The Advantages of France in the 90's

Going to Europe in 1990-part 1

Terri Parke
4 min readNov 1, 2018


My original title was a little misleading.

It really was not behind the Iron Curtain.

I went to France, and the church that sent me was the Christian Church in which I had been brought up. I grew up attending West St. Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

The governing body of the church had determined that the denomination would send youth to Europe to a site where lots of French people with lower incomes went on vacation (holiday). The intention was to promote World Peace.

We were a group on a mission trip, and our mission was helping each other understand that some of our differences were personal, and some came from our culture.

We were all between the ages of 16–22, and we came from all over.

Some of my fellow campers were from: East Germany, West Germany (of course it is all Germany now since the countries had merged merely a few months before), the Czech Republic (Czechoslovakia in 1990), England, the US and France.

There were people our age who worked at the resort, and two of them were from Ireland. One had a Catholic upbringing, and the other a Protestant one. One had lots of stories about her Belfast upbringing, and the other was from another part of Ireland due to her Protestant upbringing.

The idea of getting us together was that we would get to know each other, as people, instead of as countries, and it could help our generation (I was 19 at the time, so Generation X)

We would learn about each other so we could understand we are all just people with different backgrounds and experiences.

My sister and I went together. Having never been on an airplane, flying to New York and then Paris seemed quite daunting to both me and to my parents.

My sister and I took time off from our summer jobs for 3 weeks to travel to France, where we worked to clear out a 5k trail around the site where we stayed.

The site was a place where people with lower income went on ‘holiday’ (as it is called in Europe) or for summer vacation as we call it here in the US.

It was plenty nice enough for us (running water, heated cabins), but not luxurious by any means.

We went to Paris for two days initially. There I learned that my high school French, where I was able to succeed with my need to see things to hear/understand them, did not help me a lot in terms of communicating.

Back in 1990, many people in France did not appreciate Americans who spoke English very loudly to them.

My sister and I learned fairly early on that if we used English words with a French accent we were much more likely to be understood by the person we were talking with to communicate.

My sister was quite a bit better at speaking French than I was, so she usually knew a few of the correct words to say.

Asking where is the ticket (‘Ou es le billet’) became ‘where is the billet’. Our first task when we got off of the plane was to figure out where to buy a ticket to the train (le gare).

We figured out where to buy our ticket. That took approximately 20 times of different attempts, which is a funny memory I have.

‘Where is the ‘gare’?’ Or in English, Where is the train? It eventually worked pretty well.

Our first night in Paris, which happened after QUITE a long nap in our youth hostel, was an evening I will always remember.

We learned not to make eye contact with young French men who were very friendly to us, we ate outside at a bistro. I ordered a quarter pounder with cheese from McDonald’s. I called it Royale with Cheese, but I believe it became famous as ‘Royal with Fromage’. If you’ve seen the scene from the movie Pulp Fiction that might be meaningful for you. :)

When I was asked if I would like the sandwich with beer, I declined.

I’m still learning to like beer at the ripe old age of 48. We had a great time going to see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, going to the Left Bank, and seeing the Notre Dame Cathedral.

We wore fanny packs and took some pretty blurry pictures that I still cherish today.

Next, I’ll write about being at the camp with the friends we met. Maybe, someday we’ll make contact again.

1990 wasn’t known for social media, you know.




Terri Parke

A Licensed Professional Counselor who writes about family, trauma and daily observations. website: