A Mad Dog in Bretagne

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"I’m headed to St-Malo, a seaside vacation town in Bretagne on the English Channel. Bretagne is French for Brittany. Français is French for French. I’ll be using as much français as possible through this because I want to get into the swing of French life (la vie français) during my two-month stay. Well, that and I’d like to prove that three years of High School French, a $40 Berlitz CD-ROM, and a French For Traveler’s phrasebook that thinks "Je crois que je suis perdu" (I think I’m lost) is actually a good thing to say to a stranger in a foreign country can actually pay off......"

Part I
Cleared For Landing
"Waking up to a flight attendant with a slight overbite leaning over me murmuring in French that it was time to wake up was a very nice bienvenu. True, it would have been nicer had the other 400 people not been on the flight, but I’m trying not to be too picky."

Part II
Those Who Cannot Remember The Past Just Weren’t Reading The Guide Book
"St-Malo is called the Cité Corsaire, or City of Pirates, because they used it for a staging area in the 1700’s. This history lingers today in the form of souvenir vendors who, lucky for me, mostly hibernate during the winter."

Part III
Stranger in a Strange Supermarché
"I roam aimlessly, but something’s wrong. Besides not seeing any mugs, I don’t see the first sign of Jerry Lewis. No T-shirts, no postcards, no lunch boxes, no nothing. Could I have landed in the wrong country?"

Part IV
Hey!  Who Put That "I'm An American" Sticker on My Back?
"I quickly learn that "Hi, I’m an American" isn’t the International Date Line. So I come up with a new ice breaker. I smile, and using the sweetest tone of voice I can, say, "Hi. If it wasn’t for us you’d be speaking German." Luckily, very few people around here speak English."

Part V
Radio, TV and Roadkill
"I was on the way to Cap Fréhel, a beautiful rugged cape near here, when I saw my first French roadkill—a hedgehog. Obviously my Roadkill Location Theory isn’t 100% foolproof since that’s also the favored roadkill in England. Well, after the French, of course."

Part VI
Speaking with a Forked French Tongue
"Most people you meet are very helpful. They listen patiently, smile sweetly, then wrap up the pickled horse tail you accidentally order instead of a pork chop and thank god for foreigners or they’d never get rid of these things."

Part VII
C'est la Guerre

"For all my proximity to Kosovo, I’m very news deprived about the situation. I don’t understand enough French for the radio to be of any help. And the one English language station I can pick up is the BBC from Jersey, but they’re more concerned with the farm report and whether they expect any fallout (of the non-political kind) to affect the daffodils this year."

Getting My Culture from Yaourt*
       *French for yogurt. Pronounced: ya·ow·oo·ii·ee·uurt (as one syllable)
"French food is so wonderful they should be smiling all the time. After all, it’s never more than a few hours since they’ve had their last orgasm-inducing meal. And best of all, they didn’t have to wear a sensation dampening préservatif—what we call a condom—while they ate it."

Part IX
When Good Food Goes Bad

"I learned a new French phrase this week: intoxication alimentaire. It means food poisoning. It would have been much more fun to have learned it from the same phrasebook that thinks Je préfère un cinéma western (I’d like to see a western movie) might come in handy, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case."

Part X

"It’s getting time to shut things down here in St-Malo and head back to the states. Not just because it’s a quiet, sleepy town and I’m an adrenaline junkie—though that certainly enters into the equation—but because I’m on the cusp of being accepted as a St-Malouin and, well, that’s a scary thought."

Part XI
Encore! (Le mot de la fin)
"I didn’t get to do as many things during my stay as I would have liked. Or go to as many places. I kept waiting for your big fat check to arrive in the mail but it never did. Thanks a lot. But I can’t bitch; it was a great experience. Though there are some loose ends to wrap up."



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