Monday, August 29, 2005

France, cont.

Retract that

My second train journey in France shattered all the expectations I'd built up based on the first one. Not only were the trains clean, there were smoking cars. For the last part of my journey I travelled first class, which was even nicer. The seats were wider, there was coffee available, and the toilets were more sophisticated, by which I mean they didn't run out of toilet paper and had a mirror with alarmingly bright lights around it, presumably so that first class passengers could be reminded to put on their makeup and pluck their eyebrows.

I am now in, er, somewhere near Angouleme, staying with another friend, and today attended a birthday party which has left me feeling ready for a nap. French birthday parties involve a lot of food, laughter, and alcohol.

Where are they?

I am still hunting for the rude French people I was warned about. The other day, the first time I crossed a road in France, I got to the crossing and prepared to wait, as you have to in Japan. A car whizzed towards me and screeched to a halt. I hestitated, then crossed, half expecting the car to then rev up and run me over. It didn't. This has happened every time I cross the road here, as it did in Germany, and indeed everywhere else in Europe I've visited so far.

Yesterday when I got on the bus that was taking me to the train station, I found I couldn't put my large bag in the luggage compartment because the luggage compartment was full of bicycles. I lugged the bag onto the bus instead, and as I got on a man jumped up from his seat and started shouting at me. Is this a rude Frenchman? I thought, and stared at him. Some women in the front seats started laughing. Are thse rude Frenchwomen?

The man continued to shout and gesticulate. (Frenchmen are into gesticulating in a big way.)

"Er..." I said, backing off slightly, and the man said, in English,

"Your bag. Let me 'elp you."

He took the bag and lugged it to the middle of the bus, next to the exit door.

"Blah blah blah blah," he said, in French, pointing at the door, and I gathered he had told me that it would be easier for me to get it off the bus from there. I felt ashamed for doubting him, and thanked him.

"Danke!" I said. "Er, I mean merci! Arigato! Dekuji! Thank you!"

The women folded up with laughter, and the man smiled confusedly.

"Don't mention it," he said, but it was too late.

Driving in France

Earlier my friend drove me to various places in a hired car, as her car had broken down shortly before I arrived. This is the same friend I originally met in London and travelled with afterwards. She has a house in France, and that is where I was staying until yesterday morning.

She was not used to the hired car, and nor had she quite adjusted to driving on the wrong (i.e. right) side of the road. As we set off to see a big hole in the ground, she said to me, "Tell me if I drift to the wrong side of the road, won't you?"

"Which is the wrong side, again?" I asked. "I don't think this is going to work."

About half an hour later I said,

"I think you can probably change out of second gear, now."

The big hole in the ground was spectacular. I will post pictures when I am back in Japan and on my own computer. (I will post LOTS of pictures.)


On my first day at my friend's place we walked to the local village. As we were walking along the country lane a jogger passed us. Was he really French? I wondered. French people aren't supposed to jog! They're supposed to sit around in cafes all day, chain smoking and talking about philosophical matters in a funny accent. They should SCOFF at jogging.

Maybe the rude, philosophical French people all live in the cities. I haven't met any yet, but perhaps I will when I get to Paris. I have not given up.


The weather is perfect. Hot and dry in the daytime, cool at night. I am in weather heaven.


Cheryl said...

Hehehe in the UK if you get warned about rude people its Germans (on holiday) and Americans (in the UK)!
French can be quite racist and Paris is a city, where the best hidden cafes are (naturally) frequented by people who sigh when they see another loud foreign tourist enter their place of seclusion, but if you're not loud or in a big group, you should get on fine. I think Parisian drivers might be a bit different from the ones you have met so far, but I've not been there for ages, so who knows.

melinama said...

I bet you're so adorable you bring out the best in everybody. It's so much fun to hear about your travels and I look forward to seeing the pictures!