Return to Paris Day 1 con’t

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.

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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?

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Paris isn’t for the faint hearted.  How did my relatives manage as they tried to slip by unnoticed?

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