March 2008


Ghosts In My Head

Whilst wandering the streets of Paris I was haunted by my high school French teacher.

Yes, a woman who I haven’t seen nor heard from since my last day of French class is still walking around in my head and although I suspect she has since retired, as I walked around every corner, I fully expected to see her leading a group of kids on their Spring Break tour of Paris. Although I never saw her, I did see lots of other American high school groups touring Versailles as well as the other places I went during my whirlwind Paris time.

I could just imagine her guiding us (errr… me) around Paris showing me everything wonderful about the city, taking us to the Eiffel Tower, see all of the Louvre’s most famous pieces, and enjoying croissants at every little bakery.

What is it about Paris that evokes such passion in people?

I don’t deny that Paris has many attractive features, but to say its attractive features make it better than other major cities seems a bit odd to me. London, Berlin, and Prague all have attractive features that make them awesome, and features that make them less than wonderful.

Paris has beautiful architecture that lacks daily practicality; London is incredibly expensive, even for a cup of McDonald’s coffee; Berlin is spread out flatter than a pancake and takes eons to cross; while Prague has too many British Hen/Stag parties that visit the city with the sole goal of getting trashed.

What I find interesting is how Paris, and, presumably, the rest of France differs from other places I’ve visited. For example, after visiting a couple grocery stores I learned that the French really seem to love mint flavors: mint flavored Lipton Green Tea and mint flavored concentrate for water were readily available.

In Lisbon, the supermarkets seem to stock lots of strawberry flavored items.

I can imagine a return trip to Paris—7 hours on the train is barely longer than the train to Rotterdam, a city I visit quite often.

Meanwhile I will continue to steel myself for the moment, that chance encounter, where my high school French teacher and I meet on some street corner, and step into the nearest café to catch up—in English.

3 comments to Ghosts In My Head

  • Ed

    I just watched a piece on PBS about Marie Antionette. She was an Austrian who came to hate the French and they hated her. She married Louis the 16th and they were married seven years before her brother came and showed Louis how to have proper sex with Marie. The story was quite explicit. It said Louis stuck it in for two minutes and held in there then pulled out and went to sleep. Marie refused to agree to a constitutional monarchy and tried to flee to Austria. You could say she lost her head over the idea.

  • My Grades 6 & 7 teacher used to show us slides of the ancient monuments of Greece and Rome and other famous landmarks he’d seen on his travels as a student. His stories inspired me to travel to Europe for the first time a dozen years later. We kept in touch, and I was full of stories to share with him when I came back… to learn he’d died – at only 47 – of a heart attack while I was away.

  • @ed: My French history is weak… but yours sounds good to me.

    @ian: it’s funny how different teachers affect us different ways. I spent a lot of time with my French teacher–I was a horrible language student (making my living in Germany all the more ironic).

    The one thing I remember the most is when she yelled at me for something completely unrelated to French class: I called a new high school by its nickname, something like “Toxic High” — or something like that. It had been built on top of something it shouldn’t have been built on and its opening was delayed by a couple years. I never understood why she would be upset by calling something by its shorthand name–a name that was, I might add, common in the media in those days.

    As for restaurant recommendations, I have none. None of the places I ate at were really worth going back to. The person I was with had long infected me with her stories about how wonderful Jambon Blanc sandwiches were–and I can safely say that the first one I ate (without her) was marginally worse than the one I ate (with her) last week. Baguette, Ham, and butter are not a combination I really like. With, or without, pickle to boot.