Isn't it amazing how after studying French for 7years, the language evaporated from my skull the moment I arrived in France?
It started with a train from Barcelona to Toulouse, the capital of Haute-Garonne in the south of France. My travel wife, Emily, reluctantly agreed to include France on our Eurotrip itinerary so that I could fulfill my dream of drinking chardonnay along the Seine and discovering the hidden gems inside Shakespeare & Co. Within the first leg of our journey, a belligerently drunk man sat himself across from us, spilling beer as he grew verbally and physically aggressive towards a woman across the way. It was in that moment, when I wanted to offer her a helping hand, that I realized... I couldn't remember a lick of French...
As the man invaded her personal space, the woman remained calm, cool, collected... entirely unfazed. After an hour of pestering the poor woman, the man gave up... then sat himself besides me. For the next few hours, the stinking drunk man pestered Emily and me, and with nowhere else to sit on the train, we were stuck. Upon arrival, we bolted off the train.. low and behold, the drunk man followed suit.
What did we do? We hailed the first cab! With haste, we threw our suitcases in the trunk, jumped in the back seat, and handed the driver our address. "It's not far. It's right over there" the driver said, pointing towards the distance. "No problem, that's fine!" We replied, avoiding the drunk man outside. "No," the driver interjected. "That is your hotel. Right there, across the street." So with that, the driver kicked us out of his cab, and we walked across the street with our "stupid American" stigmas on full display.
This was our introduction to France. Mind you, Emily would have rather gone anywhere else in Europe besides France, but I insisted we had to go. I was determined to redeem our.. interesting travel experience with delightful French delicacies. But I quickly realized, upon speaking English, that no restaurants were willing to seat us!
Instead, we strolled the cute little town of Toulouse, and it became abundantly clear that my inability to speak French would be a major issue here. Paris was two days away, and I felt entirely homesick. Emily and I reviewed our travel itinerary, and made a spur of the moment decision: we snagged tickets for the next overnight train to Paris and booked a hotel room overlooking the Eiffel Tower. This is when the magic began.
At 7am, as our train arrived in Paris, I fell in love with the city. The smell of fresh bread permeated the air as I strolled towards our hotel like a giddy teenager. We dropped our luggage off, and ran straight to the Eiffel Tower. I was besides myself, staring at this beautiful structure that I'd so admired growing up. The views from above were magnificent, almost as delightful as the street treats I acquired on every corner. And every building looked like it had fallen out of a Disney fairytale. As the kids say nowadays, I. Was. Shook.
I toured Musee D'Orsay and The Louvre, made a morning trip to Versailles, indulged in the finest chocolate I'd ever tasted, and explored the local nightlife. I shamelessly engulfed croissant after croissant like my life depended on it, and drank wine in the pebbled streets near Arc De Triomphe. For those few days, I felt overwhelming joy at every waking moment. I loved sitting at the corner cafes, where the chairs faced the street in true people-watching fashion, I loved discovering hidden art galleries and boutique shopping, where I bought the most beautiful crystal jewelry, but most of all, I loved the fu*king bread. I lived off that bread for four straight days until our constipated departure to London.