France is all in Code – #1

Apologies WordPress followers!! I’ve been offline for two weeks. Really to rethink the technology thing for our travels. Here’ the latest. Will try to post every couple of days to catch up to ourselves:

One can read the road atlas of a foreign country printed in English, book accommodation at reception with mute gestures, go to restaurants with pictures on the menu and supermarkets where you can wander and dither over purchases without speaking to anyone and look at the till for the total and pay up without understanding a word from checkout clerk. That will only propel you a very little way into the ambience of your host country.

Jimmy and wished for more interaction. At least I did. Jimmy seeks sunshine, warmth and good food and wine and one can’t disagree with that.

We found the village post office on the town plan and stood outside a locked door reading the opening hours. Numbers we understand. I’d bought a postcard knowing I’d almost certainly come unstuck trying to buy a stamp, never guessing my fist hurdle would be on the doorstep of the post office.

“It says here they’re open 8:45 to 12:00.” Our watches read 10:00 am. We tried the door again. Non! There were no windows to gawp through and shrug in a Gallic fashion to signal to someone inside.

Perplexed and confused – a frequent state of affairs for us – we were startled to hear a French voice, “Il est fermé?” It’s shut?

“Oui.”

“Babble, babble, babble et vous babble, babble comme ça.” An approaching post office patron pressed a button and a buzzer buzzed, the door clicked and she turned the handle to let us in.

 The post office operated as a secret society or it was just a security measure to protect the post mistress working on her own in the building. We’d seen no evidence of gangs or lurking criminals but who knows?

After buying a stamp – place addressed postcard on counter, say something incoherent and receive stamp after handing over a five euro note to be sure to cover the price – we were locked in. A kindly gent, waiting his turn, pointed out the switch marked appuyez ici pour ouvrir, press here to open, and we stumbled out feeling foolish and foreign. A fit of embarrassed laughter accompanied us up the road.

The same security measures detained the uninitiated in the town hall. The employees decided it was better to release me back out on the streets of the village than to confine me to Le Marie, the town hall, with them, so, again, pressed a secret panel to free me from their midst. I’d been asking for the name of someone to enlighten me with a few French language lessons. My French was so atrocious it took three of them to understand my request and a fourth to usher me out. I have a name and a phone number but I am not confident enough to call. Stalemate.

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