I'm just wrapping up my two-week swing through France. Here are a few final French observations.
As the guy whose name is on the cover of 40 travel guidebooks, I am so thankful for the expertise, passion, and hard work of my co-authors. For well over 20 years, Steve Smith has dedicated himself to knowing France and sharing it with American travelers. I really think Steve must know France (the sights, hotels, restaurants, logistics, services, and so on) better than any living soul -- French or American. And Steve has a special knack for meeting locals, assessing them for our travelers' needs, and connecting the right ones with our readers. Each year I look forward to a couple of weeks working with him on our France guidebooks. Thanks, Steve, for a great time this year.
The French love their holidays. This sign announces that, although there are five holidays in the month of May, the Restaurant Le Jardin Mazarin (in Aix-en-Provence) will stay open for all of them. I ate there and can attest that it would be a shame to drop by and find the door closed.
Here's a vivid reminder that you lose money if you're sloppy in your exchange decisions. Imagine these rates for the U.S. dollar to the British pound sterling: buys at $1.75, sells at $1.34. I still have a tough time understanding which are the pounds and which are the dollars, but it's clear here: The tourist loses big-time. The real rate is midway between the buy and sell rate. And a reasonable spread would be about 10 percent -- much smaller than this.
After all the cute Provençal towns, I'm glad I finished in the city of Marseille. Like other gritty and vibrant "second cities" (e.g., Antwerp, Hamburg, and Bilbao), it lets the traveler connect with an urban scene that seems to be particularly alive. And when I think of this list of great "second cities," they are all port towns -- which must have something to do with why they're so fun to experience. This was the view from my hotel room on the last night of a 60-day trip.
From Marseille, I fly home for a couple weeks, and then head back to Germany and Great Britain for part two of my summer travels. As promised, I'm posting for "100 days in Europe." This little interim will be a bit more ad-lib, and then we'll hit the road again together in the end of June. Thanks to all my Facebook friends for traveling with me. And stay tuned!