But going to a hair salon in a foreign land can be a trying experience for someone with a head of hair, even an American in France. And so Kathy returned to her language studies yesterday for the sole purpose of memorizing the phrases she would tell Gilles, the polite and gracious owner of JB Coiffure in Aix.
She spent this morning rehearsing, spouting these phrases to me in French: “I have an appointment at 10 o’clock with Gilles for a shampoo, a coloration and a cut,” she recited. “I would like the same color, bangs in the front and my hair to fall on my shoulders in the back and on the sides.”
In reality, she should have known from past experience in 2007 and 2010, that Gilles, the owner, does his own thing. This is France. But he does his work exceptionally well and with grace and charm to boot.
And so for all her worries, Kathy now has a bit of bounce in her step and flounce in her hair. She looks tres chic. Me? I had my scalp shaved with a straight razor for the first time … since I was here last. I held my breath when the blade came out.
The whole experience was delightful, from Gilles, who insisted on helping me put on my beat-up leather jacket when we left, to his two assistants, one of whom gave me something closer to a head massage than a mere shampoo.
So if you’re ever looking for a haircut in Aix, head for JB Coiffure. As I told Gilles, “You are a master.”
And he is.
The cost of cut, shampoo and color at JB Coiffure wasn’t cheap, especially for Kathy who spent more or less the same $100 or so she pays for the whole works back home. But prices here can vary tremendously. Just as a glass of wine can be a steal at $2 a glass, the cost of a few pair of jeans may land you in debtor’s prison. It’s mind-boggling. We were early to JB Coiffure’s and dawdled for a minute of window shopping at a kids’ clothing store named By Colette. Unless today is April Fool’s Day, and last I checked it’s still February, the pair of torn kids’ jeans in the display window cost 119 euros — about $165. That’s what the price tag said. And those, again, were torn jeans — in a kid’s size. On our next visit, maybe we should wear three pair of jeans each onto the plane and hawk them on a street after we land.
For a change of pace from our daily croissants and baguettes, Kathy picked up a package of four English muffins at the store with this advertising slogan: Si vous ne parlez pas Anglais, mangez-en. Rough translation: “If you don’t speak English, eat it.”
I told Kathy I’m boycotting her muffins for bakery bread. I was startled Tuesday when my French teacher said she’d seen a documentary about how the French are deserting traditional boulangeries, which bake bread, in hordes in favor of pre-packaged bread. Mon dieu. There are times I’m glad I won’t be around to watch the world change for too many decades more.
We stopped by Pavillon Vendome, the 18th century domicile and park three blocks from us to find out when the building was open to the public. Only Kathy didn’t quite craft the question the right way.
Je suis ouverte, she announced. The man at the door looked at her with wide eyes, then doubled over laughing. It was all in good fun. The problem: Kathy had announced, “I am open,” not, “When is the museum open?” Given the nature of the word, I feared this might be a particularly nasty faux pas, but my research online didn’t turn up anything dirty in online dictionaries. Who knows what slang holds.
C’est ma femme, I told the man — she’s my wife. And, I might have added, the best of traveling companions at that.