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Family Storytelling

Reminder

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!

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55 replies on “Reminder”

This is wonderfully written. I can see you standing at the crepe stall puffing your cheeks like the French indeed do. 🙂 (I can even hear the sound it produces!) It’s funny isn’t it how one instantly can travel back in time, language and place. And, well, Europe lies open again, you could travel south if you want to… You managed to keep the litter out your beautiful photograps. What does the orange picture show?

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Thank you, Peter! I was considering doing a collage of the litter, heheh! But no, too ugly. Oh, the orange picture is of the sea water. It’s very shallow and you can walk for ages before having to swim. The sand in the water was a very odd colour: dark brown, but somehow it also looked a bit red or orange. Voilà!

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Nicely written Snow. Many of your points resonate well. On domestic holidays and litter, I’ve seen the same here. I hate to disparage my fellow countrymen, but I think people who travel from abroad have more respect for the country they’re visiting. I guess if you’re paying thousands of dollars for your holiday, you’re less inclined to leave junk around.

On speaking French … I had a similar discussion with my husband who was born in Paris but grew up in Canada – that France-french people speak as much with their faces, hands & shoulders as with their words. We were watching the Netflix series “Call my Agent” or “Dix pour cent” and he kept saying “… they are so French!” Even for me, who is pathetic with languages, I can mimic the french shrug & pout 🙂

Have you seen this show? If you haven’t, you should check it out. I think you’ll like it.

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Oh yes, I’ve seen it! I really liked it, until I started getting frustrated with the main character at some point (the female agent) and she just wasn’t at all likeable, in my opinion. I stopped watching, there’s still at least one season I didn’t see.
Interesting to know French-speaking Canadians don’t do the puffing, eyebrow raising and waving! Maybe it’s a European thing, since Italian certainly have their share of meaninful gestures, too. Probably even more so than the French!

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What a happy surprise. I never had a bad meal in France. Even the less wonderful had redeeming elements. Too bad about the littered beach. I feel the same way about some spots around here. How hard is it to take garbage home?
Love the photo of the water ripples over orange sand. I did recognize that having taken way too many similar photos in my time! Also love the wooden walkway over the sand. Looks like a desert railway!

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Wow, what a great story. And that’s so cool you know another language. How many other languages do you speak? I’ve always admired those with multilingual skills. I myself speak a few languages, but I don’t have a firm grasp (especially for writing) on them.

Anyway, us humans are destroyers. Even the most remote places have trash all over if they’re tourist spots. Sad, no?

Anyway, thanks for this post!

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Thanks for reading, Stuart! I speak a few languages and understand a few more. I haven’t needed them as much as I’d have wanted to and they’ve kind of slowly faded away. There are 4 or 5 I can speak but I don’t trust my writing skills anymore. And you know a few too, that’s great! I’m a bit of a language nerd 😁

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I LOVE crepes and I know what you mean about people in France treating you differently for speaking English 😆. I’m so sorry that the dunes were disappointing with all the trash! Human beings suck sometimes. 😒 I really hope that you enjoyed your trip though!!

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Thanks so much for reading! I lived in France for a few years and used French all the time at work, but in restaurants etc I did get treated as if I was an American tourist (I’m not American) because I don’t look French at all. It was a bit frustrating because my French was perfectly fine and I wanted to speak it, but people kept switching to English with me before I could open my mouth.
We had a little biking accident today but luckily nothing bad happened! Phew! A few more days to go…

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I totally understand your desperation for a taste of the before-times world; I am feeling very much the same. It’s like the little crepe stand was put there just for you – to escape your freezing rental and your own country for just a few minutes!

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Yes, like it was there just for me, or even a piece of my imagination. But it’s there, I’m looking at it from the balcony right now. Maybe my travel standards are too high, having travelled so much that I formed expectations that I take for granted. Tourism in rural Finland is still very undeveloped

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I thought Finland was clean. It’s disappointing to hear that you encountered a lot of trash. Especially on the beach! Trash anywhere is gross but you just can’t worry about it when you’re trying to spread your blanket, let the kids roam free, etc.
Glad to hear that the crepe place was open ‘late’ and that you were able to ‘travel’ to France for a minute.

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I thought Finland was clean, too! (Apart from the Baltic Sea, which I see every day in Helsinki and it’s in bad shape.) The broken glass in the sand is really a hazard for kids, who just can’t be expected to be as careful as grownups.
Anyway, crepes to the rescue, yay!

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I understand you so well! I love how you talk about French, that’s how I feel too and would even more probably if I moved back home. When they take me to be French, it’s still a victory every time 😊 and there really is something about being different people in different languages, a language can bring out something in us, maybe even some aspects of our personality that others might not…

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Yes, exactly! In French, I’m the alternative version of me, the one I would have been, could have been, thanking no to a coffee that’s too large and taking life slightly less seriously, because the puffed cheeks-with-shrug relieves stress… In Swedish, I’m the girl who surprised people because they didn’t know I speak it. They therefore treat me as perhaps more sophisticated than I really am, and it can be nice to play that part for a while 😊 In Finnish, I’m the slang-speaking casual girl next door who doesn’t know business jargon in Finnish and therefore seems a bit simple-minded. In English, I’m a child again and my imagination runs loose ❤️ Good luck collecting those little victories! Thanks for identifying with me! 😊

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How nicely you write about different aspects of you, it makes me want to think about how people see me and how I see myself, too. I’m the alternative version of me in French as well I think, more free and confident, in Slovenian I always fall partly back into the role of the shy, serious little girl, whereas in English I might be the most sentimental one haha. Thanks! Good luck to you collecting these moments 😊

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But now I want to know what the Spanish and Italian stands were selling and did you get into any conversations with them? Isn’t it interesting how a food or a phrase or a song can transport us somewhere else? Bernie

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Hahah! I was actually thinking, at the time, that it would be funny if I went to both of them and started speaking Spanish and Italian. I did find out what they were selling, however: churros and pizza!
Thanks very much for reading this, Bernie!

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Littered beach is a very common sight here, but in Finland? I didn’t expect that. I also don’t understand how hard it can be to bring it back, especially it is lighter. 6-7pm is when hawker stalls start to open here. Glad you enjoyed your crepe in French style for a moment 🙂

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Litter always makes me sad. I once saw a man throw a cigarette butt into the sea from a ferry and I still remember that moment. I was like WHAT ARE YOU DOING and he was just looking like “this is what I always do”. I didn’t confront him though, he looked like a ganster!

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Same here and it gets sadder when one can’t do anything about it when the person has tattoo all over the body or appear like a gangster as you mentioned. Ciggie butts are all over the town here, I only can confront those that do not seem aggressive. Some work, some don’t. We do what we can right 🙂

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I absolutely loved this. I also adore the name of your blog, and the first line of this post is wonderful! (The rest is too.) The commercial slogan gave me chills. I haven’t traveled since 2019. I don’t remember that person! My husband just left for his first travels since 2019 last night, and I can see it in his eyes in the photos he’s sent. It’s been a long haul, this virus.

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Hey, thanks for your kind words! I’m glad you left a comment because this way I can follow you on the Reader – I couldn’t find a follow button on your blog apart from the email button! 😊 My last trip abroad was in 2018 because my kids were so small. Four years ago!! Hope your husband has a good trip and maybe we’ll all get back to our travels soon

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Thanks for letting me know. My theme expired (not sure what that means). But every time I try a new theme, it feels like the world is ending, and I quickly shut my laptop. 🙂 Thanks for the kind words. Glad to be in touch.

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What a lovely and well-described moment. 🙂 I’m really glad that it was open. I spoke Spanish at an Argentinian stall in Piran, Slovenia, once again after decades and it was hilarious because Italian and Spanish were fighting in my head. And then I wrote a postcard almost entirely in Spanish without looking up anything! It made me happy. Sorry about the littered beach though.

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I had no idea you spoke Spanish! Well done for writing it too (without cheating), that’s always more difficult in my opinion. I have fond memories of mixing Spanish and Italian, too, that summer I spent in Italy so long ago. I wonder who that postcard was to – do you have Spanish friends?

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I will follow you anywhere for crepes with strawberries and nutella. The very thought reminds me of a little restaurant where I went to school. My friend and I would have French onion soup or a salad, just a small one, so we would have room for crepes. I remember my favorite being stuffed with cream cheese, or possibly ricotta, and covered with a sweet and tart orange sauce. Why do I never make crepes?

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Such a lovely comment! Thank you. Let’s take our crepes and go conquer the world! Sweet and savoury fillings in our handbags and off we go! 🤪 Seriously, though, your orange sauce reminds me of a Nutella & Grand Marnier crepe I used to order over and over again when I lived in Paris. I tried to reconstruct that simple recipe at home but it never worked: the liquor was far from delicious. But at the crepe stands in Paris, it was always wonderful.
Let me know if you do decide to make some crepes!

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