Having performed at Aix-en-Provence (close to Marseilles), and being readers of Dumas, we couldn’t not go to Marseilles and visit the Château d’If. We had read and heard enough about it to want to go and see how picturesque it was.
We went to the tourist office and found out what we were supposed to do. Excited and eager to set off, we stepped out of the office and unfolded the map we had been given, trying to find the the bus-stop. The map did not make sense to us at all. We looked up and around, trying to find places that corresponded to the map. We found none, so we turned the map upside-down to see if that would help. It did not.
An old lady was watching our animated and amusing little drama, easily understanding what our problem was. When we turned the map upside-down, she finally came up to us and asked in that French accent that I’ve come to love so much, “Doo you need ‘elp?”
I was with people who spoke French without any of the anxiety that I feel about not being able to understand and communicate, so the conversation easily switched to French and that lovely old lady was delighted, and grateful to us because we spoke French! She explained to us with enthusiasm where we had to go. When we asked her where we were with respect to the map, she could not figure out either, but asked if we’d like her to accompany us to the bus stop.
Touched, we refused, but talked to her a while. She was curious about Indians travelling in France, speaking nearly flawless French, and her eyes shone as we spoke to her for those three or four tiny minutes.
As we walked to the bus-stop, we turned and waved our thanks to the lady who was watching to see that we did not lose our way. It was then that we decided that whenever we travel abroad, we’ll carry little things from home – postcards of India, Indian key-chains, boxes, anything – simply because this world is filled with beautiful people you may never meet again, and you want to say a small ‘thank you’ to them, somehow.