All good things come to an end though, and I returned yesterday to dear Melle. Needless to say, the abundance of English and lack of French that I have been immersed in for the past fortnight made work today pretty difficult. Hopefully I'll be able to get myself back up to speed within a few days though.
It's not that I completely removed France and everything frog-related from my brain over Christmas, however. In fact, I had a bit of a reflection session one afternoon, in which I thought about the things I like and dislike about France having now lived there for 3 months.
- The first thing that comes to mind when I think about France's plus points is its trains. I know it's something the French pride themselves on, and I'd prefer not to boost their egos any further, but the trains are pretty damn good. TGVs speak for themselves, but even the TERs are nicer than most English trains I've been on. I'll admit I felt a bit embarrassed for England when travelling with First Capital Connect over Christmas.
- Another thing that I love about France is the fact that it seems that every town or city has a château or overly impressive building that has been there for centuries. And what's more, people just walk past them as if they're nothing special and it's perfectly normal for a town to have a 30ft historical stone monstrosity plonked in the centre. The thought of one in Potters Bar just makes me giggle. But in France it just works.
- Not sure how this next one ended up third on my list rather than first but, I truly love France for its amazingly-cheap-it-shouldn't-be-legal wine prices in the supermarches. My local Aldi has a bottle of red for 0,99€. WHAT?! It's not even like it's low alcohol. I haven't actually bought this particular bottle yet as I'm a classy bird who splashes out on the 1,50€ bottle, but it would be criminal not to give it a go once before I leave France. So watch this space.
I think 3 compliments are enough. We wouldn't want the French getting too cocky. So, now for the aspects of France that don't please me quite so much.
- It's something everyone questions, but it's worth mentioning; why oh why are French train tickets so huge?! One third of an A4 page per ticket is just not acceptable in an age where the world is striving to be more green in my opinion.
- On the subject of train tickets, here is my 2nd dislike. It's not a dislike as such, more something I just don't understand. Composter votre billet baffled me the first time I used French trains. 'Is this some special compost heap especially for train tickets, in order to try and compensate for their ridiculous size' I thought. No, it turns out. Composter simply means 'validate'. So you're validating a ticket that you've just bought for a specific train that you're about to board anyway. Please somebody, anybody, explain this incomprehensible madness.
- I have been trying to go to Church as often as possible here in France, being a Catholic and all that. The thing that struck me immediately is that the French use the 'tu' form of 'you' to address God. Surely this is totally disrespectful to God...isn't he meant to be the most superior being to us Christians? There must be a valid reason, but once again, I can't work it out. As before, please educate me on the matter if you are able to.
- Zebra crossings are death traps. For us Brits who have grown up with the knowledge that a vehicle will automatically stop for you if you approach those thick white lines on the road, it came as a surprise when I first started coming to France, to discover that in this country cars are not obliged to stop for pedestrians here. As a result I find crossing roads in this country quite difficult, and am always hesitating as to whether or not to cross, in fear that an approaching car will plough straight into me. Maybe I just need to learn to be more French and just fearlessly stroll over the crossings with that swagger all French people seem to have.