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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 13, Issue 5 (August 1, 1938)

Holidays in France

page 41

Holidays in France

It is a great mistake for overseas visitors to England not to spend part of their holiday in France. It may be the difficulty presented by an unknown tongue that prevents some, but this is easily overcome by putting one's self in the hands of one of the many tourist agencies which cater elaborately for one's comfort. Representatives of these agencies will shepherd one from the time of leaving London to the time of returning—interpreting, paying guides and hotel bills and generally looking after one very well.

Here is a large country, only 1¼ hours by sea from England, offering a most varied range of mountain and valley scenery varying from the almost tropical on the Mediterranean coast to the snowy heights of the Alps; a country full of historic interest and one which excels all others in the line of food and drink.

Recently I spent a fortnight's holiday in the Valley of the Loire renowned for its beauty and famous for the lovely Chateaux built all along the banks of the river.

Tours, the capital of Touraine, is a fine city of over 80,000 people and only 150 miles south west of Paris.

As France is not only a country catering for tourists, but also one through which visitors to other European countries invariably pass, the question of railway travelling is an important one; and it is probably for this reason that there is a great difference between the carriages of trains intended for only first and second class passengers and those intended for first, second and third class passengers. In the former the second class are much superior to the second class in England, and so also are the dining saloons; added to that, these trains are nearly always expresses. It is a mistake to travel third class in France if it can possibly be avoided.

If one has even a slight knowledge of the language it is a decided asset to the enjoyment and interest of one's holiday, enabling one to visit small places where tourists are rarely to be found and where one can study the every day work and life of the people of France.

Probably the thing which impresses one most in France is the ease with which one can obtain meals and drinks. I have found myself arriving at all hours of the day and night in comparatively small French towns of, say, two or three thousand population, and always sure of a polite welcome and an excellent meal: in fact the Frenchman regards it not only as his duty, but also as a privilege to wait upon one. In England, in a like sized town, unless one arrives during the hours at which meals are served, one is fortunate to be able to get cold ham, tinned salmon or bread and cheese. One is also impressed by the much greater variety of food and drink obtainable in France at any time.

Arnold Bennett once wrote that if the French Minister of Education produced his watch at a certain time, he would know exactly what was happening, say that geography was being taught, in every school in France. In the same way, the average Englishman knows that between the hours of 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. in all the ordinary hotels in England the luncheon menu will consist of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, followed by apple pie or milk pudding; or of roast lamb or mutton, followed by apple pie or milk pudding.

The Frenchman's efficiency in cater
(Photo., courtesy French Railways—National Tourist Office.) One of the latest streamlined trains in France, passing through Laroche, on its trial run.

(Photo., courtesy French Railways—National Tourist Office.)
One of the latest streamlined trains in France, passing through Laroche, on its trial run.

ing always goes hand in hand with the greatest possible politeness; in fact the hotel keeper regards his customer, and rightly so, as the person who is providing him with a living. In Britain one is made to feel, especially if asking for food before or after “hours” that it is given as a great favour.

Moreover, the French, in fact all the Latin races, seem to have solved the alcohol problem. Everybody drinks, but nobody gets drunk. One sees little children from the age of two to three years upwards, sipping wine in restaurants with their parents. In France, however, the alcohol is generally milder. In England we advertise such things as “strong ale,” and people who do not like alcohol refer to it as strong drink.

A brief reference now to the French trains. The electric train which forms the subject of our illustration, is very popular in France, and is used for comparatively short-distance passenger journeys. It is fast, smooth, and easy-running.

An admirable line of autobuses is run in conjunction with this and other electric train services, enabling passengers if they so desire to visit places off the beaten track. The French railways, like the New Zealand railways, are State-owned, there being no private lines.

New Zealanders visiting England should, if possible, include a visit to France in their itinerary. They would carry back with them recollections of new experiences upon which they would always look back with pleasure and profit.

page 42