August 31: A Solemn Anniversary in Paris

August 31, 2017 – Today marks the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death. She, along with her boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, died as a result of injuries sustained after their driver, Henri Paul, slammed into the 13th pillar in the Pont de l’Alma road tunnel in Paris. Henri Paul also died. Trevor Rees-Jones, Diana’s and Dodi’s bodyguard, suffered permanent injury.

I previously wrote a tribute to Diana for The Washington Post Magazine, and I do not believe I can improve upon it. Since it is jumbled together with other letters to the editor if you view it here, the letter, printed on December 21, 1997, is reprinted below in its entirety.

I AM 36, THE SAME AGE DIANA WAS when she died. Although I was born six months earlier than she, it was I who looked up to her. She helped me find myself; I would not be the woman I am today without her influence. Contrary to what Richard Cohen would have you believe, a person need not negotiate a peace treaty or be elected prime minister to make a positive impact on the world. Princess Diana radiated love to the world around her. She touched the lives of two generations of women, and we will remember her grace, her style and her loving heart for the rest of our lives.


There will never be anyone like her. May she rest in peace.

Princess Diana's final resting place, an island on the Althorp Estate, which belongs to her brother, the Earl Spencer.

Princess Diana’s final resting place, an island on the Althorp Estate, which belongs to her brother, the Earl Spencer.


Au revoir.











Image of Princess Diana by Trish, courtesy of Flickr, CCBY 2.0. Image of Princess Diana’s island on Althorp by Jon Merler, courtesy of Flickr, CCBY 2.0.

Elsa’s Tips on How to Learn French

Learning or relearning a language as an adult can be difficult, but it can be done. Find tools that work for you, practice practice practice, and NEVER give up.

When looking for the right tools to learn French, don't forget the most important: commitment.

When looking for the right tools to learn French, don’t forget the most important: commitment.

Bonjour ! Comment ça va? (Hello! How are you?) I have been away from blogging about Paris for too long. I have many reasons for this — excuses, really — but one reason is that I have been focusing on learning French. Some day, I hope to move to France, whether it is to retire or to work, or both. Although more French people than ever are learning English, it is important to me to learn their language, for it is the only way to truly immerse myself in the French culture. And what better way for me to show how much I love France than to learn French?

I am the first to acknowledge that different people learn differently. That said, here are my tips on how to learn French.

1. Focus on learning French like you learned English, learning sounds (phonics), words, and putting together short sentences. Yes, this is how a child learns their first language: Since this method works for them, it will work for you. Look for children’s books on teaching French (see below). No need to be embarrassed: no one will know.

2. Watch “Learn French With Alexa” Videos. Click here: Overview of Learn French With Alexa Lessons 1-55.  Many people offer free French lessons on YouTube. Even though I took a year of French many years ago, I wanted to start from the very beginning, as I’ve stated above. Most lessons have you learning phrases without learning sounds or grammar. I found what I was looking for in Alexa, who teaches French from the ground up. After her first lesson on greetings, she teaches sounds, words, small sentences…everything I was looking for in a French teacher. She is also very funny: an added bonus. I highly recommend using ear buds to listen to language videos. You can miss the nuances of pronunciation without them.I watch her videos a minimum of 3 times: once as introduction, then to take notes, and a third time to go over the notes. I often also write words and phrases on flash cards to let the words sink in and become part of my way of thinking. I have watched at least one verb video 50 times to make sure I grasp it; after all, reciting what I’ve learned while watching a video is one thing — to be able to call upon it in the moment of conversation is something else. Repetition is key! I can still hear Miss Dawson, my first English teacher, saying,”Attention ! Écoutez, répétez après moi!” (Attention! Listen, repeat after me!) And we repeated and repeated and repeated…

I found these flash cards on Amazon. They include words in 17 categories, such as Travel, Time, Clothes, Food and Drink, and The Body.

I found these flash cards on Amazon. They include words in 17 categories, such as Travel, Time, Clothes, Food and Drink, and The Body.

3. Use French Vocabulary Flash Cards. This is just another way for me to build my French vocabulary. I have copied the flash card words onto my own flash cards to carry with me during my commutes (so as not to ruin the originals). The only problem with the flash cards is that they don’t give you the pronunciation. Which brings me to #4…

4. Use the French to English, English to French tool on Google. I love it! Again, use your ear buds to hear the nuances of pronunciation. Click here: Translate French to English Google link.

I found this book on Amazon. Once you start building your vocabulary, I recommend getting children's books in French to help learn French grammar.

I found this book on Amazon. Once you start building your vocabulary, I recommend getting children’s books in French to help learn French grammar.

5. Look for books aimed at children learning French, such as French for Middle/High School by Carson Dellosa Education. The book basically reiterates Alexa’s videos. But that’s just the point. There’s no such thing as redundancy in language learning: You have to go over lessons over and over and over again until you think in French.

6. Watch movies with more child characters than adults in French and in English with French subtitles, such as the Harry Potter series. Children, even in middle school and high school, are still developing their vocabulary and sentence structure, so they express their thoughts with less complexity than adults. This lower language complexity, when translated into another language, is perfectly suited for an adult to learn the new language. Also, since children tend to be less sophisticated speakers, they don’t generally talk so fast that you can’t hear individual words.

7. Listen to French music. Many people have told me to watch French news and movies to learn French. While I frequently see French movies at the French Embassy in DC (with English subtitles, thank heavens), the characters speak much too fast for me to hear individual words. French music is better for me at this stage of my learning French: it’s much easier to hear individual words, and I’m becoming familiar with French artists while I’m at it. I listen to the RJM French Music app: I  love Avance by Garou, De L’amour le mieux by Natasha St. Pierre, and Les Matins D’hiver by Gerard Lenorman, just to name a few.

8. Join a French group. Chances are, there are groups of native English speakers in your area who want to practice their French. A friend introduced me to one that meets in DC once a week: they meet in a church and go out to dinner together. I don’t feel I am quite ready for it, but I will attend their meetings when I am ready.

Surround yourself with French things and you will start to think in French.

Surround yourself with French things and you will start to think in French.

9. Surround yourself with French things. To learn a language, you have to learn to think in that language. I can think of no better way than to surround yourself with French things, such as a comforter with French words and pictures, French tea towels, a French clock, a Page-A-Day calendar of French locales, even a print from a French master painter, such as Monet or Renoir. These things help to transport you to France — at least in your mind, anyway — so you can think in French.  I am the first to admit that learning a language as an adult can be tough for a variety of reasons, especially because of the time it takes. All I can say is: Don’t give up. View any progress as real progress. Use any down time you can to practice or recite what you know. While I cook, I try to name all the kitchen items I use. While vacuuming, I recite all the parts of the room I can. I’ll review a small stack of flash cards while I’m waiting for my dinner to cook. If ever I start to feel hindered in my lessons, I think about how much I want to speak French when I travel to Paris the next time. It keeps me going. Find your own motivation to learn French and keep it in front of you. It will help you when you feel like quitting. It certainly has helped me.

Au revoir !





Learning French image by CanStockPhoto. French Vocabulary Flash Cards from Amazon, CCBY 2.0. French Workbook from Amazon, CCBY 2.0. Vintage French poster from Pinterest, CCBY 2.0.




Happy Valentine’s Day!

Vancouver Cappuccino by Gord McKenna_FlickrToday I am sharing a recipe for French Hot Chocolate based on Cafe Angelina’s recipe, and a poem about love. We might live in a crazy, mixed-up world, where little makes sense, but that is no reason to forget simple pleasures in life, like love and good hot chocolate. In fact, I’d say it’s all the more reason to embrace these things. Take time out to read this short but lovely poem about love, which I’ve illustrated with scenes in Paris. Then enjoy the hot chocolate with the one you love.




Paris in rain by Milena MihaylovaCome watch the rain with me,



Couple walking in rain in Paris by four12_Flickr_2480754339_894bc0cf50_zAnd as it pours over our shoulders,







Under the rain by Vincent Anderlucci_Flickr_18126238743_f2e85c833d_zAnd beats atop our heads,






Paris dancing by Quentin ChernierLet it be said,




Montmartre after rain_3680661782_827f9ea4ee_z



That the rain confirmed our love.

by Samara Kae Gibbs





French Hot Chocolate

Yield: 2 large, intense cups of hot chocolate or 4 more reasonably-sized cups

Prep Time: 3 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 8 minutes


    • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
    • 1/2 cup heavy cream
    • 2 teaspoons powdered sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder (optional, but delicious. Will intensify chocolate flavor)
    • Giant bowl of whipped cream, for serving


In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, whisk together the whole milk, heavy cream, powdered sugar, and espresso powder until small bubbles appear around edges. Do not allow the mixture to boil.

Remove saucepan from heat and stir the chopped chocolate until melted, returning the sauce to low heat if needed for the chocolate to melt completely. Serve warm, topped with lots of whipped cream.

Choose the best quality chocolate you can, such as Guittard, Ghiradelli, or Godiva, as the flavor carries the drink.

 — from

Salut !



Today Women March on Paris and on Washington

Women's March in Paris logo.

Copyright Women’s March on Paris.

As a Washingtonian woman concerned about the direction the U.S. is taking with a Trump presidency, I will be marching in Washington, D.C. today with my fellow concerned-sisters. Women in Paris and elsewhere will be marching in support of us. While I appreciate the efforts of women worldwide in this endeavor, to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure what good the march on Washington will do.

It is against my nature to sound so pessimistic; I consider myself to be a realist with idealist tendencies. But a successful march would involve changing powerful people’s mindsets and behavior towards our new president, and I don’t see that happening. Many Republicans and others have decided to embrace President Trump and disregard, at least to themselves, his horrible rhetoric and actions, if only for their own self-preservation. I suppose I can’t blame them, lest they not have a seat at the power table — or even work, for that matter. But what I can’t get over is…many working women support him.(!) How can this be? Does a man who says he feels he can “grab women by the [crotch]” deserve to be president of the United States? Would any of the women who voted for him allow him to grab them — or their daughters — by their genitals? (To be technical, that wouldn’t be the same thing, since they would be giving him their consent.) Joking about sexually assaulting women is nothing to laugh at or to take lightly. I agree with what Meryl Streep said in her acceptance speech at the Golden Globes, that seeing someone in such a position of power do such horrible things creates a culture in which it is acceptable to do what formerly was unacceptable. She was citing Trump’s mocking of a disabled reporter when she said this, but it still applies.

I don’t know what scares me more, a U.S. president who displays unconscionable behavior, or one who might disregard any and all previous international agreements. Trump has said he wants to evoke Nixon’s unpredictability, but the world is a very different place than it was in Nixon’s time. The U.S. is not the only nation with nuclear weapons. A global economy exists today that didn’t exist in Nixon’s time; economic trouble in one nation will eventually be felt around the world. And Nixon was a peacemaker: He opened the door to trade with China, and it was during his administration that the Vietnam war ended. Say what you will about Watergate, but I felt safer with Nixon as president, even if I was just a little girl. And President Nixon sent me a lovely press kit when I wrote him a letter telling him how much I admired him. President Trump, on the other hand, wants to build a wall at the Texas-Mexico border, and he wants to force Mexico to pay for it. He has spoken of “bombing the [censored]” out of a nation whose policies he disagrees with. And he wants to ban reporters at the White House. I somehow doubt that if I were a child now and wrote a letter to President Trump, that he would send me such a lovely press kit; more like an apple with a razor blade in it. Trump is the bogeyman I was warned about when I used to go trick-or-treating. Only he’s not the creepy man living in the corner house; he’s the leader of our nation, living in the same White House as Abraham Lincoln, FDR, JFK and Ronald Reagan lived in. That’s enough to give me nightmares.

When I think back on what is surely the most successful march on Washington — Dr. Martin Luther King and his followers for equal rights for African-Americans — I marvel at the changes Dr. King helped to bring about, the crowning achievement being the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But before the Civil Rights Act, and before “separate but equal” restrooms, water fountains, and schools were outlawed, Dr. King changed people’s minds. Perhaps even more importantly, he changed people’s hearts. Maybe it came a little at a time, even grudgingly at first, but people of all races came to understand that African-Americans deserved the same human and civil rights that Caucasians and others took for granted. And along the way, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the youngest person to have received that award up to that time.

Does it look like Donald Trump is on the road to being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize? He’s on a road all right: the U.S. is going to hell, and he’s driving the bus.

For the record, I was a fan of Donald Trump at one time. Many years ago, I saw him interviewed on Donohue, a popular talk show at the time. While I don’t remember specifics, I do remember walking away from that program being impressed. Donald Trump came across as well-spoken, well-mannered, insightful, and terribly smart. His sense of himself was powerful without being arrogant; I thought he was sexy. What I want to know is, what happened to this man who made such a positive impression on me? I didn’t think it was an act, for he seemed genuine. Never could I have guessed he would turn into the bogeyman of my nightmares.

I’ll be marching in Washington today in an effort to keep the bogeyman at bay. I want to thank my sisters in Paris and elsewhere for supporting this march today. May your efforts not be in vain.

Paris location details:
Where: Human Rights Square at Trocadero, 75016 Paris
When: Today, 2:00 P.M.

Washington DC location details:
Where: Independence Avenue SW & 3rd Street, SW
Washington, DC  20024
When: Today, 10:00 A.M. – 5:00 P.M.


Salut !

Bonne Annee ! Happy New Year!

Fireworks on Eiffel Tower by Yann Caradec_Flickr_7574806098_6ca78260e3_zHappy New Year! I hope January 1, 2017 finds you well and ready for a new year.

French people today will typically get together with only close friends and family. Having consumed crepes and Galette des Rois (“the Cake of Kings”) yesterday, tonight they will have a special dinner and might attend a ball, une soirée dansante (“a dancing night”).

Make a new year’s resolution to be more like the French, and focus on friends, family, eating well and enjoying life. Life expectancy in France as of 2012 is 82.57 years; in the U.S., it is 78.74 years. There is likely a myriad of reasons for this difference, and some might point to the French having socialized health care. But my time spent in France tells me there are probably other reasons for this difference. To begin with, French people eat far more fresh food than Americans, and take their time eating it. This is one reason why they eat less: the slower you eat, the less you consume. Having wine with dinner also helps, since it helps to satisfy the palate, also allowing you to eat less.

Wine, specifically red wine, has other health benefits as well: it releases flavonoids, which helps the brain to be more plastic, or in other words, makes the brain more capable of forming new memories and recover from injury. Sounds like a prescription for preventing Alzheimer’s Disease, doesn’t it? Dark chocolate, widely consumed in France, also provides this health benefit. Think quality, not quantity, should you decide to incorporate red wine and dark chocolate in your diet for health benefits. More is not necessarily better.

I will continue to write about how to incorporate the French way of life into your own life, as well as write about travelling to Paris. I am signing off for today to spend time with friends.

Those work emails can wait. Have a glass of wine. Eat some dark chocolate. Spend time with those you love today. Be more French.


Salut !


Fireworks on the Eiffel Tower by Yann Caradec, Flickr, CCBY 2.0.

Experience Christmas and New Year’s in Paris!

Galeries Lafayette by Brett_FlickrIf ever there was a time of year to visit Paris for just a few days, Christmas time is it.

Source: Christmas in Paris – New Year in Paris – Paris Tourist Office

Looking for a new tradition? Go to Paris for Christmas or to ring in the new year! The city dressed up for the holidays will take your breath away — if you go to Paris during Christmas time, you might think the city got their nickname “The City of Light” from this time of year. (Actually, it was probably because they were the first European city to use gas lamps outside.) The entire city is bathed in Christmas lights, from storefronts and windows to trees and landscapes. As always, there is plenty to do, including visiting Christmas markets and seasonal ice rinks.

I have given details below of several of my favorite things to do in Paris this time of year. But first, here are 12 pictures of holidays past to see for yourself: Paris during the holidays is a must-do. Even if it’s just once in your lifetime.

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Here are 3 of my favorite activities to do in Paris during the holidays:

"Reconnect" with loved ones on the ice; just be sure to wear gloves.

“Reconnect” with loved ones on the ice; just be sure to wear gloves.

1. Go ice skating at one of the temporary ice skating rinks, such as: inside the Grand Palais (avenue Winston Churchill, from 14 December 2016 – 2 January 2017), or outside on the Eiffel Tower (5 avenue Anatole, from 15 December 2016 – 19 February 2017). Ice skating isn’t just for kids: it can be a good way to “reconnect” with the one you love, especially if one or both of you have a hard time staying upright on the ice. Doesn’t that sound like fun for the whole family? Just be sure to wear gloves as protection from the cold and others’ skates in case you fall. Or is that when you fall?

Christmas markets are a great place to eat and people-watch.

Christmas markets are a great place to eat and people-watch.

2. Walk and admire, eat, drink, and buy gifts at Christmas markets. There are Christmas markets all over Paris, but probably the largest is on the Champs-Elysees. The highlights of my visits to this market in 2014 were talking to a Moscovite about his black lacquer boxes he had for sale and eating a crepe with Grand Marnier. (Okay, I might have had two.) I also got a serving of German-made goulash that was so large I had leftovers for 2 more meals. Since you’re in France, you can also purchase hot and cold liquor drinks to warm your bones.


Celebrating New Year's on the Champs-Elysees? Hope you like crowds!

Celebrating New Year’s on the Champs-Elysees? Hope you like crowds!

3. Ring in the new year on the Champs-Elysees (31 December 2016). Could there be anything more romantic than celebrating New Year’s Eve with the one(s) you love under the stars in Paris? I doubt it.


Salut !




 Fouquet’s Paris and Galeries Lafayette by Elsa L. Fridl. All other images from Flickr, CCBY 2.0. Featured image, Galeries Lafayette by Brett. The Eiffel Tower by C. A Paris Street by Dirk Haun. Au Printemps by Brett. Vendome Place by PhOtOnQuAnTIQuE. Notre Dame by Linus Mak. A Christmas Decoration by Jean-Yves Romanetti. The Champs-Elysees by Daxis. A Tree with Lights (“Christmas in Paris”) by John Stanforth. Decorations at Notre Dame (“Notre Dame dans la Boule”) by Luca Vanzella. Paris Opera House by Chris Chabot. Ice Skating on the Eiffel Tower by C. Christmas Market by Linus Mak. Celebrating New Year’s by Falcon Photography.