A note on language:
My French is rusty at best. Even at the peak of my ability, at age 21, after 3 years of public high school courses and a year of college-level classes with an actual Parisian, I considered my conversational skills comparable to the average francophone toddler. And that was 20 years ago.
In the months before my departure, I had too much craziness going on to brush up as I had hoped. Of course in Paris there are many English speakers, and in many cases, even if their English was as lousy as my French, we could still muddle through. But Mom’s French is essentially non-existent, so I was de facto translator and spokesperson all week. This is a good challenge, and certainly helped me shake off the rust a little faster, but it’s also a lot of responsibility and it gets tiring. As a serious word person, not being able to communicate is a major frustration – it’s not part of the fun of travel for me, not at all.
I did make a point of researching communication tics and general etiquette, and I just hope that I was sufficiently polite – always saying hello/goodbye and please/thank you, and starting in French every time (even if only to ask, “Pardonnez moi…un question en Anglais, s’il vous plait?” as my opener). No one wants to be the Ugly American, and my theory is that those who assume they aren’t, probably are the worst. At the very least, we weren’t jerks.
Also, we tipped our waiters every time, even though I know we didn’t have to. A few extra euros per meal won’t bankrupt me and I think it couldn’t hurt.
However, by the second weekend, I was kind of dying to have an intelligent or spirited conversation — with or without a flirtatious undertone, because although I would have liked a souvenir moment of Parisian romance, my expectations were really pretty low by that point — in my native language, with someone who was not my mother.
Luckily, there are Irish, American and Australian people everywhere — sorry about that, everywhere! — so a little conversation wasn’t that hard to find once I started looking. 🙂
Friday, after an exasperating day at Versailles that simultaneously left me exhausted and wired, I walked a block from the apartment down to The Green Goose and struck up a chat with the very bored bartender. This was the very embodiment of a local, and especially slow due to it being August. Always happy to talk a little politics, and frankly, I’ve found that the Irish and British are as fascinated with our insane politicians as we are with their royals. I was grateful to talk to him and decompress, and he thanked me for livening up his evening too. Success!
((Saturday morning, for reasons I’ll spare you, I decided Mom and I needed separate accommodations if we were going to get through the entire trip with our sanity and health intact. We had done so well so far, over 8 whole days! Wanted to keep the positive feelings going, but for that, some personal space and privacy was needed at this point. So I booked a single room at the hotel next door to Lina’s apartment. It wasn’t cheap but it was cute, clean and definitely convenient.))
Saturday night, still craving some more non-Mom socializing, I wandered a little further afield, to the Cork and Cavan over by République, where I met Austin, not from Ireland but California. Unfortunately for me, this was a much more popular place, and kept its bartenders much busier. So I didn’t stay long. I took the scenic route home and did some people-watching along the river and public squares I passed on the way.
But at least I was out and about and open to serendipity, so I’ll call that a win. And then I went back to a quiet room of my own, so that was a big, BIG win. BLISS.