France there is much to see and do
France there is much to see and do. vacations, Hotels, Flights and Cruise Holidays
I have been tardy, of late, telling of our travels. It is high summer here in France and there is much to see and do. But, because we are in France, I thought a few words on a far more serious subject would be in order. Namely, how we are finding being here in light of the terrible terrorist attacks that have taken place in this country over the past months.
On a day to day basis, life seems to be continuing as normal.
In the towns and villages that we have visited, the places where people gather - restaurants, shops, attractions, festival venues and so on - seem as crowded as ever. However, interviews in the press have revealed that some people - reluctantly, as they do not want the terrorists to ‘win’ in any sense - are nervous about crowded places and even suspicious of people with back-packs. (There is talk of banning such bags at events and attractions, rather than merely having them checked by security personnel.)
There has been no noticeable police presence in the small towns and villages we have visited along the Rhone and in Burgundy. But the presence of police and army personnel was very evident in Lyon (France’s second largest city), especially at the busy train station and airport. I imagine the same can be said of Paris.
In Dijon recently, the restaurants in the town square were crowded on a fine Saturday evening, with no uniformed patrols apparent, just a group of police in the courtyard of the vast Palais des Ducs.
We were in Valence on the morning after the terrible Paris attacks in the winter. It was a Saturday - market day - and the town square and its restaurants seemed as busy and lively as ever, though no doubt the conversations were sombre. The French are accustomed to living life out of their homes, reading their morning paper in cafes, meeting friends on patios and in restaurants, and it seems that will not change.
Then we were in Avignon on Bastille Day, which was exceptionally crowded due to that city’s annual theatre festival, which attracts around a million visitors. Streets were closed to traffic and thronged with people, ditto the city’s many squares full of bars and restaurants. When we heard of the terrible news from Nice the next morning we were aware it could have happened anywhere crowded. Such is life … tragically the wrong place, the wrong time for so many.
This website reported the long line-up on the approach to Dover, England, recently as traffic backed-up while waiting for the ferries to cross to France. Whether this massive traffic line was caused by extra vigilance on the part of the French or whether they were woefully understaffed at the commencement of the British school holidays, is not something I am qualified to speak of.
However, the sheer number of people waiting for the passage to France does attest to the fact that many thousands of British holidaymakers, in cars, caravans and motorhomes, are still heading to France (or beyond) for their vacations. And last week we heard news on the radio from Britain that, a special squad had performed a training exercise on a cross-Channel ferry, dropping their armed personnel onto the ship from helicopters.
Of passing interest to me recently was a A4-sized paper pinned up outside the town hall in the tiny village of St. Jean de Losne, where we stopped for a few days to await the delivery of a part for our boat.
The sign was not new (and I had not seen it before) but it gave advice on what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. With line drawings to illustrate the instructions, readers were told the following: always remember the emergency telephone number; if in your home when an attack takes place outside, lock and barricade your doors with heavy furniture; if possible take cover behind something solid such as a wall (rather obvious, that one); turn off both the ring and the vibrator of your cell phone as this may alert the terrorists to your whereabouts; when instructed or when it is necessary to move, do so with your hands raised in the air (that last direction rather difficult if you have a couple of infants in your care … my comment).
That is all I can report. Friends have enquired if we are comfortable travelling here in France and our answer is ‘yes’. We are heading to Paris now and we may feel different there; I will let you know in due course.
Footnote: We passed though London’s Heathrow Airport last month and should tell that the rules regarding liquids and gels carried on board are being very strictly adhered to. Such items must fit into one of the airport’s small plastic bags and the bag’s frail zip-lock must be closed. Anything that doesn't fit has to be discarded, so only take what is absolutely necessary. We’re due to pass through Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris next month, so I will report both on that city and the airport experience in a future column.