Expat Magazine

Living Abroad: The Fun of Small Stuff

By Miss Footloose @missfootloose

What do you want to see and do when you are abroad?

St. Basil's Cathedral Moscow
St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow. No, I haven’t been there.

Do you visit museums, famous buildings, cathedrals, mosques and temples? Do you go on wildlife safaris in Africa, climb volcanoes or traipse through tropical rainforests? I have done some of these things and enjoyed them, but I’m often equally enthralled by the little stuff, the details, the small scenes and happenings you find in foreign climes. Here’s a few I “collected” recently in France.

Bread wrappers. Yes, I can hear you moan. You’d prefer to see the Magna Carta? Or the American Declaration of Independence?

FR-BreadWrapper-600x398

Yes, how insignificant is this paper in the great scheme of things! But I liked watching it being wrapped around the bread and twisted closed in one smooth movement. And then later I enjoyed reading the expressions and truths about bread imprinted on the paper. Mieux vaut un demi-pain que pas de pain du tout. Better half a loaf than no bread at all. Okay, a bread wrapper is not the Magna Carta, but the Magna Carta wouldn’t help me with my French.

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Perhaps when you’re in Paris you’d like to treat yourself to a hairstyling at the Carita (if you can get in), but here’s another way to get a hair cut in France: The Coif’ Mobile.

Coif' mobile

A mobile hair salon. I came upon this one in a small village. How cool is that? Apparently, it’s not a problem getting in. The owner was taking a break and waiting for the next client.

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Do you enjoy attending big shows, say at Le Moulin Rouge? Great fun, I’m sure, but I got a kick out of a small performance by a four-year-old girl in pink shorts. Picture this:

My man and I are sipping a pre-dinner rosé on a terrace alongside the main square of a small town. A band is getting organized for a performance a bit later and are practicing their music. Teens will come out in an hour or so and dance the night away, but there is no one there yet. No one except the mentioned four-year-old girl. All alone, in front of the stage, she is dancing her little heart out, waving her arms, shaking her butt, tossing her hair. Who else but a tiny tot can be that unselfconscious? The music stops. She stops. Frustrated, she grabs her sagging shorts and yanks them up into place. Then she stands there, legs apart, all alone in the square, waiting impatiently for the music to start again. She may well be the next Madonna.

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Have you ever been lucky enough to see the Great Migration in East Africa? Sadly, I have not, but walking through the French vineyards one day Mother Nature offered us this Tiny Migration:

French snails

It was a hot afternoon and I can’t imagine where these snails thought they were going to find relief. Are these the real deal escargots? I have no idea.

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Talking about food, don’t we all love coming to France for the food? You might covet a table at the five-star restaurant Le Meurice in Paris, but more simple fair is available in the markets. Food of the sort I did not grow up on in my native Holland (but then Dutch cuisine does not have a stellar reputation):

French meat products
From left to right: Tripe, tongue, ear. I’ll try some next time I’m here. And for what it’s worth: We eat raw herring in my country.

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Lots of wonderful relief sculptures are found in Egypt, but here’s what I discovered in a medieval French village. Have a close look at the stone carvings to the left and right at the top.

FR-Window1-600x449

Here’s a close-up of the one on the right:

French window art

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Some of the century-old doors in these ancient villages have funky door knockers. Here are two:

Antique door knocker

Antique door knocker

If you think they’re cool, check out more heurtoirs here.

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Where do you go to find great art? The Louvre? The Egyptian Museum? The Prado? Well, you can find great art anywhere, even in the streets.

Pezenas
Is this great art? Not so much, says I, but you be the judge. You can find this just outside the center of the town of Pezenas.

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One sunny afternoon in yet another village we witnessed the future Tour de France cyclists in training. Picture this:

A small square. A squirming huddle of a dozen or so 3 and 4-year-olds wearing helmets in rainbow colors. They are perched atop tiny bikes without pedals. The tots have their feet on the ground, but are barely keeping their balance. In front of them stands the instructor, in full fancy cyclist regalia, calling out instructions. We watch as the kids scramble back to the side and line up. A dozen tiny helmets in a row. (Do I have a picture? No. I did not bring my camera that day.)

More instructions, and the tikes struggle forward with their baby feet walking their tiny bikes. The instructor calls out encouragement (or so I’m hoping). Riveted, we watch this for a while before moving on. As we walk away we hear the wailing of one of the kids. Desperate sobbing, full of despair. I don’t want to do this anymore! It is too hard! I don’t want to be in the Tour de France! I wanna go home. I want my maman!

Such drama! Trust me, you don’t have to fly to the Sydney Opera House to find great theater.

And with that piece of wisdom, I’ll close. I know you don’t have all day to waste on trivialities.

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