Le Lecon du Francais

June 19, 2008 at 9:38 PM | Posted in Musings, Paris 2008 | 2 Comments

On Thursday night I had dinner at my grandparents’ house in Newton to have a French lesson with my grandfather, get some party supplies and a wonderful dinner from my super-cook and super-hostess grandmother, and hang out with them.  They are 87 and 80 and traveled most of the Silk Road between the seventies and the nineties, in addition to traveling all over Africa, Europe, and Central/South America (and I wonder where I get my travel bug from). One time we figured out that my grandfather has spoken 11 languages in his life (although since then, I think he has learned at least two more).

When he was in medical school right after WWII, he spent a year studying in Europe, splitting his time between Edinburgh and Paris. During this time he developed a habit for buying antique medical books and would barter with booksellers, trading them the cans of tuna and sardines that his family sent for food in exchange for things like Charcot’s doctoral thesis and van Leeuwenhouk’s original treatise on the microscope. For those who don’t know him, he also likes to save stuff (and yes, this is a massive understatement). While this annoys my grandmother to no end, it means that he still has things like:

  • his Michelin green guide from 1947 (and his daughter’s from 1972)
  • the map he used when he lived there
  • Rent receipts from his landlady at 76 Rue du St. Pere
  • Postcards that he wrote and received while he was there
  • And of course, his books.

We figured out that I am almost the exact same age as he was when he lived in Paris, which is pretty cool. We practiced French for a long time, and maybe it’s because he was speaking so slowly and carefully, but I understood almost everythign he said and could even respond sometimes! Also, I have (and am bringing) his Langenscheidt pocket French dictionary that he’s had for years and years, and it smells like his study–cigars, old books, with a little bit of mothballs and a little bit of basement. I love it.

He sent me this picture from when he was 25 and was living in Paris–it was taken sitting on his balcony on Rue de St. Pere.



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  1. tres amazing! bon voyage!

  2. Can’t wait to read your words from Paris!!

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