Around 3PM on Saturday, after I'd been sitting in front of my computer waiting for people to wake up for three hours, Stéphane poked his head into my room and asked what I was doing that afternoon and evening. I, garbed in complete sleep-wear get-up in the middle of the afternoon, clearly had no other plans than to sit in front of my computer and surf the web all day. Stéphane, kind soul that he is, (and desperate to practice his English) invited me to come to Aix-en-Provence with him and a couple friends, grab dinner, and then go to a huge night club. Since that sounded marginally better than sitting on my ass, I got dressed.
Aix-en-Provence is beautiful at night, and I wish I had my camera. Since it's only twenty minutes away, I'm definitely going to go back and take pictures, so don't worry your little heads. Half our time was spent on broad, tree-lined thoroughfares (and I'm not talking about tree-lined thoroughfares like the ones we had in Boston right before the DNC -- these trees are forty-foot tall monsters), and the other half we wandered through narrow, winding, pedestrian-only streets marked by a new restaurant every fifteen feet. No shit. It's really cool. Stéphane and I met up with his friends, and then we had a couple drinks. Two notable things: in France, there's a drink called a "demi-pêche," or "half-peach," which is a fairly light beer with a bit of peach syrup in it. Sounds disgusting, tastes good. Also, the noted regional drink of Provence (and Marseille in parcitular) is "pastis," an anise-tasting liquor. It's actually just absinthe without the crazy hallucinogenic drugs. Shockingly, it was also pretty tasty. I had two.
Some parts of my stay here really remind me that many things are the same the world over. 10PM found us four guys sitting around in a bar, calling all the girls we had phone numbers for who might be in the area of Aix. Evidently the clubs in France (like some clubs in Boston and New York, especially when they're crowded) never let guys in without girls. They usually don't even let a group of guys and girls in if there are more guys than girls. Sucks for a group of four guys who want to go to a night club, and don't really know anyone in Aix. Eventually Christophe remembered that he met a couple of American girls the last time he was in Aix, dialed them up, and handed me the phone. Evidently my capacity to turn conversations into train-wrecks is not exclusive to the French language, because I managed to reveal that I went to school at MIT and have the two American girls profess to being "tired" in the same breath. I swear to god, I never learn. At dinner, we were sitting about six feet from a pair of girls (who looked to be in their early twenties) who were being relentlessly hit on by a pair of French guys who professed to be in their late twenties but really, honestly, you're too fucking bald to be less then thirty-five, dude. First of all, their dual assault of sharing their wine with the girls and teaching them how to roll cigarettes was devastatingly effective. Here, drink this, smoke this, isn't it cool how nice we are while getting you fucked up at the same time? Second, I overheard the girls speaking English in huddled conferences before attempting to string together a sequence of disagreeing, unconjugated French words at the guys sitting next to them. Feeling the need to make up for my earlier gaffe, I leaned over and said in an unmistakable native-speaker-of-English accent, "Excuse me, I couldn't help but overhear you speaking English. Where are you guys from?" Upon learning that they were from Georgia and North Carolina and studying French at some Institute for Americans Studying French or something in Aix, I decided that I was from Florida, not from Nerd-vana. They charmingly invited us to go to a bar Sunday evening at 1130PM to watch the Super Bowl. Ensued:
Christophe: "‹The what?›"
American Girl: "‹Uh, the game of American foot? Super?›"
Christophe: "‹The what?›"
Me: "‹American football. The big game is tomorrow. The Super Bowl.›"
Christophe: "‹Oh, right! I thought that was tonight. I like rugby better.›"
Me: "‹But they said they have lots of friends studying at the same school who are all going to be at this bar tomorrow night to watch the Super Bowl. Lots of American girls.›"
Christophe: "‹Hey, now I like American football!›"
American Girl (to me): "So, you speak French, or what?"
Me: "I picked it up in bars."
Speaking of which, Stéphane, my roommate who learned his English in bars while living in a Canada and in a couple of places in Asia, has been really insistent on practicing English with me. I don't mind, because it's kind of funny, and it gives me license to ask him stupid and probing questions about subtleties of French grammar. Saturday night inspired me to begin a hopefully regular feature of this blog:
FRENCH PERSON SPEAKING ENGLISH MOMENT OF THE DAY: "I want to learn more of zee English, so I can meet zee American girls in bars and pick zem up, and say I want to jump at your bones!"
We left the restaurant around midnight, and the American girls declined to come out to a club. So we forlorn four proceeded to wander around, get turned away from several clubs because of our surplus of genitalia, and settle for sitting in a bar complaining about girls until two in the morning.
It's really like I never left Boston at all, except now I don't understand what anyone is saying. But it was definitely more fun than sitting on my ass in front of my computer.