Well, I don’t speak French. Or I didn’t until a few months ago when I realized I’d better learn the fundamentals, at least, if I were going to Paris. Being extremely lazy, I went to the library and got “Learn French” cd’s, which I’ve been listening to in the car. I can now say écouter et répéter in my sleep (listen and repeat), although as a tourist in Paris, I can’t see how that phrase is going to be of much use to me.
I do believe that I now know the fundamentals of French, at least. Or un peu = a little. I find that the biggest obstacle to learning French is the fact that I know some Spanish, which tends to get in the way as far as grammar and numbers are concerned. And it took me the longest time to substitute pas for no or not. Another problem is that I’m learning French by listening and not actually reading the language. In the past, whenever I ran across French phrases in period diaries and letters, I’d ask my pal Jo Manning to translate them for me. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll now be able to suss out enough words to be able to make heads or tails of them on my own. Maybe.
Being practical, in addition to lazy, I made sure to learn the most important phrases first, beginning with
Je voudrais boire = I want a drink. Lazy I may be, stupid I’m not. I can now tell someone that, in addition to myself, my son, daughter, husband and wife would also like a drink. And I can order a specific drink – Un rhum et coke avec de la glace, s’il vous plaît.
The next phrase I learned was Avez-vous quelque chose en rapport avec le duc de Wellington? = Do you have anything related to the Duke of Wellington? It was only when I had this phrase down pat that it dawned on me this might not be the most politic question to ask a Frenchman. But, what the hell? = Mais, qu’est-ce l’enfer? If I get deported, so be it.
The last of the phrases I made sure to learn was Je veux aller au boulevard Saint-Germain, à côté du Café Lipp = I want to go to the Boulevard St. Germain, next to the Cafe Lipp. I figured it would behoove me to be able to get to my hotel, a portion of which is visible in the photo above, just to the right of the Cafe Lipp. It’s directly on the Boulevard, just facing three other famous Parisian landmarks, Aux Deux Magots café, Café de Flore and the church of Saint Germain des Prés. The Boulevard is tres chic and embodies Hemingway’s Paris with its galleries, antique shops and high end designer boutiques. Ralph Lauren just opened a 23,000 square foot mega-boutique, complete with his first restaurant, Ralph, just steps from our hotel (hamburger 36 euros). I point these prestigious landmarks out to you in order to keep you from gazing too hard at the prominent toilettes sign smack dab in the center of the photo above. At least I won’t have far to go for a rum and coke. Or a pee.
Here’s a link to a video tour of the St. Germain area.
As Jo Manning has wisely warned me, I might not want to show off my French language skills in Paris, as people might think that I actually speak, and understand, the languange and may therefore launch into a spate of conversational French, for which I am not prepared, mon ami. I promise to report back here after my trip to let you in on the success or failure of my attempts to parler français. And on the state of the toilettes at the Cafe Lipp.
P.S. In addition to offering charming rooms, the Hotel has an authentic sedan chair in the lobby. How could I have stayed anywhere else?