Monday, February 25, 2008
I smiled at La Tarterie, as the husband of the chef in this tiny, butter-warmed restaurant said, oh, you speak English? You have a nice accent. I then said merci, and looked back out the sunny window over the harbor. As we awaited our homemade crepes, I saw on Liam's face that something was wrong.
L: You just told him you were British
LF: What? No, I said I speak English.
L: He said, are you British? Anglaise like British, not like anglais English
LF: Oh, whatever.
L: He said, you have a bit of an accent.
LF: Hmm. I thought he said I have a nice accent.
and then the best crepes we ever had came. And so, even in Honfleur, which is like Saulsalito on a Sunday, lovely and peaceful and teeming with out-of-towners, I am unable to understand French. Even when the people are nicer.
Our weekend started with a scheduling glitch that had us in Le Havre for three hours before the bus to Honfleur. Le Havre is like the downtown of the city of my birth before renovation and if it were filled with only elderly women and young men of various backgrounds. There was a small market where an old man let his poorly rolled cigarette drop ash onto salsify and where women of all levels of crankiness lined up for scallops shucked on the spot. We admired the grime, returned to the train/bus station, and enjoyed a creme et croissant for 3.55 each and appreciated being out of the expensive city.
But when the bus arrived in cloudy Honfleur, we were happy to be greeted by a galichot ('not a pancake, not a blini'). Mine oozed with semi-salted Normandy butter and Liam's with anchovies, tomato and onion. I think this is where my French-confidence grew in Honfleur - out of a menu that translated chevre bouchette as "twig goat cheese."
The best translation though was one that took both of us to determine. After the lunch pictured above (I recommend the moules de creme), we stopped at a souvenir shop. I was cruising the boat-themed postcards while Liam focused on one that pictured a mussel on the half-shell, full on, and a french fry to the side. What it said, we discovered together (humor can stupefy even the Frenchest of Frenchmen): In Normandy, where there's a mussel. .. there's a fry. This was French that I could understand.