Currently we are living in the port town of Canet-en-Rousillon in the backyard of Catana.
This is a hot spot summer tourist destination, and we have arrived at the beginning of the summer holidays. For two months of the year this place is jam packed with tourists. Already the bars and restaurants are full of French tourists enjoying the large beaches and activities set up to accommodate holiday fun, yet in one weeks time it will be crazy here. This small town moves to a big city with up to 1 million residents over the two months of summer vacation.
One of the great attractions of this place are huge camping grounds, there are 160 in the South of France to choose from. They are like mini resorts including multiple pools, waters slides and restaurants, bakery and butcher. Bring you tent or your camper van and luxury camping is to be had.
This as camping, reminds me of instant potato mash – not quite right, but as so many enjoy it I must be missing something.
Same Same But Different
The below list, in no particular order are observations about life here that I have experienced or have been told about by the French themselves. Before you read on, I have to say I love this place. It is the differences that has made the experience so much more.
In France you pay a yearly tax on the size of your car.
Parking here is a awful, so between the two forces it seems that most cars are small. This is smart politics and Australia the land of the ridiculous 4WD’s in suburbia could take note.
The standard speed for French drivers is fast.
As parking is such a bugger, it seems more than acceptable to double park your car in the street on a Sunday morning to run into the local bakery.
Driving on the right hand side of the road isn’t as bad as I thought.
Keys to success:
Keep the steering wheel in the centre of the road
Look left, look right, look left again.
If someone beeps as you are going too slow, take no offence as there are so many horns in the city that who knows it may not for you.
This is the green beast that we drive – Thanks Catana!
There aren’t any. It is all roads and roundabouts. Seems very effective.
Note: I have now been for a long drive and there are few traffic lights, they are miniscule in comparison to home. The lights are at eye level height with small lights.
We watched the France v Germany game at a local restaurant called “The Can of Sardines”. I was impressed at how controlled the young men in particular were with drinking. If this was an Australian bar showing a Friday night game, the noise and excitement would have been higher, however, the control at night less so.
I love, love, love the way young men are ok to show affection to one another. This culture could share some good things with the blokes from home.
Now is a good time for me to mention that for the most, French men are good looking if not totally gorgeous. You will have to ask the Captain about the women… but the men overall are superb (please say that in a French accent).
Are common place and nobody seems to mind. I love this display of social patience.
Queuing for Sunday morning bread
Dogs appear to have a more charmed life here in the South of France. Lots of people have dogs.
In this marina many dogs wonder blissfully around. Pampered pooches sit in cafes and restaurants and are often seen doing the self walk around the local neighbourhood. France is dog cool.
Cool also until you step in dog poo. Disgusting!!! Someone tell the mayor they need more doggie bags around the place for owners. To assist the dog owners the council have a dozen scooters that roam around the centre with mini vacuum cleaners that suck up the poo and then wash the payment in sloopy swoop.
What a job to have on your CV – Poo Hunter
When someone doesn’t smoke it’s so odd you notice. Cigarettes are cheaper in France but still bloody expensive, both in money and health. Recently they changed the law so you can’t smoke inside restaurants but you can smoke in the outside dining areas, which here is like smoking in the restaurant.
Plus you can smoke in the nightclubs. When I was dancing on my first night out I had trouble breathing the air was so thick.
At home smokers are made to feel like social lepers, I doubt this will ever catch on in this country.
If you live in the South of France, the best place to buy your ciggies and booze is across to the Spanish border about an hours drive away. Have a passport then you can go shopping.
It appears the French eat:
Bread @ breakfast
Bread @ lunch
Bread @ dinner
All those pictures of people walking around with long bread sticks, it’s real, not just a corny french picture.
I have to say that the French bread is divine, the best I have ever eaten. Delicious! Eating so much bread the French do not deserve to be as skinny as they are. Maybe this is why so many adults smoke, so they can eat the bread…
So much choice!
(click on this photo to expand, this is only one section of the options available)
In France these dinosaurs are survivors. I waited in queue along with 5 others, while a woman paid with a cheque. My eyes near popped out of my head when the cheque book and passport came out. Plus you cannot open an account at the bank without having a one on one interview, with the bank manager. The only thing missing from our long chat was a cup of tea.
Banking is more hands on and more relationship based than at home. It involves high levels of employment but that seems OK. Like many things in France productivity is viewed differently here. To set up our account it has involved several visits and many hours, still the process is not finished.
As I said earlier the French appear to hurry slowly. I like.
In France it should be called “le Crap”. Sunblock in France is sooo bad. Nobody seems to use it, so it doesn’t matter. I have now tried two brands from the supermarket and both times I got burnt even with repeated applications and the bottle saying 50+. “No problem” (once again French accent) the French tell me, they don’t have a hole in the ozone layer like Australia so it doesn’t matter. The French also tell me they don’t have sharks, crocodiles, sting rays, blue bottles and most of all snakes so why worry!
Who would have thought I would miss zinc cream…
A massive store that is like a Dick Smith, KMart, a Fish Mongers, Book Store, Pool Shop, Pet Shop, Fruit and Vegies, massive Bottle shop and a Pharmacy. Ginormous and all rolled into one. If you can find a staff member they are very friendly. Security at the door to check your bags as you go in. For all shopping you bring your own bags but they are big, strong and plastic.
I love Carrefour. One stop shopping – It’s Heaven.
Returning Goods At Carrefour
Holy Mary, Peter and Joesph. We were returning a microwave that was too big and the process took 50 minutes. First we had to go to the shop, we purchased from, then we left the shop with a lovely assistant. After walking 5 minutes away to have our first receipt stamped and new paperwork given. Walk back to the store to pick out a new one. This involved more paperwork swapping, with an assistant once we hunted one down. Once again walk to another office 5 minutes walk in the opposite direction of the first office. After waiting and exchanging more paperwork we had to go back to the original place of microwave purchase for more paperwork. Once we got to the counter and paid for our items, throw in a little more queuing, we then had to find a security guard to stamp our final pieces of paper so we could leave the building. This final stamp and signature involved a walk from one side of this super sized shop to the other.
Can I add, the replacement microwave was on sale but because it was an exchange we were not entitled to the reduced price.
This was the most non productive, customer friendly shopping process I have ever been part of. It did however help gainfully employ multiple people so it may be a better way of doing things. No one else seemed bothered.
Having now spoken with some French people, it appears wages are lower in France, well for the common worker anyhow. Apparently for every dollar you pay in wages the employer also has to pay an equivalent in tax to the government. Workers are also heavily taxed, or so they tell me. This double payment of wages, would make being an entrepreneur very difficult.
On the flip side I am told the French have an excellent public health care system.
This is the land of the Tour.
Bike tracks and people on bikes everywhere, We love it. Having purchased two new bikes week one, we are really enjoying exploring the countryside at the end of each day. At home I wouldn’t dream of getting on a bike without a helmet as brain trauma is unattractive, yet I have been totally seduced by the freedom of no helmet. I keep promising myself I will buy a helmet next time I’m in Carrefour.
Cost Of Life
Champagne, wine, bread all fantastic and much cheaper than home. The rest seems on a par with Australia if not a little more. Petrol is considerably more as it’s the same price as home but in euros. Another reason for all the small cars.
I have now given up. I am a confirmed social tea drinker. The coffee is so strong, faint hearted drinkers like myself need not apply. However coffee drinkers tell me the French coffee is some of the best you will get in Europe. I fail in being able to give you a good account – sorry.
The flavour of the South of France! We found out about this drink when we went out to watch the World Cup France v Germany game. Ricard originates from Marseille and is an anise flavoured drink. First made in the 1930’s, it was meant to be a health supplement but the alcohol level and flavour have made it a French favourite.
To drink, you serve it with chilled water. Put the Ricard in the glass first then the drink is cloudy. Add the water first the drink remains clear. Austin Powers Yeah Baby!!
The ratio is meant to be 1:5 water but I am not sure if my drinks meet the ratio’s correctly. I struggled to ride my bike home in the early hours of Saturday morning but I was sure I hadn’t drunk that much! My bike ride home became a huge task of blurred concentration.
You will be pleased to know I made it home without falling off my bike – just…
Leaving The House
Apparently, and the proof is in the pudding, they say, French people don’t like to leave the house until they look their best.
(This I have been told is gospel) Why else, because it would be rude and cause offence to the shop keepers if you did not look your best.
I wonder why bother?
I believe for the most part no one is truly interested. Plus what others think of me is none of my business, so two good reason not to worry. Maybe in France I offend by not always looking “fabulous” but I am hoping my personality gets me over the line. Otherwise maybe a middle finger project.
The middle finger – now that is highly offensive in this country.
No No No don’t do that here!
Pillows are European size. This means they are a VERY large square. I find them uncomfortable to sleep with and as the night progresses they move under my back. It is my first and thus far only big HATE in France.
I went into a specialist shop to try and replace the feather pillow I lost at Heathrow only to be told it was 134 Euro. Are you serious? Jumping Jehova. I was sad to leave my pillow at the airport but not that sad that I would pay a kings ransom for a $12 feather pillow.
Any visitors to Miss Catana if you are fussy like me bring your own.
Called McDo for short and on the signs. The advertising and colours are all smaller and muted compared to home. Thank God for sanity. Question, with all this great food who would even consider doing McDo?
At home it’s on counters, our kitchen sinks, schools, in your handbag and everywhere else. Here it is seemingly non existent. I continue my hunt and no doubt it is down to my poor French language skills that I am having trouble finding this product. My first attempt to buy resulted in a small pump bottle of shampoo for cats. The Captain thinks it might be OK for his hair….
Encounters With The Police
Last week the Captain was having a small play around the marina in the dinghy when a policeman called him over by saying “Oo You”
Captain put his finger on his chest and said “who me.”
The Policeman “Yes You” (he spoke basic English).
Once next to the Policeman who now had his foot on the boat he started speaking in French to the puzzled Captain.
The Captain in very bad French “Parlay Vou Anglaa” or in Australian – Speak You English?
The Policeman “What land are you from”
The Captain (he couldn’t resist) “I’m from the Land Down Under”
The Policeman “What?… What country are you from?” slightly exasperated at this point
The Captain “Australieee”
The Policeman “OK. Australiee. Do you have a big boat?”
The Captain “A Catana” pointing towards the yard.
The Policeman “Yes I understand. You Go! Go! Go!”
The Policeman then used a couple of other choice words at this point but unfortunately the Captain did not understand. Great pity as no doubt it would have been culturally insightful.
Not understanding the language has it’s moments of pleasure and pain. Sometimes you just want to have a really good conversation with others, ask questions and understand how life operates. This is very difficult.
Not understanding all the signs, items you are trying to buy, order, listening to automated messages and receiving emails and text messages in French can be difficult.
On the flip side sometimes it’s just funny when you say the wrong thing.
Then surprisingly it is peaceful. Your thoughts remain uninteruppted as you go about your business because you are not constantly bombarded by noise, signs and messages.
You don’t understand, so they all slip quietly under the radar.
There are other points of difference I could add to the list, like pegs, power points and pastry but it are the differences that make it fun.
Life is beautiful here in the South of France
Cheers the Miss
PS Fresh French sardines are sooooo good they have ruined my love of canned sardines forever. Damm it.