Retour à Tours…

I managed to get most of my stuff packed for Tours last night, and I put my “morning routine” things in the carry on this morning after I was done using them. Madame was headed out the door when Sheila and I were having breakfast, so she said “à ce soir, Sheila, bonne voyage, Claire!” (See you tonight, Sheila, have a good trip, Claire!) It was below freezing when I checked the weather before Sheila and I left the house. I wasn’t thrilled… ligne 12 of the metro “made up” for how cold I was, however. We were so “sardinified” that I warmed up quite quickly. It was arguably one of the top three worst metro experiences I’ve had since I’ve been in Paris. Our theatre class today was all about the Vaudeville era in France (the main authors were Labiche and Feydeau). We’re going to see Un Chapeau de Paille d’Italie next week, and we’ll be taking a table-final on it in two weeks. After studying how the whole Vaudeville thing works (like the set up of the set and things like that) I’m considering modifying my set design for Le Malade imaginaire a little bit to tip a hat to that style of theatre. French Vaudeville was definitely born of Molière’s comedies, though it came a couple hundred years later, and Le Malade imaginaire is one of Molière’s more farcical plays, so it might work… Mme. Hersant advised us to take notes during the production when we see if so we’ll do better on our sitting exam since we’re going to be decrypting the piece itself (which we’ve done after every show thus far in class) for the test. Our last class (before the test) won’t talk about the piece at all, that’s all on us to talk about later on. No pressure, right?

Instead of taking my usual break between my theatre class and my Atelier session, I went right from one to the other and sat in on Sheila’s Atelier so I’d be able to leave Sweet Briar, go to Helmut Newcake to buy some pastries to take to Tours, then go home and finish packing.
Sometimes in English, we don’t make a distinction between “going back” and “coming back” and we’ll use the verb “to return” for both when we’re speaking. I’m the type that always uses “going” and “coming,” but apparently, I’m an oddball like we didn’t know this already. The French ALWAYS make a distinction, they don’t just use retourner for both. When you go somewhere, you’d say aller. When you “go back,” it’s retourner. When you come somewhere, (like “come here”) you would say venir, so to “come back” is revenir. Translate this: “She’s in London, but she’s returning tomorrow.” The trick here is to think of where YOU (the speaker) are, and where SHE (the subject of your sentence) is. Are you in the same place? Let’s assume for this exercise that you’re like me, and you’re in Paris right now, so no, you are not in the same place as your subject because she’s in London. That being said, she has to “come back.” The proper translation for this sentence is Elle est à Londres, mais elle reviens demain. What about this one… “She’s French, but she loves New York, and she’s going to return there someday.” Neither of you are in New York, so she has to “go back.” Elle est française, mais elle adore New York, et elle va y returner un jour. There’s one other verb you can use for going/coming back, but it has a little bit of a peculiar case attached to it… Ever heard a French person say rentrer chez moi (go back to my place) before? You can use the verb rentrer for going back or coming back, but only with things that are “yours,” meaning your town, your country, your house, your apartment… things like that. I can say “Je dois rentrer aux États-Unis bientôt” (I have to go back to the United States soon) because I’m an American, but Mme. Mellado can’t say that because she’s NOT an American. Next lesson: In English, we use “until” and pretty much any part of speech, and we’re safe. It’s not exactly that simple in French… How would you say “You can keep my dictionary until next week?” Tu peux garder mon dictionnaire jusqu’à le semaine prochaine. Here, to say “until” you’d use the structure jusqu’à + nom/pronom/adverb de temps and you’re golden. Now here’s where we get all kinds of messed up… Translate this: “We will stay in this cave until our guide comes back.” Nous resterons dans cette grotte jusqu’à ce que notre guide revienne. When you’re dealing with verbs, the structure you need to use is jusqu’à ce que + verb SUBJONCTIF. You CANNOT put that verb in the present tense! It doesn’t work that way! Last lesson for today: “I like American movies, I like Italian movies too.” The part we’re working on right now is that “too” at the end of the sentence. We’ve all been taught that it’s not really pretty to end your sentence with “aussi” and it’s not… but it works. Doing that, your sentence looks like J’aime les films américans, j’aime les films italiens aussi. It’s much prettier to put the aussi right after your conjugated verb: J’aime les films américans, j’aime aussi les films italiens. For this situation, YOU NEVER PUT AUSSI IN FRONT OF THE VERB. IF YOU DO THAT IT SAYS SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. If you put aussi in front of a verb, or you start of a sentence with it, it becomes a more elegant synonym of donc, the English equivalent would be “therefore.”If you wrote that sentence as J’aime les films américans, aussi, j’aime les films italiens, you just said “ME AMERICAN, YOU FRENCH” “I like American films, therefore, I like Italian films” which makes no sense whatsoever. If you wrote another sentence like J’aime les films américans, aussi, j’ai vu Gone with the Wind. (I like American films, therefore, I’ve seen Gone with the Wind) That would make sense. It’s much more elegant if you pulled a little inversion of the subject with that last sentence and wrote it J’aime les films américans, aussi, ai-je vu Gone with the Wind. This is a little snooty if you’re talking to someone on the metro, but that inversion of the subject trick is almost standard when you’re writing a paper, and you’ve thrown an aussi in there in this context. With the inversion of the subject, your aussi goes from meaning “therefore” to “thus.” Fancy fancy, no?
I went straight to Helmut Newcake after class, stopped by an ATM on my way there, then bought two Madame de Fontenay pastries (one chocolate, one caramel de beurre salé), a coffee eclair, a noisette-passion (hazelnut-passion fruit) tartlet, a cannellé, and two packets of chocolate chip cookies. Back home I went, and I finished packing up everything else I needed while I ate one of the cookies for “lunch.” My train was set to leave the Gare d’Austerlitz station at 18h39 so I wanted to be at the station by 18h, which meant leaving the house by 17h15 at the latest. I left at 17h to give myself a little time to spare. I trudged to Louise Michel in the freezing cold (there were predictions that it was going to snow in Paris tonight and all through Friday), then took the train back to République (the stop I need take to go to Helmut Newcake) to transfer to ligne 5 to go to Gare d’Austerlitz. The train station was absolutely freezing, and my voie (train track) wasn’t posted until about 20 minutes until the train was set to depart, so I on a bench directly in front of the departing train board for a good 15 minutes until I was thoroughly frozen to the bone. As soon as the number for my voie flashed up on the screen, I went straight there, boarded my train (we could choose our seats), and set up camp. I sat in an eight-person car, five other people joined me. Four got off of the train at the first stop. The other person left on the train with me got off at the second stop. I was alone for the rest of the train ride. I napped for an hour or so, which was about half of the ride since it was only two hours. It was an easy trip. I got off of the train with the rest of the passengers, and made my way down the track toward the front of the station, wondering if I’d see Mme. Remion at all since she hadn’t responded to the email I’d sent her last night… At the end of the track, I spotted her! I bised her and greeted her with a jovial “Bonsoir, Madame! Comment ça va?!” She smiled and chatted me up as we walked to the car, the for the whole ride home. We talked about how one of her grandkids had a baby (so now she’s an arrière grand-mère) last month, and another should have her baby between Christmas and New-Year’s, so I said it might come on my birthday, and if it was a girl, they’d have to name it after me. She laughed. She said my French has really improved, she could tell based on how quickly I was talking. She always thought my French was good when she first met me, but now it was on point. She’s impressed. I thanked her a lot. She asked if my mom ever made it to Paris, but I told her that she didn’t have the time and the fact that a one-way plane ticket to Paris from California costs $1000 was a bit of a deterrent. She said that was a bummer, but she knows my whole family will come to France at some point since they have such a good tour guide at their disposal.
Kemia (her cat) seems to recognize me, but also seems to resent the fact that there’s someone else in the house for a while. Madame made dinner quickly while I got myself settled in Anna’s old room (it was the first door Madame opened). I no sooner sat down to import some of my Paris photos into iPhoto (since it’s easier to play slideshows to Madame that way) when Madame called me to the table for dinner. I was all kinds of confused when I went to take my customary seat at the table beside her when she prompted me to take Anna’s seat across from her. We had some tomato soup for entrée, then my favorite chicken (what I now call poulet à la Françoise) with crême fraiche and balsamic vinegar with some potatoes for plat principal. She said she made it because she knew it was one of my favorite meals. In retrospect from when I made it for that dinner party at Joan’s, I had too much crême fraiche in my recipe, I should have added some pepper, and there was too much sauce in general… Madame had a bottle of red wine on the table, but asked if I wanted some before serving me. “Do you drink it now?” “Yes, I like wine now.” “I remember you didn’t drink at all before you came here.” “That’s right. I’ll only drink wine now, I like it.” “Nothing else?” “Tried that. Ça me fait mal.” (That hurts me/it makes me sick) She laughed. She asked about my boyfriend, and said it was a little bit of a bummer that I didn’t get to “experience” a French boyfriend while I was here, but I said I got a little but of an experience since one of my friends had a French boyfriend, and I hung around them a bit. Madame said it was good that I knew I loved my boyfriend back home, and that I stayed loyal to him. She asked if I’d like to live in France at some point since I had already mentioned that I didn’t want to leave (save for being with my family and Noah again). I said I’d love to, and it wouldn’t be too hard since my mom said she’d come with me, but my boyfriend would be a harder sell. Kemia was running all over the living room like someone had shoved a rocket up her rear end, so the night was filled with Madame shouting “Tu veut descendre?!” (Do you want to get down from there?!) and “Pas les griffes!” (No claws/no scratching the furniture!) Kemia was evidently reminding Madame that she still existed despite the fact that I was in the house. We had two kinds of cheeses for our cheese course, camembert and a bresse (a blue cheese). Madame brought out a small present for me since I had mentioned my birthday was coming up, and when I said it was going to be my 21st birthday, she brought out a bottle of Vouvray (a white wine from the Loire Valley that’s made in the same fashion as champagne, but can’t be called champagne because it’s not called Champagne) and told me to take it home to America with me so my boyfriend and I could drink it on my birthday! I’m not sure I can get it through customs since I won’t already be 21, so my friends and I may have to celebrate my birthday a little early and drink the bottle together (Madame’s suggestion, for the record). We had some winter fruit salad for dessert, then I brought out the pastries I’d bought from Helmut Newcake earlier that day. They’d managed to get a little busted up in transit… We had the chocolate Réligieuse (Madame de Fontenay) as Madame called it. I opened the small present after that. It was a small tray that was hand painted by someone in the Inner Wheel (Rotary club for women) of Orléans (a nearby town) with all sorts of things from the Loire Valley: wine, the grapes, two kinds of cheese… She got it for me so I’ll think of her and Tours whenever I see it. It’s going to go on the kitchen wall of my new place back in California. This woman is too sweet… 
I couldn’t believe how much I missed her. I was so excited through our entire meal together, I’m surprised I didn’t scream. We’re not sure what we’ll do together, I told Madame all I wanted to do was spend time together since my entire trip was just to be with her, not necessarily to go see more things in the Loire Valley. She said I was too sweet. She mentioned that she had the WiFi kit in the house, but she doesn’t understand how to put it together, and it’s been sitting in the box for the past two weeks. I said I knew how to do it, so I may do it for her before I leave (that’d also mean this post could go up sooner!). We’ll have to see what all is still open for cultural things this weekend, then we’ll have some more adventures!
Homme libre, toujours tu chériras la mer. -Baudelaire. “L’Homme et la Mer.”

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