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'Je préfère les chevaux bruns... ça ne se salit pas autant que les blancs.'

Spent a lovely weekend in Grenoble, visiting the host-fam (minus Denis, who is spending the summer hols wandering around in Egypt). I got to take a shower every morning and spent a lot of time being pénible and making terrible puns, which I will not burden you with because I've forgotten most of them* and they're all in French anyway and wouldn't translate.

The trip there was frought with Americans. In the train from Onzain to Paris I avoided talking to the one in my compartment, but the one sitting across from me Paris-Grenoble addressed me first, asking if I spoke English. He was so relieved to find someone who spoke English that he felt the need to fill the next three hours with that language, despite having very little to actually say. I was painfully polite and tried to humour him, but he kept fading off, then I'd think Yes! I can read my book now! Then he'd start off with "Oh!" as if he were suddenly reminded of a related story and start talking about something else altogether, which I still didn't care about. I think he might have been functionally retarded. He once thought of studying astrophysics, so perhaps he's just socially retarded.

We had crêpes for dinner. I think mushroom-and-cheese is my favorite combination. I made Sophie help me with the batter pouring and all, for I am hopeless and American and their crêpe-making ways are strange to me.

Saturday, we went up into the Vercors (local mountain range) and visited various museums and memorials related to the French Resistance and particularly the freedom-fighters who created resistance camps in that area. It was kind of strange to do this just after I'd read the Elizabeth George book that talks about building a museum about the resistance movement on Guernsey.

I think World War II was a lot longer ago for Americans than it is for Europeans. This makes sense, of course, because we were hardly involved and we had nothing to rebuild, nowhere near the sense of confusion or betrayal or loss. I felt kind of strange about visiting all of these things and being such an outsider. The French people would walk by the translation of a German soldier's letter home and exclaim in shock, "Do you see? He said that the French were pigs! They called us dogs!" and all I could think was, It's a WAR! What the hell do you think the French were calling the Germans?

Some of the things in the first museum were also just rather grotesque and inappropriate for family viewing. There were lots of photos taken of Resistance fighters after their deaths, with bits of them blown off and portions of skin missing from their faces... I guess other museums have things that are just as graphic and that it was very moving as a result, but it also just wasn't a very good museum. It wasn't very well organized, it hadn't been renovated since it was built in the 1970s, and it was just sort of a jumble of artifacts and documents and badly-presented information. It needed a good museum studies intern, it did.

The memorial was a much more modern building and was more of an experience than a museum - using video, sound, pictures and even the design of the building itself to tell its stories. Unfortunately, they were much the same stories that we'd already learned in the museum. There are a lot of museums and memorials in the Vercors - perhaps more than there are actual stories to tell.

That evening, Sophie and I went to the movies. We missed the showtimes of all of the movies we were actually interested in seeing, so we went to see Alexandrie... New York, which sounded not bad but wasn't our top choice. It turned out it actually was bad. It was a bad movie and it was unintentionally laughable. It was understandable, in some ways, because I think (I hope) the director intended it as an Egyptian film to be watched by Egyptians, rather than to be watched by an American and a Frenchie. That would explain why all of the scenes in "California" and "New York" were clearly filmed in Egypt, why the never-ending US graduation scene was not like any graduation I have ever seen or will ever see in the US and why, inexplicably, everyone in the United States spoke perfect Arabic - even the racist people who were making camel-jokes about the hero and telling him to go back where he came from. (In the movie's defense, Germans in English-language movies are always speaking English to each other... but they at least have the courtesy to do so with a heavy fakey German accent!)

On Sunday, we slept in and had a nice relaxed lunch before I had to go to the train station. Uneventful American-ridden trains to Paris and on to Onzain, then back home!

* Well, okay, if you insist. A few I remember

Françoise: Voilà, le Tour San Venin!
me: Est-ce qu'il y a beaucoup de tours avec vénin?

Walking through the Parc Paul Mistral with Sophie:
me: C'est qui, Paul Mistral?
Sophie: Je sais pas. Celui qui a fait construire le parc? Non, 'chais pas.
me: Est-ce qu'il a perdu beaucoup de choses?
Sophie: Quoi?
me: Ben... parce que sinon, ça serait un Mistral gagnant.
(Sophie groans)


srah - Sunday, 25 July 2004 - 1:12 PM
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Comments (5)

gravatar MaTT - July 26, 2004 - 11:23 AM -

Museum exhibits surely are changing -- the Whitney Museum in NYC also had video playing, which was sorta cool b/c you could see both the finished piece and also how the artist made it (besides the fact that the video was of her lying down in mud and lighting the mud on fire...)

What kind of camel-jokes were in the Egyptian movie? I've only heard one camel-joke before... :)

gravatar srah - July 26, 2004 - 11:28 AM -

Well, not jokes so much as offensive camel-related remarks.

gravatar MaTT - July 26, 2004 - 11:58 AM -

Camels seem very tempermental (and they spit). I think i'd rather ride a horse and carry lots of water with me... for the horse.

gravatar Jez - July 26, 2004 - 12:08 PM -

Mmorial museum of peace in Caen is the best, most moving WWII museum I've ever been to.

gravatar Stephen - July 26, 2004 - 7:38 PM -

For WWII, the Museum of Peace in Caen is great. For WWI, I was really impressed with the In Flanders Field museum in Ypres, Belgium. It was incredible, especially after visiting a lot of the cemetaries throughout the school year.

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