Thursday, December 16, 2010

Pour le service en français, appuyez sur le 2


We were in Paris for a wedding this past weekend. You may have remembered me saying in this post that I was afraid Michael might not like it. Luckily, I needn’t have worried. We had a wonderful time.

The wedding was absolutely fantastic, the sort of event Martha Stewart Weddings could only dream of covering (though it might have been too euro chic even for them). It was one of those weddings we know we’ll be talking about for years. Usually in my family, that honour is reserved for either horrifically bad (or weird) weddings, or all out luxury VIP weddings. The rest, I’m afraid to say, fall somewhere in the middle, and are all lumped together in memory.

My parents and I once went to a rodeo wedding. Oh yes, you read correctly. The bride and groom wore cowboy/girl accessories (she was a barrel racer, he was a bull rider), and they were photographed sitting on the back of an old, docile bull. And up until the reception, it all could have been explained by saying it had a 'rustic theme'. But no. When it came time for the best man's speech, he raised his glass and proclaimed, 'I don't think there's anyone in this here room whose life hasn't been touched by the sport o' rodeo.' My father had to physically restrain my mother from putting her hand up, while trying not to burst into laughter himself.

The wedding in Paris, though, will be remembered for the amazing venue (the King of Qatar owned the old, restored hotel that looked out over Place Vendôme), and the equally stunning food (fois gras stuffed quail's breast, anyone?). The bride was beautiful in an exquisitely ethereal Vera Wang gown, and the groom looked dapper in his tux. We ate and drank, and even slow danced to 'La Vie en rose', and then I ate some more. Okay, I gorged myself like an ancient greek at a vomitorium (with predictable results)... but it was so worth it. Un gros merci to the wonderful bride and groom for hosting a fabulous party.

Because the wedding events took up most of the weekend, we weren't able to do as much sightseeing as I'd have liked. I'd planned on showing Michael everything, which now that I think about it was rather ambitious. Still, it warmed my heart to see that he really liked the city. And nobody made fun of him for being un anglo. Actually, people were a little too nice. It kind of freaked me out.

I would order for both of us en français, and the waiter, hearing us speak in English to each other, would immediately decide to try out his meagre anglais. I'm sure in his head he thought he was being helpful, or maybe management told him he had to try, but I found the result extremely offensive.

'Why would you find someone being helpful offensive, Cait?' you ask. Look, I didn't go to Paris to have les parisiens be nice to me. I went to be scowled at and ignored! I was so looking forward to showing Michael how I knew all the tricks to getting service (not good service, just ANY service). This time I didn't even have to try. And I'm sorry, but unless you're one of my totally bilingual friends, or you're a Trudeau, my French will always be better than your English. If I wanted service in English, I'd have stayed in England. In Canada, almost any toll free number you phone will give you the option of English or French. I wanted to carry around the ubiquitous recorded voice saying, 'Pour le service en français, appuyez sur le 2,' but I doubt they would have understood the joke.

En tout cas, we will definitely have to return, if not to Paris then to somewhere else in France. By the end of the weekend, Michael didn't even notice he was telling people 'merci' (and pronouncing it correctly... I am so proud!). They say you can't change a man, but can you make him bilingual? On verra...

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