Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Return from Rennes

Just got back from Rennes--our four-day-long Fulbright mid-year meeting--and I'm pretty exhausted. It was exciting to hear everybody's research talks--which ran the gamut from quantum physics to ceramic sculpture to child psychology to art history to...well, you get the picture. I participated with a talk on cystic kidney diseases.

Like any destination in France, the culinary experiences play an essential role in the discovery of a particular region. Although I have had more than my fair share of crêpes during the year (it's actually one of the staples of my diet), I had perhaps the Best Crêpe Ever in Rennes last night. They are a specialty of the region, as is the Stratford-on-Avon-style architecture displayed in the photo, yet another reminder of how closely connected this region of France is with its neighbor across the English Channel.
After the Best Crêpe Ever, things got even more wild. I ended up getting my (left) ear pearced with a bunch of my colleagues to commemorate the event! What do you all think?

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Tour de 14eme

I ran a 10km road race today, sponsored by the Mairie (City Hall) of the 14th Arrondissement. Though it was pretty damn chilly at the beginning, I chose to brave the cold with shorts & a T-shirt anyways. Just like cross-country skiing in Minnesota, you fortunately warm up pretty fast. Oh yeah, and I wore two pairs of underwears just to prevent my nuts from getting cold. The route went all through the 14th arrondissement (where I live), winding through a bunch of small streets that I had never seen before, which was cool. We also ran by the Tour Montpartnasse (the only "gratte ciel" = sky scraper in Paris) before ending up at the Mairie of the 14th to finish. Here's a picture of me flashing the "V for Victory" sign towards the end of the course that Claire was able to take as I finished.

Whenever I run these things, I'm always impressed by the sheer variety of the participants. Runners come in all shapes and sizes, and it's not always easy to predict which ones are the best. Sometimes I'll get passed by 60-year-old grandpas, while other times I'll cruise past those younger than me all decked out in the latest high-tech running gear. I guess it speaks to the astounding variability of human life.

Going to Rennes later today. Catch you later.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Rocky Balboa

Went to see "Rocky Balboa" tonight....the theater next door to us only carried it in the French version, and we were too lazy to find one that was playing the English version, so I thought what the hell, let's see it in French. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to follow the plot of a Rocky movie anyway, hey? Anyways, I have to admit that I kind of liked it. It followed the general Rocky formula which has been successful in the past. As always, my favorite parts were the "training montage" scene featuring some of the best movie theme music you will ever hear (you could probably swap the scenes in the training montage part between each movie and nobody would know the difference...but it's still good) and the actual fight scene. Also, good choice of opponent in Mason "The Line" Dixon (Rocky villains always have great names). Plus lots of authentic Philly footage that I totally recoganized. Not a cinematographic masterpeice, but an enjoyable film to watch despite (and perhaps due to) its predictability.

By the way, I'd like to point out that I accurately predicted the existence of a Rocky VI movie in my 2003 Holiday Greeting's card, posted below. In the card (an homage to my new city of Philadelphia at the time), I even gave the following recount of the plot for Rocky VI:
"In the latest heart-wrenching installation of the Rocky saga, a brain-damaged and Parkinsonian Rocky must contend with his latest threat in the ring, the wily Nate “Crusher” Hellman (played by himself). “Crusher” Hellman is a towering juggernaut of super-human strength and heartless brutality, a savage Russian fighting machine honed to physical perfection by Soviet technology and sent to Philadelphia to taunt Rocky out of retirement. Despite protests by his loving wife (Talia Shire) Rocky is eventually goaded into a championship match by a series of expertly-crafted “Your Mama” jokes by Hellman. Directed by film-maker Woody Allen, this movie culminates in a bone-crushing finale in which Rocky must overcome his various neurologic impairments to participate in the fight of his life!"

Hmmmm....not too far off perhaps. French for the Day: the word for punch is "coup de poing" (literally: "blow of the fist").

Friday, January 26, 2007


Can you imagine life without the Internet? Neither can I. I mean, how else would I be able to keep abreast of the 2006-07 NBA season in France without it? Aside from the one dude who works in my building who inexplicably wears an Allen Iverson jersey at least 3 days a week and a few random Tony Parker advertisements, the NBA is not big news here and games are only on expensive cable stations.

In my mind, there are two big stories in the NBA so far. The first is the Phoenix Suns, whose run-and-gun style in the West has led to multiple impressive winning streaks. Sports Guy Bill Simmons makes a strong case that they could be the first "legendary NBA team" since the 80s Celtics and Lakers. Scary to think what would have happened had the Dallas Mavericks held onto Steve Nash instead of letting him go to the Suns a few years ago: Dallas is right now the 2nd best team in the league and seems to match up reasonably well against the Suns.

The second big story is the wacky world of Gilbert Arenas, the shoot-first point guard for the Washington Wizards who is an amazing scoring machine. But the story here is less about the points and more about his zany style. He apparently has the habit of yelling the word "Hibachi!" after hitting big shots (after the Japanese Hibachi grill), was once seen taking a shower in full uniform at halftime, and has invited several nicknames for himself, including "Agent Zero"and "The Black President". I miss basketball.

French for the Day: the word for being "on call" (for doctors) is "en garde", learned from the nephrologist in the lab who wrote me my certificat medical.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


Well, I've been on a bit of an unscheduled blogging hiatus over the past few days, simply because things have gotten busy again. It's a combination of lab stuff and miscellaneous errands that need doing which I shan't bore you with. Among the more newsworthy items of the week:

-Sunday I've signed up to be in a 10km run which circles through the 14th Arrondissement (right near where I live). Apparently for any Paris running event, a "certificat medicale" is necessary stating that you are in good health and won't keel over from a massive coronary while attempting to jog. Fortunately for me, my main man Frank in the lab (a French MD) gave me one at lunch today, so I'm set.
-It's friggin' COLD outside. The sky is blue as can be, but it's colder than a witch's tit (one of my favorite Minnesota expressions) outside. I usually wear shorts when I go running since I hate the way sweatpants feel, but if it's like this for Sunday's race I'm not sure what I am going to do.
-I have a conference for the Fulbright Program next week (Mon-Wed). It should be fun: it is scheduled to take place in Rennes (in Bretagne), the region of which lies on a peninsula on the French side of the English Channel. The region is known for its crepes, cidre (a mildly alcoholic beverage served with crepes), good seafood, and women which dress in traditional Breton garb which looks ridiculous. More to follow on all Rennes has to offer in future posts...

-French of the Day: the word "la creche" can mean two very different things: first, it means daycare (as in, "Mes enfants vont a la creche" = "My kids go to daycare.") Second, it means Nativity scene (as in, "Regardez la super creche a Notre Dame! C'est vraiment immense!" = "Would you check out the sweet Nativity scene at Notre Dame? It's friggin' huge!)

Monday, January 22, 2007

Les Enfants de Don Quichotte

There's been a lot of demonstrations recently by a group called Les Enfants de Don Quichotte, who have been in the news a lot recently. This is an activist group which is concerned with the plight of the homeless (of which Paris has many, not surprisingly), particularly in the winter time. They are perhaps most known for their recent plan consisting of distributing free tents to the Paris homeless (also called "SDF"s for reasons which are explained elsewhere in this French-themed blog) so that they at least have some shelter that they can call their own. In recent years, there has been a controversy regarding the formation of "tent cities" lining the banks of the Seine by the homeles--many feel that this constitutes an eyesore and should be forbidden. In contrast, Les Enfants de Don Quichotte every year have a night where its members sleep out in the street with the homeless in their tent encampments. Interesting stuff.

In related news, l'abbé Pierre died today at the age of 94. He was a famous French religious figure (maybe akin to Mother Theresa) who who known particularly for reaching out to the homeless.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

We Are Family

Today was the annual Demanche Family Reunion. My wife's last name is Pecqueur, but her mom's side of the family (which is quite big) are the Demanches. A fun day, but as it is nearly 100% in French I'm completely exhausted at the end of it. Now if only I could veg out by watching some NFL playoff football on TV...

French for the Day: the words for bribery & blackmail in French are somewhat interesting! Blackmail is "le chantage", which is related to the word "chanter", which is "to sing". Makes sense. The word for bribery is "sudoyer", which is not all that remarkable, but the word for a bribe is a "pot-du-vin"...a pot of wine! So the next time a French gendarme (police officer) pulls you over for speeding, slip him a little pot of wine and be on your way. Hopefully you won't get caught.
Link of the Day: (if not the decade): Anybody who is familiar with the phrase "Sweep the leg, Johnny" absolutely MUST check out this incredibly bizarre music video, featuring the original cast of the Karate Kid movies.

A few more photos playing with our fun new digital camera. I know very little about photography but some of the shots looks neat. These are all from the Cluny Musée de la Moyen Age. I chose them for their colors: red, white, and blue (the colors of the French flag).

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Parlez-vous français?

A few observations about learning a new language, since that's been one of my main goals of this year. First, one of the fun things about learning a new language is that you can often actually remember the specific moment during which you learned a specific word. For instance, I distinctly remember learning the word "pourri"(rotten) from Claire's mom during one of our visits to LaBaule during which the weather was completely rotten all week long. Also, every time I hear the word "cercueil"(coffin), I think of the Hellboy comic "Le cercueil enchanté", from which I learned the word. I learned the word "les menottes" (handcuffs) because there was an episode of Lost during which Jin was handcuffed a peice of the airplane wreck as a punishment. And I will always remember where I learned the phrase, "Tu es nul!" ("You suck!")--it was when I was playing darts with my Frenchie friends at a bar called Blueberry Hill. The list goes on and on. Obviously this doesn't occur with learning one's native language because you are two young to remember the specific insance, and probably also because the mechanism by which a new word is acquired is completely different.

Another observation comes from my French class. There's one person in the class, a Mexican woman named Maria, who is by far and away the best speaker in the class. She knows all this vocabulary, including a lot of slang, and is usually the one who volunteers to explain unfamiliar words to the rest of the class. And yet, her grammar and spelling is atrocious. She has a lot of trouble with deciding when to use specific verb tenses, and there are times when spelling even a simple word turns into a nearly comical exercise. As for me, I need to SEE how a word is spelled and how it is used before I can start using it appropriately, and although I have problems with communicating complex stories, I manage to do very well on homework assignments and tests in the class. Evidently, Maria's language acquisition process is completely different from my own. Would I switch my own skill set with hers? In a heartbeat. But for whatever reason, I don't think I can learn any other way.

Final observation: Did you know that the French and United States keyboard formation is slightly different? It's basically similar, but there are a few key differences--for example, where the "Q" appears on the US keyboard, there is an "A" on the French keyboard. I'm constantly having to change my typing depending on what computer I'm using: in the lab, there are all French keyboards, but at home (where I do my blogging) we have a standard American one. Anyways, somehow my brain "knows" to associate French words with the French keyboard, because often when I'm typing a French word at home on my US keyboard I will erroneously type using the French keyboard format. Isn't that weird?

At the bottom: a couple of pics from one of the rare days during my parents' visit during which there was blue sky. The first is from Bastille (and also features the more modern of Paris' two main opera houses) and the second is from Place de Vosges in the Marais. I like the way the sky turned out in each of them.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Stained Glass from the Cluny

Here are some cool pics of the stained glass exhibit at the Cluny Musee de la Moyen Age that I took last week. I'm really enjoying our new digital camera, a Canon Power Shot SD630. As Maria Sharapova says, "Make every shot a power shot."

I particularly like the random monkey playing the violin, don't you?
French for the Day: stained glass = "les vitraux".

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

History of ^

You've probably seen the accent circumflex before, either in French or perhaps in other languages. The accent circumflex, also sometimes called more informally "le chapeau chinois"(the Chinese hat) is the sign ^ which sometimes appears above any vowel. Like in the words "fenêtre" (window), "râper"(to grate, as in cheese), "rôti"(roasted), "connaître" (to know), or "sûr"(safe).

The accent circumflex in most French words indicates that in the past, an "s" used to to be present. This can be seen in many words with obvious relations to English: for example, I work at "Hôpital Necker", which obviously is quite similar to the English word "hospital." The picture of the tombstone inscription on the right, taken from the Catacombs, shows the original spelling of the month of August, "aoust", from 1792. However, the current French spelling is "août". (As an aside: there is also another ancient spelling in the picture...the word "Thuíleries" is now spelled without the "h", that is, "Tuileries".)
The bonus picture below is a bit of graffiti I found particularly amusing near the Parc de Sceaux, where Dad and I took our bike ride last weekend. Although it would be nice to think that the graffiti was carried out by a hoodlum with a molecular biology bent (RNA = ribonucleic acid, the "message" spelled out by DNA), the chances are pretty slim. In fact, in France it's called something slightly different, ARN (l'acide ribonucléique).

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Ancient Waffle-Maker

As somebody who is one of the biggest waffle fans of all-time--I shudder to think how much money Eggo Waffles has made off me over the years--I was extremely excited to come across this exhibit at the Cluny Musée de la Moyen Age (Museum of the Middle Ages) , which included ancient casts such as this from around the 12th century which were used to make communion wafers and also "les gaufres"(e.g. WAFFLES).

Can't blog for too long tonight...I have a veritable stack of homework for my French class which I have to do for tomorrow. Why does our French teacher give us gobs of homework on Mondays (due on Wednesdays) but hardly any on Wednesdays (due on Mondays)? Much like Tootsie Pops, the world may never know...

A few additional You Tube recommendations: first, they made an animated pilot episode of one of my favorite comic books, Mike Mignola's "The Amazing Screw-On Head." Last I heard, though, it's not going any farther than that. Second, anyone who hasn't seen the "Star Trek Cribs" series had best get on the ball..

Almost forgot: French for the Day: the word for "homework" in French is "devoir", which is also the same word as "duty", so when you say, "I have to do my homework," it's kind of like saying, "I have to do my duty." Au revoir!

Monday, January 15, 2007

French Rock N' Roll 101

Meet the biggest rock star you've never heard of: Johnny Hallyday. Many consider him to be the French version of Elvis Presley, although truth be told I had never even heard of the dude until meeting my better (French) half.

Johnny (unlike Elvis) is still very much with us, as evidenced by this frequently-seen ad where he is hocking sunglasses for Optic 2000. He has also made the news recently by stating that he is in the process of moving his residency to Switzerland, in order to avoid having to pay the very high taxes required by the French government.

French for the Day: sunglasses = "lunettes de soleil".

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Last Day of Vacation

Well, my parents left Paris today...they are probably somewhere over the Atlantic as I type this. We had a great visit, and Mom & Dad were impressive tourists. Not only did they take in the standard sites (such as Le Tour Eiffel, Versailles, Notre Dame, etc) but also managed to have some more unique and off-the-beaten-path experiences (such as successfully navigating a Parisian laundromat, having antique banjos fall on top of them, and eating frog's legs, just to name a few). Thanks for visiting!

Yesterday, Dad and I took a bike ride along the Coulee Verte all the way to Parc de Sceaux. It was a chilly day, but at least it didn't rain, and we had pretty much the whole park to ourselves with the exception of a few joggers and insane fishermen. We returned to a remarkable dinner at home, the highlights of which included fresh rabbit with a mustard sauce prepared by Claire (picture on right) and a wonderfully rich charlotte au chocolat, a Pecqueur family tradition dessert as prepared by Claire's sister Laure.

French words for the Day: le lapin (rabbit) and les cuisses de grenouille (frog's legs)

Friday, January 12, 2007

Sacre Coeur

Since I'm in a bit of a rush as I'm about to head out for another fabulous French meal courtesy of my parents, I'll quickly post a few pictures from our visit to Montmartre a few days ago.

It was a gray and overall shitty day. I think it's rained at least part of the time every single day since my parents arrived. C'est la via. (C'est la France dans l'hiver aussi). We began by climbing the tourist trap that is the Sacre Coeur, and we in fact had a minor misadventure when we were told by another group of tourists that one of the exits was closed when in fact it wasn't, leading to us being "trapped" at the bottom of a stairwell for about 10 minutes.

Other featured pics: my Dad during the ascent up Sacre Coeur (left), view of the Paris buildings from the top of the basilique, and a colorful carousel just in front of the church.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Adventure in the Banjo Shop

For the first time ever, Nathan Hellman's Blog has a GUEST BLOGGER!!! And who more appropriate than my father, Richard N. Hellman, practicing nephrologist and (as it pertains to the story) banjo player. Warning: there is some hard-core banjo terminology in the story, don't let it scare you away! Take it away, Dad:

"[While in the Marais], we found an amazing old music shop which was filled with old and unique instruments including banjos. The place was run by a luthier (somebody who makes or repairs stringed instruments) whose office was in the back room and when we arrived he was fixing a horn for a client. The shop had instruments hanging in every corner of the room and from multiple ceiling racks. Pat and Claire mentioned that I played the banjo and the proprietor was anxious to have me play an old Essex professional 5 string instrument. It turns out that I have a 1920 Essex popular 5 string banjo that I use for claw hammer and frailing and it was fun to play the larger, more sonorous instrument. The owner then played a small banjo ukulele with four strings in the plectrum style. We were have a great time when as the owner reached up to replace another insturement in the overhead rack, the entire circular rack with small banjo ukes and one horn fell on my head and hit Pat's left chin!! The rack was about 10 feet from the ground. Miraculously, injuries were minor. I was wearing my stocking cap and it cushioned the blow. Pat did take a hit to the left lower chin which caused some bruising but not much. There was some instrument damage but the most was to a small banjo uke, and multiple other instruments were not injured. The owner felt terrible and could not apologize enough. I assured him that we would be OK. Ironically Nathan had just remarked to Claire asking “ what if a rack fell”. The reason for the rack's fall was that the molly bold had pulled through the ceiling plaster. A little about the design of the rack is that they were formed like circular chandeliers from which hooks were hung and from these the instruments. Altogether a weird set of events."

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

les Catacombs

Interestingly, our apartment is literally blocks away from one of my favorite Paris tourist destinations: the catacombs. The catacombs are an underground network of tunnels which house millions of human bones. Sometime around the turn of the century the city of Paris needed to empty its cemeteries and they did so, creating the catacombs. Apparently the remains of several guillotined folks have over the years been deposited anonymously in the catacombs as well.

Picture a dimly lit corridor, and on either side of you are densely-packed woodpiles, except instead of logs, the "woodpiles" are full of human femurs. Quite a grim spectacle. In some areas, the bones are arranged in designs, and there are several signs with either poetry related to Death and dying as well as signs commemorating the different cemeteries which were dug up. We visited the catacombs with my parents a few days ago and I now show you some of the pictures.

The place where we went is the authorized version of the catacombs. There also allegedly exist various portals of entry scattered across the city where those in-the-know can illegally explore the extensive network.

French word of the Day: the word for "sand paper" in French is "papier de verre", which literally translated means "paper of glass." The verb for "to sand" is "ponser".

Stay tuned for a special guest blog entry by my Dad sometime soon, during which he will describe our misadventure yesterday which involves a rack full of priceless antique banjos falling on top of his head. I kid you not, this actually happened, and I'll let Rick Hellman give you the details, probably tomorrow or the next day....

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Lenny Kravitz-endorsed falafel

I spent the afternoon with my parents today wandering around the Marais--an old neighborhood on the Rive Droite which also happens to be home to the Jewish part of town. Perhaps the only place in this city where it's easier to find a bagel than a croissant!

While there we ate at this falafel place which had as its advertisement something that absolutely cracked me up: it's major marketing ploy (it mentioned this fact several times on the storefront) was that its falafel was personally recommended by Lenny Kravitz. (Those of you who are familiar with the Chappelle Show already know that Kravitz was officially made part of the Jewish race in the episode where they had the Racial Draft).

Also check out this cool photo of Claire being attacked by tigers (the background is actually a bit of random wall graffiti).

French for the Day: the word for "C.E.O." (coroporate executive officer) is also an acronym: "P.D.G." (president director general).

Monday, January 08, 2007


One of my favorite Christmas gifts this year was a replica jersey from the French national football (aka soccer) team, given to me by my sister-in-law Laure. It comes with the name and number of one of my favorites on the team, midfielder Florent Malouda, who is originally from French Guiana. Here I am modeling the maillot in the privacy of my own apartment.

French Words of the Day:
"les pommes sauvages" = crabapples. Literally, "les pommes sauvages" is translated as "wild apples". We used to pick the crabapples at Holy Rosary Church when we were little, though you had to make sure not to get caught by the ever-watchful nuns.

"les taches des rousseur" = freckles. "les taches des roussuer" is translated literally as "spots of redness".

Sunday, January 07, 2007


Lots to talk about! I have taken plenty of photographs over the past days as a result of being in full tourist-mode while my parents are visiting.

Today we went to Versailles. I had been into the gardens before, but never inside the castle, which is a sumptious feast for the senses. And, for that matter, an assault to common sense. Who needs an opera stage in their house? Or 7 living rooms?

In addition, I also toured the grounds of Marie-Antoinette's estate for the first time. As a gift, her husband (Louis XVI) built an entire little hamlet for her. On one of the farms contained within this little community today there is a goat with 4 horns. I'm not sure what the story with this goat is, but my guess is that it has some type of genetic mutations in a gene encoding for horn/skull patterning.

French Word for the Day: salopettes, which means "overalls". Strangely enough, the seemingly related words "salope" and "salopard" don't have anything to do with "salopettes": they are rather 2 very vulgar words meaning bitch ("salope") and bastard ("salopard"). Be careful!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Happy Epiphanie (well, almost)

Tomorrow, January 6th is the holiday of Epiphanie: a Christian holiday (what else, in France? ) which commemorates the arrival of the Three Wise Men (Wise Men? More like three Wise Guys, if you ask me! Nyuk nyuk nyuk) and is traditionally a day where small presents are exchanged amongst friends.

Tonight we're having an impromptu Epiphanie celebration with our parents. Dinner tonight shall consist of a sumptious pouli roti (rotisserie chicken, one of my favorite easy dinners in Paris) followed by the traditional Epiphanie dessert, the galette des rois, shown below. Inside the galette is one tiny feve (some kind of bean, I guess) and whoever gets the piece with the feve is the "king" and gets to wear the crown that often comes with the galette.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

les Invalides

First things first: a great big Parisian welcome to Ma and Pa Hellman, who are visiting us here in the City of Lights for about 10 days. It's of course wonderful to see them, and in addition I get to be a tourist again as I help escourt them around the city looking at insanely grandiose monuments and museums.

Our destination today included the following landmark. Do you know what it is? A pipe organ? An impressive chest-of-drawers? A deluxe, wooden skateboarding half-pipe?

None of the above. If you said, "Napoleon's Tomb", you'd be correct! It's housed under the dome of Hotel des Invalides, a magnificent building initially constructed under Louis XIV as a type of retirement home, I suppose, for veterans of French wars. Today, les Invalides houses not only Napoleon's tomb but also a very impressive Museum of War which is surprisingly very cool.
French of the Day: the word for "curfew" is "couvre feu", which is literally translated as "cover-fire." Perhaps because you were required to cover up your fire when the curfew hour had arrived?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Mister Books in French

The research lab I work in is at a children's hospital--Hopital Necker-Enfants Malades, to be exact--and I found a moutain of kid's books hiding in the room with the film developer. I was surprised and delighted to see one of my favorite book series, "the Mister Men", in the French translation. Are you familiar with these? They are short and very simple, and each book has as its main character somebody who's name embodies their characteristic. For example, there's a Mister Chatterbox, a Mister Busy, a Mister Happy, etc. Anyways, I pilfered a copy of Monsieur Rigolo (Mister Funny) and had a nice little mental walk down memory lane. It's also good for vocabulary: shown here are Monsieur Malchance (malchance = bad luck; in the U.S. the character is known as Mr. Bump), Monsieur Malin (Mr. Clever), Monsieur Meli-Melo (Mr. Muddle), and Monsieur Sale (Mr. Dirty).

In news which couldn't be any more related, I found out that my Fantasy Football team, the Duluth Dominators, despite a poor showing in the playoffs managed to earn me $70 for winning the regular season. A nice surprise.

Also, for those of you who have not yet seen the brilliant SNL digital short featuring Andy Samberg and Justin Timberlake rapping "Dick In A Box", I strongly urge you to check out this link. I've been humming the tune in my head all day long!

Monday, January 01, 2007

New French Vocabulary for the New Year

2007's very first French Vocab of the Day (and perhaps relevant to some of you) is the French word for hangover, "gueule de bois", which literally means, "mouth of wood."

We rang in the New Year with some friends in Paris and it was a lot of fun. Fortunately, the Metro was open (and free!) all night long, so it wasn't a problem to stay out late. Happy 2007 to everybody. Amongst the many amusing conversations I muddled my way through in my mangled French, I picked up a funny expression from a guy talking about a rugby game during which one player got tackled by another one and "il a volé comme un crepe"--("he flew like a crepe"). I enjoyed the vivid imagery of this very French simile.

One last interesting word to begin the New Year: the French word for dirty joke, which is "une histoire cochonne", translated literally as "a piggish story."