mercredi 27 février 2013

My French Tourists

Ok, let me start off by warning you that this may sound like a rant. This a topic that I have been giving a lot of thought to in the past year as I try (and have failed) to adapt to the French way of being a tourist. Let me explain.

The French love to eat. No big surprises there. They also love to drink. No big surprises here either. And they love to do this several times a day, especially when they are on vacation.

Sounds great, right?

Not if you actually want to see some of the place where you are on vacation.

This is what typically happens (with my French tourists, of course this is just my experience with my French family and friends):

1. Wake up at around 8.30-9.30. This could be later, but usually not earlier, at least not for childless people under 40. Breakfast and showering take about an hour.

2. Drive, walk, etc. to the day's destination. This could bring you up to 10.30, maybe more, maybe less.

3. Walk around for half an hour before starting to look at all the restaurants and talking about which one to eat in. Maybe visit a monument or two to take pictures.

4. Pick a restaurant around 12 and walk in and sit down.

5. You order around 12.15.

6. The first course comes around 12.30, sometimes later.

7. Stay in the restaurant at least 2 hours, talking and eating.

8. Around 2 or 2.30 you finally leave the restaurant.

9. Visit a museum for 2 hours. This would take you up to 4.30.

10. Walk around half and hour. You are enjoying your sightseeing time, but your French friends are all talking about have a drink somewhere.

"What?" you think, "we already spent 2-3 hours eating and drinking!"

Just when you were just starting to get a feel for the place you are visiting...

11. You go with them for a drink, spending an hour talking in the café.

12. Now it is around 5.30-6pm. Time to get home and get the apéro out! Besides, your French friends are tired (from all the drinking and eating, haha) to do anymore "touring".

13. You leave, only having just had a taste for the place you just visited.

14. You go back to your gite or wherever it is you're staying and spend hours eating, drinking and then playing games.

Châteaux de Lastours, France. On one of my trips with my "pack" of French friends and family.
Author of photo: Den Nation.

I often feel like it's me against them. They want to do things all together, so no one ever splits up. But anyway, I am always the one who wants to do something different, so there never is any need to split up. Whenever there is a discussion about what to do they are usually in agreement, even my husband. I am the only one who ever has other ideas.

So now I often skip the afternoon drink. I just can't do it anymore. I have to get out there; I want to know the place I am visiting. And besides, I am often not thirsty anyway.

I try to understand, I really do. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be with your friends and family, just laughing and having a good time. That's great, it really is. But I have to get out there and see the place where we are; I need to watch the local people, hear the local language, admire the local architecture, walk in parks, etc. and not just sit around drinking and eating and visiting museums.

My husband's family find it really strange that I don't want to participate in the afternoon drink. They feel badly that I am not there. I tried forcing myself to go, but I just can't leave a place knowing I haven't seen its nooks and crannies. I want to find hidden treasures. I want to take lots of photographs.

But when they feel badly, I feel guilty. This can really put a damper on everyone's mood. They talk to me about it, telling me it's strange that I'm not there with them. But what can I do?

Does anybody else feel like this? Am I really alone in this?

7 commentaires:

  1. I often get annoyed with my French friends back home because everything seems to revolve around drinking. Mind you, this is Brittany... So you have to go to a bar, and you have to order whatever rare and special beer, and then drink a few more. I don't drink--never developed a taste for it. I don't mind other people drinking though, not at all. I just hate when everything revolves around booze, that's all. I mean, we aren't students anymore. I just want to chat wit you, not seeing you getting drunk!

    French can be super annoying with food though, I hear you. They also always think they eat better and healthier, which I find isn't really true anymore. I'm tired of hearing jokes about "les américains et leurs hamburgers" coming from people who eat kebab with fries in the middle of the day. Hey folks, different countries, same junk food! And please, don't tell me raclette or cassoulet is healthier than poutine, alright?

    1. I have to admit that I am not in the slightest attracted to living in Brittany because of the drinking. I went to Rennes and Vitré once and I had the feeling like it was a mini-Britain a little bit with the drinking. I had enough of the binge drinking when I actually lived in the UK. It was so awkward for me there, in my early days I would go to the pub with friends and drink one drink the entire night while they downed pint after pint. It really bothered me in the beginning, but later on I stopped caring and just didn't hang out with people that wanted to drink so much anymore. I agree, it's not fun or healthy to binge drink.

      Ah, the French and their food. I've also had the same comments about raclette and cassoulet. While I agree that probably the quality of the ingredients in France is better, I certainly don't think that these dishes contain less fat than raclette or cassoulet.

      One thing that drives me crazy are their hamburger buns. They complain about burgers, saying that they are horrible (and they are because the bun is so bad), but I can't believe that a country that makes the best bread in the world is incapable of making a great hamburger bun. It's almost as if they want to beat the hamburger down (and keep it there) just because it's North American (anyway it was invented in Germany I think). There are ways of making hamburgers more healthy (brown bread, less fat in the patty, a lot of vegetables, etc.).

      They like to eat steak haché, though, and it is exactly like eating a hamburger! According to them the steak haché is alright, though. They eat their baguette with that and a salad. So it's just like eating a hamburger only the bread is good. It's bad because they make it bad by using the bad bun. I could go on and on!

    2. The last time I was in France, I noticed that French tend to eat fries with everything as a side. Not sure whether it's a new trend or I hadn't noticed it before! I actually wrote an article about it the last time I was in Nantes:

      Rennes is awful when it comes to drinking. I visited it a few years ago and I was super shocked to see young teens (I'm talking 14-15 yrs old) downing shots in bars. I'm not a prude but wow, that was kind of sad.

    3. I asked my husband about fries and he confirmed what you said - there are more fries than ever before. He says that 10 years ago restaurants would make more of an effort to make sides from produce purchased at the local markets rather than use frozen food like today.

      This is why I never make fries at home - I often eat fries when I go out to eat.

      It really is sad about binge drinking. I am afraid that France will become like Britain, where you see packs of half-naked 50-year-old men and women out binge drinking on a Thursday night.

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  3. I am sorry to laugh at this, but it did make me giggle! I feel your pain. That would seriously bug me! It is one of the reasons I like to travel alone if there is a place I really want to see, because I like to work from my own itinerary! I enjoy eating and drinking, a little bit too much, but that is rather excessive!!!

  4. Welcome to my blog and thanks for reading! I'm glad that I made someone laugh with this post, haha, I'm laughing, haha.

    In Copenhagen I have visitors every now and then. With my French visitors I try to go to places that I have already been to so I won't feel frustrated at only seeing half (or sometimes less) of what I want to see. I save new places for when I am alone with my husband (I agree to go to the cafés as long as we only go once a day and not longer than 40 minutes) or with my Canadian friends.

    I have to accept that this is the French way of being a tourist. Of course not all French people are like this, but many are. It doesn't mean that it's wrong; they do spend more time talking with each other and that's important too. I guess I am just too Canadian, I have to get out there and explore!