Is a standing joke in my head. It stems from one of those French phrases you learn at school and will remain with me until the day I die. In fact, my friend and I would often say it as a joke on our trip around Europe all those years ago. It signified our limited amount of French and when we didn't know what to say (in any language) we would say to each other "ou est la gare?" You would have to be there to appreciate it but it was very funny and still gives me an internal chuckle.
Take for instance when I had to visit the pharmacy in France last week. On the day I had hired the bikes I was merrily inserting my contact lenses and realised that the right eye wasn't in properly. When I tried to find it I thought "did it go in at all?" I came to the conclusion it couldn't have done and wore another pair. That night my eye was very sore - I'm talking conjunctivitis here. I left it another day and then thought I'd pop to the pharmacy. Much like the roads in France, people rave about their pharmacies. In fact, its probably on a 'must visit' list somewhere. So prior to popping in, I imagined walking up to the counter and saying "ou est la gare?" Of course I didn't and said something along the lines of "avez vous quelquechose pour conjuctivite?" Ta dah! She understood - probably helped by my pointing to the red, puffy swollen eye So I got the eye solution, paid 4 euros 50 and off I went. That day my contact lens came out. It had been in there all along. Thankfully I didn't have to have my eyeball removed.
Anyway, I digress as I like to do. The purpose of this post was to tell you what I love about France.
The signs for the towns. I like the way they put a red line through it when you are leaving. Its like you were here and now you aren't.
The cycle paths. They are huge. They're not tagged onto the road. They are roads in their own right. In fact, cyclists are right up there in the pecking order. They are top dogs. Pedestrians are at the bottom of the pile. If you're a walker you're nothing in France. Step on what appears to be a pedestrian crossing at your peril. There is no guarantee any mode of transport will stop for you.
I saw a box type thing to fill up your tyres with air along a cycle route - like you would get in a petrol station. Love that. Wonder if they dispense puncture kits also.
The modest advertising boards in the fields by major companies like Super U and Carrefour - yup they just plonk a tiny little board on a wooden pole and shove it in a field. I like that.
The painting of water towers with a theme i.e a seaside theme if by the coast and so on. They make ugly buildings a bit more attractive by painting them pretty.
The roundabouts. They like to decorate them too - you'll see funny shaped people made out of shells or wicker. Again making boring things look pretty.
The wooded picnic areas dotted all over the place. You can pull up sit and have your lunch in a beautiful setting and away you go. If it were here I'm sure the National Trust would claim it and you'd be charged entry.
They make best use of their natural resources. For instance, its very windy along the Atlantic coast but they promote all sorts of wind based sports. Like people who use a surf board attached to a giant kite. See, they've thought what can you do on a beach when you can't sit and enjoy it? Clever that.
And a few things I don't..
The fact they only give you a few seconds to decide on which way you need to go on the motorway. They tell you once and then you're right on the junction. We like to be told about 3 times before we come off. When you do come off you also have to negotiate a hair-pin bend.
The French don't queue. They don't give a shit if you were first in line. There is no queueing etiquette. That's a tough one to get over but you have to unless you can row proficiently in French.
Shitting in the woods I was talking about earlier. When we decided to go for a walk in these beautiful picnic areas you were greeted with bright pink toilet paper where people couldn't wait to get home and have a shit - oh no - they thought they'd just do it there. Dirty bastards. I would like to think its the camper vans who can't be arsed to set up their chemical toilets but I 'm not so sure. I think its accepted as standard but it shouldn't be. Its disgusting. How desperate you gotta be for a shit, that you have to take one in the woods?!
So there you have it. France in a nutshell and if you're there anytime soon be sure to say "ou est la gare?!"