25 May 2009

2006: I Wish I Knew More French

Current symptoms: cough due to nasal drainage. Attempt to make pharmacy ("le chemist") understand this with my trivial knowledge of French, and it starts to look like an old Charlie Chaplin movie, all mime and vigor, and both of us looking somewhat silly to the other. I have to admit, though, he really did try to understand, and apparently understood enough English to belly-laugh when I said (in English) "I wish I knew more French".

For what it's worth, my sense of direction is usually pretty good. I've only been truly lost a handful of times in my life, and I owe this in part to an ability to read and understand maps. This sense allows me to point my mode of transport in a particular direction and recognize that, while I may not know precisely where I "am", I'm not even remotely lost. I just don't KNOW where I am at that moment.

Perhaps nitpicking, but it's a nit I'm comfortable with.

My adventure this morning started when I was trying to (one more time) find an internet connection for ANY price in the town of Guingamp. I did this by going first to the library (closed), then the Tourist Information Bureau (next door to library, also closed). While ruminating about the "why", I noticed a company listed on the Guingamp tourist map: RTW Multimedia - Guingamp. Among the services listed are "Internet", though I'm not sure if they set up or provide access. So, with nothing more than a glance at the map, I find RTW. Across town. Closed.

Note the location for future reference, as a sign inside intimates "access" without saying so directly. Get some well-needed groceries, and head for home via "short cut."

Now, let me say the Michelin map is pretty good for getting you from major road (like Interstate 5) to less-major roads (like Woodinville-Duvall road). When the towns are named in French, and they are serviced by regular less-major roads, Michelin does a great job. When, however, the signs are in Breton, and the roads in question are in some spots the equivalent of fire service trails, Michelin breaks down.

This means, while I was headed in the right direction for as long as I stayed on the less-major roads, where I made my best mistake was in thinking that, just because the road/trail goes to St Laurent, it would tell me where to turn for my connection with Pedernec (less than 2 miles away).

EEEEE. Wrong answer. The Breton signs are numerous, and remind me of someone who tells you everything truthfully, but who doesn't tell you the whole story. "Can you get to Cleveland from here?" "Yes" <== a good example of Breton signage. We won't even talk about the signage that doesn't exist on far too many intersections between towns...

As you can see, I made it home. 30 minutes later than normal. From what I can determine, I made a huge loop on the wrong side of the D767 highway. With the weather overcast and leaky, I got no visual cues from that big yellow thing that supposedly exists. Big positive: I might not have ventured down these roads had I not gotten lost. Yes, I will be hiking/biking those roads/trails in the coming weeks, as they are picturesque and quaint. And, for what it's worth, the experience has taught me not to trust Breton signage further than I can throw it.

Note #1: Never did find out why so many places were closed today, when their signs stated they were open Thursday mornings until noon.

Note #2: Guingamp's cathedral bells started to go nuts at 10am, and didn't stop for a few minutes. Pedernec's church bells started going nuts at noon, and didn't stop for a few minutes. Coin-ki-dink? And no, we're not talking the normal on-the-hour "tolling", but major- and minor-league bells booming without noticeable pattern...

Note #3: The overcast and overall temperatures remind me of Seattle in the spring. The strength of the average wind, and the fact it really truly rains here, does not. I don't think the funnel hose of the Pineapple Express (from Hawaii to Washington state) is any different from the Gulf Stream (from the Caribbean to the Channel), but the Olympic Mountains really do act as one more barrier for the worst weather, something this area does not have...

Note #4: The birds are driving me bonkers. With the exception of the swallows, swifts, crows, and gulls, almost everything else seems to exist only within the dense leafy bits of very healthy deciduous trees. You can hear the songs, but "seeing" the birds singing the songs is difficult at best. I've photo'd the occasional passerine (perching bird), but results so far are annoying at best. I'm hoping to be shown some good bird-watching locations soon by Leslie, an ex-pat English friend of The Boys...

Now, if you will excuse me, I'm going to fix my moral equivalent of chicken soup: home-made spaghetti with meat and mushroom sauce. It always makes me feel better about being sick.


8.57 Euros / Kilo Ground meat ("Viande Hachée pur Boeuf (15%)")
0.99 Euros / 500 grams Penne Pasta
0.47 Euros / Litre Orange Juice (economy "Jus d'orange" - you would never mistake this for California's best, but Florida's? :) As the name brands cost 4-5 times more, this will do easily)

Noted for Future RSS Reference:

I've noticed my RSS program doesn't seem to deal well with "foreign" characters like the Pound Sterling or Euro character ("£" and "€"), and the accents used by the French (all of them) over (mostly) vowels. So, if it seems like my spelling of places or things is a little out of sorts, feel free to blame it on the RSS program doing its own interpretation of what I really did want to say. The program can handle these characters internally, but the moment you ask it to export, it decides to "play". Yes, it's a bug, and I will complain to the authors in a timely fashion, so until they fix it (or I find another), you are forced to wonder if I'm drunk or the program is.

Trust me :)

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