Random Observations

Having settled in for a week of camping and ‘relaxing’ I
thought I’d fire off some thoughts about life in Europe.  The two friends we’re hanging out with
have provided some interesting insights into their lives.  They are wonderful hosts who are
enriching our experience every day.

Heike and Herve live in a small one bedroom apartment in
Paris. Heike is a teacher originally from Germany and Herve is from France and
works for the auto company Peugeot.  

In no particular order….. 

Canada’s school system is held in high regard.  Both the French and German systems use
it as a comparison to how they are doing when it comes to education. 

German schools begin at 7:30am and go straight through until
1:30.  Kids get a ten minute break
but don’t eat.  (this is being

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reconsidered) French schools go from 8am-1pm, take a two hour break, and then
return from 3-5pm.  There’s always

Most French companies close down for most of August.  Herve doesn’t have a say when he takes
his holidays – he knows he’ll get a week at Christmas and 3 weeks in August.
Because so many people are ‘off’ at the same time, forget about bargains at the
resorts. Of course that also means the highways will be crowded.  (tell me about it!)

He works 7 hours a day/35 hours a week.  Overtime is frowned upon and should any
government dare to fiddle with the workweek—STRIKE! 

It’s against the law for any child under 16 to work.  That includes delivering papers!

Both could make up to three times as much money working in
Germany, but they love the lifestyle of France.   Heike says it’s very laid back. They live for the moment, enjoying
dinners and holidays and time off. 
Work is work.

Public areas of France will be smoke free next year.  THIS will be interesting as we can’t
believe how many people smoke here.

Most people in France are not thrilled with the U.S. …. But
Mcdonalds and Starbucks are among the most successful companies.

Half of the people who live in Paris do NOT have a
vehicle.  Diesel fuel is subsidized
by the government because it’s better for the environment.  We’ve paid 1.06 euro for diesel or
about $1.65 canadian per litre. 
Regular fuel goes for about $1.75 euro or roughly $2.40 canadian.

(in an earlier blog I said gas was $1.75 canadian—forgot we
were paying in euros) 

I’ve been reading several British papers….

The big story is how new Prime Minister Gordon Brown is
getting along with George Bush. 
Most papers say it’s a ‘much more formal’ relationship than Bush-Blair
and you get the feeling most people want it that way. 

There are hints of the Brits beginning a pullout of Iraq in
the fall.  British forces lost
their 68th soldier in Afghanistan this week.  Both the U.S. and Britain are demanding
‘other’ NATO countries provide more soldiers for the afghan mission.  No mention of Canada. 

British schools are considering mandatory attendance until
18 years old for all students, to cut back on an alarming dropout rate.  Critics say it won’t help.

The papers are filled with little ‘green tips’ to help the
environment.  Did you know you
should unplug your cell phone charger when it’s not being used?  It’s still drawing power.

At home the Calgary Herald is always running inserts and
special sections on recreational properties in AB and BC.  Same thing in Britain—but it’s all
about buying homes/villas and condos in Europe.  Hot destinations? 
Turkey and Croatia before they join the E-U.  You can get an ocean view 3 bedroom villa in Turkey for
about 70 thousand pounds or roughly 140 thousand loonies.

Big financial story? 
A huge refund for customers from the British banks for over billing user
fees, late charges and service charges. 
Refunds could be as much as a billion pounds, or roughly 2 billion
Canadian dollars.  Fed up customers
had enough and launched a revolt against those big banks! 

Sound familiar? Are you with me people?!!  Off with their heads!  Let’s storm the …..  

Maybe tomorrow.