A Week in France: My French Experience
I’m back and it’s definitely been a week full of excitement, apprehension and intrigue! These all sound like conflicting feelings I know, so, read on..
It was a week full of delicious baguettes, pain aux chocolats and crepes. However, my stomach had soon had enough and, to be honest, I quickly developed an aversion to the sea. Don’t get me wrong, the sea is one of the most beautiful and wondrous elements of this earth, but it certainly doesn’t stay still!
I was met by two very distinctive cultures in France. Of course, there was the very French: the baguette overloaded, snail and shrimp infested, modest but nosey, wine drinking, not to be seen at lunchtime type, and the sailor: a rusty, outward growing, enveloped by fascination kind of guy. One lifestyle is certainly much easier than the other to encounter. I have to admit, after a week, one begins to discover the true hardships of a sailor’s lifestyle: constant head banging, overgrown facial hair, eating chips with jam, obtaining spells of sun stroke and ‘chundering’ overboard. All of these, naturally, I did not fail to endure.
When ashore, it was nice to plant a steady foot. Though, one’s senses would soon be riddled with the smell of baking, fish and crepes, and their vision blinded by signs for patisserie’s or creperie’s. Another common sight would be the old lady wondering down the street with an oversized baguette protruding from her handbag. My mum was responsive to this.. (captured below – though I’m sure she’d much rather be classed as middle-aged rather than the commonly averted term, old).
The smell of fish is a very niche desire, I would say. But, in France, it would seem a mass accession. They were jumping at the opportunity to scan a market row stacked with fresh kill. Through the crowds, I managed to obtain the shot below. The enthralling photography opportunities allowed me to keep my cool and not flee to the hills (or the ocean) in search of fresh air.
Where all these fish come from, I’m not so sure. The fishermen appear to sit at the end of a pier all day long, happily content with hours upon hours of nil activity. Fishing must be one of those passions were optimism frequently outweighs achievement. However, we did eat fish one night, and it was rather tasty. It helped that I thought it was chicken pieces until halfway through the meal when it was cautiously revealed to me.
It’s unfair to generalise the whole French population, so I won’t. However, to say the least, a handful of people we crossed paths with, frankly, had something wedged up their backside (sorry to be crude). My conclusion: too many Parisians were on holiday. But, more likely, these people were pissed off with the whole day they’d spent staring down a fishing line! “Bonjour! Merci! Au revoir!” (hello, thank you, goodbye) a man shouted at me as I exited the toilet. The guy was clearly pissed off that I’d just entered his bar to use the toilet. However, after walking a mile clenching my bladder, I really couldn’t care less. “Ah oui,” I replied. There was a strong tone of narcissistic sarcasm in the man’s voice. I believe this, and the glare, could only stem from a pure hatred of British tourists.
On the topic of toilets – I was surprised to find no locks on the public toilets, and on occasion, no loo seats (though this would seem a godsend in comparison with the bare hole in the ground used by many European outlets). Before entering the loo, I felt deemed for an awkward reality. And, so it was, I managed to score 3 out of 3 for walking in on ‘old’ ladies literally pulling their pants up. A crude affair, but all part of my somewhat uncouth French experience.
The sailing, however, was blissful. The sea was an astonishing bright blue, and yellow sparkles reflected buoyantly across its surface. The air was immanently fresh and uplifting. Due to this wonderful distraction, it can be easy to forget all about the scorching sun shining directly down upon me and, thus, I now sit here writing with red raw shoulders. Though, the rest of my body is the brownest it’s ever been (that means a lot when you’re paler than a polar bear)!
Below, is an oddity worth mentioning: “The Cat Named Awry.”
I woke to delicate footsteps trawling the roof of our cabin. Only did my sense come alive when I saw a strange shadow flash by the open roof hatch. It was German expressionism playing out before my very own eyes. Luckily, the footsteps soon disappeared along with the shadows. My tension parted and I began to fall asleep…SCREAMS! My girlfriend sees the shadow. Her nails dig into my sunburnt shoulders…PAIN! We’re harbored in a marina with restricted access. What on earth could this be? A fish with legs (an octopus)? Ah, I heard the patter of paws once more…it had to be a cat. But, how? Cats are known to be mischievous creatures. We decide not to pursue this mystery creature and eventually nod off. The next day we find out that it, indeed, was a cat. The cat belonged to the owner of the boat opposite. Sailing with a cat! Let alone the madness of it, cats don’t even like water! That day, I found myself looking up the French translation for “Keep your cat on a bloody leash!”
Despite all this, it really was a great trip. My girlfriend, Helena, and me would like to thank the anonymous (well they have their backs turned above) for inviting us out for a stay on their boat!
Finally, below is a little video I put together from the trip: