As promised, a guest post from hmmm, let's call her "Antoinette," what's a pseudonym or two among friends? (She is obliged to keep a low profile because her in-laws don't like her. You can read that story when you visit her today at the Class Factotum .)
As I was saying, you must visit her, she is hilarious. She is quite the accomplished writer as well. She talks us/takes us through her marriage in the form of "lessons" which makes me think it must be a laugh-a-minute chez elle, though we would need confirmation from the straight man on that assumption.
I discovered she loves Paris, but has had some iffy experiences in the city of love and romance. Below she tells us all about them. Then, as I was saying, you must visit her at the Class Factotum.
Ever since my Aunt Mary Ann brought her French boyfriend, Serge, to our house for Christmas when I was in second grade, I have been in love with the idea of France. L'amour. L'amour! And the charming accents of Frenchmen like Serge. Swoony Serge with his dark hair and 'ees dropping of ze 'aitch. Oooh la la.
Which was why when a Belgian boyfriend - Beligum is like France but without the Frenchness- and I agreed to meet in France for a vacation, I was swoony. At last, my dreams of a romantic tryst in la France would be realized.
Ladies. Temper your dreams when you go to France with an accountant. Almost-French Belgian accountants are no more romantic than American accountants. Blesstheirhearts and no offense.
I had imagined a week of pastoral delights: picnicking on the pain, fromage et fraises that we bought from the marche, supping at an intimate bistro, sleeping in a quaint country inn.
What I got:
1. Shopping at the open-air market with the Almost-French Belgian Accountant (AFBA) making a note of every expenditure so we could tally everything up at the end of the trip. I am about as tight as they come, but even I know that on a shared-expense vacation, it is not necessary to write down every six francs that one person (=me) spends on bread. As long as we were within $50 of being balanced, I would be happy. But AFBA kept notes and receipts and made a spreadsheet.
2. Food poisoning at the little country inn. Ten minutes yes ten minutes after I had my first bite of the zucchini tart, I was throwing up. At least I made it to the bathroom, but still, vomiting during lunch does not enhance the meal experience for anyone. Those were some really bad eggs is my guess.
3. A Marseille hotel that looked good on paper, as it was on the water and isn't waterfront property always more romantic? Alas, this hotel, with its jaunty nautical theme, including nautical sheets on the bunkbeds, seemed to cater to a rather different clientele from AFBA and me, or at least that's what the signs would indicate. If you go by the theory that what is forbidden is what really happens - why would a city need a "Don't pee here!" sign unless it was the custom to pee on that particular wall in the main square? - then the signs warning sailors they better not bring loose women into the rooms and don't even think about asking for hourly rates would indicate that the hotel drew a more focused customer than AFBA and I. Not that we weren't interested in such activity, but at least we were prepared to stay all night and AFBA was prepared to pay for his half of supper.
The relationship with AFBA didn't last, although he did, nine months after breaking up with me, come to the US to propose, albeit as part of a business trip and hence not on his dime, which makes me wonder how serious he really was about the whole thing. I rejected the offer once I understood what he was asking. He never said the words, "Would you marry me?" but instead announced that he was getting married, which prompted me to ask, "To whom?" That was not the response he was looking for.
Then I met the Moroccan Millionaire. That was a bad idea, too, but the glamor of it all! A Moroccan! Millionaire! We agreed to meet in Paris for a week. He, like the AFBA, spoke French. French!
Again, I imagined cozy lunches, cozy afternoons, cozy evenings.
I got instead
1. A daily trip to The Gap after he had spoken to his son, his sister and his mother in Rabat about what they might want him to shop for that day. A couple of trips to the Ferrari dealer. A trip to the bank where he hid his money to avoid paying Moroccan taxes on it.
2. All meals eaten in except a few. We were staying in his cousin's apartment and would go to the grocery store every day. He ate Belgian endive for lunch and for supper. Omigosh. I have just made the connection between the two bad boyfriends and it is BELGIUM. I should have known. Along with his lunch (and with supper), he would drink a bottle of wine. As I am not a drinker, I really don't know how much is a lot to drink and how much is not very much, but I have since learned that an entire bottle of wine at one meal is perhaps more than a good Muslim imbibes.
3. A daily nap. For him, not for me. Perhaps the wine had something to do with it. He would change out of his suit yes his suit and into his pajamas and take a four-hour nap.
4. No tourist stuff, even though I kept saying, "Let's go to Chartres! Let's go to the Champs! Let's go let's go let's go!" He was not interested. "I 'ave done ZAT," he would say. "Eet is borING." Then he would take another nap. Then we would go to The Gap.
That relationship also did not last. I began to wonder if France was the problem.
Then I met my husband. He is not an accountant, but he is an engineer, which - well, I don't even have to explain what that means to you worldly readers. He is neither Belgian nor Moroccan but he was definitely reared in a culture foreign to what I know. And after a college minor in the language, he speaks French. That is, he speaks it in theory. Being an engineer, he does not want a word of French to leave his mouth unless it is perfect, which means I do all the foreign talking when we travel because I am not afraid of looking like an idiot.
Did I dare? Did I dare try a romantic vacation with another non-French French speaker? My love of France had not been sullied by my bad experiences with the two not-French French speakers. But was it the ideal place for a romantic vacation pour moi?
Last November, my husband had the frequent flier miles. He had the hotel points. We had the vacation time.
We cast caution to the winds and to Paris we went. We didn't discuss who paid for what because he pays for everything all of the time because I am a gold-digger. We went out to eat because he loves to go out to eat. We went to all the tourist places, including the Sewer Museum, because we both like to do weird tourist things. We sat at cafes and sipped cafe au lait. We wandered hand in hand through romantic Paris lanes. We slept late and had croissants for breakfast.
Nobody threw up. Nobody got drunk. Nobody took a nap. We had one bad fight upon our less than triumphant return to Paris in the rental car - darn you, Paris street layout designed to confuse the Germans - but that was soon over.
It was the almost-perfect romantic vacation. Just because I had had two failed attempts at French romance did not mean France was at fault. (It's clear now that Belgium was at fault.) France was always the right place - I just had to go there with the right man.