Having taken French in high school and bit in college, one would assume I'd know enough of the language to get around. For me, this is absolutely true. However, you must take into account the stage-fright factor.
"Bonjour!" --- Frenchperson
"Bahn-ger" --- me. Facepalm for terrible accident
---me. You know this, just answer. No don't, you sound stupid. Just say it damnit! Ehhh [blank stare]
"Oh, how are you?" ---Frenchperson reads my face, immediately speaks English.
It's nerve racking to try and speak a different language, but I found a solution... Have a couple beers! I knock back a couple cold ones and I'm pretty much fluent (or, I think am... or maybe it's the alcohol). Either way, I find Paris to be completely contradictory to the common stereotype Americans have for French people. My interactions with Parisians have been 95% positive (I mean, there are douchebags everywhere in the world, right?).
After a few days practicing, I got over my stage fright. Yesterday, I was in line to pay at a cafe when I notices an older, slightly haggard woman trying to buy just a bagguette. She pulled out some change, and I saw the cashier shake his head no. As she turned to leave and I panicked a bit as I tried to think of the words to say.
"Uhhhh Je umm acheter. J'achete." Translation: uhhhh I ummm to buy. I buy."
It wasn't perfect, but it was enough for everyone to understand what I wanted to do. The woman looked me in the eyes and said, 'Merci," with sincerity that I have rarely seen. Despite how amazing it felt to give in that manner, I couldn't help but feel guilty that she was so grateful for just a loaf of bread. I wished I had given her more.
In incredibly stark contrast to that exchange, I was lucky enough to be treated to a once-in-a lifetime experience. My cameraman, Mantys, and I tagged along to a Michelin star restaurant called L'Atelier. We went to film it, but managed to snag two seats at the table. It was a luxurious five-course meal with two beautiful desserts. Not only was I treated to the best meal I've ever had, but we also got to meet the man who created it. Joël Robuchon just happened to be at the restaurant that day (he is French but has restaurants all over the world). For most of you, this doesn't mean much, but if you're a foodie, you are probably steaming with jealousy. I wouldn't consider myself a connoisseur of food, but I sure watch a lot of Master Chef and Chopped meaning I'm basically an expert when it comes to gourmet food. And my opinion is that dinner was perfection.
Oh yeah, and we were here to cover a poker tournament! It was the WPT Grand Prix de Paris. Here are all the highlights you need:
I'm off to Malta tomorrow morning to cover the WPT event there as well! PEACE
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