We’ve visited France regularly for over forty years, mainly on camping holidays. Over that period many changes have become noticeable.
First there was the annual ritual of getting the insurance green card, the GB sticker, the headlamp beam converters, and painting the headlights with special yellow paint, just for France – all now gone apart from the beam benders. But now there’s the yellow jacket, the alcohol detector and adequate warning triangles.
Then there was the dreaded ‘priority to the right’ at almost any junction, now just on non-priority roads and in towns. And the very frequent ‘chaussée déformée’ and ‘nids de poule’ signs on most country roads, where you found yourself on an extremely bumpy road surface with an alarming camber – which explained those ‘rock ‘n roll’ Citroens, but are mercifully mostly gone today.
The great thing was that each town and large village contained a bar for coffee, a tabac for Le Monde and the weather forecast, and a boulangerie where you could buy baguettes and not much else – but all but the bar closed for at least two hours over lunch. And there was probably a small restaurant. The towns would also have grocer, butcher, chemist and so on.
It was with dismay that we watched year by year the spread of the now-ubiquitous hypermarkets and smaller supermarkets, and the gradual closing of most of those earlier conveniences. Yes the new outlets are more convenient with greater choice, but the heart and bustle was gone from now-deserted towns and villages, just to return on the weekly market day that has still retained a foothold in many places.
Nowadays, the roads into towns are lined with commercial/industrial units, just like the US. And you have to drive everywhere, just like the US – progress?
Featured image of artichokes on a market stall, Nonancourt