Whenever Bill and I take trips, I like to think of ten things I learned. I have found that travel is one of the best ways to learn new things, meet new people, and expand horizons. Although Semur En Auxois was not on my top ten list of places I wanted to see, we really enjoyed our weekend there. And so, in the interest of promoting this underrated town, I give you the top ten things we learned on our trip to Semur En Auxois, France.
10. There are still places in western Europe where not everyone speaks English. I know some people will say that the French purposely choose not to speak English and maybe that’s true sometimes. I didn’t find it to be true in Semur En Auxois. Everyone we ran into was pleasant, though not necessarily fluent in English. Frankly, I found it very refreshing, even though it made communicating more difficult.
9. In France, you can go to the grocery store on Sunday! It’s true that things do shut down for the “day of rest”, but people have to have their croissants. So, if you also need to load up on wine or cheese for the ride back to Germany, you may very well be able to stop in. I’m not sure if this is true in every part of France, but it was in Semur En Auxois, which I would not consider to be a tourist mecca.
8. It can be very rewarding to wander among small towns and just soak in the local flavor. It’s true that this particular trip was not of the Clark W. Grizwold variety. We didn’t make a point of seeing all of the things we could have seen. But we did get to see some very charming French villages and enjoy some wonderful scenery. Sometimes, it’s good to just soak up the atmosphere.
7. Cheese that smells like feet apparently tastes fantastic. This is according to my husband, Bill, who likes that sort of thing. If you like unusual and stinky cheeses, France is your place! As for me, pass the Monterrey Jack and make sure it’s melted.
6. Europeans aren’t into spaying and neutering their pets the way Americans are. Although people have given us strange looks in Germany for having two dogs sans testicles, it wasn’t until we went to France that we learned why. At least in Germany, there is a law that prohibits removing organs from animals for non medical reasons, although it doesn’t seem to be heavily enforced and exceptions can be made. Europeans seem to be opposed to the practice of spaying and neutering in general. I just found a five year old article that explains that neutering your dog is actually illegal in Norway. Interesting! This revelation ranks right up there with learning that many German men sit down to pee when they’re at home.
5. Free parking and free WCs! Although I know free potties and parking are not necessarily the norm in France, we did find them both to be a lot more plentiful there than in Germany. On the other hand, prepare to pay tolls on the motorways!
4. Even if you don’t speak French, you can have rewarding conversations… See my reference to spaying and neutering above, which came about as we were chatting with an elderly French lady who wondered where our dogs’ balls were. Of course, we could have misinterpreted. Incidentally, we also saw a local guy walking by wearing a t-shirt that read “This is my Halloween costume.” We count that as another bizarre occurrence during our travels (and we always have at least one on every trip we take).
3. My French isn’t as bad as I thought it was. Which isn’t to say that it’s good at all. I just understood more than I would have expected. I definitely need to study it, though. But I also need to study German. Why couldn’t I have spent two years in a country where I would have learned French instead of Eastern Armenian? Just my luck, I guess.
2. Even obscure towns are worth seeing. My guess is that most Americans have never heard of Semur En Auxois. Most Americans would prefer to visit Paris, Lyon, Nice, or Normandy. We had a very good time in rural France. It was an authentic experience that I would highly recommend to other Americans if they have the means and the opportunity. Just pick a small town and go. You may surprise yourself by what you’ll end up learning and seeing.
1. France is wonderful. I will admit, my very first impressions of France in 1995 were quite unfavorable. I spent a whole, miserable, jet lagged day stuck at Charles de Gaulle airport where I was treated rudely. However, every time I have gone back to France, and there have been many times since 1995, I have fallen more in love with the country. There’s a lot to love about France and I hope we can go back again soon. I kind of feel the same way about New York City. I hated my first visit, but loved it more with each subsequent trip. By the time we move back to the States, I will probably be madly in love with France.
France is beautiful, even when the sun isn’t shining!