Discovering France Anew: An English Essay

Discovering France Anew

By M. Adventure Writer – October 26th, 2010

Author’s Note:

France has been explored, reviewed, and analyzed by many – from travel

Normandy Harbor

A beautiful Normandy harbor.

hosts, to average tourists. I came to France with these conceptions, observations, and helpful tips in mind. Now I will attempt to compile a summary review of my experiences – within approximately three points, culminating to a final conclusion. I hope to do the French justice in my descriptions, yet it must be admitted that such a short essay may not include the entirety of a country’s identity. Some things cannot be described…

Paris, France:

Endless tunnels… food vendors everywhere – in my jetlag-daze, these two points were among my first impressions of Paris, France. A majority of our time was spent wandering the Paris underground rail-systems, trying to reach

Eiffel Tower #001

With a clear blue sky, and the sun reflecting off it's surface, the Eiffel Tower appears both tranquil... and maroon in color.

our destination and meet up with our guide Marc. Yet the time of wandering was not entirely wasted. Before entering into the labyrinth du Paris 1, we encountered some street vendors, holding the usually stock; greasy Croque Monsieur’s and Croque Madame’s, 1 and their distinct glace chocolat – chocolate ice cream. This was our first taste of France, and would be the most distinct, since we did not acquire much else (which was fairly disappointing, so I’ll have to procure them in cooking myself!) in the constant business of being lost. With our snacks devoured, we made our way into the subway tunnels, one of four or five trips in the three days total we spent in Paris. The second time we found ourselves in the subway, we were met with an interesting surprise – the sound of music, and the deep bellowing of opera-like voices in accompaniment, echoed through the tunnels. It was not until we emerged onto an “intersection” of sorts, that we found its source. A band of musicians played for the passerby’s, obviously hoping to bring notice to their merchandise of CD’s, advertised by one sole woman who went through the crowds, CD in one hand, a hat for change in the other. This was only one of many musical encounters that we found across Paris to Normandy. Another band played on the subway, for no particular reason but enjoyment, and the

Le Notre Dame de Paris

Our Lady of Paris - the one, but not the only, Notre Dame!

enjoyment of those present. A man came on at another time, singing “The Saints Come Marching,” and what seemed to be an old French hymn. When we later found ourselves in the city of Rouen, there was a man, accordion in hand, playing along the streets. It was like the old market at a much larger scale… except some of these people didn’t seem to be looking for monetary gain. Our final days in Paris were spent admiring the beautiful medieval and renaissance-period architecture, viewing all of the famous sites by boat… and observing the MONTER D’UN CRAN!* that was called for by the labor unions of France.

Annotations { I }

*Fr. Mount Up with Courage!

1 The French Subway System, whose winding tunnels are a nightmare for any tourist.

2 Croque Monsieur – literally translated as “Mr. Crusty,” a name coined by French children. A Croque Monsieur, in its many variations, quite resembles a grilled cheese sandwich, with a few differences. First, the cheese is coated on both sides of the bread. Second, ham is added in between the greasy slices of bread.

Bayeux & Saint-Lô, France:

Our place of primary residence while in France was at Le Pigeonnier – an old pigeon house adapted for human beings. The holes in the gray stone walls are the only remnants of its previous occupants. It was (and still is) owned, along with a Manor, by a jolly English couple by the names of David and Sue Roberts who rent it out to tourists. Clientele typically consists of Australians, British, and a few Americans – ironically enough, Frenchmen and wo

The American Cemetery

The American Cemetery for WWII Soldiers in France

men are quite rare. Along with them, we also encountered many other British residents in France, including our guide for World War II sites. From him we learned of the relation between the French and British. It seemed, like many other countries, history of wars had done little to aid their modern relationships. Events such as The Hundred Years War, invasion of Normans; nearly ancient history continues to cause some kind of hatred between the two ethnic groups. After this brief uptake on history, we continued to explore the past of France. Among our destinations were Omaha Beach, Utah Beach, various German bunkers, and other significant locations along the way.

In Saint-Lô, a town within reach of our Pigeonnier, we learned of the Journée de grève to take place in our town, along with where we would head for our last day’s activities – Paris, France.

Rouen, France:

Rouen, the site of Joan of Arc’s execution, and a beautiful example of French architecture, was one of the many cities we visited from our Pigeonnier in Bayeux. It stood out as a significant landmark in our journey, and how my perspective of France would be formed.


What defines the French people, and what defines their land? Some say the French are simply a snooty, pompous, high-than-thou people. However, I must strongly disagree. We encountered many kind and helpful French

Soleil Rouge

A striking blend of various purples, pinks, whites, and violets.

people, sincere in their desire to welcome us to their country. Regardless of their governmental problems, their historical grudges, and their patriotic pride, they find room to welcome you. Isn’t that the same anywhere? A country is not defined by one group of people, or the actions taken by the few. It is defined by the people who strive to make a living, to live their lives and to work for their mother country. The French have made a fine show of their art, their cuisine, and their fashion. Their architecture echoes past times, artistic awakenings – it shows the work of individuals… and the mark they made on their country and the world.

Collected below are a series of quotes I found most relevant to the contents within this essay, and my opinions and ideals therein.

It seems that the more places I see and experience, the bigger I realize the world to be. The more I become aware of, the more I realize how relatively

A Surreal World

An exotic arrangement of floral wonders.

little I know of it, how many places I have still to go, how much more there is to learn… Perhaps wisdom, at least for me, means realizing how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go. -Anthony Bourdain, No Reservations

While race has played a fundamental role in the development of the American nation, it is possible to argue that the French nation has been denned, at least in part, against racial thinking. Instead, culture, understood as a shared worldview and common customs, has come to dominate not only French self-definitions, but also French views of the rest of the world. While race has not been entirely absent from French thinking about difference, competing notions of what constitutes French culture and about who can participate in the community denned by that culture have played far more significant roles than ideas about race in debates about French identity. -Herrick Chapman and Laura Levine Frader, Race in France: interdisciplinary perspectives on the politics of difference, Berghahn Books, 2004, p.119

There is no such thing as an “ethnic” French person. No matter how far back you trace the country’s evolution, it’s impossible to establish a shared ethnicity across France, and the nearer you get to the present, the more mixed it becomes. France is a hotch poth…The people you meet in France are really descendants of all the tribes and races that ever invaded France, and all the immigrants that ever flocked there from other countries. In present day France, one-third of the population has grandparents that were born outside of France…It is not a race, or a myth of common origin, that binds the French. The French are French because of the culture they share. -Jean-Benoît Nadeau and Julie Barlow Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t be Wrong: What makes the French so French, Robson Books Ltd, 2004, p.8


About Zechariah Barrett

Greetings! Jambo! Hola ! 你好 ! Bonjour ! Hallo ! Привет ! Buongiorno ! こんにちは ! Thanks for checking out my profile. I'm Zechariah, an author, photographer, graphics designer, language learner, techie... I'll stop there for now. One more thing. I'm also a Christian. Depending on your life experience, that may mean different things to you. I want to assure you, however, that I don't subscribe to all the prevailing views. I don't subscribe to hate. I don't engage in party politics. I both care about a robust economy as well as the environment and social issues. I want to truly live my life by the Spirit of Christ, and that entails loving others and caring for this world. That's how I'm different. I'm not here to cast judgmental glances or make you feel like trash. My heart is to help others, and I hope that shows in all that I do. I also want to have a discussion. Not a debate, not an argument. I want to engage with my readers and viewers regardless of our differences, and then start a conversation. Let's make this world a better place. Together.

Posted on 10/27/2010, in All-Things-Reviews, Literary Focus, Photography, Uncategorized, World Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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