French In Action

Ah, the sounds of France. The sea crashing onto the beaches at Normandy mixed with the respectful hushed voices at the World War II cemetery, the rapid fire native French speakers I strained to understand, the clank of the manual metal elevator doors in the charming small hotels, and the beat of the techno music at the discotheque our teacher allowed us to go to one evening.

However, of all the sounds I heard during my junior year trip to France, none is more vivid in my memory than slurping. The good old-fashioned slurping of an American girl reunited with chocolate after a long Lenten promise. At first, I was charmed. After 40-odd days without chocolate, and the last few with the added bonus of jet lag, my friend was getting pretty fucking grumpy. So at the strike of midnight on Easter Sunday, I was happy for her as she pulled out her stash of Cadbury Creme Eggs and prepared to shut the door right on Lent’s ass.

I believe this was the same evening I’d called my Mom collect to check in. When the French operator asked for my name, I cringed as I said “Tracy,” since I knew he was going to have trouble with my super American name. But to my surprise, he excitedly said “like Tracy Shapman?” (French-ifying the hard “Ch” sound of the semi-popular singer of the time’s last name). I toyed with the idea of breaking out into “Fast Car,” but just said “Yes, like Tracy Shapman,” and that seemed to satisfy him.

Do you know how long it takes to finish a Cadbury Creme Egg if consumed by sucking out all the fondant through a tiny hole in the tip? A long time. The sound attacked a nerve in my brain. Oh my God, the slurping. She was like a crazed junkie getting a fix. But because we were celebrating the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ the next morning (at Notre Dame, no less!), I decided to let my friend live.

Good thing too, otherwise I would have been in a French jail instead of at the discotheque in my super hot periwinkle skort outfit with mock turtleneck and white tights. Amazingly, a French guy asked me to dance that night in spite of my outfit. For some reason, I’m more popular in France. I believe I’m three for three on dance requests at French discos/dances. Let’s just say the figure here in the U.S. is…lower. My friend titled this photo “Tracy at the piano bar.” It looks like I’m ready to begin my lounge singing career. Thank you!

My friend and I went back to France two years later, accompanying our high school French teacher and his students on their next trip. Being graduates, but not yet 21, the trip was a weird mix of independence and stifling. On that trip, we hung out with the chaperones just as much as with the students. We sang while walking back to our hotel in Nimes late one evening and I did Paul’s harmony on “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and felt free (mostly of this). On this trip, it was hard to maintain the respectful silence required at the World War II memorial because my friend and I spied the ridiculous sign below. How the French expect school groups (and ahem, mature college students) to avoid giggling over wild boar warnings is beyond me. Especially when my friend posed on all fours and acted like a wild boar (the photographic evidence of which I’m kindly not publishing here).

This is in response to this week’s memoir prompt at the Red Dress Club. The prompt was to write about a memorable school trip. Word limit is 600.

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17 Responses to “French In Action”

  1. Tracie
    Tuesday, June 28, 2011 at 12:23 am #

    I love me some Cadbury Creme Eggs….but I might have just killed that roommate after that one!

    That sign is pretty hilarious.

    I’m now convinced that my lack of teenage popularity was due to the fact that my parents never sent me to France. And I am going to stick to that story.

    • logyexpress
      Tuesday, June 28, 2011 at 2:13 am #

      I suppose the wild boar sign is real funny until one actually attacks you!

  2. Galit Breen
    Tuesday, June 28, 2011 at 12:35 am #

    The travels! The memories! The chocolate! The -ahem- slurping! Love this lady!

    This is such an amazing trip and memory accentuated with the photos and your details.

    But your humor really shined through. i adored this line: “The good old-fashioned slurping of an American girl reunited with chocolate after a long Lenten promise.” and actually giggled reading it.

    • logyexpress
      Tuesday, June 28, 2011 at 2:15 am #

      Thanks Galit! As ornery as I can get about noises, I love her too! You have to respect the singular focus on chocolate. I wish I could share some chocolate with her now…

  3. May
    Tuesday, June 28, 2011 at 12:39 am #

    Wow, the image you present of the slurping of the Cadbury egg is really vivid. Great description, I was actually cringing as I read about it. I give you a lot of credit for not putting an untimely end to that slurping!

  4. Carrie
    Tuesday, June 28, 2011 at 9:38 am #

    Yum, Cadbury creme eggs. Delicious!

    I would love to visit France someday, purely to see the memorial and historic sites of the world wars. I’ll have to watch out for those boars 😉

  5. Katie
    Tuesday, June 28, 2011 at 9:44 pm #

    I can almost hearing the slurping…ick!!! What a funny story…loved hearing your memories, and you did a great job telling them. The “Tracy at the piano bar” photo is priceless! LOVE!

  6. comingeast
    Wednesday, June 29, 2011 at 7:47 am #

    A delightful story, well told. That was quite a field trip!

  7. Anastasiastasia
    Saturday, July 2, 2011 at 4:33 am #

    I really like your skort outfit, you were really owning that.

    • logyexpress
      Monday, July 4, 2011 at 4:48 pm #

      Thanks! I do remember feeling really pleased with myself that evening.

  8. Robert Hall
    Saturday, July 2, 2011 at 3:50 pm #

    Hey Monique! I loved reading this. I just returned (June 28, coincidentally enough), from my latest student trip. I walked through the old city section of Tours. Sadly, Excalibur (the aforementioned disco) is no longer there. This was confirmed by the travel company tour director who said to me, “How long ago were you here? That closed years ago!” I didn’t check to see if Pym’s (our 1992 disco) is still around. But it was in 1998.

    Also sadly gone, the Wild Boar warning sign.

    Who was the Cadbury eater? I don’t recall that story. I do recognize the lobby of our Tours hotel, though. This is where I demonstrated to someone (Stephanie Bukoski, I think … maybe Helen Dieteman) that wint-o-green Life Savers actually do make sparks when you bite into them.

    • logyexpress
      Monday, July 4, 2011 at 4:48 pm #

      Thanks for visiting! It’s either an amazing coincidence that you found the blog when the most recent post was on this topic, or you’ve just been hanging around waiting for me to write something interesting. Dare I ask which?

      I can’t believe you remember the names of the discos we went to, although now that you mention it, Excalibur does sound really familiar. Too bad it’s no more. I’m also bummed that the Wild Boar sign is gone. At least I have my pictures.

      I want to use the Cadbury eater’s French name, but I’m only 95% sure I have it right. Anyway, if I recall her French name correctly, it was Caroline (and if I’m wrong, Erin!). She reads this, so I’m hoping I didn’t piss her off with this story–it was totally written with love. It is amazing that her eating chocolate is one of my strongest memories from this trip though…maybe I should’ve been paying more attention to all the culture I was supposed to be getting?

      • Erin
        Tuesday, July 12, 2011 at 1:12 am #

        No, you didn’t piss me off. I had forgotten that I insisted on eating those that way – yes, gross. I’ve been waiting to comment because I wanted to hunt up my photo next to the boar sign where I am posing as said boar. But maybe I couldn’t paste it in here anyway. Yes, my name was Caroline. I think my most vivid aural memory of France was standing in front of Notre Dame on Easter Sunday with loudspeakers filling the plaza with organ music, and just being blown away by the beauty of the sound and the beauty of the church, and then having a gendarme remind me, “Gardez ton sac!”

        • logyexpress
          Tuesday, July 12, 2011 at 6:46 am #

          I do have a scan of your wild boar picture…

  9. Robert Hall
    Tuesday, July 12, 2011 at 6:52 am #

    Caroline, I still use you as an example when I ask students to provide me any medical info I should know. I remember your mom saying, “She hasn’t had any migraines in years. But in case she does, here’s what you’ll need yo do …..” Bummer you had to miss Mont Saint Michel in ’90, but at least you had the opportunity to make up for it in ’92.

    • Jennifer
      Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 11:44 pm #

      First of all, I have that picture somewhere in my France scrapbook. I remember going to Notre Dame for Easter Sunday and not knowing a word of it until the priest said the Our Father, and we knew how to say that in French. We did call our parents collect that night. I remember both of my parents got on each extension to talk to me. Do you remember the guys that were on the motorcycles during the day at the one hotel and then at night they came back and brought some friends. And when you, me and Caroline tried to sneak down to meet them Mr. Hall caught us in the hallway. Darn! What a great time.


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