13 Feb '85
Dear Mom and Dad and Everyone,
It's Wednesday. I've gotten off my routine of writing on Sundays. Here's a snapshot of my head:
I'm in Paris. Didn't really intend to come here so soon. In Florence (Italians call it Firenze [fee ren sa]) I decided to go to Milan (Milano), stay one night, see Leonardo DaVinci's The Last Supper (It was great but somewhat of a disappointment because there was another attempt at restoration (there have been many) and there was a big scaffolding right in the middle of it and one couldn't see a good part of it), and decide where I wanted to go in France. I told you this was a snapshot of my head - not reasonable connected thoughts. In Milan I decided to go to Annecy, France (two girls in Stockholm recommended it to me and it looked inviting and peaceful from the description in my guidebook) and I asked at the train information for when trains left for there. He told me quickly without looking. I had written the name on a card for him to look at. I checkeded the posted schedule of “treni en partenze” and was unsure, so I asked again. He looked it up and confirmed it. I would leave at 11:00 pm and arrive by direct train at about 9:00 am. Perfect. The whole day to find a place, rest. Well. It was the wrong train. It went to Nancy, France [nawn see]. I found myself going north instead of south. I decided to get off at Colmar. It, too, looked attractive in my guidebook. Got there at 5:45 am. Hadn't been able to change my Italian lire into French francs in Milan [tried twice] so I had no money to spend. It was cold in the train station (snow again) and I hadn't slept well on the train (changed trains at 4:00) so I caught a train at 7:00 to Paris and slept fitfully, arrived about 12:00, changed my money to francs, messed around on the subway (easy to understand and fast), and eventually found a nice place to stay. Chatted with a nice Canadian fellow in our room, took a shower (cold), and fell asleep until 9:10 (21:10).
Wrenched myself out of torpor and wandered out for some food to “restore my tissues” (as P. G. Wodehouse would put it). At the train station I had had some “lait chaud et croissant beurre” [hot milk and buttered sweet roll]. Found a restaurant still open and was glad to see more I would choose on the menu than spaghetti al pomodoro and insalata mista [spaghetti with tomato sauce and mixed salad]. Ordered a sandwich au fromage (camembert), assortiment des crudites, infusion camomile, and a tart aux fruits. Cheese sandwich (great. Bread and cheese is different everywhere), mixed salad (beets, carrots, red cabbage, tomatoes, lettuce - never would have had such a mixture in Italy - strange how such differences develop in countries so close - Thomas Martinsen told me - “the language difference creates a cultural difference”), chamomile tea, and a kind of prune cake. The waiter (as the waiter in the train station) was dressed in a nice black jacket and tie and (why weren't they women?) carried everything carefully balanced on a round tray. The meal cost 55 francs which is about $5.50 as there are now about 10 francs to the dollar. I am getting better at switching countries, adjusting to different styles, languages, currency.
My tissues and I am? restored and I am now (11:45 pm) sitting in the lobby of the hotel (called a foyer - a cross between a hotel and a college dormitory - 4 people to a room, bunk beds, toilet, shower down the hall). There are two fellows watching over the hotel office and opening the door for people coming in and they are playing a guitar and singing songs in French and Brasilian. The one fellow speaks Brasilian, Spanish, and Portuguese and told me that are similar but different. The lobby is pretty classy - nice old wooden tables, modern art on the wall, a wicker cage with two white birds cooing, wooden beams in the ceiling, lots of windows with orange and red drapes.
Tomorrow, rested, I will begin exploring Paris. It's fun to be able to understand a little of the language. I speak haltingly and very simply, can read okay, can listen if spoken slowly and simply.
I've heard stories about French arrogance but haven't encountered it too much yet.
Bon soir mes parents et mes amis,
Good night my parents and my friends,
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