My Travel Blog

Navigating Around the French Countryside

Lisa and I cruise the rivers and canals of Europe for a number of reasons.  We love the adventure, challenge, people we meet and of course the changing scenery.  When it comes to scenery the canals and rivers we tend to travel are beautiful.  There are a few exceptions, but 90% of the time the countryside is breathtaking.

The view from Michele Gonet’s second story window in Champagne.

The Marne River in Champagne.

A double rainbow over Chateau Thierry.

After two seasons of cruising I hate to admit it, but we are starting to become a little jaded.  By now you’ve probably figured out that we spend most of our time in France.  The wine, cheese, bread and pate don’t hurt.  That’s not to say there isn’t beautiful scenery in Holland and Belgium.  But when it comes to nature France is more consistent in our opinion.  Then there are the friendly people.  That’s right.  I said the friendly French are a big reason we enjoy France so much.  I’ll even include Parisians when I say the friendly French. You’re probably asking yourself how is that possible?  I had always heard that the French were so rude.  I can’t believe we are unique, but in our experience nothing could be further from the truth. I suppose given the right situation, like when someone is insulted, the French can be as rude as any other nationality.

A narrow boat designed for the English Canals.

A walk in the park.

A walk along the canal.

I think the French most likely inherited their reputation because so many American tourists never bother to take a few minutes to find out what is proper etiquette in a foreign country.  Wherever we travel our attitude is that we are guests, and act accordingly.  I’m not sure Americans realize how different the French culture is.  We have found it to be far more formal than ours.  At least as an American that’s what it feels like.  You don’t have to speak much French, but there are a few mandatory phrases.  The first one is “Bonjour” which literally means good day.  Whenever or wherever you meet someone in France “bonjour” needs to be the first word out of your mouth.  It works anytime of day be it morning, afternoon or evening, and it should be used no matter the situation.  For example, many Americans typically don’t greet their restaurant waiter when they first come to the table.  Since we’ve been spending so much time in France we now make sure to greet our waiter no matter where we are.  We’ve found that most waiters in the states appreciate it. In France it is perceived as an insult not to acknowledge someone.  By the way, when you greet someone look at them and don’t mumble.   Just remember you always greet people whether it’s your waiter, a sales person, or a taxi driver.  Don’t be the ugly American and forget to say, “good day.”

More beautiful French clouds.

I always enjoy mooring where there are no other boats.

The other two words you should probably know as a minimum are “merci”, which means thank you, and “au revoir,” which means good-bye.  Don’t forget that the last “r” in au revoir is silent.  If you use these three phrases judicially you shouldn’t have any problems.

-Tom Miller
Author of “The Wave”  and “When Stones Speak”– 
Chuck Palmer Adventure novels


About the Author:

Tom Miller graduated from the University of Southern California with a Bachelor of Science in Geology. He is a consummate adventurer with over 1,000 dives as a recreational scuba diver, and an avid sailor who has traveled 65,000 miles throughout the Pacific including the Hawaiian Islands. Miller has also cruised the canals of Europe on his canal barge and given numerous lectures on cruising the canals of Europe, as well as sailing in the South Pacific. Piloting is also an interest of Miller's, and He has completed over 1,000 hours flying everything from small Cessnas to Lear jets.