Paris 101

A trip to France seemed inevitable from the time I started learning French in elementary school.  My teacher, Mme. Oiseau, was from France and we sang a lot of nursery rhymes and rounds that year.  “Sur le pont d’ Avignon…”   Did I know what the words meant?  Yes, believe it or not.  As the years went on, I learned other useful information such as a verb tense that is only used in writing.  Such was my classroom experience.

More recently, I had the opportunity to go to Paris and I felt a little nervous.  Could I remember the French that I had learned?  Would I be able to sing nursery rhymes anywhere?  These were among my most pressing concerns, not to mention dressing in a chic manner in keeping with the French tradition of style.

When I arrived in Paris, I had a little disappointment at the airport.  I really enjoy my collection of passport stamps, which I consider a souvenir of traveling. So I was dismayed to see that the imprint was blurry and pretty much unreadable.  But I thought I could get a good stamp when I left to return home.

From the moment I got to Paris I started remembering words and phrases that were really useful.  I began saying things (at least under my breath) like bien sur and mais oui. I really started people watching in Paris, too.  I thought, this is one of the most fashionable places in the world, and I want to see stylish people!  All in all, about half of the people were stylish, and the rest were (probably) visitors.

Every morning I took a walk in the Jardin des Plantes, where people strolled, drank coffee, and sat on park benches.  Nearby there were wonderful produce markets to pick up fresh fruit.  One thing I wondered about was that whenever you would pass a sidewalk café, it seemed like everyone was watching you.  Later in the day when the tables were empty, I noticed that the chairs were placed facing out, so I suppose there was other no choice but to people watch (or stare).

When it was time to go home, I thought I would have a second chance to get a clear passport stamp.  When I realized that I wasn’t going to get one, I went up to a man in an official looking booth to ask if I could get a stamp.  He said, “I suppose you only want one for a souvenir.”  I blurted out, “Oui.”   He shrugged, but took my passport and stamped it.  When I saw that it was crisp and readable, I knew that Paris 101 was complete.

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20 thoughts on “Paris 101

  1. What a wonderful post! It brought back a lot of memories for me.

    When I went to Paris, the only French I could speak was the “10 Essential Phrases” I had learned on the internet. It didn’t do me much good knowing how to ask combien when I didn’t understand the reply. I usually just ended mumbling désolé, handing over 20 euro and hoping for the best :-)

    It was still lots of fun, and an amazing trip. I would go back in a heartbeat although I would make more of an effort to learn the language first :-)

    Happy New Year!

    • Merci! I would never have believed the French I learned in school would help me so much, but it did. And I found people there were very friendly. I agree with you, I would go back to Paris anytime!

  2. Well, I’m ready…let’s go girls!!! I love your passport stamp story because mine was the same! When my daughter and I went six years ago, we both were disappointed in the smeary stamp. I wish I had searched out a better one like you! I could go in a nanosecond. As I wrote on my blog, I’d start speaking French…which I do think shop owners, waiters, etc. appreciate, and then they’d answer me in English! ;) Ahh, j’aime Paris!

    • That sounds great Judy-a trip to Paris! I agree that when you speak some French, it really makes a difference to the person you are speaking to. More than once someone said to me “Very good” or “Tres bien” when I was done. That was so exciting! So Paris is on my short list of places to visit. It’s a beautiful city!

  3. I’ve got ‘sur le pont d’Avignon’ going round my head now! I’m so glad you got your nice stamp. When I was in Iceland a few years ago I was looking forward to having my passport stamped but they didn’t stamp it. I asked for one and they said they’d do it for £10! Apparently they only do it free for children. Very disappointing. It’s such a shame that so many European countries don’t put stamps in. I did get a lovely stamp in the Falkland Islands though, very nice and clear and it has a sheep on it. What’s your favourite passport stamp?

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