Travels

Satiefying Honfleur and simple pleasures.

Thursday 23 May 2019

Partie un

No politics. The drive to Honfleur was longer than expected, given a short bike ride yesterday put me in view of the place. Crossing the Seine was the thing.

SatNav took me off in a direction I didn’t expect – east – and then did the “now board the ferry” thing that had become so familiar travelling through Norway. I wished she warned me in advance.

Honfleur was south west, and there are two bridges over the river, but I was now upstream of both. I got into the queue.

The ferry soon arrived and, with wallet in reach, I boarded. In Norway, even a short journey could be pricey with a long vehicle, but this is France; it was free. Perhaps SatNav was avoiding tolls.

A few minutes later and I was heading to Honfleur. Unfortunately the ‘avoiding tolls’ ploy was scuppered when I missed my turn and found myself on the main bridge crossing back over the Seine!

Approaching the toll booths I was trying to work out which gate to use. Most are automatic if you’ve registered in advance. There was one with a green tick so I headed for that. It was the only manned booth. Three euros got me across, another three got me back again! Well, that’s my module in French tolls completed, and the views were impressive. In both directions.

I parked up and walked into Honfleur. It’s a picturesque town with loads of personality, very busy with tourists and motorhome central! I’d parked on a 20 place free site on the outskirts, but the pay site in the centre was very busy and holds 240!

A lovely place to walk around. Here’s where the Seine meets the sea.

I visited Erik Satie’s house.

It was more Eric Idle, or Terry Gilliam. I didn’t realise the composer was famous for his eccentricities. The house had been laid out to reflect that, including a flying pear!

It was weird and fun. I don’t feel much better informed about Satie, but I’ll read up on him.

Deuxième partie

A bit of politics. On the day Europe goes to the polls, I hope the far-right don’t make gains. On Brexit, for anyone who imagines Europe needs us more than we need them, here’s a view from a supermarket car park this morning as I did my washing.

Where in the UK could we put washing machines on a car park and they remain unvandalised and fully functioning, and not a regular call for the fire brigade to free some little oik trapped inside? I’ve seen two other such facilities today, so this is not unusual. It’s not the washing machines, it’s what they say about the society.

France has the same population as the UK, and is almost three times bigger. It’s economy is about the same size as the UK and is set to overtake it – Brexit is ensuring we’ll no longer be the fifth largest economy as we drop below France and India.

I’ve been well off the beaten track, but how is it that everywhere is well maintained, with good local facilities in even small villages. How do they instil civil pride and responsibility so that the community can invest in resources that improve the life of everyone?

If Macron wants to deal with the Gilet Jaune, he should put them on ferries to the UK. Once they see how scruffy and run down it is, they’ll realise how well off they are.

And it’s not just France. Everywhere I went last year it was the same. It’s desperate. It’s like a British disease; expect more, but expect others to provide it and take no responsibility for the whole. Of course this doesn’t apply to everyone, and there are many people who contribute a huge amount to their local community, but I come back to my original measuring stick; how does our default position become one where facilities can be provided and left unlocked, where there is money in local communities for services and where individuals look after their bit in order to contribute to the quality of life of everyone.

If similar countries can achieve it, why can’t we. I genuinely don’t know.

We should be approaching France, Denmark, Sweden or Belgium and saying, “Sorry, we’ve really been up ourselves for the last twenty years but we clearly haven’t a clue. How do you manage to make things work so well?”

Nothing’s perfect, no human systems are, but we must be able to do better than we do. Today’s vote may give an indication of the challenge ahead, but the four of us in our family have done our bit!

Good luck Europe.

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