The first time I traveled to Paris after moving to Madrid, I stepped off the plane and immediately spoke better Spanish. The words came pouring out of me and into the taxi in a way that would have pleased my Spanish teacher but not the taxi driver. Eventually, I pulled out a map ah, the universal language of pointing and smiling and tried to say as little as possible for the remainder of the ride.
Three years later, I can now hold my Spanish tongue and act semi-appropriately, using English when I dont know the French words (often) or when I think the other person might understand English (also often.) (Not that Parisians dont understand Spanish, they just dont understand my Spanish.)
Yet, there is nothing like not being permitted to do something that makes a person want to do it. Last week I was in France and by Day 3 my tongue was bloody and I had the conversation hives. All I reallyreally wanted to do was speak Spanish.
Or, it could have been the hunger.
After a long morning turned afternoon at the Pompidou, Holly and I decided to meander in the direction of the hotel while looking for a snack before dinner. Empty stomachs have a difficult time in Paris on Sundays, particularly Easter Sundays, so our path is best described as a zigzag oasis hunt. Every corner promised a bustling bistro at the end of the very next street.
Eventually we found a lovely little place for which I will likely hunt aimlessly during the next trip to Paris claimed a corner table and ordered a carafe of wine.
If only the rest of the process were so easy. Or in English. Or Spanish.
I ask for the menu and we are brought a slate slab with the days special terrine. Not quite what we wanted since the menu outside boasted cheeses, mussels, foie gras.
The waitress returns and we ask about the other menu (who knows how, with shrugs and basic French.) This launches her into the loveliest sounding French song. Really truly, a beautiful explanation of something, the gist of which was food related, and it had me nodding and smiling and agreeing. Oiu oiu oiu.
I look at Holly. I dont understand French, she replies. Appropriately.
We turn our attention to the waitress. Theres some smiling and hand waving, a few sil vous plaîts and mercis and I feel we have come to a very solid, collective conclusion. Its so good when human beings understand one another.
Of course, no food came. The wine was delicious though.