A guest post today from my partner Mark.
One thing I found in Southern France was the almost complete lack of drive-in coffee, burger, and doughnut shops. Anywhere in Canada it is possible to find a Tim Hortons, Starbucks, or other clone within sight no matter where you are. I had a size large (about a half liter) cup holder in my car and was seldom without Life’s Sustaining Liquid.
It seems in France you have to find a Café, then stop, park, get in to the place, sit down and order a cup. It comes fresh brewed in a teensy little cup. Tastes great. Takes about 3 to give me a fix.
Not every town has a café. They are not always open.
Villages all roll their sidewalks up at around eight PM and go to bed.
Restaurants open around 11:30 AM and stop serving around 1:30, close by 2:30 and do not reopen until seven. Lunch is normally 12 to 2. The whole damned place stops for lunch. This includes Government offices, all other offices, most stores, most hardware and industrial supply places, convenience stores, and even service stations have no human help, (except on the big highways and in big cities.)
McDonalds is an exception. They serve all the time they are open. Say from 10:30 AM to 10 ish at night. Not the 4:00 AM to 2: AM you find in bigger places. No breakfast menu except le weekend, and no Hash Browns ever.
So it took me almost a year to learn that I can’t eat or have a coffee at just any time, I can’t re-supply tools and building materials at lunch time or after the normal working day. So I now eat, work and shop in the French pattern. Mostly. Often, on the menu, wine is cheaper than bottled water.
Hmmm. Not so bad. 2 hour lunch with nothing to do but enjoy the food, relax, read a book. End the working day at a reasonable hour. Of course the whole place is up at the crack of dawn. The most productive hours are the five before 12 noon.
At this end of the supply chain so far from Paris, industrial suppliers specialize in having everything you need for a project except the one crucial bit. (available on special order, 2 weeks delay, deposit necessary on order.)
Hardware stores are annoyingly often out of normal stuff. One store had a large range of screw fasteners of various types, but when I looked for plasterboard screws there were none. I asked when they would have some. Was told they did not carry them. “Pourquoi?”, asks I. “We don’t sell plasterboard.”, Says he with a shrug.
Central planning, stocked by bean counters. – C’est la vie.
All my translations are freely interpreted, and only roughly represent what was said.