Reflecting on France
Fifteen days. Two flights, eight train rides, countless Metro rides, half a dozen boat trips on the Seine, a cable car ride up and down the Eiffel tower, one rather tense van ride around the Arc De Triomphe, a week of driving in Provence, and lots and lots of walking. And through all of that traveling, I noticed a number of things about France that I wanted to share here as a summary. First, some of my favorite things:
–A great way to end a trip is to be voluntarily bumped from a flight so you get air ticket vouchers in Euros, a free hotel stay, three meals, and a bonus day in Paris. Thanks, Ralph Nader! And thanks to Melissa, our dog sitter, for agreeing to stay an extra night.
– Croissants and pastries are amazing! And French people do actually walk around with baguettes. It’s not just a stereotype.
–The Metro Subway System is efficient, easy to navigate and understand. The one in Montreal has all but three of those qualities, so it’s clearly not a language issue.
–France is very English friendly, and most of the people we met were very kind, helpful, and open. Yes, a couple of rude waiters, but I can find those in New York City speaking my own language. In contrast to the stereotype we have in the United States, the French are a very welcoming people.
–The French love their dogs, and bring them everywhere: on trains, into restaurants, into museums. They might be more dog crazy than the United States.
–Museums are really crowded, which can be annoying at times…but it’s really exciting so many people want to see art, so no complaints here.
–There is nothing better than eating a crepe on the street!
And now some wry observations:
–The United States may not have a lot of manufacturing to export, but we do a great job of exporting our popular culture. I saw a lot of Europeans wearing Yankee caps, Hollister shirts, and a number of other pieces of clothing containing geographical and cultural references they may not have understood. It’s interesting, because you rarely see “Surf Marseilles” shirts or hats for the Bruges football team in the United States. Globalization is clearly alive and well, but as usual, it’s a one-sided endeavor.
–Parisians, you have a beautiful city, but please stop treating your parks like ash trays and garbage cans. It is much more fun to sit in a park that doesn’t resemble the back lot of a recycling center.
–Romas, I know that France and virtually every other European nation has treated you like second class citizens since like, forever. But does that scam where you pretend to find my dropped wedding ring and sell it back to me really work? I got proposed to by at least six Roma women and one man.
–French drivers really help me appreciate the cool, reasoned approach of Italian drivers.
–Young French people: you are beautiful and handsome, but won’t stay that way unless you quit smoking. Fever cigarette butts in the parks as well.
And a few rants:
–American tourist: the reason we don’t use the term “mineral water” has nothing to do with the fact that our water was fewer minerals in it. We just don’t use that term to describe our Poland Springs and our Aquafina. Both of those contain minerals. If you have more thoughts like this, please keep them to yourself.
–American father with his teenage daughters who wanted to see Shakespeare and Company: Why did you storm our of there shouting “I am not staying in that place. We are leaving. Now!” What were you afraid of, exactly? Books? Ideas? The fact that your teenage daughters were interested in reading? Maybe you should have relaxed and had a mineral water.
–All tourists who run across the roundabout to get to the Arc de Triomphe: did you notice there is no crosswalk? Please use the tunnels the good people of Paris so generously built for you so you don’t have to race screaming through traffic, and literally run the risk of being scraped off the hoods of taxis by irritated French policemen wearing hazmat suits. Thank you.
–And to the young man at the mass in Chartres Cathedral: First of all, no one since the Reagan administration ended has any excuse for wearing a Chucky from “Child’s Play” t-shirt anywhere, much less into one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the whole world. I wasn’t raised Catholic, and haven’t been to a mass in 25 years, but even I know you aren’t also supposed to take photographs during the service. There were just so many things wrong about you.
Thanks to all of you who went along with my first foray into travel writing. I hope you enjoyed it. I sincerely hope these posts gave you some sense of how really wonderful a trip it was.