Thursday, May 06, 2010

Lost in Translation

L’affaire google ended well, in that we once again have unrestricted Internet access.

So, back to Paris, where – fortunately – we are not having the snow plaguing the south of France. (Forget où sont les neiges d'antan.  Where are the snows of yesterday. Well, thankfully they weren’t here.)

Traveling abroad is always more of an adventure than moseying around on home turf.

Case in point:

Yesterday evening, map in hand, we headed out to check out a bunch of restaurants for dinner. I felt as if we were on a scavenger hunt, or orienteering, in that our map could generally get us to the approximate location, then failed to actually include the names of the smaller streets where, inevitably, the restaurants were located.

We ended up finding 4 out of the 5 restaurants. Two were closed (one for the week; one for the day), one only seemed to serve some variation of pigs feet, and the fourth was booked for the evening. (We made reservations at this one for the next night.)

On the way, while we were standing on a corner holding our map, the couple in front of us turned and asked “Voulez vous…” something or other. Assuming they were asking us if we needed help, I thanked them and said ‘non.’

Part of the adventure was just finding the places we were looking for. And we were doing okay.

But the couple were persistent. They gestured to our map. The wife said,“Notre Dame.” The husband said, “Hotel de Ville” (City Hall).

Ah, I told myself, they are the ones looking for directions.

Holding the map towards them, I pointed, “Nous sommes ici.”

I then pointed out where Notre Dame was, and how they could get there – passing City Hall on the way.

We all smiled and nodded.

The husband said, “Vers la droite.” To the right.

Oui,” I agreed, “Vers la droite.”

The light changed, and the couple charged off – in the opposite direction.

It was then that I realized that, for some reason, they had decided that we were the ones looking for Notre Dame. (American tourists, so pretty good guess.) They were just trying to be helpful.

On our part, we had assumed they were from somewhere else in France. Or Switzerland. Or Quebec. And that we were assisting them by lending our map, Jim’s sense of direction, and my limited ability to limp along in simple, simple-minded, one-tense French.

I made Jim wait for another light, so the couple wouldn’t see that we weren’t heading  vers la droite.

We ended up having omelets (very tasty) at a minimalist, somewhat dumpy little bar/cafe right across from our flat.

I’m assuming that the couple who asked/offered directions found their way to wherever they needed to be…

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