The Alternative Voyage

my road less traveled

So Long Europe, It's Been Nice

After more time than I ever anticipated living here, it's time to say good bye to Europe. Au revoir France, adiós España, arrivederci Italia, adeus Portugal and hello again Australia. It's been far too long and I can't wait to come home. I hope it's not the case of the grass being greener on the other side of the fence once I get home to Oz though. 

CDG Airport, Paris

December, 2018

For many years I always dreamt what it would be like to live on the other side of the world and taste what life was really like in Europe. After 3 years living in France, I think I know. There's no doubt France has it's charm, character and history. But everyday life here is like everyday life in most places. People going about their lives, the daily routine, going to work, making ends meet and working for the weekend and the annual holiday. As I have said many times, it's great place to visit but I would not necessarily want to live here. 

So what will I miss about living in Europe? 

Wine Bottles With Real Corks
There's something special about taking the cork out of a bottle of wine. There's a ceremony that goes with it and the sense of anticipation with that lovely 'pop' as the cork comes free from the bottle. Back in Australia, no matter the quality of the wine, virtually every bottle has a screw cap. It just ain't the same twisting off a screw cap with one flick of the wrist.

The History
It is pretty amazing to be in various places and just reflect on what happened there over time. You could be anywhere in Europe and there will be a street, a building, a room that has seen centuries of events and lives that have come and gone. I've stood on the spot where Lord Nelson died on the HMS Victory, been in the grand dining hall of Mont St Michel where every single king of France has dined, walked the streets of Korcula where Marco Polo once did the same. I could go on but you get the picture. That's the thing about living Europe, history is just around the corner, no matter where you are. It's easy to step back into world history and get a small glimpse of what those times were like.

The Culture​
I maybe a little old fashioned but I do like the customs and etiquette that goes with life here in France. For example, there's still a sit down Sunday lunch that goes on forever. Dining here follows a distinct pattern of various courses with the aperitif to get things going and the digestif to end it all. I reckon there is a holy trinity of wine, cheese and bread amongst the French. They'd probably be happy existing on vin, fromage et pain alone. Appreciation of food is taken to a new level and everybody is a food and wine critic. I have certainly learnt a lot about food and wine since living here. It's hard not to! 

What will I be happy to leave behind?

This is where it gets a bit trickier. Do I gild the lily or not pull any punches? I suppose when Europe sucks, it really sucks badly. 

The Overcrowding
Let's face it, there are millions and millions of people living here and they are used to living on top of each other. Whether it's in one of the thousands of anonymous apartment buildings that are the norm or carving out a space for your beach towel amongst the hordes on summer's day beach outing. I'm not used to it and found it suffocating. Maybe that's why I escaped to the sea at every opportunity while living here. 

Cigarette Butts
In civilised, supposedly first world countries, it staggers me that every day I'd see smokers just finish their cigarette and just toss the butt away. Europe is drowning in a sea of cigarette butts and nobody thinks twice about it. (Not the smokers anyway.) I'll never forget the reaction of a Greek builder I once met who tossed his half finished cigarette into the sea at my feet. I retrieved it and handed back to him along with a string of expletives. You should have seen the look on his face. I would like to think he'd think twice about tossing his butt away again but hey, this is Europe....... 

Dodging Cigarette Smoke
Yes, you can see a bit of anti-smoking theme developing here but hey, it's for good reason! Nathalie and I have developed a good technique before taking a seat at an outdoor cafe or restaurant. We first suss out who and where the smokers are, the wind direction and where the spare seats are to avoid being engulfed in a cloud of acrid smoke. It really sucks that you can be enjoying a nice meal, wine and the ambience when some inconsiderate sits down at a table next to and proceeds to share their dirty habit with you. 

The Attitude
This is an observation of what general attitudes are when it comes to co-existing with your fellow European. That attitude is, "I'll do what ever I want and don't give a %$#@ how it affects you." A bit harsh you might say but I've lost count of how many times my jaw has dropped at some new act of inconsideration. On reflection, this attitude revolves mainly around cars, parking them, driving them, stopping them and generally using them to create an obstacle to the rest of the population. It's nothing to see someone stop outside a shop on a narrow dual carriageway, go inside to buy their baguette or smokes, cars banked up for 100m behind them and then saunter back to the car, get inside and drive away. They're happy they have got their smokes but the drivers banked up behind them are now really pissed off and resort to driving like typical Italian or French drivers. That is aggressively. It all goes around in a circle doesn't it? 

Obviously this attitude doesn't apply to everyone but it happens far too often to be a coincidence. It's the collective psyche. On a one-on-one level, most people are lovely. No different to where ever you might travel in the world. I'm sure it's an inevitable consequence of living on top of each other and scrambling to eak out your own life and defend your patch of turf. Maybe I'm just not made for city living. 

So Europe, it's been nice but I won't miss you. We'll come back in a few years I'm sure when some of the negatives have faded from memory and the allure comes back. In the meantime, we are going sailing....

PS I have literally thousands of images taken over the past 5 years. Trying to select a few is a near impossible task but I've added a few in the gallery below. I'm trying to give a warts and all impression of living here. Not sure if I succeeded as you always tend towards the 'nice' images. At least they are the real thing :-)

Tasmania - By North and West
Un Petit Mariage Français (A Little French Wedding...

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