So, this was the trip. Two disobedient, violent, manipulative, evil children and two cranky, snide, critical adults, trapped in a Toyota RAV 4 with nothing to occupy them but 3 computers, 2 iPhones, 2 seat-back DVD players, books, iPods and local radio.
Not since the Donner Party . . .
Florence to Nice. Nice to Carcassonne. Carcassone to Rochefort-Fouras-La Rochelle. R-F-La to Saint Lo by way of Mont St Michel. Paris for just long enough to eat a croque, notice how weird Notre Dame looks all cleaned up, and a quick trip up a blue-lit Eiffel Tower.
The homeward leg was Lyon and Genoa, so far. We reach Florence and home tomorrow.
Some great hotels — God I love Sofitel. And some not great hotels. I’m looking at you Villa Henri IV in Saint Cloud. The restaurant’s closed, the elctricity goes out all night, there’s no hot water and the WeeFee (WiFi) amounts to leeching signal off the unwary local NetGear guy.
Twice the Douane — the French customs cops — asked me why I don’t have a front license plate. People here are very aware of the front license plate. People point and stare. Having no front plate is the automotive equivalent of flying a skull and crossbones from the antenna and waving a saber out of the window while winding our way through traffic.
The entire speed enforcement system in France rests on machines photographing the front license plate. North Carolina, with it’s parsimonious insistence on only a rear plate, has allowed me to utterly defeat the speed control regime of the French Republic.
That makes it twice with the French, once with the Italians, and in each case I drove off freely because 1) I don’t look like trouble, 2) None of them knows what the hell form to fill out to deal with plateless Americans, and 3) none of the cops wants to be the guy who dumped this load of crap in his superior’s lap.
If you want to break a law, make sure it’s one nobody has a specific form for.
Anyway, I’m tired, so I’ll limit myself to pointing out that the French are not assholes. The Parisians are assholes. Like assuming people in Atlanta or Houston are just like New Yorkers. The French were universally nice — except the biker who checked out my North Carolina plates, and my Obama sticker, pulled in front of us and carefully gave us the finger,
Actually Frenchmen, as opposed to Parisians, were very tolerant of my mangling of French. More tolerant even than the Tuscans who, God knows, have had to endure a lot from me.
Comparing the French and the Italians I focus on this: the French have simply surrendered on coffee, while the Italians keep the religion alive. Nothing but automat coffee at roadsides stops in France, while every last Italian stop has a full-function espresso machine and barista. Frenchmen drink coffee an American would spit in.
On the other hand, could the Italians please, please, please, pick up a book on French baking secrets. The Italians make bread that could be used as a murder weapon. And their attempts at desserts (with the exception of some gelato) are pathetic. I mean, come on people: drive a few miles into France. Buy a loaf of bread. Think about it. Reverse engineer it. It’s not advance physics.