Saturday, March 17, 2012

Nous Allons a Paris

All right, I recognize the oddness of announcing this on St. Patrick’s Day, but …

Finally! Luck has knocked on the Hopper family’s door!

Last week at her annual sales conference on the other side of the country, my wife bought a $100 raffle ticket. Though the odds were about a thousand-to-one, some of the prizes appealed to my wife: a diamond bracelet and a high-falutin’ Chanel handbag were what she was eyeing. A one-a.m. phone call woke me Wednesday night. It was my honey, breathless, barely able to speak. She won. First prize. A trip to Paris.


This will be our first true vacation since 2007, and our first vacation sans children since our honeymoon eleven years ago. Last year, our tenth anniversary, with Lonesome Me outta work, we did nothing, having no money to do anything. So, consider this our postponed tenth wedding anniversary gift to ourselves.

We’ll probably be visiting the City of Lights at the end of May. My parents will watch the little ones somehow, arrangements have yet to be made. There’s a lot to do, but we’re starting early and trying to be proactive. I just got back from applying for my first passport ever. Aside from a brief afternoon trip into Canada, this will be my first visit outside the U.S.

I’m a little nervous about being in a foreign country. Especially one that I know absolutely nothing about, and one which you generally hear so much negatives from, from either the media or word of mouth. Not to malign the French people en masse, but there has been undeniable friction between our two countries over the past decade or so.

What really has me concerned is that I have absolutely no inherent ability for the French language. I took four years of Spanish in high school and college and have worked with Spanish-speaking people all my life. During our trip to Puerto Rico, I felt no need to bone up on my español, and during our trips into the city down there I was able to communicate with little problem.

Not so this time around, I think. I already printed out a two-page sheet of common French expressions and idioms, and though I can speak it somewhat okay when its in front of me, I seem to be unable to commit any of them to memory or recall them after a couple of minutes. Could that neurophysiological trunk in my brain stem be that atrophied? I dunno.

It’s a challenge I’m up for, though. Went to the library today and got the Berlitz French, the French for Dummies, and the Pimsleur CD set. I figure a half-hour a day over two months should make me comfortable with the language. Don’t you think so, too? I’m not a dumb man, just a lazy one, at times. But this is important to me; I don’t want to be deaf dumb and blind in a foreign land. Now, the wife is my rock here. She was an exchange student in high school over there, and she seems to think a once-through with the Pimsleur should reactivate a lot of those dormant French words and phrases. I hope so. No matter if I spend two hours a day with the textbooks and the CDs over the next two months, I think I’ll still be dependent on her.

What to do, where to go? Well, I want to do the corny, tourist stuff. Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, etc. My mother-in-law has a contact who works at the Louvre, and we’re working on some sort of special tour, private or whatnot. The Louvre, from what little I understand, houses the Mona Lisa and a lot of Picasso. And see that flaming heart on the left? That’s the Sacred Heart of Jesus. That’s something I discussed with my priest during my hospitalization three years ago. The Basilique du Sacre-Coeur is in north-eastern Paris, and that’s a destination / pilgrimmage of mine once we’re there.

I anticipate lots and lots of walking, lots of map consultation, lots of sight-seeing over those five days. Of course, I’d like to drink a few glasses of red wine, and I’m sure we’ll be eating quite well. Yes, I know it’s expensive. The air fare and the hotel is free; but we gotta pay for the food and drink and whatnot. I know it will cost more than we’ll budget for it. But hey – when you only do these types of things once a decade, it’s worth it, right?

More to follow: progress reports, thoughts, plans, etc.

Woo-hoo! I mean, weaux-heaux!

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