So I'm way behind on updates. Without going into the details of my quest for internet, suffice it to say that I still don't have access to blog sites at home. It's super frustrating and I don't understand why a school should feel the need to block ALL blogs unilaterally, regardless of their content, but c'est la vie, at least ici.
(I spoke franglais to a student yesterday, too... but it was mostly on purpose, at least. It's very hard to be witty when no one even understands you being literal.)
Anyway, I'm still trying to sort out the internet situation, but it's going to take me at least a few more days.
In the meantime, here are some things that are awesome about France:
- French markets. I love markets. I delight in summer farmers' markets back home, and I thought the Christmas markets in Ireland were the most fantastic things I'd ever seen. But French markets? First of all, they're everywhere, all the time. There's hardly a neighborhood in Brest that doesn't have its own, and there's at least one somewhere in the city almost every day of the week—even Sunday, when France practically shuts down. And they have everything. If there's anything you want—from foodstuffs to clothes and shoes to housewares to books—that you can't find at the market, you're not going to have an easy time finding it at all.
- There is a bakery, a pastry shop, a chocolate shop, or (most often) some delightful combination of the above on nearly every block. In the main commercial areas of major cities, it's likely to be more like two or three. And they're all wonderful. And no one gives you a funny look if you walk down the street munching on pieces of plain baguette.
- Cheap wine is still good wine, and even bad wine is still pretty good. There's a shockingly pink sparkling rosé we buy sometimes that's surprisingly delicious—one of the British assistants calls it “the €1.60 bubbly of dreams”. Six or eight euros is almost kind of a splurge for a bottle of wine, and I can only assume it's delicious, because I've yet to spend more than about three euros, and most of what I've gotten so far has easily been comparable to the inexpensive-but-not-quite-cheap wine I might buy in America. That's not to say expensive wine doesn't exist here, just that I can't imagine why you'd ever need it when the price of quality is so much lower than it is where I'm from.
- Hardly anyone is hostile to me when I don't understand their language or have trouble making myself understood. (Granted, I'm not in Paris.) (And if you're an American feeling sympathetic about that, maybe you should think about it next time you meet someone struggling with English. Nobody can learn a new language overnight.)
But, there are some things that France needs:
- Better, or at least easier-to-navigate, public transportation systems. I've already ranted about this, so I'll leave it at that. And I'm not being hypocritical, because I make the same complaint about the U.S. Even though I do drive most of the time in America, there are definitely times when it's mostly because we have comparatively shitty public transportation options.
- Electronics stores. France is in dire need of something like Best Buy, or at least Staples. I know where there's an Apple store, and phone/internet providers often sell tablets and at least a couple of different laptops, but other than that I have no idea where the French buy things like computers and computer accessories. It certainly seems you can't get them and TVs and MP3 players and cameras and video game systems all in the same place.
- Coffee to go. I have definitely had days where this was what I missed most--even more than my car or American TV or being able to do business on Sundays. And yes, I know it's a wasteful habit. It's just that sometimes when I'm by myself and have time to kill, I don't want to sit alone in a cafe; I'd rather get a drink and take it with me to sit in the park or on a bench overlooking the harbour. In France, you can get the barman to put the rest of your beer in a plastic cup so you can finish it on the street, but good luck getting your coffee served any way other than in a little white cup with a saucer and a tiny spoon, with a single chocolate or a biscuit on the side. Charming, but not conducive to getting out and enjoying the sights.