Even though we’ve now been to France so many times that I’ve lost count, we really learned a lot during our Christmas trip to Beaune and Nimes, France. This trip did not include stops at museums or sumptuous meals in restaurants. Instead, it was a road trip, complete with true crime. So instead of seeing a tourist’s eye view of France yet again, we got more of a local view. Here’s a list of ten things we learned in France this time!
10. In France, straws are made of paper. Because we were on the road so much, we had occasion to stop at many fast food places. Although I’m sure I read about France banning plastic straws, I was still surprised to drink Pepsi through a paper straw! I say good on them for tackling pollution. They’ve also done away with plastic cups and plates and plastic bags!
9. If you need a new tire in France, you’ll probably have to buy two. This is the same rule in Germany, too, according to our landlord. When our car’s tire got popped by criminals at a rest stop, we went on a search for tires for our Volvo. They proved very hard to find, although it was probably because the shops didn’t have the specific brand we required– Pirelli. If we’d told them we would accept a different brand and wouldn’t mind paying for two, we might have gotten home sooner.
8. Tire scammers are on the loose! I don’t need to go into the story about what happened to us, since I’ve covered it extensively. However, I will admit that before a few days ago, I didn’t know about organized criminals who pop people’s tires in an attempt to rob them. Be careful out there! By the way, this happens in countries around the world. Based on my research, it looks like India has a big problem with this, as do Spain and Italy.
7. France is magical at Christmas time! Bill and I had such a nice time visiting our friends, Audra and Cyril. I’m not sure if their Christmas celebration is typical, but I really enjoyed hanging out with their family, eating delicious food, and being exposed to humans again instead of the Internet!
6. Raw oysters are a popular Christmas treat in France. I had no idea that the French enjoy oysters so much, especially at Christmas time. We saw piles of them for sale at a Christmas market in Beaune and Audra and Cyril had them for their family gathering. Served with bread and fresh lemons, they make for a delightful treat for those who like them. Coming from the Tidewater region of Virginia, I was fine with enjoying the oysters both raw and cooked. Bill surprised himself by liking them, too!
5. Parking in Nimes is scary! Nimes is full of tight, narrow streets and people who can parallel park. It pays to drive a small, old car there, because parking is at a premium. The above picture is not really a representative of the wall to wall vehicles we saw there. I just liked the street cat.
4. Tile is chilly! In both of the gites I had booked before the tire fiasco, the floors were tile. That makes for easy cleaning, but it also makes the house a bit chilly. I was really glad I brought thick wool socks with me and there were plenty of blankets. Even though the weather was pretty mild, it was cold inside! We didn’t have that problem at La Maison de Maurice, which despite having tile floors, was well insulated and heated. If you’re planning to rent a house in France during the winter, you may want to bring warm clothes to ward off the chill.
3. KFC in France is not like KFC in America… Okay, so this one is a little lame, as it’s not the same in Germany as it is in America, either, and even American KFC kind of pales compared to what it was thirty or forty years ago. Besides, why eat fast food? I’m just including it because we stopped at a rest area yesterday that happened to have a KFC. Since we were tired of mediocre burgers, we opted to try France’s version of “The Colonel”. And well… I was left pretty underwhelmed by it. Here, you don’t get biscuits or mashed potatoes; you get fries. And the chicken was kind of bland, too… no choice between original or extra crispy. Yeah, I know. We should have gone into town and found a decent restaurant with real food.
2. If you don’t speak French and need to report a crime, Google Translate has you covered. Bill gave his statement in a phone with Google Translate to two sympathetic French ladies who worked for the Gendarmerie. He was amazed by how easy it was. But then, when you’re in Europe, where there are many people speaking many different languages, Google Translate is a total God send! I don’t know how I ever did without it.
And finally, number 1 (because when I try to write a 1, the blog turns it into a list). Germany is feeling more and more like home. It’s not home, of course. I am American and will always be American, and I do have plans to return there at some point. But it was sure nice to cross back into Deutschland yesterday after our French adventure. I don’t regret a single minute of our trip, though, even the criminal part. We learned a lot, made new memories, and I got some great stories and experiences to pass along. I also feel warmth, affection, and kinship for France, because even though we had the unfortunate experience of having our tire popped by crooks, we were shown a lot of hospitality and kindness during this trip. They showed all of us– including Arran– love, and Bill and I love them right back! Vive la France! I already miss the croissants!
BTW, I think the featured photo of Bill is now one of my favorites of him…