And I Can Cook, Too

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

October 14, 2006

Ridin’ That Train, High on Ham Sandwich

The plan was simple: Kim would get in at 7:30 a.m., retrieve her luggage, meet me at the hotel, grab a quick bite, and we’d be off to catch our 10:15 train to Provence. In yet another demonstration of brilliant thinking, we had decided that it would best for me to 1) carry both our train tickets, 2) not know where the train station was, and 3) have absolutely no way of contacting Kim. What could possibly go wrong? At 8:30, I drew Kim a hot bath, ordered her some coffee, and went downstairs to remind the front desk staff that I had a friend arriving and that they should give her my room number. At 9:00 I confirmed with the front desk that we would need to catch the 9:45 shuttle to catch our train. At 9:15 I popped back to ask if I had any messages. From 9:15 to 9:30 I paced the lobby. At 9:36 I returned to the lobby with my luggage. From 9:36 until 9:42, I fielded off well-intended bellboys trying to take my luggage. At 9:44, I breathed a sigh of relief as Kim jumped off what was about to become the 9:45 shuttle to the train station. At 9:46 the Hilton staff breathed a sigh of relief as I finally got out of their hotel.

Safely ensconced on the train, Kim and I settled in for our 3-½ hour trip to Aix en Provence. After spending and hour or so engrossed in our crossword puzzle books, I determined that I would make my way to the dining car and see what was cooking. On the way, I encountered a man in a funny hat carrying an electronic version of a hole puncher. “Adffjk?” he said to me. “Je m’excuse, je ne parle pas Francais”, I responded. “Adffjk?” he repeated, “ticket?” I handed him my ticket and hoped to high heaven that there was nothing wrong with it. “Passport?” he then requested, and I handed it over. He glanced over my passport and said “Jalkdjf;oyhghkajff?? Fjiadktha! Jalkdht?” Again, I responded, “Je m’excuse, je ne parle pas francais.” Again, he said “ahdfli;ud;gh? Ahdipsonswjd! Adjklfajhh?” Feeling smaller by second, I repeated that I don’t speak French. Smiley broadly, he said, “Parle franciase en Provence.” At last I understood. Blushing, I said, “Mon ami parle Francais.” He grinned, handed back my passport, and with a quick “au revoir” was on his way. I had survived the ticket taker.

My second challenge was the snack bar. The attendant spoke as much English as I did French. Which, if you consider that we were actually in France, reflected poorly on me. Fortunately for me, there was a menu. With pictures. “Deux jambon” I said, pointing at a picture of a sandwich. “Deux Beaujolais”, and pointed at a picture of a wine bottle. I then asked for two waters. He handed me two cans of bubbly, sparkling water. Thus our language breakdown began. I handed him back the fizzy water and pointed to the next picture of water on the menu. When he handed me two cans of another brand of fizzy water, I handed them back and pointed at the next picture of water on the menu. This went on a few moments more, until at last I had two bottles of plain old regular non-fizzy water. Apologizing profusely, I took my purchase and went back to my seat, where Kim and I enjoyed my second meal in France: a slightly above par snack bar ham sandwich, plain old boring flat water, and of course, a delightful Beaujolais.


  • At 10:27 AM, Anonymous Lora said…

    You have such a wonderful way of communicating the sense of the moment when you write, Kristin. This is why you have FANS!!!
    Hana Hou! ("Keep it up" "More!" for those of you not in the loop on popular Hawaiian phraseology).


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