Paris, This Love Affair is Getting Serious
Will my love affair with Paris – or France for that matter – ever wain?
As I travel, I find myself looking for places to stop. Places where I can go beyond being a tourist. I look for areas that are quiet, full of character, and off the tourist track. Don’t get me wrong, I love to be social, and party from time to time, but I want more. I want a connection to where I am.
Coming to Paris this week has been like visiting an old friend. Visiting my favourite patisserie, and grocer. Staying in the same hostel as I did 5 years ago, Hostel Caulaincourt because it’s in a quiet Parisian neighbourhood in Montmartre. Bliss.
While I’m in Paris I make an effort to use what little elementary school French I can remember, and walked into shops as if I belong there. My strategy is simple. Smile, try to say what I want, in French, and hopefully walk out happy. My first attempt came at the patisserie near my hostel. I walked in the door, smiled, and ordered “deux croissant au beurre “, then stood there nervously as the man behind the counter repeated my order. For some silly reason, I took this as a sign that I had spoken incorrectly, and I quickly said, “Oui. Parle français, un petit peu”, and smiled once more. The man smiled then, asked of I spoke English, and then spoke kindly as I finished my purchase.
I’m not sure if I pronounced things wrong, but it didn’t really matter. I had tried, and that seemed to be enough. This experience has been repeated several times throughout my stay in Paris, and I was always pleasantly surprised when locals would ask (in French) if I spoke English, then go out of their way to communicate with me – some of them encouraging me to keep trying, as the practice would pay off later.
My knowledge of French is quirky at best. I can read menus, signs etc., and I can say a few words and phrases, but I rarely understand people when they speak to me. It makes things a wee bit more challenging, but I’m okay with that.
Each hour that I spend in Paris (and France), I seem to remember more and more words, and phrases. I find myself sitting on the metro, trying to figure out the proper way to form a question. I know what words to say, I’m just trying to remember how to put them together properly in a sentence. So, I turn to Google, and when that doesn’t work out, I abandon my effort and think of a different way to get what I need.
As I travel to different countries, I have been surrounded by new languages. In Thailand, I can say about 5 words, and I know about 3 naughty phrases. In Germany, I can say even fewer words, and the same goes for China and every other country with a foreign language. France however, is different. I actually understand it more. I can read where I’m going and not get lost. I can communicate a little bit. I feel more connected to the people, the country, and the culture.
It. Is. Awesome.
I need to work on my French. I know this. The fact that my niece is starting French immersion this fall is an even bigger incentive (can you imagine a 5 yr being cheeky in French, and not knowing it?!). After all, I can’t have her knowing way more French than I do!
The thought of taking French classes in Canada is dreadful, as is the idea of listening to language CDs. It’s boring. There is no fun, no real challenge. If I don’t like it, I can stop. In France though, it’s different. Speaking French – it’s a crappy segway, but I’m out of finesse at the moment – every day would be a challenge, and quitting would make life a tad more difficult.
France. Oh, how I would love to return to France for 6 months and learn French (this is something I have thought about a lot in the last few days). I would love to live in Paris or a delightful little town outside the city. I close my eyes, and I envision a small, but cozy, apartment. Walks to local markets where I practice my French while shopping for groceries. Nights spent in a café, reading, writing, or people watching. Taking some cooking classes. Being an expat.
When I arrived in France on Sunday, I was ready to explore the city, take some photos, and move on. I didn’t expect to fall in love with the idea of speaking French and living a quiet and fulfilling lifestyle for 6 months. Of course, I have no clue how to make any of it happen. I definitely don’t have the funds right now to move to France for 6 months, but maybe I should look at ways to make it happen. Perhaps going back to work for a year would be a good idea. Make money, save, then move to France, learn French, cook, read, write, explore.
It could work, right? I could totally re-arrange my life plans so I can live in France for a little while. Yeah, that’s what I thought you would say. Viva la France!