If you could take the trip of your dreams, where would you go? Many tourists choose Paris, France, as a popular travel destination. The mere mention of Paris evokes images of chic fashion boutiques, lush parks and gardens, quaint sidewalk cafes, antique shops, art galleries, and bustling open-air markets. One visit to the beautiful “City of Light,” and you might find yourself echoing a line from a famous Cole Porter song: “I love Paris in the springtime.” Whisk your group away on a fantasy trip across the ocean to the French capital. Stroll the cobblestone streets and tree-lined boulevards. Gaze at iconic landmarks and sample a bit of French cuisine. Bon voyage!

  • Discussion - Show participants a travel video of Paris, France. Display symbolic props: small French flags, Fleur-de-lis, French perfume bottle, replica of Eiffel Tower, beret, cheese/grapes/baguette, chef’s hat, sprig of lavender, Monet art poster, silk scarf, a bottle of Perrier, a box of petits fours. Talk about nicknames – “City of Light” and “City of Romance.” Ask: Did you ever take a trip overseas? Where did you go? Has anyone in your family ever visited Paris? How would you describe the city? What’s the appeal?
  • Discussion - Display a photograph of the famous landmark, the Eiffel Tower, built in 1889. Share the history of “Iron Lady,” and talk about its connection to the Statue of Liberty. Ask if anyone ever built a tower using an Erector set.
  • Gardening - Show photos of spring scenes in Paris with gardens/flowers and tree blossoms. Fill a vase with fragrant spring flowers. Create a spring-blooming garden collage using seed and flower catalogs. Ask: Did you ever have a flower garden? What did you plant? What’s your favorite spring flower? Which floral scents do you like?
  • Poetry - Read the poem titled “Paris in Spring” by American poet Sara Teasdale (easily found on the Internet). Ask: What images does the poet use to show that “…it’s Paris/And springtime has begun”? Ask your group to complete the following line: “Nothing says Spring quite like…”
  • Entertainment - Show photos of street performers in Paris. Invite a mime, juggler, artist, accordion player, or poet to entertain your group.
  • Music - Listen to songs related to Paris: “I Love Paris,” “Under Paris Skies,” “The Last Time I Saw Paris,” “Midnight in Paris,” “April in Paris,” or “Paris in the Spring.”
  • Music - Watch a movie musical that is set in Paris: Funny Face, Gigi, An American in Paris, April in Paris, or Silk Stockings. Serve a French pastry and coffee.
  • Art - Make a picture gallery using poster prints of Monet’s Water Lilies paintings. Talk about his color palette for the series.  Learn to paint a water lily flower.
  • Reminisce - Pass around an old Evening in Paris perfume bottle (cobalt blue) and a vintage ad for the product. Ask: Ladies, did you like the scent of Evening in Paris (Soir de Paris)? Do you remember buying the cologne in dime stores and department stores in the 1940s and 1950s? What other vintage scents did you like (ex: Chanel No. 5, L’Air du Temps, Arpege, Miss Dior)? Men, did you ever buy your wife an expensive French perfume?
  • Cooking - Watch old TV episodes of The French Chef with Julia Child (or shows with Jacques Pepin).  Display a copy of Julia’s famous cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Quiz your group on famous French foods. Pass around a French a la carte menu and encourage “guests” to order a meal. Treat your group to a fondue party. (Option: Watch the 2009 film Julie & Julia – with Meryl Streep as Julia Child.) Bon Appétit!
  • Intergenerational – Read Ludwig Bemelmans’ Madeline book series for children. Offer activities for the mixed group (ex: craft a yellow paper hat with black ribbon trim, illustrate Paris landmarks or paint a wall mural, make paper Madeline puppets for a show, play charades).
  • Activity - Create a mock Parisian street café – white tablecloth and vase of flowers. Enlist a volunteer to dress as a French waiter in classic black and white uniform. Serve mini quiche and fruit. Hold a Waiter’s Relay Race: Divide your group into two teams and seat the teams side by side. Give each team two plastic champagne glasses on a tray. Pass the loaded tray down the row from person to person without toppling the glasses. The first team to do so is the winner! To make it a little simpler, glue the glasses to the tray. (Idea adapted from the chapter titled “France” in the ElderSong resource Travel Unlimited, a featured product for the month.)
  • Activity - Invite a high school French class to teach your group some basic French words/phrases (ex: bonjour, au revoir, merci, rendez-vous, oui, non). Learn French songs such as “Frere Jacques,” “Alouette,” and “Au Claire de La Lune.”
  • Activity - Model Parisian-style fashion accessories such as scarves, shawls, hats, berets, handbags, and gloves. Invite a stylist to demonstrate classic French hairstyles – twist, chignon, braid. Show photos of Christian Dior and Coco Chanel fashions from the 1950s and talk about their influence on American women. Ask the ladies if they ever purchased a custom-made dress for a special occasion.
  • Activity - Plan an “April in Paris” theme party, complete with a hat-making contest and silly fashion show. (For suggestions on decorations, entertainment, and food, see the ElderSong resource Party Possibilities.)

SPRINGTIME IN PARIS RESOURCES

Dream vacations leave lifetime memories. Gather your group for some nostalgic armchair travel with the ElderSong resource Travel Unlimited. Here you’ll find hundreds of creative travel activities for varied levels of ability, auditory and visual aid suggestions, discussion questions, and lists of travel-related words that can be used for word games. Take your group on a journey around the world. Tour France, Australia, Russia, India, Spain, and more – as well as places in North America like Boston and Washington, D.C. Not sure how to get started? You’ll find chapters on Mapping Your Destination, Pack Up Your Suitcase, Souvenirs and Postcards, and Flags, Stamps and Currency.

Here are some sample activities from the chapter on France: Famous French People Quiz, French Peasant Hats, Parisian “It Makes Scents” Day, Will You Be Mime? French in Name Only, Fromage, Pain, and Vin Party, French Food Quiz, French Music. Sample discussion questions: Did you ever travel to France? What were the circumstances of your trip? How did you get around? Where did you stay? What were your favorite sights? OR Because the French admire beauty in all forms, the older woman is regarded as a treasure to be revered and cherished. Do you think that this is true in the U.S.? Why or why not?

Remember the 1950s musical films An American in Paris and Gigi with Leslie Caron and Maurice Chevalier? What other popular French actors do you recall – Claudette Colbert, Charles Boyer, Brigitte Bardot? Enjoy a nostalgic return to the decade of the Fifties and see the beautiful faces that lit up Hollywood movie screens, including Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Eddie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, Natalie Woods, Sophia Loren, Lana Turner, Cary Grant, Robert Wagner, Brigitte Bardot, and Leslie Caron. Film-Star Portraits of the Fifties: 163 Glamour Photos is a collection of glamorous publicity portraits of over 100 Hollywood stars. There are identifying captions for each black-and-white photo. Relive some of the memorable moments from movies such as Singin’ in the Rain, A Streetcar Named Desire, and How to Marry a Millionaire.

Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy in 1944 and later helped to liberate Paris. Play the CD Songs That Got Us Through World War II to set the mood for an historic discussion of American servicemen in France during World War II. The CD features a collection of 18 legendary songs during the Big Band era. Enjoy hits like these: “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”/Andrews Sisters, “G.I. Jive”/Johnny Mercer, “Waitin’ for the Train to Come In”/Peggy Lee, “(There’ll Be Bluebirds Over) the White Cliffs of Dover”/Jimmy Dorsey & His Orchestra, “Long Ago (And Far Away)”/Jo Stafford.

Paris is famous for architectural landmarks, like the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe. Catch a glimpse of renowned icons and breathtaking sights around the world. Explore 21 of the world’s creations with the Reader’s Digest DVD Great Wonders of the World. The two-disc set provides glimpses of natural wonders and manmade monuments such as the Grand Canyon, Amazon River, Stonehenge, Great Wall of China, Great Pyramids in Egypt, the Kremlin, Mount Rushmore, and the Taj Mahal. Encourage participants to share travel adventures as they gaze at Versailles, the Statue of Liberty, and the Eiffel Tower.

FRANCE TRIVIA QUIZ

  1. What is the capital of France? Paris
  2. The Fleur-de-lis is a national symbol of France. What is it? “Lily flower”
  3. What is the name of the French National Independence Day on July 14?  Bastille Day
  4. Who was Marcel Marceau? A famous French mime artist who created the character Bip the clown
  5. What do Bizet, Debussy, and Offenbach have in common? All are French classical composers.
  6. 6. What’s the name of the world-famous bicycle race that ends in Paris? Le Tour de France
  7. What is the French word for a young unmarried lady? Mademoiselle
  8. What’s the name of the international airport near Paris that is named after a famous French general and politician? Charles de Gaulle
  9. What are the colors in the French flag? Blue, white, red
  10. What major bodies of water surround France? Mediterranean Sea, Atlantic Ocean, English Channel

THOUGHT FOR THE MONTH

“Winter is on my head, but eternal spring is in my heart.” ~ Victor Hugo

“SPRINGTIME IN PARIS” written by Sue Hansen. © 2012 ElderSong Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.

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