Cycling in France: Final Thoughts & Short Videos

Sometimes, I use a helmet video-camera to record some fun sights. One video shows the old-world feel of one cozy village (8 mins), and the other shows a funny moment (1.5 min).  The village was Albert.

Adding in a bit of history, this village was on the front lines in WWI. That meant it was used to store troops and supplies, which are prime targets for artillery. The picture below shows the result.

That picture is a sad sight, but it does show what people are capable of with re-building a city. The second video is more light-hearted. It was toward the end of my last day of cycling. By this time, I had cycled around 200 miles with about 60 pounds of camping gear, and an added 10 pounds of French cheese to take home with me. By this point, my legs were pretty much gone, but even that can lead to some funny stuff.

Time for some closing thoughts. This was my first cycle-trip to France. I knew there would be a lot of differences between England and the US, but there were more than I expected. There’s a lot less advertising in the cities and countryside. I might have seen 5 billboards in my 200 miles of cycling, and they were all in the towns. There were no billboards in the countryside, at least where I cycled. A more common sight in the countryside was the evenly spaced trees that tended to appear. It quickly like felt a very relaxed lifestyle, but all the plowed and planted fields showed that a lot of hard work was still being done.

My friend Jacki over here used to live in France, and she told me that towns have a market day once a week. That’s when people get their groceries and meet at the market to catch up with each other. There’s an old-world charm in that, where people from a town meet once a week at the market. Another old world feel of the farming towns was all the stone buildings and the absence of plastic store fronts. Of course, old-world charm means less convenience. It was hard for me to buy groceries or even a cold drink in a small town. I had to plan my life a little more. The larger towns, like Albert shown in the video, have more modern conveniences.

Of course, the most important part of any country is the people. I honestly didn’t know what to expect, and I was a little nervous because of the rumors I heard about the French. I only knew about 3 French words when I started the trip, hello (bonjour), good bye (au revoir), and thank you (merci). I learned about 10 more while I was there, mostly from notes I kept in the map-holder of my handlebar bag. Even with this limited vocabulary, I enjoyed chatting with many French people. They spoke a little English. I spoke a little French. We just did our best, and usually had a smile or two. Of course, some were less friendly, just like some people in the US or England are less friendly. Some are shy, partly because they are self-conscious about their limited ability to speak English, which is the same way I felt about my ability to speak French. Overall, the rumors I heard about the French being less friendly were as accurate as most rumors. Rumors about people in other countries are usually exaggerations or stories from people who’ve never been to the country. Like people in other countries I’ve traveled to, I found the large majority of French people to be welcoming, friendly, and helpful—as long as I showed the same behavior. I’m looking forward to going back someday.