In some part of my mind, by virtue of having started learning French aged 11 and continuing through 2 years of study at 'teachers' college', I think I'm French. When I get here, I'm all thrilled cos I'm going to speak French and partake of the culture. And when I get here, I'm completely tongue-tied for at least 48 hours.
I can usually manage to ask for an 'emplacement pour un camping car, deux personnes avec electricite, s'il vous plait' and then the person at the desk responds in rapid fire French and a little bit of wee comes out.
Went into a bar in Langres, trying to work out whether they served food, or just drinks. Couldn't remember the verb 'mangez', to eat. 'On peut ...er, er, er...' my fingers are miming up to my mouth. Perhaps he thinks I want to be sick the noise I'm making. I'm remembering 'dejeuner', to dine, but that's not the word I want. 'Mangez?' he asks. 'Bien sur!'
Somehow, I manage to order a chicken liver salad for Al. Mistook volaille - liver - for poulet - chicken. 'This isn't chicken,' Al remarked, when he got his little bowl of tiny turds sitting on a bed of lettuce. He ate it anyway and said it was good. I had a taste. Hmm. Not for me. Glad I had the grilled Langres cheese on little pieces of toast atop egg, ham, tomato, lettuce and delicious mayonnaise. Simple, but good.
Did a few hills on our cycle up to the walled town of Langres yesterday. Only rode about 10k round trip, but felt it in the old calves later. Justifies the bottle of Bordeaux in the evening.
Today, it'll be our fourth night in France. The patron at the camping told me I had a really good accent when I was booking our spot today, here in Dijon on the Lac Kir, right on a canal and cycling paths all over the place. Once again, a little bit of wee came out as I beamed with pride.
Basically, I'm Bart Simpson in that episode where he's in France and he can't speak French and then suddenly it clicks in and it's working. It's a good feeling. Glad all that French stuff got into my long term memory.
Another interesting phenomenon: we hired our 'camping car' in Germany, thus, we have German plates. The English campers don't speak to us, though they're all acknowledging their compatriots all over the shop. Can't think what that's all about.