French love mystery
I really have no idea where my love of French came from.
Whenever I meet new people here in France, they always ask me if I have French ancestors or if one of my parents is French. And the answer is always, and oddly, no. I am 100 per cent American, well as American as one can be seeing as the US is a country of immigrants. My ancestors came from many corners of Europe, none of which are France. So it suffices to say that my fascination with French came from somewhere else.
I began taking French classes in high school, mainly because I didn’t want to take Spanish classes (though being from southern California that would have been the logical thing to do). From then on it was a love affair with everything French.
I wanted nothing more than to experience France. I bought French posters and plastered them on my walls; I searched record stores fervently (mainly in vain) for French music; I got a French cookbook and my family endured many dinners of Soupe à l’oignon. But it was just not good enough. I longed for the day when I could finally step foot in the country that had stolen my heart.
That day finally came my junior year of College. I was at last going to get to study and live in the south of France for a whole year. Aix-en-Provence, France to be specific. My dream was finally coming true.
When I got to Aix-en-Provence, I was amazed at how beautiful the city was. The fountains, the cobble stone streets, and the cute little apartments made me want to stay forever even though I had just arrived.
I spent my year eating, drinking, listening, and playing everything French that I could get my hands on. Though I lived with Americans, we made tons of French friends and had dinner parties and apperitif’s all the time, complete with French wine and those awkward moments that occur while learning a new language and sentences do not translate the correct way.
I remember my favorite parts of Aix-en-Provence, and the parts of France that I missed most when I went back to the US, were the daily markets and the outdoor café’s. I would spend my Saturday’s wandering the market stands that had everything from fresh cheese to homegrown fruits and vegetables. Then I would sit in a café and people watch for hours drinking my café au lait. I would listen to people’s conversations in French and see how much I could understand. Or I would read the newspaper from that day and try to blend in with the rest of the informed French men and women.
Unfortunately, right when I felt that I had started to blend in a little, I had to go back to the US to finish college, but I promised myself that I would return one day. That was three years ago. I am now back in France in a small city in the north east of France and loving every moment. Yes it is completely different than the south of France, but different in a good way. I still love going to outdoor café’s or just walking around the Centre Ville and taking in the sights and smells of this amazing country. And this time I plan to stay a little longer…All images © Julianna Johnson