Blossoming Kite Festival

I traveled to Washington D.C. at the beginning of the annual Cherry Blossom Festival.  How to know when the festival is to be held?  Apparently, there is one mysterious cherry tree of unknown breed that reliably blossoms 7-10 days before the other cherry trees open their blossoms – for this reason, it is referred to as the “indicator tree.”

The National Mall, site for the annual kite festival, provided some interesting photo ops of the city; the festival includes demonstrations and competitions and  professional kite flyers attempting to show off their talents to music, not knowing in advance what song would be played.  With only the cooperation of a slight breeze, I was amazed that the kites could even take flight (video & photos below).  Maybe, it was just that I am a lousy kite flyer, trying to blame it on the lack of wind!

The festival is a week-long family affair, with parades, hands-on activities, art demonstrations, performances celebrating Spring, blossom sightseeing cruises, blossom bike paths, river rides, and lantern parks to celebrate the cherry trees, a gift from japan in 1912.

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A “killer” tote bag

During my recent trip to the Washington DC area, I was browsing in a hair salon waiting area. A shelf full of colorful, alligator-type textured hand clutches caught my eye.

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In looking closer, I was shocked at the tag displayed with the bags and really couldn’t believe my eyes!

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Why in the world would something like this be on the market & who, in their right mind, would buy one?   Anyone have any thoughts?

Wintery Weather

Cold, ice, & snow – oh my!

Sure, it gets cold in winter months on the French Riviera, but ice and snowy conditions are very rare.  During my recent visit to the Washington D.C. area, there was a winter storm affecting the East coast, and sure enough, I experienced an ice storm, followed by snow accumulations of about 10-12 inches.  Nice to look at, but definitely not the nice/NICE weather I’m used to. Beautiful to look at, but happy to be back home to warmer temps!

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American Café & Bistro

During my latest visit to the U.S., I came across a recently opened bistro/café in Fairfax, VA.  You know, the typical mom & pop-type shop with friendly and efficient service.  I was drawn to the all-American table & chairs, wall decorations/signs, and especially the salt & pepper shakers!   And oh, yes – the cappuccino was delicious.  CHARMING – don’t you think?

salt pepper salt & pepper pepper salt jeans covered seat carpe diem table & chairs

chicken

Metro Signs

During a visit to the Washington D.C. area, I took the Orange Line of the Metro into the city.  It suddenly dawned on me,  how confused a non-English speaker could be, when faced with these transportation signs.  I immediately thought of the automated ticket machines in Paris, for non-French speakers, as a comparison.  We tend to take it for granted that things are easy, so I tried to put myself in someone else’s shoes – as a type of role reversal.  Have you encountered this type of situation?

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France & America – A Dichotomy

They say re-entry is harder after having been an expat. That being said, I travel back to the States twice a year and, although I feel comfortable there as an American, I do notice a few things while I’m in the U.S., that are strikingly different from in France, such as:


Food troughs at Whole Foods

    • I rarely saw smokers
    • the lack of scooters and motorcycle (I saw 6 in a ten-day period compared to 6 every second in Nice)
    • air conditioning blasting cold air in the airport and basically everywhere (in September)
    • homogeneous neighborhoods/residences, based on economic status
    • right turn on red light allowed (illegal in France)
    • the vast number of churches in any given area
    • uniform color of U.S. money (except for the purple five on the back of a $5 bill – why is it like that, by the way?)

The most notable difference is the friendly and helpful customer service in the U.S., which is generally not considered automatically included in one’s job in France (unless they are indeed working in a customer service department); therefore, they tend to do only the job they are paid to do.

STEREOTYPES:
French Television Channel One’s website recently posted what they view as “Americans’ Top Ten French Stereotypes” (link list is in English) of the French. What do you think of this list? Have you personally experienced any of these?

I believe one needs to travel with an open mind, leaving behind expectations of how they think things should be, in order to have a fulfilling and enlightening journey.  Bon Voyage & Bienvenue!