Bonjour. It's my last full day in Paris, and I'm feeling a little bit holiday-fatigued. When I stop and think about it, I've been busy being a Paralympic spectator, a tourist, a traveller and a visitor everyday for the last four weeks. I'm going to need a little vacation from my vacation. Right now, I'm taking a little respite in a cute patisserie, elegantly stuffing my face with pain au chocolate et cafe creme. Oh la la.
Isn't it always at the last minute that the gold appears? At the next table, commanding a presence, sits the matriarch of Les Invalides, and her dog, Fifi. She has lived in this street for 50 years, and has an opinion on everyone that comes in. When I couldn't decide whether to have a large or small coffee, her immediate response was to lovingly chide me, half in English and half in French, for even thinking of wasting the waitresses time making a small. I had a large.
I understood this double-language conversation because, earlier this week, I spent a few days at a friend's sister's house in the region of Brittany, which immediately became language immersion camp! You see, his languages are Arabic, French, English, and some others that I've forgotten. Her languages are Arabic, French, German and some English. My languages are English....and that's it. It quickly became apparent that our common languages were charades, misinterpreting, nodding like you understand, and laughing until you finally understood. At one point, the cleaner was gossiping, and despite not speaking enough French to understand the words, my female sensitivity allowed me to get the gist of the conversation.... Gossip is the same worldwide. However, when I was sitting in a Tunisian inspired loungeroom, looking out over cathedrals, eating Lebanese food, drinking French coffee, and listening to people speak arabic, with Pakistani jazz playing in the background, I had no idea where I was!! The same feeling returned yesterday, when i took a detour from the Champs Élysées, down a little arcade, and found a stall selling bowls of Pho. I was genuinely surprised to leave the arcade into Paris, not Hanoi.
Since returning from language immersion camp, i have felt a lot more comfortable with my language-butchering skills. Yesterday, i asked a waitress if she spoke english, then quite accidentally, ordered my entire meal in french. I suspect she thought i was a little french wheelchair girl who mistakenly thought she was speaking english, but was just speaking French with a bad accent. Doing nothing for le cause!
So, what of the French touristy stuff, you ask? Well, my overwhelming memory will be of cobblestones. Lots and lots of cobblestones. Sometimes, like at Mont St Michel, cobblestones combined with a hill. And at other times, like in every other street, just plain cobblestones. Either way, they are the work of le diable!! One place that is cobblestone free is EuroDisney. Maybe that's why they call it the happiest place in the world. Next time, I promise, I'll tell you about our day in the plastic world of Disneyland. Right now, I'm off to join the thinker in Rodin's garden.
Au revoir, L