Some tourists think the French are rude.

I get it.

The French can look rude.

They don’t smile at strangers for absolutely no reason, for a start, and it seems that they’ve never learned to pretend to be excited when meeting people or doing things—blasé is a loanword from French, after all.

The French cut in line and complain out loud. Small talk isn’t a French skill either—snarkiness and verbal fencing are second nature, though.

The French believe in the power of caffeine, nicotine and booze (in no specific order) to face the day and possibly cure a hangover because “self-improvement” doesn’t translate well in French and life is way too short for 6 a.m. yoga classes. The general mood will only improve after a lengthy lunch anyway, and some level of happiness will only be reached at the evening apéro (one of the many euphemisms for socially recommended alcohol use).

And clearly, French businesses have never implemented company-mandated fake cheeriness training—none of this “how are YOU today?” and “My name is Mary, I’ll be your waitress tonight and I will fulfill any single food and beverage fantasy you may have during the course of your meal” nonsense. At best you’ll get a formal and slightly ironic “b’jour madame” and “merci m’sieur” (on the bright side, tips aren’t expected and the tax is included—this is France, what you see is what you get).

But the French are good people and I’m not just saying that because one of my passports is French. All they need is the opportunity to build a rapport or a collective moment that creates affinity. This is when you’ll discover the French tend to be funny, helpful, resourceful and loyal friends. They do care about social justice and other people in general. They have your back, once you get to know them.

And nothing builds a rapport like finding a common enemy to rally against.

But I’m going too fast.

My story starts at noon, at Saint-Gilles—or more exactly at 12:29 p.m. at the Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie train station where we arrived from Nantes after a slower-than-usual trip (“what do you expect, it’s Sunday!”) in a busier than-usual train (“What do you expect, it’s a hot, sunny day!”).

The entire day in Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie was an accidental ode to the French “art de vivre.”  

We arrived on Sunday at noon, so of course, there was a market, and of course, it was around the church. Then we took several narrow streets that led us to the aptly named Grande plage, where most people were not yet on the sand but eating lunch in the many restaurants offering the classic moules-frites menu along the waterfront.

Since Mark wanted to skip the introduction to the fine art of eating mussels and since he doesn’t really doesn’t need a refresher on eating fries, we went straight to the sand where we spent the next few hours swimming, reading, relaxing, and exploring.

We walked all the way to the lighthouse where fishermen were busy fishing. The sky was blue, the ocean was a deeper shade of blue, and boats were coming back with their nets full of sardines, judging by the dozens of seagulls flying above.

And at 7:20 p.m., we sat on the train back to Nantes.

It was packed with other day trippers full of sand, sunscreen and happy sunny summer beach day memories.

The train between Saint-Gilles and Nantes isn’t a fancy high-speed TGV train. It’s a “TER” (Train Express Régional) and the middle letter of the acronym is a bit of a stretch since it stops everywhere.

“The train will stop in Saint-Hilaire-de-Riez, Challans, Machecoul, Sainte-Pazanne, Port-Saint-Père – Saint-Mars, Bouaye, Rezé Pont-Rousseau, and Nantes,” the driver announced at 7:34.

Told you, it stops everywhere.

And so we stopped in Saint-Hilaire-de-Riez for two minutes, in Challans for two minutes, in Machecoul for two minutes…

And in Sainte-Pazanne, the train just stopped.

“The train something something Pornic something something police something something thank you something something.”

“Can’t hear anything!” someone shouted.

“Something about Pornic,” said one of the passengers.

“And the police,” added someone else.

“It looks like we’re stuck,” concluded a third person.

Two seconds later, all the passengers who had been politely ignoring each other were sharing stories of trains stuck for hours, days, or years.

Meanwhile, smokers—pretty much 75% of the train, this is France—were teaming up to open the door and keep it open to enjoy a little break outside.

I followed them, bummed a smoke—a skill I forgot I had—and lent my lighter.

Collaboration and communication skills were used to piece out what was going on. Apparently, the police had stopped a train from Pornic for mysterious reasons—dozens of theories going around, none of them fact-checked, all of them anecdotal—and now this train was to be connected to our train, so we had to wait.

And so we waited.

Leftover beach food was found and shared, more cigarettes were smoked, and more stories were shared.

An hour later, we heard a loud “bang” and the train jolted forward.

“Guess the damn Pornic train is now attached!” someone said.

We all started laughing.

The train eventually arrived in Nantes at 9:20 p.m. and we all agreed that being late wasn’t a big deal, it’s summer, it happens, whatever.

We had enjoyed a bonding moment and now, we all had a very French story to tell.

Sunday market, Pl. du Vieux Port, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Sunday market, Pl. du Vieux Port, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Sunday market, Pl. du Vieux Port, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Sunday market, Pl. du Vieux Port, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Sunday market, Pl. du Vieux Port, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Sunday market, Pl. du Vieux Port, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Sunday market, Pl. du Vieux Port, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Sunday market, Pl. du Vieux Port, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Sunday market, Pl. du Vieux Port, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Sunday market, Pl. du Vieux Port, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Rue Torterue, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Rue Torterue, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Rue Torterue, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Rue Torterue, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Av. Maurice Perray, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Av. Maurice Perray, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Grande plage, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Grande plage, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Grande plage, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Grande plage, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Grande plage, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Grande plage, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Grande plage, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Grande plage, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Grande plage, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Grande plage, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Grande plage, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Grande plage, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Grande plage, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Grande plage, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Grande plage, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Grande plage, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Grande plage, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Grande plage, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Grande plage, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Grande plage, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Grande plage, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Grande plage, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Grande plage, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Grande plage, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Grande plage, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Grande plage, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Grande plage, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Grande plage, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Grande plage, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Grande plage, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Av. Maurice Perray, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Av. Maurice Perray, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Av. Maurice Perray, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Av. Maurice Perray, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Av. Maurice Perray, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Av. Maurice Perray, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Grande plage, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Grande plage, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Prom. Marie Tsvetaieva, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Prom. Marie Tsvetaieva, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Prom. Marie Tsvetaieva, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Prom. Marie Tsvetaieva, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Jetée de la Garenne, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Jetée de la Garenne, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Jetée de la Garenne, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Jetée de la Garenne, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Jetée de la Garenne, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Jetée de la Garenne, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Jetée de la Garenne, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Jetée de la Garenne, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Jetée de la Garenne, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Jetée de la Garenne, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Jetée de la Garenne, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Jetée de la Garenne, Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Prom. Marie de Beaucaire Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
Prom. Marie de Beaucaire Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie
8:15 p.m., Train stuck in Sainte Pazanne
8:15 p.m., Train stuck in Sainte Pazanne
8:15 p.m., Train stuck in Sainte Pazanne
8:15 p.m., Train stuck in Sainte Pazanne
8:15 p.m., Train stuck in Sainte Pazanne
8:15 p.m., Train stuck in Sainte Pazanne

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6 Comments

  1. Martin Penwald July 28, 2022 at 4:16 am

    My flight from Toronto was delayed (almost 4 hours), so I missed the train from CDG. The one I took was a TGV, but doing the long road, by Arras and Douai. And at Douai, the train stopped for 20 minutes because there was someone on the rails between Douai and Lille. So, the trip took almost 2 hours instead of the 58 minutes it can take.

    Reply
    1. Zhu July 28, 2022 at 8:52 pm

      (re) Bienvenue en France! 😉

      I stopped booking my Roissy TGV ticket a few years ago because flights from Canada were always delayed and I would always miss it. Now it’s easier if I can land in Nantes directly. Only 58 minutes though? Huh. Didn’t remember it too be this fast.

      Reply
      1. Martin Penwald July 29, 2022 at 3:23 am

        To go to Lille, it is the best option. And besides, my main problem is to leave Edmonton. There is almost nothing going out of North America from Edmonton or Calgary. A couple of years ago, there were flights to Keflavik with Icelandair, but there isn’t anymore it seems. I’ve checked the flights to Schipol and London, but they aren’t faster or cheaper than flights from Air France.

        Reply
        1. Zhu August 2, 2022 at 7:40 pm

          One of the reasons why I’m still in Eastern Canada is that it’s much easier to fly to Europe and to many parts of the world. I know, the Pacific side offers better access to Asia… but I’m not a huge fan of Pacific routes.

          Reply
  2. Christiane August 2, 2022 at 7:42 am

    I think the French are kinda rude to tourists. I can imagine how annoying it is when there is a constant flux of people coming to visit your city every season. That’s my theory. When I did not act like a tourist, it was all good.

    That’s a sweet moment though 🙂

    Reply
    1. Zhu August 2, 2022 at 7:43 pm

      Paris is the worst for that and yeah, I kind of get it… but it sucks foreigners assume all French are rude after a few bad experiences in classic tourist places. I was surprised to see Parisians super friendly last year–fewer tourists because of COVID. I don’t feel like going now that all the spots are crowded again.

      Reply

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