I guess I am not a “real” writer: I don’t carry a notebook around with me – well, actually, I do – but I don’t jot down key and witty observations, or beautiful turns of phrase. Oh, I have them. But they dance away quickly. Maybe flit… I have tried using my IPhone Voice recordings and that works from time to time. But then I forget to listen when I get home. And forget trying to write a blog on the iPhone itself. I do email myself notes from time to time but…
I mention “writer” because when I was going through British Border Patrol at Gare du Nord [let me explain – to speed up things on the border, you first go through the French checkpoint and get your passport stamped and then 4 steps away you do the same with the British. Although they require you to complete a “landing card.” Much like you have to on the way into the US. And on the other side, you have the reverse — British then French… That means when you get to the destination, you are legally there and you just set off to find a taxi. Or Uber. ]
Speaking of Uber, last Thursday when I set out for Dourdan, I discovered my go to buses were on “deviation” and when I headed for the Metro, I saw smoke rising in front of the Palais des Congres (not a Versailles – far from it – a convention center!) and lots of noise of honking cars. Yup. Clearly another dreaded manifestation. I found out on my return that it was the VTC – the guys who drive for Uber and other limo services. What’s with the French anyway? Why do I even ask?
Back to the border patrol. So the Brit officer and I had a bit of a chat. No one ws in line. She asked me if I lived in France so I explained… and that I was going back January 11. She winked and asked if I had finished my book? LOL. I said nope, never started, but I did take a lot of photos. These officers live in France, it’s like a military posting. But she said her French was terrible. I was able to say mine had improved.
You are sick of my talking about my language skills, I know. I long for the day when I don’t notice how well I have managed. When it just seems normal. And I am getting closer to that… Instead of after every encounter, now it’s more at the end of the day that I think – wow I spoke. I was understood. I understood.
I doubt I will ever say that about the French culture. Or parts of it. I was castigated… maybe upbraided… by a friend because when I ordered my tea, the server asked if I wanted my milk hot or cold. That’s such an English issue. I really don’t care. So I said – ce m’est egal. It’s all the same to me. I was told that I was impoli – impolite. He could tell from the look on the waiter’s face. Huh???? I apparently made him feel bad by saying it didn’t matter to me… So when he came back with the milk, I asked whether it was warm or cold. I forget. But I then said with a BIG smile, tres bien! Merci. To which my friend gave me thumbs up. I had smoothed the ruffled feathers. Of course, I asked another Frenchie who said that was no big deal and determined my other friend was bourgeois. As in snooty, I believe.
Paris has hills. I know that – certainly Montmartre! And Buttes de Chaumont. But somehow I am always surprised when walking along to notice I am charging uphill – or suddenly going downhill. When I am on the bus, the incline is not as noticeable. But going down Blvd St Michel last week, I was really going downhill! And yesterday walking back from the hair stylist, Ave Raymond Poincare was uphill to Victor Hugo and then down. I traverse that on the bus all the time. My new Fitbit – which does nothing different from the other one that broke after two years – is encouraging me to walk more. Weird.
I stopped by Georges Larnicol (food and pastries and chocolate) in Montmarte the other day. While there, a woman – probably another worker – came in and went to the gal that had just waited on me and they embraced! I mean, not faire le bise – a full on American style hug! I was so shocked that I actually said to them it was the first time I had ever seen French people hug. (In French!) And they laughed and laughed. And said, but we are not French! One was Moroccan and the other Algerian. Ha! We had a good laugh and she offered me a macaron. Yum.