Friday, August 30, 2013

True Nelson Visits France (Part 3)

The architecture in France is amazing.  There are structures, castles and cathedrals that you won’t see in the United States – and will never see in the United States – too labor intensive – too ornate – and the extravagance to build them far exceeds any logical, present-day function.  France is a very old country by U.S. standards.  And, you should understand, that much of what awes visitors was constructed hundreds of years ago by virtual slave labor.

It seems that all of these architectural wonders, dating back centuries, were at the direction of either aristocratic families or the Catholic Church.  Most of the French are Catholic.  In that era, the self-indulgence of the aristocracy and church leadership was boundless, dare I say profane.  The French currently take great pride in their castles, churches, and palaces; and they are remarkable.  But the human toll to construct these buildings would be, for modern citizens, considered an atrocity.  I don’t remember that any of the tour guides pointed this out.  I suppose it’s a ‘given.’  As they might say, ‘that was then and this is now.’  However, when I walked into one of these magnificent churches, religious awe was not my reaction.

We toured many villages, walled cities, fortified castles and churches.  After a while, or in retrospect, they all kind of blend together.  I suppose it’s the feeling of France, more than anything, which is ultimately absorbed by the American visitor.  Regarding the people (the residents), it’s pretty hard to tell the French from anyone else.  They, for the most part, dress much as we do.  Of course, regarding interacting with them, there is sometimes a language barrier.  However, many of the French, if not most, speak some English.  As was pointed out to us, the French have a reason to learn English and an opportunity to practice it.  Americans, on the other hand, generally do not have a necessity to learn a foreign language.  That’s kind of sad and a bit embarrassing.  I took Latin in high-school – and was a consistent ‘C’ student.  Actually, I think the teacher gave me a ‘C’.  Even then Latin teachers were trying to hang on to a job.  Are there Latin teachers anymore?  Does anyone know?

Our tour director, Melanie, gave us a French lesson; and tried to get us to use a few basic phrases.  My impression of the French language is that it appears that it would be harder to learn than Latin.  In French, what we might consider an obvious pronunciation of a word is usually not even close.  The French spelling seems to have little to do with the phonics we all learned in school.  Cest la vie (say la vee).

Regarding Melanie, she was an exceptional young woman, spoke several languages, and she was intelligent, organized, dedicated, and always available to help.  And, quite cute also.  But, I digress.

That the French are unfriendly to Americans is, in my experience, a myth – didn’t see it, didn’t experience it.  However, maybe Melanie kept us plodding Americans out of trouble.  Oh, there were a few annoyed French motorists when some in our group seemed oblivious to the street crossing signals, or when the Americans assumed a narrow passageway in a village was a sidewalk and not an actual street to be shared with speeding mini-cars and motorcycles.

Next, in keeping with my blog’s theme, I will be discussing guns, crime, and crime prevention in France.

True Nelson
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