Refill with Randy – Paris stop was chance to connect with heritage, sample French cuisine

Posted 2 July 2023 at 8:00 am

By Randy LeBaron

Growing up I would often hear my father talk about his time in the military. He originally joined the Army in 1948 and was stationed in Germany during The Korean War.

He described his time there as extremely difficult and often dehumanizing so, at the end of his enlistment, he transferred over to the Air Force where he was deployed to France and ran a carpentry shop in Paris. He said it was like night and day as he went from being made to march barefoot in the snow to being treated like a high-class citizen. He loved his time there and would talk about getting espresso at the local cafés and even getting to meet Jimmy Stewart when he and his fellow airmen were used as extras during the landing scene in the movie The Spirit of St. Louis.

For as long as I can remember I had always wanted to go to Paris to experience it like my dad did. I was also interested in exploring my heritage since my father’s family originally came from from France. My last name, LeBaron, is French for “The Virtuous Man”. It can also be translated as “The Macho Man” but I didn’t want to be confused with a certain wrestler from the 1980s. 

Anyway, back in 2018 I got my chance to visit the City of Love. While leading a Missions’ Team to work with The Roma in Bulgaria we had to catch a connecting flight in Paris so we decided to extend our layover by a couple of days before heading on to Kyustendil.

In many ways Paris was pretty much what I expected as far as the sights and sounds. We did the typical touristy things like visiting The Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame (so thankful to see before it burned), The Louve,  and The Arc de Triumph.

We also sampled a lot of the local fare such as street crepes filled with meat, fruit, or the French favorite Nutella. My daughter Ashlyn was with me and tried the French Onion Soup and I think she would agree with me in saying that it didn’t hold a candle to The Village House’s. I did get to sip my espresso in a local café but realized that it was much cheaper to go to Starbucks (yes, you read that right) as a tiny espresso could run $8 or more while a Venti-sized cup at Starbucks was under $4.

A couple things that actually surprised me while staying there. The first was the heat. It was 104 degrees and we had to walk everywhere, and the second was that escargot was nowhere near as gross as I would have expected. As you can see from the pics I struggled putting the snail in my mouth at first but, once I did, the texture resembled that of a portobello mushroom and I rather enjoyed it. My ultimate takeaway was that with was that with enough butter and garlic anything is edible.

It was a short stay but ultimately I was able to connect with my roots, reminisce about my dad’s stay there, share some good memories with my daughter, eat some fantastic food, and check a major thing off of my bucket list. Ironically it still didn’t compare to the time spent in Bulgaria but that’s another story.

I hope this coming Tuesday, July 4th that you all have a great time celebrating the freedoms that so many fought, and continue to fight for and stay safe. See you in 2 weeks!