Mousy, the Mona Lisa and the Awful Tower

Slight panic from the eldest child in the I&E household before our summer holiday to France this year. Our four year old suddenly became concerned she couldn’t speak French. She was increasingly worried that the only thing she could say was “Bonjour!” and how was any one going to understand her? Her dad’s linguistic advice to speak very loudly and slowly in English was, of course, roundly ignored by everyone. So in preparation for the holiday, we started practising some basic French phrases – “Hello”; “How are you?”; “I am fine” – all mastered relatively quickly.

We also had a copy of the brilliant Lonely Planet’s Not for Parents Guide to Paris and we were reading a couple of pages before bed each night. By far the favourite tale from this collection of alternative stories about the city was the theft of the Mona Lisa in 1911. Vincenzo Peruggia, posing as a handyman, hid in the Louvre overnight, removed the painting from the wall, hid it under his smock and walked out. Nobody was the wiser for over 24hours. I can only guess Vincenzo’s audacity appealed to my daughter’s mischeivousness.

All my careful pre-holiday preparation was, however, unintentionally leading to an epic Paris based tantrum and an almost flat out refusal by our headstrong child to climb the Eiffel Tower.

“But it’s AWFUL!”

“What’s awful?”

“The Tower! I’m not going up the awful Tower!”

Puzzled looks between the parents. “What’s awful about it?”

“It’s called the Awful Tower! I do NOT want to see the Awful Tower!”

Turns out the translation of Eiffel to a four year old trying to learn some French is ‘Awful’!

Given you can’t escape from spotting the Awful/Eiffel Tower from most locations in Paris, including our hotel room window, we could sense there were a few repetitions of this tantrum to come. In the end, all was fine and we had a great time at the top of the iconic monument. Although I’m sure the highlight for our little linguist was the icecream at the bottom.

Having flown in from Singapore, the kids spent most of the trip to the French capital battling jet lag. They saw significantly more of the inside of their pram and carrier than the city around them. They dozed as the grownups happily took in the sights. As we strolled along the Seine, our daughter briefly woke up as we stopped at one of the riverside stalls to buy a couple of post cards. There was suddenly much excitement. “It’s the Mona Lisa. Look mum, the Mona Lisa”. Is it wrong to let your daughter believe she has seen the famous, enigmatic smile from a giant poster on a tourist stall, as opposed to the real thing in situ? There was certainly less queuing.

And as for ‘Mousy’ … not a roving rodent on a trip to the French capital, rather a four year old’s version of how to say thank you. But at least she was saying it!

Mousy and the Awful Tower


Use our latest printable to practice basic phrases with the kids before you travel …

Learn the Lingo



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