Although I live in America, I’m a hardcore Francophile. I listen to French podcasts, sip French wine, and have seen every episode of House Hunters International that’s set in France like a dozen times. And while there are many things to love about my native land such as the great customer service and ample freezer space, the envy between our countries isn’t often reciprocated. You’d be hard pressed to hear the term “Americophile” pass through French lips, or find a Parisian jonesing over our work-a-holic lifestyle. And I’ll give you a hundred bucks if you ever see a café waiter hand a kiddie menu and box of crayons to an ill-behaved child.
So, several years ago, when my daughter was a teenager, I decided to take her to Paris and make a Francophile out of her as well. I wanted to instill the same love of the city of light, show her the places I visited and find new ones for us to explore together. I wanted to create life-long memories for the two of us and reclaim the close bond we once shared before our new pre-menstrual/peri-menopausal relationship ripped it to shreds. Yes, I know it was a tall order, but if France can mandate 5 weeks paid vacation and offer home doctor visits, it can do just about anything.
So, we traveled to Paris where my daughter and I shared the same adventures as the characters in my book, “Finding Paris: A Novel”. We too climbed the steps of the Eiffel Tower, lingered over treasures at the Clignancourt flea market, shopped at vintage boutiques in the Marais and rode bikes through the expansive gardens of Versailles. We arrived in Montmartre the same weekend of the famous La Fete des Vendanges festival, baked macaroons together at a Paris cooking school, and stood on the famous green bridge overlooking the lily pond at Monet’s home. We ate pastries at the oldest patisserie in Paris, drank chocolate chaud that was so thick you could cut it with a knife, and stuffed ourselves with croque monsieurs, which is heaven for a girl that lived off of grilled cheese sandwiches.
Oh it was a magical trip alright, but, like many things in life, there was a large chasm between fantasy and reality. The high-octane dynamic of our relationship fueled many battles in between the beauty. I’d fume that she insisted on sleeping until noon instead of lingering over a plate of flaky croissants for our petit dejeuner, and that she’d veto going anywhere that didn’t offer a strong Wi-Fi signal. In return she’d be mortified every time I asked for directions, and, in a city where a street map resembles a Jackson Pollock painting, asking for directions was an hourly occurrence. Plus every meal turned into a minefield with her picky palate as I’d push her to try something she couldn’t find on a McMenu while she’d poo-poo anything that came with sauce.
Back at home I decided the trip was a total failure, nothing but a waste of time and air miles. But I quickly learned that, like France, a memory has a magical quality about it as well. It softens the hard shell of life leaving only the creamy center. To my surprise, my daughter signed up for French instead of the easier Spanish course that next semester. And she insisted we try out the new bistro instead of ordering the usual take-out pizza. She’d incorporate a French flair in her wardrobe, rarely leaving home without one of her vintage treasures from the Marais. And during her junior year in college, I was thrilled she checked off Paris on her semester abroad form. Yes, it seems I had a full-fledged Francophile in the family after all!
With the tumultuous teen years a distant blur in the rear view mirror of my life, my daughter and I are pals once again, two peas in the proverbial pod. Now we laugh at the picture of us posing in front of the Shakespeare & Company bookstore, not recalling the fight that made us plaster fake smiles over our angry scowls, only giggling at the funny cats we saw roaming throughout the shop. We’re planing to take another trip to France, this time to the south. Yes, with my beautiful Francophile by my side, who is now older and thankfully on the same sleep schedule that I am, we’ll finally savor those flaky morning croissants, and happily get lost exploring the windy streets and devour meals dripping in sauce. Not only will it be the perfect trip, but perhaps the perfect set up for a book entitled “Finding Provence”. Now that sounds très magnifique to me!
Joanne Kimes is the author of Finding Paris: A Novel, a tale of self-discovery in the city of light and a great read (see our review of Finding Paris). Joanne blogs at: sucksandthecity