Twenty years ago, France and European Union just started to unify circulation of euro. Below are Ma Ge's notes on a trip to France twenty years ago:
La Baule is located near Nantes, a small town on Atlantic coast. Almost all tourists who come here are directed to Atlantic Ocean. Whether it's swimming, surfing, boating, kids playing on beach or sunbathing, they all want to enjoy natural environment brought by ocean. This is first time I saw Atlantic Ocean, walking along long coastline, slowly admiring colorfulness of Atlantic Ocean, land, sea and sky are pictures. The buildings of resort by sea also have different styles, some old, some luxurious and luxurious, and some ordinary. Seeing Atlantic Ocean for first time and getting to know France for first time.
This is third largest city in France and its prosperity can be seen in cityscape. The rivers Rhône and Saone pass through city and there are many bridges on two rivers, some of which are exclusively for pedestrians. Lyon has four metro lines and two tram lines, and like Paris, it can reach almost any of nine districts. A vestige of Middle Ages can be seen in old town, while hilltop cathedral offers panoramic views of Lyon's small basin. Almost 2000 years old Roman ruins - amphitheater - make modern people small in long river of history. Lyon is birthplace of French silk and birthplace of world cinema. The Lumiere brothers, inventors of cinema, were born and raised here. Precisely because French invented film, French cinema has its own characteristics, which are very different from Hollywood running around world today. The people of Lyon dress more elegantly than people of Nantes and seem more luxurious. Lyon is located in a hilly area, and luxury villas can often be seen on hilltops. Lyon is something Lyon can be proud of.
Brest is located in northwestern part of France, as well as in northwestern part of Brittany. It is characterized by rainy weather and seagulls hover over city. The city is small, main street runs through whole city, next to Atlantic Ocean. Walking along main street, you can see magnificent big castle, which was an important military stronghold for hundreds of years. The landscape in Bristol area is very beautiful, with hillsides, meadows, cattle and sheep, streams, rivers, small villages and hills one after other, something similar to Scotland. This reminds me of historical connection between Bretons and Scots. The French Bretons were originally closely related to Cornish, Welsh, Scots and Irish in England. It is worth noting that train I took back to Nantes consisted of only one car.
When I first came to south of France, I felt warmth of southern sun. In south of France, palm trees are not uncommon, and in north there are many plane trees. Montpellier also has an Arc de Triomphe, but it is much smaller than in Paris, unfortunately, when I arrived, it was being renovated, and it was all wrapped up like a mummy. On square of Peru opposite Arc de Triomphe stands a statue of Louis XIV. Once I saw a photo of this statue from a hundred years ago, and it was different. Theater Square is center of city, I saw photographs of a hundred years ago, except for addition of tram lines, there seems to be no particular difference. The old city of Montpellier is more perfect than old city of Lyon. Having traveled around old city, you can feel atmosphere of Middle Ages. On walls of some old houses, medieval iron hooks are still preserved, which are said to have been used to tie carriages and like. Catch only tram line in city and then hop on a bus to get straight to Mediterranean. Fine sand, blue water, there should be a lot of people here in summer.
Tourcoing is a small town in an industrial area in northern France, not far from Belgium. It can be reached in half an hour by metro or tram from Lille. There are several relatively new churches in city, first time I see them in France. In Parc Clemenceau people walked and chatted vaguely or sat on benches for a while. In distance, children play in shadows. The city is not large, and circle of residence is not large.
Lille is center of northern industrial zone and fourth largest city in France, but in fact it includes many nearby satellite cities. The train journey from Paris to Lille takes only one hour and is only way to get from France to Belgium. There are many trains from Lille to Brussels and other parts of Belgium. Lille has two railway stations as a transport hub. Two metro lines and two tram lines connect it with many surrounding cities. There are several pedestrian streets in center of Lille, which speaks of its prosperity. The old town is a concentration of architectural styles of Flanders region, which surprises with orderliness of its streets, and what is even more surprising is uniqueness of decorative features of doors and windows of each house. The Lille Zoo is free and you can see rare animals rarely seen in China. The ancient fortress of Lille is still a military base and is open to tourists only on weekends. There are many boulevards and they are very wide, which, as it were, implies a meaning: to meet and see off guests from all over world, to enter and leave freely.
Arc de Triomphe
Roubaix is another small town in north, next to Tourcoing. In terms of overall feel, Roubaix is a bit newer than Tourcoing. On Grand Place, church of St. Martin stands opposite town hall, or rather city government. In Museum of Arts and Crafts, converted from a swimming pool, you can find something that will interest you. Walking along Roubaix canal can make you feel relaxed, but scenery on both sides of canal is much worse than I expected. Here, in a small town in north of France, I am very surprised that proportion of Arabs is not small. France has a large number of Arabs that I never knew about before I came to France.
Clermont-Ferrand is a combination of two centers, Clermont and Montferrand. There are no French high-speed trains with Paris. Gothic cathedral in center of Clermont. Walking through urban area, it cannot be seen as a typical old French town. But sometimes there is a green area in middle of street or a big sculpture with high air, it is a good choice to take a walk here in your spare time. Clermont-Ferrand does not have a subway or trams common in France. It is located on central plateau, so no matter where you are in city, you can see mountains nearby. Compared to picturesque mountain scenery I just saw in Switzerland, this place looks unremarkable.
Betine is a small town near Lille, but it does not belong to Department of North, but to Pas de Calais. It is very close to other nearby towns and small towns. Betin is very small, clock tower on central square is almost only attraction of city, and on ground floor there is a tourist office of Betin. Small, small, but in Paris there is a high-speed train that goes directly here. At main entrance to station there is a bust of the late French President Francois Mitterrand.
Anyone who knows a little about culture knows most famous sights in Paris. Too many people have described Paris and too many Paris guidebooks Paris has too many reasons to be proud: absolute center of France, one of most important cities in Europe and world, huge historical and cultural heritage of Paris, Paris metro, tolerance and openness of Paris, coffee in Paris, beauty of Paris, French spirit represented by Paris... There is no doubt that Paris must have largest number of tourists in world every year. When Chinese talk about France, first word that comes up is romance. Why is it so? Because not only Chinese, but also many people in world envy French way of life - dolce vita, in Italian, can be understood as a comfortable, warm, sweet and interesting life. Because French know how to live, and too many still have to earn a living. What is romance of Paris and even France? It is desire for great love, maintenance of family affection, pleasure of work, memory of a happy holiday, optimism of life and a wonderful vision of future ... Staying in Paris will make people happy. There is a sense of pride that comes from everything that is in Paris. The Seine is very famous, but to me it's just a common river known for running through Paris. Paris is synonymous with French charm. If you want to enjoy and appreciate Paris at your own pace, I have only one suggestion: Vous montez sur Paris, go to Paris yourself.
Nantes is largest city in western part of France. It was once capital of Brittany region, birthplace of modern French civilization, and is now capital of Loire-Atlantique region. To talk about Nantes, you need to talk about Breton region. The Brittany region has close ties to United Kingdom, which is why in French United Kingdom can be referred to as Greater Brittany. Every year, traditional festivals are held in Breton region, and Bretons from all over world and people of other nationalities similar to Bretons come to perform their traditional special programs: dance and bagpipes. Dancing and bagpipes are popular not only in Scotland and Ireland. Here, largest river in France, Loire River, flows into sea. But Nantes is still forty-five minutes from Atlantic Ocean. This is hometown of science fiction writer Jules Verne, who may have written "Around World in Eighty Days" and "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under Sea" overlooking boundless Atlantic Ocean. Nantes has a pleasant climate, warm in winter and cool in summer, making it suitable for living. The city is beautiful, in center there is castle of Duke of Brittany, a shopping area, a green area and a promenade along Erter river, which makes people feel at home. The three tram lines of Nantes are longest of all urban tram lines in France. Here I first felt civilizationand etiquette of French people, for first time tried to understand another country and another city, for first time he lived and studied in another country. It usually takes two hours and ten minutes to travel by high-speed train from Nantes to Paris, and I have traveled many times in France by this train.