sunday strolls

Today was a beautiful day! I went running (countdown to Paris 1/2 marathon? 5 weeks!) and then took a walk with my roomates. We love taking walks on Sundays, as everything is closed and there is nothing much to do.

Today was freezing, but sunny, which was such a welcomed change from grey days. So much blue sky! I can’t wait until it starts to get warm out.

Stay tuned this week for a French fashion review and a trip to Nancy! Bisous!


I remember when I studied in Aix, there was mimosa everywhere during January and February. I loved the bright splash of color during the winter months. When I saw mimosa in the florist, I just had to buy some! It brought my right back to the south of France…

Today I am featured on Lost Girl’s World. I am the Lost Girl of the week! Please check it out and let me know what you think!

a scottish tradition – burns night

One of the best things about living abroad is connecting with other foreigners. Hey – we have something in common! We are both a little lost in a world of bises and wordy pleasantries. Yesterday was a Scottish holiday, Burns night, and the foreigners of Verdun came together to celebrate it. Robert Burns was an 18th century poet, and is now regarded as the national poet of Scotland. My handsome and very Scottish roomate prepared an entire evening for us.

Before we sat down to eat, Craig said the Selkirk Grace. Everyone was loving his accent – which is actually a dialect called Scots.

Some hae meat an’ cannae eat, Some would eat that want it, But we hae meat, an’ we can eat, Sae may the Lord be thankit’

The entrée was a delicious lentil soup with ham and vegetables. Craig worked so hard (as the only Scotsman in Verdun) in making this night special. After the entrée, it was onto the main course: haggis. But before we could dig in, Craig recited Burns’ Address to the Haggis, a satirical poem about the strong Haggis fed Scot. When we finally got to taste, I tried to forget what exactly I was eating and just enjoy! And it was actually really good. The haggis was accompanied by neeps and tatties, also known as turnips and potatoes.

After dinner, Craig read some of Burns’ poetry, my favorite being My Love is Like a Red, Red, Rose. It even sounded more romantic with Craig’s accent.

O my Luve’s like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June;
O my Luve’s like the melodie
That’s sweetly play’d in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I:
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry:

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun:
I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run.

And fare thee weel, my only Luve
And fare thee weel, a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho’ it were ten thousand mile.

After the poetry, we had a heavenly dessert called Cranachan. Craig whipped up some cream and added whiskey, and then made a lovely little parfait of cream, toasted oats, and raspberries. It was delicious. Just after dessert, everyone poured a glass of whiskey as Andy recited the Toast to the Lassies. This is a tradition in which the males get to complain about the women in their lives, while really sending them backhanded compliments. We were laughing so hard tears came to our eyes! I had the responsibility of the Reply to the Toast to the Lassies, where we get to whine about the Laddies in our lives (trust me, us girls have a lot to say when it comes to that!). I was nervous, but I think I succeeded in bashing the male species while adding some sweet love at the end.

My favorite part of the whole night, was when Craig said the final remarks, and we sang Auld Lang Syne. Holding hands with my best friends here, we were singing so loud I’m sure everyone in Verdun could hear us. Not only was it amazing to learn about Scotland, but also it was also a beautiful night shared between friends.

Have you ever heard of this tradition? Do you have any like it in your country?

happy 4 month french anniversary to me!

Today marks my fourth month in La France. What can I say about my relationship with France? Sure, at the beginning I was fascinated, drooling over her buttery croissants, delighting in her lazy Sundays. But France and I have had some rough days too. Like when I invite French people for dinner and (gasp!) mix salé with sucrée. Or when I ask for a sweater instead of a chicken. Or when women are screaming MERDE PUTAIN in my face on the basketball court. Will I always be aggressive and over-friendly? Can’t I just wear my sneakers while running quick errands?  This may come as a shock, but daily I am perplexed by les francais.

Recently, while pondering a bizarre French habit, my wise roommate and were left with no choice but turn to Google. What we discovered might have been the most helpful site we’ve ever come across. Let’s call it relationship therapy. Ask a Frenchman! You can ask a French man anything, and he will answer it for you! Why are the French obsessed with Bonne Année? Do the French really not wear turtlenecks? What about religion in France? The answer to every banal (or more serious) question you could ever think of can be explained with wit and complexity through this little treasure. Thanks, Frenchman!

As often as I am confused by the French, I am also finding my own little foreign way. This little conversation with my students made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside (did I really just write that?). Scene: courtyard, Friday evening after school, gaggles of 10-year-old girls.

“Ms. Brenna! How do you say, ‘bon weekend,’ in English?”

“Have a good weekend”.

“Ok, haaaff a goood weeekend Ms. Brenna”. Pause. “Do you know I always try to imitate your voice? All the time at home? When I grow up I want to speak English just like you! But I can’t pronounce my words like you do!”

“It’s hard and takes practice! But me too, I have an accent in French. It’s what makes us special!”

“Yes, when you first got here we couldn’t understand anything you were saying in French. But now we are used to you Ms. Brenna! We know what you’re saying!”

Hallelujah, it’s reassuring to know that weeks and weeks of blank stares may have morphed into actual comprehension! Ohlala. As much as I struggle to find my way, I think France is finally learning to accept l’américaine for who she is. To a long and healthy relationship, happy anniversary to me.

Why you should be rooting for France

Ok – let’s face it. I’m from Philadelphia. Sports are kind of a big deal for us. Growing up in a particularly athletic family, our weekends were spent playing sports, watching sports, or washing socks and uniforms. I never really took sports in France seriously because…because I had prejudices? Because all I could think about were short shorts and high socks? Le sigh. Hard for me to admit.

However, recently, I have gained a greater appreciation for les sports in France. I started playing basketball with the club team here in Verdun, and it’s been lots of fun! I could never in a million years imagine French girls playing basketball (I know, how anti-feminist of me), but they are good! Admittedly, we do do the bise in the middle of practice sometimes. Ohlala.

Handball is a sport that I always heard about while in Europe, but it’s virtually non-existent in the US. When I was visiting Loïc last weekend, I got to watch his handball game. First of all, I can never pronounce the name of the sport right, because it is originally a German sport, and the French pronounce it à la…German. France has a really awesome handball team that is the middle of the World Championship right now. They won the gold in the Olympics in China in 2008 and two consecutive titles after that. Luckily, Loïc explained all the rules during the “B” team game, so that when his game started I was ready to be a rowdy fan!

how intense! French handballer in action

This sport kind of reminds me of my days on the Lacrosse field, because the goalie has a large space where no one can enter, and you use your hand to shoot kind of like you would use a lacrosse stick. Also, in order to stop the offense from scoring, the defense kind of has to just physically push back the offense. In fact, handball is a lot more physical than I ever imagined it would be!

poor gym lighting

What made this game particularly fun was the aggressive nature of Loïc’s teammates. Apparently Loïc calls his town, “the Bronx of Paris,” some of the guys got a little crazy and started throwing bows. Someone even got a red card and got thrown out! Who knew?

go red!

All in all, the end of the game was close and exciting to watch. Loïc got fouled twice at the end and made his penalty shots, for a total of 7 points (the score sheet was lost and never published, so I promised an official score report! How much more official can you get than my blog?). I was sitting next to some young ruffians, who were teaching me a good deal of French curse words. Those of you who know me well know I can really mouth off the refs back home – but my little anglo mouth doesn’t scream as well in French. Needless to say, I was really getting into it – the whole gym was yelling and shouting at the end. But, unfortunately they still came up a little short (I’m pretty sure it was the ref’s fault).

the really bad ref in all his glory

Overall, I am happy to find a little part of home in France! Now I just have to work on cursing out refs with conviction…

What is your favorite sport? Are you a loyal fan or a participant? Leave a comment!


I got to the Oise (the area of Picardie I visited) on Saturday morning, just in time for some homemade tartiflette and a Leffe Triple. The sun was shining, and there is only so many days the sun is shining in January in France. So off we went to a charming little village to visit Pierrefonds château!

The first thing when I thought when I saw this castle was how enormous it appeared! We walked around the outside, climbing up over the village and into the former fortress. We even walked over a drawbridge – swoon!

We were lucky enough to arrive just in time for a free tour (oh how I love being under 26). Our tour guide taught us all about this history of the chateau, which of course is much longer and complicated than anything I am used to in the US.

It was first opened as a fortified residence in the 1300’s, and later Louis XIII actually destroy the “fortress” part of the castle, but never fully renovated it. Napoleon Iere fell in love with the structure, and years after decided use it. It was then when he added the romantic accents – there was a natural theme (bees on the wallpaper, the symbol of Napoleon I, salamanders on the outer walls) towards the whole castle. Therefore, the castle had both old architecture and Renaissance embellishments.

Sadly, no one ever liven in this castle! Quel dommage! The great hall was used to try prisoners, who were then sent to les oubliettes – the inner part of the castle where you would be soon forgotten! There was no furniture, but our guide explained what each room was used for during the time – mostly ceremonial or public affairs.

After the tour, there was a funeral sculpture exhibit. I kind of chuckled when I saw the name – funeral sculptures? – but it was actually very beautiful. Unfortunately, the creepy music and strange “voices of the dead” kind of creeped us out…

Just as the sun was setting, we left the castle and went to see the Clairière de l’Armistice, where Maréchal Foch signed the armistice with Germany during WWII. It was signed in a wagon (the same wagon where the armistice was signed after the first world war), in a clearing in the forest.  We actually didn’t see the physical wagon, because it was in the closed museum next door. But we did get a beautiful sunset, which we watched while munching on chocolate cookies.

There is so much history in France – and I have admitted before that I am not the brainiest of history buffs. But it is amazing that you can easily visit these places today that have seen and lived through so much.

Quite a lovely day…

a one hundred word sentence?

Happy MLK day to all of my US readers – who probably have a day off today. I was thinking of a way to teach my students about M.L. King, but considering they have trouble saying “it’s rainy”, I don’t know how in depth we could go on the Civil Rights movement.

I had a great weekend in Picardie – although I was supposed to leave on Friday, I forgot my wallet and missed my train. What is wrong with me? I ended up leaving on Saturday morning, and passed through Lorraine, Champagne/Ardenne, Ile-de-France, and Picardie! Updates to come! In the mean time, check out this cool contest from You’re Write. Except for when You’re Wrong. All you have to do is write one sentence in one hundred words. You have a chance to win ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS! How fun! Below is my entry, inspired by my trip to the Vosges! Have a great week :)

I grasped on tight to the driver, my body flailing as we whipped through the deep green branches and launched over rocks and mud, the tears streaming down my face from the wind scratching my skin; we stopped, and my eyes rolled around the palatial earth stretching past fresh blue skies, I took a deep breath and let the plush air enter my lungs, my soul – never before had I felt such a vastness, and I couldn’t help but stop to stare as I pruned lavender to the tune of silence, suddenly pondering the vile existence of concrete jungles.

confessions of an expat, part ii

when i’m mad (at my students, during bball practice) I can’t help but yell all sorts of crazy nonsense in English. Cue blank stares and laughter from everyone else.

I think little kids speaking French is just about the cutest thing ever. Have you seen the crocodile video??

When my little students tell me, “yoo ahhhwwr beeeyoootiful” I don’t correct their pronunciation. Nor do I tell them to speak English when they say, “tu es belle”.  See previous confession.

I almost cried when a new friend gave us an oven (for free!!!).

When people ask me what I’m doing with my life after my work contract is up, I just say, “living off my social benefits in France until the embassy kicks me out”.

I am still bitter that I never had a Gigapet.

I am so excited (yet secretly scared!) about my upcoming trip to Morocco.

I miss my mom!

See part i here. What are your confessions?

bon weekend

This post is for my good friend Bridget. It was her birthday this week. She is a nurse in DC! And I am in France. Simply too far away.

Bridget makes me laugh til I cry, she listens to me, and she eats oats with me. Sometimes people get us confused, (because we are both tall gorgeous brunettes and share a love for Toto) but Bridget has a lot of qualities I don’t have. She is the most patient person I’ve ever met, she is sincerely loving and kind even to strangers, and she has an optimistic and carefree way about her that others envy.

happy birthday B

Have a great weekend, and be sure to check my Thursday Traveler post on Amanda’s blog, a Dangerous Business.