“Demystifying the French: A Panel Discussion”

Alliance Française San Francisco (2017)

In 2018, I met author Mark Greenside at a local independent bookstore where he gave an entertaining talk and read funny excerpts from his latest book, (not quite) Mastering the Art of French Living. He signed my book, too!

On Saturday, August 28, 2021, I got a chance to hear him speak again during a lively online event called, “Demystifying the French: A Panel Discussion.”

The Bethesda, Maryland-based Federation of Alliances Françaises USA invited American authors, Mark Greenside, Janet Hulstrand, Adrian Leeds, and Harriet Welty Rochefort, to share their insights, perspectives, and experiences gathered over the course of many years of living, traveling, and/or working in France.

The panelists took turns answering the following four questions. Here are some of their replies:

  1. What’s the most important lesson in dealing with the French? “If you don’t ask the right question, you will not get the right answer.” (Adrian Leeds)
  2. What is the most embarrassing faux-pas you’ve made in France? “Taking the wine bottle and serving myself.” (Harriet Welty Rochefort)
  3. What do you like/admire the most about the French? “How parents nurture the love of art, history, and language in their children.” (Janet Hulstrand)
  4. What is the single most important tip for travelers to France? “Politesse. Everyone gets a bonjour / au revoir / s’il vous plaît / merci!” (Mark Greenside)

Speaking of manners and mistakes, a faux-pas I made in France while trying to be polite was when I greeted someone « Bonjour » twice on the same day! I’ve since learned that people could take offense to this thinking you’d forgotten that you’d already greeted them. Désolée!

Watch the recording of the entire hour-long panel discussion below (Federation of Alliances Françaises USA’s YouTube channel):

Have you lived, traveled, or worked in France? Now, I’m curious to know your answers to the questions above! If you’d like to share, please do so in the comment box below! Merci!

Free Upcoming Virtual Events You Won’t Want to Miss

[Updated: September 26, 2020]

This is not a sponsored post.

Image: Pexels

Are you learning a new language? Are you on WordPress? Want to enjoy a French language/cultural experience from the comfort of home?

If so, then you may be interested in these FREE upcoming virtual events and experiences.


Duolingo, the popular language learning app, hosted their second DuoCon, a FREE all-virtual conference on Saturday, September 26, 2020.

There were presentations and live Q&As from innovators in language, learning, and technology, and announcements of new Duolingo products and features. Duolingo’s founder and CEO, Luis von Ahn, gave an update on the state of Duolingo.

I enjoyed the talk by Dr. Anne Charity Hudley of UC Santa Barbara called “Black Languages Matter: Learning the Languages and Language Varieties of The Black Diaspora.”

ICYMI: Watch a complete recording of the entire conference here.

WordCamp Los Angeles (WCLAX 2020)

Saturday-Sunday, October 17-18, 2020

Have you ever wanted to attend WordCamp, a conference about all things WordPress?

This is your chance to check it out.

Register for your FREE General Admission ticket and you’ll get to participate in the networking and discussion channels on both days (October 17-18, 2020). When you register, you have the option to put your photo, social media link, and website link on their Attendees page. That means more exposure for you and your website or blog.

A couple of talks on the WCLAX 2020 schedule that I’m eager to check out are:

  • Creating content for everyone: Tips for ensuring your digital presence is accessible (by Natalie MacLees, founder + principal of Digitally)
  • Importance of Readability for SEO Copywriting (by Marieke van de Rakt, CEO of Yoast)

I went to my first WordCamp last year – you can read my Notes from WordCamp Sacramento 2019.


Ongoing; visit their website to view upcoming experiences

Do you want to learn French? Enjoy immersive language experiences from the comfort of home with Depaysio.

I recently got an email from American expat and entrepreneur, Stefanie Kouatchet announcing the launch of her company called Depaysio. (The name takes its name from the French word dépaysement, which describes the feeling of being in a foreign country or environment.)

Based in France, Depaysio offers immersive language and cultural experiences online, such as small-group cooking lessons, drawing workshops, and virtual Paris tours led by native French experts.

Most experiences are available in two formats: 100% French immersion OR mostly in English with relevant vocabulary and expressions in French.

If you sign up for Depaysio’s newsletter, you can try your first experience for FREE!


I’ve signed up and marked my calendar. Maybe I’ll see you at these virtual events! Until then, take care and stay safe.

Bay to Breakers: San Francisco’s Famous Foot Race is Going Virtual

The 109th Bay to Breakers 12K foot race through the streets of San Francisco will now be a virtual race taking place from Sunday, September 20, 2020 to Friday, October 2, 2020!

Instead of the traditional “live” route through San Francisco — from downtown SF (“Bay”) all the way to the Pacific Ocean, where the waves break and touch the shore (“Breakers”) — participants will get to choose their own route. Each day, there will also be a costume theme.

They call it virtual, but it won’t be filmed. Instead, participants will have the option to run around their neighborhoods or on their treadmills at home. It’s not quite the same, but Bay to Breakers organizers are determined to keep its spirit alive!

So far, I have done Bay to Breakers three times – in 2011, 2014, and 2018. I’m a long-distance walker, not a runner, so I go for the fun of it.

Bay to Breakers 2011

Doing Bay to Breakers is like being in a parade. It’s festive! It’s like a traveling fashion show. It’s a great opportunity to re-use an old Halloween costume. One year, I felt especially creative and made Frozen-inspired costumes. My friend was Queen Elsa and I was Princess Anna!

Bay to Breakers 2014

bacon-wrapped hot dogs

I spy a French bakery – do you see it?

Alamo Square and the Painted Ladies

Bay to Breakers is an all-ages affair, but if you want to bring the baby, you’ll need to wear the child in a backpack-type of carrier. A few years ago, they banned alcohol and anything on wheels, like floats.

But part of the fun is trying to see what you can get away with, right? So, you’ll see the course dotted with the occasional baby stroller. Also, some people carry alcoholic beverages in plain-looking water bottles. Security officers are not likely to stop or cite rule breakers if they are discreet.

The event is also educational, let’s just say! You learn about plants (cannabis), anatomy (nudity), and games (adult toys and paraphernalia)…and so much more!

But no one judges and no one cares because it’s all for fun. Sure there’s serious prize money involved, but those winnings go to the top two finishers who usually reach the finish line around the 30-minute mark. Incredible! It takes me 30 minutes just to locate the starting line for the walkers’ corral!

Bay to Breakers 2018

“athletic” is used loosely here

Traditional tortilla toss at the starting line

The Murphy Windmill, one of two windmills in Golden Gate Park

Every registered participant who reaches the finish line gets a finisher’s medal and all the free snacks you can eat courtesy of event sponsors.

By no means did I win any costume contests nor break any speed records (my personal best remains at 2:15:50 at my first Bay to Breakers in 2011.)

Bay to Breakers 2011

But walking through San Francisco —literally from downtown SF all the way to Ocean Beach — provides a feeling of satisfaction like no other. It’s kind of addictive. Maybe that’s why people sign up year after year!

Question is: Will people sign up this year for the virtual race? I’m concerned about everyone’s safety. We’re still in the middle of a pandemic, with recent spikes in new cases in many places (California, sadly, being one of them.) We are still required to practice physical distancing.

It’ll be interesting to see how the virtual race will go. According to the Bay to Breakers website, “You can run wherever. The beauty of a virtual race is you can create your own course – we recommend something that’ll shock the neighbors.”

Like what? Participants wearing face masks and not much else, perhaps? I wouldn’t be surprised. It’s Bay to Breakers – that’s the spirit!

Stay healthy and safe, everyone! 😷

Going Virtual: The 19th Sacramento French Film Festival

© Sacramento French Film Festival


[Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. Thanks to the Sacramento French Film Festival for giving me a complimentary Festival Pass. The opinions expressed in this blog post are based on my personal views, as always.]

Bonjour and happy Friday!

Just in time for the weekend, the virtual edition of the 19th Sacramento French Film Festival (SFFF) starts today, Friday, June 19 and ends on Sunday, June 28, 2020.

Many years ago, I lived in the Sacramento, California area when I was an undergraduate student at UC Davis. I was double-majoring in international relations and French — how I wish this French film festival had been around then!

Established in 2002, the SFFF began as a 6-day film festival. This year, they’re showing 10 films in 10 days. As we’re still in the middle of the pandemic and practicing physical distancing, the festival is going virtual.

That means that everyone can join the festival from anywhere in the United States!

According to the SFFF website, the festival “brings people together around films and French culture in a festive atmosphere. [It] celebrates the artistic, cultural, social, and historical values of films. It fosters friendly relations between American and French people through the universal language of art.”

Festival supporting sponsor, Patrice Peyret adds, “This gives anyone interested in French culture an opportunity to see exclusive and recent French movies (with English subtitles) without having to travel to Sacramento.”

Here are the 10 films that will be shown (virtually):

Friday, June 19, 2020: The Mystery of Henri Pick (Le Mystère Henri Pick)

Vacationing on the coast of Brittany with her writer boyfriend, a young and ambitious publishing executive, Daphné visits the “Library of Refused Books.”

Saturday, June 20, 2020: Alice and the Mayor (Alice et le maire)

The mayor of Lyon, France’s second-biggest city, is going through an existential crisis: after 30 years in politics, he is running on empty, out of ideas. His staff brings a brilliant young philosopher to fix his problems.

Sunday, June 21, 2020: Gloria Mundi

A drama about generational divide and the gig economy.

Monday, June 22, 2020: My Dog Stupid (Mon chien Stupide)

A comedy about a writer facing a mid-life crisis.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020: The Dazzled (Les Éblouis)

Based on a true story of a young woman whose parents’ devotion to the Catholic community grows increasingly fanatical.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020: #Iamhere (#jesuislà)

A prominent French chef with two adult sons and an ex-wife, falls in love with a woman from South Korea. While trying to reach her on Instagram #jesuislà (#Iamhere), he becomes a social media sensation.

Thursday, June 25, 2020: Camille

A biography about Camille Lepage, the 26-year-old photojournalist who was killed while covering the civil war in the Central African Republic between Muslim fighters (the Séléka) and Christian militias (the anti-balaka).

Friday, June 26, 2020: Fishlove (Poissonsexe)

A biologist is part of a small team in charge of mating the last couple of fish in the world.

Friday, June 26, 2020: Arab Blues (Un Divan à Tunis)

A Tunis-born psychotherapist who, having lived in Paris since age 10, has just returned to her homeland to start her practice.

Friday, June 26, 2020: Oh Mercy! (Roubaix, une lumière)

Two police officers solve cases in different ways in Roubaix, a city in the north of France.

Looks like there’s a little bit of something for everyone to enjoy. I’m looking forward to watching #Iamhere, Camille, and Arab Blues.

How the Virtual Film Festival Works

Individual films can be rented for $12. After you’ve rented a film, you have 3 days (72 hours) to watch it. Once you’ve started watching a film, you can view it as many times as you want for 30 hours. A new film is made available to view each day beginning Friday, June 19 until Thursday, June 25. On Friday, June 26, the final three films will be made available so that you can watch them during the weekend.

There’s a discount when you purchase a Festival Pass, which will give you access to all 10 films as they are made available.

You can also chat with festival organizers and film directors by signing up to attend any of the virtual Q&A sessions on Zoom.

Allons-y! (Let’s go!)

To rent a film or purchase your Festival Pass, go to 2020 Sacramento French Film Festival TODAY!

[Updated: June 25, 2020]