Friday’s French – cote, côte, coteau


These words all look fairly similar but they’re not, of course, or I wouldn’t be talking about them.

Une côte sur la piste cyclable

Une côte sur la piste cyclable

To start off with, cote and côte are not even remotely related and not even pronounced in the same way! Cote is pronounced much like the English “cot” whereas côte is almost like “caught” but not quite. To an untrained Anglo-Saxon ear, they sound pretty much the same of course but they’re not!

Cote comes from the mediaeval Latin quota pars meaning each one’s share, which gives a whole range of derivative meanings such as a quotation on the stock market, a school grade, someone’s rating or standing (la cote de popularité du président = the president’s popularity rating (very low at the moment), elle a la cote = she’s very popular at the moment) and even dimension (as-tu pris toutes les cotes = have you taken all the measurements?).

Côte, with its circumflex indicating a dropped “s” you may remember, comes from the Latin costa meaning “flank” and has even more meanings than cote.

First we have the ribs in our body (j’ai mal aux côtes = I have sore ribs), leading to expressions such as côte à côte = side by side.

Côtes premières et côtes découvertes

Côtes premières et côtes découvertes – the top one is découverte and bottom première

Then we have animal ribs with côte d’agneau = lamb chop, côte première = loin chop, because it’s among the first ones on the rib and côte découverte, my favourite which is the ones streaked with fat further along the rib. I don’t, however, know what they are called in English. Any suggestions?

Another meaning of côte is the sort of ribbing you get in velvet (velours à larges côtes = wide rib corduroy, velours côtelé being regular corduroy) or knitting (j’ai fait les poignets en côtes = I did the cuffs in ribbing).

But doesn’t côte mean “coast”, I can hear you saying. How do you get from rib to coast? Well, the coast flanks the sea or ocean, doesn’t it? So we have Côte d’Azur = the French Riviera. Also, there is no separate word for coastline. Une côte rocheuse = a rocky coastline while a coast road = une route qui longe la côte but more often than not it is called une corniche (or route en corniche).

An entirely different meaning, but still attached to the idea of flank, is slope or hillside. This is one you need to know when you’re cycling (si la côte est trop dure, je descends du vélo = if the hill is too steep, I get off my bike).

A hillstart in a car is un démarrage en côte.

But coteau also means a slope or hillside and can even mean a hill only it’s not used in the same way.

Les vignes poussent sur un coteau

Les vignes poussent sur un coteau

A coteau is a hillside or slope on which vineyards are grown to start with. You may remember some really steep ones we saw in Germany this summer along the Moselle. Les vignes poussaient tout au long du coteau = There were vines growing all along the hillside/slope BUT Je suis arrivée en haut de la côte sans m’arrêter = I got to the top of the hill without stopping (yes, it does happen!)

In fact, the slopes on either side of a river are always called coteaux. Il habite sur le coteau = He lives on the side of the hill and not Il habite sur la côte which means he lives on the coast. Now, isn’t that confusing?

The only way I can really explain is that coteau gives the idea of a surface area whereas côte indicates height. I think the first and last photos illustrate the difference well. Are you with me?

Posted in French language | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Weekly Blogger Round-Up: July & August in France – Wines from the French Riviera – Cruising on the Canal du Rhône


We’re off to the sunny French Riviera for this week’s blogger round-up, starting with Margo Lestz from The Curious Rambler who gives a very interesting historical explanation of the August exodus I mentioned recently. Next, Chrissie from Riviera Grapevine introduces us to the wonderful and often unknown wines of the French Mediterranean Coast. To finish off, Mohammad Riza Amirinia from The Good Life France takes us on a cruise down the Canal du Rhone to Sète. Enjoy!

The Grand Vacations: July and August in France

by Margo Lestz from The Curious Rambler, who lives in Nice, France where she likes to bask in the sunshine, study the French language and blog

aug-vs-sept-005The French love their holidays. There are lots of them scattered throughout the year but July and August are the months of les grandes vacances, or the “grand vacations”. Most people take two to three weeks off in either July or August. Those who vacation in July are called juillettists (pronounced jwee-yeah-teest) and those who take August holidays are called aoûtiens (pronounced ah-oo-sian). For the sake of simplicity, we’ll call them Julyists and Augustians. Read more

Vineyards of the Alpes Maritimes

by Chrissie from Riviera Grapevine, a Sydney girl living in Nice with an insatiable thirst for the wines of the Var, Alpes Maritimes and Liguria. She happily sells, drinks and blogs about

Vineyards-Alpes-MaritimesDid you know that you can enjoy wines from MentonMougins and Mandelieu?

As well as Saint-JeannetSaint-Paul de VenceTourettes-sur-Loup and even theLes Îles de Lérins off Cannes?

There really are vineyards in places least expected along our azure coast!

The aforementioned local vineyards are all classified as IGP, which stands for indication géographique protégée (or vin de pays).

So what’s the difference between an AOC (appellation d’origine contrôlée) and an IGP? Read more

A Cruise on the Canal du Rhône to Sète

By  for The Good Life France, an independent on-line magazine about France and all things French, covering all aspects of daily life including healthcare, finance, utilities, education, property and a whole lot more

canal-du-rhoneA cruise on the beautiful Canal du Rhone is to float deep into the heart of France, a chance to experience the famous nature reserves of the Camargue, a tranquil break that takes in several key destinations on the Rhone to Sète route…

I always dreamed about living on a houseboat and a boat trip starting from Bellegarde on the Canal Du Rhone near Nimes in South West of France was a great opportunity to experience the lifestyle I hankered after…

I arrived at the Port of Bellegarde to take a self-drive cruise with Nicols Boats with my wife and two friends and met with the manager Ralfe, who presented us with a ten-year-old boat, one of their top models. Read more

Posted in French customs, Travelling, Wine | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

A Sunday Walk Through the Marais in August


We’ve just had a lovely visit from of my former ESIT students now living in Maryland, with her husband and little Ada, which is my mother’s name. The weather is not brilliant so we decide to forego a visit to the Villette version of Paris Plage as planned and walk towards the Marais.

Lovely façades in rue Saint Honoré

Lovely façades in rue Saint Honoré

As we walk down rue Saint Honoré, which we must have done a hundred times already, we notice two façades we’ve never seen before even though we’ve eaten several times at the Bistrot du 1er.

Café Oz in rue Saint Denis

Café Oz in rue Saint Denis

A short while later, I spy Café Oz off to the right in rue Saint Denis. The last time I saw Café Oz it was on the other side of the river – now there are three of them! www.cafe-oz.com.

Window box in rue Saint Denis

Window box in rue Saint Denis

We are intrigued by all the window boxes of geraniums. How do they do it in the middle of Paris when I only have very mediocre success in Blois? We are also amazed at just how many people there are! August is supposed to be empty. On rue Vieille du Temple, we come to a quiet little cul-de-sac with a village feel to it and an Australian Ugg shop on the corner. Now I know where to buy my winter slippers.

La Chaise au Plafond

La Chaise au Plafond (the chair on the ceiling!) in rue du Trésor off rue Vieille du Temple opposite Ugg

In the Marais, immediately recognizable from all the Yiddish signs everywhere and the throngs of people, we stroll into the Jardin des Rosiers and out the other side through the Maison de l’Europe de Paris which has a giant Easter egg, painted by Croatian naive artists in the courtyard.

Giant Easter Egg at the Maison de l'Europe in rue des Francs Bourgeois

Giant Easter Egg at the Maison de l’Europe in rue des Francs Bourgeois

We can also see a large brick chimney that we later find used to be a factory for extracting gold, silver and platininum from jeweller’s dust. The Marais of course was once full of Jewish jewellery shops.

Spontini on

Spontini in an old bakery on rue des Francs Bourgeois

It’s amusing to see that Spontini is now in a former bakery that once sold special bread for diabetics. I like the fact that they’ve kept the old signs.

Harpist in the arcade leading onto the Hôtel de Sully on Place des Vosges

Harpist in the arcade leading onto the Hôtel de Sully on Place des Vosges

When we reach Place des Vosges, all the cafés are full so we walk along the arcade to Hôtel de Sully, enticed by the haunting melody of a harpist.

Village Saint Paul

Village Saint Paul

Our route takes us past several courtyards. We wander in and discover Village Saint Paul, which we’ve never seen before, but most of the boutiques are closed.

Part of Philippe Auguste's wall around Paris

Part of Philippe Auguste’s wall around Paris

We see a large half-ruined wall which turns out to be part of the city walls built by Philippe Auguste at the end of the 12th century to protect Paris while he was off at the Crusades. We have vestiges near us as well, but they are not nearly as imposing as these.

Chez Mademoiselle with its coordinated 2CV!

Chez Mademoiselle with its coordinated 2CV!

Further along the street, after the famous Lycée Charlemagne in Rue Charlemagne, there is a little café called Chez Mademoiselle with a grey Citroën 2CV parked in front and painted to match the front of the café. How’s that for coordination?

Tapas at Trésor in rue Trésor

Tapas at Trésor in rue Trésor

After going past two of the oldest houses in Paris on rue François Morin, we find our way back to the Ugg shop and its cul-de-sac because we saw that Trésor is serving tapas. There is even a table for us on the edge of the inside room looking out on the terrace. It seems to be a well-guarded secret from tourists because everyone around me is speaking French.

Nicki de Saint Phalle's fountains near the Georges Pompidou centre

Nicki de Saint Phalle’s fountains near the Georges Pompidou centre

Our path home takes us past the Pompidou Centre and Nicki de Saint Phalle’s fountains that my kids used to love when they were little.  A much better promenade than last week!

UGG Australia, 26 Rue Vieille du Temple, 75004 Paris
Trésor, rue Trésor, 75004 Paris
Chez Mademoiselle, 16 rue Charlemagne, 75004 Paris
Posted in Architecture, Flowers & gardens, Paris | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

Friday’s French – prune and other metaphorical colours   


carte_grise_verteI’m reading a book in French and come across an expression I don’t know (which doesn’t often happen – I’m a translator after all). “C’est quoi, prendre une prune”, I ask Jean Michel. “Une amende”. So why would you call a speeding or a parking ticket a plum? Maybe it’s the colour of the ticket, he surmises, like a carte verte or carte grise. Prune incidentally corresponds to what we call burgundy.

 

This is very typical of French – designating something by its appearance rather than its purpose. Carte grise is what EVERYONE calls car registration papers and the carte verte is the insurance certificate and not a working visa.

However, I checked out prune and the expression doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the colour but rather the fruit. Back in the 13th century, prune already had several metaphorical meanings: a blow, bad luck, something worthless, all of which correspond pretty well to a speeding or a parking ticket.

The actual reason why prune developed these meanings is obscure but one legend has it that the crusaders brought back plum trees from Damask after the second crusade which they lost, prompting the king to say, “Don’t tell me you only went there for plums” (i.e. for nothing).

Another ticket-related colour is aubergine which later became pervenche or periwinkle blue used to designate traffic wardens after the colour of their uniforms. Their official name is contractuelle because they are employed on a contractual basis and are not regular civil servants.

The real name for a ticket is a PV or procès-verbal, which is really the strangest thing because it literally means a verbal process, yet it’s written down.

Many years ago, I accidentally went through a red light (I didn’t see it – it was one of those very low ones and I was turning right) and was stopped by a policeman. He asked for my carte grise, carte verte and permis de conduire (which used to be pink but was never called a pinkie which, incidentally, is petit doigt or auriculaire in French because it is the only one small enough to be inserted into the ear).

I did the “excusez-moi monsieur, je suis vraiment désolée, je n’ai pas vu le feu” bit and he answered “je ne vais pas vous verbaliser” which I assumed meant I wasn’t going to get away with a spoken reprimand and that he was giving me a ticket. But he waved me away instead! Verbaliser actually means to give someone a procès-verbal. Very disconcerting.

Do you know any more expressions based on colour?

Posted in French language | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Blogger Round-Up: Kaunas Castle in the Baltics – Cycling planning tool for Europe – Paris bucket list


I have three very disparate subjects for this week’s blogger round-up. Andrea from Rearview Mirror takes us to Lithuania, one of the Baltic States, where she visits Kaunas Castle and experiences her first Baltic sunset. Fellow cyclist, Maggie LaCoste from Experience France by Bike, introduces us to a very efficient website called Biroto for planning bike rides in Europe while  Sara from Simply Sara Travel poses the question of our “must-sees” in Paris and comes up with palm trees. Enjoy!

Kaunas Castle and My First Baltic Sunset

by Andrea from Rear View Mirror (formerly Destination Europe), a fellow Australian who, after 6 years of living in France, has given up her Paris apartment to live a nomadic life slowing travelling around Europe, experiencing each destination like a local.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter a slow but scenic drive through the flat Polish countryside we slipped through the abandoned border crossing and I was finally in the Baltic States. I’ve always been curious about this part of Europe. With so few travellers making their way this far east, I wanted to see what everyone was missing out on, if anything. While my road trip was officially starting in thegorgeous capital of Estonia, the drive from Warsaw required a quick stopover in Kaunas, Lithuania’s second largest city. Read more

German Website Biroto – A Great Planning Tool for Cycling in Europe

by Maggie LaCoste from Experience France by Bike, an American who loves biking anywhere in Europe, but especially France, which has the perfect combination of safe bike routes, great food, great weather and history.

experience_france_birotoThe last day of craziness is upon me as I get ready to leave for my bicycling trip to Normandy and Brittany.  But before I leave, I wanted to pass along this information about a great bicycle trip planning tool that I discovered recently.  I received a note from Ans Leenders from the Netherlands who was having problems trying to download GPS information for an upcoming trip along the Via Rhona.  For whatever reason, he was having technical difficulty accessing the GPS files from the Via Rhona website.  In the course of trying to find another place to access the GPS data, Ans discovered Biroto and luckily he passed the website on to me.  And I am now passing it on to you! Read more 

Bring out the bucket list

by Sara from Simply Sara Travel, a girl from New Jersey who traded in her bagels for baguettes and moved to Paris. The aim of her blog is to inspire readers to travel, embrace a new culture, and open their minds to new perspectives.

Paris is a very transient city when you live here as an expat.  People constantly come and go, and while it’s a joy to live here and constantly welcome new friends, I’ve also had to become accustomed to saying goodbye.

Square des Anciens Combattants d'IndochineA close friend of mine just left Paris, and while I could write a month’s worth of posts on how much I will miss her, let’s focus on the positive: The bucket list. While “bucket list” means to most people “a list of things to do before you die,” for any American expat in Paris it has a less tragic meaning: “The list of sights to see, food to eat, and cities to visit before returning to the United States.”

That’s right, I love the bucket list. It’s a way to reflect on what places I love in Paris, discover new things or restaurants that have made it onto other’s lists, and if I’m lucky, I get the opportunity to join a friend in checking off items on their own list before they leave. Read more

Posted in Cycling, Eastern Europe, Paris | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

The August Exodus


We’re back in Paris. I feel like a côte de boeuf so I go to the butcher’s on rue Montorgueil. Usually there are three open, today there is only one. In fact, only about one shop in five in Paris is open.  There are even restaurants that are closed.

Shut-up shop in rue Colonel Driant

Shut-up shop in rue Colonel Driant

Now it’s Sunday and we’re at the market near Sainte Eustache. There are only about one-third of the usual stalls and even those have limited produce.

Sunday market half-deserted

Sunday market half-deserted

Most of my clients have shut up shop as well which means I have some free time to see the odd friend who is still in Paris in August!

Free parking space in front of our apartment building

Free parking space in front of our apartment building

There are spare parking spaces in our street, which is most unusual. Usually, they are bumper-to-bumper. No wonder parking is free.

So where is everybody?

With everything else close, I notice this old butcher's stall. It seems to be empty now. You can see the meat safe at the back.

With everything else close, I notice this old butcher’s stall. It seems to be empty now. You can see the meat safe at the back.

The families with beach or country houses are on the coast or in the countryside. If the mother doesn’t work, the father often commutes at weekends.  It’s peak time for French holiday makers on the Atlantic and Mediterranean and the airports are over-stretched. Some companies close for the whole of August while others shut down for the week surrounding the 15th August which is a public holiday in France.

Tour Saint Jacques seen from Ile de la Cité

Tour Saint Jacques seen from Ile de la Cité

There is a saying that the weather deteriorates after the 15th August weekend, but this year, it got in early! Looks like the end of August might be finer and warmer.

Paris Plage from Quai de la Mégisserie

Paris Plage from Quai de la Mégisserie

It’s Sunday afternoon and Jean Michel suggests we go to Paris Plage because we’ve left our bikes in Blois. It’s about 20°C and overcast. We hope it won’t rain.

The panels and broken fence on Pont des Arts

The panels and broken fence on Pont des Arts

I want to see the love lock situation on Pont des Arts. Currently, nearly 10,000 people have signed the No Love Locks lobby’s petition to have them banned but I can’t see the solution, much as I hate them now, though I initially thought they were fun.

Bouqinistes on Quai de la Mégisserie just before Pont des Arts

Bouqinistes on Quai de la Mégisserie just before Pont des Arts

It’s easy to find the footbridge – just follow the crowd! The bridge, which used to be one of my favourite places in Paris, is looking sad and ugly, with graffiti-covered panels to replace the sections that have broken off completely and other sections which are moving in that direction.

The Louvre at the Beach

The Louvre at the Beach

We go down onto the Voies sur Berge below and see a new initiative – the Louvre at the Beach with reproductions of paintings in the Louvre relating to bathing.

Fermob's red Eiffel Tower

Fermob’s red Eiffel Tower

Further along we come to a red Eiffel Tower. When we get up closer, we see that it is made of bistro chairs! The tower, created by Fermob, which has been making chairs since the end of the 19th century, celebrates the Dame de Fer’s 125th anniversary. The 324 folding chairs symbolise the Eiffel Tower’s 324 metres erected for the Universal Exhibition of 1889. It’s a wonder there are no love locks on it yet …

Up close, you can see some of the 324 bistro chairs!

Up close, you can see some of the 324 bistro chairs!

On the whole, there is not much action, but more sand than in previous years. We only see one sculpture.

Sand sculpture at Paris Plage

Sand sculpture at Paris Plage

Right down the end, where there is no more sand, we find a couple of vacant deck chairs so take a selfie before going home via Notre Dame on the other side of the Seine.

Selfie in Paris Plage deck chairs

Selfie in Paris Plage deck chairs

Maybe next Sunday we’ll visit the other Paris Plage venue near La Villette. We overheard someone saying it was much livelier – though that wouldn’t be hard!

Posted in French customs, Lifestyle, Paris | Tagged , , | 15 Comments

Friday’s French – prochain, next, this,  huitaine & quinzaine


That may seem like a strange combination but an English-speaking friend living in France has suggested I deal with the topic of “this” and “prochain“.

lune

This is what she wrote: “ I just had a confusing text message exchange with a French friend who I’m going to visit this Saturday. And yes, “this Saturday” was the cause of confusion. He speaks English quite well and he likes to practise it when he texts as well.  I was confirming my train arrival times with him and he said to me in English “so I’ll see you next weekend then!”

Even though I was pretty certain he was (badly) translating “le weekend prochain”, I still had to make sure we were on the same page and that he’d be there to meet me THIS weekend.”

In English, we make the distinction between “this Saturday”, that is, the one coming, and “next Saturday”, meaning the one after that, whereas in French, “samedi prochain” is the one coming and “samedi en huit” is the one after that. You can’t say “le weekend en huit”, though. You’d have to say something like “je te vois dans dix jours”, with dix being anything between 9 and 13!

But why “en huit”, you may be wondering. A week in English consists of seven days, but in French a week is “huit jours” – even in legal documents – despite the fact that semaine comes from the Latin septimana meaning seventh. But then another way of saying week is huitaine. The same applies to a fortnight, which is “quinze jours” or quinzaine and not quatorze jours as you would imagine.

Where does this all come from? Well, it seems is comes from the Romans who divided the month (30 or 31 days) into four unequal periods. So for a 30-day month, you’d have eight days followed by seven days, twice. A quinzaine was thus an 8-day period plus a 7-day period. This also explains why “huitaine” means week.

In France, the expressions sous huitaine and sous quinzaine (within one week and within two weeks) acquired a legal meaning in the Middle Ages which still exists today.

This is borne out by a similar use in Italian where quindicina is used for a period of two weeks.

I was talking to Jean Michel about huitaine and quinzaine and he said he remembers people using the term lunaison when he was young. I immediately checked my Larousse. It’s a real word and is the interval between two new moons, whose average length is 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes and 2.8 seconds (nothing like precision, is there?).

Now isn’t that interesting?

Posted in French language | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Weekly Blogger Round-Up: Leasing a vehicle in Europe – City map phone app – Stockholm in black & white


This week’s blogger round-up starts with two very practical posts. First, Carolyn from Holidays to Europe, gives us a step-by-step guide to leasing a vehicle in Europe, which may not be a solution you had thought of. Next, Abby from Paris Weekender, tells us about a phone app you can use to find your way about the city of your choice without roaming charges. And the end up, Andrea from Rear View Mirror takes us on a visit of black & white visit of Stockholm. Enjoy!

A step by step guide to the tax-free vehicle leasing program in Europe

by Carolyn from Holidays to Europe, an Australian based business passionate about sharing their European travel expertise and helping travellers to experience the holiday in Europe they have always dreamed of

peugeot-open-europe-mapsI’m heading back to Europe and it’s time to hit the open road. I’ve planned our itinerary meticulously (I hope!!) and have decided that on this trip it will be more convenient to have our own car. There are a few off-the-beaten-track places we’ll be visiting and we’re also looking forward to the spontaneity of making a detour if we feel like it and, hopefully, stumbling across some hidden gems.

We’ll be starting this visit to Europe in Barcelona and finishing in Paris with a route including southern France and the Alps, northern Italy, southern Germany, Slovenia, Austria, Czech Republic and back into northern France. Read more

Lost Without 3G? No longer!

by Abby from Paris Weekender, an American living in Paris who offers suggestions for Paris weekends, either staying put or getting out of town

3G_BrusselsI am visiting friends in Brussels this week and trying to cope with the lack of 3G so as not to rack up roaming charges on my iphone. But thanks to a tip from my friend, my nomadism just got a whole lot easier.

Did you know that there’s an app that not only gives you detailed maps of numerous cities and other regions in the world but it also shows you where on the map you are without the need for roaming? The City Maps 2Go Pro app is the best-spent $2.99 in my recent memory. Read more

A Summery Weekend in Stockholm (Not Really)

by Andrea from Rear View Mirror (formerly Destination Europe), a fellow Australian who, after 6 years of living in France, has given up her Paris apartment to live a nomadic life slowing travelling around Europe, experiencing each destination like a local. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs the clouds parted and the pale blue sky shone through, I thought for sure I was going to have a great summer getaway. But Stockholm was teasing me. Dark clouds rolled in and the freezing temperatures put an end to my plans for island hopping in the archipelago and cycling in Djugården.

Even if I was not prepared for wintery weather in summer, the people of Stockholm are accustomed to it and the cafes quickly fill up. So of course I did as the locals do and enjoyed a little fika time and people watching in hipster/boho neighbourhood Södermalm. This was followed by more drinks, more cake, vegetarian buffets, great sushi, burgers and my favourite Swedish cider. I hadn’t planned on eating my way around Stockholm’s 14 islands but it was turning out that way. Read more

Posted in Sightseeing, Travelling | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

The Emergency Department in a Paris Hospital


I hate wasting time, probably because I never have enough. To me, the emergency department of a hospital is the epitome of wasted time, to be avoided at all costs. So far, I’ve managed to do so.

Stage 2 emergency room taken from my bed

Stage 2 emergency room taken from my bed

I wake up one morning in Blois with slight pain in my middle back. Hmm, that’s a new one. It disappears when I get up. Back in Paris next morning, the pain is more severe, like a bar across my back. I feel a tension in my chest as well. Once again, it goes away quite quickly. It continues for the next 3 days, appearing earlier and earlier in the night and forcing me up well before my usual wake-up time.

I call the doctor but learn she’s on holidays. Of course. It’s August and the great exodus has already taken place. I’m not keen on seeing a locum now that I’ve learnt that 6th year medical students can do the job. I want someone with more experience. I decide to wait and see.

Next day, when I wake up the back pain has disappeared but my chest feels as though it might explode. I call my doctor again and learn there is no locum so I phone SOS Médecins, the French emergency service. I explain my problem and am immediately put through to a doctor. He says he’ll send someone within the hour.

By the time the doctor arrives, the pain has almost disappeared. She examines me and says she doesn’t think it’s a heart problem but more likely to be digestive. However, to rule out the cardiac factor, she takes an electrocardiogram.

“Ah”, she says, “I have a problem. You have an unusual electric signal in your heart that means I can’t be sure of what the electrocardigram is telling me.” She calls the SOS Médecins service and asks if they have a cardiologist available. They don’t, of course. It’s August. “You’ll have to go to the urgences,” she says. “You really do need to check it’s not a heart problem.”

Without hesitation, she sends me to Saint-Antoine Hospital in the 12th arrondissement, which at least is on my metro line. I get ready, try to contact Jean Michel and discover he’s left his mobile phone at home. I leave a message on his work phone. Showing great foresight, I take my Kindle and charger.

The emergency department seems deserted. I hand over my prescription and my Carte Vitale (the French medicare card) and am told to sit down, that I shouldn’t have to wait too long.

Within minutes, I am called in. A friendly male nurse introduces himself and asks me to lie on a gurney (lit à roulettes) while he does an electrocardiogram.  I’m feeling quite zen and relieved not to have already spent an hour in the waiting area.

He checks my previous electrocardiogram and says, “There’s something I don’t like. We’re taking you into the emergency ward. Stay put.”

I’m wheeled into a long room next door and parked in a bay next to a nursing station. Several people come and introduce themselves and perform their different tasks: electrocardiogram, drip, chest X-ray, auscultation, including a very timid 6th year student who takes so long to listen to my back with her stethoscope that I get cramps in my feet.

The nurse looking after the drip is having problems with the vein in my hand and it’s very painful. Also, my watch is in the way, so they take it off along with all my other jewellery which they put in a sealed bag with my cash and credit cards to be retrieved later from the front desk. None of this is very encouraging.

My phone rings during the chest X-ray so I can’t answer it. It turns out to be Jean Michel who has now gone off to a business lunch. What if they decide I need to be operated on immediately? I start feeling very sorry for myself.

Eventually, a very jolly doctor, who seems to be in charge of the ward, comes over to see me. She explains that there probably isn’t a heart problem but they need to check it out. She prods me more effectively than the student and I wince (well, it’s probably more like a repressed scream) when she digs into my ribs.

After a couple more prods, she says that she thinks I’ve strained my intercostal muscles. I try to think what could have caused it and can only imagine gardening. After falling off my bike in Germany and crashing into the bushes, I have been saving my knee so maybe I have been stooping over too much.

I ask how long this is going to take. She explains there is an enzyme test that is performed again after six hours which they may have to do. Six hours! But in the meantime, they are going to take me to the stage 2 emergency room, she tells me. I ask for something to relieve my headache and she gives me paracetamol, despite the fact that I tell her it has absolutely no effect on me. I need something with aspirine or codeine. Sigh.

There are about six or eight beds in the next room, all in a row and separated by folding screens. I’m in the one closest to the door and can see relatives coming to visit the patients. I try phoning Jean Michel again but it’s only 2.30 pm and he’s still at lunch. I’m starting to feel hungry myself but can’t have anything to eat.

About fifteen minutes later, he rings to commisserate but can’t come to the hospital because he is doing his technical roster this week and can’t leave the area in which we live. I’m still hoping I won’t have to have the 6-hour enzyme test.

By now, my Kindle is charging on the nursing station but the cord is long enough so I can still read it. I’ve already downloaded a new book. There is no pillow on the emergency bed so despite the pain from the vein in my hand, I manage to fold my blouse and three-quarter pants that had been stuffed uncaringly into a plastic bag and hung on the end of the bed, and place them inside the bag to form a makeshift pillow under the sheet. It’s not very comfortable but it’s better than nothing.

I dose and read, read and dose. I have a FaceBook conversation with a friend but the painful vein makes it difficult to type with my left hand and I’m afraid of dropping the phone with my right hand. She offers to come and see me but I am still hopeful of leaving shortly.

An old man further along the row is arguing with the nurses because he wants to go home (don’t we all?) but he fell and has a brain haemorrhage so they understandably don’t want to let him go. They finally say they’ll phone his son in Germany to see what he has to say. That has the required effect and he calms down.

I need to use the bathroom and don’t want a bedpan so they unsnap all the electrocardiogram leads and put my drip onto a portable stand. I’m dressed in one of those non-woven bedshirts so the nurse makes me a toga with a sheet and I shuffle down the room and into the corridor, wheeling my drip stand with the hand that has the painful vein.

I come back to bed and discover it’s been reorganised and my makeshift pillow removed so I start all over again. My headache is worse than ever so I ask for stronger medication. It’s too soon after the useless paracetamol, I’m told. I lie in my bed feeling very lonely and have a little weep before going back to my Kindle.

At about 6 pm, a nurse comes to check on me and I tell her I’ve had enough and am ready to go. I’ll sign myself out if necessary! She is very understanding and says that the worst is over. Only a bit more and they’ll do the second enzyme test. I ask for a timeframe. Eight o’clock at the latest and you’ll be out of here, she says.

TWO MORE HOURS. I insist on the headache medication again so someone eventually comes along with another drip. This time it works.

At 7 pm, the blood test is carried out and after 20 minutes, since the results are positive, they take out the drip and unsnap my leads. I can get dressed. I take a while to remove all the adhesive snaps from my body (I discover more in the shower that night) and put my wrinkled clothes back on.

The doctor comes along and says I’m clear (but really should have an ultrasound of my heart – you gotta be kidding!), gives me an envelope with my X-rays and cardiograms and a prescription for codeine … There is no doubt in her mind that the problem is due to intercostal strain.

I pick up my jewellery, ring Jean Michel to tell him on my way home, and walk outside. I’m FREE after almost 8 hours! I see a bakery next to the metro station and buy a croissant au beurre. The best I’ve ever tasted!

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Photos of the Week – Théâtre Ephémère about to disappear


It has taken over 2 1/2 years to renovate the Comédie Française theatre and find a new location for the temporary structure replacing it next to the Buren columns, called the Théâtre Ephémère. Initially, Libya made an offer but it didn’t work out. It  is now going to Geneva for the Opéra des Nations, a strange choice in my opinion because the building doesn’t have much to recommend it! But at least it should be taken down by the time we move and I’ll be able to have one last photo of the Buren columns with the Palais Royal Gardens in the background!

You can see the Théâtre Ephémère on the left of the columns

You can see the Théâtre Ephémère on the left of the columns

The sign at the entrance to the dismounting area

The sign at the entrance to the dismounting area

The Comédie Française is on the right

The Comédie Française is on the right

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Posted in Architecture, Paris | Tagged , | 2 Comments