Before I got a dog I’d always been mistrustful of them and, although England is renowned for being an animal-loving country, I’ve found the attitude of most shopkeepers, restaurant owners and people on the street backed up my opinion. In England you can’t take your dog into any shop – you’d have security on you in seconds in anticipation of a stray pee on the products. You certainly can’t take your dog into a restaurant – there’d be so many diners refusing to eat due to the hairy, potentially flea-ridden beast slavering over their meals. In France, you’re welcomed with your dog in both shops and restaurants, and most people’s houses – in fact you’ll be the most popular person in the place due to your cute furry friend.
I was never outdoorsy, or I thought I wasn’t. Completely uninterested in sport or any strenuous activity, it never even occurred to me to try skiing and when Steve first took me I remember saying that I couldn’t imagine a worse job than being a ski instructor. Out early every day in freezing blizzards, what a nightmare! I liked my nice warm desk job. Now on my second season living in a ski resort, my whole attitude has completely changed. I love seeing nature’s extremes every day and getting out amongst it. If I feel a little low I pop my skis on and get up a mountain. The stunning scenery lifts the soul and the crisp, clean air in your lungs and your hair as you slide back down will blow any cobwebs or cares away. The sky is so unbelievably blue here in our isolated, high up spot with so little light pollution, the stars and the moon are so bright, the snow covering everything so pure and white. If I’m sat at my laptop for too long my feet are itching to get out. Leaving the safety of employment to work for myself was terrifying, but the reward has been this unreal life – here’s a taster of my favourite 24 hours this week…
Translation is not an exact science. Think about all the sayings we have in English that wouldn’t make sense to a foreign person who took them literally…
“Spend a penny” “Mad as a box of frogs” “Spanner in the works”
When translations go wrong the effects can be disastrous. A missed word, or even a single erroneous letter, can change the meaning of a sentence completely. I love reading French menus the staff have translated into English for this reason. “Grandmother’s balls with pistachio” or “warm goat dung on toast” anyone? You’d have thought a ski resort press office would have forked out for a proper translator, but apparently not – leading to my favourite translation mistake so far. Sainte Foy’s Winter 2016 English press pack had the resort’s tagline as:
The Sainte Foy spirit will impregnate you. Ski differently. You will never be the same.
If that isn’t doesn’t sound like a threat I don’t know what does. And, bless them, that was how they were trying to tempt English people to book a holiday in the resort.
The French do have a much more healthy attitude towards drinking than the English. Drinking steadily throughout the day means you’re constantly slightly tipsy, rather than downing it all in one go in the evening and getting plastered as is our proud cultural heritage. As the Americans will uphold their right to bear arms to the death, so will the French uphold their right to drink wine at lunchtime. French police even threatened strike action when in 2011 bosses tried to ban them from drinking on the job. Yes, French police were routinely on the wine at lunchtime before tottering off to solve a crime (or push some documents round a desk and scribble rude drawings on them). I’ve written before about government-employed labourers given vouchers for lunches that include unlimited wine despite their jobs involving driving heavy machinery.
France is one of the most innovative countries in the world – it’s leading the way globally in technology research and IT, ranking way above the UK in a recent study. They’ve invented new online systems used in other countries to make payments easier and boost economies by facilitating trade – which is why it’s so baffling that the nation is still using cheques as its main method of doing business. Yes, CHEQUES!
Of course you can get bad customer service anywhere. I thought I’d had some bad experiences in England – until I moved to France.
It’s been a while since I blogged, as my rural idyll was shattered when my life took another unexpected turn last year – I moved to a ski resort in the Alps, launched a resort magazine and basically did my first ski season! It’s been quite a change of pace and my experience of French life is radically different up in the mountains. Instead of digging in the garden flower beds, I now dig my way out of the house through snow drifts, and due to all the fondue and raclette my cheese intake has exploded. Typically a “gap yah” student’s game, doing your first ski season at the age of 34 – and with no prior experience of skiing, glacial temperatures or apres bars – is an eye opener to say the least. In case you’re thinking of doing something similarly bonkers, I’ll share with you some of the things I learned…
In rural France you don’t get bars or pubs as we know them. In England we get home from work at 6ish, get the tea straight on and get down the pub for about 7.30. By 10 we’re a bit tipsy – if you make it to 12 things have probably got out of hand. Possibly because they all have a 2-hour lunch break and they’ve got work to catch up on, or possibly because they’re enjoying the weather or napping, in rural France no-one emerges from their homes until at least 9ish, when they usually go to a restaurant for a long late dinner with a few drinks. The continental way, you start drinking later and it’s with food so you don’t get drunk. But where’s the fun in that? Continue reading “Drinking in France: Showing Them How To Do It”
When my boyfriend first asked me to fill any gaps in my hand luggage with packs of bacon and cheddar cheese, I thought he was joking – and a bit odd. But he’s right that the bacon is not the same in France, it’s streaky strips or fatty lardons. I’ve also found it hard to find a decent fat juicy sausage – many of them are thin long things that pinder up under the grill and don’t have much taste. There’s a heck of a lot of cheese and it’s served with practically every meal – not just after Christmas dinner when it’s opened and hardly touched as in England – but you won’t easily find a strong mature cheddar taste equivalent. I know these are the types of things you can hanker after when you’ve lived away for a while, but when I told him I had no room left in my suitcase and he exclaimed “Well strap it to your thighs then!” I thought he’d gone a bit far. Continue reading “Eating in France: Jaffa Cake Revolution”
Now I’m no marketing guru, but what impression some of the French postcard makers are trying to give to tourists I can’t work out. We live in a beautiful village – it actually has the official title “L’un des plus beaux villages du France / One of the most beautiful villages in France”. It has a medieval square with awesome ancient archways, gorgeous flowers everywhere and a stunning church.
Here’s a picture I took, to give you an idea: Continue reading “French Postcards & Sinister Sheep Ceremonies”