Monthly Archives: March 2008

Countries are products

I was surviving happily in Paris recently and talking about holidays.

I have been pretty annoyed, shoked by the attitude people had toward travelling.

Basically, they view the country they travel to like a product. They buy their holidays the same way they buy cheese…

Did you know that to sell Mauritius in Paris, the travel agencies give a warranty that their will be 10 days of  sun out of their 15 days of holidays.

The happy customer will buy a whole package: plane ticket, hotel and… SUN!!!

From this experience he will get nothing but a beach which he should consider a paradise. His idea of a paradise is a long white beach with sun.

They want a long white beach? We will give it to them! The hotel location has no white beaches, the sea shore is indeed beautiful but they don’t care. They want the beach. So, boats load up tons of sand, destroy the sea in the lagoon.

It’s the same guy who will explain that it’s so terrible to cut trees in the amazonian forest but they don’t realize that its their commercial attitude toward things that drives the business.

Talking about Mauritius, one of my friend is on holiday there now and he had to face a cyclone as soon as he arrived.
I mentioned it and they were all laughing like how much he planed it and now there’s no sun.

I tried to explain that having the experience of a cyclone is not necessarily a bad experience.
In Mauritius we face it with fascination for such a powerful demonstration from mother nature and we are scared too because it will destroy things. (nobody dies we have years of rehearsal).

My friend instead of laying on the beach has been completely taken cared of by my family.

Going to a country is to go there with the right attitude. It’s not just about laying on the beach and benefit from the much required sun. I can tell that in most mauritian heart their will be a warm welcome to you foreigner.

Enjoying Mauritius is about opening to the locals, not laying in the sun.

I already know the answer to that point. When I go to some places, I paid that much. I don’t necessarily want to talk to people. I just want to enjoy my sun peacefully, I paid for it.

Well, that’s my point and the circle is closed.


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Care to help people?

This is one of the greatest difference with living in Thailand or Mauritius.
There’s a huge amount of activity I can do on week end outside of selfishly enjoying myself on a trip somewhere or in a bar at night with friends.

I can’t count the amount of time I’ve seen someone crash in Thailand, in Mauritius, or even this morning in Paris. Most of the time it involved a motorcycle of some sort.

And all the time, the only thing I could do is check if that unfortunate person is taken cared of by people around and walk away… Now… Walk away is not that bad and I would actually suggest it to anybody around an accident just sight seeing…
I feel that not knowing first aid, the best think I can do is go. But I don’t like it!

In Thailand, there was nothing much I could do. I mean, just try to get a first aid class there! It would be all in Thai any way and I would probably end up heart massaging someone who just need to drink a little water!

In France, I just go online, searched “premiers secours Paris” and found a class, which is provided for free but not to everyone. You must have a good reason. For the first aid guys, they have to make sure their time is well spent and you will actually use your skills.

Now, I’m waiting to see if they consider me a good candidate. I’ll write a new blog post later to tell if I’ve been chosen or if I’ll walk away the rest of my life… If I want to survive in Paris, I think it’s a good skill to have 🙂


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French Quizz about cheese


1) Which country is named by french people: “The other cheese country”?

2) How many different cheese there are in France?

3) Which area of France has particularly strong tasting cheese and even worms in it (for some of them)? There are different answers.

For some of those questions, I don’t even have an answer yet. I do know the strongest tasting cheese in France because I smelled it personnally.

The next culinary step will be on wine and the next one after on foie gras 😀

Oh! And optional question because UK is France’s bestest enemy: Is there more than just cheddar in UK?

Also, I’ve found some truth about cheese, for example, did you know that some cheese are made from something called “caillette” which is used to turn the milk into cheese. This caillette comes from young bovine stomach (how do we call cow’s babies anyway?).

Which  brought me to this striking truth: To really appreciate cheese, we must not know how it’s done.


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Lunch time

That was supposed to be a movie…

It seems pictures works better than movie : (

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A crowd of fan of 2 persons are harrassing me to write something about the Velib’ in Paris.

If you start surviving in Paris, you should know that there’s one threat for your business: the strike.

It’s famous, French go on strike for any possible reason and I’ve seen it recently, the trigger could be as simple as a rumor!

And one of the strongest union is the railway ( and in Paris, the urban transportation ( Like in Thailand there’s a rainy season, in France it’s a strike season and very often it will be around festivities days: New year, Christmas, Eastern; but I disgress… In fact it has to be a whole new blog post.

Where does the velib’ fit in? Well, when there’s no more subways and buses, there are a bunch of choices left:
You can walk, rollerblade, take a cab (if they are not on strike too), bike if you own one. Finally, if you don’t walk or don’t know how to roller blade and you also realize that a cab is extremely expensive, there’s the Velib’ option!

So what is Velib’. It’s a free biking rental. The bikes are hooked to station like the one in the photo below:

Velib place du chatelet

France has this ability to give options which has advantages and disadvantages.

If you want a fast internet connection you will probably wait ages and never get it (I know something about it).

For the velib’, it’s long to choose a bike but you can pick them anytime, or you can apply to some membership and it will be longer to get the membership but then very fast to pick a bike.

So what we will discuss here is how to pick a bike quickly. Because how fast you can pick it, is going to be the mean of survival during strikes!

The fast ways:

1) Apply for a Navigo card which can be used in buses, subways and RER (suburb trains) . There’s an office in every big stations and it’s a 30 minute job. They can even take your picture with a webcam there. Then, go to the velib website and pre-apply for a membership. I really have to get use to this. My whole life I’ve been applying for things. In France, there’s a new step, it’s pre-apply. Basically, when you register on their webpage, they will send a paper to you that you will fill and post back to them along with a cheque. This mandatory step to a post office is the real apply. Then it will take close to a month to get your membership. Finally you will be able to use it quickly at any velib station. It’s a bip on the bike you want to pick. Fast and easy, long membership.

2) It’s same as mentioned above, except you get a card for the velib only. So it’s a bit shorter and you got to handle 2 cards all the time. I don’t like this. I would probably loose it very quickly. And knowing the pain to get it, it’s easier in France to loose a credit card than a velib card.

The long way:

3) You can use your credit card which you will get pretty quickly from your bank. They are efficient. Problem is, you can’t bip your bike, you must go to the dreadful control panel (upper right in the picture), go through a lot of steps to pay for the bike (caution), choose the bike and so on…

So to show you how important choice of card is for Velib’s at strike time, here’s a little story from my best friend Vincent:

“I go out of my place to pick a bike because of the strike and I could see this guy piano-ing on the control panel and pressing the buttons very quickly. it was the last bike in the station and he was visibly nervous. So, I come to him and ask: ” Are you taking this bike?”. He answer: “Yes! Yes!” while keying faster and faster the required information.

Then I tried to get another bike and I realized I shouldn’t have let the previous one go… There was none. Then i turn in a street and I could see the same situation: A velib station with just that bike and that guy piano-ing fast on the control panel. I couldn’t let this go. I start running to the bike 100 meter away. The guy hear me, turns around to look and come back to his control panel and key the numbers even faster!. Too late. I’m arrived, bip the bike and take it out.

Nico. You MUST have a card for Velib’!!!”

So, if you ever go survive in Paris for a while, go through the pain of applying, pre-applying, applying for a proper Navigo card which does everything for transportation.

Finally, with Velib I got a new game. When I get close to a station, I try to hook it without touching ground with my feet.

It’s tough. The hook is a flat hole and the bike plugs in very tightly. It can’t be done everywhere because plugging it requires a proper alignment with the station. it requires space to maneuver. I’ve find out that standing on the paddle gives a much better control too. I love the Chatelet station because there’s a lot of space. I always plug it right there. It gives me this superman feeling and 30 seconds of fame with 2 passers by who couldn’t care less.

edit: I’ve just find out that they also got a blog.


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