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Catherine Thorpe is a native Parisian, born in the Momartre area of Paris just below the Sacre Coeur. She was taught at an early age to love the English language, and took many trips to England and the U.S. to learn English. She teaches French at the University of Utah, and directs her own French School from her home.

Special French Cultural Experiences

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When I was about five years old, my mother took me to the beach in the Basque region of France. I had such fond memories of that trip that I convinced my husband to take me to St Jean-de-Luz and the surrounding area. The highlight of that trip was a visit to an old hotel where my mother and I stayed many years ago. It overlooks the beach and is a grand example of Art Deco from the 20's. The Basque influence is everywhere in the area. It is different from the frantic lifestyle of the Riviera and Paris.

My husband and I traveled to France just a week after the infamous ISIS massacre in Paris. What we saw while there surprised us. We felt as safe as if we were at home in our own backyard. People were in the streets and in the shops as though nothing had happened. The French populace were determined to not let anything change their daily life. The French truly are amazing.

Recently I got reacquainted with my cousin, Pascale, in Paris whom I haven't seen for over 40 years. It happened thanks to Facebook and my daughter in Washington. My cousin, Pascale, and I were good friends when she was a pre-teen, but then we lost touch. Six months ago, Pascale looked for me with my married name on Facebook, but she only found my daughter, then through my daughter she got my email address and contacted me. We've been emailing back and forth ever since. Then my husband and I visited her and her family in France. It was wonderful to catch up on our lives. We both hit it off just as if we had never been apart. We now have a second home in France that we visit every year.

My husband and I have attended several D-day commemorations. We've driven from beach to beach surrounded by dozens of restored WWII army vehicles. It feels like a throw-back in time as we've followed jeeps being driven by men and women in WWII uniforms with U.S. insignia patches and flags. We have listened to Bands in several locations playing swing music from the 40's, and on one occasion we stood on a high out-cropping overlooking Arromanches and listened to the faint echoes of swing music with vocals in French. For some hardly explainable reason this was a comforting experience reflecting a time when the world was clear in its directions. Yes, there was the horror of war and death, but people clearly knew what they were doing, and the unity of allies and the French underground was inspiring.

D-day re-enactors & me

My husband, Don, had a humorous experience on the Metro in Paris. He sat in front of a group of standing French teenagers, and like teenagers everywhere they were cocky and full of themselves -- like we all were at that age. As Don watched them an amazing feeling of connection came to him and he remembered the feeling of insecurity of his own teenage years and the reaching out to each other and find a feeling of belonging. So as they talked loudly and laughed, Don slyly photographed them.  Then he smiled an showed them the photograph and winked. They connected to him immediately and smiled timidly, and for a short moment he was one with them -- they knew it and he knew it. Then the metro stopped and they were gone leaving Don with a feeling of warmth for them that surprised him. As a wise old Arab in Jerusalem once told Don, "Children, are the same everywhere." And aren't we all just children trying to find our way?


Galleries Lafayette

Paris -- the City of Lights -- never changes, yet there is something different about it in recent years. Paris seems more "down-to-earth" and busier than before. Perhaps it seems that way because we are older and more easily tired. The drizzling rain doesn't promote the "Paris in Love" kind of feeling, either. This time, my husband arrived two days before me in the middle the early morning rush. He managed to catch the RER from the airport to Gare de Lyon with the help of a friendly Frenchman from San Francisco who was going in the same direction. They talked about France and America as they rode the RER.


My grandfather, Gilbert Ramognino, was a WWII hero who helped take 8 allied fliers over the Pyrenees into Spain
during the Nazi occupation of France. A friend of ours has access to the National Archives in Maryland and shared with us the original escape and evasion report made by my grandfather. Reading the report sent chills up and down our spines as we reviewed Gilbert's personal account of the harrowing events during their escape over the rugged mountains of the Pyrenees and how he hid the airmen in the snow, and kept curious French towns people from talking to them while they were at the train station with the Gestapo and police everywhere. We were transported back in time, and were filled with respect and awe for those brave French men and women who risked their lives to help the Allies during the war.

Gilbert Ramognino