That’s not to say that the frustrating moments are not dotted with successes, or that the adventure of figuring things out is not exciting. The woman who met us on arrival and saw us off for our departure at the castle spoke almost no English. We managed to get through entire conversations in French, supplemented with gestures. I was elated!
Those who do speak English and hear us chattering use that language with us. We’ve ended up in conversation with a handful of random people, like the American in the Seysell grocery store who told me I was his new hero. (For taking the family on this around the world trip.) American accents are not often heard that far off the beaten track. It would be like finding French tourists in The Dalles. Or the older Frenchman on the street in Lyon who had traveled all over the States, even Oregon.The girls are adventuresome, thankfully. Not only in exploring and trying new experiences, but in exploring foods, as well. We spent a very rainy night in Chambery, on our way from the Castle in a valley of the Rhone to Lyon, the second largest city in France. Our hotel was next to the train station, convenience being the goal. We had seen a restaurant just down the street a couple of days before, on an afternoon spent dealing with train tickets and rental cars. In this evening’s downpour, looking over the menu on the street was far less appealing than running through the front door.
We found ourselves seated in La Taverne de Maitre Kanter facing menus that were not only all in French, but had no descriptions. Usually, if I don’t understand what the dish is, the description of it will hold clues. This menu, on the other hand, had obscure names using terms like gourmand, Kanter, and Savoyard rather than ingredients. The dinner crowd was pouring in and I did not want to hold captive the harried waitress by asking her to explain everything. I’d left my phrasebook at the hotel, and John had run off to Chamonix with my French-English dictionary. It was another deer-in-the-headlights moment.
Marlie loves anything to do with melted cheese, her choice of fondue was easy. I found some cocette de moules sauce homardine. Mussels in some sort of sauce. It turned out to be lobster sauce, and outstanding. After some confusion, Hannah announced it was time to pick at random. Eeny Meeny Miney Moe; adventures in dining. Thankfully, her friend Britt, who has joined us for a week and a half, went along, although they both migrated from the seafood page to the salads. Although neither girl felt the meal they ended up with would have been their first choice, the experience was entirely successful.
Looking ahead, we are less than two weeks away from leaving the French language behind. I’m a little sad about that. We’ll be working our way to Croatia, where we have rented an apartment from a German tante using my better-than-French-but-mostly-forgotten German and Wordmonkey translator to communicate. I may not be able to talk to the locals, but at least I’ll be able to understand the landlady.