France: Croissants, Tolls and Poop

Aktualisiert: 16. Aug 2019

I really do love France. Nobody judges me when I roll out of a patisserie with baguettes and butter croissants by the dozen. The music of the language lulls my simple ear into thinking everything said in French must be good. Like the legendary Maradona's pride in his own football skills, it’s easy to understand why the French have so much pride in their country.

However, there is another side to everything. As demonstrated by Maradona’s alcohol fuelled performance in the bleachers while the Argentinian football team dragged its way through the 2018 World Cup or the heart problems I’ll have if I don’t kick my croissant habit, too much of a good thing usually doesn’t end well.

For instance, when in France one must mind one’s steps as the French look and sound way too good to stop and pick up their dog’s poop. There is poop EVERYWHERE. This is alarmingly apparent to the parents of a one year old who has the habit of gathering up and inspecting everything, thus turning even the most relaxed travelling parent into the dreaded helicopter mom or dad.

Also, make sure you check what days your local patisserie is open. One very sweet patisserie manager was delighted by my apparent faux-pas when I asked what time the place would open the following day. Silly me, the next day was a Tuesday, everybody knows the patisserie is closed on Tuesday. This is when the whole thirty-five-hour work week struck me as too much of a good thing.

There is a silver lining to everything. The not so robust French economy paired with the highest fuel prices I’ve come across in Europe and toll roads that bludgeoned me into accepting that my daily caravan adventure budget was unrealistic have also caused quite a stir among France’s working class. A cynic might say that the French national sport is the strike, but the working-class French who have donned their yellow vests and taken to the streets have taken airing their grievances to a whole new level.

As I passed into southern France, baguette and cheese in hand, I found myself at yet another automated toll booth. It seems that the operator was sympathetic to the yellow vest movement (or too scared to come to work) because no matter how hard I tried I could not get the machine to take my money and the call button didn't work. Thankfully the boom was raised and also seemed to be on strike. Later, I came to a traffic jam. This was no ordinary jam. I was approaching another toll. I got my wallet out hoping to slip through without waking the boss in the car seat behind me only to be pleasantly surprised as the police waved me through. In the lane next to mine, a car had been set ablaze. Apparently, the yellow vests didn’t have an inside man at this particular booth.

Is it all related – the croissants, poop and burnt toll booths? I’m not sure, but I do wish Maradona would pull himself together. He was a great one, maybe the best, but being the best in the eighties (or three hundred years ago in the case of France) doesn’t mean you don’t have to do the work to maintain respect. It would also be nice if there wasn’t dog poop on my shoes, or my child’s hands.