Our French Life

Ou Est La Gare?

I wrote this on my now old blog The 1970s Diet. So, I haven’t recently had a contact lens removed from my eye after it being in there for 3 weeks. I do, however, like this post as it reminds me of why I used to love coming to France on holiday. Is it different now I live here? I suppose I don’t notice the painted water towers as much but I most certainly can appreciate a good roundabout when I see one. I haven’t, as yet, come across the nasty stuff I was talking about in the woods – maybe it’s a southern thang! I still appreciate the beauty that surrounds me and I hope I never take that for granted.

Yes, the first year has been full on and totally mental if truth be told. However, I’m thinking this is to be expected when you move to France. It’s kind of like a French initiation process, bit like the army. They break you down to your last reserves of logical tolerance, then slowly loosen the vice like grip, as you merrily get yourself into the various systems of your new life. Finally, you start to come to accept the processes and their way of thinking. If you can pass the initiation process, the frustration at not being able to articulate yourself or knowing the systems then you’re pretty much guaranteed your right to reside here. Survival of the fittest and all that. So to all of those that have come before me, without the internet and forums, I salute you.

Anyhow, here’s an oldie but goodie aka album filler as we are on holiday. Go us! Disclaimer – I was quite the potty mouthed blogger back in the day. You have been warned. As you were. 

Ou Est La Gare?

Is a standing joke in my head. It stems from one of those French phrases you learn at school and will remain with me until the day I die. In fact, my friend and I would often say it as a joke on our trip around Europe all those years ago.  It signified our limited amount of French and when we didn’t know what to say (in any language) we would say to each other “ou est la gare?” You would have had to have been there to appreciate it but it was very funny and still gives me an internal chuckle.

Take for instance when I had to visit the pharmacy in France last week.  On the day I had hired the bikes I was merrily inserting my contact lenses and realised that the right eye wasn’t in properly. When I tried to find it I thought “did it go in at all?” I came to the conclusion it couldn’t have done and wore another pair. That night my eye was very sore – I’m talking conjunctivitis here. I left it another day and then thought I’d pop to the pharmacy.

Much like the roads in France, people rave about their pharmacies. In fact, its probably on a ‘must visit’ list somewhere.  So prior to popping in, I imagined walking up to the counter and saying “ou est la gare?” Of course I didn’t and said something along the lines of “avez vous quelquechose pour conjuctivite?” Ta dah! She understood – probably helped by my pointing to the red, puffy swollen eye  So I got the eye solution, paid 4 euros 50 and off I went. That day my contact lens came out. It had been in there all along. Thankfully I didn’t have to have my eyeball removed. Edit – no it hadn’t come out – 3 weeks after writing this I went to an optitians in the UK and discovered that the contact lens (3/4 of it) was still in my eye! But thankfully once again my eyeball was left where it was. Having said that, not a pleasant experience or one I would want to repeat.

Anyway, I digress as I like to do. The purpose of this post was to tell you what I love about France.

I love:-

The signs for the towns. I like the way they put a red line through it when you are leaving. Its like you were here and now you aren’t.

The cycle paths. They are huge. They’re not tagged onto the road. They are roads in their own right. In fact, cyclists are right up there in the pecking order. They are top dogs. Pedestrians are at the bottom of the pile. If you’re a walker you’re nothing in France. Step on what appears to be a pedestrian crossing at your peril. There is no guarantee any mode of transport will stop for you.

I saw a box type thing to fill up your tyres with air along a cycle route – like you would get in a petrol station. Love that. Wonder if they dispense puncture kits also.

The modest advertising boards in the fields by major companies like Super U and Carrefour – yup they just plonk a tiny little board on a wooden pole and shove it in a field. I like that.

The painting of water towers with a theme i.e a seaside theme if by the coast and so on.  They make ugly buildings a bit more attractive by painting them pretty.

The roundabouts. They like to decorate them too – you’ll see funny shaped people made out of shells or wicker. Again making boring things look pretty.

The wooded picnic areas dotted all over the place. You can pull up sit and have your lunch in a beautiful setting and away you go. If it were here I’m sure the National Trust would claim it and you’d be charged entry.

They make best use of their natural resources. For instance, its very windy along the Atlantic coast but they promote all sorts of wind based sports. Like people who use a surf board attached to a giant kite. See, they’ve thought what can you do on a beach when you can’t sit and enjoy it? Clever that.

And a few things I don’t..

The fact they only give you a few seconds to decide on which way you need to go on the motorway. They tell you once and then you’re right on the junction. We like to be told about 3 times before we come off.  When you do come off you also have to negotiate a hair-pin bend.

The French don’t queue. They don’t give a shit if you were first in line. There is no queueing etiquette. That’s a tough one to get over but you have to unless you can row proficiently in French.

Shitting in the woods I was talking about earlier. When we decided to go for a walk in these beautiful picnic areas you were greeted with bright pink toilet paper where people couldn’t wait to get home and have a shit – oh no – they thought they’d just do it there. Dirty bastards. I would like to think its the camper vans who can’t be arsed to set up their chemical toilets but I ‘m not so sure.  I think its accepted as standard but it shouldn’t be. Its disgusting. How desperate you gotta be for a shit, that you have to take one in the woods?!

So there you have it. France in a nutshell and if you’re there anytime soon be sure to say “ou est la gare?!”

2 thoughts on “Ou Est La Gare?”

  1. 🙂 The phrase I most remember from French at school is the oh-so-useful ‘La singe est dans l’arbre’. The poo? The French have a totally weird relationship with toileting – something I’m in the process of writing about too! Bonnes vacances.

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