or something? don’t buy it. I’m just proving it exists.

ARTE program on the Teutonic Order of knights

3 things in english + 3 things in french: part 1

Hey all,
So I have decided to begin a new series called “three things”. It is a list of 3 things to read or watch or listen to in either english or french. There might be overlap on the topics, but I will try not to have the exact same information in two languages. So they are 6 things total that are distinct one from the other. If you are bilingual then you get 6 things! If not, you can still enjoy 3 things. And perhaps sometimes I will throw in something like a music video that a speaker of any language can enjoy. I am not sure how often I will post these. Maybe weekly, maybe monthly. My criteria for picking these 3 things is that it either has to be something relevant to my life as an American expat in France, and/or it is something about France or French culture that interests me, basically whatever I find interesting and relevant. I hope you enjoy following along with me at home.
xo Clare

Bonjour tout le monde, 
J’ai décidé de commencer une nouvelle série des affichages sur mon blog qui s’appelle : “trois choses”. C’est un list de 3 choses à lire ou à voir ou à écouter en anglais ou en français. Il peut avoir des recoupements entre les sujets des 3 choses, mais je vais faire de mon mieux pour ne pas avoir la même chose en deux langues. Donc ce sera 6 choses distinct l’une de l’autre. Si t’es bilingue tu auras 6 choses! Si non, tu peux toujours profiter de 3 choses. Et peut-être quelque fois je vais rajouter un clip que n’importe quel locuteur de n’importe quelle langue puisse apprécier. Je ne sais pas vraiment la fréquence avec laquelle je vais les publier. Peut-être chaque semaine, peut-être chaque mois. Mon critère pour choisir ces 3 choses est qu’il doit avoir une importance dans ma vie d’expatriée américaine en France, et/ou c’est quelque chose sur la France ou la culture française qui m’intéresse, bref tous que je trouve intéressant et pertinent. En tout cas, j’espère que tu vas bien t’amuser en me suivant depuis chez toi.  
xo Clare

In English:

1. The Telegraph – Paris riots: Violence erupts on fifth night of unrest after young black man ‘beaten and raped by police officers’

a. “the suburbs saw their fifth consecutive night of unrest following his arrest, when he was allegedly sodomised with a police officer’s baton during an identity check.”

b. “The unrest is playing out against a backdrop of growing political uncertainty in France”

c. The slogan uniting the protestors is “Justice pour Théo” (Justice for Theo).

2. France 24 – Paris to erect bulletproof wall around Eiffel Tower

a. “The security measures are part of a wider €300 million renovation plan to modernize the site over the next 15 years. The plan also involves a complete reorganisation of foot traffic around the tower, a series of maintenance works, and an improved visiting experience including a reduction in time spent in queues.”

b. Specifics can be found in French on Le Parisien – Paris : la tour Eiffel bientôt bunkérisée derrière un mur de verre (the eiffel tower will soon be bunkerized behind a wall of glass); including a map of where they are going to erect the glass wall the security perimeter.

3. New York Times – What Are Your Rights if Border Agents Want to Search Your Phone?

a. “American border agents have the legal authority to conduct searches at the United States border that a police officer on the street wouldn’t. Laws created that allow agents to search bags without a judge’s approval, for purposes of immigration or security compliance, have been extended to digital devices.”

b. “Can agents force you to unlock your phone or laptop? No. But they can ask you to comply voluntarily and make the experience rather uncomfortable if you resist. Travelers must decide how much trouble they’re willing to put up with. You may end up losing your device, since agents could seize the device for weeks before it is returned. They could also copy the data.”

c. “What can you do to prepare? Travel with the least amount of data you need. […] Ms. Cope said people should power down their devices before getting to the airport, and encrypt the data they travel with. (Wired has a guide to the technical aspects of keeping your data safe.)”

d. Know your rights. You have the right to privacy… until you don’t. And this article is talking about US citizens in addition to visitors to the US or legal residents.

En Français:

1. Le Figaro – Marine Le Pen sur France 2 : le FN fera du «factchecking» sur le web

a. « Pendant que la présidente du Front national répondra aux questions posées en plateaux, ses équipes commenteront les interventions de ses contradicteurs en direct. »

b. « Selon Florian Philippot, responsable de la stratégie, cette ‹première› s’inspire des ‹fake news› anglo-saxonnes et prévoit de ‹corriger les erreurs› ou ‹souligner les mensonges par omission›. Ce dispositif, conçu comme une page mise à jour avec une chronologie visible, sera déployé systématiquement tout au long de la campagne présidentielle dans la cadre des grands rendez-vous politiques. Cela peut être rapproché du ‹générateur de discours creux› mis également en place par les soldats de Marine Le Pen pour contrer Emmanuel Macron sur les réseaux sociaux. »

c. This new approach by the FN is super disturbing. “Countering fake news” with… their fake news. Lovely. Are we an ouroboros now, or what? // Cette nouvelle approche du FN est très inquiétant. De «corriger les erreurs» du «fake news» avec… leur propre «fake news». Génial. On est un ouroboros là, ou quoi ?

2. Le Monde – Certains groupes d’immigrés sont plus diplômés que la population française en général

a. « En France, le migrant reste, souvent, perçu comme un pauvre hère débarqué en haillons. Cette mythologie s’éloigne pourtant de plus en plus de la sociologie réelle de l’exilé. Même assignés au maniement du balai ou à un poste de vigile, les migrants installés dans l’Hexagone ont souvent des diplômes en poche. »

b. « De quoi mesurer en creux que les pays d’accueil sont bien loin de recevoir « toute la misère du monde » lorsqu’ils octroient un titre de séjour, que celui-ci soit accordé à un réfugié ou à un migrant dit « économique ». « La plupart des discours sur les migrations ne sont pas de l’ordre du rationnel mais de l’idéologique », note à ce propos Mathieu Ichou. »

3. France Culture Une Vie Une Oeuvre Podcast – Clara Schumann (1819-1896), compositrice et amoureuse

a. A love story. An amazing woman. A genius married to a genius. And no happy ending. A captivating story. // Une histoire d’amour. Une femme extraordinaire. Un génie qui épouse un génie. Pas de fin heureuse. Une histoire fascinant.

b. « Clara Schumann est l’auteur d’une œuvre inspirée, vivante, bouillonnante, mais née à une époque où les femmes ne pouvaient prétendre composer, et même si elle demeure l’une des plus grandes pianistes du XIXe siècle, c’est son mari, Robert Schumann, qui fut considéré comme le génie. »

c. « Si par amour, Clara semble avoir renoncé à une partie de son art, ses mélodies sublimées par le sentiment amoureux font pourtant la grandeur de son œuvre. Dans ce documentaire, on découvre à quel point les deux voix musicales des amants étaient enlacées… Un idéal cher à l’époque romantique. »

3 things in english + 3 things in french: part 1

Valentine’s Day messages

Throughout Paris today the panneaux electroniques (electronic billboards) flashed love notes for Valentine’s Day. It was quite lovely. And I thought I would share some of them with you. Because lord knows we need some more love in the world right now.

Heather,  We will always have Paris  Love, PK

Continue reading “Valentine’s Day messages”

Valentine’s Day messages


In November, before I got a horrible cold, I was walking home from my local boulangerie, with baguette in hand. And walking right behind me was a young boy and his mother. With a lot of coughing, and hacking, and weirdly enough, some hiccups thrown in for good measure. And my thought, while walking down the length of my street, was, “omg don’t cough on my baguette”. I am convinced that coughing-boy gave me that awful cold.

A baguette is a weird thing to carry down the street, or at least I am not habitué (/accustomed to it) yet. It’s such a long object, that I am never sure if I should hold it upright, or down and at an angle. I usually put it in my shopping bag and hopefully it doesn’t stick out too much and thwack passers-by, or objects in the street. Sometimes the end of it catches on my clothes, or leaves little bits of flour on the fabric where it has brushed past. And sometimes, especially when it’s nice and hot from the oven, I end up lightly crushing the center with my hand while carrying it home (or getting flour on my nose from delighting in that fresh baked scent). Luckily it still tastes just as good. And fresh baguette smells amazing.
I also have to make sure I don’t end up hitting the end of the baguette against the apartment buildings by accident while walking. No Paris soot on my baguette please. Which means that it’s a good thing I don’t eat the quignon (/end of the baguette). Although, you’re supposed to rip off the quignon and eat it while walking home from the bakery.

There are two kinds of baguettes you can order, une baguette, or une tradition.
Une baguette is the classic baguette you usually see in pictures, and the kind imitated by American supermarkets.
Une tradition has more tapered, almost pointy edges, a crunchier crust, and more air bubbles in the crumb.

baguette comparison
A comparison of the two kinds, une tradition on the left, and une baguette on the right. Picture source, with a description in French:

You can get a baguette more well done, or less well done. It took me a couple tries to figure out the correct wording. When I asked for “une baguette pas trop cuite” (/not too cooked) the woman at the bakery sounded almost insulted and said something like “bien sûr, c’est pas trop cuite” (/of course it’s not too cooked). So I’ve since discovered, by evesdropping on other orders, that the correct phrase is: “une baguette moins cuite” (/less cooked).
Thankfully my faux pas did not insult the women who sell me delicious baguettes at the bakery on the end of my street.

But make sure not to get to the bakery too late, or there will be no baguettes left!
After 8.30pm you may be out of luck. Tragedy!
Although, that is how I tried the tradition because one day, around 8pm, there were no more baguettes ordinaires left.
That’s also how I have tried other kinds of bread.
The pain aux cereales is just not my thing I have discovered. And I have yet to try fresh white bread called pain de mie. I do like breads with nuts in them, and my local boulangerie bio (/organic bakery) has a great pain aux noix, with walnuts, that makes super great toast when it’s stale.
Because baguettes make such incredible toast that I just can never pass up the chance to buy one, even if it’s only for stale baguette toast the next morning. Stale bread makes the best crunchy toast, especially when lightly charred. And I love the smell of burnt baguette that floats up through the courtyard and through my window on weekend mornings.

My favorite baguette in my neighborhood comes from Maison Kayser, who always has a huge line come dinner time. It’s called the Baguette Monge, and if you just ask for une baguette, this is the version that gets handed to you.
It looks like a tradition, with pointy edges that could put your eye out, but seems to have less air bubbles inside so there is more crumb (or squishy bread insides as I call it), which is exactly how I like it. Glorious.
But I tend to go to one of the two closer bakeries, who also have very good baguettes, there is one at either end of my street. I am spoiled for choice really.
I am not lacking in good baguettes, that’s for sure.

Baguettes are definitely one of the best things about living in France.



Check back soon, a post on croissants and other viennoiseries is forthcoming.


seen in paris (january 2015)

I thought it would be fun to make a list of things I come across while walking around Paris, and traveling on the metro/public transport. My plan is to make this a monthly installment. So here goes for January.

On the street:

  1. A guy in full winter gear, carrying a tennis racket, and no gym bag. Walking next to me, in the direction of a tennis shop nearby, that I pass on my way to school, but ultimately diverging from that path and heading the other direction down boulevard Raspail.
  2. A woman biking around Paris in killer pointed stiletto lace up booties (they looked super tough to walk in on the Paris sidewalks, and I’m inclined to think she is superwoman because of her ability to not only walk in them, but also ride a bike with them on!).
  3. An older lady dressed more hip than me, in leather leggings, moto boots, and a cropped fur jacket. Also sporting a large fur hat that reminded me of something out of a Russian tale.

On the metro:

  1. A grown up looking, French version of Harry Potter, with similar glasses, and haircut, and expected demeanor.
  2. An actual French guy wearing an actual beret, but not wearing clothing that I would associate with the image of a classically dressed older guy wearing a beret (he was wearing jeans and a leather bomber jacket).
  3. From the bus I see lots of selfie-taking tourists, which is only really entertaining if the bus ends up at a stop light near a bridge in the center of Paris, and I can see the person making their selfie face and re-taking the picture 10 times.
seen in paris (january 2015)

a little about me

My name is Clare. I have just reached my 30th year of life on this planet.
I moved to Paris about a year ago, in February 2015. So I am one year into my adventure here.
I was previously living and working in the DC metro area of the United States. I quit my job to live in Paris and perfect my French language skills.
I spent a year abroad in Paris 10 years earlier in 2005/2006, and was a French major at Wellesley College at the time. Ever since, I have wanted to return to Paris.
So I decided to become a student again, and take classes at the ILCF (Institut de Langue et de Culture Françaises), a program for foreigners learning French, which is part of the Institut Catholique de Paris (ICP). My teachers are fantastic. It has been a really great experience to take French classes again, and to be a perfectionist about my progress in French. Plus, I’ve learned a lot taking civilization classes (classes geared towards learning French, but focused on a specific subject related to French civilization).
And even though my French wasn’t as rusty as I had originally thought, it was a really good idea to take classes while picking the language up again, it helped to correct lots of little mistakes I was making.
Adjusting to life in France this time has been harder than I remember.
I spent the first 10 years of my life living outside the US because my family followed my father through his foreign service postings in Canada, Brazil, and Italy. Europe, because I spent such formative years there, has always felt like home to me. And before college, it felt more like my home than the US most of the time. It was only through my college experience, and then my experience in the workplace in the DC area, that I began to feel more American, and more integrated into American culture. Even though both my parents are Americans themselves, they both spent many of their younger years outside the US as well (my mother in Italy, my father in Spain). So I was raised American, but with a huge influence of European values, and an appreciation of the European way of life. One of the worst experiences in my young life was adjusting to the US when we finally moved there in the 90s. I have felt fundamentally apart from it for most of my life. Critical of things I didn’t agree with, and suspicious of the nationalism I saw. Especially after 9/11, when my high school classmates seemed to devolve into echoes of their parents’ cries for vengeance after the attacks.
So I have spent most of my life wishing to return to a European way of life. But I didn’t harbor dreams of Paris as a picture perfect oasis, as depicted in posters and kitchy knickknacks found in every store across the US. I had only visited Paris once, but I knew that for my junior year abroad that I wanted to work on my French, and I wanted to be in a city, so that meant one thing: Paris. And my year abroad was wonderful, I made amazing friends, I had the most lovely host family, and I enjoyed my classes. Plus the Sweet Briar Junior Year Abroad program was really great, with an awesome staff.
I hadn’t realized until now how much was taken care of for me when I was in college and studying abroad. Perhaps it is just that now, in having to do everything myself, I feel the psychological weight of being alone in a foreign country, but it just feels like too much sometimes. Or at least, it felt like too much when I arrived. Looking for an apartment felt like a daily nightmare. Visa stuff is so stressful and frustrating. Trying to communicate with people and making mistakes, or not having enough confidence in what I am saying that the other person thinks I’m making a mistake and doesn’t understand me. Trying to speak French over the phone (so hard!). Dealing with a whole different health system (plus side: full price is still WAY cheaper than the US, even with health insurance). I haven’t had to make this many new friends since I was in middle school. Everything was so intense, and all at once. And I had known it was going to be hard, but yikes!
Although, to really do this, to move to Paris, I had to just not think too much about the challenges. If I had made a list of all the many obstacles for apartment hunting in Paris I would have scared myself off of the whole thing. I needed to dream about finding the perfect Paris apartment, and imagine a different life in order to really get here. So like I said in the beginning, clear-eyed, but with some dreams. A dash of cynicism, and a dash of optimism. They’ve gotten me through, in equal measure.
And one year in, I am happy to say, it was definitely worth it. All of it. Both the struggles and the successes. Because they brought me back to myself. I feel more like myself than I have in years. And I proved to myself that I can do it, alone. And I have to say, that is absolutely invaluable.
So here’s to Paris and my time here, that above all, will leave me changed, and the better for it.

a little about me