Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Foodless in France

If ever traveling to a foreign continent where a foreign, and unknown to you, language is spoken, I have some advice.

1. Don't be wimpy

2. Don't assume people will have any idea what you're talking about when you use sayings from a phrase book- but still don't be afraid to use them

3. Speaking loudly in English doesn't always mean you'll be understood

If disregarding 1-3:

4. Pack food

No one enlightened me with these brilliant tips when I went to France alone (my first time in Europe!) for a work trip. Paris, I would have been fine. But I was going 3 hours west of Paris in a small city called Rennes. Now, I was on an overnight flight from Boston, so the AirFrance folk fed me extremely well. But, there's only so much food you can moosh in on a 6 hour flight, and I was trying to "eat healthy" on this trip, so a few hours after landing while I had my layover in Paris, I hungered. Knowing what I know now, I would have just pointed to food I wanted and paid with my Euros. However, I did not follow rule #1 (don't be wimpy), and I was too nervy/lazy/wimpy to go up to a cart and get a pastry. So I hungered, assuming I'd be fed on my next flight to Rennes. I assumed wrong! Well, I think I did get some sort of cracker, but not enough to sustain me, and by landing time it was mid afternoon.

Now, in Paris you can get by speaking English. In Rennes, apparently it is considered rude to assume the people speak English. Again, disregarding rule #1, I figured I could make my way to my hotel and they'd have to have some sort of restuarant (what hotel doesn't?, and I could prob get by on minimal French). Turns out, I was not staying in Rennes, but 10 miles from the city in an industrial park. Lovely, although I did love it, because, hey, I'm in France!! Not seeing a restaurant at the hotel, I decided to nap and then find food. By the time my food search came about it was 6pm France time. Not only do restaurants not typically open until 8pm, there were VERY few within walking distance. Maybe I found 2 in my hour plus journey through the industrial park. At this point, I know I'm in France and should be enjoying the culture, but I'm tired and will resort to room service. Wrong again. No room service in my hotel, although I was told they could find some ham and bring it to me. Well, I tried!

My advice for traveling alone in a country of foreign talkers:

1. Do get a phrase book, and either attempt to speak, or don't be embarrased to point!

2. Don't hunger! Don't be afraid to look stupid, because you're only there once and you will never see these people again, and at the end of the day no one cares anyway!

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