Everything has a beginning at one point. When 5 years ago I didn’t know how to move on, my youngest son Rauno told me: “I don’t know anybody who knew more about Paris than You do and I don’t know anything that would make you happier than presenting Paris to others. Why couldn’t You move to Paris and do what You really love?” That was the moving factor. I did move. First I tried to manage on my own and didn’t force Andres to come along and cut ties important to him. At some point it became clear that it’s not the same alone and together it’s much more fun and easier. And so it has been. Together. Things went how they did, but I started writing this blog this morning thanks to Rauno delicately advising me: “Mom, You tell such interesting stories, write them down for others to read.” That was it. That’s how today’s public blog began.
Many of my clients have said that I should write a book. I have no plans to write a book, beacause I am better at speaking than and people should do the things they are good at. About the clients, whom I greatly respect, I am not going to write because these stories are private. Also, I’m not going to write about my colourful coursemates because that is also private, although they all deserve a book, but I will talk about them, intertwining this with the stories on my tours.
I write here only about my new personal experiences in France and Paris through my eyes. I’ll also write down interesting facts about France’s cultural history, that I find out from studying at university and which might interest others. So, a beginning has been made.
I’ll start off with my first school presentation in French in The Basilica of St Denis and how I failed like the France national football team in yesterday’s final.
St Denis is not only a famous football stadium where 80 000 spectators cheered the final between Portugal and France and where the French became the World Cup winners in 1998.
St Denis is a holy place. In the face of being a suburb of Paris, where a substantial amount of non-French people live and where the Métro Line 13 brings millions of black people to sleep, here also lies one of the first Gothic churches in the world. In the middle of the town square. By the way, this church was built before the Notre-Dame de Paris. All of the kings and queens of France are buried there and the marble headstones are stunningly beautiful.
The church has an entrance fee. I hadn’t been there before either. The area didn’t seem safe enough.
But here comes story about my failure.
When I said in school that I’ll have the famous topic about the tombstone of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI in the Basilica of St Denis, then I didn’t know what I was doing. I honestly thought that this school was easier, that I know almost everything and getting the tour guide certificate would be just a formality. Absolute majority in our school had the same thought.
The reality was far worse. Art history and history of architecture five times a week and so on. And maybe it’s too easy in French, so some subjects were in English. In a word, I’ll be repeating that studying in school is hard but I’m also thankful that I undertook it because it is extremely interesting and educating.
As I know almost everything about the kings who lived in Versailles, I picked the topic about their tombstone. Because I knew that Louis XVI and his Austrian princess Marie Antoinette were executed by guillotine, buried in a mass grave like peasants and dug up after a regime change to have buried in the Basilica of St Denis. And how hard could it be to tell this? A little bit of research about the creators of the tombstone and to the stage!
This presentation took place in february. I think it was below zero Celcius and the church was very cold because they were restoring the stained glass of the rose window. There was two hours of freezing while standing and listening before my presentation. After exiting the cold crypt (where Louis XVI was buried with his wife), the professor hurried outside the church to the vestibule, to the only warm corner, and said: “Laikjõe, now your presentation, please.” How could one do a presentation about something which you passed by so that you didn’t even realise the passing? I’ll be honest, there was no tombstone in this corner. Tombstone was in the church and we were outside. And then everything went bad. I couldn’t manage it.
I couldn’t describe something that nobody had ever seen and I didn’t have a picture printed out, because why should I show a picture of something that we should be ablet to see ourselves? When speaking about Mona Lisa, everybody knows the picture, but a tombstone that shows a kneeling queen who is bent a bit too forward, like searching the floor for glasses – that’s hard to imagine. Anyway, the professor instantly corrected my first sentence when I started off confused, misnaming the first burial place. My preparation notes said in black and white “Cimetiere Madelaine” and I said loudly: “Cimetiere des Innocents.” Total defeat. I stuttered all the way to the end but it was no success story. Instead I was ashamed that the professor had corrected me, sad that there was no tombstone and I had the desire to do better next time. Like the football final. France national team must move on despite feeling terrible today.
Have a beatiful day and until next time!
Marina, outside of Paris, Monday, 11 July 2016