Chez Helen tried her best


If you grew up in Calgary in the 60’s, or any other Canadian
city I expect, you had limited choices when it came to pre-school morning TV.

Ed Allen did a fitness show where he’d do jumping jacks and
arm swings and perhaps call out your Mother’s name.

The Friendly Giant would rearrange his living room, wake up
a rooster, whistle for a giraffe, and then hold a concert with a couple of jazz
loving cats.

And Chez Helene would teach French with the help of Suzie
the mouse. 

Chez Helene was the only show my Mom forced me to watch, all
in the good name of bilingualism. So, of course, I hated it.

The very first opportunity I had to drop French in junior
high school it was — ‘au revoir’. 
A decision I’ve always regretted. 
I could have used a little Francais today as we had several trains to

Train 1 – Basel, Switzerland to Mulhouse, France.  Half an hour’s ride – no need to worry

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about this one. I practiced my phrase book and let it rip – ‘ou est la gate de
Mulhouse?”  (It sounded way
better)  Strange stare.  Oh right, this is the ‘German’
speaking’ section of Switzerland, as opposed to the French or Italian or
whatever the 4th official language is I’ve now forgotten.  Not that it mattered – I was 0 for 4.

But we made it on. 

Train 2 – Mulhouse to Paris.  ‘Ou est la gate de Paris’?  Now feeling very good about the flow and especially pleased
with the ‘ree’ in Paris. ‘Gate 7, right over there’. 

Bettered by a Frenchman with impeccable diction.

Train 3 – Paris to Caen.  No trouble finding the gate here…. But struggled ordering
lunch for my kids and coffee for my wife before we headed out.  Our quick snack of ‘comfort’ food at
Mcdonalds turned a kids meal into an enfant disaster.  Even I couldn’t screw up Mcnuggets…. But the fries turned
out to be apple sauce in a squeeze container.  No idea.

As for the coffees, apart from the whipped cream topping,
they were fine.

In my next life I will study languages and learn at least 2
other than my native tongue. 
That’s my promise to you Chez Helene, wherever you are.  Say bonjour to Suzie.

Travel tip:  If
you’re traveling by Eurail and have connections in your plans you MUST make….
reserve your seats ahead of time. 
It will cost you an upgrade, the price depending on how far the trip
is.  But your seat is guaranteed
and you don’t have to worry.  
We were burned on one trip because the train was ‘sold out’ — even
though the Eurail timetable book didn’t list it as a route you must reserve.  If you HAVE to make a connection…. Pay
the upgrade.