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Three years ago this spring, I went to the Alps. This is my travel journal from the days in question.

LUNDI le 1 Avril 2002

10:30h  Janine gets me out of bed by saying "Paris est beau, il faut en profiter..." {Paris is beautiful, you have to take advantage of it.}  She is correct, we are blessed with sunny skies, chirping birds, flowering trees, and a beautiful city.  I had a hard time sleeping last night, but I am a little closer to adjusting to the time.  Actually spoke Spanish last night... Elisa, who is Domincan, moved here when she was thirteen... she said that she learned to speak French in three months due to being in school.  She told me that Spanish is still the "language of her heart", and that she feels she can express herself better therein... About fifty percent of the time she spoke to me, it was in Spanish.  I think I forgot to write yesterday that Florence speaks Russian too... that's four languages... she appears to be around twenty years old, I'm going to have to ask.  Sadly for men in general, it appears as if she and Sebastian are an item... she saw "A Beautiful Mind" in Germany... she told me it was called "A Special Mind" in German.

12:51h  La Sorbonne.  Un café sérène sous les arbres.  In the 5th at the Sorbonne, sitting on a yellow plastic chair at a pleasant café under some leafy green springtime trees, watching people and listening to "Pressed Against The Sky"... if this is a dream, I'm happy I'm having it in springtime Paris... the mood dictates that I listen to Elbow and have a pichet of wine... if I can just get that waiter to stop... eyes wide open.  After I drink my alcohol, I think I'll go look at that big steel tower over in the 7th... you know, it really IS easy to identify Americans amidst the natives... and a strange juxtaposition... quite the French café, right across the square from Le Gap, which is quite American.  La poste is a three minutes walk from here... think I'l write some cards to send back home.  "Any day now how's about getting out of this place"... no thanks, but I agree with the "all of my senses on overdrive" part... {those are lyrics from the first song on Elbow's album...}

14:50h  You don't appreciate how massive the Eiffel Tower is until you are in its shadow.  I have never seen Paris this crowded, then again, I've never been here in the spring.  The throngs of people are enough to convince me to NEVER come here in the summer.  Paris, sixty degrees and sunny, one hundred yards from the Eiffel Tower, listening to Jeff Buckley.

15:49h  ... spent more time at the Champ de Mars... watched French people trying to play basketball... ugly.  I'll have to drop in here next week in shorts and Nikes and take some people to school... really, these guys were awful.  Now, there was one game with all black guys... four or five out them were good... the game with the white guys, well, YIKES!  (I got a picture.)  These turkeys couldn't shoot, rebound, box out, play defense, or make a decent pass.  They DID set lots of screens and did lots of crazy driving to the hoop... these guys must watch the NBA... just based on their dress and style of play.  The peace monument is complete... it was under construction the last time I was here... it's a modern art looking gadget, and has the word "peace" scribbled on it in several different languages... of course, it is situated about 150 yards from the Ecole Militaire.  {Military School.}

16:42h ... and I'm sure that the post office closes at five, so we'll find one tomorrow in Chamonix.

24:45h   at the Gare Austerlitz waiting to get on my train... going to have a beer to pass the time. Saw Elodie tonight... I honestly think she gets prettier every time I come back to France.  Sadly, I won't get to spend much time with her, because she is giong to Béziers to visit her big sister on the 12th.  She said that "nous allons swinger" at the wedding this weekend.  Yikes, I don't much dig swing.  I'll probably spend Sunday the 7th with her as well... finally regretting going to Belgium the 9th to 11th... spending time with Elodie was high on my "to do" list... she told me that Jean-Marc is well, and that he was in Michigan over the summer... {She got her states confused, he was in Wisconsin.}  Nobody told me!  Gregory married a Russian girl, and is living in Paris now.

22:10h  In the couchette... terrible.  Six beds, three on each side, bunk style... and I get the top.  Have to sit here hunched over so I don't bang my head on the ceiling.  Sharing so far with two Swedes... but more could show up.  They speak no French, but do speak English.  Henrich and Gustave... nice guys... they are on Easter break from school, and they are also going to Chamonix. 

22:30h  The couchette is now full... a French couple (who also speak English) is with us now.  Their names are Guillaume and Frederiqua... Guillaume has been in New York for a year, he just returned to France two days ago... Frederiqua is left-handed.  Out in the hallway, some of the guys were passing a joint around... I politely refused two offers to help smoke it.

MARDI le 2 Avril 2002

08:07h  Nous sommes en route à St-Gervais... arretés brèvement à Cluse.  I don't sleep well on trains either.  Bathroom flushes right onto the track... sign in bathroom, "it is forbidden to use the toilet whilst in the train station."  These mountains look different than the Rockies.  Definitely colder in this part of France.

11:05h  Chamonix is charming.  The hotel where I'm staying - equally as charming.  I had to wander around in the morning... no rooms free yet... people are leaving, so I should get one soon.  The Swedes didn't have anywhere to stay, so I had them follow me to my hotel in the hopes that there would be an empty room... there was, go me!  A British family is checking out right now... the wife speaks good French, bu I don't know about the rest of them.   Her accent in French reminds me of mine:  it's easy to identify native English speakers.  The conductor on the train answered my questions in English last night, but of course, he saw "United States" on my railpass.  The lift was too crowded to bother with, so I'll try to hit that tomorrow morning.  Will also try to get to that luge... I've heard many different languages here in Chamonix, and English isn't one of the more popular ones.  (Sounds like the Cranberries on the radio here...)  There is also a large variety of restaurants here... Japanese, Chinese, Tex-Mex, Italian, and "American" (burgers), in addition to those offering Savoyard specialties.  I actually kind of want to try one of the Tex-Mex ones.

11:45h  In my room.  However much I'm paying, it's a steal.  I have a balcony and a nice view of the Arve and the Alps.  Will probably get fondue or raclettes for lunch today... then on to find somewhere to wash my clothes... or maybe I'll do that tomorrow... Might do that luge today.

13:39h  At a restaurant called Le Monche... the clientèle is mostly French... I don't hear English being spoken.  One annoying thing is that several items on this menu are only available if you have at least two people.  That's kind of a bummer.  I ordered the 24E menu, which is a fixed price meal of three courses.  Well, here's an instance of writing things for the general public in my personal travel journal... no real need to explain that, but I did... knowing in advance that I will post this entire journal is dangerous.  Anyway, for readers, the French word for "menu" is "la carte" (thus, "à la carte"), whereas their word "menu" is a fixed price meal. Nice view of mountains out window of restaurant... and it's a shame that English doesn't have an expression for "bon appétit".

It appears as if the main thing to know about cuisine in Savoie is that there is cheese in EVERYTHING.  My first dish with this menu... Salade Berger... greens, tomatoes, diced bacon (different than American bacon), BIG croutons, all in a mustard dressing and topped off with a three inch wheel of hot goat cheese.  I try to remind myself to eat slow here... eating is an art form to these people.  Now... the Cranberries ARE playing in this restaurant... I think it's off their newest album... I bought it, but I think I only listened to it once.  I am blessed at this restaurant with a waitress who is not only cute, but also left-handed.  (I love how they completely replace your silverware between courses.)  I am told to be careful with the hot tartiflette plate of my main course... potatoes, onions, bacon, and lots of cheese all baked together.  Now there's a song on that sounds like the Police... too bad I don't know their songs well enough to know which one it is... sounds like Sting with a reggae beat.  It's now in the neighborhood of 14:10, so I've been here thirty minutes... not bad.  I need to make it an hour... can't write because I've put away 3/4 of that pichet of wine, and it's hitting me... this is my first meal since about 22:00 last night... so... nearly empty stomach plus a pichet of wine equals good buzz.

And now they are playing the Pretenders' "I'll Stand By You" on the radio... I almost want to sing along... bad wine!  "Nothing you confess can make me love you less..." AAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!  ... and now The Cure's song, the one called "Just Like Heaven"... it's hard not to uncontrollably giggle... me = happy here.  How to make Mike happy in three easy steps:  1)  Make me speak French.  2) Give me alcohol.   3) Play music that I like.  I don't want to leave this restaurant, let alone Chamonix, let alone France.

Dessert is a large cup of ice cream... this one is called the Coupe Mt. Blanc... whipped cream, almonds, caramel... I'm sure there is some ice cream in there somewhere.

It's nearly 14:30... they just locked the doors... this restaurant is now closed until dinner time, around 19:00.  They have this 112 proof "alcool de feu" here... it comes from Austria... in my buzzed condition, if I drink that for a digestif, I won't be able to walk... so we'll go with coffee instead.... actually, it's espresso... super caffeine!

18:02h  Went to look at the glacier and ice caves... good stuff... it's at least twenty degrees colder up there on the mountain than it is down here.  Back in the room resting... not sleeping last night is catching up with me.  Will probably do laundry after dinner... watching TV... I have a channel in Italian, one in Spanish, and CNN in English.  No air conditioning in my room, so I'll be leaving the balcony doors open to cool things down.  Of course, this means that I get the plesaant background noise of the Arve.  18:15h  I found Friends... I think it's in German.

20:00h  In dining room for dinner... dining room is next to river... can see it immediately out window to my left.  Each table has a room number on it... find your room number, go to town.  Quite the classy experience... it would be worth it to drag people here with me in October.  I get raviole for the first course... unlike any "ravioli" I have tried at home, but that doesn't really mean anything.  Three pieces of the raviole on a bed of lettuce, dressed in a mustard vinaigrette... naturally.  Now I wish I hadn't left my camera in the room.  Things left to do in Chamonix:  Aguille du Midi lift, luge, laundry, check out that bar that says they have music... all for tomorrow.  Will get to bed at a decent hour tonight so I can get up early and go to it.  Oh, and I also have to get another phone card tomorrow.  Main course is salmon filet in some type of sauce... no cheese, that's odd... shaved almonds on top... some type of cooked potato dish with it... yep, I'm keeping my camera with me next time... well, maybe those weren't potatoes... whatever they were, they were diced with carrots and zucchini... I didn't much like it, but I ate it anyway.  Family of four, two amusing young boys, lots of discussion about what to eat, at the table directly in front of mine.  They get a booster seat for one of the kids.  There was no offer of wine with this meal... all right, who are you and what have you done with France?  ... probably toward 20:40... I don't know, but it's dark outside.  Unlike the meal, which you pay for on the demi-pension, the wine is extra.  I want some, but the waitress doesn't seem to want to stop to let me tell her which kind I want.  Cheese for dessert.  I recognize Roquefort, and I'm sure the others are goat cheeses (one looks like Camembert actually), but I don't know their names.  There we go... she showed up, wine is on the way.  I picked a red from Savoie... (Chautagne Gaumay)  should go well with the fromage.  Family of Brits to my right... parents and a girl of about 12.  Ah, the wine is the perfect complement to dessert.  I really missed Roquefort while I was away from Europe... this is a blue cheese so moldy that it's actually green.  (Well, it's white, but it has green specks and veins.)

21:20h  I've never seen The Nutty Professor, and it's on TV here... won't be watching it tonight.

03:44h  and forget getting up early to do the life... I'll do laundry, that's all.  Went to a pub... watched Manchester United play a Spanish team... 90% were British in the pub, had some good conversations... they tried to teach me about their game, we talked about September 11, about Europe... met an American (who went to Central Michigan) named Elizabeth on the way out... had to stay and talk with her and her friend Jennifer.  Met some Germans... they were nice, they spoke English, they invited me out, I accepted.  Now, at the pub, I had three beers.  That doesn't sound like much, but one beer is about a quart in that place.  Yeah. Much good conversation... how many languages we speak, sports, culture, travel... too many names... David, Benjamin, Patrick, Sebastian, Nina, Christina (English not so good), Eva, Nina (another one), Joanna, Phillip... we went dancing... I had more beer and other assorted beverages.  I left before all of them did... will try to find them Thursday to hang out... spent quality time having good conversation with all of the males at least... hugs goodbye from all of them, male and female... if I don't see them before I leave Chamonix, I have their email addresses.  I can still smell Nina's (the shorter of the two) perfume on me... sigh... {This is a direct result of spending a good twenty minutes cuddled on the couch with my left arm around Nina and my right arm around Benjamin.}

Haven't worn deoderant since I got here {Chamonix} ... I brought some with me but, when in Rome... you know.  Quiet, perfect, peaceful walk back to hotel.  No people on streets, stars in sky, the only sound was the Arve, which is audible from everywhere in the main city area.  Tomorrow... well, technically later today... laundry and luge.  Not much else planned.  I love Europe.

MERCREDI le 3 Avril 2002

11:16h  At laundromat washing clothes... such a glamourous life I lead in Europe.  Another perfect day here... and there are rumors of rain tomorrow.  I HAVE to take that lift tomorrow... today... well, that luge thing needs done.  Still thinking about the good times last night and hoping I get to at least have a drink with all those nice German young people before leaving Chamonix.  It was cool meeting more Americans too... Elizabeth's boyfriend is the DJ at the pub, and she was outside passing out fliers.  I thought she was French.  She teaches English here... basically, that's what I want to do... find a job, move to France.  She says the social security herei s great... and I remarked to her how strange it was that we're both 24 year old kids from the Midwest (she is from PA), and here we are speaking French to each other in Chamonix... and I noticed that when she spoke English, she spoke it with a French accent...

12:26h  Laundry drying... this laundromat is in a neat little mall-type place... just watched all of the stores close.  It's lunch time... soon as I get my clothes, I'm going back to Le Monche.

13:00h or so... the restaurant is actually called Le Monchu... from the menu:  "Monchu":  un mot patrois désignant "le touriste", dont l'origine remonte au XIXe siècle et qui tirerait sa source d'une altération de "Monsieur".  Un mot familiar aux oreilles de Chamoniards qui reste encore présent dans le langage actuel.

There you have it.  Cranberries playing again.  We'll pay with the credit card this time around.  Note to self:  figure out how to move here.  It's like Boulder, except that it's much closer to bigger mountains, and it's a French-speaking town.  Another good thing about Chamonix... everything is easily accessible by foot.

Opening with the Salade Pecheur.  Salmon, shrimp, in a bed of greens that are drizzled with a mustard vinaigrette... tasty.  The plate is garnished with lemon and parsley... I'm squeesing the lemons and eating the parsley with the salmon.  Cayenne pepper is sprinkled around the edge. 

13:25h  ... and the salad has been dispensed with... I don't even remember the name of my main course, but I'm pretty sure it comes with beef, veal, lamb, and lots of cheese.  All that English I spoke yesterday isn't good... my French is suffering today.  So I get a plate of what appears to be raw meat, and I get five sauces... I remember the waitress saying that one was "tartare", and one is most certainly mustard;  one of them she said was for the potatoes... I couldn't order raclettes because of the two person thing, so, I got this dish, which is close... not really... the waitress tells me that the meats are beef, veal, and duck.  The sauce for the potato tastes remarkably like sour cream and chives.  Sauce 1... a pink color... tastes like mayonaise... it's not bad, and I don't even like mayonaise.  Sauce 3... cayenne pepper all up in that one... it knocks you back in your chair if you aren't ready for it, and I wasn't.  U2 is playing now... that song that goes "work hard"... the tartar sauce tastes different than what we Yankes call tartar sauce. 

Among the meats, I like the veal best.  Now there's a song on with Sting singing in French.  An American woman (who, it seems from the conversation, lives here) and a Brit man are having lunch about twenty feet to my left.

14:08h  Meal good... going to try the "alchool de feu", the 112 proof Austrian drink.  You know, that was probably the first time I've had beef since around September or something.  I shall run, ride the exercise bike, an climb the wall.  This fire drink... well, they actually lit it on fire.  The waitress instructed me to put my mouth low on the glass so as not to burn myself.  Strong stuff... tastes a bit like Gold Schlager, but this is much stronger.  This will aid in digestion because it will DISSOLVE EVERYTHING I JUST ATE... strong stuff.  As a side note... Ken didn't like the size of meals when he was in France... he thought portions were too small... well, he didn't go to Savoie.  These people eat.  37.60E today... ok then.  Got photo of cute waitress named Sandrine (same waitress as yesterday) , who says she is not photogenic.  I counter by saying "tous les francaises sont photogéniques..."  Now while the buzz is good, off to find a music store.

15:10h  Five minutes ago, I saw a kid who is probably ten years old drinking Guinness.  I love Europe.

19:36h  The nap was entirely necessary... I would have fainted.

20:23h  Dinner.  With the ears a bit more turned to my surroundings today, I've heard tons more English being spoken... but most of it hasn't been spoken by Americans... rather, I have found that there are many Swedes, British, and Germans.  I get the mozzarella tomato salad as a first dish, and a pichet of the house rosé... I think I'm getting a whole liter of it.  Might head back to the pub for more beer tonight.  This rosé is the first wine I've had here that my mom might actually drink.  The Brits about three tables behind me are quite loud.  Tomorrow for lunch, I'll hit one of those Tex-Mex places.  The main dish appears to consist of deep fried vegetables... this judging by the French family in front of me.  (Tables are assigned, so it's the same family as yesterday... strange, I found my table quite by accident... yesterday, I just looked for a table that wasn't set for four... it wasn't until after I sat down until I noticed the 48 on the table.)  I definitely need to improve my French... I have the hardest time in restaurants because I don't know a lot of food vocabulary.  (The waitress here tonight is obviously making an effort to speak slowly to me.)  Yep, breaded fried broccoli and a meat of some sort with bean sprouts in some kind of gravy.  The meat is either chicken, turkey, or duck, but I don't know which.  Actually, it's not dark enough to be duck.  By the way, I saw on CNN that Maryland wont he NCAA title.  The kid in Paris (as Justin told me by email) told me the wrong thing in regards to the teams that won in the Final Four semis... and of course, there was rioting in Maryland and in Bloomington.  Difference 157 between the world and the United States:  in the world, people take to the streets in political protest (Egypt and Lebanon today), whereas in the United States, people riot over a college basketball game.  Well, it looks like I won't get to Switzerland or Italy.  Crud.  So, I have a day or two of railpass use to get.  Reims needs to happen, maybe on Monday the 8th.  That leaves me one day.  I supposed I could run to the Netherlands from Bruges.  I could go to Beaune again.  I could drop in on the Loire.  I could see Fontainbleau or Chantilly.  We'll see.  Depending on what Elodie wants to do, I may or may not see the Louvre on the 7th.  This weekend is going to be crazy.

Post-dinner plan:  buy new phone card, call home, go to pub (or this other place that might have live music), get to bed early enough to get up by 7.  Yep, kids here are cute... listening to the kids at table 1 talking to their parents... I only like kids when they're old enough to talk.  They don't have Roquefort at the cheese buffet tonight... I get a really hard white cheese... don't think you're supposed to eat the rind on this one... wine is beginning to hit me.  The Brits to my right talk briefly to the French family at table 1.  The man from the family speaks pretty good English.  As for the Brits, the only one that speaks good French is the wife.  The husband is killing it.  The family at table 1 is actually from Brussels.  Yeah, I'm listening to their conversation.  They're French speaking Belgians.  If they are still here tomorrow, I'll talk to them.  One liter of wine = Mike is less than sober, even with all the food I ate.  That reminds me... Friday I get to talk to Hélène to find out when I go to their place for dinner.  They always manage to get me lit.  "Video Killed the Radio Star" is playing... Man, the waitress just showed up to clear my table... not fair, making me speak French whilst in this condition.

21:30h  Even in this condition, I was able to coherently ask for directions to the Hapimag, where my new German pals are staying.  The lady at the desk didn't recommend that I go tonight, because I would have to literally go over the river (The Arve) and through the woods to get there.  She gave me the phone number, so I'll call.  She said that they are apartments that Germans usually rent.  New plan... work out, get sweaty, take shower, go out, try to get up for the lift.

22:14h ... my first experience with a climbing wall... that's a good way to kill yourself if you are so inclined...

03:00h  Out late again, this time because I met Swedes... Nils, Klaus, and the beautiful Michelle and Maria... they are here on Easter break from school, skiing... The guys took a liking to me, and introduced me to probably 20 other Swedes in the course of the night.  We went to a bar whose clientèle was probably 90% Swedish.  All of them spoke English.  Much good conversation and lots of drunken hugs thoughout the night, as Nils and Klaus weren't exactly sober at any time.  The girls seemed to tolerate their presence, but seemed much more interested in me when I spoke... no objections from me on that one.  Good times.

JEUDI le 4 Avril 2002

07:30h  ... clouds rolling in, might not be that cool on the lift today... there is a girl here at breakfast that looks a lot like Mariah.  Swedish, I'm thinking.  Depeche Mode's "Enjoy The Silence" is playing in the background... one of the few songs where I like a cover version better than the original... Failure totally nailed it.  My wrist still really hurts from falling off that climbing wall yesterday.  Breakfast is self serve, buffet style.  Fruit, breat, nuts, juice, yogurt... the coffee I ordered is probably extra, and will be charged to the room.  They bring a tin of hot milke with the coffee... café au lait it shall be.  I get orange juice, some trail mix (avoided the cereals), and some small cookies... steering clear of that thick cut bologna over there.  Those Swedes last night were funny.  The guys certainly understand how to properly use English profanity.  For some reason, I found it more amusing than insulting.  Nils drunkenly puts his arm around me and says that I'm his "personal nigga".  No harm meant, so no big deal... I made sure to tell them that if they ever visit the States, they'll need to leave that word at home.  The only thing they know about the United States is what they've seen in Hollywood's movies, what they've heard in our music, and what they've seen on the news.

10:45h  I smell pretty awful.  Took lift to Le Brévent... great views.  The clouds were all over Aguille du Midi to the South, but the mountains across the valley were clear.  Sun... looks like it won't rain today as expected.  Going to jump in the shower, then go see if those Germans from Tuesday are at home.  I have to do that luge today.

13:37h  Well, the Tex Mex places don't open until dinner.  That's a bummer.  Lunch outdoors today at a place called Le Boccalette.  I will never tire of seeing the mountains whilst eating lunch.  Just posted to Xanga... {find my April 4 post to see what I posted about} it's about 06:30 back home, so my friends and readers will wake up and be surprised to see a post.  Think I'll try fondue... it's a Savoyarde thing.  My stomach feels quite unsettled, and I don't know why... maybe it was the coffee from breakfast.  I'll have to get some wine to settle my tummy down.  "Foster's Australie" is the on tap beer of the month.  Staying away from that.  Took off sunglasses... wow, it's bright.  My wrist still really hurts... curse that climbing wall!

"I'm afraid if you don't come around soon I'll turn sadder than you ever were, I know that lonliness is worse..."  That lyric just popped into my head.  More things about last night... "Klaus" is actually spelled "Claes", and "Nils" is actually spelled "Niels"... funky Swedish spelling... Claes is in the military... service is obligatory in Sweden... Claes told me that if you don't go to the military, you go to "Yale"... gotta love that Germanic-Nordic "j" sound.  Niels said that (hey!  I finally got a menu!) he told the military people that he was "a psycho" , and thus avoided service... both guys laughed and said you could lie to get out of the obligatory service, but in Niels' case... well, I think he might actually BE psycho.

I order a salad and fondue... I've never had fondue.  Funny car advertisement on the place mat... I hope the picture turns out.  I humbly ask the waitress what kind of wine to have with fondue ('cause I don't know) , and she suggests a white one... so I get a white wine from Savoie... going local.

Fondue... I think the idea is to spear these pieces of bread with the stick, then dip into the melted cheese.  The white wine goes well with the fondue... after eating some, I can say with some certainty that a red wine would overpower the delicate flavor of the fondue.

14:41h ... and perhaps a bunch of gooey melted cheese isn't the best thing for a messed-up tummy... saw a subtitled movie in the hotel... French with French subtitles... I learned that the popular method of saying "yes" is spelled "ouais", and it rhymes nearly with the English word "way".  I shall knock back a shot of something as a digestif... what to choose, what to choose... I decide on Genepy... I don't know what it is, so I ask the waitress... she makes the fish gasping face that the French are prone to make, and then says she doesn't know how to describe it... she says that it is green and sweet... and indeed it is... not all that strong... well, it probably has a pretty good proof, but it didn't burn me... maybe it tasted like apples?  24.60E, that's not bad.  No more tummy ache... walking out of here will be fun.  This sun feels very very warm.  I almost want to be in shorts.  Cool alpine breeze... Chamonix feels good.  Maybe I'll come back here in October?

16:01h  On lift going for second of ten trips down the luge d'été... my official verdict:  this thing is pretty darn fun... makes me feel like a kid.

16:40h  AFter a few times down, I realize that if you're not careful, you could steer yourself right off the track by going too fast... I almost did that, and I have some nice concrete road rash on my left arm as a souvenir.

17:08h ... and I'm back on the lift... after this ride, I will have three remaining... learning that you can control your speed (and whether or not you fly off the track) by leaning on some of those banked curves... and here's the advantage to being in the neighborhood of 225 poinds... I go faster than the tiny people... a bad thing about being tall is that the seat isn't all that comfortable... hey, I have another 15-20 pounds in my back pack... more speed!  This junk is well worth the 38E.

20:30h  Dinner.  Injury recap:  jacked up wrist falling off wall yesterday... and today, banged head on low stone thing, got hit by a van (right leg and right side), road rash on left arm from nearly falling out of luge, blisters on feet.  I am very tired... will try to sleep at least a little on trains back to Paris tomorrow in order to avoid sleeping at the meeting.  Went to Parfumerie to get perfume for sister Duran.  Had one of those ten minute stretches of brilliance where I didn't butcher the language, and still managed to understand everything said to me... something I am not blessed with right now.  (This waitress at my hotel must think I'm a complete idot...)  First course, a green soup of some sort, tastes very bland, but not too awful... I will add salt liberally... I have no idea what I just ate, I hope it doesn't kill me... one of the tykes in the Belgian family at table 1 is left-handed... back to the parfumerie... whilst shopping for perfume, I managed to talk about (at the request of the sales lady) where I am from, neighboring cities, how far I live from Chicago, what kind of cologne I like (I bought myself Kenzo at the store), where I learned French, when I think I might return to Chamonix, and... well, that's it.  The lady complimented me highly on my ability to speak her language, something that was most undeserved (as the waitress serving now will no doubt attest to).  She DID correct my grammar once... I said "J'ai été ici depuis mardi" and she corrected me to say "Je suis ici depuis mardi"... have to go back and study that one.  She said that this week there aren't very many Americans in Chamonix, but that she still hears a great deal of English on account of the Brits, Germans, Swedes, Danes, and Dutch...

main course... some kind of meat that is absolutely drowning in a very dark gravy, diced potatoes, and a salad.  I am quite afraid of that meat, but I'll be all over that salad.  That meat is either rabbit or chicken, and I have no idea which.  I'll say it again:  Ken must have gone to cruddy restaurants that cater to Americans if he didn't get enough to eat when he was here... I've been buried in food here in Savoie... I am often still feeling lunch when it's time for dinner... and dinner is much later than back home, between 19:30 and 21:00... lunch has been hitting me hard here.  I have determined that the strange meat is chicken... I base this determination on the skin that is on the leg.  I don't like the sauce, so I shan't be eating any more of it than that first bite. 

Now one of the Belgian kids is playing with two little action figures, sound effects and all.  His dad tells him to stop, the kid says "pardon", and he stops.  I am amused.  Going back to the Brit pub tonight... there is a reggae band playing, and a girl from Missouri is playing flute... she invited me to the show... ah, live music... think I'll take my camera this time.  One thing I like... there hasn't been a cover charge at any of the places I've been, including the dance club.  (Dragged there, Le Garage, by Germans and Swedes.  Most music was American.  The Long Island I got there cost me 10E, and was probably the worst Long Island I've ever had... way too much Coke... will stick to beer and shots if I run into the Germans and go back tonight.)

01:31h ... went to the show, my first time seeing live reggae... bass and drums were on machine... both Simi and Erin said they didn't like doing it that way, but you gotta do what you gotta do.  Erin said they have sold around a thousand discs since August, and that they don't have day jobs;  they are musicians.  Erin is still not a legal French resident... maybe playing music would be the way I can afford to live here... I gave them a Shrug album and contact info for the band...Shrug in France, who knows? 

... and this is my last night in beautiful Chamonix, last night listening to the Arve, last night I will see this many stars.

VENDREDI le 5 Avril 2002

09:34h  Je suis dans la gare en Chamonix.  Je suis très fatigué, et j'espère que je peux dormir un peu sur le train sans avoir un voleur prendre ma valise.

Chamonix, where it is chilly until the sun comes over the mountains... where the tourists are other Europeans... where the cuisine of Savoie meshes with need to cater to those who speak English.

12:30h  On the train going to Lyon.  Just put in Starsailor... the more I listen to this album, the more I like it.  My assigned seat on this train is a window one in a group of four seats facing each other (two on each side) with a little table in the middle.  A lady and her two girls decide to sit here too, about forty minutes into the trip.  This makes me a bit cramped, will prevent me from sleeping - but hey, I was amused when they played hangman... apparently hangman is an international travel game.

15:50h  At Lyon Part-Dieu... getting a quick bite before going to grab my train.  Began getting this sore throat last night... the kind that tells you a cold is on the way... and I thought I had avoided being sick this time around... the throat has been bugging me all day, so I'll knock back a shot of cognac with this quick salad and fries to make it feel better.

23:30h or something... when I meet people as amazing as Lydia, who I met tonight, I wish I had a video camera so as to properly introduce them to my friends.  It is now my responsibility as a writer to describe this amazing woman for two reasons:  first, I will read my travel journal in the weeks and months ahead and smile at memories that I am now making... I hope I can capture her essence well enough to duplicate the way I feel in her presence when I re-read these words... the second reason is so I can in a small way introduce Lydia to my friends and Xanga readers.

I met her at the meeting.  Henri (great seeing him again) told me to speak English to her.  Lydia has studied for a total of three or four years in the States.  She was at a small school in Virginia, then at Duke (which tells you how bright she is), then at the University of Michigan.  She spoke English with an American accent.  (Some words, the French accent came out, but there were no traces of the British accent she first learned until I started goofing on Brit speak and she reciprocated.  Her British accent is way better than mine.)  She teaches French as a foreign language here, and is on her way to a PHD.  She majored in African-American studies, and is very deeply wrapped up in African-American culture.  The irony here is that she isn't African-American... her parents are from Algeria, but she is a citizen of France.  (I however, am an African-American and am not involved in the study and celebration of our history and unique culture... then again, many of us aren't... a long discussion could result here, but we're off topic.)

Lydia invites me to a bar on Sunday.  An African-American culture group from San Francisco is putting on a performance of some sort, and one of Lydia's friends is also going to sing.  I think I'm going to go.  I point out to her that she is not in fact African-American (though she certainly qualifies as African), and she says that the culture of black people in the United States has managed to seep into Europe.  Hollywood, the NBA, and the music industry are your likely culprits. 

Discussion involved: education, race relations in France and in the USA, languages... too much ground covered to write it all down.  Apparently in France, minorities aren't treated as equals... more so in the North and around Paris than anywhere else... I actually was already aware of a political movement here to expel minorities and foreigners, or at least restrict their freedoms... no more talk bordering on politics... our conversation was about culture, not politics.  She complimented me on my French, and said I had a gift {she said I was "doué de langue"} ... and poked some fun at my American accent.  One phrase she repeated the way I said it, then the way a native would say it... I was a bit annoyed, but I repeated it back the accent-free way very slowly... this convinces me that I can lose my severe accent if I concentrate hard enough.  (Indeed, she says there are some words I say unaccented.)  She made me speak to her in Spanish.  She thinks the Spanish I speak (Mexican Spanish) is pretty, she doesn't like the accent of the Spaniards.  She says I have less of an American accent in Spanish... chalk it up to practice... or the fact that she isn't as familiar with Spanish as she is with French.

Lydia is 27.  She speaks at length about her experience in the States, and about how minorities are viewed and treated there as opposed to how they are treated here.  While talking about some things (involving her profession and the difficulties she is having, regarding the attitude of the French that live in the North, regarding how difficult it is for her to live in Paris, regarding the problems facing minorities) she becomes very emotional... she loses the American accent and lapses into a thick French-accented English.  She appears to be on the verge of crying a couple of times.  This is when I wish I had a video camera... I wish I could capture the absolute passion with which she speaks... more impressive because the passion comes across in her second language, a language that carries less emotional impact than her native French.

Created by donetrawk
Last modified 2005-03-14 06:23 PM
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