Why this trip? Why France? Why not some English-speaking nation, like England or Ireland that offer some equally wonderful riding experiences without the confusion of French?
Part of the fun and challenge for me is the French language itself. Canada is officially a bilingual French and English nation. As such, all students receive some education in French as part of the standard school curriculum. My earliest memories of French class are in grade 7 with Mrs. O’Reilly. She was a tall woman, likely close to 6 feet tall. Think Julia Child but with an Irish accent and none of Julia Child’s wit or enthusiasm. Mrs. O’Reilly was an intimidating woman. I don’t recall whether she had a decent French accent or not, but somehow I don’t imagine that she did. But then one can’t trust one’s childhood memories.
It’s funny the things that one remembers from childhood. I distinctly remember the sentence “Mon cousin Pierre fait aussi son service militaire” from Mrs. O Reilly’s class. Perhaps there was a certain rhythm to the sentence that made it stick in my mind all these years later. Why we would care that Pierre had also done his military service or ever have the occasion to say anything like that in French? But there it is, nonetheless, embedded in my memory.
In Winnipeg, my home, there’s a fairly significant French language presence. About 50,000 Franco-Manitobans make Winnipeg their home. If one’s ears are open to it, it’s possible to hear French spoken fairly often in our city. I’ve taken a hodgepodge of French classes over the years. The local French language university, Université de Saint-Boniface offers classes in French as does Alliance Française du Manitoba. I have also spent many hours in my car listening to French language educational CD’s. I might not be able to discuss politics or history in French, but I certainly won’t make the mistake of ordering liver and onions accidentally in any French restaurant.
Because Canada is officially bilingual, all packaging of food products is labelled in French as well as English. If one is so inclined, it’s possible to pick up a significant amount of French vocabulary without much effort.
There is so much overlap in language between French and English; it’s very easy to have a reasonable starting vocabulary in French. Banana / banane. Tomato / tomate. Intelligent / intelligent. Amusement / amusement. Although, they may be spelled the same or almost the same, they are not pronounced the same, of course. One just has to have the courage to use their best “fake” French accent, risking embarrassment, and speak.
I think, perhaps, I should have bought Painless French!