April 15-August 2, 2014
At dinner one night at Pam and John’s, John asked if one of us could do them a small favor. Their neighbor, Francois, was a fan of assembling model cars. John’s father had been so impressed with Francois’ collection that he’d sent a vintage model car for Francois. The only problem was that John didn’t speak French and Francois, from Switzerland, didn’t speak English.
I volunteered for the task. Francois lived a short walk away. He seemed delighted to have someone to speak French with again. We presented him with the model car and he invited us in for a drink. Still in the middle of our evening at Pam and John’s, we couldn’t stay. There was enough time for him to show me his collection of cars.
Collection is an understatement. Francois had hundreds of tiny cars that he’d built himself from kits. He had models of every Citroen and Renault ever made, as well as some Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Bugattis. If there wasn’t a kit for a specific make, he would make his own pieces from exisiting kits. Scott had to see this.
Francois gave me his phone number. We arranged a time to meet and he also invited us over for lunch. In addition to making model cars, Francois is a talented cook. He treated us to a mushroom risotto with mushrooms imported from his last trip to Switzerland. Scott and Francois enjoyed some nice wine. We finished the meal with mangoes picked from the tree just outside the apartment. You can’t have much fresher than that.
Scott was impressed with all the cars. We spent a few hours looking at them while Francois explained the ones which didn’t have a kit and how he made them. He’s looking for a museum to buy the whole collection.
Another one of Francois’ passions is cruises. He’s taken many, many cruises, mostly around the Mediterranean. He invited us back a few times to share photos and movies from some of the cruises he’d been on. They’re not really our style of travel, but we loved seeing his passion for them.
We enjoyed speaking French again, although it was difficult. We both found ourselves stumbling over words and struggling with forgotten grammar. I can’t imagine how it will feel to readjust to life in French again.
We met another French speaker, Alain, towards the end of our time in Aswan while we were in the DHL office. He’d just moved to Aswan a week or so before and was working there, although he’d been in Egypt for over 20 years. His Egyptian wife was living in Cairo and she she spent the summers in the UK to escape the heat.
Alain spoke English, French and Arabic fluently. He was in the middle of setting up his new house and checking out his work site. He was working on a drainage project. We told him about our travels over a drink at one of cafes along the water and arranged a meeting to introduce him to Francois. We hoped to create a friendship between these two men who had more than just language in common.