Impressions of France

  • The stereotype of French people as snobbish hasn’t been our experience. Most are nice to us.
  • French people kiss when they greet and say goodbye. Usually an alternating kiss on both cheeks, with an optional third kiss on the initial cheek. Both men and women do this, with members of the same and opposite sexes. I saw people at a large business going around and kissing everyone in the morning as part of their daily greeting.
  • We haven’t seen a lot of berets, but both men and woman like to wear scarves. Many men also carry shoulder bags, which can resemble purses.
  • Most of the people Patrick speaks to in French voluntarily switch to English in short order, or give him a blank stare as if his pronunciation is so terrible as to be unintelligible. Perhaps he should have studied harder in high school.
  • People prefer to shop for small quantities of fresh food daily. There are markets several times a week in almost every city, and people pick fruits, vegetables, meats, and cheeses from the fine selection offered (smaller shops but more selection).
  • Bread is purchased daily. Fresh baguettes cost about 1 Euro ($1.45 Canadian). They have no preservatives and seem to retain their amazing fresh-baked crustiness for 4 to 6 hours, after which they are fit for toasting only.
  • Pain au ChocolatThe baking is excellent. There are even more bakeries (boulangeries) and pastry shops (patisseries) than in Italy. They serve a variety of tasty treats, including the chocolate croissants (pain au chocolat) that Diane can’t get enough of.
  • Yes, they really do eat frogs’ legs and rabbits here. We were in the market this morning and we saw a butcher with a large selection of whole skinned rabbits and rabbit parts in his display case. Diane was shocked when she saw three whole dead rabbits in the case also, still in their fur. The butchers also seem to carry a greater variety of meats including hearts, intestine, etc.
  • French people will drink wine at any time of the day. We’ve seen what appear to be normal people drinking wine at 9 AM at brunch. Generally though, the French aren’t big on breakfast, preferring an espresso and a croissant or other pastry.
  • In many places, McDonald’s doesn’t open until 9 or 10 AM. They don’t serve breakfast either, but they do have free Wi-Fi and cheap coffee for Diane.
  • The famous bouillabaisse (seafood stew) of France’s second largest city Marseilles is too rich for our blood. One serving costs about 50 Euro (about 75 dollars), with cheaper imitations of soupe de poisson (fish soup) abounding.
  • French people are not good at cleaning up after their dogs. In some cities (yes, you Marseilles), you need to be vigilant as sidewalk turds are commonplace. We even saw one that had a small flag fashioned with a toothpick pole stuck in it, perhaps a political statement from a crap crusader. It seems like it would be easier to just clean it up than to raise a flag on it. It reminded me of India, but cow shit is easier to spot.
  • Like in Italy, almost everything is closed on Sundays. Only a few restaurants, some museums, movie cinemas, and the occasional bakery stay open. Museums and some other attractions are often closed on Mondays. Closures and holidays need to be considered when planning what to do.
  • There is a lot of Roman history in Southern France. Some of the best preserved examples of Roman theatres, amphitheatres, arenas, and aqueducts are here. Two thousand years old with little or no maintenance and still looking good. I wonder how long my house would stand if I did no maintenance? 40 years?

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6 thoughts on “Impressions of France

  1. At first glance there was something about that Chocolate croissant that didn’t look appetizing but a second look at it was very appealing.

    Thanks for the blogs!!

    1. Diane says, “Even you couldn’t resist Annette”. They key is to get them fresh out of the oven. Light, crispy, buttery, and choclate-eee.

      By the way, Diane did her first run in forever, along the river in Avignon. Right past the bridge in the French nursery rhyme and song, “Sur le pont D’avignon…”

  2. In addition to the pain au chocolat….you must try the chausson de pommes (apple turnover)…they are to die for in France! (Nothing like the emaciated, fake apple filling, bread dough pastry that most places serve in Canada). Also, try the yoghurt… It’s all so good!

    1. We agree Christine. We’ve had the chausson de pommes several times, nothing like the waxy tasting things you get in Vancouver. We’ve had several kinds of yoghurt — some are very rich, almost like dessert. Some many things to eat, and so little time! Thanks for your comment!

  3. We could take a page from the French & Italians by NOT opening major stores on Sundays. It was like this back in the 60’s when we even closed down dept. stores on Wednesday afternoons & Sundays. That’s when the local corner store made their money. Oh well, those days are likely over for good. Too bad!!

    And yes, the chocolate croissant did look wonderful. Could almost taste it it looked so good!!

    Thanks for another good blog.

    Moe & Arlene

    1. It’s funny. Some many Frenh towns, even when the shops are open, seem very quiet. I’m not sure whether it’s the lack of pedestrians or lack of parking lots, but sometimes it’s hard to tell at first glance if things are open or closed (with they also do for 2 hours every day for lunch). When the shops are closed, some towns seem positively deserted. I’m sure that’s not the case in Paris, but we’ll have to wait until next year to find out.

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