I have talked about the rewards of obedience to God in my other blogs. This Christmas I got a big reward…a dream come true-the desire of my heart. I was given an opportunity to go to France for an 11 day adventure. I studied French from age 12-22 in school and had to pass a written and oral proficiency test for my degree in Linguistics but, alas , had never been to a French speaking country. (They do say “pardon” in Turkey with a French pronunciation but that was the closest I had gotten in my other travels abroad.)
Because it had been a few years since I graduated college, needless to say, I no longer had any of my French text books. The trip was planned with just a month to spare and it seemed every minute before the trip was filled with business and family obligations to the point that I had no time to purchase a French dictionary or practice (repete s’il vous plait.)
Apparently in spite of the time lapse, I did not have a total memory lapse and once in France, each day I retrieved more of the language that I labored over and verbs I conjugated for 10 years. I was even complimented on my pronunciation. I am glad to know that my education was not in vain.
I had dreamed of going to France, and Paris in particular, probably from my first glimpses of it in classic films like Sabrina, Irma La Douce, and of course Gene Kelly’s An American in Paris. I realize these mostly depicted Paris with back lot scenery, but it inspired the dream nonetheless.
Fortunately when we landed I mustered enough French to ascertain that there was a taxi strike (that lasted for 2 hours and just happened to coincide with our arrival) and I turned down the drivers who offered to take us to our destination for $100 to $200.
We spotted the young girl who shared our row on the plane and found a ride share that would charge us $80. I was immersed in French chatting with another passenger who was visiting Paris from Israel. Due to a 5 hour delay on our flight we missed most of our first day in Paris arriving at the apartment in the 6th district at 4pm. We unloaded our luggage and then wandered the elegant neighborhood filled with lots of young people due to a law school and large high school both within a couple blocks of the apartment. We searched for a cash machine so I could get some Euros because I did not want to pay the exorbitant fees at the airport. Then we hunted for a bistro with enough ambience for my friend. We decided on one with a windowed patio on a busy corner of a boulevard. We first sat in the patio, but since that was the smoking section opted to move inside. We observed two young ladies that were sharing an appetizer plate of meats and pates and ordered the same with our café au lait. Every item on the plate was delicious and so began my love affair with the gastronomique extraordinaire which is France.
As we arrived back to the apartment, we stopped for a snack at the fantastic patisserie across the street. I ordered a small bouche noel a traditional French Christmas pastry cake roll filled with chocolate mousse layers covered with chocolate buttercream and decorated to look like a yule log complete with meringue mushrooms and flowers. It was yummy.
We were among the first at the pastry shop the next morning thanks to the time change. The quiche were not ready so we walked a block to a bistro to have a café au lait and croissant while we waited. The quiche was just out of the oven and we selected our piece and headed back to the apartment to enjoy it. It was the creamiest quiche I had ever had then or since, even though I had quiche nearly every day on my 10 day visit.
We journeyed to tour Paris after our morning repast. Notre Dame appeared to be a short walk-not so short especially when walking in the wrong direction. We ended up having to take the Metro to get back to where we belonged. After viewing the splendor of Notre Dame bedecked in Christmas finery we had a beverage at a bistro run by the meanest man in Paris. Then we hopped the metro again to the Eiffel Tower.
I think my heart skipped a beat as I first laid eyes on the famous landmark. I was really in Paris. I needed to pinch myself. There was some kind of confusion with the security a common sight in Paris-soldiers with submachine guns- so we had to meander through the park to get to the foot of the tower. The line was long and the weather cold so we opted not to go to the top and headed for the Champs Elyssee. This also appeared to be a short walk but wasn’t. There were some interesting sites along the way the Palais de Chaillot and the Musee Moderne and then we stopped at a lovely bistro for lunch. I ordered a Croque Monsieur (open face ham and cheese sandwich) and had a leisurely break.
There was an ancient medieval church near the bistro that we entered. It was more somber and less decorative than some of the others we saw from the Renaissance era. A few more blocks and we were at the Arche de Triomphe in the center of the Champs Elysees. The Boulevard and the Arch were much larger than I had envisioned. We rode the elevator to the top of the Arch and soaked in the spectacular view of spectacular Paris. There was also a great souvenir shop at the top.
We strolled down the famous boulevard past what appeared to be the Saudi Embassy, which was well-guarded by armed soldiers. My friend decided we should chance a ride on a bus and ended up in the Opera district from there we took the metro back to Notre Dame and walked back to the apartment passing through the fabulous Jardin de Luxembourg with the sumptuous home of Marie Medici widow of King Henry IV. I pondered about how this royal home was now a public park enjoyed by lots of commoners even on a cold winter day.
We grabbed another sweet treat from our favorite bakery and headed for the apartment. To be contined….