France in Five

August 22, 2007 at 12:38 pm | Posted in backstory, fashion, food | 6 Comments

About a million years ago, Aralena tagged me for that “ten five things” meme that’s been making the rounds, and I’m just now getting around to it. Except, since I try to keep this blog focused on vaguely French topics, I will do ten things about me and my experiences here in France.

1. I starred in a high-fashion shoot in Paris when I was just a baby.
Not that there was anything fashionable about me — oh, no. I was just hanging out in a stroller when my parents walked me by a fashion shoot for an Italian magazine. It wasn’t Vogue, but it was something one tier down from that [my sister writes to tell me the magazine was called Lei]. Anyway, we (along with a big crowd of others) stopped to watch. And at some point, the director pointed at me and somehow indicated that he wanted me in the shot! So my dad pushed my stroller over to the model, and the director indicated that I was to gaze adoringly up at the pretty girl in the polka-dot dress, and I did as I was told.

Then they told my parents which issue it was going to be in, so they could buy a copy. And they did, and there I was! Amazingly, that magazine has now been lost, even though it was the only evidence of what was quite possibly the most exciting thing I have ever done.

2. I missed lunch at the Tour d’Argent because of food poisoning.
My parents have long had a tradition of taking their kids to the Tour d’Argent to celebrate getting into college. So when I visited them here in Paris on break from my freshman year, they made reservations. Unfortunately, two days before the big day, we went out to a little bistrot which had once been a favorite of mine, but had since changed ownership. I had a steak bernaise, and spent the next two days with my head in a toilet bowl. Not fun! I tried and tried to get better in time, but I was still green the day of the reservation, so my dad called and canceled.

Happy ending, though: I did make it to the Tour d’Argent a couple months later, and it was lovely.

3. I found a hair in my food at Lucas Carton.
I’ve been cooking long enough to know that, yeah, sometimes this sort of thing happens. It shouldn’t, but it does, and I wasn’t about to call the health department on them. I did, however, complain, and they very politely brought me a new dish… But I have to admit that it did kind of spoil my enjoyment of the meal, and I haven’t been back.

4. I worked in a slave-labor camp rebuilding a French chateau.
Okay, it wasn’t literally a slave-labor camp, but it certainly felt like one at times. The camp was run by an organization called Le Club du Vieux Manoirs, and the idea was to employ a bunch of teenagers to repair and rebuild the Château de Guise, which had been largely destroyed during World War I. Needless to say, it wasn’t the most efficient plan — none of us had any real training, so all they trusted us to do was mix mortar, sift through rubble for re-usable bricks, and lay the bricks into some semblance of a wall. As far as I can tell, the wall is still not complete, because we all did such a terrible job with it that it keeps falling down.

Moral: don’t hire an unskilled teenager to do anything that actually matters.

5. I flunked the only French class I ever took in college.
And no, it’s not because I secretly don’t know this language and have been faking it all these years. In fact, my big mistake was that I got nervous about my skills, and took an easier class than I should have. It was a literature class, taught entirely in French, with all French readings and all French papers… but it moved very slowly, because it wasn’t meant for people who had been speaking French since they were kids. And the professor repeated everything he said three times, which seemed really patronizing to me, but I’m sure my classmates were grateful.

Anyway, I got an A on the midterm paper, and basically stopped showing up to class after that. It all seemed a little pointless, as I knew I could write an adequate paper for the final without hearing the lectures. Unfortunately, there were only about ten people in the class, so my absence didn’t exactly go unnoticed. A week before the final paper was due, the professor called me into his office and told me I would fail his course, no matter how good my final was.

I cried and protested and made extravagant promises of extra-credit work (all in French, bien entendu), but he was firm — there was no way he was going to pass me. So I gave up, never bothered to write the final paper, and learned a valuable lesson about actually showing up to the classes in which I was enrolled.



  1. I visited the Chateau de Guise last year and noticed that there were an alarming amount of squatters in tents there.

    It was only later that I realised the that Vieux Manoirs club existed.

    Can’t tell you if your wall is still standing, but I seem to remember that the Chateau belongs to LVMH now. Is that right?

  2. Really, Jenn? I have no idea — it certainly didn’t at the time, but that was many years ago, now.

  3. I really appreciated the guided tour though it is a damn shame that that Chateau got the short end of the stick during WWII.

  4. Ha! I used to give those tours. Would you be mad if I told you we put more effort into making the stories entertaining than true?

  5. Not at all!
    I love a good story and anyway, who’s to say?

  6. I think I would cry if I had ever found a hair in my food at Lucas Carton! I have so many great memories of that restaurant, and none of them bad. I have yet to try Senderens, maybe I never will out of pure outrage of having closed Carton! 😉

    xox Girl and the City

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