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French Fries, French Ties

Story ID:6251
Written by:Nancy J. Kopp (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Travel
Location:Paris France
Year:2010
Person:Nancy Kopp
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French Fries, French Ties

French Fries, French Ties

French Fries, French Ties

French Fries, French Ties

We spent two weeks in France this summer, a new country for us to explore. We flew to Nice, on the French Riviera to meet the 40 other people in our tour group. A day and a half in Nice gave us an idea of that part of the country, as we walked the area around our hotel and along the beach. And yes, it was a topless beach. I made Ken keep his camera in his pocket. Not only topless, but we sat on a bench and witnessed a young mother undress her little boy, slather him in sunscreen and then direct him to urinate on the sand behind their blanket. Around 4 years old, he was perfectly happy in his birthday suit.

We were taken by bus to Arles where Van Gogh once lived and painted. Also the place where he lost his ear. There are two versions of how it happened. One says he cut it off himself, wrapped it in a scarf and presented it to a favorite prostitute. The other story claims that Paul Gaugin, another renowned painter and friend to Van Gogh, sliced it off with a saber when the two artists were fighting. Take your choice.

Next was a stop at an American military cemetery where I had to struggle to keep my emotions in check. It was lump in the throat time and difficult to keep tears from spilling over. A story about that visit is in the works.

From there, we drove further to meet the 46 passenger river cruiser, The Provence. It would be our home for the next seven days, and a lovely home it was. Marvelous food and wines, spectacular crew. We stopped every day at some village or city as we cruised up the Rhone River on our way to Paris.

We visited a small vineyard in the Beaujolais region, where we received a lesson in growing grapes, tasted four wines and purchased three bottles to bring home.

A home-hosted dinner in Tournon on a rainy night turned into a memorable evening. The hosts, Pierre and Genvieve, spoke no English, so I dredged up my three years worth of high school French, and suddenly, I was the translator for our group of twelve Americans and the two French hosts. At one point in the evening, they asked us to sing our national anthem for them. It took us by surprise, but someone started to sing, and then we all stood and sang to the end.. I then asked our hosts to sing their national anthem, and we watched and listened as they proudly sang Le Marseillaise. As we walked back to the ship on rain-slicked cobblestones, Genvieve stopped, kissed me on both cheeks as is the French way to say hello or good-bye and asked me, in French, to write to her when I got home. A memorable evening.

A visit to Monet’s home and garden in Giverny proved to be a real highlight for me. While the house was interesting, it was the gardens that I enjoyed so very much. This master painter was also a master gardener. He planned it carefully, so that the brilliant colors of the flowers, the texrues of the plants and grasses, and the light they drew from the sun all blended into perfection. Across a road, was the famed lily pond, dotted with small arched bridges. It was here Monet painted so many famous pictures. His home was filled with Japanese wood prints and sketches, and even though he never visited Japan, tther is an element of the Japanese in many of his paintings. I could think of nothing better than to sit in his garden with a cup of tea to meditate and drink in the splendor.

We finished our trip with three days in Paris, where the French fries were the best ever, the tree-lined boulevards beautiful, and the tourist attractions we’d all heard about amazing. We visited the Louvre one afternoon and walked the halls with the teeming hordes of visitors. And yes, we did see the Mona Lisa, over the heads of many people. The surprise is the small size of the painting. The food was every bit as good as expected.

As for the rude French we often hear about—we found no sign of that. But I’m a firm believer that if you treat people politely and kindly, they will reciprocate in the same manner. When I entered a shop, I greeted the clerk in French. Anyone can learn to say “Bon jour, Madame” or “Bon jour, Monsieur” and the people appreciate the effort.

One of the reasons I wanted to visit France is that my heritage is half French. I’d been to Ireland to explore that half of my ancestry, so this balanced it for me. It’s a pleasing thing to visit the place on this earth where your ancestors lived. I will think of beautiful France with fondness.

Photo 1: Claude Monet's home in Giverny

Photo 2: Nancy in a French village

Photo 3: A typical tree-lined street