STORY – 7 MIN READ
My Love Affair with France
It started with a kiss… well, not really – it started with a smile – when I found out that I had earned a coveted college placement in France. My place of work for six months was to be Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris.
It was 1986 and I was a giddy twenty year old student from University of Limerick. Having hitch-hiked to Dublin, (it was safe to do so then), I boarded the big green Aer Lingus aeroplane, destination Paris. How grown up I felt! How excited I was!
I had a few other Irish colleagues for company so together we rented an apartment in the fourteenth arrondissement. Our wee flat was on the top floor of a twelve storey building and there were was no lift. On the plus side, there was a boulangerie on the ground floor and I can still remember the aroma of freshly baked bread and croissants filling the air in the early hours of the morning (often when we’d be returning from a night out in one of the famous Irish pubs of Paris).
Talking of Irish pubs, – Kitty O’Shea’s was my favourite. Frequenting an Irish pub with Irish people was not the best way to learn French but the craic was good and it made me feel closer to home. Despite the excitement of Parisian life, I often felt homesick. I missed my family and the hills and beaches of Donegal. I missed Mammy’s bacon and cabbage, the very full Irish breakfasts and homemade brown bread. Thankfully, we could buy the famous Kerrygold butter in the shops as I’m a big butter fan. At home, my Daddy used to ask me if I was having ‘spuds with my butter’. Maybe that’s one of the reasons that I love French food – it’s often packed with butter. Not good for the cholesterol levels but so, so delicious.
I recall one night in Kitty’s, the Pogues band was in the pub and to my delight, I got chatting to Shane Mc Gowan at the bar. He smiled his crooked smile – a smile which was full of fun and mischief but a kind smile nonetheless. He sang a few songs and the band played a few tunes. The Irish flags were waving and all Irish eyes were smiling.
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I loved my experience working as a ground handling agent in the airport. My job involved welcoming and directing passengers as well as check-in and general information. It was tough at the beginning because our training was conducted in French. Fortunately, I was able to take it in my stride and by the end of my placement, I found myself thinking and even dreaming in French. Mon Dieu!
Image Source: Wikimedia
Paris is such a beautiful city. It exudes a feeling of energy and light as well as an appreciation for history, art and culture. I fell head over heels in love with the work of Claude Monet and Renoir. My favourite pastime was simply wandering around Montparnasse, watching the artists in awe. My friends and I couldn’t afford to go the fancy restaurants but we had lots of perfect picnics along the River Seine. Someday, I hope to bring my daughter, Christina to visit Paris. I know she will love it.
The year 1986 was the beginning of my love affair with France. Little did I know back then that my dream to live there someday would come true, thirty five years later. And so begins an exiting new chapter in my life at Le Moulin sur Célé.
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