Monday, June 19, 2006

The French Connection

When I was in the fifth grade a new boy, Georges Manceron, was introduced in our class. He was French and the teacher asked us to help him learn Danish by pointing to things and saying their name in Danish. Right away I pointed to one of the boys and said: “Idiot”, not realizing that it was the same in French, but Georges laughed and this started off our friendship. He was son of the French ambassador and I became a frequent visitor in the solemn French embassy on Kongens Nytorv. Unfortunately it lasted only a year before the ambassador returned to France; I think the reason was ill health, because he died shortly after.
I kept the connection with Georges through correspondence and in 1938, when I was thirteen, my mother, my aunt Eva and I went to France for the summer holidays. We entered the valley of Chamonix from Switzerland and passed a couple of days within view of Mont Blanc. I loved the mountains but most of all a small stream where I passed the days building canals and dams.
We had brought our bicycles and enjoyed an endless downhill ride to Annecy where we were invited to visit the Mancerons in their summer residence. I was astonished by the table manners of this high-class French family: Georges’ grandmother dipping an enormous sandwich of baguette with butter and jam into her bowl of café au lait and sucking it into her mouth with a slurping sound. I realized the relativity of table manners and it pleased me.
After Annecy we toured the Loire on our bicycles; then we went to Mont St. Michel and St. Malo, a medieval town on the coast that was completely destroyed during the invasion five years later. The end of the holiday we passed in Paris where the Mancerons lent us their apartment on rue Medecis with a view of the Jardin de Luxembourg. I fell in love with Paris and everything French and when later I began to travel France was my first destination.

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