Lost In Limoges

From the sheep-dotted pastures of France's underpopulated Southwest, Limoges rises in all its grey glory. The city's claim to fame: fine porcelain. The half-timbered houses of the Medieval center are surrounded by strip malls and McDo. Land-hungry Brits descend with flailing pocketbooks (thanks, RyanAir). The weather is remarkably cool year-round. Sure, I live on rue de Nice, but this is NOT the Cote d'Azur. Welcome to Limoges, "the middle of nowhere"-- or as Pierre says "everywhere"-- France.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

How France is like El Salvador

Internet line hooked up in the house? Could be a Tuesday, or a Wednesday, or maybe Thursday! These things you just can't pinpoint or predict with precision! Thus, a few weeks ago, I loitered outside the internet cafe to await the 2 pm arrival of my one friend in Limoges-- the friendly Algerian who speaks three English phrases and buys me little cups of espresso as I work-- but the clock ticks by, and it's 2:45 before he unlocks the door. See, the hours of 12-2 are sacred in France, the lunch-siesta an immovable rite in each day. And sometimes that lunch lingers a little longer, and business can just well-- wait.

Which reminds me of sitting outside the Cybercafe in Tacuba, sometimes at 11 am, waiting for the cute brothers who managed the place to wake up and unlock the door. If you asked Edgar what were the business hours, he would respond that they opened at 8:30 am, but his brother was a little more vague.

However, I dare say my Salvadoran friends were a bit more industrious in some ways-- with these same shops. Would any rational, capitalist-thinking being really close the doors to their store from 12-2 on a Saturday, a prime shopping day for folks who are trapped behind their desks all week in bureaucratic hell? (Considering that the Lord's Day is totally off limits and shoppers are limited to a few open boulangeries.) When Pierre and I took a weekend for the couch-hunt, we knew we only had a good five hours to scout the colors and test pillow firmness. At 12 exactly, as the doors to a large furniture store were closed in our faces, we were left with nowhere to go, but McDo. And at 1:55 pm, we found ourselves in the parking lot with about six other waiting shoppers. They're fools, if you ask me-- these shop-owners. Somebody should open up a 24/7 store and make a killing on their sales to folks who just want to BUY something, anything, between the hours of 12-2.


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