The major tactical error that I made on the France trip was not being better prepared to deal with the language. Before the trip, Sharon had some French language lessons on CD that she and Jack started looking at. I got frustrated with lessons because the pronunciation rules seemed random and they were covering words that I did not think were important. My intention was to put together a sheet of words and phrases to carry in my pocket, but just ran out of the time.
I knew we were in trouble from the minute I started dealing with the cab driver at the airport on the way into Paris. While people spoke English at the hotels and most of the major tourist attractions, there were dozens of times on the trip that someone would rattle something at us in French and Sharon and I would look at each other and both shrug. My language skills did not improve over the two weeks.
One related story, from my upbringing on the farm and two years in high school, I have a small working Spanish vocabulary. Driving Sharon to distraction, I was constantly saying "si" instead of "oui" during the trip. On the last Friday, while I was trying to get the car parked in the parking garage, I said si instead of oui to the attendant. The attendant immediately asked me if I spoke Spanish. I said that I spoke a little Spanish and he and I were able to have some type of conversation. He immediately became our best friend and got us going on foot in the right direction towards Sacré Cœur. The exchange made me realize how different the experience is when you can communicate even a little. I am going to try to figure out a better strategy for future trips.