Objectives of my trip to France – 19 September to 4 October 2017
My first objective was to evaluate my progress in French.
There has been no time (at least a time I can remember) that I have not been interested in foreign languages. I have a certain facility in a few languages, but for some reason have always shied away from French.
About 2 ½ years ago, Lisa gave me a book entitled “Fluent Forever” by Gabriel Wyner. In this book, Wyner outlines a method for language learning. I decided to try his method on French. So I fastened my seat belt and launched into the study of this fascinating, if difficult, language.
So the first objective of a trip to France was to see if I had learned anything in 2 ½ years.
In addition, I wanted to document what I didn’t know.
I found that Reading French was not much of a problem. Oh, my vocabulary isn’t where I want it to be but I seemed to get along with signs in airports and train terminals, reading menus, street signs, brochures and the like. I give myself a B+
Speaking – Not as good as Reading but OK. One of the problems for anyone trying to speak a native language in Europe is that there are a lot of people who can speak English with varying levels of proficiency. Especially hotel clerks. So, one phrase that is quickly engrained is “Je préférerais parler français.” Fortunately, with only a couple of exceptions, a person would speak French to me and I was happy. I have a ways to go but would allow a grade of C+
Listening – A real problem here. I knew that I had problems but it is always disappointing to have suspicions confirmed. But I quickly discovered a remedy. Yes – good old TV. I would watch TV for an hour or so every day. Not just droning away in the background as I got ready for the day, but complete focus on news programs and the like. I could feel improvement almost immediately.
Of course, I still have a long way to go but I see a method for improvement. Grade – C-
My second objective was to spend time in Eastern Paris.
I am fortunate and have been to Paris many times, both on business and family trips. I think Paris is the most beautiful city in the world. But, all the business travel and all the family vacations had taken place in western Paris. I had seen the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, the Orsay, La Defense, even going as far east as Notre Dame.
But I yearned to see places like Place de Bastille, Place de Republique, Buttes aux Chaumont, Butte aux Cailles, Gare de Lyon, Bercy, Canal Saint-Martin and especially Gare d’Austerlitz. Why Gare d’Austerlitz? Who knows, just did. Notice the past tense?
So I got an Airbnb in the 12th , a 5 minute walk from Gare de Lyon. It was right between the 19th, the 11th and the 13th. It was perfect.
And so was Eastern Paris. Formerly the industrial part of the city, it has been undergoing an intense period of gentrification. But the old factories have been preserved and transformed into apartments. Industrial canals, complete with bridges and locks, provide liquid pathways through the buildings. A center for young people, there are lots of restaurants, shops and nightclubs. The famous Bataclan, the scene of such horror is there.
Loved every moment there.
The third objective were Day Trips and a trip to Brittany.
During the first part of the trip, I day-tripped to Rouen and to Lyon.
Rouen was of interest because I was reading Michel Bussi’s book “Mourir sur Seine.” A “roman policier” (detective novel), the author details travels through the old town area of Rouen. One can even follow the characters moving through the city using a map.
The second day-trip was to Lyon. Lyon is rapidly becoming the second city of France. It is modern, busy and very active. Loved every minute of it and I had the best lunch of the trip at a small café. More about that later.
Brittany The last half of the trip was to Brittany. Why Brittany? That is a legitimate question. I had written a short screen play several years ago that was centered on the small village of Carnac. I will ask mercy and confess that I had never been to Brittany, much less Carnac. So I decided to do away with that deficiency and go. Look for additional posts soon, when I discuss the trip to Carnac, continuing on to other cities in Brittany – Vannes, Quimper and Brest.
Suffice it to say I was charmed with Brittany.