If you’re travelling with me, missing air conditioning instructions can quite easily lead to a Nutella-strawberry crêpe.
How? Well, let me fill you in. We’re on holiday, domestically, since when I booked this trip several months ago, I had no idea whether international travel would ever be on the cards again.
We travelled north, attracted by sand dunes in a tiny town called Kalajoki.
The beach beyond the sand dunes turned out to be one of the most littered places I’ve travelled to. As we walked the dunes on our first day here, the kids started a game where they followed the trail of rubbish, pretending it would eventually lead to the culprits who were, inevitably, bandits or thieves. Because why else would someone leave all this garbage behind?
So many cigarette stumps, beer cans, bottle corks, coasters, broken bottles and glass shards everywhere. Not to mention food and beach toy packaging, lots of used toilet paper, abandoned clothes and even a clothes hangar. It was distracting. We made it to the beach, but I wasn’t looking forward to it anymore.
So far, the water here has been too cold for a swim, and the over-priced holiday flat we rented matches the water: the air conditioning seems to be permanently frozen to, well, frozen.
This keeps leading me to the balcony, only slightly less freezing. And it was from there that we watched three stalls being set up on the tiny market area below.
One had a Spanish flag, the second a French one, and the third, Italian. Our view was to the stalls’ back, so we could only guess which treats they might be offering. Hubby was hoping for crêpes.
After some speculation, I just had to go down and see for myself. The kids were sleeping, I’d showered the day off, and I was already in my nightie. Instead of getting changed, I just pulled clothes on top and headed out.
Crêpes turned out to be the main item at the French stall, which was the only one still open at the very late hour of 8 pm. Since Covid, everything seems to close at 6-7 pm in Helsinki, the capital, and so I was genuinely surprised they were open. They had even arranged cute chairs and tables and it reminded me of another land, another time. This place or that, visited during my travelling twenties. A coffee here, a piadina there.
The crêpe seller (or Crêpe Master, perhaps?) arrived and greeted me in a mixture of Finnish and English. I replied in English, guessing he only knew a few words of Finnish, and when I used the French word ”crêpe”, the magic began.
He started speaking to me in French. Now, when I lived in France, twenty years ago, this never happened. Sadly, I was always treated as the English-speaker, so I was genuinely happy to get to speak French now! Very unexpected: I’d had no intention of doing so. I don’t even know where all the words came from. They just flowed, pouring out of me like prisoners running loose.
In a way, French is one of the languages of my childhood, since I started learning it at school at 11, and I always loved it and soaked in everything I could; the whole culture. Something about the language feels to me very strongly like home.
So perhaps it wasn’t that surprising, after all, that the words emerged from some deep hiding place in my brain. Suddenly, I was the Finnish girl in Paris again, puffing my cheeks and waving my hands – why did all of these gestures automatically appear as soon as I started speaking French?
It was such a nice conversation and it reminded me of what used to be, once upon a time. What still is, across these borders, in some other people’s worlds.
A Finnish airline is actually running some ads right now, saying something along the lines of, ”Remind yourself of the person you used to become when you travelled.” I know exactly what they mean.
The stall trader told me that they’d decided to stay open late, against the local trend, because they wanted to give people the chance to come and get dessert after dinner, just like in France. My heart melted at the thought of bringing a bit of France over here, to Finland.
My dessert was ready. He expertly poured Nutella on top and added strawberries.
C’est parfait, merci! Bonne soirée!