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Saturday, May 07, 2005

table for one

It's always the same response.

"Pour un?" "Oui, pour un." A stunned expression usually turning into a charming smile on the French waiter's face.

Even if I speak to them in my most capable French, once they detect and accent and register my blonde hair, they are determined to speak to me in English. And so goes the confusing conversations where I'm spoke to in English and respond in French.

Most waiters are extremely charming, and make cozy small talk between orders.

As I ate my lunch at the flea market yesterday, I listened to a French girl speaking English to her American friend. They exchanged ideas on the different cultures, and the different ways of eating. The French always use their knife for instance, it's rude to have a hand in your lap, and push their fork in a different manner.

I dug into my salad nicoise, which I was pleased to find had rice laced through it in place of potatoes. I slowly ate, drank a light sparkly water, and finished with un café. The café is served in a cup that looks as if it was stolen from a child's tea set, and I can't help but laugh as I tilt the minature handle towards my mouth.

I wandered through the flea market for hours, it was the largest in Paris. Discount versions of the latest trends, carvings from Africa, tourist knicknacks, and soccer shoes took over most stalls. I was yelled after by market venders, "Blonde, come look!"

One man asked:"Vous parlez Francais?" "Oui" I yelled back without turning to see him. "But you are so blonde!" I heard him scream as I continued walking.

There are moments of loneliness being here on my own. Times when I would love to be able to laugh over my wine with a friend. When an attractive French man yells out to me, there are times I'd like to turn around and make something of it. But I smile and keep walking, because for now I've got to play it safe, and feel a small pang in my stomach as I walk away.

After the flea market I wandered through Les Halles to see some of the hip shopping scene. The streets were filled with swarms of people, a never ending mass of heads. I over hear British, American, and the occasional French accent. I walked until my feet could take me no further, not willing to pay another 4€ for a simple soft drink at a café.

At dinner my sleeplessness from the night before overcame me, as well as a wish to say "Table for two," to the beautiful waitresses in short black skirts and matching blazers. I sat by the window and observed, mostly looking at what people were wearing and taking notes on French style. I play spot the tourist, which is an easy game most of the time. The style of the tourist looks more effortful, and they often lack the svelte body and easy stride of the French.

This morning started off with a "Boom!" As the man at the reception told me. A car had flipped in an accident outside the hotel, and paramedics and police men filled the street. When I asked for the computer's password the woman yelled at me like a child, told me I was two minutes early before the internet is available. I smiled back, told her not to worry, and sat comfortably at a sofa nearby. There are many moments like this, where I'm spoken to like a foreigner who wouldn't understand. If I pause to think on a question, phrases are repeated slowly, with English words thrown in, as if I'm struggling to understand. I don't suffer from the same humiliation I once felt when I was younger and more insecure. I find it's much easier to smile and clarify yourself.

It is another early morning in Paris. I've got a few hot dates set up with my "Table for one," self, and a day to discover.


Blogger dbry said...

Ah, Gill, you are so wise in your young age and I love it! And yet you are soaking knowledge and this experience like your french bread in your salad oil! You are so willing to do so and this inspires me so! And you are gorgeous, girl! So you such eat it up when all those men are hitting on you! I think that is so funny that they are just yelling out "Blonde!" I am loving the posts, keep them coming, ami!

7:41 AM  
Blogger Gillian Young said...

Thank you and thank you again. I'm glad you can enjoy these moments as I do...the blonde thing had me cracking up too. Much more to come! And damn, I can't get enough of French bread. I must consume two baguettes a day. It's wonderful.

11:06 AM  

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