Those Clever French

Sometimes when we travel, we notice small details that make me think, “How clever! Why don’t we do that at home?”

For example, when we went to Berlin, I was quite taken with the fact that the cafes provided cheap fleece blankets for customers who chose to sit outside on cooler nights.

Obviously, I’m sure they don’t do that now due to COVID concerns, but it was a great idea. Bring them in each night, throw them in the washer, and put them out again the next day. Simple!

It was the same in France, and I took a few pictures to show you what I mean.

First of all, in most cases, the plumbing was amazing.

You think I’m joking? I’m not.

I had the best shower ever at Auntie G’s house.

I mean, look at this thing! There’s the “gentle rainfall” option for overhead, which I was able to pair with the wall-based squirty things — here’s the important part — without losing water pressure or changing the temperature!

Hard to believe, I know.

Plus, I had the option of the handheld nozzle for rinsing my hair.

Exhibit #1: The Shower

Now, before you tell me you’re sure they sell this type of shower in other countries, I’m going to cut you off and say, “I know!

I’ve taken showers with a similar setup in hotels, and they were — excuse my French — merde! If I turned on the wall-based nozzles, I lost all pressure in the rainfall showerhead. Sometimes the temperature changed too.

When I raved about their shower to Auntie G. and Uncle R., they told me the water pressure is much higher in France, and although French plumbers are notoriously expensive and hard to schedule, their work is excellent.

Auntie J. and Uncle G. agreed.

Our hotel in Paris seemed to be the unfortunate exception to this rule. The water was warm, but the pressure was nearly non-existent, so maybe showering heaven only exists in certain regions of France.

More research may be necessary, and I might just be the one to do it!

Exhibit #2: The Water Bottle

Have a look at this water bottle. Do you notice anything different? Study the cap. Do you see how it’s attached to the bottle, even though the bottle is open?

This means when the bottle is recycled, the cap is too.

Think about it. How many times have you seen little bottle caps just like this one by the side of the road or in a parking lot? Wouldn’t it be better if the cap stayed with the bottle in the waste/recycle stream?

Then, even if the bottle isn’t recycled, at least it’s less likely a bird will eat the cap. And, unfortunately, it’s not likely to be recycled either in the U.S. or France because our rates of recycling are 34% and 35%, respectively. (Germany puts us all to shame coming in at 62% [possibly because the homeless do a lot of trade in bottles — see earlier link about Berlin], and even the UK does better [39%]).

On a side note, while looking up information about birds eating plastic, I found this story about a man who invented a bird feeder that accepts bottle caps from birds as payment for their food. Talk about clever!

Exhibit #3: The Shoehorn

When we went through TSA on this trip (I think it was in Cleveland, but it may have been JFK), we were told we had to take our shoes off, which I found a little annoying. A couple of years ago, we paid to get “known traveler” numbers, were therefore TSA Prechecked and not supposed to have to take off our shoes or unpack our electronics and liquids. I had chosen my footwear accordingly — a comfortable pair of slip-on, go-anywhere Blundstone boots. And these boots, while slip-on, are challenging to get off and on.

When we got to the TSA agent by the belt where we had to put our carry-ons, I asked him, “What does TSA Precheck do for us?”

His answer? “You don’t have to take off your shoes.”

“But, we were told to take them off,” I replied.

“Oh.” he said. “Does it say ‘pre-check’ on your ticket?”

I showed him my ticket.

“You can put them back on,” he said.

Well, that was a super-helpful exchange.

Anyway, when we finally cleared TSA, I found a place to sit down and put on my boots.

It did not have a shoehorn. It never would have occurred to me to look for one.

In France, they have shoehorns — cheap ones, obviously, because I’m sure they get stolen — but shoehorns attached to the little benches after TSA.

How clever is that?

And before you start talking about foot hygiene, let me just say, I would have happily made use of that shoehorn with my boots. You may feel differently, but I say five seconds contact with someone else’s foot cooties on the outside of my socks is a risk I’m willing to take.

So, how about it, what clever details have you encountered in your travels? Feel free to leave a comment and share your experiences.

Travel Magic and Mayhem Score: Miniscule moment of mayhem in US TSA line and small amounts of travel magic encountering new ideas in France.

3 thoughts on “Those Clever French

  1. The French love their dogs, and most cafés with outdoor seating seem to have a dog bowl. I approve. I also highly approved of the now-disbanded ‘motocrottes’, which seemed like such a brilliant idea. It addressed the problem directly, rather than attempting to curb the problem by fining.

    Liked by 1 person

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