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Around the World in 210 Days

Last Thoughts on France

PORTUGAL | Thursday, 25 October 2007 | Views [670] | Comments [5]

So after a month of baguettes, wine, and confusing subways… we have left France and arrived in Lisbon, Portugal.

We have had the opportunity to see many of the famous sights, the beautiful countryside, and take part in many “French experiences” (Including our increasing ability to ignore the little red man at the crosswalks, something Benoit told us is very French). In fact, with only a few hours before catching our plane, we were inadvertently treated to a very authentic French experience. Our flight was at 9:30am, but because the airport is an hour outside of Paris, we had to catch an assigned bus at 6:30. Before we left Paris the first time, we had the opportunity to make a dry run on the subways to the bus station, and determined it would take about an hour. We didn’t have the slightest problem, either, getting to the station, so we were quite ready for our travel day. We thought we’d be fine.

Which, of course, is the cue for France’s public transportation to sock it to us one last time. You may not know this, but the workers in France have a penchant for striking. Apparently it happens QUITE frequently. The Saturday night that we traveled from Marseille back to Paris, we arrived at the main terminal around 11. It was only when we went to catch our subway train back to Valerie and Benoit’s that we realized there were no trains to catch. The tunnel we were standing in was abandoned. We went to another tunnel, one with a train, but it was going the wrong direction so we went back upstairs. That’s when it dawned on us that the entire country’s public transportation workers were in the middle of a dispute, and therefore NOT WORKING. They had only certain lines running very infrequently (unfortunately the signs explaining which lines were running were in French), but we managed to navigate our way back to the house (we feel it was only luck that we traveled on the night of a rugby match, and so likely most trains were devoted to traveling in that direction, also the direction of our place). It was crazy, but kind of fun in a “so this is what it’s like to be Parisian” way.

Alas, when it dawned on us that the strike was not going to end by Monday, we got a little worried. Even the night buses were not running, but Sunday night Benoit helped us determine the early morning schedule for the few running trains. The website showed trains leaving at 5:11am and 5:26am, either of which would allow just enough time for us to catch our bus. We got to the train station around 4:45 and watched one of the slowest clocks I’d ever seen. It had bright green hands, and every time the second hand passed the 12, the minute hand clunked over one notch with a shake. It was nerve-wracking not knowing if the train was going to arrive, but finally 5:11 came. The train, however, did not. After that, the once slow clock moved with lightning speed. The second hand twirled around the face of the clock so fast that we could no longer see it, and the minute hand flew toward 5:30 at a sound-barrier-breaking pace. At 5:26, the second train arrived and we made it no problem. No wait, that’s what we wanted to happen. Actually, the train did NOT arrive, and we thought we might have to move in with Valerie and Benoit permanently. Luckily for us, though, Benoit had offered a backup plan that saved our train-missing hides. He volunteered to wake up and drive us to the bus station if the trains did not run. We felt terribly bad, but relieved, when he showed up at the train station to take us. So, thanks to him, we made our bus, and plane, and made it safely to Porto.

Now, what everyone came here for… things we have learned in France.

             1) If someone walks up to you speaking French (usually in the form of a question) you can say “Zhe no par-lay-pah fraw-say”… but usually the dumbfounded lack of understanding on your face is enough to tell them you don’t have any idea what they’re talking about.

             2) A half liter (litre) of coke costs 2 euros, a liter of wine costs 1.50.

             3) If you go to Marseille, you may be tempted to look at the sights of old buildings and ports, but it is advisable to spend half of your sight-seeing on the sidewalks in front of you. You will see many “sights” that the stray dogs have left behind in hopes you will step in them.

             4) If your hotel costs less than every other hotel in town, do not be surprised if there are holes in walls or people yelling at each other. In fact, just plan on watching the yelling people through the holes in the walls, and call it French Theatre.

             5) In Paris a strawberry milkshake at McDonald’s costs 1 euro and in Marseille it’s 2.20, so you’re better off opting for the 1 euro ice cream cone. But either way an internet café is 3-4 euros an hour, so if you can handle the calories, McD’s wi-fi is the way to go.

             6) If you thought libraries could be boring, just try going into a library where the books are not in English and don’t have pictures. That’s right, picture-less French books. Yawn.

             7) If you go to Marseille, do not, under any circumstances, no matter how many guidebooks you read, and even if you can get in for one euro because you’re a student, think that it is a good idea to visit the Musee de Histoire de Marseille. Worst. Museum. Ever….and finally…

             8) You NEED, MUST HAVE, a Valerie and Benoit.  The trip wouldn’t have been near the success it was without these lovely people.  As Benoit would say…the point is… the Country of Origin. 

Tags: Culture

 

Comments

1

I was so happy to read your post and as i sat here laughing out loud Dylan and Gayle think I have really gone around the bend, so if you hear i have been sent to the nut house it is all your fault. I really hope all the rest of your travels are as much fun and exciting as france was (at least for me it was) I am glad you two made it to Porto ok. i am really happy that you have great internet and of course with it being so close to parker and i leaving for africa for 2 weeks your all gung ho with us calling on skype any time, don't really know how i like that. but since i have until the 1st to call i will be calling often. as the camara should be on the way we will be expecting to have tons of pictures. love and miss you both mom

  mardi Oct 25, 2007 1:24 PM

2

Yes that was a great post. If I had not seen a post yesterday I had decided that I would go Parisian on you two and go on strike.
I was going to shut down my massive email machine... so lucky for you.

I felt like I was right there missing trains with you.

You don't know it now because you are young whippersnappers but for as long as you live you will have these little memories of your trip that will float up in your mind and take you back to these times.

Each time you see a little sidewalk sculpture left by a dog you will think...'Aw that reminds me of our days back in Marseille.'

When you miss a travel connection or sit across from a knife wielding stranger you will reminisce about gay Paree.

When you meet an incredibly nice couple you will think "they remind us of Valerie and Benoit."

And when as you go through life and have the inevitable ocassional bad days you will think back on Musee de Histoire de Marseille.

And when you walk into a McDonalds for the rest of your life...it will remind you of the foreign cuisine you have had in every country you have been to.

  Richard King Oct 25, 2007 9:52 PM

3

ok Richard I guess this means we are the only two who truly do check everyday for word from these two, or the list of interested parties has fallen off, i do not understand why no else has commented. You people need to get with it how do you expect shannon and andrew to perform post after post typing their fingers bloody and raw if there is no applaus and ohhhing and ahhhing to show what a masterpiece they have created. do you not think it takes great dedication and love of their work to toil and go without sleep and even yes McDs to create for us the ones that worship at the feet of the masters waiting for every word to pour fourth and enlighten us and take us from our everyday pitiful world into their's. you must let them know that you are there waiting and wanting to hear of the tales that befall them in the strange and wonderous travels so far from home and family. so speak up let them know we are here with the candle lit and the power plugged in and how much we miss them and envy them so they will keep writing and letting us share in the small scraps they throw our way when they have a whim and take the small amount of time out of their lives just for us. so read, laugh, enjoy and most of all let them know we want postings so we can feel like we are right there with them on this great journey.

  mardi Oct 28, 2007 1:30 AM

4

Nag, nag, nag, Mardi. And, BTW, quit sending me prayer chain-emails. Everytime you do that, I say something blasphemous. Just wanted to you know.

Euros are awesome. They only work, like, what, 3 hours a day? And then they strike! "I wish I was a Euro," she said, bum fused to her office chair on a Sunday, the same place same bum was fused on Saturday. ("I wish I had a salary," said Alex, bum fused to Benoit's couch, eating her 88th straight meal of cheese sandwich and wine.)

BTW, HI-LARIOUS post. I loved the top ten list. (Top eight?).

  Annie Oct 29, 2007 6:55 AM

5

Even though H. and I went to the wine festival at Llano Estacado and had wine with delicious food and western music, it didn't seem quite so exotic as your bread and cheese and wine sounded. Maybe it was because they didn't let us stomp any grapes.

Looking forward to see what you experience in Portugal.
Love and blessings.
J and H

  gma Oct 30, 2007 12:40 PM

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