the breaded train.

The Friday before Christmas was a double festive day for all: it was the last day of school for 2013 and my mother was in town. It was also a day where four métro lines were out of service for the afternoon forcing me to restructure my commute to school. Heeding to RATP's tweet advising passengers to avoid lines 2,6,10 and 11, with a few changes here and there, we made it to the safe line 7. 

But of course, 7 had to join in on the fun too.

Holding bags of American chocolates and presents for the little ones, my mother and I sat still at the Pyramides station in a stuffy and closed métro car waiting sans announcements for what felt like longer than ten minutes.

"Are you sure the numba 7 wasn't on the list of out of service subways?" my mother asked loudly, letting her voice bounce off the walls of the enclosed car.

"Yes, I'm sure." I hissed, anxiously looking at the time.

"Well it smells like farts in here." she announced, fanning herself with her Us Weekly magazine.

She was absolutely right. It did and by the quiet chuckles from several passengers who apparently understood English, we weren't the only ones who recognized it. 

"Throw mama from the train." I slowly turned to her, playfully threatening her with a raising an eyebrow.

"Yeah and then what?" she retorted. "You'll be even later for school filling out the reports."

The conductor finally made his announcement, which I'm not sure if it's the fault of my French comprehension or the shoddy métro "sound system" resembled the incoherent grownups in the Peanuts cartoons.

"Whah, whah, whah," he declared, "Et whah, whah, whah. Merci beaucoup."

Most likely it was some presumptuous message thanking me for my patience and understanding, so it was probably better that I didn't understand it. When the clunky doors glided back open to allow air into the warm car, I interpreted it as encouragement to take an alternative route. We were getting there by foot. With my mother in tow, we ran from Pyramids to Gare de L'Est.

 Just to give you an idea...

Huffing and puffing with linked arms, we shuffled down the rues with my mother emitting her discomfort through comments and cursing, and we wove in and out of pedestrians shouting "Excusez-nous!". Catching a glimpse of us in the reflection of a boutique, the two of us looked like little Italian mamadellas running after jewel thieves in Paris.

We made it to school and heading straight for the cantine (an after school program for some kids or a waiting point for pissed off kids whose parents or nannies are late.) 

Franck, of course, didn't notice that we were late or we were even there for that matter as we found him rolling around with his friends on the floor, wired up on sugar. Thomas on the other hand posed more of a challenge...where was Thomas? 

"It smells like farts in here too!" my mother again declared as we charged around the classroom looking for child number 2.

But again, she was right. It did.

The maîtresse (which always amuses me that it means both mistress and teacher in French) lead me to Thomas who was crouched in the corner with tears streaming down his face and yogurt encrusted around his mouth.

"Oh, no, what's wrong?" I said as I picked him up.

"You forgot me!" he cried.

"Non, non, le train était en pané" I said, switching to French in order to be clear.

Or was I?

"En pané?" he asked, staring at me, softly blinking his row of dark eyelashes.

"Oui, en pané," I responded, putting him down. "Desolée."

"What do you mean, en pané?" he insisted, looking lost and almost desperate.

"En panne you mean," the maîtresse who was within earshot gently suggested, "The train was en panne because pané means breaded."

Well, that explains his confused look. I don't know what I would have done at the age of 4, if someone had told me that they were late because their train was breaded. 

After explaining the métro trouble, Thomas finally accepted his reality yet offered a sound solution on how I could have avoided the entire catastrophe.

"You should have taken the TGV," he said with an assuring nod, "It's a lot faster than the métro." 

It most certainly is, Thomas. 


  1. Oh I do love it when your mother comes to visit :oD And Thomas is a hoot, not at all surprised by Franc mind you ;o)

    1. Hahaah Franck didn't care that we were there. We could have showed up at 8 pm. As long as he was with his friends, he was happy as a clam. Thomas kills me with his witty comments. The two of them bicker like old men. Love it.

  2. I often wish there was a TGV to take me across Paris ... In breadcrumbs or otherwise!

    1. Hahaha! Wouldn't that be nice? I think the closest thing would be the line 14. That train cuts right down the city. It's my favorite line.

  3. That's quite a walk! And yet almost certainly faster than trying to find another way to take public transportation to Gare de l'Est, especially on a day when a third of the lines are breaded. I hope the kiddies enjoyed the chocolates.

    1. You're telling me! By the time we made it to school we were sweating! My mother as usual was a riot with her comments. Pyramids was so congested that even calling a taxi would have taken longer and the buses were even delayed, so walking really was our only option.

      They scarfed down the chocolates! They kept saying "May I have more chocolate American?" Their English mysteriously kicks in when there is chocolate at stake. : )

      Thanks for commenting!

  4. What a cute recap! Lovely family.

  5. I love these stories about mistranslations/speaking mistakes, particularly with little glad to know it's not only me that these things happen to! This story, much like the cozy boys story, had me rolling around on the floor (much like Franc probably) laughing.

    1. Hi Alisa! Thank you for your comment! Making mistakes is all part of the fun of learning another language. If you can't laugh at yourself...

      I do, however, try not to speak French with them for reasons like this because they too are learning the language and don't want to influence them with silly mistakes like this...even if I'm entertained. : )

      Thank you! I'm so glad you liked the story. These little guys keep me fueled in them!

  6. Oh, thanks for the laughs! You know, this is the second story I've read here involving mistakes with breaded language. :)

    1. You're welcome. : ) You know I don't do it on purpose. I guess I have a mental block regarding all things bread here! This gaffe still makes me chuckle..."the train was breaded" I can't.

  7. Indeed, silly goose! Why DIDN'T you take the TGV?;) Not breaded enough for the likes of you?;))

    Made it back to Colchester a few hours ago:) Now, it's back to business for me! But I'm beat!:)) As much as I love Paris, it felt good to come HOME:) I have my work cut out for me this week, that's for sure:)

    1. Hahaha! Next time I WILL take the TGV! This little guy is obsessed with the TGV because he takes it once a month to his his grandmother in Bourgogne, so he thinks it goes everywhere.

      You know, last week I was ready to wrap up the holiday season. It was nice to let go for a few weeks and enjoy the year's end with friends, family, good food and lots of bubbles, but all good things must come to an end. 2014 awaits. : )

  8. This post had me laughing out loud, which woke up my chéri, who tried to hit my nonexistent "mute" button to quiet my giggling. I totally appreciate how easy it is to make these kind of mistakes in French and the confused looks they elicit from small children (better than the looks of scorn from French teenagers). When I first arrived in France, I pronounced "gare" like "guerre" and I certainly got a lot of strange looks when I was heading off to the train station and announced "Je vais a la guerre!" I adore your hilarious anecdotes about life in France!

    1. haha! I still sometimes confuse "gare" and "guerre" and I am a French teacher!

  9. Je l'adore. I am totally going to use this story with my students regarding why accents matter in French!

  10. Omg I love them. Well now you've had a breaded train (with bread crumbs) and not a breaded piece of chicken or fish because the boulangerie woman wouldnt sell you bread crumbs. I can just see your mom... amazing!