Hey there and welcome to the BigAppleSchool podcast. My name is Sam.
And today we’re asking what’s the craic about…
It’s kinda big, but not as big as Russia. What do you associate with France? May I ask? When I say France, do you think croissants. Pops into your head – croissants.
In English croissant, art, and Eiffel Tower.
All very French. We will talk about stereotypes later. So I’m not gonna dwell into that now, but frog’s legs?
Ew. Sorry, it’s my natural reaction.
Frog’s legs are not the legs you eat?
In my opinion, absolutely not.
I do. But… Let’s not go there.
How do you translate that?
They clean the garden, why would I eat them?
Clear the garden. They leave those trails of cunk.
Yeah, the slime behind them. I believe they’re good at catching or eating some pests. But then they’re also pests because they eat…
Leaves of cabbages, eat stuff. Leave holes in your cabbages.
So maybe we should let them eat the pests, and then we’ll eat them.
Maybe you can eat them, I still won’t.
Okay. Ryno? Are you sitting comfortably?
And you’ve your shoes off, and you’re chilled. You’re here with your best mate.
Yeah. Absolutely. My best mate in Russia.
Best mate in Russia. I’ll take that. That’s okay. Have you ever been to France?
Actually, went last year, yes. 2018 was my first experience.
Never before in Europe actually. It was my first time in Europe.
First time in Europe! My goodness! I was born in Europe and… I mean someone referred to me, I went to South America, and someone started to refer to me as European, I’m like whaaat? I’m from the UK!
You know what, I started to think – hang on, I am European. You know what, I speak for myself and for my family – we don’t really think of ourselves as Europeans. That’s mainland Europe.
Well, if you think about South African people and how we came about – actually, we are European. Genetically be heritage we are European, but I would never testify myself as European, because I was born in South Africa, so…
And I have been to France, and I think the last time was maybe so in the 90s. I think 1997, maybe 1998.
That was a long time ago.
That was a while ago. So you’ll forgive me…
That’s okay if you don’t have particular details.
…particular details about it, but I will speak about it for sure. When did you go? Well, I answered that, you answered that. Which cities did you visit?
So my trip was quite Paris-centered – I really wanted to see Paris properly, if you want to call it that way. I wanted to make sure that…
Not necessarily. I think I decided to go to Paris, because there are obviously other cities that you can visit, Nice, Cannes, and Lyon and whatever.
I think Nice is nice. I believe it’s nice in Nice.
I don’t know if Nice is the nicest. I believe it’s nice in Nice, yes. Tongue twisters. So I tried to experience as much as I possibly could in Paris, because I didn’t know if in future I would return there. Because there are so many other places I would like to visit in Europe.
To go to Northern Ireland, great place.
Maybe a little bit further down the list.
Maybe a little bit further down the list.
I don’t know, I’m drawn to Europe, Italy, Scandinavia actually, the Scandinavian countries also appeal to me. Spain. I’ll have to go to the UK or the US, we spoke about this in a South African podcast, because we were a European colony, a British colony. By heritage I am actually European, so I would love to go and see.
Can you say alright, mate.
Alright mate. Maybe sounds like Australian.
Fair enough. And as for me, I was in Paris, as a kind of 12 year-old boy. And I’ve given away my age cause I said the year, but that’s okay. I'm not ashamed.
I can hear people going back in the podcast and calculating to find out.
And I also went to the heart of France and to the South of France. All with my parents, organized by my parents, and don’t ask me the places. We didn’t really go to cities per se, apart from France of course. We went and we camped. Oh, we camped! Interesting!
Yeah, interesting experience. Different way to see the country.
My parents loved to camp. Not so much now, but they do like, they have a caravan now, and they like to go to caravan. More sophisticated now, my parents. But they enjoyed camping in their more youthful days, with three young buffers as I would call ourselves as young boys.
By little brother was five I guess at the time, no, older than that, oh, seven! And I was 15 in 1997, in fact. 14, pardon. So I was about 14 and I think I was there when I was 12 actually, maybe 95. And we camped and I guess part of it because it was cheaper, but also it’s good experience, and it’s…
I won’t say necessarily cultural experience, but it’s got its own appeal as well, and you get to feel, you get to experience the weather, not just view the weather.
And good weather, and bad weather. And how did you travel? Cause I’m gonna…
So for me it was quite simple – I flew to Charles de Gaulle airport and…
Cause it’s quite far from South Africa, isn’t it?
That’s the problem being South African. Europe is always very far away. It’s at least, at least an 11 hour flight.
Depending on where you’re going to go.
It’s not so simple, it’s not so cheap. Because whatever season you are travelling in, it’s always peak season. Because think about this – if it is summer in Europe, everyone wants to go there.
It’s winter in South Africa, so everyone wants to leave. So you’re flying into peak season in Europe. When it is winter in Europe, it is summer in South Africa. It’s peak season again! So even if you want to travel to Europe in winter, you’re still paying peak season price.
It’s a little better, but because I was a teacher, I didn’t have holidays in that time.
So I had to choose between dead of winter or dead of summer, and it was always very expensive.
You could’ve walked, cycled.
You know, actually, you know Google maps is a very entertaining thing at times, because I did a little experiment on how long It would take me to walk home from Novosibirsk. And it said something like 112 days!
Now bear in mind that it’s walking 24 hours a day. So, maybe not an experiment I would attempt in real life. So I flew, and then public transport in Paris. It was public transport or walking.
I thought it was very good. The RER, it’s their electric…
You look at me like I know what that is. RER?
RER is exceptionally quiet. It’s this double-decker train, you sit on luxurious, not luxurious, it’s sort of a big steam…
Yeah yeah yeah, very comfortable seat. Wi-fi. Quiet, quiet quiet quiet. So you can travel from wherever on the route inside, you can sit, you can work on your laptop, you can read, you can listen to music. It’s very comfortable to travel.
Air-conditioned. The metro is unbelievably quiet as well.
What do they call it metro?
Metro. But I know that the sign was the same, yeah. It’s the same red M.
Right, right. I’ve probably seen it, but it was a while ago.
You just need to find one of the ones in Novosibirsk metro. You’ll see the red M. It’s the same red M there.
I went… So you’re talking about like 11 hours. Now, to be honest, it probably took us more than 11 hours. We went by ferry and by car.
From… Well, yeah, from Northern Ireland. I’ll correct you. So we crossed to Scotland, I think Scotland, drove a whole way down. Maybe it was England, I’m not sure. But we drove from North at least.
Of the mainland UK as we call it. And we drove the whole way down to the South.
But that’s not very very far?
Yeah, it’s a short distance.
But for young fellas trapped in a car…
It’s about a thousand kilometers, that’s all!
Okay. But for a young fella, a teenager, trapped in a car, it was long. But that’s okay. I was keen, because I mean, it was France, it’s interesting. A unique experience for me, cause I’d never been to Europe.
That was your first time.
And so we went, we didn’t’ take the Eurotunnel, we went by boat. And then drove again. And my dad drove again. And of course…
It was above the ocean, not below the ocean?
Not below the ocean. And I can’t say if it was on the go at that time. We didn’t… My parents didn’t choose any… So we drove through, and down the Paris and so on.
A bit confusing – I remember my parents being completely lost and struggling to get directions. But we found our way anyway. And it must’ve been challenging for my parents, because not only a different country, but on the right side of the road.
I was going to remind you about this travelling on the other side of the road! But the UK and South Africa we drive on the left of the road. And France is travelling, like in Russia, on the right.
My dad make one little mistake and he was turning in to a T junction where, you know, one road ends at another road, and he turned on the left and another car was coming. But we were okay. I mean it was a little bit of a panic for a second, but we were okay.
And it’s understandable, cause it’s so… especially, you know, people find it difficult when the change – when you’re driving straight or around the corners or whatever, on the right instead of a left is okay, but when you come to a roundabout or a junction and you have to…
It can be very confusing.
I agree. It’s the one thing I find… Because I drive here in Russia, I have my international driving license. And there are times, and strangely enough, when I have to turn right. It catches me often when I think ‘I’m on the wrong side of the road!’
And actually, because I’m used to taking a slow long turn when I turn right, and now you have to turn sharp. And against the pavement, and it is… You don’t drive here?
I haven’t been brave enough to drive.
Why? It’s fun to drive in Russia.
I don’t need to. I don’t need to.
So what did you enjoy most about France?
You know you can get them in other places, right?
I know, but I suppose it’s the whole romanticism of my first trip to Europe. The fact that I do love pastries and sweets in any way – it has nothing to do with France. This is just me. I love pastries and sweets.
And there was one particular little pastry shop, which I discovered on my first day – just randomly walking. Patisserie. And it was this… almost rude old lady…
Almost, quite almost. And it was the best croissant I’ve ever had in my life. Because it was the first one there. And second was…
Was it a plain croissant?
Yes, plain. With butter. I still think it’s the way to eat them.
Yes. And every morning for breakfast…
Not cold and not warm, what…
A little bit warmer than room temperature. So…
Okay, lukewarm, fair enough.
And every morning for breakfast I had a croissant. Every morning. Not at this particular… I couldn’t find her again until the last day, because it was my first day.
She was almost rude and you couldn’t find her.
So that and the most surprising thing for me about France was – I felt like I went home.
Like it’s where I came from. It was the strangest experience. I have never in South Africa had the same feeling of… This is where my roots are.
Okay. Maybe you don’t know and you’re from France?
Maybe. I don’t know, maybe in a past life or… I don’t know! Maybe in my family line somewhere…
Please, I hope not. But it was a very strange experience. I felt at ease. I felt comfortable, I felt like… I didn’t know where to go. Oh my goodness, the streets of Paris are confusing, because… Different discussion. But I felt at home, and I think what I enjoyed the most – I felt comfortable.
What did I enjoy most about France? Goodness. I’m asking that question to myself.
I didn’t want to ask you this!
Croissants were great. I also liked baguettes. You go and get your French fresh baguettes every day. And you even see them – it’s really stereotypical – on a bicycle, baguettes, in a little bag, a little paper bag, cycling home.
And they do it every day, get… French fresh baguettes are good. Although you have to watch the roof of your mouth, because they’re quite crispy.
They’re quite crispy, but they’re fantastic. It is what I had for lunch mostly.
Right. Honestly, the breads, I mean, different types of bread are fantastic.
So I would probably say the same actually. I enjoyed the camping too, but that’ not unique to France.
But I think as a teenager, I’m 12 maybe as well, I enjoyed pretty much everything. International holiday. I think at the time I did some French in school. But I had learned some…
You studied French at school?
I studied French at school, but we didn’t start till we were 11. We don’t start till we’re 11 in the UK. And we only study it for five years.
It’s basically learning a foreign language.
I mean, in inverted commas.
Yes. It’s studying as a foreign language, not as a second language.
It’s not serious, it’s a couple of lessons a week or whatever. And you can… I mean, young fella like me – I didn’t really learn anything. A few phrases and stuff.
And that too. I talked with Ken about schools in a podcast, and the French teacher was in fact so bad that she was notorious for being a hot head. And she actually threw a chair apparently, and got bored.
Infamous, notorious, and I was 11 and when I heard that I thought ‘great, I’m not gonna learn French’. And I decided that before I even met her. And when I met her I found out the truth. It was true.
The rumors were true, and I don’t think she actually hit anyone, cause that would’ve been illegal. But she almost did it. And so French at that time – I had a great French teacher after, but only for 2 years. I did improve because of him, but he talked about Celine Dion, and she’s from Canadian…
He’s French Canadian, yeah.
And he was very inspiring actually.
In that regard. What new cultural experience did you have? You kinda talked a little bit about that, but you can elaborate or….
I don’t know if it’s cultural or not, I’m not sure, but it’s a different lifestyle. You see a lot of different people in the morning going to the nearest little coffee shop, patisserie, to get a croissant and coffee, on their way to work.
I saw many many people walk on their way to work with their coffee, although sometimes it was from Starbucks, but nonetheless.
Yes! They’re terrible. And there are many of them in Paris. I liked the idea that they enjoy their food, they really enjoy eating. And even the cheap little bistros you can find, even there you can see a person who is cooking, wants to cook good food.
They don’t just put something for you to eat, they want to make good food. Obviously, because my visit was quite Paris-centered, it was quite cultural, historical. I think maybe…
All those kind of things – it was a lifestyle I have never seen before. So pretty much all of it for me was like a cultural experience.
It’s harder for me to imagine it, cause I mean, I’ve been to several places in Europe, several countries in Europe, and I’ve grown up in Europe, in Dublin, in England, in Wales, sort of everywhere. So it’s hard for me to imagine what it’d be like for me to go there for the first time.
It’s impossible to imagine. What you can think about is the fact that I grew up in a country which is just over 400 years old. You know, then you start thinking oi, Scotland, England, London – thousands of years old.
Just unbelievable history. So I think I was touched by, affected almost by the sheer age of the places, thinking that probably Napoleon did walk here. Or Marie Antoinette or, you know…
And I’ve heard that kind of opinion from American people coming to Northern Ireland, for example. Northern Ireland isn’t actually that old as a province, but the island of Ireland and the UK – of course.
Island of Ireland, yeah. Oh, don’t start that. As for me, I’m gonna share about bullfight - my parents and I….
A bullfight’s in Spain, I’m gonna say, is associated with Spain. But France has it too. And I think it was the south of France, or maybe the center of France. But it was, I mean, it was close to Spain. And they had bullfighting.
I mean, as a child, well, not a child, 12 years old, not 14-15 year old Samuel version. I thought too that it should be in Spain, but there was a big stadium. My parents and my two brothers and I went. And it was humane.
None of the bull were killed, none of the bullfighters were…
I was going to say that maybe you shouldn’t discuss this with me, because I’m very pro-animal rights, even though I do eat meat. I’m a little bit confused on the issue.
I don’t think I could’ve watched, I wouldn’t have discussed it. Even at that age.
Cause it’s purely for entertainment, and I think that’s unfair. Very unfair. But I watched this and I was thoroughly entertained. They had like a cap I think, if I remember correctly, like caps over horns of the bulls, so that they won’t be treated or whatever.
Seriously injured. I mean, impaled.
They could still… I mean, to be fair, the bull can still kill you.
Absolutely. They don’t need the horns, they need to just step on you.
Meat behind the ball. Forgive the pun. I can’t remember – I was trying to remember how they kind of, you know, showed that they were touching the ball, or “attacking”, in inverted commas. I don’t remember.
Maybe the Velcro or something. I don’t remember what they did. But they were dancing around the bull. And it was very entertaining. And the crowd there at the stadium. It was a unique cultural experience.
Don’t get that in the UK. It was great, it was great. And the croissants. Food, wine, desserts, pastries, and the croissants. Yummy or not?
I was in seven’s heaven. I tell you. I said earlier -I enjoy good food. I enjoy spending time when you eat, not just sitting down at lunch, ‘I’m gonna eat something cause I have to go back to work’.
I enjoy the whole process. I enjoy cooking, I enjoy baking, so for me to go to a place where food is appreciated, and good…
And cheese? What about cheese?
Cheese, I love cheese. I love bread, I love wine. The South African red wines – we spoke about this in South African podcast is comparable with the French red wines. So I thoroughly enjoyed my breakfast. I said every morning I had a croissant, coffee, usually something sweetish.
That was typical start, not pâtissier, boulangerie – was about 10 minutes’ walk from my hotel.
Honestly I think that when I first went to France, there were not a lot of croissants and stuff in the UK. Now you can…
You can find them everywhere.
But they’re not, you know, they’re not necessarily fresh and as tasty as what you would get in France, but you can find them everywhere. And there’s a thing called chocolate au pain.
Right. And the world in English if you translate it, if you read it, is pain.
Pain with chocolate. And it’s quite funny, I always when I say that. But it’s French of course. But if you look at it from an English perspective.
Fantastic. So I sometimes had, and that’s also a pastry, so I sometimes had the croissant and pain au chocolat for breakfast.
Yeah yeah yeah, it was… It was… I really enjoyed it. Macaron. I think it’s macaron.
It’s the little… made with almond flour.
It’s like a biscuit, but it’s very airy and fluffy, and it’s made with egg white and almond flour.
Oh my goodness, very expensive. I think I only had three or four, because…
I wish at once, because it was something smaller than the palm of your hand, in a good patisserie it was five euros.
And that often was the money I had in my budget for lunch, not a little snack, because I want to have something sweet. But they are fantastic. So, for me food – yummy. Wine – yummy. Desserts – yummy. Pastries – yummy. And croissants – absolutely yummy.
What of the famous landmarks in Paris did you like and dislike?
To expect, I walked 110 km – that’s excluding all of the transport.
So I saw everything I wanted to see in Paris.
I will leave that for last, because I think I have a surprise for you that may… My first discovery was the Sacre Coeur.
You’re not swearing at me?
No, I promise I’m not. It’s in Montmartre, one of the districts. And it’s old, it’s an old church. And I discovered this purely by accident on the first day, I decided… Cause I arrived I think at 10 am, I checked into my hotel at 12, and I decided
First day, a couple of hours, I’m exhausted, but I am going to just walk a bit. No google maps, no idea where I was going to go, I just walked. And I saw a little crowd appear – this is where I discovered the croissants.
And I carried on walking and all of a sudden, this magnificent church was right in front of me. It was absolutely spectacular. So I saw everything – I saw Notre Dame, I saw the Louvre. Anything and everything that is worthwhile…
Everything sort of famous.
And many other things, because I walked. So, you asked me about the landmark of Paris.
I think it is the ugliest thing I have ever seen in my entire life. Because, on that first day, at Sacre Coeur, you have a… its appeal, you look of Paris, and it is these beautiful old buildings, all looked after so nicely, and you scan the horizon, and then there’s this thing, this tower, which is metal and it’s rusty. I don’t know.
I don’t know, I just didn’t like it. I didn’t want to go. I mean I thought to go and see it.
It was built for an exhibition way way back in the 1800s.
1894 or something if I remember.
Right. And it was built. Well, we’ll not say the date for sure in case someone corrects us, but it was built to show what steel can do, and what this company could do. Eiffel was the company. And I mean, from the point of view of being built for that it’s impressive.
And from a structural point of view, as my education in bridges, constructions, civil engineering – it’s very impressive. I can understand why you would say it’s ugly.
it just doesn’t match. For me it’s out of place.
I was very impressed with it. When I was 12-13-14, whatever.
Absolutely, I understand. And most people are impressed with it. And maybe I was also impressed with it or by it, but…
But you don’t think it’s pretty.
But I don’t think it’s pretty, and I didn’t feel as if this is Paris. This is just a structure. So yeah.
Okay, fair enough. Well, you’re entitled to your wrong opinion.
I never went to le Louvre. I remember my parents sort of discussed this, I think timewise and stuff. I mean they had three boys, you know, do you really wanna bring our 7-year-old to the Louvre? And they decided not.
But we went… Actually we walked most of the, I mean, of the stairs to the Eiffel tower. We took a lift eventually when we were wrecked.
Knackered as I would say.
But we did brave the stairs for quite. We did very well on the stairs, and then we took a lift a bit. Cause it was huge queue. But we did take the lift a bit eventually. And I was impressed, I mean, great view from it and stuff.
We went to Disney. I think it was the fifth anniversary. I remember getting a little annoyed.
As a teenager, it would be fantastic, you know.
I think at that time I was 12-14, so I was maybe slightly old for a lot of the stuff, but I went on something called Space mountain, which is a roller coaster, I dragged my dad along. It was great. What I call great craic.
And then I went on that, and braved that, and it was good, fantastic. Couple of different rollercoasters, and it was good for my younger brother, he was a little bit younger, seven or so. And so for him all these Disney characters – no Marvel Avengers at the time.
But all those Disney characters.
Good old Disney characters – Mickey and Donald and Minnie and…
Back in their more innocent time?
So I’m getting the sense that as far as Paris being the city of love, it’s… Do you think it’s as romantic as people say?
I think for me it was about the city, and it was about the experience. I cannot compare, but I have not been back to Europe. I haven’t seen another city of, I would say, that age, that era, as old. So I would maybe have to reserve a complete opinion until I’ve done that.
But I can say that despite the fact it is dirty in places, despite the fact that sometimes the French people are not overly friendly if you can’t speak French, I would still say that I really loved my trip to Paris. I would like to go back eventually.
You loved your trip, so it’s the city of love.
This is what I’m saying – maybe people have a good feeling when they are there. Maybe it’s not necessarily…
But why has it earned that title?
Because of the Eiffel tower?
You go up there and you propose…
Cause, well, Empire state building could be comparable, right? Where else could we go?
Maybe it comes from the movies. From Paris with love. I know there’s from Russia with love. But that was James bond. Different movie.
We don’t know. I don’t know.
You talk about with the language and so on, actually I remember with my parents we asked for the toilet, and we asked a French guy, presumably a French guy, I don’t know. And I think we started off with French, or at least our version of French.
And I don’t remember even what we said cause I don’t remember that much French. I mean, our French was terrible, I gotta be honest. My dad – I’m gonna shame him a little bit, he says [merci beaucoup].
And I mean I was taught a little bit, so I had a bit of an advantage from school. But we asked where the toilet was in French, we got no response, we asked in English, and we still got no response. And the guy looked at us as if we were some strange alien, which I guess we kinda were, aliens.
From that point of view. So that was a bit of a negative. But it didn’t destroy our trip or the experience. I still have very good memories of France, and it was a good time. The Notre Dame cathedral? What do you think?
Interesting what transpired. I was, of course, like everyone else, quite shocked at the events that it had burned down. Well, not burned down, but damaged quite substantially. Quite substantially.
Of course I was saddened, but also it’s pretty much a thing with the World trade center – forever the world will be divided into those who saw the world trade center, and those who didn’t. The same with this. The Notre Dame before.
Yes, maybe an end of an era, but believe now they said they want to repair it to look exactly like it did before the fire. I believe some commission decided that.
So, I won’t be in favor of that I think.
I’m more of a traditional architecture guy.
It’s not even about the traditional architecture, I think it’s about the fact that it is a national symbol. Like the Eiffel Tower. I’m sure they wouldn’t replace the Eiffel tower with a light installation, should something happen to the Eiffel Tower.
I would like that. So, I thought the hysterical reaction, international hysterical reaction was a bit too much.
No one died, no one really got injured.
Which is the main thing that no one died.
There are people who are…
Genocides, people who are starving and the world doesn’t pay attention. One building – I understand…
Historical, it’s absolutely from the 10th-12th century. 11th or something.
Tenth or something. But the reaction for me was a bit too much.
Too much. I would agree with that.
It went on, and on, and on.
I think it’s important, and I appreciate architecture, and I want it to be replaced and fixed and look good as it was. But yeah, I think it was… priorities maybe, you know.
I looked at it and I thought – this is a very serious reaction for something that can be repaired. If it was irreparably damaged, or bombed, or different, but to me… I don’t know. This is my opinion. And I understand that some people could disagree with me.
Yeah. And in conclusion, would you visit France again?
And some European cities before, but I would love to go back.
I think it’s one of the best that I’ve been to. So that was the craic about France. We spoke about our experiences in more modern times and a little bit earlier. We talked about the culture that we got. The food, the croissants.
A little bit of the problems. What we liked and disliked in Paris. Well, the Eiffel tower specifically. Is it a city of love? You can give your opinion too. And Notre Dame and the disaster that happened there. That was the craic about France.