Fréjus, France

Fréjus, France
Aqueduc Romain

Sunday, July 27, 2008

What I like about France--by Lisa

I love the French road system. The highways are well marked by the cutest sign posts, pointing you in the direction of a place. The road names (often a letter plus a number for the highways) are small in comparison to the name of the place they end up. Intersections are marked by roundabouts so you could always go around and around if you're not sure, or haven't made up your mind, and no one will honk at you in annoyance. These roundabouts do not stop the flow with lights. It is a system of manners and ceding the right of way. I cannot guarantee this mannerly system for L'Etoile however (the 12 lane roundabout circling L'Arc de Triomphe). The country roads also mark points of touristy interest by a brown sign. The supermarket is marked by a billboard (I remain grateful Ashland has banned these) but the old château in town is marked by a brown sign. In towns many cobblestones remain. There has been debate about keeping these, as they were used to build barricades and as weapons during the Commune uprisings of the 1870s and again by the disgruntled Parisien students in 1968. I especially like the small little pearly grey cobblestones laid in fan patterns.

I like how the guy in the wheelchair on a packed subway got looked after. The riders packed in around him, pretty much ignored him except for the occasional unobtrusive glance. He didn't seem to be verbal, but as his stop approached he hit a button on the panel of his wheel chair and when the doors opened a worker for the subway put up a ramp and he exited the car with more dignity than the rest of us herded cows possibly could. The worker then lifted up the ramp and was on her way. The whole process took very little time and absolutely no drama.

I love how Paris is so proud of itself that it completely lights up at night, shining lights on all its gorgeous monuments, saying "Look at me! You might have missed me during the day but I am so gorgeous!" France is now president of the E-U, a position that rotates every 6 months, and this pride shows up on the Tour Eiffel which glows blue at night and has the 13 E-U stars positioned on it.

I like that culture is promoted and encouraged. Half of the Metro billboards are for museum exhibitions. That is how I get my first inkling I want to go to a particular museum. They also reduce admission rates for the disabled, the unemployed and other categories of those who can't afford it. (As non-citizens the unemployed Bailey/Brownes don't qualify). Kids under 18 are free.

I like the beautiful oldness. During its chaotic history of wars, pillaging, revolution etc many buildings were destroyed. But there are still quite a few left! Paris is old, way old. The Celtic tribe that called themselves the Parisii lived near Notre Dame around 2300 yrs ago. Their ruins were found and that site is a new museum! We had a date last night and attended a concert on L'Île de la Cité, which is right downtown, in between the arms of the Seine. We saw a group of strings play Vivaldi's Four Seasons at La Sainte Chapelle. This is a gorgeous little cathedral and we were surrounded by magnificent stained glass (these are not just windows, the stained glass windows are the WALLS) and some of the original statues. It was build in the mid 1200s. So here we have an 800 yr old chathedral, listening to music that was composed about 400 years later, played by musicians born about 300 yrs after that. That music in that place--spellbinding. The audience, which was small, stumbled out of there. Thankfully we had workers to direct us outside.


Mom & Dad Browne said...

Loved you blog,especially the history and descriptions of the buildings, roads, etc, These are the things I hope to enjoy onj our trip over there. See you on skype

Anonymous said...

SOunds like you are having a great time! I'm an ex-pat living permanently in the UK (8 years now) and take the easy trip via Eurostar to Paris as much as possible. You both sound very positive thus, your experiences will be great.

Wait until you have to go back and see the US from a different viewpoint! That's fun too!

Patty - England