Tuesday, February 23, 2010

French Lessons!

Once you have been living in France for a while, your language skills improve, beyond being able to order your morning pain in the boulangerie. We have been here for almost 8 years now and now that I am more confident in speaking French (I label myself competent rather than fluent) I want to use more subtlety in my speaking, and to be as correct as I can be...no French person is ever going to mistake my strong English accent for a native one, but I hope at least they realise that I can speak the language.

So I am keen to use the right term when there are (seemingly) several you can use in any given situation.

My favourite example is bonjour and bonsoir and at what moment of the day you should switch from one to the other. Mark was taught at school that it is 6.00pm and so he sticks to this rule (and why not?) Claudine, wife of our local mayor and also a friend, knows this, and so when we meet in the late afternoon/early evening she makes a great show of looking at her watch before greeting Mark 'appropriately'! My own experience of when to use which word has lead me to the conclusion that the rule is...whatever word I choose the person I am greeting ALWAYS uses the other!! So at 'that' time of day, I wait for my friends to say hello first and just copy whatever they say!

Another interesting phrase (or phrases) is the translation of 'see you soon'. Easy, right...it's à bientôt? Well, sometimes but not usually. Again, it all depends. My unscientific study of this phrase has led me to the following rules of thumb:

If you are going to see someone very soon (for example, I phone a neighbour to ask if I can pop round now to visit) you use à toute suite - see you straight away.

If I phoned this friend though and arranged to call round an hour later, I would say à tout à l'heure - see you later.

If I phoned in the morning to arrange an afternoon visit - à cet après-midi - see you this afternoon -would be used.

When chatting with someone and on leaving, you want to say 'see you soon', what you say still depends...if its someone you see regularly (a mum outside the school gates) then à demain - see you tomorrow - will be good. A friend you see from time to time with no regularity - à plus - see you again - and a friend who you see fairly often would (at last) get the phrase à bientôt.

Even though I know the theory of all the above, I still regularly use the 'wrong' phrase, but as we say here in France c'est pas grave!

A bientôt!!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

New Theme Park to open in Angers

It's true, we are to have a new theme park right on our doorstep!

Due to open in April 2010, Terra Botanica will cover 110,000 square metres and will be the first theme park in Europe devoted to plant life. So, as there will be no Mickey Mouse or Asterix to entertain, what can we expect from this new park?

According to the press release, there will be aquatic spaces, greenhouses and 40 attractions and activities, providing fun and education for young and old alike. I have had a look at the park map and it does seem that there will be plenty to do, although I would say a passing interest in plants, natural science or just learning new things will probably ensure you have a good day!

The park is split into 4 separate areas (classic theme park-style this!) Coveted, Tamed, Generous and Mysterous Plants, each with its own 'headline' show or attraction, quizzes and games for children, and areas to wander and enjoy the plants which fit that area's theme.

In the Coveted Plants area, you travel back in time to the great botanic adventurers of the 18th century, who brought back to Europe exotic new plants and spices. Highlight of this section of the park is a special effects film where guests take their own voyage of discovery, ending up by 'disembarking' from the ship into a vast hothouse recreating the jungles of South America.

In the Generous Plants section, the highlight of the visit is a trip down a river, crossing through the rich natural heritage of Anjou. Guests are able to learn about plants which 'give' so much to man - medicinal plants, vines (of course!) and traditional trades.

In Mysterious Plants guests will learn about the science of plants and really get 'up close' in the headline show -a 4-D film where visitors follow the journey of two water droplets which travel from the roots up to the leaves of a tree. In this section younger guests will enjoy the prehistory sections and the pedal-driven nutshells which travel high above the trees.

The final section is Tamed Plants; all about how Man has used, and continues to use, the rich resources of plants in his daily life. The jewel in the crown of this area is the Extreme Glasshouse where in the space of a few steps you travel from the Arctic to the desert via a tropical rainforest.

The park is due to open on 10th April - so if you come and stay during the Easter holidays you may get to visit - and will be open daily from May to September. Admission prices are 17.50 for adults and 10.00 euros for children - with family tickets also available. The park is about 45 minutes drive from us. We will be visiting as soon as we can after opening day, so check back on the blog for photos and our family's review!