Saturday, 11 July 2015

Last Thoughts en France

Capturing the morning sun rays through the clouds over the Rhone River
After our tour of France, we reflected on what we saw and experienced, and it was quite a lot! We walked through many chateaus, visited a number of cathedrals and churches, saw lots of art work and hunted around for grocery stores.

Finding these stores were tough, particularly in small towns, where everything was shut -- except for restaurants -- by 7pm. We also liked to look for and buy the cheapest water we could get, and a 1.5 litre bottle could be had for 0.20 euros.

Looking out over Paris from Centre Pompidou
In general though, the people were quite nice to us, perhaps knowing full well the country is dependent on tourism to keep the economy relatively afloat. Wait staff were friendly for the most part, sometimes aloof rather than attentive -- in Hong Kong this would be an outrage, but we were on holiday so we didn't mind -- so much.

Only one or two people we encountered had snobbish attitudes, including a guy who hosted us as a winery museum and assumed we knew nothing about wines or tasting them.

He proudly demonstrated how to first smell the wine, swirl it in the glass and then smell it again, sip the wine and swish it around the mouth with sucking sounds and then politely spit it out into a bucket.

His mostly American guests were too keen to drink the wine, or too self-conscious to spit. But he made it sound like it was such an art form, but really it's an industry thing, not a consumer practice.

A lot of the French women we saw had some kind of style. They were not too practical when it came to dressing, but not too outlandish either, no matter what age. They seem to have an innate sense of style, or is it because the shops there sell more stylish clothes?

A colourful set of umbrellas -- Hong Kong?! -- in Les Baux
On our last day in Nice I noticed an elderly couple on the street, a woman in her 70s wearing a sleeveless dress, and had obviously put some effort into dressing up with a matching handbag and wore a gold necklace around her neck.

The elderly man she was with was more straight forward in his outfit, but it made me realize that men in France do appreciate and notice what their partner is wearing. It seems to be a given that a French woman will dress up, and men innately know to appreciate her style.

In Nice in particular, but also in Paris, women dress nonchalantly, even if bra straps are showing, or tops and bottoms are see-through. Perhaps in Hong Kong most people are keen to present a professional image, as most people here look proper, wearing suits and dresses without revealing too much.

It's not unusual to find women wearing short skirts or dresses with hems way above the knee. We didn't see too many wearing heels, most wearing flats or sandals because they walk so much.

The French will buy baguettes almost on a daily basis and carry it half covered in one hand and the rest of the shopping or their briefcase in the other. It seems bread is a crucial staple here, much like rice and noodles are to the Chinese, though we wouldn't carry them around so easily.

The food we ate was mid-priced in touristy areas and value for money. Almost all the dishes we ate came with very large salads, or the salads on menus were large enough to be a meal in itself. Perhaps another reason the French stay relatively slim?

We were also quite impressed with the truck rest stops. One of them had a grocery section on one side, a cafeteria-style eatery on the other, and there were large washrooms and even showers for people to use. However to keep things moving along, the women's toilets did not have seats...!

On the whole though we were very happy with the overall experience in France (minus the taxi strike on the first day!) and with the weak euro we took advantage of the sales of up to 50 percent off! Interestingly at the airport, there were some mark downs there too, but the selection and the discounts weren't able to entice travelers to spend the last of their euros...

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