Monday, April 1
The day began with an expensive cab ride to the city: I had too much baggage to manage on public transportation. As soon as I put my bags in my room, I rushed to the Alliance Francaise to buy books for classes I plan to take over the next month. Immediately all the French I had been studying and listening to deserted me. I understood nothing and could only state when necessary, “Je parle un peu francais” and, then, ask meekly, “Est-ce que vous parlez anglais?” I only speak a litttle French. Do you speak English?
The walk back through the Jardin au Luxembourg heartened me as I passed men playing pentanque. Here is France on a beautiful day. It’s okay.
But not for long. I hadn’t eaten all day, so I decided on an early dinner. I walked behind the Pantheon and down Rue de la Montagne Saints Genevieve to a restaurant I remembered as pal mal, not bad, La Methode. It was a particularly beautiful spring night, almost 70 degrees with a gentle breeze making it’s way along the streets of Paris. All the outdoor tables were full. When I sat in the last row, a waiter appeared and asked if I wanted to dine. I did and was given a menu. Only then did I notice that I was sitting at the three tables set for dinner. Everyone else was having an aperitif: it was 6:30, much too early for dinner. I couldn’t sit there and eat, the only one to be chewing. I made a hasty retreat, telling the woman behind the bar in English that I’d changed my mind. I didn’t even try French. She nodded with disdain.
Now what to do while the rest of Paris laughed and talked and drank? I decided not to retreat to my room with a sandwich; instead, I went to a nearby cafe and ordered a pastis. Several times, the waiter asked impatiently what brand of pastis I would like. Finally I understood and confidently said Ricard. He moved his head side to side in irritation and explained they only had one kind, a kind I never heard of. I agreed, happy to send him off.
Like most Parisiens that night, I sat for an hour, watching passersby. As the waiter never appeared, I had to go in the cafe to pay. Is that allowed?
Paris isn’t for the faint hearted. How did my relatives manage as they tried to slip by unnoticed?