Tag Archives: paris

Poulet Rôti, Demi-Baguettes, and Macarons, Oh My!!


What is more tempting to all of your human senses than just walking down the street in Paris? These particular memories stem from my spending a decent amount of time every summer in the 15th arrondissement, where my husband grew up, and where his parents still live.  It’s a very residential district, and one of the most quintessentially “parisian” arrondissements in all of Paris, or so I’ve been told.

Take a stroll out and about just before noon.  You’ll try to navigate the sidewalk traffic, avoiding having your foot rolled over by one of many little old lady grocery carts, filled to the brim with fruits and vegetables that have just picked up at the open air market, and you will pass by the butcher shop and feel the heat of the rôtisserie. You’ll stare amazed at the chickens that rotate, rotate, rotate, just beckoning passers by to pick one up for the midday meal.  You’ll continue on your way, roasted chicken bagged up and ready to inhale, and you will see a child who has run up to the boulangerie for his mother to get a fresh baguette for lunch.  As he innocently tears away at the tip of the bread with his little fingers, and pops the freshly baked staple into his pouty little French mouth, you will decide that you also need some freshly baked bread to go with your freshly roasted chicken.

You’ll hop into the next bakery you see (and even though it’s not “artisanal” you’ll think everything looks and smells amazing).  After standing in a line composed only of local Parisian residents, you will see single people ordering demi-baguettes, and as you watch them, you will find yourself wondering if such a thing even exists in America.  Then you’ll order one of those demi-baguettes, just because you can.

Arms getting full, and stomach rumbling from desire, you will now pass in front of a pâtisserie (any pâtisserie), and the window display will stop you dead in your tracks to admire the latest creations.  You’ll find yourself uncontrollably drawn into the shop, and before you know it, you’ll walk out of that very bakery with your poulet rôti in one hand, the most adorable little pink box full of macarons and tied up with a lovely white ribbon in the other, and your demi-baguette under your left arm.  As you tear at the tip of your baguette and pop a piece into your mouth to tide you over,  will you succumb to the temptation of the fromagerie calling your name gently as you walk by? And will you content yourself to wash it all down with a bubbly glass of Badoit (and that’s not the fun French bubbly you may have in mind, that’s merely sparkling water), all the while knowing that your poulet and fromage would be much more nicely complemented by a bottle of Hautes Côtes de Nuits from Burgundy? Oh, the decisions you’ll be forced to make.

There’s a scene from Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain that I think you will enjoy watching, even if you’ve already seen it countless times.  Watch as she leads a blind man around her neighborhood in Montmartre, and see if you can count the number of times your tastebuds are tingled.

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Hemingway’s Paris


ImageJust before leaving for my very first trip to Paris back in 1992, my French teacher told me to go and see the legendary bookstore “Shakespeare and Company”.  That’s what I did, and since then I’ve had a bit of an obsession with the history of this legendary English bookstore and all of those who helped to give it a name in history.

Fast forward about twenty years, and my obsession is mainly focused on Ernest Hemingway and his life in Paris in the twenties.  Of course, sometimes I deviate and become fascinated with the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald,  his wife Zelda, and Gertrude Stein just to name a few.

Like many others, my passion was renewed with the release of Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris.  I first saw this movie in June, 2011, while in Paris.   I heard that the movie was released in Paris before being released in the United States, but I’m not sure if that’s true.  Anyway, I was traveling with a group of my students, and had dropped them off for some exploratory time at the Louvre.  It was pouring down rain, and I didn’t have an umbrella.  I knew it would be pointless to rush, so I strolled at a leisurely pace through the Tuilerie Gardens, beyond the Place de la Concorde, on up the Champs-Élysées, and right into a cinéma where I spent the next hour and a half or so falling in love with the Paris that had just seen me drenched to the bone.  What a treat it was to walk out of the theater only to find that it was still raining.

Fast forward another two years, and I’m back in Paris.  I had about ten days in the city by myself.  On the one hand, it sounds like a dream for a working mom who spends the entire school year trying to keep up with a hectic schedule.  On the other hand, after about day 4, Paris can get a bit lonely when you’re missing your husband and kids.  I decided to take advantage of the time and do something just for me.  I spent a few days scouring the Internet , trying to map out a personalized walking tour of Hemingway’s familiar haunts.  I found a travel blog that was MOST helpful to me, and if you’re interested in knowing exactly where to go on a Hemingway walk, I strongly suggest you read it:

http://www.slowtrav.com/france/paris/rl_hemingway.htm

When I’d at last finalized my itinerary, I knew it would be a long walk that would take all day.  What an adventure!  I put on my not so comfortable walking shoes (had to look good, it’s Paris, after all), grabbed a book and my  journal, and I started out from the 15th arrondissement where our studio apartment is located.  I made my way, by foot, over to the Montparnasse district.  I basically did the walk described on the SlowTravelFrance blog, except I did it in reverse because it was more practical for me.  I started down the Boulevard du Montparnasse, walked past La Coupole, La Closerie des Lilas…  Originally I had intended to stop at La Closerie des Lilas for an afternoon refreshment.  It was one of Hemingway’s favorite writing (and undoubtedly drinking) spots.  Also, I’m of the generation of Robert & Mireille in French in Action, and many of their rendez-vous took place in this café.  My plans changed when I had a look at the menu prices.  Thankfully they’re listed outside.  Instead, I planted myself on the bench out front, drank my bottle of water, smoked a cigarette from the pack that cost me almost $10 USD, and chewed on a piece of Hollywood Chewing Gum that I’d bought at the Tabac.

Once I’d rested up a bit, I continued on to the Rue de Fleurus, and that’s where Gertrude Stein’s apartment can be found at #27.  I was mainly reminded of scenes from Midnight in Paris when I got there.  I was the only person on the street who was stopping to have a look, and I felt a bit strange because even though it was Gertrude Stein’s apartment, it’s somebody else’s apartment now!  I was gazing up at one of the windows, and when I caught sight of someone gazing back at me, I embarrassedly scurried off toward the Jardin du Luxembourg.

By this time, it was mid-afternoon, and it was hot in Paris on that day.  I was ready for a cold drink, so before entering the Jardin du Luxembourg, I stopped in a shoddy little café for a beer.  I’m usually not a beer drinker, but it sure did taste good as I sat on the terrace of this dirty-ish café and wrote in my journal.  I don’t remember the name of the place where I had my beer, but even though it was dirty and they only had a one Turkish unisex bathroom, I’d recommend it because I made a great memory for myself on my Hemingway Day all by myself in Paris.

Next I went into the Jardin du Luxembourg.  I decided to sit and read for a while.  I knew that Hemingway had spent a goodly amount of time here, and some of that time was caught catching pigeons to eat so that he, Hadley, and Bumby wouldn’t starve to death.  I wonder if the pigeons of the twenties were the mutant pigeons of today?  It was a gorgeous day, so I found a shady spot on the grass and laid down with my book.  I was quickly distracted by an American couple who were so in love!  What I appreciated so much about them, and why I watched them unabashedly for about fifteen straight minutes, was because they were in love in Paris!  And they weren’t attractive.  They were not very well-dressed, they were slightly over weight, but they were in full PDA mode, and it was beautiful.  I don’t think they would have behaved like that in the US.

After the PDA and about a chapter of my book, I was ready to carry on.  I headed up to the Boulevard St-Germain-des-Prés, had a look at the famous café les Deux Magots, continued  on rue St-Sulpice, and finally down the rue de Vaugirard.  I made my way along the Quai des Grands Augustins and perused the bouquinistes of which Hemingway was so fond.  On to Shakespeare and Company where Sylvia Beach once loaned books, and even fed and housed Hemingway and his contemporaries from time to time.  Sylvia Beach had to close shop after WWII, but it has since been reopened by one George Whitman, who carries on the tradition of caring for artists and writers alike.

I only had two more stops to make on my walking tour.  I wanted to find Ernest and Hadley’s first apartment at 74 rue du Cardinal-Lemoine, and I wanted to also see the room Hemingway rented in a hotel nearby at 39 rue Descartes.  I couldn’t find the former, even though I must have walked up and down the narrow street a dozen times.  I wonder if it’s just not marked with the number 74??  However, I did find 39 rue Descartes, where Hemingway rented a room and tried to write.  There is a small plaque on the wall that says (in English) that “Ernest Hemingway lived in this building from 1921-1925”, but it’s not true.  That’s just where he went to work, or more likely to get away from family life with Hadley and Bumby.  There’s a larger plaque on the wall that says (in French) that “Dans cette maison est mort le 8 janvier 1896 le poète Paul VERLAINE…”  I wonder if Hemingway knew that when he took the room?

By this time, it was probably getting close to 7 pm.  I was tired (in a good way) from walking all day, and was starting to get hungry.  It would have been easy to have a seat in one of the many Latin Quarter cafés for a little something to eat and to people watch, but I opted to take the Métro back to the 15th.  When I got back to my neighborhood, I stopped chez l’Arabe (the neighborhood convenient store) and picked up some pasta, Barilla sauce aux olives, shredded emmenthal cheese, and a bottle of wine.  I went back to our 11th floor studio apartment, cooked my poet’s repast, and opened the window to the view  you see in the picture below.  That was a day well spent.

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I Love Paris in the Springtime…


I’m so ready for spring to get here.  Yesterday it was snowing up a storm, so we may have to wait a little while before seeing some nice weather.  With the arrival of spring, the countdown to summer gets shorter and shorter every day.  I figured out that we only have about seven more full weeks of teaching left (not including holidays), and then we will quickly be getting our furniture ready to ship on the container.  It’s supposed to take 3-8 weeks to arrive in Béziers. My last day of work is in May, but François has to work until June 18.   I’ve been spending some time (when I can find it) looking at apartment websites, just to see what’s out there, how much the rent will be, what the conditions are, etc.  Of course, that’s a bit frustrating because as soon as I find something I love, I remember that it’s a little to early to start signing papers!  I really hope we will be able to find a spacious apartment in a nice area of town so that we can walk everywhere (bringing kids to school, grocery shopping, going to restaurants and cafés!).  On the other hand, there are some really cute “villas” for rent, and they’re more spacious, newer, have private gardens….  But they’re not right in town.  It sure would be nice to have an extra bedroom to have for when people come to visit.  I’ve got a feeling we’ll have quite a few visitors now that we’re going to live in France!!  It really is hard to stay focused on the tasks at hand though.  I’m so excited and ready for this adventure.  My husband is a bit antsy and nervous about the whole affair (especially about finding jobs), but I just know that it’s going to be great.  I have a very good feeling about it all.  

Paris, Je t’aime (Part 6: Le Louvre, La Fête de la Musique)


Fast forward 14 days……

 …and we’re back in Paris after taking a trip around France!

When we first got back to Paris, we were arriving by coach from Normandy.  We arrived at our hotel in mid-afternoon, ready to hit the town.  Everyone was especially excited because the date was June 21.  You know what that means, right?  Not only is it the longest day of the year, the Summer Solstice, but all over France, even in the smallest village, it’s La Fête de la Musique http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fête_de_la_Musique, The Music Festival!  This is the one day of the year that people wanting to play music of any kind, professional or amateur, can get out on the streets and show their stuff.  It’s a great big party, and the ambiance is quite festive, and of course, it doesn’t get dark in Paris until after 11:00.

I don’t think my students had ever seen anything like this.  No matter where they went (we were mainly in the Quartier Latin), there was music on ever corner, every space was filled either with musicians, singers, or  spectateurs like us.  We sent the students out for a little free time, groups of 4+, and I’ve been told they had the time of their lives.  You  must know that all of my students were, at the time, 17-18 years old, and they’re all boys.  We only gave them a bit of free time before meeting up again. We saw how much fun they were having, and they seemed well-behaved (nobody was drinking, or not that we could tell), so we let them have a bit more free time.  On the Métro ride back to the hotel, they had lots of stories to tell.  Most of them had the obvious “best” story to tell (they are teenage boys).  They’d seen a group of about ten young French people all stark naked traipsing around in the Fontaine Saint Michel.  That’s something they’re not likely to forget.

We stayed up later than usual that night, but with the promise that nobody would make trouble when the 8:30 wake-up call would come the next morning.  They came through for me, and nobody had on dark sunglasses.  I considered that a success!  We woke up to a rather gloomy day, as far as the weather goes.  There was a light mist, enough for an umbrella, and it was pretty chilly.  Sweater weather.  Good thing we saved Le Louvre http://www.louvre.fr/en for the last day!

We got to the museum at about ten, and fortunately I’ve been doing this long enough to know which entrance to use in order to avoid the long lines.  In case you’re not aware, I’ll tell you that you must not use the pyramid entrance.  Rather, you should enter the museum through the Rue Rivoli (Palais Royal)entrance.  However, you may not use this entrance for groups.  If you are like me, traveling with a large group (especially students), send them in groups of no more than three, and not one right after the other.  They catch onto that pretty quickly.

I’ve been to Le Louvre a million times (not really), and on that day I didn’t particularly feel like it.  Instead, I sent them in groups and gave them a meeting point after lunch.  I considered going to see the new Woody Allen film Midnight in Paris  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1605783/ that had just opened (what an awesome movie), but instead I thought I’d better go and check on my colleague who was stuck back at the hotel with a hurt knee.  He was glad for the company, and we had lunch together.  I felt bad that his last day in France was compromised by his injury (I think he’d been doing too much climbing, he’s quite the adventurer).

After I met back with my students, we went to the Champs-Élysées  http://www.champselysees.org/, viewed the Arc de Triomphe  http://www.arcdetriompheparis.com/, ate a few macarons from La Durée  http://www.laduree.fr/, and before we knew it, it was time for an early dinner.  After dinner, it was back to the hotel to pack and get ready for an early flight out the next morning.

The check-in at Charles de Gaulle http://www.aeroportsdeparis.fr/ADP/en-gb/passagers/home/was “almost” uneventful.  Just a reminder:  No, it is not possible to check in with a bullet keychain.  It’s not possible with a seven-inch dagger either.  Boys . . . what can I say?  But I’m not the one who had to deal with all of that.  My unfortunate, liming colleague had the pleasure, while I prepared to greet my husband and children who were to arrive in Paris the next day, and then we began our two month family vacation in France.  That’s the way I do it every year, I send the students home with the other chaperone, then stay for holidays.  Maybe this year I’ll be able to stay there for good!  If you’re interested, see my other posts about moving to France.

So that’s it for the 2011 tour to Paris with my wonderful group of students.  There was a lot more to see between the time we left the City of Lights and the time we made it back for the Fête de la Musique, but that’s a story or two for another series of posts.  I hope you’ve enjoyed, and if anyone has some suggestions for future student trips, I’m all ears!  Merci, et à bientôt!

Paris, Je t’aime (Part 5: Montmartre)


After dinner we headed up to Montmartre http://www.aparisguide.com/montmartre/index.html, which is quite close by foot.  We had watched Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulin http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0211915/ in class before our departure, so they thought it was fun to see Le Café des Deux Moulins, the café where Amélie works in the movie.  Just after having a look (from the outside) at the café, we started our uphill trek to the stairs of Le Sacré Coeur http://www.sacre-coeur-montmartre.com/.  Many people get to the top of the stairs and are so overcome by the panoramic view of Paris that they forget about the jewel of a Basilica that’s sitting right behind them.  It’s absolutely worth going inside to have a look, even if you’ve been on a tour of Europe and you’ve seen so many churches that they’re all starting to look alike.  Inside, you will find the enormous Byzantine mosaic of Christ.  It’s one of the world’s largest.  Many of my students were more impressed / inspired by Sacré Coeur than by Notre Dame de Paris  http://www.notredamedeparis.fr/.

You can’t take a trip up to Montmartre without exploring the Place du Tertre http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Place_du_TertreIt’s normally filled with artists just waiting for a chance to draw your portrait.  All of these artists are quite talented, or they wouldn’t have a spot in this world famous square.  Portraits can be pricey, but it’s a nice gift for students to bring home to their parents or grandparents.  For something a bit less dear, you can also have a caricature drawn, and that’s a lot of fun, too.  And while you’re at it, don’t neglect the urge to grab a crêpe, but not just anywhere.

Get off of the Place du Tertre and walk down the Rue Mont Cenis and have one at the window of Au Petit Creux http://www.montmartre-guide.com/adherents/page3/i65/le-petit-creux.html.  They’re not the absolute best crêpes in Paris, for that you’ll have to head over to Montparnasse http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2006/03/the-best-crpes/, but they’re still really good, especially with a big glob of Nutella inside.

After filling up on crêpes we hopped back on the Métro at the Abbesses station, and headed back to our hotel.  After such a full day, I didn’t have to worry too much about room checks.  I think everyone fell asleep within 20 minutes.  This is the last night we’ll be spending in Paris, for now.  We’ll be back for a few more days at the end of the tour.  Tomorrow morning, bright and early, we will make our way to the Gare de Lyon http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris-Gare_de_Lyon where we’ll board the TGV for a five to six hour ride to Nice.

The final post for our trip to Paris will be Paris, Je t’aime (Part 6:  Le Louvre, La Fête de la Musique).  I hope you’re enjoying the blog, and merci.

Paris, Je t’aime (Part 4: Viva la Vida- Paris and all her Friends)


The next morning, day 3, we allowed ourselves to sleep in a bit.  We didn’t really get our day started until about 10:00.  Everybody was happily rested, and that’s always a good way to start the day.  At this point, all of the guys were simply delighted at the idea of eating croissants, pain au chocolat, and baguettes  every morning for breakfast.  By the end of the trip, and I will never understand how this could be, they were really tired of the “continental” breakfast.

We had a big day in store.  We had many things to see in Paris before moving on to the South of France.  On this day, we went out to Versailles.  Many times, I try to get away with not going out there because it’s just way too crowded., but this time the guys really wanted to go.  Our coach driver was nice enough to bring us out there, even though it wasn’t an official part of our tour.  Rather than being dropped off right at the entrance of the Palais de Versailles http://www.chateauversailles.fr/homepage like most of the other tourists, we came upon it from the edge of the gardens.  This allowed us to approach the palace by meandering through the oak lined paths.  We saw Marie-Antoinette’s Petit Trianon http://en.chateauversailles.fr/marie-antoinettes-estate and Le Petit Hameau http://www.pbs.org/marieantoinette/life/hameau.html before seeing the Palais.

Students can enter the palace for free as long as they’re under age 18, and so most everybody did go in.  After visiting, they couldn’t stop talking about the sheer opulence of the place.  I guess the crowds don’t bother them as much as they bother me.  It also helps that they’d just studied about the French Revolution http://chnm.gmu.edu/revolution/ in history class.

After our trip to the palace, we went into town to the Place du Marché http://millie.furman.edu/versailles/towninfo.htm where there are many small, not terribly expensive restaurants.  Once again, we split up for lunch.  I will recommend going to this part of town for dining.  It’s not really the place where you’ll see hundreds of tourists.  This isn’t because it’s located very far from the palace, but it’s rather  because you have to walk past a lot of other restaurants before arriving there.  Most tourists, I imagine, are tempted by the first places they see.  Some of my students did disappoint me by eating at a Tex-Mex restaurant, but I didn’t tease them for too long.  Apparently they paid a lot of money for a very average, even bad lunch.  Lesson learned!

When we got back to Paris, it was already late afternoon.  It seemed like everyone wanted to get back to the Quartier Latin, imagine that.  We went there for a few hours of free time before heading up to Pigalle  for dinner.  Why would I bring 20 American teenage boys to Pigalle http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quartier_Pigalle for dinner?  For one thing, it’s cheaper than other areas.  For another thing, they get to see a seedier part of Paris, and between you and me, they like that!  It was all innocent enough, and the food was good.

Next in the “Paris, Je t’aime” series (Part 5), join us on a trip to the highest point in Paris:  Montmartre.

Paris, Je t’aime (Part 3: Chartres, French High School)


We woke up early on day 2 in Paris, and made our way to the Gare Montparnasse http://parisbytrain.com/gare-montparnasse-photo-tour/.  We boarded a train to Chartres, and less than an hour later we were greeted by my French teacher friends, Christine and Odile.  They gave us a little tour of the town, including a history lesson about and a visit of the Cathédrale de Chartres.  Around 10:00 we went to the school where my American students were each partnered up with a French student.  The exchange was simple enough, since many of the Chartres kids had been to our school the previous October.

Students and teachers were so kind to all of us.  During the day, we were invited to their cafeteria where we all were treated to a pretty tasty three-course meal.  We teachers even had bottles of wine on the table to enjoy.  During the day, some of the kids had free time (no scheduled classes).  While they weren’t in class, their English/American Club had a meeting.  What a blast!  They put on American music and for about an hour there were 50 or so American and French kids all line dancing together.  The French kids were much better at it than my students!  That evening, we were invited to stay for a barbeque at the school.  It was certainly one of the highlights of the trip.  We took the train back to Paris, and were back at the hotel by midnight.

Stay tuned to “Paris, Je t’aime (Part 4)” for a trip to Versailles and Pigalle!

Paris, Je t’aime (Part 2: A French Home, le Marais)


After lunch, we started a walking tour of Paris.  Since we were already in the 2ème, our guide offered to have us stop by his house right around the corner.  He has the obvious good fortune of owning his own house, right in the very center of Paris.  From the street, you open the oversized, watch-your-step kind of door and move into the entrée of what is actually an apartment building.  Just beyond the entrance and access to the apartments, you happen upon his house.  It’s a pretty quirky place, looks like it could be part of the décor of a Tim Burton movie.  There are books absolutely everywhere, and the walls are covered with artsy posters.  There’s a makeshift mezzanine, that he built himself, where books are stored on shelves.  This is in the living room, which is pretty much the everything room.  A ladder is at one’s disposition to gain access to the overhead books.  In the living room, there’s also a small table and a high-chair, various toys lying around.  It’s a well-used space.  He was hospitable enough to allow anyone in our group use the toilettes.    The stairway that leads to the bedrooms is only wide enough for one not-so-hefty person at a time.  The rooms upstairs echo the wonderfully eccentric tone of the living room, and everything is lovely.

The rest of the first day was spent walking around the Marais district http://goparis.about.com/od/sightsattractions/ss/MaraisTour.htm, one of Paris’ oldest and most gorgeous neighborhoods.  It’s an historically Jewish area, and we stopped in front of a school where we read this plaque, erected in the memory of  Jewish students who were deported between the years of 1942-1944.  They were exterminated in concentration camps.  I had my students do the translation on their own, and then our guide led us through a very comprehensive lesson on how this could have happened, and what led up to the war.  It still gives me chills to remember the silence of my students while standing in front of this school, on the very sidewalk where so many children, now lost, once ran into school in happier days, hoping not to be late.

By the time we had walked around the Marais, Île de la Cité http://www.aparisguide.com/ile-de-la-cite/index.html, and parts of the Quartier Latin http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latin_Quarter,_Paris, it was time for dinner.  It was not a very memorable occasion, as I recall.  We went into a supermarket and bought picnic-style goods that could be thrown together quickly and eaten in hotel rooms.  We were all thoroughly exhausted, but we made it through the first day!  Tomorrow, everyone would be ready for our day trip to Chartres http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/81, where we would spend the day at French high school, L’Institution Notre Dame http://ind-chartres.fr/.

Have a look at “Paris, Je t’aime (Part 3)” to see how our day at French high school went!

Paris, Je t’aime (Part 1: Métro, Rue Montorgueil)


Upon our arrival at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, we didn’t waste any time at all.  We went directly into the city, dropped off our luggage at the hotel, and went into town on the Métro. http://www.ratp.fr/plan-interactif/  I had already given my students a lesson on how the Paris Métro works, so even if they were jet-lagged, they managed to do ok as long as we stayed in a group.

We went directly to the 2ème arrondissement where we met up with a good friend of mine who would be our tour guide for the next 16 days. Together, we led the group over to the Rue Montorgueil http://www.thekitchn.com/a-foodlovers-walk-down-the-rue-128435.  I love for this street to be one of our first stops in Paris.  It’s the kind of Parisian street that tourists can visualize even before arriving. It’s a street lined with fromageries, poissonneries, fleuristes, restaurants, cafés, boulangeries, pâtisseries.  It’s a place where Parisians do their daily shopping, all the while taking the time to socialize.  As soon as we got there, I told my wide-eyed students (all boys) that the time had come to put these years of studying French to good use:  C’était l’heure du déjeuner!  (lunch time!!).  I set them out on their own, they were to stay in groups of 4-5.  I remember some of them looking at me as if to say, “Quoi???”  But I believe that the best way to experience something new is sometimes just to jump right in.

We adults chose to have a seat on the terrace of a little restaurant (I can’t remember the name of it!) to enjoy a glass of wine and our first French meal of the summer.  Honestly, we were so tired, I cannot remember what I ate.  I know it was fish, and I know it was good.  What I remember most about this particular trip to the Rue Montorgueil  is meeting up with the guys after lunch.  While walking down the street, we ran into about seven of them who were also seated on the terrace of a cute restaurant.  They were all enjoying lunch, and they’d ordered quite a variety of dishes!  I noticed that one of them was eating steak tartare, and I congratulated him on that.  Then he told me that he should have continued French after sophomore year.  He just saw the word steak and figured he’d be safe.  He was in for a surprise!  But get this… When he received his tartare http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steak_tartare, a dish made from raw ground beef, garnished with onions, capers, seasonings, and a raw egg yolk, three or four waiters came to judge his reaction.  The boys told me that even the chef came outside.  My student dove right in, and said in a rather weak voice and an even weaker smile, “C’est très bon!”, and there was applause all around.  I’m not sure what the staff expected, but I know I was proud!  While I was there talking to them and hearing the story second-hand, some of the waiters came back outside to tell me, obviously le professeur how perfectly delightful this young group of Americans had been.  I’ve never been more proud, good job guys!

If you’ve enjoyed this post, I’m sure you’ll like this post about when we went to our tour guide’s home in The Marais: Paris, Je t’aime (Part 2: A French Home, le Marais).  Join us in visiting a real Parisian home, and a trip around Le Marais.

Traveling to Europe with Students


My experience leading student tours to Europe

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One month prior to departure with my students (about twenty of them this year), I’m beginning to think about everything that goes into putting together a student trip to Europe.  The 2012 trip will be the fourteenth tour that I’ve organized, and the twelfth I’ve led.  Thinking of the many years spent doing this, I decided to do a little calculating just to see how many teenagers I’ve accompanied on trips that last anywhere from 16-29 days:  about 300.

Where I’ve traveled with students

I’ve accompanied students to many countries in Western Europe:  France, England, Spain, Holland, Luxembourg, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Italy.  After this summer I’ll be able to add Czech Republic.  These trips are sometimes a bit of a whirlwind, but we have such a good time.  I really love my students, and they (usually) don’t give me any trouble.  They’re all 17-18 years old at the time of the trip, so I’m free to give them a little liberty.  They’re also all  boys, which in many ways is easier than a bunch of teenage girls!

How do I organize the tour? 

I always get started organizing the trip about a year and a half in advance.  It may seem extreme, but a lot goes into planning such an excursion, and it does take time.  It’s also nice to give the students enough time to take on a summer job, or to ask for monetary gifts from family members for birthdays and Christmas.  I believe that opening the tour for enrollment so far in advance allows for more students to sign up in the long run.

The first thing I do is brainstorm about the places I’d like to visit.  It’s simple enough to eliminate cities or regions once you pull out a map and have a look at the logistics of it all.  Once I come up with a rough plan of where I want to go and what I want to do there, it’s time to have a look at the price.  At that point in the game, it’s more than likely time to rework a few things to bring down the cost.  Once I reach a price that seems reasonable (though it’s always expensive), I publish the tour and start getting students to sign up.  The more the merrier, and the more students we have, the less expensive it is too.

Though I am a French teacher, and most of the kids who come with me are my own students, usually about a third of them are not.  These other students may be students of Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Latin or Greek.  I like to keep my tour open to any student who wants to come (after his junior year).  However, I have to be careful about accepting student I don’t know, and who don’t know me.  To help me make an informed decision about allowing to the student to participate, I ask him to provide two faculty recommendations.  That usually helps a lot.

Why do I travel to Europe with students?

Parents, other teachers, friends, and even students ask me why I do this.  Why would I take out 2-4 weeks of my precious summer vacation to bring a bunch of kids over to Europe?  It’s not because I want a free vacation, because it’s much more intense than the school year (think 24/7, 7 days a week).

It’s because there’s nothing like experiencing Europe for the very first time.  Unfortunately, you never get to go again for the first time… Unless you relive the experience through the eyes of your students.

 

I do send the students back to the US with the other chaperone (usually another teacher).  Doing so permits me to spend my remaining two months of vacation in France with my family, who meet up with me in Paris once my students have left.

Any questions or comments? 

Please do ask any questions or write any comments that come to mind.  Especially when I first started organizing these trips, I really found it helpful to toss around ideas with others who had had the experience.

You do tend to come across a lot of negative comments about traveling with students when searching on the Internet.   A lot of it probably does have to do with what kind of students you’re going to be dealing with, but I’d say that the majority of the time it has to do with one’s own attitude and organizational skills.

Bon Voyage