Je ne parle pas Francais

1 02 2014

I find myself dreaming about the french conversations I want to attempt.  By french conversations I mean, ‘I would like a box of 12 macaroons’ = ‘je voudrais une boîte de douze macarons’.  So far I have braved grocery shopping, mime-talking to the butcher (thank goodness for a friendly french-speaking stranger), buying make up remover and 200 grams of the tastiest raspberry white chocolate bark (this one is my proudest moment).

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When you don’t speak the language it makes you pause a little bit – do I really need this?  Do I have a question? Can I get by by just watching people or looking at the package and figuring it out myself?    

For the most part, walking around hearing french surrounding me hasn’t phased me too much.  It actually feels quite familiar since, as a Canadian, I took french in school for 5 years.  But listening to tapes and memorizing vocabulary words does not prepare you for functioning in a french city like Geneva, Switzerland.

My lack of French skills means that I have immersed myself in the non-speaking parts of the city – the architecture, the landscape, the tourist attractions – really anything that I could take a photo of.

The pride of the city is the Jet D’Eau, the high pressure water fountain that shoots up a jet spray of water in Lac Leman (or Lake Geneva), which you can catch a great view of in the Geneve Jardin Anglais.  And you can catch glimpses of it all over the city when it peeks through a plaza or side street or even over top of the buildings.  It’s almost like a homing beacon – as long as I could see the Jet D’Eau, I could figure out where I was.  It’s just as much a reference point here as the mountains are in downtown Vancouver, BC.

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Me & My Sister & the Jet D’Eau

Another main attraction in Geneva is the L’Horloge Fleurie, the flower clock by the water, which has been in service since 1951, changes flowers throughout the seasons, and has never stopped or been out of order.

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Walking through the streets of Geneva, especially in the winter time, you’ll notice these strange trees.  With patchy scaly-looking trunks and odd bulb like branches, I kept asking my sister, ‘what kind of trees are these?’ Her response was, ‘they’re weird aren’t they – I don’t know.’  I did a little of my own research and it turns out they’re a hybrid of the sycamore tree and they’re called ‘Plane Trees’.  They’re really green and bushy in season and then the city tends to prune the branches back in the winter (although I’ve seen some with their branches on and they look like Chia Pets).

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No trip to Geneva seemed complete without swinging past the United Nations building, so we made a quick trip there to see the Chair du Palais des Nations, which is a monument in front of the UN building of a broken wooden chair meant to raise awareness of the devastating effects of land mines and cluster bombs.  Being the UN Building, we were also treated to some protesting while we were there.

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The Place Neuve showed off the picturesque Grand-Theater, a replica of the Paris Garnier Opera House, and is across the street from the Promenade des Bastions, where you can find the Reformation Wall, which is a monument that honors individuals, events and documents of the Protestant Reformation.

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Grand-Theater

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Reformation Wall

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Place du Bourg-de-Four is Geneva’s oldest square and when I came across it, it felt like the epitome of european culture to me.

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And although I haven’t put my french sentence into practice YET – with the help of my sister I have been able to taste the delectable treats at Laduree – Salted Caramel, Pistachio and Rose-flavoured french macaroons.  YUM!

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