I know it's been a while.
Someday I'll have to catch up with y'all and let you know where I've been and what I've been doing.
Meanwhile, stop me if I've told this before.
Whenever Bastille Day rolls around, I always remember my trip to Paris when I was 17.
I was traveling with a church youth group to England in 1970. It was quite a momentous trip in many, many respects. I had never flown before. We had gotten a charter on the first 747 plane to cross the Atlantic -- the return flight to Paris. In Paris, we had a 24-hour layover before we went on to Heathrow. It was so exciting!
I was 17. Besides one other girl on the trip, who was 15 or 16 at the time, no one spoke French. And our claims to "speaking French" were quite nebulous, especially since this was Paris where we learned that the French spoken is analagous to the American English spoken in the Bronx. We couldn't understand a word!
But we were so determined to use our French in possibly the only 24-hour period of our lives when we'd have the opportunity, that we just kept trying.
Because of the time zone difference, we arrived at our hotel in Paris at about dinnertime on our biological clocks, but it was after midnight there.
My friend the Freshman in French and I, the Junior, roomed together. We were wide awake as Paris was shutting down. We occupied ourselves by laundering our delicates in the "funny little sink in the bathroom" and then writing letters on the little balcony. So romantic! We were in our pj's and bathrobes. It was 2:00 a.m. local time and most of the hotel staff was leaving the hotel, their shifts having concluded.
Two young men saw us sitting on the balcony and called up to us to come down and join them! OMG! What do we say?
We closed the French doors and consulted each other. How do you say "Go away?" Ummmm. Don't know.
"Um" (me), "let's tell them to 'Come back tomorrow!'"
(Her): "Great idea!"
We opened the French doors and peered out, saying, "Come --"
-- and before I could say "back tomorrow," in my faulty French, they entered the hotel and came up to our room and started banging on the door!
OMG. Turn off the lights! Shut the door! Be quiet! Don't answer! They'll go away.
Then went back downstairs and outside and counted the windows (we peeked through the curtain with the lights still out).
They came back up and started banging on the door again!
Then we got another great idea! We should use Morse code and knock S-O-S on the wall between our room and the one next door, summoning two strapping young men from our high school to rescue us.
I took a shoe and started knocking. The French guys went down stairs and started counting windows again. They came back up.
I stepped out on the balcony and the guys next door stepped out on theirs.
"Jo Anne, this is your own stupid fault. You should never have talked to those guys in the first place! And by the way, that wasn't S-O-S you were tapping, you idiot."
They went back inside.
So much for chivalry.
Well, eventually the French guys went away, but not after waking the entire hotel. (We learned later that one of the high school guys went down and went out drinking with them.)
Next morning while my girlfriend and I were having our petit dejeuner of croissants and cafe au lait, the Methodist minister who was the leader of the youth group came over to our table. Without even asking us what had happened, he said, "You girls are forbidden to speak French for the rest of the trip."
"No buts. No French. Period."
Well, then it was time for our tour of Paris. We soon learned that our tour was taking place on Bastille Day and that on Bastille Day, all Parisians leave the city and go picnicking in the country. The place closes down! We saw the Louvre from the outside. From the tour bus, we saw the Arche de Triomphe and the outside of the Tour d'Eiffel because they were -- well, outside. Other than that, we were spoken rudely to by anyone we met except in one little cafe where we stopped for ice cream. (The BEST coffee ice cream I ever tasted in my life.) There I surreptitiously spoke a little French with the waiter until I saw one of the adults giving me the evil eye.
Finally, it was time to go to the airport. The minister was having a hard time understanding the tour guide and apparently the gates had been changed for our departure. The tour guide was trying to direct the minister where he should go and he couldn't find all the English words. He answered a question of the minister's in French and the minister turned to my girlfriend and me and said, "What did he say?"
You know those times when you remember later what you should have done or said and then kick yourself?
This wasn't one of those times. We'd been carrying this grudge for over 12 Whole Hours!
My girlfriend and I looked at each other, then turned back to look at the minister, shrugged our shoulders and said in unison, "I don't know, Rev. I can't speak a word of French."
Happy Bastille Day, Everyone!