In 2014, I was fortunate to spend a week in France. Of course, the thing I enjoyed most was being amused by the French.
Here are my musings from along the way.
Ugh. The French.
Just when I was starting to feel confident in my Spanish, and at least get by in Basque, it was time to head to France.
As a bit of a curmudgeon, I do not have a very high opinion of the French. From afar, they seem fussy, overly structured, and generally unpleasant. But here we were, on the Basque mass transit system en route to Hendaye, across the French border.
The familiar look of Basque Country kept passing by – 10 story apartments, clustered around narrow streets, green hills everywhere else.
At France, that stopped. The buildings were shorter, and painted white. A store across from the station sold Cigarette Electronique. There was also an orthopederie and a boulangerie and ugh, all this rie does not work well with me.
I tried to buy a New York Times at the train station’s newsstand. Even buying a 3€ newspaper was a hassle. I’m 500 feet from Spain! Why don’t you speak Spanish!?!? Because France, that’s why.
After sitting in the train station for about 20 minutes, the police came to check everyone’s passports. They approached us, said something in French that neither of us understood, then said PASSPORT! They gave a more thorough look at my passport than the border agent at the Barcelona airport. The French, apparently, did not want any unauthorized Spaniards getting on their trains.
All this excitement – or the espresso I had with breakfast – made me feel like a visit to the toilette. As I walked into the grimy men’s room, I gave a confused look at the porcelain bowl against the wall. Where was the seat? Where was I supposed to put my butt? Is this one of those squatting toilets?
Nope. Just the French. The toilet seat is so unnecessarie! Why have that extra layer of plastic between your rear and the actual toilet? Poop like a man! Sit on the porcelain!
I began to wonder if I could just hold it for six days, until Belgium.
If northern Spain was a mid-rise version of the Oregon Coast, southern France is a bucolic take on Orange County. There’s hardly a 10-story apartment building to be seen. The countryside is filled with small houses, all with red tile roofs and stucco siding. The thick firs have been replaced with sparse pines.
At every station, some old lady is saying goodbye to a friend headed north. They all have extended embraces on the platform, several cheek kisses, sometimes a dozen or more. The person staying behind then waits on the platform, waving at their friend on the train, pulling out napkins to pretend to wipe away tears, mouthing sweet French nothings to the person that simply did the French equivalent of asking for a ride to the airport.
I think I’m going to do this next time I take a friend to the airport. Hey, Jonathan, I’m so sad to see you go! *smooch smooch smooch*. I’m actually crying! *Air kiss*. I will miss you so much! Pretend hug. Au revoir!!! And then I will run up the runway alongside the plane so my friend can see that I actually care about them, until I can’t run anymore because the plane is actually airborne.
That’s the French. Fussy, procedural, way too hung up on the way things should be. One minute, they’re exchanging whimsical Bonjour!s to anyone who passes by, the next they’re babbling at you in French even though they know you don’t understand what they’re saying. One minute they’re presenting you with your change and offering a cheerful voila!, the next they’re pointing and yelling about some arbitrary violation of some unwritten rule of etiquette.
On our first full day in Saint-Emilion, for example, we took a wine tasting class from the tourist bureau. A well-educated oenophile, with a degree in wine something-or-another from a university in Bordeaux, was telling us about the varietals used to create Bordeaux’s famous blends. Among them, Malbec.
“Now, Argentina grows 75 percent of the world’s malbec,” she said. “Maybe they think they have the best climate for it?”
Notice how we could not say “They have an excellent climate for it.” Nope. Has to be a question. When we introduced ourselves to the class instructor, she asked where we were from. “Oregon,” I replied, thinking that an instructor of wines in France might know about America’s premier pinot region.
Nope. She’d never heard of it.
This led to two scenarios in my mind:
Scenario A – The French arrogance scenario. Just as our instructor couldn’t bear to acknowledge that Argentina might be better suited than L’Hexaigone for growing Malbec, our instructor wouldn’t dare to admit having heard of Oregon pinot. This is only slightly diminished by the notion that our instructor would probably be more likely to insult Oregon pinot than to pretend it doesn’t exist. “Oh, yes, I have heard of Oregon. You try to grow pinot there, no?” That is what I would expect.
Thus, Scenario B – the perfect metaphor for so much of Oregon. We think we’re the most incredible place on Earth, and the world is aware of our general hot-shitliness, when in fact, the only people who are aware of Oregon’s superiority are Oregonians. Ask any Oregonian, and they’ll tell you about Oregon as the capital-of-this or the home of the world’s-greatest-that. Cheese? Rogue Creamery’s cheeses are the best in the world! Wine? Oregon’s pinots are the best in the world! Beer? Portland is the beer capital of America! Urban planning? Nobody in America does it better!
Until you cross the Columbia, Siskiyou Pass or into the Mountain Time Zone, and then, it becomes What’s Oregon? Oregon is the spleen of the West Coast. Spleen fans will tell you it’s important, but it really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, and generally, nobody even remembers it exists.
Driving in France
Our ride around France was a BMW 3-series diesel, a new model with 5,000 miles on it, that pulls roughly 50 mpg on the highway. This would be more comforting if gas didn’t cost more than double what it does in the States. We drove about 200 miles around the French countryside, and paid about $55 for the gas to do so.
Driving in France is its own special joy. The roads are narrow – wide enough for two trucks to pass each other, if both had their tires in the grass on the shoulder. They’re winding, narrow messes, often without centerlines. They move slowly, with roundabouts at every intersection of significance ensuring a smooth, if not fast, flow of traffic.
The drivers approach the roads like wildebeests on the Serengeti. They run wild, bearing some semblance of general order but individually swerving, jolting and creating lanes where none exist. The closest similarity to American drivers would be the Utah drivers, if the Utahns all drove zippy little 4-bangers instead of giant pickup trucks.
Our hosts said Canadian tourists often confuse the two-lane roads for one-way roads, because they are so narrow.
The exception to this are the autoroutes, zippy freeways that criss-cross the country. The speed limit was 80 mph, which coincidentally is the top speed limit in rural Utah, but it wasn’t unusual to get passed by someone in a Chevy SUV doing close to 100, which you generally do not find in rural Utah. Perhaps that is because there are highway patrol officers roughly every 20 miles in Utah, and they are ruthlessly stealthy in picking their hiding spots to catch speeders.
The French, on the other hand, rely on speed cameras for their traffic enforcement, and in stark contrast to the Utahns, the French politely warn you some miles ahead of the speed trap that the speed trap is coming. A big sign shows a radar gun pointed at your car, with the speed limit posted underneath. Here, you silly drivers! Slow down for the next mile, then resume your normal wildbeest migration! Merci!
Many of the freeways are toll roads. This did not seem like a problem until I approached my first toll booth. It was an unmanned booth, and being from the States, I naturally assumed I’d pay as I went through the booth for the travel that was about to commence. Speaking little French, I couldn’t really understand what any of the signs said, but I was hoping the trip would not involve a FastTrak type arrangement that used a transponder to toll my car. That’s always bad news in a rental.
I pulled up to the closest thing resembling a manned booth. Nobody home. My concern grew. I put the car in reverse, waited for another car to pass, then went to the other booth, thinking if I *really* needed to, I could drive in reverse for the half-mile back to the main road.
Fortunately, as I pulled up to the toll booth, it spat out a ticket, and the tollgate lifted. Aha! I would pay later! We sped down the freeway, cruise control set at 130 kmh, traveling east up to the Perigord.
When the toll road ended, we had no problem putting the ticket into the toll machine, then inserting 12€ worth of coins and bills to settle the toll. We kept heading east, on the now-free freeway, blaring the classic patriotic song “America, Fuck Yeah!” on the stereo and appreciating our home country, and finally approaching our exit near Lascaux Cave.
It was behind another toll booth.
Panic set in again. Were we somehow supposed to keep a ticket? What if we had to talk to a human? I am driving a car in France and I don’t know any French!
We approached one of the toll machines. It had a red button on it and a word that looked like it might mean “attendant.” A cheerful woman’s voice came out from the staticy speaker.
Parlez-voux l’anglais? I offered.
A lee-tle, the attendant said, and I heaved a sigh of relief. “Where do I put my ticket?”
“No ticket, just pay.”
It all made sense now. I put another 4€ into the machine, the tollgate lifted, and I was on my way toward the Dordogne Valley.
By some miracle, I returned the rental car without a scratch. I eagerly await the return of my $2,700 rental deposit, but at least I can say that I successfully survived the migration on the Serengeti.
My French has improved somewhat in the last few days, to the point where I feel comfortable ordering a cup of coffee or asking if someone speaks English. I’m starting to learn the numbers by osmosis. Still, I have a newfound irritation at any American who’s ever uttered the words “Why can’t they just learn English?”
First off, it’s extraordinarily frustrating, and somewhat embarrassing, to have someone babble at you in another language and have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about. You feel stupid, plain and simple. Even in our wine class, when the instructor was speaking to the French participants in their native tongue, I just felt helpless. This led to boredom, which led to mind-wandering, which made it harder to pay attention in the class in general.
Now, it’s not as if I didn’t try to learn French. I spent a good two months trying to teach myself the basics, using an app on my iPhone called Duolingo. I thought I had it somewhat figured out. I could order a coffee, I could introduce my wife, I could even buy a belt, at least according to this app.
And then I got to France, and I was helpless.
Now, before I make the comparison, let’s address one thing off the bat: Once someone has left destitute poverty for the United States, there’s not much chance of them permanently going back. Imagine coming to our country, with our clean bathrooms and plastic toilet seats and soap dispensers, after a life of shitting in, at best, a toilet with no seat and a bathroom with no soap.
You’re not going back to that outhouse, and if you are sent back, you’re probably not staying for long. Especially if you have a job.
So, now that we’ve established that they’re not going back home, what about “Why can’t they just learn English?”
Well, consider where I’m at. A 32-year-old man of privilege, whose wife checked out Pimsleur CDs from the library, who bought an iPhone app and practiced daily for two months, who has spoken a Latin-origin language for 20 years, shows up in France and is absolutely flabbergasted by the language. I’d kill for the train announcements to be in English. What would it hurt you to make the train announcements in English, you Frenchies? Are you too good for English, too?
If you want to spout off that “the immigrants should just learn English,” that’s fine. It’s your right to have an opinion. But here’s an idea. Have an informed one while you’re at it. Pack your bags and travel to a foreign country. And not just the biggest city, where people are used to seeing Americans. Go out into the country, or even smaller cities. The third-largest city in any country – Hamburg, Izmir, Chiang Mai, Durban, Seville, Limerick, Belo Horozonte. Go there.
Spend three months practicing the language. Use whatever resources you want. Then show up and see how you fare. See how you feel. Try to live life picking up every third word, every sixth sentence, every other number.
You come back from that and think the immgrants should still just learn English, and I’ll respect your opinion. Until then, shut your damn yaps.
This is not the Paris of your dreams
It’s impossible to understate the importance of a good hotel. After all, it’s likely, statistically speaking, the place you’re going to spend the most time on your trip. I generally aim to have a centrally-located hotel, figuring that the travel time saved is worth any extra expense incurred by staying in a crowded downtown.
The general benchmark I keep for hotels is the Hotel Geneve in Mexico City, a great place, only a few minutes from a major subway stop, in a lively, and safe, pedestrian district. It was clean, the rooms were big, and it’s what I have in mind whenever I travel as what I’m looking for.
I bring this up because I’m sitting in the middle of the 7º Arrondissement, maybe a half-mile from the Eiffel Tower, a hotel I hand-picked because of its proximity to the Rue Cler market street, a block away.
The problem with this is that Rue Cler, it turns out, was recommended to me by way of someone who watched Rick Steves, the man who makes Europe approachable for every PBS viewer, and who makes Europe intolerable for all of us who visit here.
The mark of the beast was immediately visible upon entering Hotel Beaugency – a poster, marked “Rick Steves’ Europe Tour: Day 20, Friday July 18.” It had the group’s posted itinerary – the Louvre, the Palais Royal, the Arc de Triomphe. “Bring 1 earplug!” I don’t know why just 1.
A group of dowdy PBS viewers congregated in the lobby, in khaki shorts with long white socks and polo shorts. They were all lily-white and looked like they recently retired as librarians in suburban Kansas City. They made no pretense of speaking French.
It was a metaphor for all of Paris, really: A place that is so popular, so well known, that it has lost all of its charm.
People mill about in clumps more crowded than blades on a lawn. They stop midway to take pictures. There is no peace here – and I say that as a comparison to both Mexico City and New York, which I’ve visited in the past three years. Hawkers, buskers, lovers, locals and tourists clog every square inch of pavement, seemingly bending the rules of physics to make sure they can experience every bit of this teeming city by the Seine.
There is no joy in a Paris this crowded, a Paris so filled with sightseers that they completely overwhelm the sights themselves. Want to enter Notre Dame? There’s a line snaking along the plaza in front! Want to look at the Arc de Triomphe? Hope you’re willing to wait an hour! Walking on the Champs Elysee? Watch out for that blonde tourist taking a selfie in the middle of the sidewalk! Walking under the Eiffel Tower at dusk? All of the above, plus hawkers pitching 5 Eiffel Tower keychains, surely made of lead, for a euro, men running up to you offering roses for sale, a barrage on the senses even for someone who lives in a world of iDevices and thousand-channel TV packages and who has a 20-years-and-standing diagnosis of ADD.
Less than 12 hours in Paris, and I was ready to leave.
But I still had two more full days here, so I did what every sensible spoiled white man of privilege does in this situation – I escaped to the country. We took an early train to Versailles, tickets in hand, ready to experience life at a little slower pace. I was particularly interested in the gardens, because I have a little dream that if I ever come into a couple hundred million, I’m going to build a colossal public garden near Portland and I like to brainstorm ideas for my grand plan.
We had heard the lines at Versailles could be intimidating, but we had pre-purchased our tickets, and there were signs showing that people who’d bought tickets already could proceed directly to Gate A. I walked to Gate A and asked where to go with my ticket. The guard pointed to the long line, making football-field-long Us through the cobblestone entry courtyard, snaking around 6 times before reaching the end.
This couldn’t be right, I thought, as I went to the back of the line that crept along at about a football field every 15 minutes. I bought my tickets in advance! Perhaps the lad’s English was poor. I went to a different guard. She, too, pointed to the giant human centipede.
At this point, it was time for a Plan B. I walked toward another entrance near the garden – and there was no line. I was unsure that my ticket would get me in here, but I figured I had little to lose – I went and got Emily, thinking that at worst, we’d just go back to the human-snake and spend a good chunk of our little time in Paris standing in line in a courtyard in Versailles.
Mercifully, my plan worked. We got into the gardens, Emily sprung for a golf cart tour of the place, and we glided through the grounds at about 10 miles per hour listening to piped-in Baroque music and a British narrator telling us all about Louis XIV’s amazing excesses.
After the tour, and a walk through the estate – including an entertaining trip to the farm, complete with a shitting cow – we decided to give the palace tour one last shot.
The line was down to a 2-U human centipede, a half-hour wait to get in, which we deemed tolerable. The security checkpoint was really just a bag check. We entered to an inner courtyard, found another line, but then a French angel appeared, telling us that we were in the line for the audio tour, and if we so choose, we could proceed directly to Go! without collecting $200 or a multi-lingual, lice-covered headset.
What should be apparent by now is that it’s not so much the presence of long lines that ruins Versailles, it is the sea of humanity inside a palace that was built only for entertaining a couple hundred members of the French aristocracy at any given time.
Versailles felt more like an intestinal tract than a royal palace. It was hot, throbbing and everything moved relatively slowly, and in one general direction that wrapped around a few different ways. I began to think that by the end, I was going to be sent down a chute to have an electrified prod jammed in my head so I could be turned into a T-bone and gelatin.
If I was the leafy green of Versailles’ intestinal tract – eager to move through relatively quickly – many tourists were the potatoes, slowing things down for no good reason. Their enabler: Cameras.
Remember when we were kids, and we’d visit something cool and our parents would buy us the photo book? I remember visiting Biltmore Estate in North Carolina when I was about 7, and my parents bought the photo book, which I kept and looked at for a while before it entropied out of my life. If you were really lucky, you got a Viewmaster, so you could have a 3D view of the Grand Canyon or Yosemite or whatever place your parents dragged you to for summer vacation.
That’s not good enough anymore.
For many visitors of the Versailles palace, their entire experience was captured through pixels, as they stared into their smartphone/digital camera screens, determining what pictures to take. They didn’t even bother looking around, lest they notice the sea of humanity around them, or the gilded fixtures, or the people that they were blocking because they were standing in the middle of a narrow walkway taking their fourth selfie in front of Louis XIV’s third-niece’s occasionally-used sofa.
By the time I reached the Hall of Mirrors, I figured I had only one choice – it was time to start photobombing people. I am now an international celebrity, having appeared in pictures from dozens of countries, smiling making duck-face, putting my hat in their upward-aimed shot, and generally creating ruckus. This, I figure, is a suitable complication for our pixel-oriented friends, who made everyone else’s trip impossible because they had to stop to take another goddamn photo.
Somewhere around Louis XIV’s bedroom, an American woman said to her husband, “Well, I can’t take any more pictures. It says ‘memory full.'”
As I walked past her, I couldn’t help myself. “Great! They sell very nice photo books in the gift shop. Now why don’t you put your camera away, and actually enjoy looking at it!”
And with that, it’s time to venture back out into the Parisian night. It’s dinnertime, and I don’t want to deal with the lines.
In which Nick lists things he actually likes about France
This is not to say that I hate everything about France. There are things that I actually like about France. As I sat in yet another sidewalk café drinking yet another sub-par beer after, yet again, failing at 274 unwritten rules of French dining etiquette, I decided to get out my Moleskine and start writing them down.
- Notre Dame
Tucked on an island in the middle of town, this cathedral leaves even this cynical agnostic writer impressed. I thought it was fairly impressive when I first saw it, figuring it was about 300 or 400 years old. Then, inside, I found it was nearly 900 years old – even more impressive considering its size, grandeur and scale.
Of course, getting in had its own special charms. Naturally, there was a line to get into Notre Dame.
Unnaturally, this line actually curved through itself. About 200 feet into it, the tail end of the line passed through the line’s midpoint, making for an awesome opportunity to cut in line to get into a church. (I didn’t cut here, I instead cut in front of a confused looking Japanese tour group that were too busy looking at the world through their screens to notice.)
The cathedral features the largest stained glass windows in Europe and has borne witness to some of the greatest moments in French history, such as when angry Parisians decapitated the statues of saints in front, thinking they were statues of kings. Inside, a priest took confession in a glass-sealed room. With a line of confessors waiting outside, a nun told the priest about the sins she committed. One can only imagine what that included.
- The Left Bank Waterfront
Getting to Notre Dame resulted in one of those quarrels that one thinks of in the classic ideal of the honeymoon. I was sick of the subway system, having walked up about 7 flights of spiral stairs the night before en route to Montmarte, and wanted to try out Paris’ bikeshare. Emily, on the other hand, had no problem with the subway and wasn’t relishing the prospect of interacting with Paris’ drivers while mounted on a bicycle.
So we compromised, and decided to walk the three miles to Notre Dame, because that made plenty of sense. (On the upside, by the time we got there, we were both too tired to be annoyed with each other.)
The walk, along the left bank of the Seine, was remarkable. The whole left bank had been, as Portlanders would say, activated. It had been temporarily filled with exercise equipment, benches, cabanas, trees, bars, games, all sorts of diversions for passers-by, all free. Everything that wasn’t painted on was movable, presumably so it could be put away in time for the French winter.
It was a great use of space and a great way to encourage people to find new ways to be outside. Somehow, the heart of the Seine felt like the most peaceful part of the city.
- Special custom beer glasses
French beer is awful. Let’s just start with that baseline. Yes, it’s better than Budweiser, but it’s probably equivalent to, say, Old German in its quality. It’s wet, it’s cold, but it’s nothing to write home about.
But every time I ordered a beer in France (and in Spain, so I am leaning a bit in order to get this into the Things I Like section), it came in a custom glass with the symbol of that brewery. Not only that, but the glasses all had unique shapes, and I’d like to think they were selected by the brewmasters at 1664 or wherever to accentuate the beer’s natural flavors.
Wouldn’t it be cool if you went to a bar, ordered a Ninkasi and it came in a special Ninkasi pint glass, picked by the brewers at Ninkasi to make that pint absolutely perfect?
I feel like this is too much cheerfulness in a row, so let’s go back to the French beer sucking thing. Everywhere I’ve gone, if they have one beer on tap, it’s 1664, from the Kronenbourg brewery somewhere near Germany. If they have two, it probably includes Heineken. More than that and it’s either some Belgian import or just another awful lager.
During lunch at Versailles, I saw something on the beer list called Monaco. I hit the beer review sites for a preview of what Monaco beer might be. The interwebs informed me that Monte Carlo has a craft brewery with decently tasty lagers, so of course, I ordered it.
What I got was frothy and pink.
Turns out that there is another definition for Monaco on the “beer” list in France. Start with a healthy splash of grenadine. Add half a cup of Heineken, and half a cup of club soda, and voila!, a Monaco. Or foamy Robitussin. I’m not quite sure which.
- Tree-lined streets
This may seem a prerequisite for any great city, but it should be reinforced – tree-lined streets make a great place. This is one of the key reasons I loathe San Francisco – there is not even the slightest attempt to make shade for people who happen to be walking on its sad, grey streets.
Paris has done a good job making sure it has healthy, lively trees on just about every block wide enough for them. It should be commended for having done so.
- Sacre-Coeur and Montmartre
On a hill overlooking the city, the Sacre-Coeur basilica is a favorite spot to take in the sunset. Naturally, I was skeptical, but Emily had a high opinion of it, so I thought I’d give it a try. We took the subway to the nearest station, passed a bunch of people waiting for an elevator and started up the in-the-ground staircase that spiraled around the elevator shaft toward the top.
By the fourth “landing platform” between flights, I was feeling gassed. By the sixth, I was cursing every time a new set of stairs presented itself around the bend. By the top, I was rubber-kneed.
Luckily, a funicular takes riders to the very top of Montmartre, and while it was crowded at dusk, the view was pretty phenomenal. The sun was invisible, but the magenta reflections off the glass of skyscrapers told the tale of what was unfolding. There were hawkers selling their lead keychains, but generally, the mood was festive and light, the buskers’ music was good, and it was incredible to see just how small Paris truly is.
The neighborhood of Montmartre, around the basilica, was funky and pleasant, and I’d wished I’d discovered it earlier. But it was getting dark – which doesn’t happen until after 10 p.m. in Paris in July – and it was time to hurry back to the hotel.
Getting back on the subway, we took the elevator.
- People watching
A city as mercilessly crowded as Paris is bound to have some great opportunities for observing the human race. At any given moment, you can see at least 5 people with each of the following:
- A horizontally-striped shirt
- A curved moustache
- A scarf – in July
- Ridiculously high heels
- A 1000€ handbag
- Someone with one of those absurd “GoPro” cameras on a stick
- Not having to tip people
The hardest working people I know work in the service industry. Day in, day out, they pretend to be our friends so that they can sell us things their corporate overlords have invented as ways to part us from our money.
And for doing the bidding of their corporate overlords, they get paid shit.
If I go to work in a pissy mood, I can hide in my cubicle, look at cat videos, take it out on a Word document, stop and get coffee – whatever, as long as the copy flows. But if a service industry worker doesn’t pretend to be my friend, I can withhold their pay.
Except in France.
Tipping is not a city in China, and it’s also hardly a concept in France. I didn’t believe this at first, constantly watching other tables after dinner to see what was left behind – surely a coin, some change, anything, right?
Nope. You pay your bill, your worker gets their Frenchie wages for their 35-hour workweek, and the exchange is over. If service is exceptional, you can leave a Euro or two, but there’s no expectation of such a thing.
In Vegas, Service City USA, everyone got paid shit and expected tips. Dealers, waiters, bartenders, taxi drivers, photographers, baristas, traffic signal engineers, dogcatchers, pretty much anyone aside from reporters who was just out doing their job expected a little scratch on the side.
It was refreshing.
- The “Bonjour” Thing.
Among the 274 unwritten rules of French dining etiquette, probably near the top, is the rule that you must always announce your presence with a cheerful “Bonjour!” upon entering any establishment where money changes hands. (A corollary is that there is a non-specific time that this becomes “Bonsoir!”)
From train station gift shops to hotel lobbies to post offices, you’d better say “Bonjour!” when you walk in, even if you don’t see anyone there. In fact, say it twice, and loudly, lest someone think you were slighting the French Way.
At first, I thought this was typically fussy, but over time, I grew to appreciate it. It forces us introverts to acknowledge that there might, just might, be some human interaction ahead. It lets shopkeepers know someone’s entered their store. Who needs little dinging bells on their door when someone walks in, when instead, you just say “BONJOUR!” upon entry? It’s strangely charming, and I respect the French for upholding this in their Frenchie codebook.