Posted: 21 Sep 2004
Aaaand, we're back. If you're just coming in to this, be sure to read my first installment of Adventures in France.
Before I go into anything else, I need to stop and point out that I was sorely disappointed in my complete and utter lack of bidet experiences. No bidets anywhere, actually. They're supposedly rampant in countries like France, but apparently not at any of the four hotels at which we stayed. It's a crying shame. I was so looking forward to trying to figure out just what the fuck you do with one. And don't tell me you squirt water on your ass, because I know that. I can do that with a garden hose in my driveway if I feel like it. I have a feeling that using a bidet requires a certain amount of European finesse, not to mention the gall to then dry your ass on the Communal Ass Towel.
Another thing that France is sorely lacking is, nerdily enough, eyeglass repair kits. Leave it to me to lose a screw in my glasses while on my very first trip across the seas. I ran around to various pharmacies, tabacs, and closed opticians until I finally found an optician that was open. I looked around for an eyeglass repair kit -- you know what I'm talking about, the little plastic cylinder with a tiny screwdriver and a few screws -- but to no avail. They just don't have them. A cute girl asked me if I needed something, and in broken French I explained that my goddamned glasses had fallen apart and if she could just point me in the direction of a small screwdriver and screws I'd be happier than un couchon rolling in merdre, but instead she took them and did it herself, free of charge. While awfully nice, I sure could have done it myself.
Oh, and while I'm on opticians being closed, I absolutely have to mention that damn near everything is closed on Sundays and Mondays in France. It's like they have perpetual 3-day weekends. While awesome for them, it sucks to try to find an open bar on a Sunday night.
And now I need to wrap up with a bit about tourist attractions and monuments.
In France, in fact all over the world, there are plenty of tourist sites, monuments, cathedrals, battlefields, you name it. All sorts of shit to see and do. There's one big difference between the U.S. and the rest of the world here, though, and that's a complete disregard for controlling the public's safety. If you go to, say, Mount Rushmore, you can view it from a comfortable distance of a half a mile away, take snapshots, and marvel at its intricate features through those big, mounted, quarter-operated binoculars. Were this bitch in France, though, I assure you that you could take stairs or an elevator to the top and then climb all over Roosevelt's face. No fences, no signs, no warnings, nothing. This is what I've started calling the "Don't Fuck With European Monuments" clause. At Mont St. Michel, you could easily fall out of a high window and tumble to your death down the rocky stone side of the abbey. I'm sure it happens, too, from time to time. There's also the tide. It comes in fast and will drown you if you're climbing the rocks on the far side of the thing. There's simply a sign, though, that says "no swimming" and "warning: tides" or somesuch. There's no dude standing there with a gun, waiting to blow a whistle and shoot you if you wander too far.
Here's an example of a different variety. We went to the American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach, arguably the hot point of the Normandy invasion of 6 June, 1944 (oh yeah, Europeans write dates all screwy like that, too). Our arrival was at about 4:55pm, at which point we noticed that it closed five minutes later at 5:00pm. There were plenty of people heading in, though, so we figured we'd run in, snap a few photos, and then leave with the crowds. The gravestones were nice and white, all lined up in odd perpendicular angles and all that, how pretty and sad. At that point, we noticed that there was a short gate to a path that led all the way down to Omaha Beach itself. Well shit, we said, that's Omaha freakin' Beach, right there! We can head right down, have a look-see, and be back before anyone notices. Off down the path we went, which ended up taking about twenty minutes. The beach was serene, nice, and not at all like it looks in Medal of Honor: Frontline. We got our feet wet in the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, I nabbed a stone for a keepsake, and we started back up the path only when we noticed we could no longer see people at the lookout point up top.
After the 20-minute walk up, we found the little gate closed and locked. Well, no biggie, just step over it. Oh hey, there's no one here. Interesting. At this point, it was about quarter to six, so we booked it to the parking lot, trying to look inconspicuous to the non-existent people remaining. Upon reaching the parking lot, there was one thing immediately noticeable, which we briefly stopped to take a picture of -- there was one car in the big ol' parking lot, and one only. That car was a red Citroen C3, the one we'd rented in Paris to drive to Normandy. The next fifteen minutes alternated between nervously amusing and downright harrowing. I drove to the exit of the parking lot and, sure enough, the gate was closed and locked. We circled back 'round to the entrance and, sure enough, down the one-way access road, the gate was closed and locked. I began to imagine what it'd be like to sleep in a parking lot on the coast of Normandy, when our savior appeared on the other side of the lot, honking and flashing his lights. The last guard. We followed him out the access road and he opened the gate for us, to which we kowtowed and flashed universal signs of thanks and heart attack-avoidance.
My moral, though: Don't Fuck With European Monuments, because they'll not hesitate to just lock you the fuck in.