So we have been here 1 week. We are having a great time. My French is coming along, (my Spanish is not getting better though) I get more comfortable with French every day (although not with Spanish). I really think that if I lived here for 6 months, I would be able to speak it (French that is, not Spanish). I can get along in restaurants, read signs, ask for directions, talk in a store etc… Hanna has way more knowledge of grammar and writing than I, but my walking around French is not so bad. Too bad, that just about the time I will be getting comfortable with it all, I will be going home. Oh well, we really are having a grand time.
We have learned alot along the way, and learned that we still do not know alot more.
Skiing – Merely a suggestion
Ok. Gravity is gravity, whichever side of the planet you are on. I realize that. But, things are different skiing here. The altitude is lower than in Colorado or Utah. I know that there are also lower places to ski in the US, but that is where I usually ski. Lower altitude does make the snow feel different. A little heavier and wetter. That also might be because of the warmer temperatures we were having as well.
But, one thing that is definitely different is the etiquette on the hill. People do not act the same in the lift lines, nor do they look at the hill the same. They step on your skis, and cut in front of you much more than in North America. Some of the differences stem from the US being all about trying to protect you from yourself. (We truly are not capable of watching out for ourselves) For example, if there was a cliff area at Snowbird, there would be huge signs and maybe even a gate to get through to keep you from accidentally going there. In France, there will just be a sign that says crevice or cliff. No gate, no rope nothing. Skier beware. I guess if you buy the pass, you should expect to take on the risk. I kinda like that.
There is also not a ski patroller in sight. Again, in the US there are always patrollers around to keep the peace on the trail, make sure people are not doing stupid things, not ducking under ropes etc… Basically, keeping people safe from themselves.
Another thing is closed trail signs are merely suggestions. There will be a closed trail sign at the top of the trail, but there will be multiple tracks just going around the sign with a stream of people just blitzing by it. Merely a suggestion.
Driving – You have to know where you are going.
Has anyone ever told you about how narrow the roads are? It is pretty amazing. Sometimes there is just no way that 2 cars can fit down the road. 2 days before, we drove down to Geneva to pick up Hanna from the airport. They lost her luggage, we are still waiting for that – but that is another story. The road down is narrow and twisty and even has a couple of tunnels that you must pass through that are not wide enough for a truck and a car. In fact, you have to enter the tunnel and cannot really see around the other side of it and hope that you are in there alone. (One more example of – your doing something so you are accepting the risk).
Traffic goes fast also. Most of the time too fast for the conditions. Navigating is also very different from the US. In the US, you navigate by what road you are on. Roads have clear names and are posted in plain sight. You know that you take highway 5 to highway 19 and go east, for example. In Europe, you can never see the road name. No one cares what the road name is. You navigate by what town you are going to next. So, when you come to an intersection or a roundabout, you have to know what town you are going to next. Not just your final destination.
We have already messed that up. On the way back up from Geneva, we did not pay attention and left the roundabout on the wrong direction and drove up the mountain in the wrong direction about 20k, up a twisty snow covered road. We are all just a bit worried about Liz driving with this navigation, but I think she will get it. Ugh… You have to know where you are going.
Shopping – There are rules after all
There is only one small grocery store on the main street in town, and then a larger grocery store down on the lower road in town. The small store on the main street, is so small that there is a line outside, because they only let 10 people inside at a time. there are only 3 rows inside. It is seriously small.
The other store in town is the InterMarche down on the lower street. It is smaller than the smallest Sentry I have ever seen at home. On a busy night, they get completely cleaned out. The parking log holds about 25 cars. They never plow the parking lot, so cars are parked every which way.
You can buy some very interesting things. There are foods you cannot identify. Some good, some not as good.
There are crazy translations on packages. It is not as bad as being in Asia, but there are still some interesting translations.
All of the stores seem to have their carts out front of the store. That is the same as the US, but the difference is in the US you just take a cart. In France, you have to rent the carts. You can use just about any coin, but you can also get a plastic coin from the counter and that allows you to get a cart. So actually you can get around the renting, if you know the rules. You have to know the rules.
Sidewalks – nowhere to run.
I do not think that you have to clean your sidewalks here. I suspect that is just a French thing. I bet over in Switzerland or Germany, things are much more orderly – and you must clean your sidewalk. They just let the snow pile up, then pack it down by walking on them. It makes for a sidewalk that is sometimes nearly impossible to walk on.
The sidewalks are nearly impossible to walk on. Liz has been looking for a place to run. But, there really is nowhere to run.
France is a long way from the Madison Wi.- 7 hours time difference to be exact.
Even when you are a long way from home, things can be much the same. A tree, a few gifts under the tree, some lights, some decorations and holiday music playing on the computer. It’s Christmas, wherever you are.
There is something interesting about the time difference to the USA. You cannot get any sleep over here. People are always trying to call you. They call all the way into the night. 7 hours time difference is noticeable.
There is no Starbucks in Chatel France
There is no Starbucks or McDonald’s or Qdoba or Barnes and Noble or just about anything that you would note as something you have seen anywhere else. It is interesting, because until you live in a place like that, you just do not realize how much you rely on the familiarity of that stuff. I consider myself someone who seeks out the LOCAL place, but it turns out that I am not. Maybe you just cannot help but get addicted to the places that you become comfortable with.
I drive along in the USA, stopping at Starbucks and eating at Qdoba. You just become comfortable with all of that. I find that pretty interesting.
They like church bells in France.
They ring them alot. In between the avalanche cannon being fired in the morning, there is a crescendo of church bells going off. They go off for a long time.
That is all for now. More will come, as week 2 is all about skiing – with one quick excursion for a work day up to Copenhagen.