I distracted myself from my hunger by shopping using a lot of pointing, gesturing and writing of numbers. It was then that I realized that mimes probably aren’t performance artists. They are really just frustrated, desperate, non-French speaking tourists trying to communicate. Given a wardrobe change and some make-up, my husband and I could have easily been confused with mimes. Our performance was successful because I managed to purchase the earrings I wanted. Since the boutique only accepted cash, we were running dangerously low on francs. Fearing the café wouldn’t take credit cards either, we decided to find a cash machine. Surely in a country known for banking, there would be readily available, easily identifiable cash machines.
Thirty minutes more of hiking up and down the hills of Lausanne had provided us with a good workout and a great tour of the old town section of the city, but no more francs. Hot, tired and hungry, we decided it was time to employ the assistance of one of the locals. We whipped out our handy-dandy French phrase book, but quickly realized that it has certain limitations. It is a wonderful resource for asking a question, but you are shit out of luck interpreting the answer to that question because you have no way to look up the response in the book. Nevertheless, my husband made a valiant attempt to ask the shop owner where a cash machine was located. My husband’s hideous French pronunciations must have made this kind man realize that answering us in spoken language was futile. He stepped out of his shop and pointed to a cash machine inconspicuously nestled into the architectural detail of a building we had passed no less than 3 times. With a grateful wave and “merci” to the shopkeeper, we dashed across to the cash machine.
Anxiously, we stuck our card into the slot hoping it would come back out again when we were finished. We couldn’t imagine the gesturing we’d have to do in the bank the next day to try to explain what happened if the machine ate our card. Thankfully, we had the option to conduct our transaction in English. We chose to withdraw 200 francs figuring we’d get a bunch of 20’s or other small bills, like we do at home. To our great relief, our card spit back out into our waiting hands, but so too did a single, gigantic 200 franc bill; a bill so large that I needed to fold it into thirds to fit it in my wallet.
Very large cash in hand, we headed back to our original dinner destination. As we stood there looking at the menu board near the entrance guessing at the French vocabulary lesson that would soon become our meal, a very nice waiter overheard us and offered us a menu written in English. This guy was getting a big tip in a country where there is very little tipping!
Our initial relief at having an English menu quickly disappeared when we started to actually read the menu. With items like calf head, snails, raw ham and tripe, perhaps we would have been better off not understanding what it was we were ordering for dinner. As I searched the menu desperate for less “exotic” fare, my husband said, “Did you see the horse on the menu?”
Immediately I closed the menu and glanced at the cover assuming he was referring to an illustration of a horse. “There’s no horse on here,” I said pointing to my menu.
“Not there,” he said reaching over and flipping my menu open to an English page. “There,” he said indicating the first entrée listed.
“I saw that already. That’s the house fillet,” I said.
“Fillet of what?” he asked looking at me and waiting for me to catch on.
“I don’t know. Fillet of some type of meat,” I said not understanding why he had such a smug grin on his face.
I looked down at my menu again and my eyes widened. “Oh my God! That says horse fillet, not house fillet.” I said laughing.
After a dinner that did not include horse, we started the long trek back to our hotel. By the time we reached our room on the fourth floor we were mentally and physically exhausted, but quite proud of ourselves for managing to make a purchase, eat a meal and find our way back to our hotel. As we got ready for bed, we left the bathroom door open so that we could admire the view from the toilet.
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