It's Valentine's Day. I had to celebrate early with my husband yesterday because he left this morning for Arkansas for work and will be gone for around 2 weeks. We treated each other to dinner at Tokyo Japanese Steakhouse. The chef was funny, our table-mates were nice and the food was excellent. The couple on our immediate right actually went to my alma mater. I felt a little awkward when we exchanged graduating years. '99 for me, 2006 for them. 30 is really creeping up on me fast!
Anyway, it was a great date and we had a fantastic time. Today as I periodically check in with my Facebook, I see post after post about love and marriage and Valentine's and chocolate. In my bloglist, I found the latest post from Elizabethan about her stay in Paris. (Yeah, she posted it 5 days ago, but I've been at the sewing machine all week and haven't had much time to peruse my favorite blogs of late.)
I thought, "I wish I had more international friends. I've got friends in England and friends FROM England (but who are American by birth and now live in America). I've got American friends who live in Mexico. But I don't have any friends who live in France. Or who are from France. Or speak fluent French so that they can teach me."
I would love to visit France. I love listening to the French language, especially in songs. So pretty. I also have a love of French history and culture. Marie Antoinette, Louis XVI, Napoleon. And the stories set in Paris- Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, the Musketeers stories by Dumas, Ratatouille. Ok, so Ratatouille is a fairly recent addition to great stories set in Paris, but it's a fantastic movie! :)
And then there are the clothes. The fashions (from ANY ERA in French history. EVER.) are soooooooooo amazing. I could spend the next 20 years wandering around museums (here's just one at the Louvre) drooling over extant French textiles (dresses in particular) and still never see it all.
The only drawback (besides the cost of the trip, of course) to visiting Paris is that I have heard from a variety of sources that the French are the rudest people on the planet. I don't like rudeness. I'm actually very shy in areas I'm not familiar with (like in another country; where I don't know what people are saying or where anything is.) From what I've seen, heard and read, being shy and going to Paris don't mix. I tried to understand why people in Paris are so rude. I found a lot of good answers in the book "French Toast" by Harriet Welty Rochefort. It's a great read and I highly recommend it, whether or not you are planning a trip to France.
I kind of came up with my own reason why the French are so rude, though. I think it's because the last time- well, maybe EVERY time- they were ever nice to anyone, from one nation to another, they wound up being invaded. First in 121 BC by the Romans, then the Germanic Tribes in the 400s AD, then the Arabs in 732, followed closely by the Norman Vikings in the late 700s. Things seem to have been fairly quiet for a few hundred years, but wait, there's more! They were invaded again in 1415 by the English, during the Hundred Years' War, when no-one could decide who was going to be King (1337- 1453) and again in 1795 by counter-revolutionary French forces. In 1813 they took on England, Spain and Portugal at the same time. (1792-1815 seems to be when France seriously started to get more than a little bit pissed off at the rest of the world.) After that they appear to have gone on the offensive for a century or so to prove to the invaders that they could do it too. Between 1800-1915 they waltzed uninvited into Algeria (1830), Tourane,Vietnam (1847), the REST of Vietnam (1858), Korea (1866) and Mexico (1862-1867).
They crossed the line, though, being all "We're tired of being invaded so we're invading you first", when they invaded Alsace in 1914 at the start of World War I. Germany came in to invade France in a mighty way in 1914 and didn't leave until Britain (now allies with France) and the United States kicked them out in 1918 and the war ended.
Germany was invaded by France and Belgium in 1923-24 (I guess they don't ever learn?) and then in World War II, France got invaded by pretty much everybody. Germany, Italy, the Soviets; French held islands were invaded by Japan. Normandy, France was invaded by the U.S., Britain and Canada in 1944 (to wrestle France back from everyone else who seemed to want it) to give France back to the French people.
That's a LOT of invading and being invaded! Here is my source of who invaded whom, by the way, in case you have more questions about European history.
I think it's possible that Paris is famous for being the rudeness capital of the world because being at war with and fought over by the world for that many centuries is enough to put any nation in a perpetual bad mood!
Maybe eventually I'll ignore the rudeness and visit anyway. What do you think? Could Paris survive an invasion by yours truly? ;) I'd love to visit during Valentine's Day, though. Because as much as France is famous for being rude, it's positively infamous in it's romance and passion.
Viva la France, and I hope everyone had a Happy Valentine's Day!