My train from Brussels pulled into La Gare du Nord the day before Bastille Day, 1992. I was parched from oohing and aahing over the countryside, and at last, the city I had dreamed about all during my college art history classes.
I couldn't believe I was there at last, and all on my own. My first-year French would have to get me through, I knew, but beyond the necessary, "Ou est le W.C.," I was reluctant to begin using it and risk being embarrassed, so I hesitated when I reached the interior of the train station.
Still, I needed a drink of water badly, so I approached a flower stall and ventured to the proprietress, "Could you please tell me where I can find a drinking fountain?"
She regarded me with a Gallic lip-curl and said icily, "Non parlez Anglais."
Perhaps I should have asked where I could find a glass of vin ordinaire. That might have gone down better for both of us.
About Mary Lynn
Causes Mary Lynn Archibald Supports
Battered Women's Shelter, SPCA, Healdsburg Animal Shelter, Nature Conservancy