Sunday, December 6, 2009

Slowly making its way here

Taco Bell has recently opened a store in a shopping mall in Madrid! It is currently the only Taco Bell in Europe (outside of US military based), but I have heard they plan to open a few more in Spain and then open a couple in England.

I doubt they will ever make it to France. Other than McDonald's and Subway, American fast food has really struggled in France. We got a couple KFCs (one near Lyon), and a handful of Pizza Hut's and Domino's Pizzas, but that's about it. Burger King made a valiant effort to survive in France, but it didn't make it, and Coke has nearly kicked Pepsi out of the country :-(

I've never been much of a fast food fan, and in fact before moving to France I couldn't tell you the last time I ate McDonald's, but I do love Taco Bell (it's cheap, it's vegetarian friendly, they serve Mountain Dew, and it's surprisingly healthy compared to most other fast food), so I would love to see a Taco Bell open up in Lyon.

One can always dream...


Venice is the Las Vegas of Italy. Not in the number of casinos or strip clubs, but in that it only exists to attract tourists. While Vegas was created pretty much just for this purpose, Venice has slowly devolved into it. The one time capitol of the Latin Empire (after sacking Constantinople), it is now the capitol of over-priced food and souvenir shops. Don't get me wrong, Venice is cool, it just feels a little like Disneyland.

Venice is a collection of a couple hundred islands in the marshes off the north-eastern Italian coast, connected by bridges over the 100s of canals the city is famous for. There are no motor vehicles on the islands, so all transportation is by boat, gondola, or a new pair of Nikes. The architecture in some parts of the city dates back to the 12th century, and everything is quite well preserved. It is certainly a very picturesque city.

Venice is also dripping in history. Like all European cities, it has an old church or two, but it also has amazingly preserved palaces, ancient hospitals, tons of shops selling masks and clothing from the height of Venetian power, and a remarkable number of concerts and plays for such a small place. George and I caught a really cool show of people in period dress performing music pieces from various Italian operas.

As you have probably also heard, Venice is sinking. Not metaphorically like the USA or Dubai currently are, but actually, literally sinking. Everyday a little bit more water flows into the city during high tide, and they city is always trying to figure out how to prop the city up a bit longer. The main tourist area of Piazza San Marco is actually criss-crossed with elevated walk-ways to keep the footsies dry, and on our trip to check the area out early one morning (right around high-tide), we made use of them ourselves. Even the Saint Mark's Basilica itself was under assault by the rising tides.

Global Warming

The inside of the church is pretty cool too, but for some reason they don't let you take pictures inside of Saint Mark's Basilica, and the couple I sneaked when security wasn't looking didn't turn out so great, so here is a picture of the nearly as cool church next door.

Everyone should definitely visit Venice at least once in their life, probably best before it is underwater. To see more pics of Venezia, click here.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Lily Allen has a potty mouth

One of the things I like about French TV, other than the nearly complete lack of commercials, is that it is totally uncensored. Movies are shown in their original format, with their original dialog (except when only the French-dubbed version is available), and with their original content and length. In the US, only the expensive pay cable channels like HBO or Showtime show unedited movies, and all the other channels (even the cable channels) edit the movies for language, nudity, sometimes violence, and even to shorten the movie to fit in the designated time slot!

Like French TV, French radio is also not censored, and this song is quite popular. Personally, I am not offended by "bad" words. I do not use them often, but their use doesn't bother me and in fact seem natural in certain situations. But, like most Americans I think, I have been brought up to recognize the taboo of them. A group of construction workers standing around a job site my cuss like sailors, but if an old women or child walks up, they immediately switch to more accepted language. I think I am the same way. Cussing in certain situations just seem weird to me.

Lily Allen is an English pop/alternative singer whose latest single, F*ck You (excuse my French), is quite popular in France (and most of Europe). For the most part the lyrics are very tame, but the oft-repeated chorus contains many uses of the F word. Or more accurately, like most choruses, just repetitions of the same single use of the word (which you can probably guess from the title of the song).

Perhaps the most Surreal example of this for me, was when George and I were in Rome, Italy. It was our last day in Italy and we decided to go to the grocery store to buy some pastas and sauces to take back to France with us. It was a pretty normal grocery store--a few kids, a couple old ladies, and a few other random people picking up the necessities. As we were deciding how much we could stuff in our luggage, Lily Allen's new hit came on the radio, and the middle-aged Italian guy working behind the deli counter was apparently quite the fan. He was humming and dancing and chopping his meat and when the chorus came around, he burst into song--F*ck You. F*ck you very, very muuuuch. The old lady buying meat from him didn't seem to mind.

You can hear the song here--uncensored of course. Or a censored version here.

I should clarify that all French TV shows are rated (like in the US) and shows rated not suitable for children can only be shown after a certain hour, and all TVs/cable boxes have the ability to block certain channels and/or programs. I guess the difference is that the decisions are left to individuals, not enforced by some government agency.