RETROSPECTIVE - GENERAL THOUGHTS ABOUT FRANCE
The first thing to say is that it's a very big country! This is stating the obvious, but you don't realise just how big it is until you drive from one end to the other. If you think England is a country full of history, France has
even more. There are so many amazing castles, chateaux, cathedrals, abbeys, Roman ruins, quaint little half-timbered villages, towns like Cahors with whole streets full of medieval houses - they put places like York in the shade! The history is
very complicated, too, with all those weird religious conflicts like the Albigensian Crusades and the Wars of Religion. There are a vast number of churches and villages dedicated to an array of obscure saints. St Gildas, St Privat, St Aquilin,
St Enimie, St Satur, St Amadour, St Cirq - who are they? Then there's St Pompon, patron saint of wooly hats; St Gimer, patron saint of doddery old men; and as for St Poncy!?
The French have some strange hygiene hang-ups. They prefer the hole-in-the-ground, squatting type of toilet because they think they are more hygienic than sit-on loos. When they do have the sit-on type, which is luckily widespread nowadays, there are often no seats, "for reasons of hygiene." They also think that swimming shorts are unhygienic so they are banned in most swimming pools - it's Speedos only, chaps. And yet it's still common to see Frenchmen peeing at the side of the road or up an alley. Don't they think that's unhygienic too?!
Like the English, the French love dogs, especially small, ugly, yappy ones. However, the concept of the pooper scooper has yet to catch on, so even in historic sites like Carcassonne or Mont-St-Michel you have to watch where you tread.
But despite all that we've really enjoyed France. The food and wine are excellent and usually cheaper than in the UK, the scenery is amazingly varied, the roads are not as congested as ours, the people are friendly and surprisingly tolerant when we try out our rusty school French!