The French Experience of Dominic Girard

March is International Francophonie Month, recognizing the 80+ countries of the world where French is spoken. 

Although French is a global language, you don’t need to travel to Paris, Congo, or Canada to find it. There are plenty of communities here in the United States that celebrate French, including our New England region. In NH, over 23% of the population identifies as having French or French-Canadian Heritage. Many families no longer speak the language at home but some still consider it an important piece of their heritage.

One example of a young professional who continues to celebrate his French roots is Dominic Girard, son of Richard and Jennifer Girard, proud Franco-Americans and Lifetime FAC Members. I recently spoke with Dominic about his experiences with the French language and culture. He shared with me stories of his study abroad experience and tales of his childhood. 

Growing up in Manchester

Manchester Mills

In the largest city in New Hampshire, there are many people from many diverse places of the world. Francophone culture in particular is well represented. The largest Francophone influence in the city came from the Quebecois, many of whom ended up there to work in the mills between 1840 and 1930.

Dominic grew up in this city. He told me that French language and culture had always been a part of his life, if only a backdrop at times. His father had studied French in college, and his Nana was fluent. His 8th grade year of school, Dominic was homeschooled, and in that year was taught the basics of the language. He studied French in high school as well, and again in college, where he earned a minor with it. 

Study Abroad in Strasbourg

While in college, Dominic had the opportunity to study abroad. He landed in Strasbourg, France, near the border with Germany. Dominic said this location was an exciting place to stay largely because of its location in central Europe. He could reach just about anywhere in Western Europe in less than 6 hours. 

One of his favorite memories, he told me, was of the Christmas market in Strasbourg. There, he enjoyed vin chaud, a spiced wine drink served warm. 

He said he would highly recommend a study abroad experience in college. Studying helps build familiarity with a language or culture, but traveling helps you truly understand it. 

The Importance of Language Study

Dominic said he recommends studying another language. It helps a person better understand their own culture and language, and learn about other approaches to life. There’s so much more out there that we don’t always see in the US. We are surrounded by an ocean on either side, and only share two borders with other nations. 

He says studying another language is loads of fun, but also very practical. It helps build connections and understanding of every part of our world. 

Dominic’s story is one example of how the combination of a family’s commitment to their heritage and a young person’s desire to keep that heritage alive keeps adding new chapters to the Franco-American story.

Félicitations Dominic et merci!

Dialects of African French

Written by Kaleb Houle-Lawrence – high school Intern

Congolese (Kinshasa) French

Kinshasa, Capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo

Congolese French, also known as Kinshasa French after the capital city, is spoken in the Democratic Republic of Congo and surrounding countries of Central Africa. As the largest Francophone country in the world, the DRC has developed its own dialect and slang throughout their use of French in business, administration, and education. 

There are several structural and linguistic differences between Congolese dialects and standard French. In Congolese French, there is a slower rhythm with a more relaxed pronunciation. Additionally, the Congolese dialect places more emphasis on tone, often using elongated vowel sounds. 

However, even the origins of this dialect are different from traditional French dialects, due to the area’s history as a Belgian colony. Because of this, the Congolese dialect is often considered by linguists an offshoot of Belgian French. One example of an expression derived from Belgian French is the expression “casser le Bic.” In standard Parisian French, le Bic has no translation, however in Belgian French le Bic means ballpoint pen. The expression thus means, literally, “to break the ballpoint pen.” In Congolese French, however, the expression means “to stop going to school.” The use of Casser le Bic is a clear linguistic indication that Congolese French is derived, at least in part, from Belgian French. 

Other unique attributes of the Congolese dialect arise from its mixing with the local languages. The DRC has four official languages, but the most common is Lingala.  Often, French phrases and words are mixed with Lingala phrases.

One common example is “Merci mingi,” which uses the French merci (thank you) and the Lingala mingi (very much). Another cultural saying specific to the Congolese dialect is a Kinshasan euphemism: “avoir un deuxième bureau.” Literally, this would translate to “to have a second office,” but it is used in a figurative manner to mean “having a mistress.” While a Francophone speaking a different dialect may not understand the reference, Congolese French has incorporated the saying into their unique dialect.

Maghreb (Algerian) French

Maghreb French, sometimes referred to as Algerian French, is from the region of North Africa. This French dialect exists across the nations of Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia; all former colonies of France. Algeria is the second most populous Francophone nation in the world (in terms of speakers of French). More educated citizens in the region are often bilingual in French and Arabic. 

The influence of Arabic language and culture has become a critical part of Maghreb French. Compared to sub-Saharan dialects, Maghreb French is more similar to Parisian French. One of the most common examples of Maghreb French is the verb kiffer, which is akin to aimer (to like) in Parisian French. This verb is borrowed from the Arabic word kif, which has a similar meaning. Kiffer has become a common Parisian slang word, demonstrating the ability of French dialects to transcend national borders..

Algerian politics recently banned the use of French as an official correspondence. The use of the language is said to remind citizens of their colonial history. As such, the nation is seeking to promote its own local languages as well as English. The ban, coming from the Ministry of Culture, came into effect around April of 2022. 

Dialects and Language

Overall, the French language has many different forms across the world. These are just two of the copious quantities of African French dialects that I will share in later blog posts. Just remember: dialects make a language interesting and unique. We must celebrate diversity and promote dialectical differences. 

Architecture: Château Frontenac

Written by Jasmine Grace, High School Intern

Le Château Frontenac

This hotel was one of the first of its kind to be built, and is still run today as one of the most luxurious hotels in Québec. It has hosted many famous guests such as the Premier du Québec, Alfred Hitchcock, and many other well-known  names


The Château Frontenac was built as a ‘railroad hotel’ to encourage tourism by train. Though several hotels were built for this reason, this particular one was constructed by the Pacific Railroad Company. Construction began in 1892, and the hotel opened in the following year. 

A Château of the Loire Valley

The architect responsible for the Château’s design was Bruce Price of New York City. The design was inspired by French châteaux (castles) of the Loire Valley. 

Additions were made to the hotel in 1926, when a central tower was incorporated into the design by contractors Edward and William Maxwell. Then the most recent addition came in June of 1993, when the Claude-Pratte wing was added. This contains a spectacular indoor pool, a fitness center, and an exterior terrace.


Historic Moments at the Frontenac

Lavish Library

Today, the beautiful room next to the hotel’s restaurant, Le Champlain, is a library. However, in the 1950s, Premier du Québec Maurice Duplessis took the room as his office. He also lived in suite 1107 of the Château Frontenac.

I Confess

Many of Alfred Hitchcock’s films have become iconic and are instantly recognizable today, such as Psycho. However, one of Hitchcock’s lesser known films, I Confess, was filmed in Québec as well as Hollywood. Hitchcock himself stayed in the Château Frontenac to watch the premier of the film in the city. 

Other Famous Québec Hotels

During the busy Carnaval season, the Château Frontenac takes many guests who came to visit the world’s largest winter carnaval. The Château is close to many of the festivities; located in Old Québec, the historic neighborhood of Québec City.



But there’s another option for true Carnaval goers who want a unique winter experience: the ice hotels. Built of ice and snow, these incredibly built structures are the only ice hotels in all of North America. They’re also themed every year. For 2023, the theme will be nightlife. 


Cirque du Soleil: Re-defining A Circus 

Written by Kaleb Houle-Lawrence – high school Intern


History Of Cirque


The beginnings of the Cirque du Soleil show trace back to a 1980s group of performers. Founded by Gilles Ste-Croix, Les Echassiers de Baie-Saint-Paul (The Stiltwalkers of Baie-Saint-Paul) performed on the shores of the St. Lawrence River in Québec City. This group of jugglers, dancers, fire-breathers, and musicians would become the core of Cirque du Soleil. A member of this group, Guy Laliberté, proposed bringing the show out of the city and across the province of Québec. This province-wide tour began in 1984, marking the 450th year since the discovery of the Canadian land by Europeans. 

Guy Lalibérte

As the circus act began to spread, they found their name: Cirque du Soleil. According to Laliberté, the sun represented their youth, energy, and strength. They also became known as a trendsetting group, as their show was animal-free to avoid the typical cruelty associated with circus acts. Instead, they relied on incredible dance numbers, original music, and purposeful lighting to immerse the viewer. 

Upon the success of this expansion, the act made its dive into international venues in 1987 with its first US-based tour, beginning in Los Angeles and moving to sold-out shows in San Diego and Santa Monica. Following this success, the same tour was brought abroad to Europe in 1990.


Mystère, Cirque Show

In 1993, Cirque du Soleil established its first permanent show in Las Vegas. Titled Mystère, this show is performed in a custom-built theater on the Vegas strip, decorated with dazzling lights to match the aesthetic. To this day, the show still holds its residency in Las Vegas. The piece is designed to take a look “inside the imagination,” filled with color, music, and athleticism. Since its introduction, Mystère has become one of the top hits for any Vegas trip. 







a performer floats above the audience, lifted by massive balloons

This weekend, Cirque du Soleil is making a stop in Manchester, New Hampshire, to play its show Corteo. On Friday, FAC blog interns Jasmine and myself attended the show at the SNHU arena.

Corteo, which is currently on tour across the US, focuses on the storyline of a clown named Mauro. In the beginning of the story, Mauro passes away, but his spirit remains a vital component of the piece. The rest of the show then focuses on his corteo, or funeral procession. The rest of the cast of characters can be seen having fun and celebrating the life of Mauro, rather than mourning his death. 

Personally, the Cirque experience was absolutely amazing. From the audience engagement from the lady tied to balloons (pictured here) to the lights, dancing, and music all came together to produce an immersive and spectacular show. 

Tickets for Corteo, and other Cirque du Soleil shows, can be found here

2022 in Review

Written by Jasmine Grace,
High School Intern


2022 has come to an end, so we wanted to look back at many of the things that we’ve learned, and remember many of the events that have taken place . 

Pumpkin Winners

Giant Pumpkins

We learned earlier in 2022 about two contests in Québec in which competitors row giant pumpkin-canoes toward the finish line. 

Unfortunately, the 2022 Windsor Pumpkin Regatta was canceled indefinitely, as the lake used for this race currently has almost no water. Lake Pisquid, an artificial lake, is not nearly deep enough to host the race. The tidal gates are now being managed to improve fish passage. 

However, there was a new pumpkin race this year, in Shelburne, Nova Scotia. The very first winner of this competition, Ryan Foley, says he grew up watching the Regatta over in Windsor. Many of his competitors were close friends, and he says they all had a great time splashing toward the finish line. 

World Cup Finals

Another exciting event of 2022 was France competing in the FIFA World Cup Finals! Morocco also made it far in this global soccer event, becoming the first African nation to reach semi-finals. 

But France and Morocco’s performances aren’t the only exciting part of the event. In November of this year, 2 French cyclists set out to bike from Paris to Doha, Qatar, to watch the finals and cheer on France. After 3 months and more than 7,000 kilometers, they made it! They traveled about 15 kilometers each day, through 13 different countries. Along the way, they crossed a variety of terrains, from flooded forests in Hungary to desert in Saudi Arabia. They overcame many challenges on their journey, but both said they had a great time on their trip.

A Look Ahead

France will be involved in global sports in 2023 as well! It will host the next Rugby World Cup. And Canada is scheduled to be one of 3 host countries for the next FIFA World cup in 2026.

Closer to home, the FAC has plans for 2023 as well! The blog will continue with a variety of articles across many subjects. We’ll post the next edition of the World of French series, and another article about Francophone Legends and Monsters. Stay tuned for more exciting Francophone news!

Le Festival des Lumières

Written by Kaleb Houle-Lawrence – high school Intern

History of Le Festival des Lumières     

2018 Exhibit

The Festival of Lights (Le Festival des Lumières) in Paris is coming back for its fourth year! The event, located in the 5th arrondissement (the French equivalent to a neighborhood), is a spectacular display of larger-than-life light displays. The first event was held in 2018 and has returned every year except 2020.

2019 Exhibit




Thematically, all of the festivals have focused on endangered species across the world. Previous themes have focused on endangered plants and animals in general, oceanic life, and evolution. This year’s theme, Mini-Mondes en voir d’Illumination (The World of Miniscule in Large), will focus on the tiny organisms that play crucial roles in global ecosystems.

2018 Exhibit

From mid-November into January, tourists and locals alike can walk through the 5th arrondissement. Dozens of light sculptures throughout the area illuminate the entire night sky throughout the festival. During the day, the Jardin des Plantes in Paris holds events to discuss the themes. From children’s workshops to discussions on protecting endangered species, these events help put the festival’s mission into practice.

2018 Exhibit

2022: Mini-Mondes en Voir d’Illumination

This year’s walk-through will bring viewers through several ecosystems, focusing on the minute species that are typically forgotten. The path begins in a meadow, with displays of butterflies, spiders, snails, and shrews. Then, the ecosystem shifts into a pondy region filled with dragonflies, mosquitoes, and frogs. Next, there is a larger-than-life forest crawling with beetles, millipedes, caterpillars, and lighting bugs, among other woodland creatures. To traverse into the next region, viewer’s must cross an 82-foot long illuminated piece of tree bark.



The next two sections focus on every-day mini species that we encounter. The first contains dozens of species found in our home, from jumping spiders to bedbugs and mold. Finally, the audience is introduced to the organisms found within our own bodies. Dozens of bugs, bacteria, and viruses illuminate the area and our knowledge of our personal body ecosystems.

French Bulldogs: National Winners

Written by Jasmine Grace,
High School Intern

Winston the Champion

Each year in the US, the National Dog Show airs just after the Macy’s Day Parade on Thanksgiving Day. This year, the Best of Show was Winston the French Bulldog. Winston is the first of his breed to have won this prestigious competition. Winston also competed earlier in this year in the Westminster Dog Show.


The Original Bulldogs

A dog that more closely resembles an original bulldog

The French variety of bulldog is barely related to a true bulldog breed. Bulldogs were originally bred for bull-baiting, an ancient and violent sport where these strong, athletic dogs were unleashed to fight tethered bulls. Their goal was to grab the bull by the snout or ears. 

By the 18th century in England, this sport was illegal. In the Nottingham area, breeders had crossed bulldogs with smaller dogs to create the very early ancestors of French Bulldogs. These little dogs became favored by lace-makers in the area, because they made such wonderful companions.

Nottingham Today

But the Industrial Revolution in England put lace-makers and other artisans out of business. Many of these artisans relocated to Northern France, and they brought their favorite pups with them. The French fell in love with the little dogs, and they became known as French Bulldogs. 

French Bulldogs

The French bred more modern characteristics into the dogs. The big ears, squashed-in noses, and wrinkled forehead became common in the breed at this time. French Bulldogs were one of the first breeds created with cuteness as the most important trait. 

Humans have been breeding dogs for centuries. We’ve created dogs that help us hunt, that help protect us, and that work with us in a variety of other ways. But breeders didn’t create French Bulldogs to perform a task. They aren’t particularly good guard dogs, and they can’t hunt, not even rats. They exist for the sole purpose of being cute, furry companions. By the 19th century in France, more people could afford to own a pet just for the  sake of having a pet. 

French Bulldogs Today

A French Bulldog in a flower garden

French Bulldogs have gotten more and more popular over the years, in France and abroad. They are well-loved here in the US, as evidenced by Winston’s victory in this year’s National Dog Show. The dogs are intelligent, lively, and full of personality, and that has gained them fame the world around.

Armistice Day in France

Written by Kaleb Houle-Lawrence – high school Intern

What is Armistice Day?

Armistice Day in France

 One-hundred and four years ago, a ceasefire to end the first World War was announced at 11am. The World War had raged for just over four years throughout Europe. On November 11th, 1918, an armistice was signed at the border of Germany and Northern France. This agreement, which began a ceasefire in the war, would ultimately be the first step towards the Treaty of Versailles. Since 1922, Armistice Day (Armistice de la Première Guerre mondiale) has been a national holiday in France. Other nations have similar celebrations under different names, such as Remembrance Day in the UK, or Veterans Day in the US.

First Celebration

Armistice Day at Buckingham Palace

The first celebrations of Armistice Day were held in 1919 at Buckingham Palace. British monarch George V hosted French President Raymond Poincare at the palace to commemorate the anniversary of the armistice, and the event included a two-minute period of silence. Both leaders also made speeches celebrating those who fought in the war or lost family members to it. 


Traditional Ceremonies

Grave and Memorial Decorations

Throughout France, parades and activities are hosted on Armistice Day. Many cities and villages around the country host large community events to memorialize the losses of the war. People place wreaths, garlands, flowers, and other items on gravestones and memorials as well. As with La Toussaint, the most common flowers placed on graves are chrysanthemums. Speeches, services, and moments of silence are common also. Important figures frequently visit battlefields and locations of conflict throughout the day. 


Macron’s Visit

President Macron

Every year, the French President visits a new battlefield or memorial in France on Armistice Day. This year, Macron plans to visit l’Arc de Triomphe, site of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,  for his annual commemoration.  The tomb was placed there in 1920 as a national event to remember those who hadn’t been identified after the war. This year, US Vice President Kamala Harris joined as an onlooker while Macaron laid a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Liberty Enlightening the World

Written by Jasmine Grace,
High School Intern


Liberty Enlightening the World

The Statue of Liberty has become a symbol of freedom, democracy, and of America itself. But the statue wasn’t built here. It wasn’t even an American idea. The people of France sent it as a gift, and a symbol of friendship between the nations. 

The Gift

In the year 1865, the American Civil War was coming to an end, and the country was united once again. Across the Atlantic, French historian Édouard de Laboulange wanted to celebrate the expansion of freedom in America. His idea was to send a massive statue as a gift, and an enduring symbol of the Friendship between the two nations. 

The Statue

Construction of the Statue’s Hand

Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, a contemporary sculptor, created the statue. He used a technique known as repousse to create the ‘skin’ (exterior) of the statue. This technique involved hammering out massive sheets of copper by hand to create the desired shape. He named his creation ‘Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World’ although most of us today call it simply the Statue of Liberty. 



NY Harbor

The skeletal support of the Statue fell to Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, famed architect of the Eiffel Tower. He constructed this skeleton to move independently from the statue’s skin, which would be essential in windy New York harbor. 

Eiffel and Bartholdi completed the statue in 1885, then disassembled it for the journey across the Atlantic. In nearly 200 different crates, it boarded the French frigate Isere.

The Pedestal

The Pedestal on Fort Wood

While the statue was being constructed in France, the pedestal was built in New York. Many helped to raise funds for this gigantic projects through contests, benefits, exhibitions, and other events.

Laborers built the Pedestal in the courtyard of Fort Wood. This fortress, built during the War of 1812, is on what would come to be known as Liberty Island.

In June, the Isere arrived and workers labored for four months to reassemble the statue. This iconic monument has stood tall on Liberty Island ever since. 


French All Around Us

Written by Kaleb Houle-Lawrence – High School Intern

The Book

The Book

Last March, a collection of stories about the French language and Francophone culture in the U.S. was published. This book, titled French All Around Us, has contributions from nearly two dozen Francophone authors. Many of these contributors are well-connected with both the FAC and the Francophone culture at large in New Hampshire. A list of authors, and their short biographies, can be found here. 

According to the book’s description, this anthology details a variety of perspectives on Francophone culture in the United States. The stories hail from second-generation French-Canadian immigrants to new immigrants into the United States. Each person offers a unique perspective on the anthology’s themes. The book details, through its several pieces, the experience of French speakers in the United States and how they feel Francophone culture has contributed to American identity. 

Phillipe Etienne

Since its publication, the book has already received critical success. Several figures have praised the book, including Phillipe Etienne, the Ambassador of France to the United States. Etienne said the book reflected “the reality of French and Francophone cultures in the United States.” Maine House of Representative Speaker Ryan Fecteau also commended the book. He says it serves as “a testament to the resilience of those who have preserved the language and traditions.”

The Event

The Franco-American Connection

On Wednesday, September 28th, the FAC will be hosting eight contributors on this book at the Dana Center at Saint Anselm. The event is free to the public and will last from 7 pm to 9 pm. While attending this event, the authors will explain their pieces and the work as a whole. The panel seeks to connect with regional Francophones and share experiences and stories with them.

Interested in this event? Check out this page on the FAC website and stay tuned for more contact!

Merci Train

Written by Jasmine Grace,
High School Intern

On February 3rd, 1949, a 40-boxcar train sailed into New York Harbor. Why would a train travel by boat? Well, this train had come across the Atlantic from France. It was a thank-you gift from the people of France.

The Original Gift

American Friendship Train

New York Harbor, 1949

A couple of years earlier, America had sent over 700 train cars to France in an effort to provide relief from World War II. Individuals who simply wanted to help out sent the majority of these items, not large organizations. This ‘American Friendship Train’ sent nearly $40 million in relief. 


Origins of the Merci Train

Soldiers Load into an Hommes 40-Chevaux 8 Boxcar

Andre Picard, a veteran of the war and a rail worker, originally had the idea of sending a thank-you gift to the US. He envisioned sending a boxcar loaded with gifts. His idea was very popular, and gained a great deal of support. Soon, a national organization had taken over the project. They would still send boxcars of gifts, but instead of one car, they wanted to send one to each of the then-49 states, plus a car to be shared between the DC area and the Territory of Hawaii. And it would be called the Merci Train.

The Train

Symbol of the Merci Train

The cars were just about antiques by the time they arrived in the States. This type of car was called hommes 40-chevaux 8. It was the same kind of car used to transport soldiers during WW1. Though very cramped, it could hold 40 men (40 hommes) or 8 horses (8 chevaux). 
Symbols of each French province decorated every car, along with a plaque holding the symbol of the Merci Train. This symbol featured poppies, reminiscent of Flanders Fields, among other flowers and a train engine. 


Pennsylvania Receives Their Car


Many of the Merci Train’s cars are still around. The states that received them still cherish them. New Hampshire’s car lives in Manchester to this day. On September 25th at 1pm, there will be a memorial event on Reed Street in honor of the car. 

Olive Oil in Southern France

Written by Kaleb Houle-Lawrence – high school Intern

Marseille — A Melting Pot


Over two and a half thousand years ago, the Greeks established Marseille, the oldest city in France. Since then, dozens of cultures and ethnicities have called Marseille their home from the Ottomans to fleeing Italians post-WWII. Marseille is also conveniently located near the Mediterranean. It has grown into one of the largest port cities, dealing with the trade of commodities such as wine for centuries. These factors have created a “melting pot,” where cultures come together and blend to create something magical. For Marseille, the cuisine is where this mingling is most evident. From pizza to couscous, everything in Marseille seems to have a foreign flare to the French classics. One of the more notable integreations, however, has been the olive tree. 

Introduction of Olive Trees

Olive Trees

When they founded the city of Marseille, the Greeks brought olive trees with them. They had hoped to spread the plant across the Mediterranean climates of Southern France and Eastern Spain. Both the Greeks, and later the Romans, found olive oil to be an essential component of everyday life. Homer, a famed Greek poet known for works like The Odyssey, described olive oil as “liquid gold.” Quickly, olive oil began to catch on throughout Southern France. Acres upon acres of farmland were dedicated to olive trees and the production of olives. Tradition claims that a family’s third generation would reep the benefits of an olive tree. Thus, young men would plant trees on their farms and hope that their grandsons could harvest the trees. That harvest would typically produce copious amounts of oil and wealth. 

Place aux Huiles

Olive oil is typically thought of a sauce for garnishing, but a portion of most harvests were actually used in the production of soaps. The street Place aux Huiles in Marseille used to serve as a canal for unloading olive oil for soap-makers. Due to a 1688 decree by Louis XIV, the only way soap can be labeled Savon de Marseille is if it is produced in the area using olive oil. To this day, Place aux Huiles is an epicenter of French soap production.

The taste of olive oil in southern France was different as well. According to Olive Oil Times, Pronvençal oils (oils from the region of southern France) have a temperate character, meaning that (to olive oil connoisseurs) there is a fruitier and rustic taste. The growth of the olives is impacted by the wet, cool winters and blazing summers. This makes Provençal oils decidedly unique in the world.

The Freeze


In the 1800s, nearly 26 million olive orchards could be found across France. This number had been reduced to just 3 million by the 1970. One of the biggest impacts on olive production in France was a destructive freeze in Provence during the winter of 1956. When the freeze wiped out millions of olive orchards, farmers chose to replant grapes instead. Since the olive oil industry became more widespread and prosperous, smaller farmers couldn’t keep up with large orchards. Alternatively, grapes provided them with the ability to produce wine. Thus, switching to grape vineyards made their families more financially sound. To this day, olive oil production in France has not returned to its former capacity.

Resurgence & Modern Production

Around the 1990s, a slight resurgence in French olive oil production occurred. The discovery of the French paradox was a significant motivator of the resurgence of production. The paradox describes how the French eat high-fat diets and drink copious amounts of alcohol while staying healthy and fit. Olive oil could actually help balance good and bad cholesterol and contribute to the healthy lifestyles of the French people. As such, olive oil production in France spiked once more, though nowhere near its former peak. Instead of emphasizing quantity of oil production, France has recently shifted its focus to quality. Now, the country produces some of the most exquisite olive oil in the world. 

French Olive Oils

Today, France produces about 5,000 tons of olive oil. Of all that oil, nearly 90% is extra virgin (oil produced without chemical treatment and with very low acidity levels). All of this oil production accounts for about 1% of world consumption, which is at an all-time high. The AOC (Appellation d’Origine Conrollée) designates the standards and regions of growing for olives throughout France, confining a vast majority of its production to the very regions where it began: Southern France.

Pumpkin Racing

Written by Jasmine Grace,
High School Intern

Pumpkin Canoes

In the fall, if you were to visit the Béancour river in Québec, you might see a bunch of carved out pumpkin canoes race downriver. Don’t worry, this isn’t  a warped fairy tale; this happens every year.  These pumpkin canoes are all part of the Gentilly Pumpkin Regatta. 

Gentilly Pumpkin Regatta

Paddling Pumpkins

The Gentilly Pumpkin Regatta takes place in the Gentilly section of the Bécancour river every year; however much of the competition takes place on farms around the region. The 1,000 meter race downriver in pumpkin canoes is only a small part of the competition. 

Pumpkin Seeds

Contestants receive pumpkin seeds in April, and must grow their own gargantuan gourds. The goal is to grow the biggest pumpkin by weight. After judges weigh each pumpkin, their growers hollow them out into giant floating boats.

This competition is called a potirothon. The word itself is a mix of marathon (a 26.2 mile running race) and potiron (French for pumpkin). A word mix such as this is called a portmanteau.

All Kinds of Veggie Competitions

Canoe pumpkin races, although they may sound ridiculous, exist beyond the event in Gentilly. The Windsor Pumpkin Regatta is a huge competition in Nova Scotia, which takes place on Lake Pesaquid every fall. 

Giant Pumpkins

The biggest-ever pumpkin canoe weighed in at 919 pounds. That’s as much as a small cow! It paddled 15.09 miles, according to Guinness World Records.

Additionally, pumpkins aren’t the only thing people compete to grow into ridiculous sizes. People from all over compete to grow giant vegetables, and few of them end up as canoes. Check out this article by the Guardian about the growers of these huge veggies. 



The Enlightenment: An Influential Era

Written by Kaleb Houle-Lawrence – high school Intern

The Enlightenment

What is the Enlightenment?

Modern Scientific Method

Modern Scientific Method

The Enlightenment began around the mid-1600s in Western Europe. It grew into a larger movement that lasted through the 1800s. The movement was born out of growing ideas of skepticism over traditionally-held beliefs. Thinkers of the Enlightenment chose to propose new social, political, economic, and scientific ideas to the public. In fact, as the philosophers of this era began to produce work, they developed the “scientific method” to ensure that their works and theories had met rigorous standards of proof. The ideas of the era were mostly bred from logic and reasoning as opposed to traditional religion and customs.


The Scientific Revolution

Sir Issac Newton

Most of the world today remembers the Enlightenment for its vast array of scientific discoveries and advances. People like Galileo Galilei and Sir Issac Newton contributed to an ever-growing understanding of the world around us. Galileo is often credited with significantly advancing our knowledge of astronomy. He worked to prove that the world was not centered around the Earth but in fact was heliocentric (centered around the Sun). In the modern world, we can still see flaws in Galileo’s thoughts, but his proposal of these logical ideas was in direct opposition to the traditional way of thinking.



Sir Issac Newton was perhaps one of the most influential figures of this era. He devised  the foundational theories of gravity and also went on to further the world’s knowledge of calculus, a branch of mathematics that is fundamental to modern science. Many other people also proposed ideas in various scientific fields including Francis Bacon, René Descartes, and William Herschel. What all of these people had in common was that they sought to explain the natural world around them with logic and reasoning as opposed to folktales, religion, or word-of-mouth stories.

French Philosophy

Another well-known branch of the Enlightenment is the area of philosophy, specifically on matters of government, power, and the Church. Across Europe, philosophers like John Locke were forming new ideas about how a government should rule over society. One of the most notable creations was the “Social Contract,” which argued that the citizens of a nation held natural rights. These rights that could not be violated by any government at any time. 


In France, Jean Jacques Rousseau became a leading figure in popularizing this theory of government. Also in France, philosophers like Voltaire, Montesquieu, and Diderot began to form collections of their own works. Among this group, Voltaire stands out as one of the only philosophers who was willing to openly criticize the Catholic church and its role in government. Voltaire self-identified as a diest, meaning that he believed in a higher being, but was unattached to any religious institution. Through dozens of essays and letters, Voltaire developed many critical ideas of the Enlightenment era. These include freedom of speech and a separation between the church and state as well as the freedom to practice whatever religion you wanted.

Montesquieu also held some additional ideas about the functioning of government, most notably championing the division of government into several branches. Particularly, a legislative and an executive branch. Many of the ideas of the Enlightenment-era philosophers would prove to be fundamental in the “Age of Revolutions” that would occur towards the end of the 18th century.

Revolutionary Ideas

As more and more philosophers began to advocate for changes in how the government was structured, some key events began to spring up. The first sign of revolution occurred across the Atlantic, in the British colonies. The ideas of European philosophers, particularly French figures like Voltaire and Montesquieu, helped form the identity of the United States as it began its fight for independence. There are clear links between language in the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights and to key philosophers of the Enlightenment. The First Amendment, which protects the freedom of speech and religion, summarizes many of Voltaire’s strongest points. The United States was not where the revolution ended, however. 

By the beginning of the 1780s, France was undergoing its own revolution. The people began rejecting the oppressive control of the monarchy and substituting it for the ideas of government formed during the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment had taken direct aim at many of the top French institutions. This provided the sparks for the long and violent revolution. Another revolution that can attribute its roots to the Enlightenment is the Haitian Revolution. This was the first successful slave revolution in history. In Haiti, enslaved Africans and Caribbean-natives believed that the Enlightenment ideas should also apply to them as well. Overall, the Enlightenment itself had immense ramifications across the world. It created a new philosophy of thought and established several modern-day governments. 

Toussaint Louverture: leader of the Haitian Revolution

World of French: New Orleans


Exploring New Orleans (featuring Jazzy & Kaleb)



Perhaps the most well-known region of Francophone culture and identity within the United States is New Orleans, Louisiana (NOLA). Many consider the city as an epicenter of French culture and language, stemming from their history as a colony of France. Now, New Orleans serves as the home of vibrant festivals such as Mardi Gras which highlight the city’s cultural heritage. This week, myself and my friend and blog co-author Jasmine Grace will be visiting this lively city for the annual Association of Teacher of French (AATF) Conference. Here, we will be doing a presentation about our experiences learning French. Here are some of the most exciting Francophone pit stops we are planning to make! If you would like to follow along on our journey, check out facnh_official on Instagram.

The French Quarter

French Quarter, NOLA

The French Quarter, also called the “Carré Vieux,” is perhaps the most defining feature of New Orleans. Around the world, this half-square mile of land is among the most easily identifiable. The quarter lies along the banks of the Mississippi River. In 1718, the area was selected for its access to the river and other local water sources while remaining relatively high in comparison to the surrounding swamplands.

Ursuline Convent

Because of this location, however, hurricanes and other natural disasters have constantly wreaked havoc on the neighborhood. In addition to this, the old colonial buildings were mostly made of wood, which caused them to decay in the damp surroundings. Only one historical French building remains, the 1750 Ursuline Convent. The famous “lacy” appearance of the

Carré Vieux

French Quarter came about from Victorian-era building and the financial benefits of cast iron. As time went on, the French Quarter retained its old-timey feel but newer, more modern suburbs began to pop up around it, creating the large New Orleans metropolis that we know today.



The Jazz Museum

Jazz Museum

Jazz was born within the boundaries of New Orleans. Over time, it has become a defining feature of their history and diverse culture. Music, and jazz in particular, brought together people around the city from across lines of race and heritage. Many of the most prominent artists in jazz were African-Americans and it marked one of the first major cultural movements to include African-American citizens. Louis Armostrong, one of the most notable trumpeters of the jazz era, was from New Orleans! Archives detailing the journey of jazz, past and present,  fill this multilingual museum. Today brass marching bands line the streets of New Orleans and fill the air with jazz.

Louis Armstrong

AATF Conference

French teachers host the AATF conference annually in cities around the world. It gives teachers and students of French the ability to connect with each other and share experiences, tactics, or just facilitate discussions about the classroom. Jasmine and I will be presenting about our own experiences with the language of French beyond classroom. We are ecstatic to have this opportunity to share our own thoughts on how to expand a student’s access to French outside the classroom! 

Make sure you check out @facnh_official on Instagram all week to follow us along on our journey!