Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.
~ Mark Twain
Recently, I had the opportunity to go to France for one of my wife’s cousin’s wedding. When I heard about this trip a few months back, I immediately jumped on the opportunity to help save for it and helped plan it. I’ve always wanted to go to Paris and the village her cousin lives in is about an hour northwest of the city. We planned a whistlestop trip through the city and the countryside near him.
It was grand!
I learned a smidgen of the culture in this time, mostly from conversations with my wife and her cousin and the help of Google Translate, which I knew going into this trip was less than ideal but was somewhat helpful.
This blog entry is intented to serve as a reminder, reinforcement, or an attempt at influencing Americans to think of the French as people like us.
It started off swell. I had weakness due to not sleeping on the flight over. I slept on the drive to the tiny village where the wife’s cousin lived. I slept the afternoon and missed the civil ceremony, which seemed an experience based entirely on the pictures shown later to me. I even missed out on a celebratory dinner that night because of exhaustion. I had to make many apologies to the new couple and everyone around me.
After the civil wedding, we went to Paris and visited the iconic Eiffel Tower. We even got lost in the city, which is good to do if you have a map, by the way, as it affords you to examine the city in the non-toursty parts. We even visited Disneyland Paris. This is when real tragedy struck: it rained and my son was the only one who refused to wear enough clothing to keep himself warm. As predicted, the next day he was ill with a stomach flu, which ended up haunting him almost the entire time we were there. Poor, little man!
The Religious Wedding
Then, we returned to the village. I did get an opportunity to see the religious ceremony (French religious people have two because there is a requirement for a civil one before something akin to a magistrate). The place was eerily beautiful! During the wedding, which consisted of several speeches and videos congratulating the new couple and may not be a French but African thing, a table containing a large glass structure collapsed and shattered all over the floor. Luckily, nobody was hurt! That being said, the wedding was such a smash!
Back to Paris
We returned to Paris where we spent a day or two and were able to see something I’ve wanted to see since I was a wee lad: L’Arc de Triomphe! It is phenominally spectacular in person and the photos do not do it justice. We didn’t have long to spend there and could only take a few photos because we needed to head to our flight, which was boring and full of my son finally taking his stomach medicine and not having gastro problems on the flights back.\
What I learned
I learned that the villagers outside Paris will wave and say “bonjour!” to you with a wave and a smile without regard to who you are or what you look like. The Parisians will say “bonjour” and smile if you initiate it. They will also correct your French, as the Uber driver did to my unsuspecting wife. I didn’t take this as rude, to be honest. I took this as pride in their language and a little rude. I learned that despite how we Americans portray the French, they’re just like us, which I’ve really always maintained about most people. They just want to eat, sleep, have leisure time, and, sometimes, families. Basically, they want to live. I learned a reinforcement of the kinship that Americans should feel towards the French. They helped in a major way, regardless of motive, found the United States. And, in turn, we helped influence, maybe major or minor, their own people to revolt against their rulers. Additionally, the ideas of republican democracy is owed greatly to them. Also, I need to learn French and soon. Thankfully, I sleep with someone who knows it and she can correct my pronounciation and conjugations like the Uber driver did to her.