Our visit to Europe included sightseeing, of course. Some of it was personal, such as visiting my father-in-law’s World War II battle field and other WWII historic sights, which I wrote about here. Some of it was iconic, like our visit to Vianden Castle–and I’ll post the required pictures of the Eiffel Tower at some point. But some of the most satisfying time we spent was doing less typical touristy things.
On the day that part of our group went to Normandy for a D Day tour (I know; I can’t believe I missed it either — will just have to go back), another bunch of us went off on our own to explore Paris. Nick and I decided on an adventure in keeping with something I have noted earlier — his desire to visit a music store wherever he can.
It took a while for me to use my high school French effectively enough to explain to the hotel clerk what we were looking for (apparently this is the first time he’s gotten this request), but he finally got it, despite my limitations. (We did indeed find that any effort made to speak in French in Paris was rewarded by great efforts to help us). He got out the city map and showed us how to use Metro, the Paris subway, to get to the real downtown of Paris.
“Is it safe?” I asked.
“It is Paris! Of course it is safe!” he said. I think.
I should note here, as much as this was an international trip for me, a good part of the culture shock was simply being in a big city. I am basically a small town girl, and even the cities I’ve lived near (Richmond, Charlotte, Memphis) aren’t that big and/or don’t have a subway. But I figured if we started early enough, I’d be leading us through the Metro maze during all daylight hours.
Nick and I left Porte de Clichy and headed for 11 Boulevard de Sébastopol in the rain.
I was a little amazed to make the Metro connections successfully and eventually emerge on a street we could find on our Paris map, and within a 15-minute walk to the music store. We ducked into a store selling blue jeans for some confirmation on directions. (“Où est. . .?”)
Dodging rain by running under the awnings of the densely packed retail stores lining the Paris street, Nick and I skipped and ran over the busy cross streets marked on our map. We had to stop for directions a few more times, and got sent opposite ways at one point. Approaching some nicely dressed young men with my pidgin French, I was relieved when one of them said with a bit of a Brit accent, “You can speak English.” It turned out they were LDS missionaries, one from United Kingdom and one from Salt Lake City. Having Mormon homeschooling friends who have sent their young adult homeschool grads off to the mission field, I felt that strange kinship that can happen when you are out of your culture and come across something or someone familiar — and I wanted to call their mamas and tell them their sons were doing great.
Anyway, they knew exactly where the Musikia store was (“the one with all the guitars? Sure!”) and were able to give us American-style directions that finally got us there with no more rainy day wrong turns.
The store was somewhat like Guitar Center or Sam Ashe, just a bit smaller but just as stuffed full of instruments and musicians. There was little English spoken there, but that lovely thing that happens among musicians gathered together did indeed happen. As Nick was trying out a few guitars, other guitarists also began to play, and soon there was a full English and French rendition of Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Under the Bridge.”
The music store staff was indulgent. My sense is that this sort of thing is not exactly encouraged, if tolerated, but since we were obviously Americans, we couldn’t know the rules, and Nick might be permitted to lead others astray with impromptu collaboration on Musikia’s guitars.
One of the musicians gave us his card. He admired Nick’s voice and guitar playing, and has a recording studio in Paris, he said, and if we come back to Paris with more time, we should let him record Nick, who would undoubtedly be appealing to French fans, with his style of singing and playing. It could have been exciting, but we knew better — the sense of possibility was bound to be a little exaggerated, just as can happen with “recording studios” in the United States. Indeed, our later exploration of the guy’s online presence revealed some good music and interesting music videos, but no indication that, nice as he was, he was someone who was going to give Nick his big break in France.
Which, of course, was not what we were looking for. We got what we were looking for–a rainy day of guitar playing in a Paris music store with musicians from multiple countries trading French and English, rhythm and lead, and–this might be right–un peu de musique rock en Musikia.