September 6, 2006

The Student Travel Association's Guide to France, Part Deux

French Culture and Customs

Though they may appear to be little more than slimmer, better-dressed Americans, the French have their own rich history and culture. Between surrenders, they have cultivated a unique cuisine, pioneered new political systems, and wholly embraced public drunkenness/urination. France is stuffed to the brim with fresh, cosmopolitan experiences for the student traveler. For example, did you know that France is home to more than four hundred McDonald's restaurants? France also boasts monuments like the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, and, legend has it, a place where naked ladies dance! Take the time to learn a little about France and its people, and before you know it you’ll be sipping escargot at a street café with the Sultan!

Some Useful French Phrases

The French, like the rest of the civilized world, have been forced to learn impeccable English in order to better serve their superiors. But try making them feel special by memorizing and tossing off a few of these useful French phrases. (Translations courtesy of Alta Vista’s Babel Fish translation tool!)

-Non, merci. Six crepes est ma limite.
-No, thank you. Six crepes is my limit.

-Vous ne fumez pas. Êtes-vous se sentant bien?
-You’re not smoking. Are you feeling all right?

-Je suis un Américain. Quels escomptes pouvez-vous m'offrir?
-I am an American. What discounts can you offer me?

-Celui qu'on est la plupart d'alcoolique, svp.
-Whichever one is the most alcoholic, please.

-Vraiment. Je suis très bien, merci. Crepes étaient délicieux.
-Really. I’m fine, thanks. The crepes were delicious.

-Ce lit a-t-il été deloused récemment?
-Has this bed been deloused recently?

-Est-ce que - cela vous dérangerait de s'asseoir là-bas ? Le parfum mélangé de votre odeur de corps et de Cologne qui ne le masque pas commence à brouiller ma vision.
-Would you mind sitting over there? The mixed scent of your body odor and the cologne that fails to mask it is beginning to blur my vision.

-Est qu'une baguette dans votre poche, ou vous ont contracté "la maladie de gonflement?"
-Is that a baguette in your pocket, or have you contracted “the swelling disease?”

-Que le train va à Amsterdam?
-Which train goes to Amsterdam?

-Regardez, quand je veux un autre sacré crepe, je l'ordre foutu un de volonté!
-Look, when I want another goddamned crepe, I’ll fucking order one!

Important Events in French History

French History is a rich tapestry, woven of nobility, legend, revolution, empire, and the films of Gerard Depardieu. Feel free to scan through this loose timeline, which barely touches on major events while compressing the span of thousands of years into a few brief paragraphs. Congratulations! You are more knowledgeable in French history than ninety-four percent of adult Americans!

Prehistory: Cro-Magnon man creates this sculpture in Dordogne, France. It is the only one of its kind in the world, believed to have been either a complicated time-telling device or a private area for young French Cro-Magnons to experiment with homosexuality. Some historians posit that it was, in fact, both of these. In any case, it is tragically demolished by flood in 3500 B.C., shortly after this photograph is taken.

768: Charlemagne is crowned “best king ever” after publicly wrestling a wildcat which he then mounts, eats, and subsequently gives birth to. The mystery of this elaborate and confusing feat has long been debated by historical scholars, although Charlemagne’s testicles, unearthed by archaeologists in 1964 and each the size of a mature hedgehog, seem to support the legend.

1337: A French farm girl named Joan of Arc sees visions in which God tells her to lead the French against the English, ending the Hundred Years’ War. After talking the French King into making her a General, it is found that she has no military experience and is likely suffering from acute Schizophrenia. She is immediately and rightly burned at the stake. This marks the last time in history that anyone who claims to talk to God is ever granted military authority.

November, 1337 to February, 1338: All French cathedrals built. The massive construction frenzy, which begins as a government plan designed to create jobs, ends when builders finally ran out of stone, colored glass shards, and paintings of bored-looking saints. The abrupt end to cathedral building results in the famous “Half-Built” cathedral of Avignon, whose flying buttresses are fashioned out of the bones of those who died during its construction, and whose ceiling went unpainted until 1981, when Spanish artist Salvador Dali was hired to provide a mural he entitled “Jesus With Ants.

1519: Leonardo Da Vinci dies in the arms of French King Francois I after failing to perfect his “Whirligig Lifemotron,” a wood-and-paper device designed to grant the user immortality. The contraption, which does nothing more than accomplish the world’s first manned flight, goes down in history as one of Da Vinci’s many great failures, alongside his “Car That Drives *You*” and a picture of a man who clearly has too many limbs.

1682: Louis XIV moves the royal court from Paris to Versailles, in an effort to keep his notorious three-day, foie gras-fueled, king-only sex orgies out of the public eye. Unfortunately, due to a freak coincidence, the Hall of Mirrors is in the perfect configuration to project the image of Louis jacking off onto the face of the King of Prussia onto a thirty-foot high topiary hedge in the royal gardens adjacent to the palace. A group of scandal-hungry peasants gather with easels and quickly paint the images that appear, distributing these paintings in Paris and becoming the first Paparazzi. They are all later beheaded. The paintings however, which show Louis in various sexual positions with other nobles, become the most valuable set of works on Earth, and are later owned by American John D. Rockefeller until they are destroyed during a three-day, filet mignon-fueled, oil baron-only sex orgy.

1789: Thirteen years after the American Revolution, the French stage an elaborate recreation as a flattering gesture. Thousands die. We later build the Statue of Liberty as our way of saying “thanks, that was cute.”

1804-1815: Napoleon rules France, and expands the nation’s dominion into a RISK-worthy empire. Unfortunately, the seven bonus men he gains from ruling Asia are not enough to counterbalance the losses he incurs while trying to hold it, and English troops, who took Australia on the first turn, are able to overpower him at the battle of Waterloo. Napoleon angrily knocks the board aside, scattering pieces everywhere.

1871: The Third Republic is born, marking the end of the Monarchy in France. Without any viable form of government to succeed it, French people revert to a prehistoric tribal barter system for a three-month period, later dubbed “one crazy summer.” Finally, Americans lend the French Democracy and Freedom out of pity, because we’ve got so much to spare anyway. We only ask that they become non-threatening caricatures of themselves who wear mime costumes and laugh like a car engine trying to turn over. They agree.

1890: Impressionism becomes the premiere art movement of France, prompting eight-year olds everywhere to claim “I could have painted that.” The artists themselves laugh all the way to the bank, becoming obscenely wealthy and serving as the model for the expression “gluttonous artist.” People officially stop caring whether art successfully depicts anything, and worry only about whether it evokes a feeling. Bazille’s performance piece, “I punch you in the crotch,” is named greatest work of the decade.

December 27th, 1948: Gerard Depardieu is born, marking the single most important event in French history. Scientists later determine that for four seconds following his emergence from his mother’s womb, time literally stands still. The era of Depardieu is begun.

Next: Jesus Christ, More Shit About France?!

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