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Europe » France » Île-de-France » Paris
January 28th 2006
Published: January 28th 2006
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Bonjour!

Before I begin: A word of warning. This post contains hideous & dreadful generalisations that are truly an outrage. It dribbles on and makes tonnes of condescending statements. Read on only if you have thick skin and a sense of humour.

So after 3 months pluggin away in Reading working for the man (billg), I finally got the opportunity to pack everything into the backpack and head off for a much needed Holiday. Destination: Frances & Austria

And boy oh boy did it feel good to get the backpack on again. I felt truly liberated as I started heading through the thick early morning fog towards the train station knowing that ahead of me lay nearly 3 weeks of stress free holidays.

The first stop in my travels was suppose to be Biarritz in the south of France; known for it's rugby and the Basque culture - but alas poor weather diverted us all the way up to Bordeux. This was casually announced to us by the French pilot:

"Ladies and gentleman, as you may have guessed we have begun our descent. Please place your chairs in the upright position and stow your tray tables
St MartinSt MartinSt Martin

The view from the balcony
securely. We will be arriving in Bordeaux in 15 minutes."



".... I'm sorry to announce that the previous announcement was correct, we have been diverted to Bordeaux because of bad weather. But don't be too worried, Bordeux is my home town and is a beautiful city. Cabin crew please prepare the cabin for landing"

: Why sir how will we get to Biarritz?! We should have been told earlier
will alcohol be served on the bus to Biarritz?

When we finally arrived at the airport, our A300 airbus, full to the brim, was packed into two buses - which as you can imagine it was a 5* affair. After standing in the one place for 20 mins we finally made the 35 second journey to the terminal building. Upon arrive the bus doors didn't open. My holiday nearly ended at this point cause I was the hapless soul who I happened to stand next to the guy who showered with garlic soap, washed his hair with onion shampoo
and brush his teeth with curry toothpaste.

We were told that there was 'suspicious unattended' baggage and we would have to wait for the police to check it out. We all stared through the windows into the terminal. At first I thought I was seeing things brought on by my new best friend but no, it was true! There was a bag. Many in fact, but one in particular had caught the eye of the French police men (think Allo Allo).

These 'elite' and 'well trained' officers rarely make a move without carefully considering its consequences. So who was I to question if standing, literally, around the bag - drinking coffee - and clearly enjoying doing so, wasn't the best approach to take?

After careful adjudication and another round of coffees the executive decision was made that the bag was safe and the best plan of action was to pick it up place it back on the carosel. 5 minutes later the doors were opened and we were waved in.

Welcome to France.

After 4 hour of added travel I finally arrived at my intended destination, St Jean De Luz which is about 30 mins drive from Biarritz and is one of France's best beaches. Quicksilver even have their European head quarters here, which is proof enough. This part of the Country is known as the Basque country. The residents are fiercely proud of this area and its culture. So much so that you may have heard of the 'Basque' separatists who want to separate from France and Spain. It's not a 'real' threat I was told by other French people, who can't possible fathom the possibility that someone has even considered not wanting to be French.

The next morning I was up early packing the car for our trip up into the Pyranees. We drove up in some of the thickest fog I've ever experienced. At points pockets of fog so thick you could feel the car slow down made me feel like I was in that scene in Days of Thunder passing through the smoke (just put your peddle to the metal) but our trusty Twingo made it up, slowly. By mid day (which was also Chrismas eve) we were in the lodge in the middle of the mountain. As luck would have it, for that night we had the entire lodge to ourselves.

As you may know in mainland Europe Christmas Eve is when you open your presents and have your celebrations. I had a traditional French meal with Froi Gra (pronounce like frogga, the game) which is Goose Liver Pate. This was so eloquently described to me by my French host as 'the organ that gets sick when old men drink too much!' hmmmm... Of course we had lots of Fromage (cheese), dips and Baguettes.

Speaking of Baguettes. Every generalization you have heard about French people and baguettes is entirely true; Possibly even more so. Every morning, every French man over 30 gets up, pops on his French hat and with a ‘hwo hwo’ treks on down to the bakery to buy a half dozen baguettes that he has, get this, PRE ORDERED the NIGHT BEFORE!!! There is so much demand for baguettes that one has to reserve his for the next day!! Forget your blue chip stocks boys, invest in bakeries in France!

I actually found the French to be a very intriguing bunch. In many way’s they’re just like Americans, but with culture. You see the French are fiercely patriotic, so much so that they take it as a personal affront that you can’t speak French. I must have heard 10,000,000 times “You don’t speak French? But we are in France and we speak French” and off they go speaking French. Because apparently the French have never heard of the word tourism - if you don’t speak French, they immediately dislike you. When I travel, if people haven’t worked out that I’m Australian by my thick accent (which gets even thicker around hot girls) then I’m always quick to put it on the table; you beaut, whack another shrimp on the Barbie, tie me kangaroo down sport. I tried this tactic in France and it got me no where, fast. Indeed we’re almost public enemy number one because we DARED to make wine and outsell (which of course they won’t admit to) French wines on the international market.

And here’s the part about the French that so American. Mention the rainbow warrior or the nuclear tests in Mururoa Atoll and you’ll get a blank face. They’ve never even heard of it! At the time Mururoa annoyed me a little but now having been to France it REALLY gets my back up because
LourveLourveLourve

The Entrance
the French would never EVER EVER do nuclear testing in precious France. But it was ok to do it half way across the world in someone else’s backyard. Sorry, I’m starting to rant.

At one point in my trip a French person asked me, dismissively
“What has Australia ever invented?”
“Well the list just goes on doesn’t it; The Hills Hoist, The Victor Lawn Mower, the Winged Keel. What has France ever invented?”

At this point the Frenchmen rolled her eyes in her head and exasperated
“WINE and CHEESE”

This brought about a revelation of sorts which might burst your little bubble of lies we’ve all been subjected to by you shire kids; If Jesus turned water into wine, and the French invented wine then logically - Jesus is French and France is God’s country. I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that the French have a FAR more convincing case that France is Gods Country than the ridiculous shire claim to fame that "When god came to earth his feet landed first in the sutherland shire."

Don't believe me? Well luckily enough the internet was there to allow me to dispell
LourveLourveLourve

This is my favourite shot
all these myths once and for all; God NEVER actually came to earth thus he couldn't have 'landed' in the Sutherland shire, secondly France wasn’t a country in Jesus’ time and finally the French didn’t invent cheese, they only perfected leaving it in the cellar to go off and smelly! (but don’t get me wrong, I love their smelly off fromage, it’s great!) (you're ranting again Sean)

Nonetheless the comment give an insight into the French. The French believe in taking their time when they eat as it's a big social event. They honestly believe that France has the best wine and cheese. They are so assured in this that they don’t even need to waste their time trying wine and cheese from else where. It is just common knowledge. Unlike their English neighbours, who work hard and play hard, the French value their quality of life. So much so that they have legislated that it is illegal to work more than 35 hours in a week. For the French, it's all about the journey not the destination. When you step outside of Paris, you step into another time zone.

But I digress.

So the Lodge was
LourveLourveLourve

It started snowing when we were inside
a quick 5 minute walk down to the first ski lift. After calling home for Christmas I was on the snow skiing. What skiing, you poof!?! Yeah yeah, I know, I only had 3 days on the snow and figured I’d be much better at skiing after those 3 days than snowboarding. I actually got really sick on the second night so I only got 2 days of skiing in which kinda sucked but it was awesome none the less. I’m seriously considering going again next month.

Anyhow after the skiing we headed off to Paris via Bordeaux for one night. We got into Bordeux late so I only got a quick look at the city. It looked nice enough - got some cool photos as well. The next day we caught the train up to Paris.

Now a word of warning for potential European travellers. Inevitably throughout your travels you will meet a Scandinavian who will tell you that travel during Winter in ‘Southern Europe, like Paris’ is not too cold. These people can be easily identified as the ones wearing a tshirt and shorts when it’s -3 outside. Do not, under any circumstances believe them; They are the devils children sent to freeze your soul. (and if you’re reading this, you know who you are!!)

There is no other way to describe Paris then Freakin Freezing. So much so that I was forced to get some kultcha into me and I visited the Lourve, Musee ‘Orsay and the National Gallery. The Lourve is an art gallery on steroids - designed for the masses. Built ontop of the first royal castle it contains literally thousands upon thousands of works. Most people budget 2 hours but I was there for 5 and still didn’t get to see everything. It’s got so many famous pieces such as the Venus de Milo, Liberty Guiding the people and of course the Mona Lisa, which is highly over rated in my ill-informed opinion. But I couldn’t help but think when I squeezed in amongst the masses that if I were Italian, I’d be pissed off that my most famous painting is in France. The art is displayed by nationality of the artist- So I had to asked a curator where the Australian paintings were; he didn’t find this as amusing as I did. This could have something to do with the fact that a Curators job at the Lourve encompasses finding quiet corners and falling asleep!

The Musee D’Orsay is housed in an old train station (and according to my pragmatic father it should have stayed that way) and has more modern pieces. Here you’ll find your Degas, Monet & Van Gogh. This was my favourite of the lot. The national gallery had an interesting exhibition of the history of Melancholy. This was a more refined crowed with lots of ‘hmmm’, nodding and ‘I just love what he’s done here with the diagonals’.

For my part my favourite painting was one called ‘The Dream’ but I did especially like the impressionists (sorry Dad). That said I’m also into the romantics & classics I’m even considering giving Wuthering heights another go, as painful as it was. But I’m now into my 3rd glass of wine so I’m probably just talking rubbish!

The National Gallery is close to Champ Elysee and Arc D’Triomphe which was commissioned by Napolean as a remembrance to the many fallen victims of his conquests.

I also visited Notre Dame, which was built between 1160 and 1345 and was the first gothic church ever. As such it’s got many feats of engineering such as the first flying buttress (no don’t worry, I had no idea what that was either) and the bell is a perfect F# note. Many many many historically significant events have occurred here including King Henry of England and Napoleon being crowned. This is also where the Hunch Back of Notre Dame allegedly lived. The story was written in the early 1900s to raise awareness of Notre Dame which was in a derelict state and was nearly torn down.

But at the end of the day it’s just another church; pulpit, organ, lecturn. Shame, punishment, forgiveness, redemption. I’ve now decided that I don’t get out of bed for anything less than a Basilica.

I of course went to the Eiffel tower which was built in the late 1800s for a fair and was the tallest building in the world until the 1930s. It’s funny how things work out but originally this structure was intended to be only temporary and many argued that it was unsightly (sorta reminds you of somewhere else really?). In the end it was kept due to its scientific value for radiography (which was just taking off) and is now of course one of the most recognised structures in the world. One of the great ironies about the Eiffel tower is that, despite what you may see in the movies, there are very few places that can actually see it from their windows.

That is of course, except the Australian Embassy. Yep, That’s right. We might not have a section in the Lourvre but we got the best unobstructed view of the Eiffel tower in Paris. When you get off the Metro the first thing you’ll see is the Eiffel tower with a big Australian flag infront of it and a massive fuck off kangaroo inviting you to Australia. You’ve done well boys, stick it up em, I love your work.

I didn’t end up going up the tower or seeing all the places I could have. The former was because I ran out of time and the latter was because it gives me the ideal excuse to return. To be honest I wasn’t really that overly impressed by Paris and Prague still wins in my books as the prettiest city. But it was the middle of winter, so in the name of Cricket, I’m willing to give Paris another go in the summer time.

After Paris I headed on over to Austria to hang out with Germar & Gerold. I hadn’t seen Gerold for ages. They haven’t changed except they’ve now got some musical talent and arguments don’t end up in a screaming match anymore. Mind you, Gerold is still plagued with the mysterious effect of his guitar amp getting louder for ‘no’ apparent reason. The boys got into the studio with their drummer Dave. It was cool watching the whole process from practice through to recording. I decided I would contribute to the creative vibe by sleeping in and getting to the studio late and taking a few photos. For the next 7 days straight I had ‘Heavy Brain Damage Girl’ stuck in my head, I love you guys- you ROCK!

Well that concludes my dribble (and the bottle of wine coincidently!). I did really enjoy my first white Christmas and hope to have another one. But at the end of the day, give me Family, Sun, Prawns & Backyard Cricket any day.



Additional photos below
Photos: 25, Displayed: 25


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28th January 2006

Don't stereotype the french so quickly!
Hi Sean, I understand that discovering France for the first time can be a little overwhelming but I was sad to read your "stereotyping" of the French based on a conversation with only a small sample of the French, and on a smaller period of time. There are surely and truly some truth in what you said, but French people are much more complex than what you describe and I wish you would live there for a while to start understand them.... (maybe you can read "almost French", written by an Australian girls who moved to Paris?). Sending lots of greetings from Sydney, Florence Bellendir
28th January 2006

The French Stereotype
Hi Florence, thanks for your feedback. I know I'm making sweeping generalisations here but a lot of it is tounge in cheek. The reason I make these is I lived with 10 Frenchmen and dated one (frenchwoman of course!) for 6 months when I first got here. All the stereotypes I had in my head about French people were reinforced when I got there. I like to think I have an open mind about things but when I wrote this article, I couldn't help but see where they all came from. Perhaps my perception has been tained by living in England (who most inherently dislike the French, and vice versa) and having broken up with the girl. Having reread my article (1000 times) it's really confirmed in my head that to be fair I have to give France another go. Thanks for the feedback Sean
28th January 2006

not all French are arrogant
Hi Sean! Just had a glimpse on your thoughts about French people, you are right in many ways, French people are very proud of their country and food, and they forget quickly what sometimes they've done wrong... like what the governement did to the Rainbow Warrior... Anyway, I wanted to tell you that no, as your friend told you, not all the French are like that, "nombrilist" and arrogant, and thinking that everybody should learn french to visit France... I am French, and I think Australian wine is really nice, and I love your country, I just visited last month (not all of it of course, but I went to Tasmania and to Sydney). I also met a lot of Australian people and they're so great! I hope you'll change a little bit of your mind! take care when travelling! Salparadis. (PS: my travelblog is travelblog.org/bloggers/salparadis (sorry it's written in French! it was for my french friends!)

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