Everything French-A A +A
Sunday, July 27, 2014
If there’s any spot in Cebu that can claim to be a French enclave, it has to be 371 GorordoAvenue where the French Consulate in Cebu city is located.
The place houses Alliance Francais de Cebu (AFC), founded by Michel Lhuillier, the Honorary Consul of France in Cebu. AFC director/general manager Louis Thevenin explains that AFC is a French language school with its own academic calendar (five sessions in one year), offering regular and extensive classes, with morning, noon and evening sessions. It also has special classes (a super crash course, French tutorial, medical French, listening workshop and conversation class) as well as online classes which serves students learning French at home. It has a self-learning program called Telelangue.
Alliance has about 4,000 students annually and offers French classes to three local universities. Some students want to learn French for personal improvement and many others take French lessons for jobs in Quebec, Canada. According to Thevenin, the Quebec government reimburses the immigrant the cost of his French schooling in AFC, once he reaches Quebec.
Aside from the French classes, Alliance also brings French art and culture to Cebu.
It has hosted art exhibits, French films and, since 2008, has yearly brought Fete de la Musique to Cebu, a day of musical performances in selected venues.
AFC is housed in what is known as The Pink House (the elegant home of the late Jose and Esperanza Velez) which AFC has tried to preserve. From the start of its occupancy there, Thevenin decided he would also bring French cuisine to the place so it houses La Maison Rose, a cozy (but not that pricey) restaurant now under a young French chef, Adrien Guerrey.
To make the French experience complete, Thevenin came up with La Vie Parisiene, a French bakeshop offering breads and pastries prepared in France and airlifted to Cebu where they are baked. The bakeshop has a wine cellar, a deli, a small French grocery.
It is a place to have a snack (there’s a selection of sandwiches but you can have one made to your specification) or to share a bottle of wine with friends.
La Vie has spilled out into its patio and garden which is a sight to behold at night with its lighting: miniature trees with pink lights as leaves. The lights have attracted a lot of customers to the place which is now usually “super-full” at night.
Not content with that, Thevenin has added a pizza kiosk (with two wood-fired ovens) called “Around the World in 80 Pizzas”: it has a Philippine pizza with sisig topping.
Another addition is an ice cream stand called “Healthy Icy” where you choose the fruit or flavor for the attendants to mix or for you to make: it is low-calorie, no sugar added “with a secret French cream.” Soon, Thevenin adds, he’ll be having burgers in the place, too. But are these all not French?
Thevenin’s quick reply: “Oh, but they are all done with a French twist!”
If you want to have a French experience without need for a visa or the cost of air fare, do come to 371 Gorordo Avenue!
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 28, 2014.