Romance, Murder, and Wine: Real Life vs. Your More Exciting Life in France
La vie en France est très intéressant… oh, sorry. It’s just so easy to get carried away by the allure of French life. Even the most mundane daily activities are more romantic and thrilling: buying chocolate, playing soccer, catching a flight. Don’t believe us? Compare your boring life to these nine books based in France.
Real Life: You wait in an endless line to get through security, only to shove yourself into a tiny seat next to a person with awful B.O. who snores. Trying to watch an Oscar-nominated film on a tiny screen makes you nauseous, which isn’t helped by the awful airline food. After a million hour-long flight, you finally land safely.
French Life: Your plane crash-lands in the middle of the desert, where you encounter a little prince who regales you with stories of his travels through space. From him, you discover giant menacing Baobab Trees and flowers who feel love, and learn to look at the world more like a child does.
Real Life: You open up your freezer and take out a frozen TV dinner. Taking the knife you used for your PB&J earlier, you viciously stab some holes in the plastic covering and throw it in the microwave. Five minutes later, you chow down on your bland meal and question your life choices.
French Life: Your first course consists of foie gras, or even escargot for the more adventurous. Then comes a divine course of beef bourguignon. You’d end your meal with some fresh brie or camembert and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. And you wouldn’t gain an ounce.
Your Museum Visit
Real Life: You walk past painting after painting, stopping at one or two that pique your interest but its mostly just a blur of things you’ve seen in high school textbooks. You think that you could probably have painted some of these yourself. You then buy some over-priced print from the gift shop and go home.
French Life: You get a private viewing of some of the most famous paintings in the world. Many of them are covered in bloody clues left by a dying man, whose body you find arranged to imitate a work by the great artist Leonardo da Vinci. Your search for the murderer pulls you into an adventure that pits you against one of the most powerful institutions in history—the Catholic Church.
Your First Love
Real Life: You go on several painfully sweet dates, make out in the backseat of one of your cars, and don’t get voted prom queen and king.
French Life: After you get transferred from your boring American high school to a French boarding school, you immediately make new friends due to your exotic American-ness—including catching the eye of a teenage hunk with a name that shouldn’t be sexy but is. So he’s got an older girlfriend? No matter! You’ve already ensnared him without even trying.
Oh, and the first time you learn how to French kiss totally isn’t awkward at all.
Your Trip to the Chocolate Shop
Real Life: You walk into the nearest Godiva, pick out a box of truffles from the millions of gold-and-brown boxes of truffles. You try to navigate the selection using the key provided, but end up throwing it away and biting into every piece to find the one you kind of like.
French Life: You know that Lent has just started, but the aroma coming from the new chocolaterie is too enticing to ignore. As you step in, the beautiful shop keeper takes one look at you and smiles. She beckons you to the counter, where she has you spin a strange wheel. She then pours you a cup of hot chocolate and says with confidence that this is your favorite. You take a sip, and as the liquid heaven slides down your throat you know she is right. Of course you buy several cups; she even throws in a bag of chocolate turtles. As you float out in the haze of a chocolate coma, she tells you to come back soon. But something tells you she isn’t the type of woman who sticks around.
Your Weekend Getaway
Real Life: You pile into your friend’s beat-up car and road-trip somewhere uninspiring in the Midwest. The weather is bad; you find a dead mouse in your hotel room; and to cap it all off, you leave your credit card at a subpar brunch you paid more than $30 for. Maybe next time you’ll just stay home.
French Life: You win a weekend trip to Paris, and you are swept away by the glamorous city and the handsome Frenchman (an artist named Fabrice!) whose fancy you immediately strike. You have a sizzling weekend with him in the most romantic city in the world.
Your Soccer Match
Real Life: You do your pre-match warm-up; you’re pumped and ready to play! Your coach calls the starting line-up… which doesn’t include you. Instead, you spend the two-hour game sitting on the bench and watch a bunch of guys kicking a ball back and forth. Your team loses.
French Life: You step onto the field in Berlin. You’re representing France in the final match of the FIFA World Cup, one of the biggest events in soccer. But this is old news to you—you’ve been to two before this. The match is a tough one: You manage to score a goal, but the game is tied.
Then, in the 110th minute, one of the Italian players comes up to you and makes a derogatory remark about your sister. Rage courses through you, and you viciously headbutt him. You get a red card and are immediately removed from the game, but your name will forever be remembered.
Raising Your Child
Real Life: Your baby will. Not. Sleep. You develop permanent dark circles and contemplate buying stock in the company that manufactures your favorite under-eye concealer. Your little bundle of joy is a fussy eater, and will only eat things that are the color orange. Even then, she often spits them up, ruining whatever you’re wearing at the time.
French Life: Your baby sleeps through the night at an unusually early age, allowing you to get plenty of beauty sleep. Parenting, as your child grows older, is a breeze: your child grows up to be incredibly well-behaved, with a sophisticated palate (foie gras, anyone?) and zero tattoos.
Real Life: Gone are the carefree, seemingly endless days of spring break. Now, you have to plot your getaways with mathematical preciseness: How to get the most out of too few vacation days, whether to sacrifice travel time or sleep, and can you even afford better than a hostel—or a shady Airbnb sitch—on your salary?
French Life: Not only is there no employer to count the days you’ve taken off, but entire governments support your whimsical and fantastical endeavors! You’ve got enough funding to circle the word via air balloon for 80 days; to dive 20,000 leagues under the sea; and to burrow through volcanoes directly to the Earth’s core. Don’t come back until you’ve broken new ground and/or revolutionized travel!
This piece originally ran in April 2014.
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