Tuesday was another travel day. We took the Eurostar train directly from London to Paris. I remembered reading about the completion of the Channel Tunnel (or “Chunnel”) when I was a kid, and how some Britons weren’t keen on the idea, since they rather liked being on an island. One of my classmates had a bit of fun with the train staff by asking them “Are we in the Chunnel now?” when we passed through a small tunnel less than 5 minutes after leaving the station.
Apparently the train attracts strange characters, but we didn’t see this guy (naughty language/British humor warning).
The trip provided us with time to practice a few simple French phrases. My Mom and Dad had gotten me a French, German, and Italian phrasebook, and I wanted to at least try to make an effort to communicate in the proper language. I tried to use the phrase “un bon vin blanc” (a good white wine) to remind myself how the nasal vowels were pronounced. I made sure to practice saying “Excuse me” (Excusez-moi) and “I’m sorry” (Pardonnez-moi) in each language, because I was sure I would make plenty of mistakes and would require people to be patient with me.
I think the most complicated thing I ended up actually saying was “Je voudrais…” (point to food) “…s’il vous plait.” (I would like [that], please.) Thankfully for me, I didn’t run into a situation where I couldn’t get by speaking English– everyone I interacted with spoke English much, much better than I spoke any other language. It was humbling to be in a culture where to be multilingual was normal and expected, and to realize that I would not be much help to a visitor who didn’t speak English, since it was the only language I knew.
We arrived in Paris that evening. I think we spent a while waiting at the station for our bus and doing things like getting currency exchanged. It was getting late by the time we got to our hotel, which I’ll say more about in the next post.