Can’t Make it to Paris for the Olympics? Consider April in Pasadena

3 mins read
woman in red dress

“April in Paris
Chestnuts in blossom
Holiday tables under the trees…”

Consider the French Onion Soup at Monsieur Crepe Café in Sierra Madre. Entrepreneur Xavier Sosa acquired the petite eatery a little over a year ago and has given the venue an upgrade—from the wallpaper bearing the bee, the symbol of Napoleon, to the French Onion Soup, served with wedges of fresh baguette, even though this is not how you’ll enjoy it in the City of Light.

Sosa offers a warm smile and a convincing Gallic shrug (even though he hails from Puerto Rico) and says, “We’re just so in love with the community here, and we have received such a warm welcome. So, we want people to enjoy themselves, and what could be more authentically française than a good baguette?”

More French invasion

Consider the arrival of Maîtrise des Chartreux, an extraordinary boys’ choir visiting from Lyon, France, touring Southern California from April 12 through April 29. Maîtrise des Chartreux will perform under the gifted direction of Pueri Cantores San Gabriel Valley Co-Founder and Artistic Director Patrick Flahive during their two visits to St. Andrew Church, Pasadena, 311 North Raymond Avenue, on Friday, April 26, at 7:30 PM and Sunday, April 28, at 9:30 AM Mass with the St. Andrew choir (phone 626-792-4183 for details).

Can’t afford the airfare to Paris?        

But for a chanson of an altogether different variety, on the evening of Thursday, April 18, Alliance Française de Pasadena celebrates the organization’s 100th anniversary with songs by composer and jazz chanteuse Chloe Perrier at the historic Pasadena Hotel. Although the event is sold out, we chatted with AFdeP’s Executive Director, Emma Franks, about sharing the experience of French culture. Franks is effusive on the subject, naturelment.

“We are so much more than a language school,” she says, “because being French, understanding the French way of experiencing life, is so much more than that. Developing some degree of comfort with the French language is opening a door to adventures in places far beyond Paris!”  Recalling centuries when French was indeed the lingua franca for erudition as well as trade and diplomacy, Franks says, “Places as diverse as Morocco, Belgium, and Tahiti are all great places to discover and practice your French!”

Alliance Francaise de Pasadena, 232 N. Lake Ave, Suite 105, does, of course, specialize in teaching French conversation with native French speakers. Beginning this week through June 14, the offerings include classes for adults and children, thematic courses and workshops, and private classes in person and via Zoom (call 833-386-3911). The Alliance also hosts year-round cultural events for members and non-members and offers translation services as well as “Culturethèque USA,” a colossal library and archive of Francophone magazines, eBooks, films, podcasts and other deeply engaging cultural treasures.

That certain je ne sais quoi

As American women, beauty and fashion magazines continue to torture us with the French mystique. What have they got that we haven’t got? This exasperated question elicits a deep, bubbling giggle from the Executive Director. In response to the stereotype of the quintessential French woman breaking multiple American taboos by sitting directly in the noonday sun (because she likes how it feels on her skin), sipping a midday vin (because, why not?), eating a piece of cheese (because it’s local, it’s fresh, it’s delicieux avec le wine), and – wait for it—smoking a forbidden cigarette, yet still managing to look slim, luminous, natural, radiant, timeless, and chic,

“French people do know how to enjoy life. We make it our priority.”

Emma Franks

Franks says, “Listen, French people do know how to enjoy life. We make it our priority. It’s true that Americans are quite different from us in this way. Americans live to work. French people work to live, and we know when to stop, take a breath, take some pleasure, and enjoy ourselves wherever we are. This pleasure is an art, and it’s learnable.”

Avoid being the ugly Américain

This summer, the Olympic Games will turn Paris 2024 into a loud, crowded, hurried frenzy full of – quelle horreur! – sunburned, soda-swilling Americans. Of course, visiting during the games might be construed as good training for 2028, when Los Angeles will host the Olympiad. But, if you favor a more serene approach, consider checking out the Alliance Française this summer for a French film or maybe a deep dive into language skills. And to get yourself in the mood, treat yourself to the Soupe à l’Oignon Gratinée at Monsieur Crepe Café in Sierra Madre, accompanied by a glass of robust French red or white wine, or even an icy French beer—beret optional, Gitane or Galois not required.

The short URL of this article is: https://localnewspasadena.com/d4gs

Victoria Thomas

Victoria has been a journalist since her college years when she wrote for Rolling Stone and CREEM. Victoria describes the view of Mt. Wilson from her front step as “staggering,” and she is a defender of peacocks everywhere.
Email: [email protected]

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