We have been in France for 9 days now…sort of amazing. I’d never been here before this trip, so I’m no expert, but here are some random observations, mostly about things of no importance. You can follow the trip in more detail at Booked. Photos are for your enjoyment and have no relation to the takes.
We’ve been in western France (north of Poitiers) and are now near Montignac. We’re staying in gites and small inns that are at your basic mid-priced US hotel chain price point and lower, and have wandered and shopped in mostly small towns and villages. In all of those places, the level of service, class and attention to detail and beauty has been unfailing. A new experience. Yes, I’ve heard one decidedly exasperated sigh as I studied the sea of coins in my hand trying to pick out the .50 from the .20 from the .10 from the .05 from the .02 from the .01, but other than that, it’s been wonderful.
I discovered something tremendously exciting today. In the Intermarche here in Montignac, great rolls of oilcloth, all with super designs, from Provencal to trippy mod. If I could just figure out how to cut a piece, I’m set.
Joseph commented, “Gee, gas is so much cheaper here.” Because he was seeing “1.72” where he was used to seeing “3.69.” But then I explained to him – liters do not equal gallons, and euro does not equal dollar. And then we worked it all out. (Roamschool!) Not cheaper. But with a diesel car…not too horrible, either.
That said, so far, I’m not running into sticker shock. That will come in Paris in a couple of weeks, I’m sure, but right now, where we are – restaurant prices are commensurate when you factor in the 15-20% more you would add to a US meal for the tip – because you don’t generally tip in Europe. Servers are paid more, and service is figured into the price. Food prices, except for fresh (as opposed to cured) meat, seem to be about the same – and what’s more expensive here is evened out by items that are less expensive and of higher quality. I mean, the mass-produced .30 baguette you can get at the chain grocery store is just as good (if not better) as the $2.50 one at the best, proudly artisanal bakery back home. And then the best, artisanal baguettes from good boulangeries here (that I have found) still don’t cost more than 1 Euro. The ordinary butter – that cost me 1.80 E for a brick – is the best butter I’ve ever tasted. Michael had a jambon-et-buerre sandwich from a snack shop at an attraction and said, “It’s good – the butter tastes like cheese anyway.” And so on.
That said, Coca-Cola Light (the no-cal Coke you get in Europe) sucks. But that’s okay. It’s one of those more expensive items and I needed to be weaned from Diet Coke, anyway. Also: if you want Roast Chicken and Thyme-flavored Lays’ chips – come to France. Oh, and what’s the French romance with grated carrots? It’s sold and presented in the composed salad case and in restaurant salads like it’s the food of the gods or something. I mean – it’s carrots. In slivers.
Here’s my stupidity showing: what’s the deal with French notebooks? I go to the stationary section – being a school/office supply geek – and get all excited because the notebooks look so awesome and sleek on the outside – but they’re all like graph paper inside. And I become sad. Je suis desolee. Every single one, of every single size full of little squares instead of nice, smooth lines. Is this a general European thing? Or just French? And who wants to write on graph paper? What is this about? Did Colette have to write on graph paper? Do I?
We’re going to Lourdes this weekend. I just realized I never finalized a hotel. Better get on that. It’s like…tomorrow.
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!