A French Bag


Well there has to be a first for everything. This year, it would be France, by sail boat. The planning included boat documents, passports, and receipts. The word that the French were particularly fussy about these matters. Dreadful tales were heard about being marched off to cash dispensers to pay fines for minor transgressions. What would it be like?

Now weather is one of the main considerations when sailing. We read of the blue line where suddenly the weather turned into balmy days of idealic sailing.

The French of course are a great lot. sometimes a bit too good at rugby, and they do have odd habits. They do not do modesty!

More of that later.

Another thing which confounded one, every day, was the time difference. Now the French are one hour ahead, in almost every sense. Having sailed around the French Coast, hours are often long with a result of late arising in the morning. 10am in the morning seems a reasonable hour to get up. A shave, wash and breakfast could take another hour. Now, ready to face the world, the cockpit hatch is pushed back, a breath of fresh air taken. A quick mental brush up of a few French phrases, and the step ashore is taken. We head for the town to do a bit of window shopping. The boulangerie is always worth a visit to smell the delicious bread. Passing the shops you soon notice the doors are closed. Just you are getting into a shopping mood, the shops are closed!

Well you might as well have a walk around and see the sights. France has many delightful harbours. The old buildings have history written all over them. The harbour is full of small boats. They average only 18 foot or so, some with masts and sails, many with bare poles. There is always a line of boats coming and going, fisherman going out to catch their lunch.

Just as you think about that fact, a glance at the watch show its nearly one o'clock. Time for something to eat. There are many restaurants to choose from. People are eating well, washing the delicious looking food down with gulps of wine. A cafe is chosen, you walk onto the floor with an anticipation of a feast. The waiter is shaking his head, flapping his cleaning cloth at you. You suddenly remember that you are still in English time. Its closing time here, nothing to be done but to return to the boat and see what tins in the locker appeal.

To make matters worse, the small food shops stay shut, only opening an hour later.

Living on a smallish boat for a fortnight brings several challenge in living. One that comes to mind is keeping clean! There are always showers attached to the marina, and in France you pay for them. Not knowing the drill, we have a disjointed conversation about the showers with with young capitinerie. He shows you a two Euro piece.

So we get our change, our toilet bag and towel and amble up to the shower rooms. The shower is split between monsieur's and madam's. I choose a shower cubicle, undress keeping clean clothes dry, and then try to get the the two Euro piece into the slot. It doesn't fit! Words go through my the head, and they are not French. I get dressed, and see what others are doing. Help is at hand, a kind French gent shows me where the two Euro piece goes! The token machine of course.

The next day, time for a shower arrives. I wander into the shower room, to see a very large gent, almost undressed, who is about to take a shower. He must have been in the wrong queue when they gave out good looks. The thought goes through my mind, is it wise to take off my clothes near this man. The shower is taken, a lot of banging and muttering is going on outside in dressing room. As I come out to dress, the large, now naked man approaches! Has my time come I think. He does not look happy My eyes are fixed to his face, not daring to glance elsewhere. He holds his hand out, speaking words that I don't recognise. Suddenly I see a two Euro piece in his hand, and the question mark in his eye. In my best French I say 'ah, vous avez besion de token'. Not a clue what token was in French, but he understands. I lead him out of the gents to the token machine. Still naked, he now inserts his coin, and a look of relief spreads over his face as a token is delivered.

Our boat was berthed next to a middle aged French couple. Between us we each speak a little of each others language. The third day we wander up to the shower, following the French couple who have the same idea. As we approach the showers we see the couple go into the ladies shower room. Another gent seems to want to go to the ladies rather than the gents. As I finish my shower, and am drying in the gents, a lady wanders into my dressing room, uses the toilet in one of the cubicles. She leaves without a glance! I walk back to the boat, thinking what a wonderful place France is.

Shopping in the local supermarket is always a pleasure. We visited a Super U daily to buy fresh food and wine. The smells, the different foods, the fish, wines, vegetables and fruits all seemed so exotic compared to our village Coop. Paying in Euros hid the fact that it was not cheap to buy good food. One day the supermarket decided that it would stop giving away the ubiquitous plastic bag. I reckon on that first day they were giving away 'A Bag for Life'. What a good idea, as long as you remember to bring it with you. I still use the bag today. Being a French bag, it has tabs inside to keep four bottles of wine upright.

Now that is my sort of bag!


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