Thoughts, observations, things seen…

The following are miscellaneous thoughts and observations.  Obviously we’ve not been anywhere long enough to form any firm basis for generalizations so they aren’t intended in that way. As more things come to mind, we’ll add them so this page will continue to evolve for a bit.

While we were in Paris we observed many people (young, old, students, business people, men, women) walking around with one to several meter-long baguettes. As they’d walk, they’d rip off a piece of bread and eat.  Nice!  Here in Turin, people seem to frequently nosh on things flowing with chocolate! Nicer!
Chocolate is everywhere in Turin!
Scents: I expected to be assaulted with scents (cologne, perfume, etc.) in both France and Italy.  But really haven’t noticed any at all.
Smoking: It seems far more people smoke in France than at home – we’ve not noticed it so much in Italy. However, in stark contrast to the new smoking by-law in Halifax, smoking seems to be ok pretty much everywhere in both countries – however we’ve not noticed ANY smoking indoors in restaurants, but it’s frequent in the outdoor eating areas.
It’s common in Italy for stores, shops, restaurants, etc. to close in the afternoon. This allows workers to go home for a proper lunch. It also extends the working da to 7 or 7:30 pm. In more urban areas the practice is not universal,. However, as you walk along the street in the city, you’ll still see some stores – even large ones – closed for a while in the afternoon.
This is the inside of the door at one of our accomodations.  Notice anything missing?  There is no way to lock this door from the inside unless you use the key.  That also means of course, there is no way to unlock it witout the key.  This appears to be quite standard in France and Italy.  It is illegal in North America.
A sink in a public bathroom (in Italy). Notice anything? No taps. See the little pedal near the floor? Yes! That’s how you turn on the water. SO much more hygenic! When will this come to North America?
English: English is embarrassingly pervasive in both France and Italy – and I assume, in many other parts of the world.  We’ve seen MANY cases of English only.  These aren’t just tourist related signs either, yesterday I saw “BACK TO SCHOOL” in a store window, for example. The practice is, in my opinion, an indication of the arrogance of North America.
This is another example of the influence of North American culture. I saw this chain of restaurants in Turin (it’s throughout much of Europe) and I was amazed. Really… there is so much wrong with this.  The reference is obviosly to the “wild west” of the US, the menu is extensive and includes mostly BBQ an BBQ related items, from all over the US (not just the west). But that’s not the point.

At first I assumed this was a NA chain pushing into Europe – my limited research indicates, so far, that isn’t the case – but I want to dig deeper on that. However, if it’s based in Europe, the message is even worse and suggests that Europeans think it’s a good thing to market “old Wild West” in a region that is MUCH older than any BBQ idea in the US.  Additionally, the chain seems to be only in WESTERN Europe!

Here are two toilets that we thought were unusual.

On the right is an older style designed for squatting (which, apparently is actually a more healthy position nn which to… do your business). This is the only one we saw and was in the train station in Lucca. The flush was powerful!

On the left is a much newer toilet. This one was in one of our accomodations. Notice the cut out area at the front.  Brilliant!  (I’m sure at least the guys understand the advantage here!  We’d like to see more of the toilets on the left everywhere!  Bravo to the designers on that project!

Sidenote: Notice how the water enters the toilet tank at the top? Every tank we’ve seen here is like that.

Early in our adventure we noticed that the level of dress is, in general, significantly higher than elsewhere.  Even when we got to Lyon, we noticed a more relaxed attitude.  In Paris we were quite out of place in our shorts and t-shirts, which were worn only by those out for a run/jog.
Scooters – YUP, the kid of two-wheeled scooter the kid down the street might have.  Not powered. Not fancy. Just a scooter.  This is something we think of as, well, something the kid down the street might have!  But in Paris, Lyon, etc. this is a mode of transportation for anyone in the city.  It’s not uncommon to see businessmen/women scooting along the street! So, before you get annoyed at that kid down the street – remember the CEO of a company in Paris may very well get around in the same way!