Les Moules

I carried a bottle of red Argentinian wine through the streets of Le Plateau district.  We found Alexandre, the restaurant, and were enveloped in smells of fresh, warm garlic, lemon, butter, bread.

The menu was completely in French but I could understand most of it, asking Vincent now and then for clarification.  Our waitress came over, a pleasant woman with a quick energy and a simple presence.  I decoded that she wanted to know if she could open our bottle of wine.  I let Vincent make this transaction even though I wanted to practice my French.  I wasn’t exactly sure if I could handle it.

She poured the vin roIMG_0291gue into our glasses and we toasted, “Sante.”  We always toast Sante even at home in Buffalo.  Good health.  Toasts were always important in my family growing up and I like that I am continuing this tradition, even if they are now in French.  Actually, especially now that they are in French.

The waitress gave us some time and then she came back to take our order.

Picture how quickly a drunk sloth would talk.  This is how quickly I speak French.  “Je voudrais les moules s’il vous plaît.”   She took a quick nap while I was speaking this sentence and then woke up well in time for the end of it.

Then she said something and I heard mayonaise or ketchup and I said, “Mayonaise, s’il vous plaît.”

Then she asked what kind of soup I wanted and I actually understood the choices and ordered “Creme de broccoli.”  The entire restaurant applauded and a young child gave me a dozen roses.  Oh wait.  Disregard that last part.  That never happened.  Only in my mind.  Vincent did smile a really big smile and nodded his head approvingly.  He is like the most encouraging person ever and basically keeps me thinking that I may one day speak French (“In sixty days, you will be fluent,” he always says, but he never defines when those sixty days start, so I always have sixty more days.   Smart fox, that one.)

Vincent ordered mussels too, but a different kind.  Then the waitress left, brought us pain et beurre.  It tasted very good and crispy with the wine.

We spoke in French but in America when we speak in French no one can understand us so it’s like we are talking in secret code (childhood tree house fantasty coming to life: we are spies and no one knows our secret language but us. aha!), but here in Montreal, everyone else was speaking French, so that really defeated the purpose.  Anyway, we practiced and then the food came.

Fresh, crisp, hot french fries: thin and delicious!  A huge bowl of fresh, steaming, lemon scented mussels: warm and delicious!  More wine! More water!  No more bread, I’m watching my bread intake, but thank you!

We ate like royalty.  We ate and we drank and we talked and I told an uncomfortable story about earwax and Vincent said, “It was going so well.  Why would you tell that story?  In France, we do not tell these things.”  Then I was thinking, “In America, we don’t really either, but in my country, Havenoideahowtodate Land, we do!”  I’m really glad I don’t have to go on dates with strangers anymore because I am not so good at it.  Not so good at all, but man do I dress well.

Anyway, back to the point.  The point is we left the restaurant with half a bottle of wine inside our throats and a glass before and a Guiness before that, so we paraded home, arm in arm, singing “Les Champs Elysses” song well into the dark night.  We got to our airbnb and put on that song and then danced, one foot here, one foot here, in the center of the living room well into the night.

My life is a dream.

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Bains Flottants

Part of my trip to Montreal, included a Christmas surprise from Vincent.  I had no idea what it was.  The only information I was given was “you cannot shave your legs on Friday.”  I spoke with my sister about it and she and I decided this meant a fish pedicure–the pedicure where little fish eat dead skin off your feet.  This must be it.

After eating a jambon et fromage croissant at the open indoor market at Montreal, we walked down a street to the surprise.

“I wonder what that blue sign is,” Vincent said.

“Bains Flottants.  Oh my god, we are doing floating baths.  I’ve read about this in my Alexander McCall Smith novel.”

Vincent smiled.

IMG_0278When we go there, it was unreal.  It was like a spa but not quite.  It was more like an institution of relaxation.  We changed our shoes from boots into these funny black sandals.

The rooms were very quiet and attendants shuffled back and forth, bringing people tea or changing the music for each of the rooms.

Then our names were called and I wondered if the woman who was leading us would tell us the directions in English or French.  When we got into the room, she started in French and then asked if I spoke English.  She then continued in English, which made it easier, although less fun.

IMG_0282She told us that we would each have our own room with our own bath and where to put our head and how to change the music.  She asked if we wanted earplugs, but I declined.   Then, she took me to my room and left Vincent in his.

My first thought was, “Ah! A brain coffin!”  Then I took a shower and got into the egg.  I thought, “This is a relaxing egg.  Relax in the egg.  Relax in the egg.”   Then I leaned back into the salty water and my whole body popped up to the surface.  I had ascended into heaven.

I stayed there for an hour and it was lovely.  I thought about all the good things in my life.  I thought about IMG_0283what it’s like to die: maybe it’s like this, not so scary.  I know this is strange, but this is what I thought about.  I felt very calm.  I felt like, I am doing the best I can. I am really having one hell of a life so far.  My mind kind of lifted from conscious thinking to just reaction, like, “Float forward.  Float backward.”  I listened to the music and I relaxed.  I thoroughly and consciously relaxed.  Then there was a long silence and I wondered if it was time to get out.

I showered again and my whole body felt different: much more relaxed.  Then I went out into a hallway and a woman said to me something like “Vous passents?”  or something like that.  I thought she was saying, “Are you done?”  So I said, in English, “I am done.”  I should have said Je suis fini, but I didn’t know if this was correct and usually I check with Vincent before saying French things to people (on the bus I said “That fuck wasn’t that good.”  I meant to say “That poutine wasn’t that good.”  Vincent’s eyes widened and then he corrected me.)

IMG_0296I got a little confused as to where the hairdryers were and ended up in a closet (this makes no sense because she gave me the directions in English).  Anyway, then I had to ask again and I wanted to say, “It’s not that I’m from America.  It’s actually that I’m from another planet.”

I met Vincent for tea after in the salon.  I drank thè vanille and Vincent drank peche.  We then argued about the definition of tea.  What I called herbal tea, is in French, tisone.   This means that it is not actually from the plant, “tea” but rather just herbs.  It is crucially important distinction and definitely, absolutely worth the fifteen minute discussion in the relaxing spa.

It was a unique experience.  I floated both physically and mentally.  The sensation lasted not just the course of the afternoon, but even until now as I write this.  Part of me still floats.

Le Train

IMG_0203The train.  Oh the train.

We have in our packs: two bottles of wine, one wedge of very ripe cheese, half a three day old baguette, apples, two pieces of pecan pie, m&ms, and pears.  A child spins around with a penguin toy.  It is five a.m. in the morning.  We are not beyond opening this bottle of wine right now.

I am wearing a new sweater.  It is warm.  I am also wearing a new hat.  My hair is crazy.  My hair has proceeded to stage a revolution.  It has decided that its cow lick looks pretty good wide open on my head.  I keep the hat on.  Vincent says my hair looks “good.”  I think he is IMG_0204“wrong.”

We left my apartment at 3:45 a.m.  Oddly, I ran into my downstairs neighbors.  They were drunk and coming home.  I was leaving and sober.  I said “How odd it is to meet here now.”  And they said, “I like your backpack.”  I didn’t know if they were joking or serious.  They seemed serious, but they were also drunk.
Most people give me a hard time about my backpack.  I give these people the finger.  No.  I IMG_0216never do that.  Only in my head.

The train pulls up to the station and it is like the polar express.  It is an ice train.  There is a conductor: a real conductor.  He is wearing a suit and a hat and is official both in dress and demeanor.  I feel like I am Harry Potter going to Hogwarts.  Well actually I kind of feel like Hermione: crazy hair.

We find seats and it is cozy and warm and smells lovely.  Little do we know we will spend fourteen hours on this train.  For now, we are young and hopeful.  For now, we are smiles and about to take a nap and then get a coffee and then read books about France (me) (exciting) or read a 100 page contract about an apartment in Lyon, France (Vincent) (boring).

La belle vie.   Je suis heureux.

Le Voyage a Montreal

IMG_0292In an effort to use the French that I have been studying on and off for almost a year, I decided to book a train to Montreal with my French boyfriend.  I figured if I got into serious conversational trouble, he could bail me out.

What follows is an account of the trip.  You will feel many sensations while reading this account.  One, hatred.  You may begin to hate me.  You may think I am self-indulgent and narcissistic.  This is totally acceptable.  Two, love.  You may actually fall in love with me.  Notice how I have not included my address as to avoid love letters.  Just know that I like you as a friend.  Yes, I have friend zoned you.  Three, admiration.  You may feel a swelling sensation, like, “Wow, this woman is incredible!  So daring!  She barely knows this language yet is already making plans to go to French speaking countries.”  Four, pity.  You may feel kind of bad for me, like, wow, what a mess of a person.  She doesn’t seem that smart.  Rest assured, I got a 3.72 in college.  I am incredibly smart.  Do not fear.  Five, gentle adoration.  You may realize that I am a human, probably much like yourself (if you are a dog or other animal, then, disregard that last part).  You may feel a sense of camaraderie.  Perhaps you have tried to learn a language or remember your awkward days in high school speaking to a class full of jerks, I mean, other students.  You may recall how much you hated language classes.  You may begin to sympathize with me and write me encouraging things.  This would be helpful.  I encourage sensation number five.

Okay, make yourself a coffee and start the adventure avec moi!