♫ Comme un Ouragan ♪

 

On Monday, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and convention CEO William Harris unveiled the final stage for the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Now, I’m not cool enough to get to see the stage during the official media unveiling, but I did get a sneak peek yesterday when I got to take an advance tour of the hall. In one week, I’ll be back in the hall as the eyes of the world (well, at least America) will be focused on governor Romney as he accepts the Republican nomination for president of the United States.   In two weeks, I will be at Bank of America Stadium, I mean, the football stadium, when Obama does the same thing for the Democrats. And I’m thrilled. But first things first. I’m in Tampa. There’s a hurricane looming, but I just got to see the stage kinda before everyone else 😉

 

The centerpiece of the forum will be an “American Prairie style” wood framed stage with 13 LED screens in the backdrop. As the New York Times reports, convention organizers and campaign staffers are working hard to try and sell the Mitt Romney story, embracing his faith and family. Throughout the hall, pictures of the Tampa Bay Lightings winning Stanley Cups have been replaced with family vignettes like this one:

 

 

 

Of course, the big news right now isn’t so much the stage as much as whether the delegates will get to see it at all… For days now we’ve been hearing about a tropical storm that could become category one hurricane Isaac by the time it heads up the Gulf of Mexico towards Tampa. Isaac or not, I’m ready for the big show and hope it goes on as planned…

Gone fishing, I mean… conventioning

 

Like Politico, this blog is “gone to the convention” and will also return September 10! I’m looking forward to discovering two new American cities: Tampa, Florida and Charlotte, North Carolina and hearing both presidential candidates, Mitt Romney for the Republicans and Barrack Obama for the Democrats officially accept the nomination for their respective parties. I’ve already voted back in May, in the French presidential elections and I won’t get to cast a ballot in November (and if I did, it wouldn’t matter anyway since I live in DC…). So I’m really here as an observer and I’m thrilled to be able to attend both conventions this year!

I’ll try to update this blog as much as I can, whether it’s to bring you my French point of view on this very American political event or to let you know if I find a decent spot to have a macaron in Tampa and Charlotte 😉

Yes We Can… Eat Macarons!

Everything is political in D.C. Even our macarons 😉 The bite size French dessert has grown in popularity in the district since the last presidential election so it was only a matter of time until this happened:

Campaign 2012 macarons pictured in least partisan flavour ever: vanilla! vanilla vanilla!
Photo courtesy of The Sweet Lobby.
These would be perfect for any debate watch party, fundraisers etc. 😉
The political macarons are available in limited quantities for individual purchase at The Sweet Lobby on Capitol Hill (where else?) every day for just 50 cents more than the regular macarons. For larger orders (16 macarons minimum) allow for 5 days notice. Of course, since there’s hardly anything worse than being even remotely associated with France when you’re running for president in the United States, I doubt we’ll be seeing either candidate nom on these sweet treats. Oh well. More for moi!!

Presidential portrait… à la sauce Hollandaise

Guess who got his picture taken? L’Elysée just presented to the press the official portrait of the new president of the republic, François Hollande.

The official portrait of French president François Hollande

Taken by Raymond Depardon in the gardens of l’Elysée, the picture shows our “normal” president looking rather relaxed, with a slight smile on his face, and with the French and EU flags visble in the background. It’s quite a departure from Sarkozy’s very formal official portrait but reminds me a little of Chirac’s… maybe that has something to do with them being from the same region in France… (la Corrèze). While Sarkozy had selected Philippe Warrin, a photographer to the stars for his portrait, Hollande chose Depardon, who is known for his documentaries on the rural world (as well as for his film on the1974 presidential campaign.)

The official portraits of the last 4 french presidents before Hollande

What strikes me is how different the French presidential portraits are from their American counterparts, where the Commander in Chief seems to have very little room to express any kind of individuality.

The official portraits of the last 3 American presidents.
What do you think of Hollande’s official portrait? Of the difference between the way the Americans and French represent their presidents?

Election 2012 – French Edition (Part Une)

When I head out to the French Embassy in Georgetown, it’s typically for a cultural event or a reception. But tomorrow, I will join some 10,349* washingtoniens and washingtontoniennes on Reservoir Road to do my civic duty and vote in round one of the French Presidential elections. Unlike other French voters, expats on the American continent cast their ballots on Saturday, May 5 instead of Sunday May 6. If none of the candidates receive a majority of the votes in round one, we will have a round two between the top 2 candidates of the first round on April 21 in the US and April 22 everywhere else. My options tomorrow? 10 candidates, whose official platform I just received. Yes, 10. And yes, I received an official 4 pager from each of them so I can make an educated decision once I enter the polling booth. 

Only two of them will move on to the next round…

As voting day approaches and my elections sneak their way into the American media, I start having to justify some of the French system’s peculiarities.  My husband, in particular, is quick to criticize. Though that might also be because I’ve been forcing him to watch the French informations every night since the campaign started… I must confess, he occasionally brings up a valid point. But I will rarely admit it 😉 As an expat and a representative of France abroad, I have to defend our way of doing things tooth and nails. I mean, if I don’t… who will? Besides, I have an interesting perspective on the elections. I first moved to Washington (during those glorious freedom fries days… let me tell you how fun those were… not) to study American elections. Unlike people who blindly mock something they have no understanding of, just because it’s different from what they know, I get both systems. I can appreciate what’s good in each, and deplore what’s bad in either. Fundamentally, both electoral systems are based on an underlying value. Americans value freedom of speech above everything else. The French value equality. It’s one third of our state motto (liberté, égalité, fraternité) and during the elections, it means the presidential candidates are treated equally. Any person who qualifies as a presidential candidate (that is any French citizen above the age of 18 whose candidacy has been endorsed by 500 French elected officials) is given the same opportunities to bring his or her message and ideas to the French people. But not by advertisement… that’s just a non-non in French elections. Instead, we prefer public affairs news programmings where the candidates debate journalists one after the other, and answer their questions. 

During the “official campaign,” (April 9th through April 22nd for the first round) the candidates are garanteed equal funding as well as equal time on TV and on the radio. That last one is strictly enforced by a government agency, of course. Because if the French believe in égalité they also believe in big government 😉 And we believe in telling people what not to do. Candidates can’t talk smack about their opponent. French media are prohibited from publishing polls or exit poll results between midnight on the Friday preceding election day until all voting stations have closed on Sunday. My husband definitely has a hard time with that. But can you imagine… no speculating banter on the news during election day… no negative ads (heck, no ads at all…)? I think it’s rather refreshing. Elections can get so nasty here 😦 At the same time, the French lawscan seem a bit obsolete in the days of the internet. Candidates have facebook pages now and twitter accounts. They can use those to communicate directly with their supporters, though they’re not as useful to reach undecided electeurs. Journalists and news outlets have twitter accounts too. It’s going to be increasingly hard to keep the results from leaking before 8PM Sunday… especially since foreign media does not have to abide by the same laws…  

Whether twitter ruins the French elections or not, I hope you’ll follow the race once it’s been narrowed down from the ten current hopefuls to the two finalists. But most importantly, I hope you’ll keep an open mind. It’s OK to be different… as individuals and electoral systems 😉

* official number of French citizens registered to vote in the circonscription of Washington, D.C.

British Invasion – 2012 Edition

There’s a few things the French really dislike. OK, there’s a lot more than a few things but one of them is definitely losing to England. And losing to Germany too. That just brings back bad memories 😉 But losing to England is just what the French did on Sunday during a 6 Nations Cup rugby match. The game was pretty painful, and we lost 22-24, so the last thing I wanted to see today was a bunch of these ALL over town:

 
The Union Jacks popped up all over the district today as the White House prepares to welcome U.K. Prime Minsister David Cameron and his wife Samantha tomorrow, with a 19-gun salute and an arrival ceremony in front of 6,000 invited guests. Cameron will then be whisked away, aboard Air Force One, to Dayton OH to watch a first-round NCAA tournament game with President Obama while his wife will be tasked with promoting the London Olympic Games amidst joint appearances with Mrs. Obama. Yes, they beat us at rugby AND at getting the 2012 summer games. Thanks for reminding me of that too 😉 Back in D.C., the Camerons will be treated to a black tie state official dinner for 1,000 at the White House, with prominent Britons and celebrities in attendance. Since only heads of states get to do state visits and have state dinners at the White House, Cameron, who is just the head of the government,  will have to contend with an “official” dinner. Not bad when you put things into perspective… all Sarkozy got back in 2010 is a “private dinner” and a recommendation to check out Ben Chili’s bowl… But at least he didn’t have to visit Dayton, OH 😉 

Fall 2010 White House Garden Tour

Working a few blocks away from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, I often take the sight of the White House for granted. It is nonetheless, one of the world’s most famous buildings and is visited each years by hundreds of thousands of Americans.  On occasions they even let foreigners in and a few years back, I not only got to go on the regular East Wing tour I also had the opportunity to visit the West Wing and see the Oval Office. Now that was pretty cool but until today I still had some unfinished business with the White House. I had never actually been in the White House garden. 

Tours of the garden are organized for the general public twice a year and I was so confident I would be able to go on one of them that I added “Going on one of the White House Garden Tours” to my DC-to-do-list-for-twenty-ten. I missed the spring tour because I was out of town. Luckily, the husband and I and twenty five thousand other people made it to the fall tour today. 

The husband and I on the South Lawn. Cool backdrop… 

Apparently, one of the qualification demanded of American presidents is having a green thumb. Nearly every tree we saw on the White House grounds had a plaque detailing when it was planted and by which president. George H. W. Bush, in particular, seemed to have been quite the planter! Besides the trees, highlights of the tour include the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, the White House Putting Green, the Rose Garden, the spot of Obama’s much talked about beer summit underneath magnolia trees planted by President Andrew Jackson, the Children’s Garden and of course the South Lawn of the White House. 

Eisenhower  installed the putting green in 1954, Clinton moved it in 1995

What I was really looking forward to on today’s tour (other than some pretty cool photo ops with the White House in the background) was finally getting a close look at the First Lady’s vegetable garden. Since I am not a student, Biggest Loser contestant or a celebrity chef invitations to the kitchen garden aren’t exactly flocking my way. The Garden Tour was my chance to get a sneak peak and I loved it.
 
The White House Kitchen Garden was planted back in April 2009

 

I especially loved spotting one of my favourite symbol of fall growing in the garden. Looks like Sasha and Malia won’t have far to go to get a pumpkin to carve for Halloween!

 
And speaking of carving pumpkins, I wonder if this cucurbitaceae is going to end up with a cut out presidential seal on the North Portico of the White House on October 31st…