Spain: This is an insightful article by a Brit who runs with bulls. I guess this is hard to do in Hampstead. Even on the Heath.
France: A few culture shocks Tuesday, en route to the Cherbourg ferry--
- Most hotels in and around Bordeaux are full.
- No wifi or SMS operation in the hotel eventually found on edge of the city. France profonde?
- 20 channels on the hotel TV in the morning. No one shouting at anyone or talking at the same time. Female announcers elegant but not blond and dressed to kill.
- Male receptionist/waiter (young male) probably the softest spoken in the world. And the shyest.
- Everyone whispering at breakfast, if making any noise at all. Could be Portugal. Or England.
- No one driving up my arse. Could be England. Though definitely not Portugal.
- No one cutting across in front of me as I exit the roundabouts.
- Bayer don't sell Aspirin that dissolves in your mouth in France. Sorry Lecky.
- Few cafés on the high street in the village I stop in and the one I eventually find doesn't have wifi. Am I really in the First World?
Security: I had my car searched - rather perfunctorily - by the French police at the Cherbourg ferry port. And was then pulled over by the Customs people in Poole. "And what are you retired from", said The Man. "From people like you" I felt like answering. But didn't.
As an aside - I hate everything to do with Costa Coffee and its ilk. This is partly because I know from someone high in the parent company just how profitable is this business of selling primarily water but also because of conversations like this one. Which is actually my first, as I've never been compelled to use one of these rip-off places before:-
Can I help you, sir?
Yes, a black coffee, please.
Medium or large, sir?
Do you have a small one?
Ok, I'll have a small one then.
Certainly, sir. Would you like that strong, sir?
Would you like that stronger than normal?
[Scenting another price increase] No thanks.
There you are sir. That's £2.89(€3.96)
[In tone of astonishment] Is that for a small black coffee?
BTW - Every one of the 5 people working there was foreign. Which presumably keeps their main overhead low. I will quit Pontevedra the moment an operation likes this opens there. Though I doubt it would fly with Spaniards, who get better coffee for far less. But, then, I predicted male cosmetics would never take off. So, what do I know? I wonder if I can get done for urging people to fire-bomb all these phoney coffee houses? Can you imagine the reaction of a Spanish visitor who's endured the grey weather and the traffic jams to get an experience like this?
Finally . . . Not so long after this - in one of many traffic jams endured during my drive north - I bump slightly into the car in front of me, at just about the lowest speed you can do this. The other driver jumps out and immediately takes a foto of the back of his car and the front of mine. He then snaps me as I get out to survey whatever damage there might be. There isn't any and when I point out there isn't even a scratch, he agrees that this is true but says he's worried there might be hidden damage behind the bumper. I say this is very unlikely. He replies that he has the car's annual check up next week and will tell "his" mechanic to check. Then he asks me for ID and gets a bit confused when I give him my Spanish card. But, nonetheless, he takes a foto of it. He asks whether I have relevant insurance and whether I do a lot of driving in the UK. He also asks if I want his name and address but I decline these as, in the unlikely event there's any damage, he'll surely write to me. I continue to bite my tongue as we agree there probably isn't any and he goes to the back of the my car to take a foto of that as well. Presumably in case I've got different number-plates fore and aft. I still hold my tongue and we then part. But he stays at the side of the road - writing notes? - while I drive off. Wondering what on earth he'll do if I ignore any letter he might send me.