America the Beautiful…Maybe?

I warned them. I really tried. After all, they were coming from France, where beautiful monuments like the Eiffel Tower, Mont St. Michele, and countless others are a short drive away. But alas, they were determined to see America for themselves. One of my best friends, certainly my only international best friend, Philippe Milinaire, and his father Olivier arrived in Boston last Sunday, October 23rd. While they came with little baggage, they were filled with big expectations. They are avid sailors, sailing mostly in Bretagne in the south of France, so we thought they would enjoy Newport the most.

The first night, they arrived at ten o’clock p.m., which felt more like four in the morning for them because of the six hour time difference. I was bubbling over with excitement and anticipation. I couldn’t wait to show them Rhode Island, even if it turned out to be a monumental disappointment. The next day was Monday, and we decided to show them the Newport mansions and cliff walk. The tour around the mansion had a very impersonal guide: a CD player that was worn around the neck and headphones to go along with it. I remember Philippe and Olivier giving me an odd glance as they tried to understand the guide’s instructions in English. Yeah, not the best part of the day. But the cliff walk was a huge hit. In France, they walk a lot more than we do in America. That combined with the fact that Philippe and Olivier are incredibly active people made the cliff walk a huge success. In fact, at the end of the week, Philippe claimed that the cliff walk was the best activity we had done that week.

While we were in Newport, we took them to a very classy, five-star restaurant: Newport Creamery. Hey, it might not have been fine dining, but it was a Rhode Island tradition. As they sat with their awful-awfuls in hand, they gushed about how much they loved the food and the restaurant in general. I was beaming with pride, as I was the one who suggested it (half-kiddingly, I might add). They also thoroughly enjoyed the Hereshoff Museum in Bristol, which featured artifacts from the America’s Cup, the famous sailing races that took place in Newport. We saw all sorts of boats and memorabilia and even watched a short movie that provided an excellent time for a nap for me.

While they enjoyed mostly everything about the week, they did not like the Roger Williams Pumpkin Spectacular. I had not wanted to take them to it in the first place. I had always found it quite kitschy and not a great display of what Rhode Island has to offer. We both respected the art and all the work the artists had put into it, but it was not a hit. In France, they do not celebrate Halloween like we do here and it is much less commercialized. When I asked Philippe what he thought of it after he said, “It was… special.” It was recommended that one spent about forty-five minutes in the exhibit. We were out of there in five.

The week was filled with great adventures and memories I will cherish for a long time to come, and I can truly say that they liked Rhode Island a lot- just not as much as France. I think the one thing they did not like, behind the disaster that was the Pumpkin Spectacular, was being asked constantly about the American election. Philippe would always say, “It’s pretty embarrassing. But we’ve had some nasty elections too.” But in a really cool French accent. Besides pumpkins and politics, he had a great trip. He told me right after that he loved America and couldn’t wait to be back. So you can rest easy tonight, knowing we are not the stereotypes people put out about us and other nations see that too. If that doesn’t comfort you, just try to imagine how cool a French accent would be.

 

By: Gwen Pearson

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