Saturday, December 03, 2005

Un petit coucou du Paris

A little hello from Paris

I’m happy to report that we arrived safely in Paris and I’m well on my way to becoming a Europhile à la Madonna and Johnny Depp. I started before our departure by eschewing the traditional American holiday of Thanksgiving, opting instead to spend it in Kailua on the balmy island of Oahu (yes, Gil, I know that Hawaii is in the U.S., just pretend it isn’t. Oh, also, pretend that you and Robert didn’t graciously invite us to stay at your home, take us kayaking, and share a wonderful turkey dinner with us!).

Seriously, though, I am a fish out of water, not Parisian at all. The first few days have been wonderful, but I do feel a bit like Helen Keller. Fred has to translate everything and speak on my behalf. I’m contemplating learning sign language. The accent is much easier to perfect.

Even when I try to speak French, the cashier or waiter responds in English. It’s that obvious. Even if I only mutter the word “merci” – their response is “you’re welcome”. They can tell from one little word. I’m impressed by the amount of people that speak English here and at how nice they have been to me thus far. They can tell I am struggling and are trying to ease my pain (I have to admit that I am slightly disappointed. Kindness doesn’t make for good blog material. If this continues, I may have to go on the offensive just to provoke some uncomfortable situations to write about).

On our first full day, we woke up late and didn’t leave the house until 2:00 p.m. I was craving a croissant and a café latte and was dead-set on getting them to celebrate my first day in Paris. I wanted to start eating French right away! We timidly walked into the café across the street. I ordered a “latte” and Fred took an espresso.

My drink was deliciously rich and frothy. It was also very white. I realized that I was enjoying a mug of pure steamed milk, which was what I had ordered, but not what I wanted (I am still hooked on Starbucks' vernacular and assumed that “latte” was short for “café latte”. Looking back, the barman did seem perplexed by my order and even repeated it back to confirm, but I didn’t really understand what he was saying so I just nodded).

I was too embarrassed to go back inside and ask for a café latte, so when Fred offered to give me his espresso, I jumped at the chance to pour it into my milk and make a café latte right there at the table. I felt somewhat justified as he had listened to me place my order. I convinced myself that he was in cahoots with his countryman in playing a trick on l’Américaine so I’d feel less selfish. A moment later, Fred returned with a much larger cup, an American coffee (which, apparently was what he really wanted, but ordered an espresso in a panic). However, he forgot to request steamed milk (i.e., he wanted a café crème). I figured one good turn, deserved another, so I poured some of my drink into his. And there we sat, both enjoying our latte-espresso-coffee at a café in Paris, both stunned that we had actually arrived.

Even though our first outing was pure comedy, we struggled through and made the best of it. Inside, I was happy. I know if Fred and I stick together, we can make café lattes out of whatever France serves up! (And, if we ever falter, there is a Starbucks around the corner. We stumbled across it later that day. Seriously.)

P.S. I plan to attach real photos later, if our digital camera ever arrives. Between the U.S. and French Post Offices, I'm not holding my breath.

5 comments:

David said...

Congratulations on your safe arrival in Paris! Very funny story about ordering your first drink. I actually read an article, where we Americans order lattes very often with just the result you suffered. Looking forward to some photos . . .

Anonymous said...

Joe and I can order the same coffee drink (an Americano) and get a completely different drink each time depending on the place where we order it. And Joe panics too, especially if I ask for a refresher course on the most popular coffee drinks. Oh well.
I'm glad you two are sticking together and creating your own concoctions. :-)
Paula

Mary said...

Hi! Happy that you arrived safely, what an exciting journey you are beginning. I am glad that you have not provoked any french citizens into hurting you. When I would get frustrated with the Dutch, I would start speaking in Spanish. I only had two years of High School Spanish, so that did not get me far. The Dutch found my pronunciations very amusing and would ask me to repeat certain words over and over (usually with a rolling R) so they could laugh at me. Oh well, at least I was entertaining. Good Luck!

Love,
Mary

Anonymous said...

Hi, it was great speaking with you this morning, sounds very exciting. I will be anxious to see the pictures of Paris decorated
for the holidays, I remember that Mary had spent New Years in Paris and had some great pictures., Love mom

Anonymous said...

So you don't have problems getting a drink in the evening...

"Bonsoir, peut j'avoir une vodka martini, sale, avec deux olives".

Glad you all arrived safely and Bilbo did not have to be a street cat until the keys arrived!

Gil