Farewell to the Dombes!

On to Paris and then of course home to America. France is wonderful but there really is no place like home. I miss my friends, my kittehs, my OWN BED with my own pillows. Oh, and a good IPA would be really nice too–it doesn’t seem to exist here. They have some so-so beers and some pretty good beers, but none to write home about. Oh, but the wine and the food more than make up for it. After all, I’m here to absorb French culture, and part of that seems to be about making do with what you have and NO WHINING. Really, they seem to be such agreeable people and a lot of that has to do with just going with the flow and rolling with punches and such.

Speaking of which, THANK GOD I was able to nab a seat in first class on this train because mon Dieu, the unwashed masses in second… I have a Rail Pass for 1st class but could only get a reservation for a seat in second–know this, my friends, that you MUST have a reservation if you want to travel during Les Grandes Vacances. I kept asking at each train station if I might change my reservation to first class, but  no luck. One clerk suggested that I ask the conductor aboard the train. While they were making the rounds in the cafe car, where I had retreated to escape the–honestly, I had never encountered such horrific odors even during my week on the trail ride, INCLUDING THE HORSES, THANK YOU. My second class seat was next to this fine looking young man who smelled like every American’s stereotype of the Euro in the summer.

Fortunately, the conductor  said they did have a place for me in first, so HERE I AM, living large in France. It’s quiet except for a slightly fussy baby, but it doesn’t make me want to spend the entire three hours in the cafe car drinking wine. NO, that doesn’t mean I’m going to drink it at my seat instead, but I could if I wanted to. And the little ones here are really not bothering me at all. It’s nice to hear them prattling in French. So young, and speaking it perfectly 🙂

As for my French, you know, it’s often really quite dreadful. But no one seems to mind because apparently I speak bad French very well. People keep saying my French is good. They went from asking if I wanted them to speak English to asking where I was from, to asking IF I even spoke English. One of our German horse riders said she couldn’t tell where I was from when I first entered the minibus at the beginning of the trip. All she knew was that I didn’t sound French but my accent was unidentifiable.

I have heard that  one of the most important factors in sounding like a native speaker (or heading there at least) is to get the intonation down, along with the funny little verbal mannerisms and tics. So that’s what I work on when I do my podcasts and apparently it has paid off. I mean, I think back to some of my exchanges with people and I rush to my dictionary and go, “NOOOO, I USED THE WRONG GENDER!” but no one seems to care. This is what I mean by speaking bad French well: My grammar is often a bit off but I guess I sound good speaking it. They seem to really appreciate the effort, and I’m so glad.

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A refreshing Merlot Rose in the cafe car, enjoying the view and the escape from my smelly neighbor in second class

Oh, dear, I don’t even want to think about the horrors that lie ahead of me at Gare de Lyon, when I will have to navigate my way to my monstrous suitcase bag in steerage–it’s only a couple of cars down, but I MUST REMEMBER so I can find it. Fortunately, I found the one and only perfect little cheap wheeled suitcase at the Villars marche yesterday. A nice Senegalese couple were selling all sorts of bags and such, and when I saw that, it was like I had imagined it into being. 20 Euro, and I just couldn’t bring myself to haggle because it was so miraculous and the lady was so nice, with her beautiful Senegalese dress. I recognized the accent from my brief time there as a teen and asked if they were from there and it made me so happy to be able to make that connection. They were delighted too that I’d been to their country and thought to ask. There are quite a few Senegalese here. Even on the train, in the cafe car I heard this French guy saying “ca va? ca va quoi?” to this man who looked Senegalese. It reminded me of how they say that all the time, just a random greeting. Then I heard the Senegalese explaining that he was just saying “ca va,” which made me feel somehow very worldly, straddling the worlds in this manner.

Good grief this TGV is fast! I’ll be in Paris in just over half an hour, so I’d better prepare myself. Oh, like using the toilet on the train–already found out the hard way that you usually have to PAY in the stations.

My hobby of the day is freaking out over whether I’ll get to CDG on time. I checked in with my Android, so that’s done. But I have to take the bus from the train station to the airport. How long will that take? How long will I have to wait for the bus? Will I be able to find the place to check in? Will my bags be overweight? Will I remember to put my multitool in my suitcase so they don’t think I’m trying to kill anyone? And I would really like to have time to take advantage of the special lounge my Premium Economy ticket entitles me to–I believe it’s a 35 Euro fee to use it, but… this sort of thing is just so much fun. They have all sorts of nice things to eat and drink there, and I will be able to escape from the madness of CDG before my flight. Flying is stressful enough, travel too, so the little (and big) comforts count a lot.

I keep reminding myself that EVERYTHING IS FINE and to stop freaking out.

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