Saturday, January 14, 2006

Le Doper!

Hello all; so it's confirmed, Heras has to go to the Spanish courts to defend himself. I don't really care about dopers in cycling or any of that; I just choose to use it as a segue because I read it in L'equipe while sipping a coffee in some boulangiere in Nantes, and let me just say one thing about France: it rules. Despite what people say about snobbering and being rude to Americans (they are generally are both snobs and rude to Americans) the people whom I met were very nice, very sociable, helpful and friendly. Because of these things, I return from my holiday relaxed, happy and once again in sorts with my world.

So, why do the French have such a bad reputation? I spent a lot of time in cafes and bars sorting this one out, amongst other activities that do not bare discussion as they are only of interest to other degenerates like myself. My conclusion is pride. The French people are very proud of the culture and heritage, and this is reflected in strict adherance to language and food. In this respect, they are a lot like Texans. Immensly proud, head strong, etc, but the French don't feel the need to boast about their superiority because they implicitly know they are better than anyone else and do not make it necessary to prove their worth by the size of their trucks or how loudly they talk (and for you Texans reading between the lines, yes, the French are better than you, and any Texan who takes issue with this is welcome to show up to my neighborhood where I will be happy to oblige by stomping the shit out of you...go get fatter, burn some more oil in your penis compensating trucks, eat some bbq--and fuck off).

The implicit pride, though in some ways it may materialise itself as rudeness, is really a desire to share with others the things they as a people love: food, wine, fellowship. My last evening, I was dining at a restaurant recomended to me by my landlord, and once it was made clear that I was dining alone, I was invited to join the table next to american sharing a meal with 'freedom hating surrender monkies'--where we dined for several hours over many courses of food and drink. For this culture, food and drink are so important not for their inherant value as tasty things to swig down but because they are gateways to social relations--fellowship, friendship. Keep in mind, this was all made easier because I actually do speak the language, both French and that of wine and food, but even if I didn't, the fact that I was willing to make the effort as a foreigner to not be so foreign opend doors. Yes, we made fun of the president, but I was pretty drunk by that point and am not sure if it was dubya or chirac that was getting most of the venon: probably both.

Either way, the point is what I saw in France was something that America and Britain seem to lack, and it goes beyond manners. All conversations begin with Bonjour/soir Monseur/Madame, regardless of situation. Upon only a second meeting, and often the first, there is a handshake between men, and kisses between women or women and men; I was quite taken aback when the landlord shook my hand after I came in for the evening on my first night and when his assistant kissed me the the next morning. These little things, however, make society more civil, and congenial.

But, enough about manners. The city itself was very cool and everything that one would expect a really old European city to be. Cathedrals, a Chateau, cobbled streets, built on a hill, winding paths, plastered stone buildings, etc. Once I get unpacked, I'll be posting some photos. The apartment I rented was in the middle of the old part of the city, adjacent to the Marche de Talensac (a medival market still in operation) and next to a really old church. The room itself was a bit austere, but I since I wasn't there to sit and watch TV, that didn't matter. I spent the days eating, drinking and exploring a part of the world about which I'd only read about. Truly seeing a gothic cathedral for the first time is amazing. I snapped some photos, but I'm sure they won't do the experience justice. Perhaps the most interesting part of the trip were the all famous cafes. My favorite dated from the 19th century and was something out of a LeTrec painting. Tiled floors, spotless bar and amazing table service. No one seemed to mind that I spent an afternoon reading and writing. Though it was always politely implied that one should order another drink (coffee or other wise) or pay and leave.

That, I think is the message I got from the my trip. Whatever one does, do it with manners, not for the sake of being polite, but for the sake of commeraderie. Because it is the right thing to do.

On that vein, I'm in danger of bable, so I'm going to quit. For any Texans who are offended, please, after the stomping, I'll take you to the pub and get you pissed (the british version).

take it easy, thanks for reading, and keep an eye out for photos,



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