Friday, 26 August 2016

La Vie en Rose II (or highlights of a translator's first 36 hours holed up in a cheap hotel close to Paris)

O.K., so I'm not actually in Paris, I'm typing away in a good but dirt-cheap airport hotel close to CDG airport in Roissy.  And it's not all that boring, but just not as exciting as I had planned the trip before I knew that I would be taking a HUGE translation with me ;-).

Add to that a vicious jet lag (When I start typing this, it is 1:30 am, I arrived here at 11 am and slept between 3 pm and 6 pm and between 9 pm and 11 pm.  Now I'm just waiting for breakfast to open at 4 am ;-)

French TV is showing French-synchronized versions of Law & Order (the old ones, Lenny is still on the beat ;-) and time passes alternating between translating,writing a bit of blog, and smoking outside.

I keep dozing off and finally get up and grab a cappuccino from the machine in the lobby at 3 am. One hour until breakfast ;-)

There are already things that I have to do today: Must go to that HUGE mall Aeroville right next to Charles de Gaulle airport and buy stuff essential to a bicycle trip through France: water kettle, instant coffee, cork screw, wine, etc. etc. etc. 

When I have a cigarette outside at 3:30 am, there is something new in the hotel lobby. Something unbelievably enjoyable. It is the smell of real fresh croissants being baked right here on the premises somewhere. OMG, that smell alone is worth the price of the plane ticket. 

The most fool-proof way of getting to heaven? Rip open a real fresh croissant, pour honey in it, eat.  

Surprisingly I am the only one in the breakfast room at 4:20 am, and that is good. None of the queuing or wiggling around other people trying to get to the toaster or the jam.  Right, jam. No, not the usual choice of strawberry or raspberry. Mediocrity would never survive in France for long..  Abricot and Red Cassis are some of the choices. And they even taste like the real thing ;-)

shady figure 
 No surprise, during the post-breakfast smoke at 4:45, it is still dark outside.
A new celestial body ?`
In a working break, I check Canadian news and wish I hadn't. There is this video of a Toronto cab driver driving in the designated bike lane part of the road. A cyclist knocks on his window to get the driver to keep his distance, and with a quick intentional swerve of the wheel, the cabby knocks the cyclist off his bike.  A sign of the times in Canada ;-(

At 6:30 it finally gets light outside.  Time to take the bike for a spin. Yes, it's an industrial estate area by the airport in the North of Paris, but the air smells fresher than I've smelled in weeks.  Strange world.  And it's the PERFECT time that I roll out of the hotel's driveway ;-)

At 8:30 am it's time for a break, so I go for breakfast again. Hey, it's been 4 hours since the last one and the guy who baked the croissants left at 6 am, so for anyone who might be interested, this is my first breakfast !  Two breakfasts for Euro 5.90, not bad ;-)

For a moment I am questioning what I'm doing here. I'm a 15 minute tram ride from the centre of Paris, and I'm staying in this hotel 3 nights without even a single excursion to that tourist Mecca.   

But then I've had numerous 1 or 2 day-stints in Paris before, with or without bike, so that I've seen pretty much all of the sites. And sight-seeing is not advisable right now anyway, since Parisians have left the city for their annual August holidays (My friend Joanna is in the Beaujolais right now), and the city is teeming with tourists.  
On the other hand, I have a very functional and VERY QUIET room (triple glazing and inaudible air-conditioning) with a price for 3 nights that I couldn't even get a room for one night for in Vancouver.  No distractions, I can work here ;-).

At 9:30 am, I head out to cycle to Aeroville, to buy utensils and food. Not what most people do when they go shopping in Paris ;-)


After an hour and a bit I am back in the hotel with a brand-new water kettle, cork-screw, plate, cup, knife, as well as a bottle of FABULOUS Voigner (Euro 3.65!), bread, cheese, salami, instant coffee (Not crappy Nescafe but the heavenly Dutch stuff we discovered in June ;-).

At 11:30 am I'm getting tired.  That's o.k., it is 2:30 am in Vancouver and I've only been over here for 24 hours ;-). I'm going to wait for Hippopotamus to open (noon), have an appetizer Salad Nicoise with a glass of wine, and hit the bed for an afternoon nap. 

Nap? Not quite. I wake up at 7 pm.  And I still could sleep more. Better save that for tonight though. Wow. Must have needed that ;-)

It's time to head to Hippopotamus again for my Salad Nicoise (this time with a Rose). Again I notice the poor manners of some North American tourists. When I came in here, I at least stuttered to the waitress "Bon soir. seulement un peu de francais", accompanied by thumb and forefinger close together to indicate how little the peu really is.  At the hotel reception, I had used "Bon jour. Parlez vous anglais?".  Not so with the representatives of the North-American Way of Life at the table next to me. No Greeting, just a blunt question:  "You speak English?" is all they throw at the French waiter/manager.  And they probably don't even notice the VERY extended pause of SILENCE before the waiter replies "Yes, we do.". C'mon, it doesn't cost you anything to learn the words for Good Evening and Thank You when you visit a foreign country.  No diplomat will be able to rectify the damage to bilateral relations that you just caused, because the damage has been done at the base level.  If I don't like you after hearing that, what do you think the French guy will think of you????

Maybe it's writing the above that exhausts me so, but upon return to my hotel I fall asleep again and don't rise until 11 pm.  On my first smoke break after that I see the most adorable thing.  Guests have left their empty take-away containers in bags next to the ashtray outside the lobby.  TWO adorable tiny kittens have ripped one bag and one kitten has figured out that if it pushes its head inside one of those Styrofoam food containers, it will be in food heaven. 
Alas, when I come back with a camera, the kittens are well fed and no longer there ;-(.

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