“I couldn't live a week without a private library
- indeed, I'd part with all my furniture and squat and sleep on the floor
before I'd let go of the 1500 or so books I possess.” ― H.P. Lovecraft

Whistling In The Graveyard

Friday, April 11, 2003

The following advice for American travelers going to France was compiled from information provided by the US State Department, the CIA, the US Chambers of Commerce, the Food & Drug Administration, the DEA, the Center for Disease Control and some very expensive spy satellites that the French don't know about.
It is intended as a guide for American travelers only.

General Overview
France is a medium-sized foreign country situated in the continent of Europe to the left of Germany. It is an important member of the world community, though not nearly as important as it thinks it is. It is bounded by Germany, Spain, Switzerland and some smaller nations of no particular importance and with not very good shopping. France is a very old country with many treasures, such as the Louvre and EuroDisney.
Among its contributions to western civilization are champagne, Camembert cheese, French fries, the guillotine and an unsanitary method of kissing.
Although France likes to think of itself as a modern nation, air conditioning is little used and it is next to impossible for Americans to get decent Mexican food. However, Coca-Cola is available.
One continuing exasperation for American visitors is that local people insist on speaking in French, though many will speak English if shouted at and heavily tipped.

The People
France has a population of 56 million people. 52 million of these drink and smoke (the other 4 million are very small children). All French people drive like lunatics (see 'road signs', below), are dangerously passionate, and have no concept of standing patiently in a line. The French people are in general gloomy, temperamental, argumentative, proud, arrogant, aloof and undisciplined. These are their good points. The French are aware that they have garlic & cheese halitosis, and it has caused them to perfect the dismissive shrug instead of conversation. Most French citizens are Roman Catholic, though you would hardly guess it from their behavior. Many people are communists.
Men often have girls' names like Jean, Marie or Michel, and they kiss each other when they meet.

France's historical figures are the furniture-maker Louis XIV, Joan of Arc, Jacques Cousteau, Brigitte Bardot (who now prefers animals), and Charles de Gaulle who was President for many years but is now an airport.

The French form of government is democratic but noisy. Elections are held more or less continuously and always result in a draw. The French love administration, so for government purposes the country is divided into regions, departments, districts, municipalities, towns, communes, villages, cafes, and telephone kiosks. Each of these has its own government and elections. Road signs indicating 'Stop', 'Left' and 'Right' are political slogans. Parliament consists of two chambers, the Upper and Lower, though confusingly they are both on the ground floor, and members are either Gaullists or Communists, neither of whom should be trusted by the traveler. Parliament's principal occupation is setting off Weapons of Mass Destruction (atomic bombs)
in the South Pacific and acting indignant and surprised when other countries complain. According to the most current American State department intelligence, the President is now someone named Jacques.

The French pride themselves on their culture, though it is not easy to see why. All their music sounds the same and they have never made a movie that you would want to watch for anything but the nude scenes. They have a form of dance called the Can-Can, which has nothing at all to do with cans but is claimed to make old men quiver. They do have several museums but they are largely full of old stuff.

Let's face it, no matter how much garlic you put on it, a snail is just a slug with a shell on its back. Croissants on the other hand, are excellent, although it is impossible for most Americans to pronounce this word.
In general, travelers are advised to stick to cheeseburgers, though Central Intelligence allege these may be made of horsemeat.

France has a large and diversified economy, second only to Germany's in Europe, which is surprising because the French hardly work at all. If they are not spending four hours dawdling over lunch, they are on strike and blocking the roads with their trucks and tractors. France's principal exports, in order of importance to the economy, are nuclear weapons, guided missiles, guns, grenade launchers, land mines, tanks, attack aircraft, miscellaneous armaments, perfume, wine and cheese.

Public Holidays
France has more holidays than any other nation on Earth. Among its 361 national holidays are:
197 Saints' days,
37 National Liberation Days,
16 Declaration of Republic Days,
54 Return of Charles de Gaulle In-triumph-as- if-he-won-the-war-single-handed Days,
18 Napoleon Sent Into Exile Days,
17 Napoleon Called Back From Exile Days,
and 2 France-is-Great-and-the- Rest-of-the-World-Sucks Days.

In general, France is a safe destination, although travelers must be aware that from time to time it is invaded by Germany and rescued by the United States. Traditionally, the French surrender immediately and, apart from a temporary shortage of Jack Daniels and increased difficulty in getting baseball scores and stock market prices, life for the American visitor generally goes on much as before.
American travelers are advised to travel in-groups, talk softly, and not wear baseball caps, colorful trousers and the like. Basically nothing that makes it easier to recognize you as an American.

Count your change.


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