Why have I heard everyone say that French people are rude and that they hate Americans? Based on my first experience in France, this is a major misconception. I think you get back the attitude that you put out there. That probably holds true for anywhere you are in the world and anywhere you are in life. I know there are some dangerous places and evil people but I have not seen any so far in my almost five months of traveling and interacting with strangers every day. Actually, people are more generous and want to help more than I ever imagined. I feel goofy that I am still so shy to even go into a restaurant because I am embarrassed that I don’t speak the local language. But every time I do, nothing bad happens, I get un-hangry and the world becomes a better place. I’ll learn someday. I had an amazing time around the Bordeaux area of France. A simple “Bonjour! Désolé. Parlez-vous anglais (awkward smile and laugh)” opened up a happy conversation with every person I interacted with. Most of the younger generation speaks better English than me. That smile and laugh was crucial for me because my natural look is “I’m mad at you, I hate this country and I’m not having fun face.” I’m happy on the inside though! Like I said, my first experience in France was wonderful. Thanks to the gracious hospitality of my new friend “Frenchie” (creative huh?), other French people and some unexpected adventures with my fellow roamer friend, JP.
First of all, a 200 year old home in a small village in France may have very short door ways that pass through four-foot-thick concrete walls so, DUCK. Or wear a helmet. I think I got out of there with only two small concussions. Frenchie’s house was very unique. Covered in thick ivory, filled with antique furniture and surrounded by the lush landscape of wine vineyards. She gracefully let us stay for a week to explore the area, thanks again Frenchie!!
Chauffeuring JP around in the manual transmission Fiat Puto was fun too. She, “never learned how to drive a standard” or forgot how to drive since she hasn’t owned a car for a while, umm, whatever. Just kidding! A good navigator is more important than the driver in that area. There are minimal road signs and all of the roads look like driveways to the next château. That little car came in handy on those tiny one-lane country roads. French people are nice but they are incredibly fast racecar drivers! Speaking of fast, have you ever been at a railroad crossing when a fast train passes by? We were like, “Whooooooooooooooooooo!” I guess you had to be there. One day I went into the incorrect toll lane, put my ticket in, the machine took the ticket and and we were stuck! People were lined up behind our car and eventually realized that I was dumb and they reversed out of the lane. I eventually reversed out and pulled up to another lane, pushed a call button, “Parlez-vous anglais?“ Answer: “NO!” and then “Where did you come from?” we said the wrong place and she said it would cost 35€. Last time it was 1,25€, so we argued and then she said, ”I will send someone to help you.” In perfect English. A guy came out to the car and asked where we came from, he didn’t understand, ”Poo Holes, Poo Holes” we kept shouting. So, brilliant JP wrote the name of the town in eyeliner on a napkin: Pujols. Pujols-sur-Ciron. I still don’t know how to pronounce it. We ended up paying 2,25€. I deserved to pay that extra €. I think I also just answered my initial question: “Why have I heard everyone say that French people hate Americans?”
Local Markets and Fresh Food
We visited some of the best farmers markets I have ever seen in the little towns of Cadillac, Bazas and Podensac, the pictures say it all. This is how people are suppose to grocery shop!
Salads everyday, fish, amazing cheese, sausage, bread. Oh, and local wine. Yeah, I am really roughing it out here in the world.
Bordeaux was a dream. Everyone was so proper and beautiful, so was the city. I loved watching all the business men riding their bicycles to work in their fancy, perfectly fitted suits. Friendly and clean. People would stop us in the middle of the street and ask us if we need help finding something. I also loved the organ in Cathedrale Saint-Andre, it was spectacular. Oui!
Arcachon and Dune du Pilat
One day we wandered about one hour away to the cute little beach community of Arcachon. Farmer’s markets, pain aux raisins, beaches, chocolate, coconut and raspberry macaroons. All of the basics were covered.
Frenchie also told us we should drive a few minutes south to Dune du Pilat to check out the sand dune. I imagined a little rolling hill by the beach, NO. The dune is approximately 500m (1,640ft) wide from east to west and 2.7km (1.6mi) in length. It is about 110m (360ft) tall. The tallest sand dune in Europe! That was really cool and unexpected. We hiked up and over it and went down to the beach!
After France it was time to say au revoir to JP so she could continue her planned adventures through Europe. I fought separation anxiety with le McDonalds. Bon voyage JP! Keep smiling and keep it simple like Frenchie taught you. Also, boil your water to wash your dishes, let your food expire but still feed it to your guests, don’t laugh at the French newscaster’s funny haircut and buy me a condo in Bordeaux.