get 53 of Mad Dog's travel columns
"Im headed to St-Malo, a
seaside vacation town in Bretagne on the English Channel. Bretagne is French for Brittany.
Français is French for French. Ill be using as much français as
possible through this because I want to get into the swing of French life (la vie
français) during my two-month stay. Well, that and Id like to prove that three
years of High School French, a $40 Berlitz CD-ROM, and a French For Travelers
phrasebook that thinks "Je crois que je suis perdu" (I think Im
lost) is actually a good thing to say to a stranger in a foreign country can actually pay
in one wonderful book!
Cleared For Landing
"Waking up to a flight attendant with a slight overbite leaning over
me murmuring in French that it was time to wake up was a very nice bienvenu. True,
it would have been nicer had the other 400 people not been on the flight, but Im
trying not to be too picky."
Those Who Cannot Remember The Past Just Werent Reading The
"St-Malo is called the Cité Corsaire, or City of Pirates,
because they used it for a staging area in the 1700s. This history lingers today in
the form of souvenir vendors who, lucky for me, mostly hibernate during the winter."
Stranger in a Strange Supermarché
"I roam aimlessly, but somethings wrong. Besides not seeing any
mugs, I dont see the first sign of Jerry Lewis. No T-shirts, no postcards, no lunch
boxes, no nothing. Could I have landed in the wrong country?"
Hey! Who Put That "I'm An American" Sticker on My
"I quickly learn that "Hi, Im an American" isnt
the International Date Line. So I come up with a new ice breaker. I smile, and using the
sweetest tone of voice I can, say, "Hi. If it wasnt for us youd be
speaking German." Luckily, very few people around here speak English."
Radio, TV and Roadkill
"I was on the way to Cap Fréhel, a beautiful rugged cape
near here, when I saw my first French roadkilla hedgehog. Obviously my Roadkill
Location Theory isnt 100% foolproof since thats also the favored roadkill in
England. Well, after the French, of course."
Speaking with a Forked French Tongue
"Most people you meet are very helpful. They listen patiently, smile
sweetly, then wrap up the pickled horse tail you accidentally order instead of a pork chop
and thank god for foreigners or theyd never get rid of these things."
C'est la Guerre
"For all my proximity to Kosovo, Im very news
deprived about the situation. I dont understand enough French for the radio to be of
any help. And the one English language station I can pick up is the BBC from Jersey, but
theyre more concerned with the farm report and whether they expect any fallout (of
the non-political kind) to affect the daffodils this year."
Getting My Culture from Yaourt*
*French for yogurt. Pronounced: ya·ow·oo·ii·ee·uurt
(as one syllable)
"French food is so wonderful they should be smiling all the time. After
all, its never more than a few hours since theyve had their last
orgasm-inducing meal. And best of all, they didnt have to wear a sensation dampening
préservatifwhat we call a condomwhile they ate it."
When Good Food Goes Bad
"I learned a new French phrase this week: intoxication alimentaire. It
means food poisoning. It would have been much more fun to have learned it from the same
phrasebook that thinks Je préfère un cinéma western (Id like to see a
western movie) might come in handy, but unfortunately that wasnt the case."
"Its getting time to shut things down here in St-Malo
and head back to the states. Not just because its a quiet, sleepy town and Im
an adrenaline junkiethough that certainly enters into the equationbut because
Im on the cusp of being accepted as a St-Malouin and, well, thats a scary
Encore! (Le mot de la fin)
"I didnt get to do as many things during my stay as I would have
liked. Or go to as many places. I kept waiting for your big fat check to arrive in the
mail but it never did. Thanks a lot. But I cant bitch; it was a great experience.
Though there are some loose ends to wrap up."