Monday, August 3, 2009

Strange French GPS Encounter and More resting and shopping at Mantes Jolie - Saturday

The bus schedule offered us 2 hours or 4 hours in Mantes Jolie with
the reduced Saturday schedule. Add in a few kilometers of walking
between places and 2 hours doesn't give you a whole lot of time, but 4
hours seemed too many. Public transit forces you into time discipline.
At 4 PM, you must be done with at the Internet café to walk to the
market. At 5 PM, you must be through the line (add in some extra time
to run back to the produce section to weigh your bananas and put the
forgotten price sticker on them while other customers wait in line),
you can get to the bus by 5:15. That's the last bus to Veutheil, so
missing it means a €10 to €20 cab ride (more after 7 PM). There's no
slowly browsing from one place and returning 3 1/4 hours or another
arbitrary time later. It puts some pressure on what should otherwise
be a lazy Saturday afternoon. It's not terrible and we did fine, but
if I don't return your e-mail, you now know why - because I had to run
for the bus.

In Paris proper, it's a different story. If you miss a subway train,
there's another in 3 or 4 minutes and even a sign to tell you how many
minutes. The commuter trains run twice an hour, with one being an
express train, so there is some reason to hurry, as you see many
people doing, to avoid standing around the train station.

We picked up pizza from the local pizzeria for dinner. It was good,
although different from American pizza. I spent the evening exploring
a different part of town. I found a soccer field and tennis courts,
all empty. In Nuevo Portil, Spain, 9 PM would have been prime time for
being out at the tennis courts and on the street. Here, there were
some cars passing through and the occasional blue glow of televisions
through open windows. Maybe everyone here has gone to resort towns
like Nuevo Portil.

As I was walking a couple of kilometers away from town, an older woman
in a car stopped me and asked for help. "No parlez vois Francais.
Parlez vois Anglais?" I tried to communicate my lack of English.
Undissuaded, she continued in French. I picked out Vi-TOOhl (just a
hint of the L) and gradually realized that might be the name of our
village with still unknown pronunciation, Vetheuil. I said Marie (town
hall) and Iglesia (church), the two landmarks in town to see if we
were indeed and she seemed to agree, although in a way that sounded
like of course I know that. I might actually be able to be helpful! So
I tried to explain to go down the road and turn right with gesturing.
I had the GPS, so I showed her the map. Without saying anything, she
grabbed it out of my hands and took it into the car and studied it,
disapprovingly (what is this strange box?). She returned it to me. As
dusk approached, I was heading back, so I said, "I am going to
Vi-TOOhl" and pointed. She grimaced. I didn't know what else to do,
short of getting into the car with her, which surely would have scared
both of us. So I headed back down the hill. She didn't follow. The
Tower of Babel wins again.

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