Le monde à l’envers

Beach handstandThis is what you say in France when a situation is entirely contrary to the way you think it should be. “C’est le monde à l’envers!” Or another way of saying the same thing: “On marche sur la tête!”

I am tempted to say it is a useful phrase in France – but that would be a cheap shot, undeserving of this blog. Not to mention entirely mostly untrue. If you are sensitive to these small ironies, you will notice them everywhere you go.

Full disclosure: I had to google the definition of irony to make sure I wasn’t using it wrong. Ironically, considering what follows, one of the definitions of the word refers to Greek tragedy.

“A literary technique, originally used in Greek tragedy, by which the full significance of a character’s words or actions are clear to the audience or reader although unknown to the character.”

Some readers will know that last week found me in Greece on holidays. Leaving behind the changing skies of the Alps, I had every hope of a solid week of sunshine. Instead, this is what happened:

Weather à l'envers

Le monde à l’envers !

I went to visit the Acropolis, the birthplace of civilization, where I was surprised to find readily available public toilets – modern, clean and free. Le monde à l’envers? Perhaps not. It was quite civilized, so that’s just how it should be.

Although in contrast to what is usually available in France, it certainly felt that way.

I took several taxis in Athens and each time the driver spoke no English and had no idea where I was going. I had to show him a map on my phone, which did not seem to help much. Then he would pass me his cell phone to speak to another person who spoke a little English but still had no idea where I wanted to go. All the while driving and texting on a tablet-size device to figure out where to go.

A note on Athens taxi drivers: avoid them. The metro is much more efficient, if rather hot.

I love Greece – it was my third time in that country. It was my first time in Athens, however, and I was a little overwhelmed by the sheer density and size of the metropolis. It was also my first time on the island of Kythnos, a beautiful spot. I will be back. By the way, the sun came out after a day of disruption.

And there is nothing ironic about that.

Where have you been lately? Was it how you expected or le monde à l’envers?


  1. emilycommander · June 4, 2015

    It is interesting that you mention irony. I would like to know if it is defined in the same way in French…

    • MELewis · June 4, 2015

      Emily, as I understand it the meaning is the same…although I believe the French do not have such a fine appreciation of it as do the English. 😉

  2. cheergerm · June 4, 2015

    So many things I encounter are ‘C’est la monde…’ Where do I begin? Glad the sun finally came out for you.

    • MELewis · June 4, 2015

      Merci dear Cheerie. I sense we share a(n) (un) common way of looking at the world. And I feel like I’m in good company!

  3. Elyse · June 4, 2015

    Bonjour Mel,
    Jim and I traveled to upstate New York this past weekend to attend a wedding in a barn….with an all-vegan menu! What, no Chateaubriand??!! “We’ll starve,” we said. What we imagined would be a backwater affair turned out to be one of the most memorable and charming. The young bride wore a lovely handmade dress. We were serenaded by opera singing. And the food was plentiful, and delicious! How ironic. Guess Sir Elton John and the bride knew best….Goodbye yellow brick road…I’m going back to my plough.
    Love your blog!

    • MELewis · June 4, 2015

      And our mom’s – they always told us to eat our veggies! Actually, I find myself increasingly enjoying vegetarian, even vegan food – while still eating meat on a selective basis. It is often the best thing on the menul, and certainly the part that involves the most preparation. I am so glad this blog provides an opportunity to to connect, Elyse! Sounds like the wedding was well worth the journey from Florida. Bises xxx

  4. davidprosser · June 4, 2015

    I crossed over the border in England to see my daughter and grandson and as a change from the rain.As I was leaving Wales the sun was coming out and I saw people smiling. As I drew into Chester they were waiting for me at the bus stop-in the rain. Le monde à l’envers !
    xxx Massive Hugs Mel, I’m glad you found some sunshine xxx

    • MELewis · June 4, 2015

      I suppose you have to live in Wales to want to go to England and avoid the rain! 😉 Thanks, David, and sending you lots of sunny thoughts! xxx

      • davidprosser · June 4, 2015

        Ha, no-one in Wales actually WANTS to go to England Mel.But their forecast was better that day and I suppose they do have some good shops.
        xxx Huge Hugs xxx

  5. A.PROMPTreply · June 4, 2015

    I enjoyed this little lesson very much……I will be on the lookout now for le monde a l’envers (did I use that correctly?) and chuckle when I think of your experience in Greece.

    • MELewis · June 4, 2015

      Exactement, Madame! So glad it made you smile. You’ll probably find plenty of examples to observe!

  6. Osyth · June 8, 2015

    Greece suits me. I spent much time there when carefree and childless in the 80s. The islands – many of them, many visited. Later I spent time on the mainland when the children were with their father. It is impossible to be rational in Greece. It is also quite extraordinary that these lackadaisical people were once the most powerful in the Western world. But I love Greece because it is entirely unpredictable. Lovely piece that captures that Greekness perfectly 🙂

    • MELewis · June 9, 2015

      That is so true. I realize with hindsight I needed to check my type-A traits at the airport. Will definitely be back to explore more. Glad you enjoyed the trip down memory lane!

  7. Mél@nie · June 9, 2015

    @”Le monde à l’envers!” – yes, indeed, Mel… 🙂 we’ve had between 30-32°C this past week, but last year, mid-June, we had the very same temperature(s) as… Iceland: 21-22°C max! comprend qui peut! 😀

    • MELewis · June 9, 2015

      Et oui, Melanie dear, ‘le monde est fou!’ In the words of a certain French TV host 😉

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