I've been noticing and thinking about police, especially since the Ferguson killing news saturated the media, with people here actually shocked that such a thing could happen. Living in the US, this is a regular occurrence, so as sad is it always is, it is not surprising. Here the general public have no guns, and they're rare on police, so that kind of violence is virtually non-existent. Instead police work to serve and protect. On foot, bicycle, motorcycle, and horseback, they integrate themselves into communities, making all of us safer.
I ask them for directions, information, photos. I am not alone in turning to them instead of running from them.
I watch as they stop people, engage them in gentle conversation, try to help, whether it's someone needing a shower (directs him to the municipal showers) or a meal or assistance with their car or scooter. They're mostly on the street, not in offices til a call comes in. As pro-active peace-makers, they exhibit the humanization (rather than the militarization) of law enforcement.
There are so many things the French do so much better than we do - healthcare, food and product safety, recycling, environmental protection, education, transportation, consumer and community protection, etc, etc, etc.
I've been five months without a car...and love it! Transportation here is so good, I don't need one. OK, two times up in the hill towns I would have appreciated wheels, but for the most part getting around is easy - a quick walk to the train station or the tram or to a bus will whisk me anywhere in southern France. They're clean and safe. Men and young people offer seats to the elderly (and moi:-). Buses run here in Cannes until 3am. Smart cars and bicycles can be rented by the hour or the day, from convenient locations all over Nice. Tourist trains and double-decker buses give a great overview of a new town, with hop-on/hop-off options for 24 to 48 hours (depending on the city).
Trains (both SNCF and TGVs) allow for great views, as beaches and villages fly by...while I recharge my camera battery, read my guide book or latest Nice-Matin or NYT. Almost all the train stations are undergoing improvements all the time. (When was the last time you saw our infrastructure getting improved?)
The train stations, old and new, have shops, cafés, stationary bikes you can pedal while you charge your tech gear...and pianos, free for the playing. And someone's almost always playing - Beattles, jazz, classical. I arrive early one day at La Gare de Cannes for a trip up the coast to St. Rafael and Fréjus, check the schedule and platform, order 'un café' and sit to enjoy it with a warm, crispy chocolate croissant. I hear it faintly at first, then fill in the instrumental with the song in my head - "when I find myself in time of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be..."
In Monaco a Lamborghini screeches to a halt to let me pass, then guns on. Walking, I have right of way at crosswalks. All over the Côte d'Azur roads are filled with bicyclists, like everyone's on a Tour de France. Or on a motorcycle. And for cars, digital signs throughout town show available parking spaces in various garages. How thoughtful. Smart cars compete with Porches, and in Nice, Auto Bleues are a great alternative - an electric car you can rent by the hour or by the day.
The French just move people around so much better than we do back home, where cars are a necessity. How I would love to hop a train from Ashland to San Francisco or Portland...or even Grants Pass. A coastal route would be divine! Like so many other things, I will miss the great transportation when I go back to the US.
~ where a little dog or motorcycle helmet or baguettes under the arm
are fashion accessories
Every time I'm in France (especially Paris), no matter how well I dress or how hard I try to look fashion-forward, I always feel like a country bumpkin. Not that I have any fashion sense back home, but here - oh, la, la. There's something beyond fashion at work here - the shoes (yes, spike heels even on cobblestones), the handbags, gorgeous shirts, skinny pants, the way a scarf is tied. It's about confidence, the tilt of the head, the excellent posture, tiny sizes.
Yes, people here are tiny. Young and old are smaller in general than Americans. In summer it's short shorts, bikinis, crop tops on younger women, linen pants, Italian shirts, and fabulous accessories on older ones. Now scarves and sweaters are tied luxuriously around necks and strappy sandals turn to kick ass boots. Men get in the act too. No mom jeans here, just hip-hugging, butt-flattering stretch jeans, scarves, shoulder bags...amazing shoes.
And why not? Just in Cannes there's shopping of every price and quality available. On the Croisette - Chanel, Gucci, Dolce & Gabana, Prada...high-end fashion houses where a small handbag is E900, E1500 for a blouse. One block back, Antibes Street offers mid-range prêt-à-porter options, and by the time we're back to Rue Meynadier bargains abound in local French and Italian clothing/shoe/accessory choices. A cute dress for E15, a blouse for E9, a E12 bikini.
In a town like Cannes shopping is fun and truly therapeutic. I bought an Italian blouse, a summer dress, leggins, sandals, and a bikini, and already I feel more French. Now if only I were a size 2.