Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

An attempt to blend in

When in France, the thing I hate most is being identified as a tourist. I always try to blend in, although the camera and hip bag are unmistakable give-aways. Apart from those two indispensable attributes I try to look and behave like the locals. As long as I don’t say a word, I seem to get away with it … especially when ‘real’ tourists start asking me for directions. As soon as I open my mouth though, my Belgian accent becomes the third give-away.

Amboise's pedestrian shopping street
and the famous 'Tour de l'Horloge'.
Last June, in an attempt to look the part, I left Mats and Vera to explore the Tour d’ Herbault and the gardens of Amboise castle on their own, while I made my way down the main stairs to the town centre to do something I have been dreaming of for a very, very long time: buy a newspaper, find a nice seat on the sidewalk terrace of the 'Café du Château’ at the foot of the castle ... and watch the world (tourists) go by, reading the paper and enjoying a pre-luncheon drink.

I would have preferred a newspaper with a different front page:
French troops leaving Afghanistan!

It worked out just fine and I had a very ‘French’ feeling sitting there, having a short chat with the waiter and acting as if this were my daily routine. It felt sooooo good! While I was sitting there, the 'tourist train' drove by ...

Jean, this one is for you! I know you like these little trains.
It wasn't very successful that day, though.

The only thing missing to complete my staging, was a baguette lying on the table … showing that I had been shopping for my daily lunch.


chm said...

Martine, your love for France seeps out of every word you write, Belgian accent or not!

Louise said...

Martine, I so agree with chm...I had a wonderful hour in Paris last October when I sat at Deux Magots, at an outside corner table with a coupe de champagne and I watched the world go by...I saw a wonderful slice of Parisian life from that tiny table, and admired it from an outsider's perspective. And I spoke French with an Aussie accent!

VirginiaC said...

Martine, I think you blended in just glad that you had a chance to sit back and relax and enjoy the french ambiance.

Ken Broadhurst said...

Accent, schmaccent! Tout le monde a un accent. C'est la condition humaine. Il faut assumer...

Seriously, I was surprised when I came here to live nine years ago and everybody remarked on my accent. In all the years I spent in Paris, that didn't happen so much.

Fact is, most of the people here in the Loire Valley have never (or rarely) heard a foreigner speak French. So they pick up on the accent immediately. In Paris there are so many people with so many accents that nobody takes the time to notice.

Bob said...

pity us poor souls that only speak one language. i guess if i were to speak french in a american southern accent, that would be noticable and funny. sometimes it's to your advantage to be the "tourist." have you ever just spoken just english and then listen in on the french conversations?

Nadege said...

Martine, since you are fluent in different languages, I am sure, if you wanted to, you could speak french with "l'accent de Marseille". Try it! It might work.
This is a sweet post.

Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

Lovely post, but in today's blogging world many people walk around with a camera, I am not sure that this makes you look like a tourist. I carry a camera nowadays even if I am only going shopping! My French though is complete let down and I am not a tourist, I live here LOL. Keep well Diane

ladybird said...

Chm, I didn't know it was that obvious! :)) I should be more careful the next time. lol

Louise, Watching people is fascinating ... especially if you have someone to share your impressions and thoughts with!

Viginia, It was great fun and I hope I'll get a chance to do it again soon.

Ken, It's different when you have an English accent. They don't tend to look down on you because you are making the effort. As the south of Belgium is French speaking, we are supposed to speak the 'lingo' the way they do and the French therefore really like to make fun of us... :)

Bob, There was a funny incident once in Normandy when my friend and I were speaking French and some Dutch people sitting at a nearby table were making fun of the Belgians. They didn't realize I understood what they were saying until I spoke to them in Dutch ... you should have seen their faces!

Nadege, Excellent tip!!! I'll keep it in mind the next time I meet a Frenchman.

Diane, You're right, I'm taking my camera where ever I go, except work ... because that's the only place I don't want or won't write about ... too dangerous. You never know who's reading the blog!! Hope you are feeling better by know!