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.