Tuesday, 4 November 2008

I Wish The Eurostar Stopped In Provence Instead

And now, I would like to present you all with a teensy weensy commentary that has been gnawing at my mind since I arrived. It revolves around the tragic tale of a poor Canadian girl (a.k.a. me) and her experience at the Paris train station; a girl with poorer French language skills that a London-baked baguette, and a kind of naive optimism about "La Ville-Lumiere" that should have been suffocated hours before the train arrived in Paris.

Perhaps I had such optimism because I had been to Paris before. I was only eight at the time, true, but the city left such an impression on me that the memories of riding the elevator in our oversized hotel, circling the Arc De Triomphe, and gaping open-mouthed at the Eiffel Tower have never left me. It is no wonder that I had every hope of disproving the stereotype of Parisians as rude, unhelpful and most importantly, anti-English.

I was in for a very rude awakening right from the word "aller".

At the information booth at the Gare du Nord, only one sour looking gentleman was on duty. He looked as if his wife had just told him that she had never loved him. Hesitantly, I tried to explain in garbled French that I was looking for the Eurostar to Torino and hadn't a clue where to go because I couldn't see any English signs directing me to the proper station. I received no response. Next I tried in very simple English. No response again. I would have knocked on his head and yelled in his ear to ask if anyone was home if there hadn't have been a six inch piece of glass between us, obviously put there just in case I pulled out, you know, a machete or something. However, I came to my senses and decided it would be more worth my while to ask someone else.

Who would have guessed that the same event would occur four more times -- literally?? I was almost at my wits end when I finally found a lady who was willing to lend an ear to my troubles. In the end, thanks to her help, I did find the train but with only a couple of minutes to spare.

I am always bereaved to discover that certain stereotypes have more than grain of truth to them. However, I have been forced to join the masses in saying that Anglophones would be best to stay as far away from Paris as possible, unless their French is passable. And even then, according to some of my French friends, it's a gamble.

1 comment:

amethyst said...

Oh dear. I can see history repeating itself next year Heather - only instead it will be the tragic tale of two poor Canadian girls =P

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