Amateur Musings on the French Language

Today, the Catacombs. I must say I wasn't sure I would like them, and Sam kept offering to go alone, but I went. And, I didn't much like them. Maybe it was just that my tummy hurt (too many raspberry tartlets? nah ... couldn't be.), or that it was cold down there. Or maybe it because we walked through the aesthetically arranged bones of millions of Parisians in the damp darkness? Look at them. Creepy, no?

Sam, on the other hand, was in his element. His favorite holiday is Halloween; he loves zombie and Dracula stories, etc. He commandeered my camera and we went very very slowly so he could take a picture of just about everything. He was a happy happy man. And he got some good pictures.

Overall, today was sluggish. I think we both sort of hit a wall. We love Paris; we want to stay forever. And yet, we don't. Walking around, I started to notice how tired tourists look. Traveling is taxing. Not that we're aching for home. Not yet. We're just looking forward to London where we speak the language and where I know my way around and can direct us. As we climbed another set of stairs in the metro, Sam confessed he was looking forward to our train to London tomorrow, simply so he can sit for a few hours. And I had been thinking the same thing.

Anyway, we did manage to go here, to the d'Orsay. We liked it, but not quite as well as the Louvre. It was probably our sluggy attitudes. That, and the absurd crowds in the Impressionism rooms. (It's so weird to see the way digital and phone cameras have changed museums. Now no one even looks at the paintings themselves, they look at them through their cell phones.) But the building (a converted train station) is incredibly beautiful.

A few words on the French language:

I love it. Never thought I would. I learned Spanish in school. When I took a French Reading course a few summers ago, I never learned to speak it (only read it--sort of), and after the course ended I immediately forgot EVERYTHING I learned. But here, walking the streets, I overhear conversations and feel my mouth aching to move like that. Sometimes it tries, and Sam says "What?", and I have to admit that I was just saying the name of our street out loud again (Rue St. Jacques, Rue St. Jacques). I witnessed this terrible verbal fight between two women on the metro (one had smashed the others thigh with a fold-down seat) and I was dying to be the one saying, "Madam! Whifsgdfjgekhlelhkajgkfjh!" When I hear a child speaking French? A cute one wearing a hat? It is very very difficult to not lure the child away with candy and chain it to my suitcase.

My two favorite words are as follows: sortie, bijoux. Sortie just means exit. We see it dozens of times in every metro station, and I never miss a chance to say it quietly to myself. Sortie, I say, sortie. And I feel like I'm being sorted out of the building.

And bijoux just means jewelry. As best I can tell, it's pronounced be-jew, with a j sound like in my name. I want to name a cat Bijoux. I want my name to be Bijoux. I want to say bijoux every day for the rest of my life.

And another thing. People here actually say this stuff that I didn't think anyone said in earnest. At a restaurant, when the waiter brings our meals, he says, "Bon appetit!" and he means it because he really speaks French and that's what they say in France. When we're at a bakery (boulangerie) and the lady finishes gathering our baguettes and croissants, she sets them on the counter, and she says, "Voila!" Is that not soooo cool?

And for Gavin. They actually don't say "wee" very much here for "oui." They pronounce it "way." I hear people walking down the street saying "way way way." Not quite as funny, but I'm sure you can think of another pun for it, yes?

Anyway, so I want to speak French. And I don't. Even when I say the stuff I've picked up over the last week, they can tell I'm American and just reply to my butchered French in English. It saddens me.

One more thing. A question. What would you buy as a souvenir if you were in Europe for a month? So far I've bought just little things: a scarf, a few pairs of earrings, a bracelet, etc. But I really don't want to fritter away a bunch of money on little tiny things. I just feel so stuck about what to splurge on. I need help. I was walking home today, looking for something to fall in love with, and I decided there are at least three schools of thought on why/what to buy: 1. something unique, something you couldn't get back home. 2. something useful, something you may find at home but you'd use/see it every day and remember your adventure. and 3. something indulgent, something you'd never buy for yourself back home but you will in vacation mode.

So, which category of somethings is your favorite? What have you bought and been glad to have? What have you bought and been disappointed with later? What would you get if you were here and money was no object? (Not that it's no object for me, but we're just playing.) What should I get? Heeelllppppp!


eden said…
i completely sympathize with exhausting vacations. the second time i went to new york (first time with family) my mom ran a tight ship. all we had time to eat during the day were granola bars and... something else i think i've blocked out. by the end of the trip i think we all were about to throw up anytime someone mentioned granola bars. yuck.

as for souvenirs... i'm more of the mindset to get something unique. my favorite things from the mission are the stone carvings (which now you can get at the byu bookstore... but for much more money than i spent) i brought home. but even those, i don't really have on display, right now they're just in my room on a shelf. so, umm... i don't know. perhaps one of each? (: good luck with the decision!
Amara said…
Is there something that you'd use everyday, but is kind of unique? You'd use it and your dinner guests say "WHERE did you get that?!" Like not just a cooking pot (you can see where MY money would go), but a beautiful one with a decorative edge, or made of copper.
belann said…
I'm with Amara on this one. I think the idea of something you would use everyday that would bring back memories of the lovely time together would be the best souvenir. But, as you know, I was never much for trinkets. Glad Sam loved the catacombs. Sounds like the perfect place to end the tour de France.
Genevieve Beck said…
My favorite thing to buy was dolls in the traditional clothes. No, not useful. And until we get a bigger place and something to put them on, they live in a box, but someday, I am going to be very excited to have my collection out and explain all of them (if asked).
I came home from Taiwan with some cool paintings and a mouth painted fan(the guy had no arms and painted with a brush between his teeth. I definitely went with things in our home we could see often and were in a unique style of that country. But I will tell you I think of other paintings I saw that I wish I'd bought instead. But my very favorite item from our time overseas was the digital photo album I made when I came home. I treasure that more than anything I bought there. Looks like you're having an amazing trip! Enjoy England!
Jamie said…
Bonjour Deja- I happened upon your blog tonight and have LOVED reading about every moment of your trip. You write beautifully and very vividly. I felt as though I was walking along the streets of Paris with you. Have fun! your cousin- Jamie
Terry Earley said…
Don't bring home any doo doo described in previous posts. That is just not cool. No good memories and you will not want to keep it around the house to help you remember. Dinner guests would just be annoyed when you arranged it as a centerpiece, etc. Don't do it.

Also return those bones to the catacombs. They just will not make decent gifts and are too brittle to fashion into a bracelet.
Buy the unique thing. Useless or not. Put it on your shelves in your living room. It will start fascinating conversations when your friends come over, and when you look at it when you are alone you can close your eyes and have for one moment a little mini-vacation with yourself in your head. I've started collecting religious icons when I travel. I love them. My friends think I'm an idol worshipper. I'm okay with it.

As for French. I have become somwehat addicted to French bubble gum pop. I memorize the songs even though they don't know what they mean, and roll them around in my mouth while I drive home from work. My favorite one "Tu Es Beaux" sounds like I'm saying dirty things to a man I adore. I don't understand a word of it. I'm okay with that, too.
Mike and Emily said…
Dej....I feel the same way about french. I love love love the sound of it. And when little people speak it? Shooo. I have to fight urges to kidnap as well. I've thought that maybe if I name a little girl with a french name she will speak french. Is that too much to ask? SERiously. I wish we'd both learned to speak in that dang class. I forgot everything immediately too. Dang it. Also, I have loved the candlestick holders I got in Spain. They're lovely and modern and when I look at them in my living room, I think, "Remember that time I was in Spain and I bought those for my new life?" I think a cooking pot or bowl or something like that would be lovely too. I've also lusted after the items you got in England, the little blessing gowns for your future children. I wish upon wish that I had items like that.
Sam Ruddick said…
with all this talk about souvenirs and kidnapping children, i wonder why don't we just buy a slave girl.
Kira said…
I think Dad and Sam have the same sense of humor. Actually Keaton and Sam are the same too. Keaton would have loved the bones. I bought a fancy linen dish towel in New Orleans once, I kept it in a box for a long time now I use it and think about when I was single and could go to cool places. I also once got a vase, I think of Seatle whenever I use it. My friend went to Jerusalem and brought back a nativity carved out of an olive tree for me. Every year when I take it out I think of her. I would say something that you use but maybe not everyday. Maybe a dish like Am said?
Elise said…
I always regretted I didn't buy a fork bracelet in England. Humph.

You sound like you're having so much fun!! I have to figure out a way to get there...
Emily said…
Sorry I'm too late to throw in my vote for french souvenirs, but I like things that you can decorate with. My parents always get a Christmas tree ornament wherever they go so their tree every year is full of remembrances. My friend who did a study abroad in Paris has a great hand-drawn portrait of herself she had done along the Seine that she framed. Whatever you get, get something you can at least display, if not use often.

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