This year The Beloved is celebrating a birthday that may or may not end in a zero. Befitting such a milestone, I’d asked her to think about how she might want to celebrate it. It was actually a pretty short conversation. She wanted to celebrate it by taking a vacation someplace that she’d never been: France.
We didn’t want to go in around her actual birthday (early summer, high season, crowded) and so we are going to go during the last two weeks in March. As we thought about it, our goal was to spend the first week in Paris and the second week “somewhere else”. After poking around on the internet and reading a couple of books, we decided we would road trip down to the Dordogne region in the southwest of the country during the second week.
Unlike the Beloved, I’ve been to Paris. One summer, I went with a friend (almost 20 years ago — yikes) and crashed on his brother’s couch for 10 days (the brother was working in Paris for a stint). Fortunately this time around, there won’t be any pull out couches. We’re going to rent apartments in both Paris and Sarlat – we like this idea because then we won’t have to eat every meal out (saving us some francs, er, euros), and will give a space larger than a hotel room to relax in.
France and Paris are so iconic that I think it’s hard to go into a trip like this without a barrel full of expectations. As Americans, of course, my expectations have been crafted by books, television and movies. Appropriately or not, we have certain ideas about the country, its capital, and its citizenry.
The Beloved, of course, sees us sitting glamorously in a Parisian street café, perhaps coming across like Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in Before Sunrise, or an enchanted romantic strolling couple as in Midnight In Paris, or maybe even the wide-eyed joy of the little chef in Ratatouille.
As for me, I’m having a hard time shaking Pepe le Pew out of my brain as I think about our new hosts. And sadly, my only expectations for French castles in the Dordogne arise from Monty Python and The Holy Grail – so at least the bar hospitality-wise is set pretty low.
In any case, even though the trip has been on the calendar for a while, now that we’re within a month of going it’s really starting to seem real. My “Learn Conversational French” CDs have gotten me to the point where I will be able to state with great confidence, “I don’t understand,” “Where is Saint Jacque Street?” and “I would like some wine, please.”
What else could we need?