French Language Blog

French Culture – Quarantine Distractions Posted by on Mar 31, 2020 in Culture, Language, Vocabulary

Well, not much has changed since last week. Les français1I’ll stick with the classic français for now and not new(ish) français·e·s since l’Académie française is not on board! sont tous encore confinés chez eux (The French are still confined to their homes) and around the world more and more of us are joining them as nous luttons ensemble pour empêcher la propagation du Covid-19 (we battle together to prevent the spread of Covid-19). 


The French word for quarantine can also mean forty-something. It’s looking like for some of us, the temps de confinement (period of confinement) could approach 40 days … so since we can’t get out, I thought I’d share some great options for exploring Paris from the safety of you favorite tech device.

Adding the suffix -aine to certain French numbers is like adding –something to numbers in English. So vingt (2o) becomes vingtaine (twenty-something or 20-ish), trente becomes trentaine, cent (100) centaine, etc.  You’ll see these pop up in discussions of age when someone doesn’t know exactly how old someone else is (Pierre a une trentaine d’annéesPeter is thirty-something) or an indeterminate amount (Il y avait une vingtaine de personne à la fête de Joëlle. / There were about twenty people at Joelle’s party.) or Nous allons passer une quarantaine de jours à la maison. / We’re going to spend about 40 days at home. 

Alors quoi faire?

So, what can we do? Well here are some things I’ve found on the internet these past few weeks that I hope will help to fill your time and increase your appreciation for the beauty of Paris and France … And maybe experience a chuckle or two.

Être parisien, ce n’est pas être né à Paris, c’est y renaître. (Being Parisian doesn’t mean being born there, it is being reborn there.) -French acteur, artist, and film-maker Sacha Guitry

For starters, how about a little journey to the past. This neat video features rare color photos of a 1914 Paris on the eve of la Première Guerre mondiale (World War I) aka la Grande Guerre (the Great War). Thanks to the French banker and philanthropist Albert Kahn we have these amazing photographs “qui nous montrent que l’agitation de la vie quotidienne de Paris était beaucoup plus colorée que nous l’avions imaginée” (that show us how the activities of daily life in Paris were much more colorful that we imagine them).

Pour une tout autre vue de la ville (For a completely different view of the city) check out the video at the top of this article après la pub (after the commercial). Filmées par un drone de la préfecture de police (Filmed by a drone from the Paris police department), the rare scenes let us see an eerily beautiful Paris almost empty of people.

Arts …

During this time, many French museums, monuments, and cultural institutions are opening up their (virtual) doors in new ways. The Musée d’Orsay has a great virtual tour that lets you discover the history of the space and many of its most famous works.

If you prefer a more modern take on art, le Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris (le MAM) vous propose une immersion à 360° à ne surtout pas manquer! (The Modern Art Museum of Paris offers up a 360° virtual tour that you can’t miss).

It took me a couple tries to master the navigation of both museum sites, but trust me, it is worth the effort!

… and Culture

You already know I love music. While my tastes tend to run a little more pop, for those of you who like classical and opera, L’Opéra de Paris is streaming a selection of concerts, operas, and ballets that you can enjoy in their entirety from the comfort of your living room.2Note that, depending on where you live, some videos may not be available.

Et pour finir … 

Je vous ai déjà parlé de Parole de Chat (I’ve mentioned Cat Talk before), and I hope you enjoy this new special quarantine edition to wrap up this week’s list of ideas to stretch your mind … if not your legs … until the world gets back to normal.

Main image (rubik’s cube) by Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas from Pexels
Eiffel Tower photo
Museum photo by Scott Webb from Pexels
Palais Garnier (Paris Opera) photo by Margerretta from Pexels

  • 1
    I’ll stick with the classic français for now and not new(ish) français·e·s since l’Académie française is not on board!
  • 2
    Note that, depending on where you live, some videos may not be available.
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About the Author: Tim Hildreth

Since my first trip to France at 16, I have been a passionate francophile. I love the language, food, music, art, people, and more that make France and la Francophonie in general such an amazing part of our global community. Having lived in France and studied the language and culture for over 35 years, it is my great pleasure to be able to share a little bit of my deep love with you through this blog.


  1. Lynn:

    I love this Blog…many thanks!

    • Tim Hildreth:

      @Lynn Merci, Lynn! I’m glad to know you appreciate the content. I hope it provides a welcome distraction to la quarantaine actuelle. Tim