The serrated tip of the brandished knife quivered in my face with a flourish. Mr Kiwi and I looked at each other, just who was this madman?? What on earth were we going to do??
When the topic of ‘the most interesting character you’ve met while travelling’ popped into our conversations of the next linkup topic, I knew immediately who it had to be. I adore travelling with my most constant companion Mr Kiwi (believe me, any couple who can travel together, will be together for a long long time – we’ve come to a ratio that works beautifully; 1 pint to every two random cultural items) but it wasn’t him. I love weekends away with my girls; wine, castles, cakes and tunes but it wasn’t them either.
Random travel companions sometimes for a day, a week or a few hours who have kept popping up over Europe and on facebook. Not them. The beautiful New Yorker, a stranger who exchanged parcels of goodies over the Atlantic, before inviting me whilst in New York for a quintessential Pastrami sandwich, then sent me photos of her brand new newborn. Nope. The stunning hotel clerk in Amsterdam who laughed over my confusion at all of the streets names around our hotel starting with Emma. No siree. The American girl who hadn’t ever left home before, and slept on top of a Czech bed complaining that they hadn’t supplied bedding – whereas in reality, she hadn’t ever turned down her own duvet. It wasn’t even her.
On a romantic birthday break and the first time in the French capital for both of us, having given up on the tourist-y haunts of the main streets, Mr Kiwi and I were searching the twisting back streets for a jewel. A genuine French bistro. I wanted a moodily lit restaurant where real Parisians treasure age old cooking methods, incredible fresh bread and umm, well snails. Hey, we were tourists after all.
Spotting a wee treasure at the back of several offices, we made our way towards the small doors surrounded by wildly gesticulating smokers enjoying a post-work vino. A little scared, we steeled ourselves and entered the busy room. Espying the menus – all in handwritten French – we decided on escargot, bouef and dessert roulette (employing the point and be surprised method).
It was then he walked to our table. Well, skipped is more like it. A petite Frenchman, dressed entirely in black made his way to our table, eyebrow arched. He smiled, asked me something in French, and after hours of practising my Lonely Planet French, I panicked.
Smiling toothily, I replied. “Erm, I’m so sorry but we don’t really speak French – and if we tried it would be terrebley.” (You know, terrible but with a riduculous French accent).
Grinning like the devil, he seized the steak knife innocently waiting on the table, waved it in our surprised faces and proclaimed “Ah, that is ok. You no speak French, I no speak English, you no eat! Oh hohoho!” Racing away, he returned with goblets of fragrant red wine, laughed, and said “I only joke, of course you can eat. What would you like??” Laughing, and sincerely relieved we began enjoying our meal. Half an hour later he also threatened a flower seller with someone else’s knife, so we figured it was his standard greeting. An unusual way to run a business, but hey, were in his country!