The number formatting gets a little weird above sixty, and even more weird above eighty. The number cited in today's blog is the number we would call one hundred and eighty-six. To the French however, they count it as one hundred with four twenties and six (cent quatre vingt six). Above ninety, it really taxes me, with a number like ninety-two being said as four twenties and twelve (quatre vingt douze). I think this is one of the reasons I'm having difficulty understanding how much money the cashier wants at the store.
This past week was rather eventful, as Pamela paid me a visit, we traveled to Collioure, shared a Thanksgiving meal, watch Christmas movies (which she had brought with her: Scrooge, Elf, It's a Wonderful Life), got to see the first snowfall of the season in Sceaux, and went to dinner at Le Train Bleu.
The trip to Collioure involve a high speed train ride from Paris to Montpellier. The train hits speeds greater than 200 mph, and is very comfortable, complete with wireless Internet, food service, electrical outlets for computers and electronics, and ground-level views of France. The traverse from Paris to Montpellier took about four hours, and in Montpelier a we grabbed a rental car. When booking the train reservations, one has the ability to also book hotels and rental cars on the same site, which makes arranging such trips very easy. We drove from Montpellier through the countryside of southern France. It was sunny most of the trip, and it was easy to see why this area is called The Wine Lake of France. Vineyards were literally everywhere. The area we traversed produces the greatest volume of wine in the world. Until 15 or 20 years ago; however, the wine was not considered of good quality. This mostly had to do with the rather careless way in which the wine was prepared. However, as global competition for wine increased, the French government sought out winemakers from other parts of the world to come and re-craft the wines of southern France. And indeed, those who are already there, stepped up their game as well. The result has been a revival of winemaking in southern France, and a new and interesting offering for world markets. If one thinks of only Bordeaux and Burgundy when they consider French wines, they need to update their thinking.
It took us three hours to make the trip by car from Montpellier to Collioure, and as we arrived, we were surrounded by the Mediterranean to our left and the steep and terraced hills of Collioure to our right. It was a beautiful scene. The hotel was amazing, not for its comforts, but rather its million-dollar views. Collioure is a very small town, easy for pedestrians to enjoy, and is completely overrun with tourists in the summer. At this time of year, we literally had the town to ourselves. We were the only ones in the hotel. We ate at a very nice restaurant, and were its only customers. We could stop and shop, a visit with the shopkeeper for several minutes, even up to half an hour, because we were the only customers. And everywhere we looked, the scenery was breathtaking.
Upon our return to Paris, we took a taxi and asked him to drive us along the Champs Élysées, on which they had turned on the Christmas lights the previous Monday, and their traditional Christmas village was in full swing. The Champs Élysées traffic was painfully slow, but perfect for looking at Christmas lights and seeing the Christmas village.
We returned to Sceaux on Wednesday, and Thursday morning, Thanksgiving Day, I set out for the market to shop for Thanksgiving dinner. The big question on my mind was, "Will I be able to find any turkey?". I went to my favorite butcher shop and asked, "avez vous la dinde?" (Do you have turkey?). I was in luck, they had some turkey. Not a whole turkey, but basically the leg and thigh of a rather large turkey, which would be plenty for us. I could not find traditional dinner rolls at the bakery, so we had to settle for brioche. Pam prepared a wonderful meal, and the apartment smelled of turkey and dressing the rest of the day. It was a nice Thanksgiving day, even in France.
Friday evening I took Pam to Le Train Bleu, a historical restaurant at Gare de Lyon. The restaurant was created for a world exposition in 1900, and has 41 paintings on the ceilings and walls depicting life in France at that time. The service and the food were impeccable and perfect. We got our reservation at the traditional French dinnertime, which is 8 PM. We left the restaurant after too many courses to remember, sometime after 11 PM. By the time we waited for a taxi and got home it was 1230 in the morning, and five hours later Pam departed for the airport to make her way back to Houston.
In three weeks it will be my turn to travel, I get to go home for the holidays. I'm looking forward to that.
Thanks once again for joining me in this journey,