Meike, Dani, Sandra and I went to France a while ago for a nine day holiday. It started well with the airport security gates malfunctioning and locking people between the doors (hehe). We stayed in Dani's holiday house in the French countryside, Sauxillanges near Issore, in a quaint little village of eight houses up in the hills. When I say it was quaint, what I really mean is that there was no internal or flushing toilet, no shower, no heating and very dodgy electrical wiring. I would have said at least it's better than a tent, but in this case it wouldn't be true; it was actually colder inside the house than it was outside. With no one staying there during winter, the walls had cooled down and stayed chilled. This meant that all the combined heat we put into the house - body heat, shitty electric heater heat - was sucked away. When you moved inside from the sunny outdoors into the kitchen, you immediately felt a chill raping all the warmth away from you. It wasn't the same as a freezer, it was much had a much deeper feeling of foreboding and dread to it.
In France it's customary to take a 2-hour break during the day for lunch, usually from midday until 2 pm. At first I wondered why they'd want this long to eat. Even if that time included a nap after lunch, two hours seemed a bit long to me. Then one fine day when we all went to the town markets to buy cheese it hit me! Actually, it almost hit me - a car that is. There are no bloody road rules for pedestrian crossings! Anywhere you see while lines on the road you take them to mean cars will stop here, but no! The rule seemed to be: whoever's most confident go's first. If you just close your eyes and walk onto the road, the cars will usually stop for you. If you stand by the road waiting patiently for cars to stop for you, forget it, they wont. Not only for pedestrian crossings, the general road rules in France all seem to follow a similar pattern: just go as fast as you can, drive however you like. I heard in Paris no one owns nice cars - they all drive shitty old busted ones because they expect to be bumped into while they're bumping into everything themselves. So here's my understanding: the French take a two-hour midday lunch break just in case it's their last meal.
All French clichés held true in Sauxillanges; the cheese and baguette carrying Frenchmen, the coffee and so on. France is a little obsessed with it's cheese; I even sighted a cheese toilet seat at the hardware shop when we went there to buy some kerosene. French cheese is not bad (I can imagine Dr. Gav moaning right now) but too soft. If it wasn't for the softness of the cheese I would have considered living here - it didn't take very long to adjust to mountain-village country life after all. You see, that trip to the hardware shop was to fix our second heater and once it was running (thanks to my manly fixing skillz) the house was habitable. We could now sit around the kitchen table at night while I lost at cards. Damn that Meike - she counts cards I swear!
So what else did we do? We walked through the countryside passing all the farms and met some cows; we made a quiche and ate it outdoors while soaking up the sun; we visited a volcanic lake with some seriously dodgy paths; we climbed up a hill that gave us an amazing view of the entire state (or whatever France has), saw a beautiful sunset, a (lol) cat, and found a ladybug nest (Dani said she didn't want to look because they are 'innocent' bugs, so averted her eyes from their 'love nest'); we ventured out into the wilds, which was a little bright with all the snow so Meike got some new sunglasses; we visited some churches and old castles; we walked along the town streets to discover an Australian Bar and quite a few drinking fountains (spring water in them thar hills); we went for a walk through the bush to some red hills - they were off limits but I still went in (and had myself a rousing by a passing school teacher with class in toe, I no speak-a le French'ish); we climbed another frosty mountain top the hard way and did some obligatory handstands at the top (hehe); and we visited the Volvic spring. However, all that paled in comparison to the visit we paid to Grottes de Perrier. I'm not sure about the history but someone at some point carved an entire village into the stone cliffs. You were free to scamper and explore the whole thing, which was a series of (mostly) unconnected caves. Some had chimneys and staircases to upper rooms chiselled through the rock. I was excited in a boy fun kinda way, and Meike was only restrained because of her wonky ankle (otherwise she'd be outrunning me).
Not every adventure we had was a fun one. Our adventure to the hospital's emergency ward was less exciting - Dani needed her appendix removed. It was hard not to play emergency rally driver while driving her there, especially around the hairpin corner.
NO! Don't you dare!
You're no fun at all...
Ok, so you're in a forigen country - what stands out the most? Oddities to us that seem completely normal to them. If you ever go shopping in France you'll notice this too; appart from the entire aisle dedicated to cheese there are strange supermarket items that'll catch your eye:
- Ox Heart Tomatoes
- Nougat Beer
- Croque-Monsieur (pre-packaged toasted cheese sandwiches)
- Super Mario mushrooms (convenient 6-pack)
- Blák Coffee/Cola (energy drink with double the hit, eww)
- ...err (not sure what this was)
- Double Burn (another energy drink)
- Whole salted mouldy hanging hams (eew again)
- Funny seeds in lettuce
And while I'm making lists (what am I, German now?) here is another one full of other cute and colourful things that made me lol:
- Emo car (is sad)
- Marzipan pigs (aaw, so cute but so vile-tasting)
- Keep mobile phones quiet stickers on trains
- 80's fashion and make-up posters (tragic...)
- Anything with le in the name (le Kebab, le Point)
- Bebe Cash (when you're short on €€?)
- Clearly this means something else in French (I hope)
- All the trees were trimmed to have four und precisely vour branches
- Where to burn off rubbish? Under the public library!
- 10 year old fly paper hanging everywhere
- Urban art, country art (I like)
- All you reflective mirrors belong to me!
- European women's gymnastics championships had an unusually shaped gymnast
- Meike's bra broke so I put it to better use
- Dani's surgical stitches set off airport security (we lol'd)
Although we were roughing it a little in out country side house in the mountains, by the end I didn't want to leave. It was all too nice and peaceful to ever want to give it up; so much so that I even looked at some of the houses for sale there - yep, I could afford that one day. the train ride back was really comfortable, and the stop over wandering around in the city was pretty. But for now, end of the line and time to go home.