23 Things I learned in France
... in no particular order.
#1. Probably plan out your entire journey before entering the country... i.e. where you are staying, what you want to visit, what times, etc. France is not one for improv.
#2. It has become strinkingly apparent to me that those who can only speak one language are inexcusably lacking. We are. Learn French. (or any other language at all).
#3. Spoiler Alert: A "salted pancake" is dissappointingly, merely a lesser version of a quesadilla.
#4. Heaven forbid you have a flat, car break down, or coronary heart failure, make sure it is either before or after lunch. Otherwise, don't hold your breath.
#5. Don't pay for wine tastings. You can learn more in the cellar of a small family winery than you can in ten world renowned chateaus. (But, do call ahead. Refer to #4.)
#6. If Northern France is Miss Prim & Proper, turning her nose up at nude shoulders and thighs, than the South of France is her slutty little sister. (Topless grandmas everywhere.)
#7. I am almost positive that France will be the first country to go, if not solely due to lung cancer. Everyone smokes here. Every single person. It's like they haven't figured out it's not cool anymore.
#8. People look at you like you have 5 heads when you tell them you are driving 7 hours to the other side of the country instead of flying. Your country is the size of Texas, people. We take 10 hour road trips across states without a second thought where I come from.
#9. Eat at the right times. Walking into a restaurant asking to eat at 5pm is inconceivable. Of course they don't have food again until 7:00 ... what were you thinking? Also, don't ask for just a drink at a restaurant. That's what bars are for. You come to the restaurant, you eat.
#10. Train stations are extremely diverse. One will have a pianist serenading you on a baby grande and your 3 hour lay over at the next station will not have any working bathrooms.
#11. 100% set out to get lost in every new city you come to. Turn down street corners just because. Sit at outdoor cafes with no clue how far your place is from there or how to get back. It does wonders for the soul.
#12. The mystery of French McDonalds'...
a.) Certain ingredients that McDonalds cooks with in America are illegal to use in France, resulting in far less greasy and salty food. (Side note: two of my Parisian friends actually threw up the first time they had McDonalds in the States.) They have ... wait for it ... Deluxe Potatoes, which are in fact the most wonderous of things. They have weird sauces like "Creamy Chips Sauce", "Curry", "Dressing oil Hazelnut", or "Saffron Maple."
b.) Contrary to one's plausible assumptions, they do not overwhelmingly love Americans here. Even though, WE invented McDonalds.
c.) There is an abnormal amount of cute, young girls working in these places (as well as grocery stores). Haven't quite figured that one out yet.
#13. No one knows where Maryland is so just tell them you are from New York. They will immediately treat you like you are a star. (Just tell them you are when they ask. No harm done. Their dreams come true; your dreams come true. Everybody wins.)
#14. Little kids are extremely entertaining to talk to. They will spill out a litany of, I'm sure, utterly cute things, to which you will not understand. When you attempt to answer them in English, their faces contort in incomprehensible horror like everything they knew was a lie. They will stand there for awhile, blinking violently at you as you watch them question their own sanity and then run away and never come back.
#15. Check out is at 7 am and the maids come in at 8 am whether you are dressed or not.
#16. There is too much good wine in this country to comprehend. It is mind bendingly overwhelming and paralyzing.
#17. Don't assume someone understands you if they smile and nod at your yes or no question. They don't. The answer is not yes.
#18. Common misconception tells us that the French smell due to lack of hygiene. They do, in fact, smell, however, I believe the fault may lie in the deodorant companies because the stuff simply does not work.
#19. Serrano ham (Jambon) is everywhere which is needless to say, awesome! That being said, if it's on a menu and you can't physically see it, you might just get plain old, slimy ham. Oh, and bacon, is just ham. So before your morning is ruined, don't get your hopes up when you see it on the menu.
#20. Nothing is pronounced how it is spelled which makes sounding out the words utterly worthless. Not to mention, you look like a complete fool if you even try. If you do make friends in France (good luck with that one), you will never know their names because no matter how many times they repeat it, it just sounds like a beautiful river of flowing sounds. You will evidently butcher it repeadetly if you remember it at all. (Write it out for me man, now look at it... write it out again how it sounds. You tell me how I was supposed to know!)
#21. The most culturally diverse town in France is, without a doubt, Lourdes. It is a very powerful thing to witness so many people who can't understand each other come together over the one Faith that unites them. Every single language, every single country .... without any chaos at all. It might be the most peaceful place I have ever been.
That being said, I must point out my regular strange observances: There is an overwhelming amount of Italians. So much so, that people say Lourdes is actually an Italian town and not a French one. No one thinks it is comically absurd to have a conversation with 3 Guiseppes at the same time except for you, so don't laugh in their faces when they introduce themselves. They will only stare back at you with blank faces. Every restaurant is Italian even if it is run by the French and there is an entire quater that only Italian pilgrims are allowed to stay in. And never will you see so many of the exact same stores back to back as in Lourdes. It's like 58 Sunsations for Mary in a row.
#22. And this one I cannot stress enough .... these people CANNOT drive. And I CANNOT drive in their country. If you do decide to rent a car, and even if for only one day, get insurance!! Hence, Joffre's flat tire and the night rider who blew through Megane's (pronounced Meh-jah-nay, second car) side mirror while I was sleeping.
#23. It's oui, not wi. Mind officialy blown.