As you all know... when you go to Paris, it is imperative that you go there with a working knowledge of at least 5 phrases in French. Before our first trip, I bought the CD's and practiced in my car. I knew how to say the basics, tell the weather (incase anyone asked) and could count to 100. Yes, I had French in the palm of my hand.
The reality hit me like a ton of bricks once I stepped onto French soil. I felt like a fake... anytime I opened my mouth, I knew they knew that I wasn't one of "them"... still, somehow, whenever I tried, I got a smile.
I've heard the French are rude my entire life. I did not find this to be true at all. As long as I played by the rules and spoke French, things were fabulous. I expected Scott to feel the same way, and jump right in and try... but there is one huge, colossal difference between he and I. I am perfectly willing to jump in with both feet and make a fool of myself, if needed. Scott does not in any way feel the need or desire to jump into ANYTHING, until he's sure he will not embarrass himself. So... I did ALL the talking on that first trip...all the ordering... all the question asking... everything. I was annoyed at first, but adjusted quickly. Necessity was my motivation.
I had also heard that French people will not talk to you, or answer you on the street. I read they are actually shy, not rude, and most of them are just as uncomfortable speaking English, as we are French... and bonus, we usually massacre the pronunciation, so most times, they honestly don't know what we are trying to say.
Once (well, one time of many) we were hopelessly lost... I got up my nerve, and walked right up to a frenchman on the street. I said (in French) with my best Texas accent... "So sorry to bother you, but could you tell me where Rue Cler is?" I knew I was saying it correctly... I practiced it in my mind over and over before I said it. The reaction? He stared at me... blankly! I was not to be deterred... I repeated the question THREE times! Finally, a light seemed to go off in his head, he smiled ever so slightly, and pointed to the street sign on the side of the building. WE WERE STANDING ON RUE CLER!!!
It was so worth it... we saw this man walking up and down the street, greeting every single shop keeper. I couldn't help it... I walked right up to him, and asked if I could take a picture with him.
He began telling us his life story, in French, and even pulled papers out of his pocket, showing when he arrived in France from Italy, 50 years ago. When he finally took a breath, he realized we didn't understand. He said, "No French??? No Italian???" When I shook my head he said, "Hello....goodbye." Cute!
Now for the greatest thing that happened on trip one. By day two we were both hopelessly in love with Paris, and by day 8, we were the two saddest people you've ever seen, loading up in the taxi to head to the airport. Scott had watched me all week, muddle through. He finally decided to give French a go. The taxi pulled up to CDG, and the driver unloaded our bags. Scott paid the fare, and as the driver was getting back in his car, Scott said rather loudly, while waving, "Bonjour, bonjour!" The driver gave him a blank stare, and half waved back. I held my laughter... until we got inside. I looked at Scott and said, "Bonjour means hello... au revoir means goodbye." Scott looked a little deflated... and then we had a good laugh together.
Such great memories...