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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

258. France - A Travel Advisory

Vive la France... A Travel Advisory (2002)

The following advisory for American travelers heading for France was compiled from information provided by the US State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency, the US Chamber of Commerce, the Food and Drug Administration, the Center for Disease Control and some very expensive spy satellites the French don't know about.
It is intended as a guide for American travelers only. No guarantee of accuracy is ensured or intended.
General Overview
France is a medium-sized foreign country situated in the continent of Europe. It is an important member of the world community, though not nearly as important as it thinks.
It is bounded by Germany, Spain, Switzerland and some smaller nations of no particular consequence and with not very good shopping.
France is a very old country with many treasures such as the Louvre and Euro Disney. Among its contributions to Western civilization are Champagne, Camembert cheese and the guillotine.
Although France likes to think of itself as a modern nation, air-conditioning is little used and it is next to impossible to get decent Mexican food. One continuing exasperation for American visitors is that the people willfully persist in speaking French, though many will speak will shout English if shouted at. As in any foreign country, watch your change at all times.
The People
France has a population of 54 million people, most of whom drink and smoke a great deal, drive like lunatics, are dangerously oversexed and have no concept of standing in line. The French are in general gloomy, temperamental, proud, aloof, arrogant and undisciplined; and these are their good points.
Most French citizens are Roman Catholics, though you would hardly guess it by their behavior.
Many people are communists and topless bathing is common.
Men sometimes have girls' names like Marie, and they kiss each other when they hand out medals.
American travelers are advised to travel in groups and to wear baseball caps and colorful trousers for easier mutual recognition.
Safety
In general, France is a safe destination, though travelers are advised from time to time the country is invaded by Germany. By tradition, the French surrender more or less at once and, apart from a temporary shortage of Scotch whisky and increased difficulty in getting baseball scores and stock market prices, life for the visitor generally goes on much as before.
A tunnel connecting France to Britain beneath the English Channel has been opened in recent years to make it easier for the French government to flee to London.
History
France was created by Charlemagne in the Dark Ages. Other important historical figures are Louis XIV, the Huguenots, Joan of Arc, Jacques Cousteau and Charles de Gaulle, who was President for many years and is now an airport.
Government
The French form of government is democratic but noisy. Elections are held more or less continuously, and always result in a run-off.
For administrative purposes, the country is divided into regions, departments, districts municipalities, cantons, communes, villages, cafes, booths, and floor tiles.
The French language is a corrupt Roman provincial dialect
Parliament consists of two chambers, the Upper and Lower (though, confusingly, they are both on the ground floor), whose members consist of Gaullists or Communists, neither of whom is to be trusted, frankly.
Parliament's principal preoccupations are setting off atomic bombs in the South Pacific, and acting indignant when anyone complains. According to the most current State Department intelligence, the President is now someone called Jacques.
Further information is not available at this time.
Culture
The French pride themselves on their culture, though it is not easy to see why.
All their songs sound the same and they've hardly ever made a movie that you'd want to watch for anything but the nude scenes. And nothing, of course, is more boring than a French novel (except, perhaps, for an evening with a French family.)
Cuisine
Let's face it, no matter how much garlic you put on it, a snail is just a slug with a shell on its back. Croissants, on the other hand, are excellent, though it is impossible for most Americans to pronounce this word.
In general, travelers are advised to stick to cheeseburgers at leading hotels such as the Sheraton and Holiday Inn.
Economy
France has a very large and diversified economy; second only to Germany's in Europe, which is surprising because French people hardly work at all. If they're not spending four hours dawdling over they're lunch, they're on strike and blocking the roads with their lorries and tractors.
France's principal exports, in order of importance to the economy, are wine, nuclear weapons, perfume, guided missiles, Champagne, high-caliber weaponry, grenade launchers, landmines, tanks, attack aircraft, miscellaneous armaments and cheese.
Public Holidays
France has more holidays than any other nation in the world.
Among it's 361 national holidays are 197 Saints' days, 37 National Liberation days, 16 Declaration of Republic days, 54 Return of Charles de Gaulle in Triumph (as if he the War Single-Handed Instead of Running Away) days, 18 Napoleon Sent into Exile Days, 17 Napoleon Called Back from Exile days, 112 France is Great and the Rest of the World is Rubbish days. Other important days are National Nuclear Bomb day, the Feast of Saint Brigitte Bardot, and National Guillotine day.
Conclusion
France enjoys a rich history, a picturesque and varied landscape and a temperate climate. In short, it would be a very nice country if it weren't inhabited by French people. The best thing that can be said for it is that it isn't Germany.
A Word of Warning
The Consular services of the United States Government are intended solely for the promotion of the interests of American businesses such as McDonald's, Pizza Hut and the Coca-Cola Corporation.
In the event that you are a victim of a crime or serious injury involving at least a loss of a limb, report to the American Embassy between the hours of 5:15 am and 5:20 am on a Tuesday or Wednesday, and a Consular official who is supremely indifferent to your plight will give you a list of qualified dentists or something similarly useless.
Remember, no one ordered you to go abroad. Personally, we always take our holidays in Miami Beach between hurricanes and you are advised to do so as well.
Bon Chance.

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