Talk about embarrassment!
As my wife and I check out of a first-class, well-situated Paris hotel - the Regina, across from the Louvre, near the Tuilleries, on the Rue des Pyramides - the bellman asks for the key to the room. A taxi cab is waiting to take us to the railroad station (Gare: Lyon) for our trip to Montpellier. I reach into my pocket, extract the key (clé), and onto the floor fall 13 packets of Sweet and Low, which I have purloined for our journey through France. Six or seven men and women (hommes et femmes) observe me sinking to one knee (genou) to retrieve the pink envelopes, with the valuable powder within. My wife Lorraine bursts into uncontrollable laughter (rire).
The reason for our trip to France was to acquire World Cup (Coupe de Monde de Football) soccer tickets for the games of June 1998. I had chosen Montpellier near the Mediterranean Sea for very sound reasons:
It is one of 10 cities to host the games.
It is away from the hustle and bustle of Paris.
On a bus tour of France I took five years ago, a pharmacist in Montpellier removed an object from my wife's eye, to our everlasting gratitude.
Montpellier has a magnificent square (Place de la Comedie), with cultural and gastronomic wonders, and many universities.
The city is loaded with early Roman architecture, such as its aqueducts and roads.
Unfortunately, the French Soccer Association has bungled the distribution of tickets (billets), and the only remaining tickets are available on the black market (marché noir) at unrealistic prices. I have come to the sad conclusion that I will have to watch the World Cup on television.
In a short burst, I will relate what I enjoyed and what I didn't like during our six days in France.
The country is beautiful. It is definitely civilized with art, music, books and American movies. Its streets and buildings are ancient, by American standards.
The food (alimentaire) is outstanding. Good beer (Kronenbourg from Alsace-Lorraine), great wines (red and white - rouge et blanc) and crunchy and delicious baguettes. Don't forget the cheese (fromage). There are too many charming restaurants, bistros, maisons and auberges, and not enough time to dine in all of them.
The railroads are fast, clean and ultramodern. We traveled from Paris to Montpellier (north to south) in four hours.
The money is easy to count once you have established the rates.
The tip is included in the price, which saves a lot of brain power when paying for a meal.
I love saying "bonjour," "bon soir" and "merci." It's so French!
I will end this column with an au revoir, and next week I will summarize some of the negatives we encountered in La Belle France.
It will include an incident which has not completely unfolded yet. "Le Affaire Greenberg." Stay tuned!