Friday 9 December 2016

'My summer of love in Paris was a real eye-opener' - Lisa Cannon

Presenter Lisa Cannon came of age in the city of romance while working at Disneyland

Published 04/08/2016 | 02:30

Xpose presenter Lisa Cannon
Xpose presenter Lisa Cannon

The summer that stands out for me is the one where I felt I became a woman. I was 17 and had just finished my Leaving Cert, and I went off with my best friend, Maeve Kenny, to Paris. We had jobs organised before we left as I knew Disneyland Paris was in Dublin recruiting for summer staff. I dragged Maeve along to the intereviews, where after endless questions, we both got a job.

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I worked on the Space Mountain ride at first, and later became one of the cast members, Buzz Lightyear, and it was really good fun interacting with the kids, although it was very hot inside the suit!

I had been an au pair for a French family the year before, but this was different because Maeve and I were living a 'Sex and the City' type of life for the first time with our own apartment. Prior to that, I had only had jobs like babysitting and dog-walking, and let's face it, how much cooler can you get at 17 than a job at a theme park?

It was a magical time, because I was working for one of the biggest and best franchises in the world, and had Paris on my doorstep. I was in awe of the whole experience and really relished it, so I didn't mind the long hours and hard work.

Maeve and I lived in a rickety old apartment in the 7th arrondissement at first, and then we moved into staff accommodation. I made so many friends from all different walks of life and nationalities, some of whom I'm still friends with today.

One Finnish girl, Tarja Jarvinen, came over to stay with me afterwards and I went to Finland to visit her. The experience set me on the road to college, as when I started at Trinity, I befriended people from other countries rather than just other Irish students.

When I left Ireland, I was dating a lovely guy called Mark and was very much in love with him. We were very young and innocent, and we agreed to a pretence that if something happened with someone else that summer while we were apart, it was okay. It was very much a Ross and Rachel thing - we were on a break!

We were kids going off that summer and finding ourselves and doing our own thing, so it was inevitable that I would end up having a bit of a mooch with a French guy.

I was swept off my feet for about a week by a guy I was working with in the park called Jean. He was a couple of years older and he took a big shine to me too. I was the classic freckly Irish girl with green eyes and black, curly hair, and he was tanned with blonde hair and blue eyes.

I was taken on a few dates and we went to parties and were drinking and having fun. We only kissed, but it cut me up a lot inside and I felt quite guilty, even though Mark and I had given each other wiggle room. When I came home, I found out that he had done the same thing, so then I didn't feel one bit bad. We tried to work it out and are still friends, but that summer signified the end of our relationship.

It was an eye-opener for me at 17 going from my school uniform to shopping in Paris. I loved going to the outlets, and think the experience paved the way for my love of shoes. I bought a pair of Gucci shoes with my first cheque in Galeries Lafayette, and I had them for years until a friend broke them on a night out.

Maeve and I hung out with the French crew and they brought us to really cool nightclubs. I was starting to party for the first time and was really going for it.

I didn't miss home at all because I was having such a good time, but my parents came over separately to visit. We saw all the sights and I brought both of them to Disneyland and they loved it, although my dad Michael nearly broke his back on Space Mountain because it's such a forceful ride.

My late mum Laura was a French teacher, and she came over with my auntie to celebrate her 50th birthday. I brought them to the 'Le Lido' show on the Champs-Élysées, and we had champagne and went shopping.

I felt I had an air of sophistication about me coming home because I knew a bit about French coffee and art and had hung out with artists in Montmartre. I arrived back feeling like a woman of the world, which was ridiculous as I so wasn't, which I quickly realised when my mother put me in my place.

Now, in my late 30s, France still has such importance to me and that love for Paris has never left me. My husband Richard proposed to me there because he knew how much I loved it, and it was just magical to become engaged in a place that had meant so much to me as a young girl.

Irish Independent

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