I like Paris. Considering I don’t like cities and the busy hustle and bustle, I don’t like being out of my “safety-zone” and I can only just manage a little “pigeon french”, it’s amazing how much I like Paris, a capital city of a far away foreign land.
My first visit to Paris was a disaster, I went on a year one school trip. The friend I was supposed to be going with backed out and apart from the boys on the bus putting chewing gum in my hair when I fell asleep on the coach, I was put to share a room with two best-friends who spent the whole week resenting the geek who was imposed on them.
My second visit got off to a very dodgy start. I had always talked with my husband of going to Paris for our honeymoon. Eventually, after our third daughter was of school age we made it. We dropped the children off for a weekend with family and joined a three-day coach trip in the early hours of the morning. We must have spent the whole of the first day on the coach driving to various pick-up points, including the centre of both London and Birmingham, on the way.
My confidence was at an all time low, I couldn’t speak the language, I couldn’t even read the road signs and I just looked from the safety of the bus window as the sights came and went in a bit of a blur.
A number of arranged excursions were planned as well as a group evening meal for each day. On the Sunday my husband announced that we weren’t staying with the group, we were going off on our own on the metro under our own steam as it were. I gave up trying to hold onto reality, panic setting in, I just grabbed his hand like a little girl lost and gave over all control of the day to him.
The metro was fine, just like the London Underground but a lot cleaner. Then, when we emerged back out into the daylight … it was into the biggest market you could ever imagine.
This was my territory, I knew it well, the store traders trying to entice you into paying over the odds, the cluttered stalls with the bargains hidden in small corners, the bargain hunters pushing and shoving to get to the next stall before you, the smell of greasy burgers and tea in plastic cups … my husband handed over the reins to me and off we went.
One of the most important words in my limited french vocabulary came to the top of my mind … combien ? (how much), I couldn’t understand the answers so the rest of my haggling was done on the piece of paper and pen I offered to the trader along with the question. I don’t remember the exact size of the market, I only remember that it was immense, lots of different markets all joined together and we spent the whole day there.
We’ve been back to Paris on a number of occasions since, even back to the market on one trip, although it seemed like a much smaller playground on the second visit.
Once again I let myself be manipulated into expanding my “safety-zone” and realising that I can deal with most things life has to throuw at me. It’s really scary sometimes when he does this to me, but I usually feel good about the sense of achievement afterwards. (And no, you can’t quote me on this).
More from before: “Paris” … and not just in the springtime.