24 February 2009

En Francais!

What do you get when you squish an English lit grad student from Albany, a ditzy, quite possibly insane, monied self-described humanitarian of a certain age from New York, and 2 dorky bike-riders from Philadelphia into a hotel suite in Murry Hill for 3 days? A lot of confusion about monkeys, endless off-topic ramblings about astrology, and hopefully a helpful jump-start on French skills.

In other words, we spent last weekend at the New Paltz immersion language class in NYC, hoping to learn enough French to get us through the first few weeks of life on our own in Paris. Overall, the course and its content were surprisingly good, or at least surprisingly well suited to our needs and skill level. The emphasis was on conversational French, and though conversation is pretty limited when you have a vocabulary of only 40 words, we came away with the tools necessary to expand. With just 4 students, we had plenty of opportunity to practice speaking and reading, to have our pronunciation corrected, and to ask questions, so if we didn't learn anything, we're probably hopeless.

The best part of being in NY is almost always visiting Cafe Grumpy, my favorite coffee spot, anywhere. Their house espresso, Heartbreaker, is terrific stuff, and they also always have an interesting guest espresso, often a single-origin. They've also got 2 Clovers that they use to brew 5 or 6 tasty offerings by-the-cup. Even though I rarely do even 1 shot of caffeine 2 days in a row, I can't choose between espresso and regular coffee, so I always do both. With 3 visits in 40 h, I was pretty wired and mentally alert over the 3 days.

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