France is nice and all, but ...Just a quick note to thank you for a great time these past 11 days. Your vineyards were scenic, your villages were quaint and your mountains made me feel like I was going to vomit.
By: Nathan Hansen, The Farmington Independent
Just a quick note to thank you for a great time these past 11 days. Your vineyards were scenic, your villages were quaint and your mountains made me feel like I was going to vomit.
In fairness, I believe this was more a result on the challenge involved in biking up these particular mountains and not a condemnation of them as tourist draws. They were all very lovely. And very steep.
I had a wonderful time in my nearly two weeks inside your borders. I relaxed. I saw sites. I ate great food and had some of the most difficult bike rides of my life. The pro cyclists usually stop several times on their way up the mountains during the Tour de France, right? Just to catch their breath?
Getting to the top was a challenge, but it was all worth it just for the chance to ride back down. I'll admit I was worried about those descents before I set out on this trip. I imagined myself inching down the slope with a death-grip on the brakes. But it didn't take long to get comfortable. My top speed, according to my bike computer, was 50.9 miles per hour. It was great.
Still, if I could, I'd like to offer a couple of comments. Nothing major. Just a little constructive criticism. A few things I think might help you in your efforts to remain a premier tourist destination at a time when many people are cutting fancy vacations from their budgets.
First, the roads. If that's what you want to call them. I found many of your rural roads perfect for biking, but that might just have been because most of them were the size of bike paths. Seriously, France, it's OK for you to make your streets wider than the typical American driveway. I realize there are some limitations in play here that don't exist in the typical American city. Many of the villages scattered around your almost ridiculously picturesque countryside were built before anyone had even dreamed of the modern automobile. And nobody wants to pave any more than they have to in the mountains. I just think if you want two-way traffic on a street you might want to make the driving surface wide enough for two cars to pass each other.
What's a century-old building or two in the name of making room for Hummers to safely cruise the streets?
And your toll booths? Something needs to happen here, France. Those things are a mess. I saw drivers backing up out of their lanes. I saw trucks battling for position as they accelerated through the no-man's land between the booth and the spot where the marked traffic lanes resume. I saw someone drive through that area perpendicular to traffic. It was the most chaotic scene I've seen. And I say that as someone who recently visited the Mall of America.
I also take issue with your showers, France. I realize I'm taller than the average American, and that the average American is taller than the average Frenchman (Seriously, I wear an XL bike jersey in American sizing and something like an XXXXL jersey in French sizing. Are you a race of dwarfs, France?) but the shower head in my bathroom hit me at about sternum level. This is not a workable situation, France. Some of us like to be clean above shoulder level.
I hope you don't mind these suggestions, France. I know you've been doing things your way for a long time and they've worked for you. And I really did have a great time. I'll miss your bread-and-cheese breakfasts and your chocolate croissants. I'll miss your vineyards and your mountains.
France, I take back every joke I ever made about your country. Besides, I think most of them work just as well if you make them Italian jokes.