My Paris Dress

© 2002 by Janice Green

ParEEE!  ParEEE!  My daughter, Joni, and I were going to Paris!  A close friend advised that I should dress up in Paris if I wanted to be treated nicely by the locals.  So with my strained budget, I shopped at a special discount dress shop and found a long cotton skirt and shirt-blouse in shades of purple, orange and green.  I set it off with a black cummerbund-like wrap around belt. 

Joni’s idea of dressing up was different than mine, but for a 13 year old, her Paris Hard Rock Cafe shirt, purchased at a tourist shop in Germany, and her stunning black felt hat had her feeling and looking apropos.

Our arrival into Paris wasn’t quite as grand as I had hoped.  Paris was actually only one day of our trip to Europe, and most of our traveling was by train.  Wearing my “Paris dress,” and Joni in her carefully chosen duds, we caught a sleeper train from Frankfurt to Paris where we were assigned bunks in separate rooms.  I spent a nearly sleepless night worrying about Joni and trying to keep my Paris dress as unwrinkled as possible while keeping the camera close with its strap around my neck.

Morning eventually came as we arrived in Paris, a bit ruffled and weary, but we were finally there.  Eager to try out my high school French, I began looking in the train station shops for “une petite carte de Paris” (a little map of Paris) and “un petit dictionnare en Anglais et Français avec les phrases” (a French-English dictionary with sentences).  I found my map, but did not find the dictionary. 

Once these preliminaries were taken care of, we set out on the subway to find the Champs-Elysées.  I was gaining confidence, bit by bit, wearing my Paris dress, speaking “un très peu” French, and using our navigational skills. 

We had hoped to be able to sign up for an English speaking tour, but the tours turned out to be only for US military personnel and their families.  We also learned that the Hard Rock Cafe, the one stop on the entire trip that Joni most had her heart set on, had gone out of business a month or two earlier.

 My French got a workout looking for a “Magic Marker.”  We went into an office store on the Champs-Elysées, but I didn’t know enough French to ask for it by name.  All I could do was ask for a pen that “writes a wide line”.  The store clerk was gracious, but didn’t understand.  Finally she thought of the felt tip markers and we made our purchase.  We used the marker to make paper signs naming the current location and date in our diary notebook. Then we photographed a sign each day so we could better identify our pictures when we got them developed.

Since we were truly “on our own” to explore Paris, we paraded up and down the Champs-Elysées one more time and admired the Arc de Triomphe.  Studying my “petite carte” we returned to the subways and came out at the Eiffel Tower.  We took the elevator to the top where I used up almost an entire roll of film taking pictures in every direction.

We returned to the train station to pick up our luggage, and then caught a taxi to our hotel.  In our room we watched cartoons in French.  We also caught the news, in English, and learned that the singer, Madonna, had jogged through Paris and right past the Eiffel Tower the same day, quite possibly while we were on top.  Given my mad snapping of the camera, I wondered if I might have caught her on film. The next morning we took the taxi again to the train station.  This taxi driver was especially friendly, so I did my best to converse with him in French.  He pointed out an opera house to us, gesturing with an operatic utterance and outstretched arm when I didn’t understand, but since we were leaving Paris shortly we couldn’t check it out.  I tried to tell him about seeing Madonna on TV but I didn’t know the French word for television.  Eventually I tried pronouncing the word, television, with a French accent and he understood me immediately.  I even impressed myself! 

We then caught the TGV to Lyon.  The TGV at that time was the second fastest train in the world, having only recently been outdone by the Japanese.  On our trip to Lyon, I was treated the most rudely of any place we went on our entire trip.  Perhaps because I couldn’t order appropriately in French, or perhaps because I wasn’t properly attired, as I wasn’t wearing my Paris dress again that day, the waiters were refusing to serve us any food on the train.  I was so hungry and getting angrier by the moment.  I think they could have served it to me raw and I could have cooked it on my head–I was steaming!   I did remember how to say “J’ai faim” (I’m hungry) and that at least got a little sympathy out of one waitress, so with the help of another passenger on the train, we were finally able to get some food. 

From Lyon we took another train into Switzerland where we spent two very peaceful nights.  About a week later we flew back to the States.  Again I wore my “Paris dress” to the airport, and as we went through customs, the customs lady looked me over and asked if I had purchased any designer clothing in Paris.  I decided that my Paris dress must have been elegant enough as I strutted on to the jet liner with my head held high.

My Paris dress no longer fits me, especially the skirt.  But it hangs in my closet as if it were an elegant prom dress.  No matter that I bought it at a discount store for less than $20.00.  It’s my Paris dress!

My Paris Dress

Note: I am not really wearing the skirt in this picture.  I tucked the waistband under the belt and held it out at the sides to keep my hips from showing around the edges.