Yeah I know you guys are all bugging me about Japan… That’s next.
My first trip for this job back in May was to France. A country where the cars and scooters are powered by gasoline and the people are entirely fueled by baguettes and tiny shots of espresso. No for real, pretty much everyone is always toting a baguette on their person… In their hand, sticking out of their backpack, bulging in their pants, somewhere there’s a baguette. The stores are constantly restocking every shelf in every aisle with baguettes, it’s quite the industry. It’s almost like Jerry’s brainwashing from Conspiracy Theory. If they don’t have one on them, suddenly they are compelled to immediately go to the nearest boulangerie and buy one!
Arguably, I should be some kind of expert on France at this point, since I’ve spent significant time in Nice, Clermont-Ferrand, Paris, and Annemasse. I’m not sure where to start on this one… maybe with some obvious things I didn’t realize.
France is HUGE.
Like, it’s almost as big as California and Oregon put together, except 70 million people live there. I can’t really back this one up, but there are some countries that feel like they have a stronger culture, I think just because they have more people. Like France is it’s own huge world with a wealth of history and music and food and artists and companies…. Some countries when you go there you can tell they have their own culture, but it’s permeated with other cultures’ influences. I think just because there aren’t as many people cranking out tunes and starting car companies and what not. So when you’re somewhere like France, there’s French cars, and French music on the radio, and everyone speaks French and it feels more like being completely immersed in a foreign culture. I dunno, I’m rambling. You guys know I do that.
CREAM (The money)
Euros. They got euros here. And I tell you what, the euro is the best damn thing to happen to Europe, eff local currencies. I mean hell we all use our debit cards everywhere anyway when are those “credits” they use in sci-fi movies gonna become a reality and the governments band together and ban paper money!?
Let’s talk about French people for a minute.
Everyone told me all about “French people” before I came here. And if you think “French people” are bad, wait until someone tells you about “Parisians” (people from Paris.) Those people are 100% wrong! French people are wonderful, HUMAN people. The important things to them are food, art, music, LOVE, baguettes, and their fellow man. From the taxi drivers in Paris, to the students in Nice, to the grub hub guys in Clermont-Ferrand, to the guys who work the cable car to Aiguille Du Midi in Chamonix – French people care about you. Even when they don’t speak a lick of English, and it becomes a challenging interaction/situation, when all is said and done you will get a genuine smile and “bonne journée”. Also, French people have some serious fucking panache.
The Food (besides baguettes)
This section totally still goes out to Felix, I just imagine myself letting him down everytime I don’t get my camera out and take a picture… helps me get over the desire to not look like the idiot taking a picture of the sandwiches at Starbucks >.<
Nice (pronounced like niece, you’re welcome)
Nice is a touristy town by reputation, but it didn’t feel like it when I was there. Go ahead and remove “french riviera” from your dictionary, and replace it with “Côte d’Azur“. Nobody on this continent calls it the French Riviera, and Côte d’Azur is so much more accurate. The water is a beautiful Crayola-blue, the shore always a wide strip of smooth, chalk-white stones. Everywhere you go the crowds of people are in restaurants, drinking wine and watching the sun set. Food really is what brings people together in France as far as I can tell.
The open air markets (AKA the best markets)
I didn’t take nearly enough photos, but Nice’s open-air market is amazing. You can expect foods, salts, soaps, souvenirs, and lots of flowers as that is what it’s most famous for. Well shit, I’ll be back in Nice in a few days, I’ll just have to pad this gallery with some more photos 🙂 I also stumbled upon a similar market in Annemasse, there’s some photos of that market at the end of the slideshow L)
The Nice Story
This is becoming my favorite section, so here’s my story from Nice. The first day at the customer site I was there until a little past 7 and so was Thierry, the customer. A quick note on Thierry, he is an amazing human being, I think he is entirely at fault for my absolutely wonderful first-impression of France. I’ll see if I can sneak a selfie with him next week. So, Thierry comes to see if I’m still there and since it’s late and we’re both leaving he offered to give me a ride back home. As we approached the garage, in a thick accent he said “I must apologize, I drive an old car.” Of course I told him it’s not a problem, I was just happy to have a ride back to my hot-
Old car my foot. Yes, I got to ride in a 1985 2 seater Alfa Romeo down the narrow twisty streets of Nice, France. Yes, it was like a dream.
The Nice Day Trip
What do you do in Nice for fun? You go to one of the nearby villages for a drink and a snack of course. Thierry was so kind as to take me on his day off in his not-so-old other car to Èze, a beautiful stone village in the hills above Nice.
Paris and Chamonix
I’ll say a quick bit about Paris since I was there for a few days, and then end with Chamonix, AKA the most beautiful place on Earth. First off, Paris is huge. Basically all I did was go to a wine shop, a bar, a restaurant and the Louvre in 3 days there. I will say that the Louvre is a must-see. I went immediately to see the Nike, and then in my wanderings found a wealth of beautiful art, several pieces which really spoke to me. I didn’t take nearly enough photos, I’ll just have to go again 🙂
I want to highlight the piece below, I didn’t take a photo of it while I was there, but in my random, super-lost, wandering in The Louvre, I turned a corner and was struck by this sculpture. I must have stood their for 20 minutes in awe, at one point with tears streaming down my face. I PROBABLY should have eaten lunch before going to The Louvre, I think I get more emotional when I’m hungry, but nevertheless, this is my new favorite sculpture, maybe new my favorite art piece in general.
Olivia: “How was Chamonix?
Me: “OMG, beautiful!”
Olivia: “Well.. OBVIOUSLY.”
If you’re like me, you didn’t know what Chamonix was until you read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. You may think Frankenstein is a book about a monster creation of a mad scientist, well you’re right. BUT, the REAL story in Frankenstein is one about DEEP depression and grief, suffering, the responsibilities of creation (whether it be a parent or a God or other), and definitely the natural beauty of the world. Shelley’s writing struck me – it just made me want to run outside to the nearest forest or snowy mountain or lake, or if I was so lucky enough, a glacier, and soak in the awe and wonder.
The Random Travel Musings…
I am working on a Findlay’s travel tips section, but I’d like to have a bit in each post about just my random musings when I travel. One thing I will try to convey is the random feeling of familiarity you get in foreign places. It’s hard to explain really, but there are some times where you get this feeling of familiarity, a sound or smell or experience that really reminds you that everywhere in the world we’re all just humans the same. The first time it happened to me was in Nice, I was walking along and this girl maybe 14 year old girl on a scooter started screaming angrily in little spurts in French. For a second I was alarmed, as were some people around me, but then we realized in unison that she must have Tourette Syndrome or something similar. I literally thought to myself “Oh, French people get Tourette too”. When a car drives by with the windows down blasting music, 2 guys looking under the hood of a car, the person at the mall who’s way too insistent on you trying their food sample… I bet the specific experiences are different for each of us, but I bet you will have them in your travels. Maybe I’m getting a bit philosophical but like Bruce Lee said “Man, under the heavens, we’re all one family.”
What did I miss?
This is another section I’ll have at the end of each section, I’m going to add it to the Sweden post because there’s lots of cool photos and bits I missed. Per someone’s request I’m also going to add more captions to the pictures, in Sweden as well 🙂