Archives for category: Francophilia

It’s over.

I’ve fallen out of love with my first startup. It was a taker. (You know how unhealthy those relationships are.) I gave and gave and gave. And when I asked for something, just a little thing, in return… Nothing.

I lived in denial for a year (2010). I kept plugging along as if nothing had changed. Then I got sick for a year (2011), so it was easy to pretend that that was why the flame was burning low. Then I got healthy again (2012). And, finally, this year, I had to face the fact that I’d lost that lovin’ feeling for good.

Because of that (and some other shit I won’t go into), I’ve been a bit lost for most of this year. Depressed. Feeling like a failure. Feeling too old and tired to start again. Like ya do. I moped around and was a cranky bitch for months. (My poor husband.) When my strength, energy and stamina all came back this fall, I realized I was all dressed up with nowhere to go.

Which made me mad.

I whined to my husband that I needed a new project. I said it over and over. Out loud to him. Silently to myself. To my girlfriends over coffee. To my girlfriends over beer.

Apparently, my brain heard me. (You gotta love the human brain.)

One night in October I was lying in bed wishing I could fall asleep, “thinking” (overheating brain thinking, you know, hundreds of thoughts at once, all tangled up and ricocheting off each other), when suddenly there was a perfect storm in my head.

Bored and disenchanted with the web for a couple years, not blogging much about it, wondering if my tech blogging days were over and what would become of me, but wait, the web is boring me to tears but I’m getting a pretty big kick out of mobile apps these days, and I wish more of my friends used them, they don’t know what they’re missing, but I can’t write about them on any of those big tech blogs I write for, not what they’re looking for.

Just back from three weeks in California, could still smell the wild wild west on me, feel it running through my veins, clinging to it hard, harder than usual. I’ve lost my mojo, need to get my sass back, nothing makes me feel sassier than my red cowboy boots

At which point the quaint and kitschy expression “Cowgirl Up!” came to mind.

And then it all just gelled.

I would put on my sass, get back in the saddle, create a place to write about apps, and call it “Cowgirl App!”.

I thought the domain name could not possibly be available, considering the wide use of the expression in cowgirly parts of the US. I was sure some geekette in Austin had it. So I didn’t check for a day or two, postponing the inevitable disappointment. But when I did, it was there and then it was mine. And so was the Twitter handle. And so was the gmail…

So for a week or two I let the concept coalesce in the background while I went about my business. As soon as it started to crystallize, I knew I needed a co-cowgirl and exactly who it had to be. Sent her an e-mail pitch to which she responded immediately and enthusiastically (“FUCK YES!”).

Nothing like love at first sight.

Ladies and gents, meet Cowgirl App!

So I was on the rue Saint Paul in the Marais yesterday, a trip to Thanksgiving to get French’s mustard and PopTarts (les PopTarts de Proust, OK??). Also came home with Vlasic Kosher Dills (cornichons don’t cut it; no dill) and a can of vegetarian refried beans…

Dragged Claire along with me, and she was urging me to get something “truly atrocious.” There’s atrocious aplenty at the American grocery stores here; that semi-liquid marshmallow stuff in a jar, for example, and StoveTop stuffing (which I’ve bought twice in 5+ years, that’s right, deal with it). I assured her PopTarts were quite atrocious enough and sent her home with two of them. I await her assessment.

(Aside: They have Celestial Seasonings tea there, including Red Zinger in boxes of 10 teabags for 3.75€. You can get the same thing online for 1.99€/box direct from, run by Harold, who is a great guy. Please support him so I can keep getting mass quantities of Red Zinger, without which I cannot survive winter in Paris.)

So we leave Thanksgiving in search of a café with a heated terrace, but just a couple doors down we stop short, drawn like magpies to a shop window bursting with bright cheery girliness in the form of funky, colorful leather clogs, bags and other goodies. I’m so starved for color in Paris, displays like this one make my dopamine or endorphins or serotonin or all of the above spike big time.

So of course we go in. Parisians tend to turn up their noses at clogs, BTW. Their loss. But Claire is not one of those Parisians. I’ve never stopped wearing clogs since the 70s, and Claire and I are from the same generation, so we enjoyed sharing the blast-from-the-past moment. She likes dainty florals à la Liberty of London, while I like loud 70s kitsch and the retro-collagey thing, all of which, as you see, they do:

The objects themselves were delightful, but the story gets even better. You see, they’re handmade by real, live French craftsmen! The shop, which only opened in Paris three months ago, is run by the soft-spoken young Benjamin Renoux (picture below), who is learning the leather/cobbler trade from his father. They have two other shops, in Honfleur and Saint-Malo (both big tourist destinations). Lucky for you, Cuir du Voyageur also sells its delicious products through its website.

True artisans are getting harder and harder to find in France because, of course, they have a tough time competing with the cheap, mass-produced crap imported from other countries (no need to name names).

So this shop is a true gem. Support them if you can!

I’m going to get some clogs (only 79€ for handmade leather shoes, folks, I mean come on…). Probably the ones at the top of the page. Or maybe a pair with the pattern on the bag (red, white, black, pinup, etc.). Or maybe I’ll just get the bag… Or the darker floral clogs in the bottom right corner of the picture just above. Or the red, red rose clogs I saw in the window… (You can see why I did not leave the shop with an actual pair of clogs.) And I’m also going to offer to translate their site into English pro bono.

By all means stop by and see all the other things they have, like the barrettes (you know, the kind with the stick through two holes, straight outta the 70s,) and the irresistible little leather pouches…

Cuir du Voyageur
32, rue Saint Paul
75004 Paris

Cuir du Voyageur Facebook page

It’s hard to believe this is my sixth November in Paris. It may be my last! We’ll almost surely be leaving Paris and heading to the countryside before this time next year…

I was afraid I wouldn’t get a November picture at all this year. I don’t get out and about as much as I did before, what with The Illness and all. Don’t even walk the dog as often now that he lives half the time with a friend of ours in Normandy! But I managed to snap this with my iPhone while walking him in the late afternoon a few days ago. It’s right behind Notre Dame. I made it under the wire. Not much November left!

Click the picture for a large version to get the full effect of the luscious, mellow tones of the buildings in the setting sun.

You’ll find a list of previous years’ November pictures below. Want more? Here’s a site with nothing but photos I’ve taken all year.

2010 | 20092008 | 2007 | 2006


There’s big news at Francophilia. A new site. A really cool site. The coolest site ever. At least I think so. But I’ll let you decide for yourselves.

The Francophilia Gazette is an all-you-can-eat buffet of juicy news tidbits and spicy culture bites: gossip, trivia, pop culture, high culture, history, and more… It’s a different take on France and Frenchness. No more tired articles about Brie and ballet and beaujolais nouveau. Please.

The content is literally bite sized. Visiting this site is like walking into a chocolate shop; you just want to gobble up everything at once (or maybe that’s just how I react in a chocolate shop…). And the design is fun too. Resize your browser from as big as it’ll get to as small as it’ll get and watch what happens. If you have an iPhone, open the site from there and feel the love…

But watch out! The Francophilia Gazette is rated “French,” which means it won’t always be safe for work… Vive la France !

Of course, Vincent did the technical tweaking. He’s always making beautiful and entertaining Internet things (MUSIC, ioLexis).

It’s what’s been missing from my francobrew. Please tell your francophile friends about it! And link to it, and blog it, and tweet it… Merci !

You have to walk them, even in the winter. At least it’s winter in Paris

(Click for bigger. See the gulls on the quay?)


It’s November again, and that means it’s time for me to indulge in the tradition that has apparently replaced Thanksgiving: my annual November photo, to celebrate the most beautiful month of the year (in Paris, at least).

I took this year’s pic with the iPhone I inherited from Vincent when he got the fancy new one. This explains the mellow look of the picture compared to those of previous years. It was a tiny bit hazy that morning. Kinda dreamy, don’t you think? I didn’t add any effects; that would be cheating.

My son was supposed to be in Paris for 10 days this month, but he cancelled on me. That’s what you do when you’re 24. It’s really too bad. This is my fourth November here, and it’s the warmest yet. It’s been in the 50s for most of the month so far, with plenty of those bright, crisp November days I love so much.

Click the pic for a larger version.


Previous years’ November photos:

2008 | 2007 | 2006

In French, sensible means “sensitive.” It’s a false friend, or faux ami, as we francophiles like to say. (However, in the English phrase “Don’t be so sensitive!” the correct French word is susceptible. False friend again. I could go on and on because I love this stuff, but this post is not a French lesson.)

It may be a French culture lesson, though. You see, I got married to a Frenchman today.

It was the sensible thing to do. I’ve been living here in limbo, with visiteur prominently displayed on the ID they issued me. Every year I have to renew it by sending in a pile of paperwork, and then I wait to get approved for another year.

As a lowly visiteur, I was entitled to the nationalized health coverage, which is one of many things that prove to me what a civilized country this is. The coverage includes incredibly cheap prescription meds too. (I pay two Euros for a tiny bottle of eyedrops that cost me $15 a month with a PPO in the States, and $50 a month with an HMO…)

But as a visiteur, I can’t open a bank account in my own name, can’t have a cell phone plan that isn’t pre-paid, can’t work in this country, little stuff like that. Not sensible.

In France, marriage is not a given. Look at my hero, femmebot extraordinaire Ségolène Royal who, though raised a good little Catholic girl, lived unmarried for decades with her partner, François Hollande, with whom she raised four kids before they broke up a couple of years ago. What would be considered at best an unconventional arrangement in the prim and proper uptight and intolerant US doesn’t even elicit comment here, and it certainly didn’t stop her from having a successful career in politics.

There is something else about France that works for me in a big way, something else that I find incredibly civilized and sensible: religious weddings have no legal validity here. It is so refreshing to live in a place that has institutionalized the marginalization of religion and the religious. The theo-dictatorship of the Catholic church remains fresh in this culture’s memory, and religion no longer has any power here. (No wackjobs telling schools not to teach evolution!) They meant it when they said “separation of church and state,” unlike some other places I can think of.

So it’s the law that, if you get married, you must get married at the town hall before you are even allowed to have a religious ceremony. Many, if not most French people stop there, by the way, just like we did, if they go that far at all. More and more straight couples just decide to sign a PACS (civil union) to “make it official” (145K PACS and 267K marriages in 2008). Originally created for gays in 1999, the PACS gives French couples all the rights and privileges married people have, without the negative, bourgeois connotations of marriage. But it’s not quite as good a deal for immigrants like me.

So, yes, we got married because it was the sensible thing to do. But that doesn’t in the least diminish the sweetness of it. It was a marriage in the context of the epic romance of my life, in a magnificent, 19th-century, neo-classical building facing the Panthéon, during the sunniest and warmest part of an abnormally lovely October day in Paris fucking France.

Thanks to all my true friends for realizing how much it means and remembering our big day.

In the next installment, details about the totally random ceremony and some pics.