Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Mardi: La Marseillaise, La Manifestation, et Le Mayonaisse

Tuesday: The Marseillaise, the Strike, and Mayonnaise. Sounds so much cooler in French!
In our history class, we learned a little bit about the French national anthem, "La Marseillaise", which I thought I'd share with you. The song was originally sung as people from the Marseille region descended on Paris to join in fighting against all the other European countries around 1793. This was a time of Terror in French history, when the radical Jacobin party had control of the country and the King and Queen had been guillotined. Most other European countries were at war against France, so France needed soldiers to fight. As the men from Marseille journeyed to Paris to enlist, they sang the song that would later become the national anthem of France.
Here is a link if you want to listen to it:
And what an interesting song it is! It is considered one of the most violent and xenophobic national anthems that continues to exist today. An example:
"Aux armes, citoyens, Formez vos batailons. Marchons, marchons! Qu'un sang impur / Abreuve nos sillon." Loosely translated, this part asks the French citizens to take up arms against the impure foreigners, whose blood will nourish their wheat fields.
It also calls foreigners tyrants and slaves. Fun times! Despite the attitude of this song, it is mandatory for the French school children to learn the song and its historical significance. About 2/3 of all French parents are in accordance with this. Sometimes, if you watch a football (soccer) game, you will notice that the French players won't always sing along when their anthem plays, simply because they don't agree with the lyrics. One president tried to change the national anthem, but that just made the French very angry... and when they're upset, they will show it.
Speaking of showing their frustration, today I got to experience my first real French strike! There was one many years ago in Ontario for teachers, but it didn't really affect me. This strike, however, was a Tan strike, which is the company that runs the tramway and bus system. First, the trams only came every 10 minutes instead of 5, so they were super full and very slow. Of course, today would be the day that we have to book it all the way downtown for our 9am class. When we were finished class, we tried to eat at the caf but it was closed for the strike. Then, we tried to catch the tram but it wasn't running where we were. We walked up to Commerce (the downtown) and I asked a police man what was happening, because there were people marching everywhere in the streets with flags and music. He told that that we would have to walk about 3 tram stops down to catch a ride, as the downtown trams wouldn't be running until about 2pm. I wished that I had had my camera to take a photo of the crowd!
Finally, we got on the tram. Once again, I was kicking myself for not having my camera because it was SO full. I have never ridden a tram so busy before, and it took forever to reach our stop. Once we arrived, I was starving so I went to buy a sandwich... and waited in line for about 15 minutes because there were so many people. I'm not sure if lunch time is always this busy, or if it is just because of the strike. There were just people and cars everywhere, it was so bizarre.
So I experienced my first real manifestation! How exciting. Let's not do it again.
Which brings me to my final point: Mayonnaise. Normally I don't really like mayo, but here it is so delicious! I got a ham, cheese, lettuce and tomato sandwich (on a baguette, yum) with mayo, and it was just too good! Something about French mayo just makes my stomach very happy.
Hopefully we don't have any more hold-ups today! Luckily we can walk to our 4pm class.
Happy Tuesday!


  1. I totally agree about the french mayo being soooooo much better - it makes sense why the Belgians have it with their fries, if it tastes that good, why not!

    I luckily only experienced a protest as a tourist, I can't imagine having to get to school in time with that kind of a mess...good luck! :D

  2. Nicole, have you read the Josephine B. trilogy by Sandra Gulland? I absolutely loved it . It would be so cool to read it while in France.

  3. I second my mum's recommendation - the Josephine B. trilogy is AMAZING. I'm sure with your love of French and history you would devour these books!

    That is so interesting about La Marseillaise. In all my years of french and history classes, I never learned about the anthem so this was really cool to read! I had no idea it was so xenophobic. P.S. What does the average student in France in your experience think of Sarkozy and his government?