Fleur de Lys – Ancient Symbol of France

Fleur de Lys charm in silver. France is next in a series of charms from a bracelet I collected on my first trip to Europe with my family. I’ve covered Scotland, England, The Netherlands and Belgium.

In our new VW van, we drove into France and promptly needed gas. This was before the Euro, but no matter, we had Belgian Franks. “If we need to, we can always exchange them.” Daddy, the optimist.

In the gas station the owner made it clear that Belgium money was not acceptable. Out came Daddy’s dictionary. Ou…est..la banque? A deluge of French answered. I, who after all had studied French in school, was summoned from the car. A nightmare scenario ensued: angry shouting, me straining to resurrect mon vocabulaire, Daddy thrusting the dictionary between us to point to a word. Eventually I understood that the banks closed for lunch for 2 hours. Daddy gave the man a an overabundance of Belgian money, we filled up and drove on to Paris.

I have since been to Paris quite a few times and in my palimpsest of memories, little survives from this first trip except that we picked up my Norwegian AFS sister at the airpoint. Another time I was there alone on Bastille Day – the French 4th of July – and heard that the opera was giving a free performance. After standing in line for several hours, I saw La Cendrillion, Cinderella, from the 6th row in the orchestra in the most ornate theatre I had ever seen. I was also there when the war in Iraq began. A man in a bar where we were eating lunch advised me to say I was Canadian and a taxi drive refused our fare.

From Paris, we drove into a little town called Beaune. The man who helped Daddy plan our trip insisted that the meal in Beaune be paid before we left. “Mr. Lewis, you will think it too expensive but you must eat there.” So we had a five course feast of which I remember the wine. A different bottle with each course. I’ve already written about my first drinking adventure at the start of this trip; as we traveled my parents allowed me to have wine with dinner. That night I got slightly tipsy. Turns out I am a lightweight when it comes to drinking, but I got it honestly. By the end of the meal, Mother was giggling and silly and Daddy said, “I don’t know what you kids are going to do but I’m going to take your mother for a walk.”

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