Les Villes de La France.

This past year I’ve had the opportunity to spend some time in some of the great cities of France. Lyon, Bordeaux, Marseille and Nîmes… I’ve really been blessed to be able to experience these places. From the contrasting cultures to the longstanding traditions, I never thought in my life I would have an opportunity to conquer this historic nation.

“La France, le plus beau royaume après celui du ciel.” de Grotius.

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Nîmes
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Nîmes
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Four auld men in Nîmes.
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Nîmes
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A Pub in Nîmes.
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I missed the last bus from Bordeaux Airport to the city centre. So I camped outside and waited until morning.
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Bordeaux
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Bordeaux
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Bordeaux
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Marseille
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Marseille
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Marseille
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Skater boi
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Marseille
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Sick architecture in Lyon.
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La Sucrière, Lyon.
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Pour L’Amour des Verts

As promised, here are some snapshots from the Saint Etienne and Lyon Ligue 1 derby match. Unfortunately for the home side a first half goal wasn’t enough to see it through. After a disappointing first half Lyon came back out from the break and took control. The final score was 2-1.

However… Quelle ambiance! 

It’s been a while now that I’ve hoped to make it through for a game and, the result aside, it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. The supporters were friendly & passionate and even reminded me of going to the games back home in Glasgow. Something I miss dearly.

Until next time, les Stephanois

 

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”Stade Geoffroy Guichard”

 

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”Le chaudron va bouillir!”

 

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”Absolute screamer of a vintage kit in the museum. If anyone knows where I can get me one, hit me up.”

 

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”For the love of the Green..”

 

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”Combattre pour son club. Mouiller le maillot. Respecter ses couleurs.”

 

 

Allez qui c’est les plus forts?
Évidemment c’est les verts
On a un bon public et les meilleurs supporters
On va gagner!
Ça c’est juré allez…

 

 

Hangin’.

So I’m trudging downstairs to the bins out the back. Pair of old shorts and last nights jumper. It’s late in the afternoon of the first day of the New Year. The end of the festive season for me as it’s back to 6am wake-ups and out on the grind tomorrow morning. I pass a couple of fresh-faced neighbours and we exchange the usual niceties.

‘Bonjour monsieur. Bonjour messieurs-dames.’

There’s something about the people I meet in this same situation that I can’t get my head around. The seemingly carelessly ecstatic aura that they encompass. Emanating an ambience of sheer life and energy.. Ready for the adventures of the day that lay ahead. Even if (for talking’s sake) the Gilet Jaunes were to successfully overthrow Macron and his government or an ISIS uprising raised hell in the French suburbs these same ostensibly & untouchable folk will always be there to meet me, dishevelled and hanging, on the first floor landing of the flats of Cours Berriat.

I’m back in my cave now. The room is a tip. I haven’t taken the time to unpack my bag from the week spent back home in Glasgow. In all honesty I haven’t even managed to sort myself out yet. But I don’t really mind. For now I’m back in my own little world ready to jump back into my studies and my work. Back into grafting. Learning on the go. And I fucking love learning. Learning is power, strength.. profound and utter bravery. To me anyway. It takes a courageous soul to commit to education in the world that we live in. Often I think about what it means to rebel against the system of education in fear of something truly feign. A common theme throughout young people who choose to walk a path that strays away from their potential. Like me when I left school. Why did I not want to learn? Why did I not want to acquire knowledge? I think it was probably just that I couldn’t be arsed. Are all the disenchanted folk similar in that respect? Can we all just not be arsed? It’s possible. If it wasn’t for this hangover I’d probably indulge a bit. But I’m fucking hanging and for my own well-being I’ve decided to give it a by. Earlier on a friend asked me why I once collected so many records and threw myself into the clubbing industry as an aspiring DJ, only to give it all up and sell all that I had. I wish I had just said ‘I couldnae be arsed.’

I’ve got a few hours left now to prepare my work things and lay low for a while. I’ve just finished reading ‘Hings’ by Chris McQueer (what a book by the way) and I’m about to stick on the trusty Fitbaw Manager in the hope that signing foreign wonderkids will nurture my bevvy-riddled corpse back to a decent standard.

Happy New Year everyone. Bonne Année.

Aidan x

Posted Missing.

Hello all, salut!

I’ve unfortunately neglected my duties to this project whilst I attempt to adjust to my new chapter in life. My partner and I moved into an apartment in Grenoble around two months ago. My time has been dedicated mainly to my new career (Landscaping and Green Space Management), part time work to keep the rent coming and improving my French so I stand a chance of understanding my studies.

Yes, I am studying entirely in French. It’s tiring. Ça me fatigue. But it’s utterly rewarding and I can’t begin to tell you just how putain smart I feel. Now things are settling and I have more of an idea of my routine I hope to continue writing and sharing my experiences with you. I still have many pictures and stories from my Summer trip in the Balkans which I hope to upload in the coming weeks so please bare with me. For now, I’ll leave you with some snaps of my new home, the city of the Alps. I can’t wait to share this wonderful region with you all…

 

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”Le tram de Grenoble.”

 

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L’Art de la Rue.”

 

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”Parc Paul Mistral”

 

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”The mountains of the Alps at my doorstep.”

 

Don’t forget to follow. À la prochaine 🙂

 

The Hidden Life of Trees.

“A tree’s most important means of staying connected to other trees is a “wood wide web” of soil fungi that connects vegetation in an intimate network that allows the sharing of an enormous amount of information and goods.” 

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“There are more life forms in a handful of forest soil than there are people on the planet. A mere teaspoonful contains many miles of fungal filaments. All these work the soil, transform it, and make it so valuable for the trees.” 

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“When you know that trees experience pain and have memories and that tree parents live together with their children, then you can no longer just chop them down and disrupt their lives with larger machines.” 

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“If we want to use forests as a weapon in the fight against climate change, then we must allow them to grow old, which is exactly what large conservation groups are asking us to do.”

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My hope is that the wolves’ stewardship of natural processes in Yellowstone will help people appreciate the complex ways that trees interact with their environment, how our interactions with forests affect their success, and the role forests play in making our world the kind of place where we want to live. Apart from that, forests hide wonders that we are only just beginning to explore. I invite you to enter my world.

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All quotes taken from ‘The Hidden Life of Trees‘ by Peter Wohlleben. Just this week I plunged myself into a new career path. I’ve begun an apprenticeship in landscaping and green space management. l’Aménagement des Espaces Verts.. Paysagers.

It’s a whole new world to me. A path in my life which opened after reading this book. It details a fascinating insight into the lives and communication systems of the forest and trees. I came across it at a time not long after a very upsetting episode where my health took a hit. And the combination of moving to an area of the world with an abundance of ecological wealth and the ‘luck’ to find this book on a spontaneous visit to the Argyle Street Waterstones in Glasgow City Centre, has given me a certain belief that this may just have been meant for me. It’s no surprise to me that the quality of my life has vastly improved since redirecting my focus down this road. And it gives me great motivation to work harder to succeed in these challenges set out for me.

I took these pictures in two separate places. The 2nd, 4th and 5th at the Old Kilpatrick Hills, Scotland. And the 1st and 3rd at the Gorges du Versoud, France.

Here’s to My Treasure Island..

It’s a new day tomorrow. Wednesday, 30th of March to be exact. And it marks the beginning of another new expedition to add to the previous escapades on record. An early morning drive to Milan in Italy followed by a fairly short flight to the Bulgarian capital of Sofia and I will be ready to take on the lower half of the Balkans. I have my tent, my hammock, my Jack Kerouac books and lavender spray for the mosquitoes and I am ready to go. I hope to take six or seven weeks and make my way through some of Europe’s poorest and unknown countries by throwing the thumb out and taking a lift with some happy locals willing to share their hidden piece of this world with an enthusiastic, ginger, 20 something from a country they might never have heard of (before anyone contests this I’ve had several conversations with people who don’t know what Scotland is. Or if they do, they think it’s a part of England..).

The majority of the countries I will be going through are not the typical destinations at the top of a European getaway wish list. But after doing some research and targeting some adventurous places I decided to go with my final findings. I wouldn’t be human if I wasn’t nervous. It’s a region of Europe which still has various issues mostly linked to the break up of the Yugoslavian Republic and the brutal wars that preceded. This is not my reason for choosing these places and I wouldn’t like to think of myself as some sort of ‘war tourist’ (I don’t know the phrase word for word but I read about some Danish guy being accused of this after visiting Syria.. And after seeing widespread criticism of folk posing emphatically for photos at several commemoration memorials I intend to pay my utmost respect). Most of these countries are trying to move on from the past and bring the benefits of change to help their poor nations. And with the attempts to step away from the limelight for the wrong reasons I hope to embrace the future with the locals in a shared hope of personal wealth and a long-lasting happiness.

I can’t choose a favoured part of the plan I have drawn up for the coming months; I hope to spend time in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, venture through the wilderness of Montenegro, find out more about the Continent’s newest country Kosovo (or South-Western Serbia for when I arrive at the border) and experience the valiant & enigmatic cultures of Albania and Macedonia. Even as I head North to more common-known places like Croatia, Slovenia & Italy, I can’t begin to dream about what is in store for me.

I look forward to the moments that await me and the joy they will bring. In the previous days the thought running through my head has been one of great excitement. Embarking on a trip like this to me is potentially life-defining. Or as we fondly say back home.. ‘One to tell the grandweans‘. Maybe i’m getting carried away and it won’t be anything extraordinary. Or maybe they’ll talk about me in parts of the region as a ‘much loved Scottish explorer’. I don’t expect my name to be up there with Robinson Crusoe after a summer stint in the Balkans, but these are the scope of thoughts that enter play in the preceding moments before an adventure as such. And is it dangerous to aim high? To dream of great happenings and endearing moments? The romantic in me says no. The realist in me says ‘get a f**kin hawd of yersel!‘.

Perhaps striking the balance might be what shapes this chapter as a decorated highlight in the ongoing novel that is my life..


The last few weeks I’ve been exploring various places in La France with my partner. We’ve mainly divided our time between the wonderful city of Lyon and the South of France. Over the coming weeks while i’m away i’ll be sharing various tales from our shenanigans, so keep updated by following the blog at the links provided. Cheers X

Appeasing the Masses.

When I began writing my blog I had a vision of what I wanted it to be. I knew all the things I wanted to discuss and to portray. Now, although I would like to apologise for the lack of content released recently, I must refuse.

You see, I don’t want to write for the sake of satisfying my desire to furiously fire out pages of work. It’s robotic, generic and really not authentic. And with the topics I want to investigate I firmly believe they simply deserve more.

The vision of a Wide-Eyed Scotsman is to focus on two separate wider topics without aggressively dividing the posts as such. For one, I love exploring. I get bored easily. I don’t enjoy staying in one place for too long and I can’t begin to comprehend those who choose not to delve further into anything outside of the world they know.

Of course, I understand it.

Maybe it’s true.. if something is not broken, why change it? If someone is happy, why would they feel it necessary to challenge that? Me being me, I don’t believe that has ever been familiar.

As a family we used to visit the South of Spain one week or two weeks at a time. I have some very fond memories of these trips. Some sadly not so fond but mostly (as the French would say) ils étaient très agréables. These were very typical, working-class, Costa Brava affairs; Causing mayhem at the pool while our easygoing European brethren looked on dismayed. Days at the beach often being ruined the moment someone realises the sand is too warm to set foot on. Excursions to Port Aventura with screaming weans who don’t want to wait two hours in the blistering heat to take on a roller-coaster they told their da’ they didn’t want to go on. Or wandering around the typical towns just far away enough from the bedlam ensuing in the tourist spots to feel like ‘the Real España!’   All in all it makes for a very Scottish holiday abroad.

At home all I knew were my surroundings and these opportunities to explore became special. And with the ho-hum trials and tribulations of everyday life being somewhat difficult to digest, finding that sense of gratification I mentioned earlier was to be more bothersome, wearing and complicated than the young me could have ever known. Which brings us onto the second topic..

I’ve always thought of myself as a heavy thinker. That being I think too much. My mother would often describe me as deep. I liked this to begin with. I had a fruitful imagination and occasionally wondered if I could achieve great feats like others such as J.R.R Tolkien. I wanted to create new worlds. But I never persisted and instead engaged in a lifestyle similar to a youngster in Clydebank. Football, the streets, console games and various other trivial things. Family life was also tough which affected the ability to pursue creative ambitions before plaguing my thoughts with impossible-to-answer questions, needless dilemmas and false scenarios. I was never an outgoing person at a young age, resulting in a habit of generally drifting to the side of any attention. I wasn’t confident and rarely felt good enough. My mates would be plodding along well with girlfriends and sporting achievements while I held on with relative insignificance at the rear.

Eventually confidence came with alcohol. A false bravado soothed by an empty promise of society’s way to a better world. As a result I like many others fell into the distraction trap and began measuring myself against the measures of drink I was consuming.

I wasn’t an alcoholic but I had issues. Anything that hurt me during the week would often unfold to a live audience at the weekend filled with those who had no business. Irrational, senseless and downright foolishness my actions would come to be, I sometimes take time to try understand why I acted this way. In my eyes it felt like life had disregarded me and left me at the bottom of a very big pile. I would react with deep frustration and aggression. The negativity in life made me a negative person. These are still issues I tackle today.  I don’t drink nearly as much anymore because I resent what it can do to me or what I can do to others through it. I don’t take drugs other than the prescribed pills i’m given in order to keep me relatively level-headed although there was a time when other influences fueled this illusion of well-being while plotting against me in the midst of my own skin.

This is what I want to address through my writing. I don’t want to bother my audience with weekly updates of information that would otherwise be simple to find in a holiday  brochure. Personally this is important and possibly life-changing. Travelling to me is much more than a status update or a like. It’s a personal project to help myself and to help others. I hold ambitions for the future to change where I come from for the better while gaining the fulfillment I have admired from afar since a time long gone by. I want to discuss things that others can’t or won’t. Recently there seems to be a recurring trend of ‘raising awareness’ and ‘promoting discussion’ without a genuine attempt being truly undertaken to tackle the dangers of our everyday lives. Why? I honestly do not know. There could be a thousand reasons but in the end life goes on and damage prevails while the preachers preach a ghostly prayer.

It’s not acceptable.

It’s helpful to no-one and dangerous for everyone.

The time to act is now.

The Art of Leaving.

Those first steps wreak havoc on a mans curious mind.

To leave was to fare on my own.

Without the loving mother whom I cherish so dear.

To this father of mine I normally keep near.

Of friends turned family and family turned friends, I gave up everything to seek better ends.

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For this life has given me enough to move on, amidst great hope that with wisdom I will return.

To complete my life aims I must venture on,

Beyond these grey walls and from these strong bonds.

The continent is vast with opportunities abound.

New experiences lie ahead; sweet lessons to be found.

———-

And so my dear home I give you my word,

Leaving you was imperative to grow.

Your concrete surroundings and your merciless approach,

Sends many into a haste-ridden frenzy.

You tarnish communities through systems of wrong.

Fuelled by a wickedness of a wallet grown strong.

Leaving those in control with filthy hands not yet rubbed.

Callously witnessing a delirium undisturbed.

———-

They say it takes courage to leave all behind.

But I can’t say for certain if I believe this is true.

I see many who stay despite all their woes;

They bravely hold fort, they boldly fight foes.

And thus we can answer our pigheaded question..

Does courage ascend from the people who go?

Perhaps there is depth to our meaningful journey,

But in the end it is from everyone that we see true strength grow.”

 

Thursday, 10th May. 2018.

‘The Art of Leaving’ by Aidan Meehan.

Rue de Dauphine, Lyon.

 

 

Where Am I Now? (Part 3)

”Growing up, you think you know everything.
About those places you see in pictures.
But to see is not to experience,
You have to be.

I visited this country just once before,
And I thought it had shown me everything I ought to know.
It seems a straightforward practice..
In this world of connection and instant dexterity.

And yet I sit here,
Sapped by the relentless stream of information.
Does this deter me?
No.

The pursuit of experience cannot be burdened.
It only begins to spark further enthusiasm.
And this manifestation crowns my decision
as legitimate and just.”

 

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It’s not been easy settling in to my new surrounding. But it has been rewarding. Despite the progress I’ve made in learning French it is a tricky challenge made more difficult thanks to the level of detail and history of a language spoken by approximately 220 million people throughout the world. There are only five other languages with more speakers and these are Mandarin Chinese (leading the way with over a billion speakers), English, Hindi, Spanish and Arabic. And as is the same with most languages spoken there are many different variations as a result of accents, social elements, natural progress and countless other important aspects. Being a hugely influential language worldwide French is absolutely no different and this is where I would maybe aim criticism at popular sources of language education. For it is often stated that the best method of learning a language is to thoroughly immerse yourself in the culture and I cannot agree more. When learning in school or using online apps like Duolingo (which I have used frequently in my own time) it is very easy to learn the basics to work off. However.. this will never help to fully prepare a person for a conversation with the average native person. Certain words and phrases I have heard very often provide evidence of such. Here are a few examples…

‘Balle’

Pronounced like b-a-l.. Not balls.  A slang term for money, it’s literal translation                    into English slang would be ‘quid’ or for the Kevin Bridges lovers out there…                        ‘Smackeroonies’.

‘Bordel’

This officially is the french word for brothel (hoor hoose for us Scots).                                    However  it’s often used to describe a mess.

‘Mec’

The slang term for man and is also used for boyfriend. Kind of like when a                        Scottish guy says ‘ma burd’. Obviously the roles are reversed so well done to the                  ladies of France.

‘Ouf’

Very similar to the Scottish term ‘ooft!’ this is used to describe something mental                and is the French word ‘Fou’ (crazy) spelled backwards. This is a fairly common                   throughout the country to use words in their backwards form as slang.

 

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”Eh donc,  ça c’est un truc de ouf..”

 

Comparing Scottish food culture and French food culture has been one of the most interesting things for me so far. There is a great importance placed on meals and socializing to the point where I have felt I spend most of my time at a dinner table. It’s a good way of communication and interaction. Phones are off. The TV is off. There are no distractions. Being from a home where the norm was to eat dinner on the couch with the dining table relegated to an ornament until Christmas rolled in means that I am not very accustomed to this.

 

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‘Cheese is very important to the French. That’s why I’m reppin’ Swiss.’

 

The stereotypes of wine, bread and cheese are 100% authentic. There are aisles in the supermarkets dedicated to cheese and the smell is absolutely rotten (I should mention that this is just my opinion and not based on scientific facts, although i’m sure most degree swingers would agree). Baguettes are forever present much to my pleasure and wine is also a big game changer in foody affairs. It says a lot about the population however that alcoholism doesn’t seem to be a major health issue. Maybe it is for others but when you’ve lived in the West of Scotland for the entirety of your existence it pales in comparison. The quality of beverage is better thanks to production regulations and a truly continental attitude towards the preservation of the liver.

 

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”The laid-back nature of Europeans..”

 

France is one of the most diverse countries in the world when it comes to geographical standings. Each section of the country is more closely linked to the neighboring countries and their various aspects of culture. In the East where I reside now is mostly vast expanses of mountains which travel deep into Italy and Switzerland.  Winter is a big season for the inhabitants here. Holidaygoers travel from all over the country and other parts of Europe during this period to make the most of the snow by Skiing, Snowboarding etc. and this has an effect on the local economy. Most businesses will make their money in Winter before shutting down for the summer while hiring enthusiastic staff keen to earn some money while enjoying the surroundings in their spare time. Therefore the majority of these people will aim to work through winter before enjoying a long summer break. Obviously, the potential to have a three month holiday is enticing but what does this mean for the time being? Long hours and very little days off which are used up aiming to do anything that hasn’t been done throughout the week. It can be and usually is very tiring. It all depends on personal preference I guess but I struggled with this. I spent most of my time working, eating, sleeping or drinking and I can feel the fatigue now even as I write. Physically my fitness is gone and mentally I have struggled to continue at a creative level I was achieving before I started. So while the advantages are there.. is the work/ life balance really sustainable? Or are most folk at breaking point by the end of the season?

 

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”Fin de saison.”

 

Considering how difficult the season can be it’s the people who make it easier to get through unscathed. I’m grateful to the people I met throughout my time. They made the experience worthwhile and I learned more from them than from any other website or textbook. My colleagues were fantastic and with our apartments all next to each other we formed a small community for the duration. I’ve heard many things about French people being historically moody or simply unpleasant but it could not be further from the truth. The customers aswell were mostly very receptive and often very cheerful when they discovered I was Scottish. Only two groups of people guessed this, which brings me on to my next statement… SCOTTISH PEOPLE AREN’T ENGLISH. It’s all in good nature but if you can’t remember Mel Gibson’s famous (even if historically tainted) blockbuster ‘Braveheart’ then sorry troops but it’s jist no gonny fly that way.

 

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”And if HE were here, he’d consume the English with fireballs from his eyes.. and bolts of lightning from his arse!”

 

I had some great interactions in work. Many folk spoke about the ginger hair bellowing from my head and face (I let the beard grow out for a few months) while others continued to play ‘Guess the Nationality’. I was English, Irish, American, French-Canadian and even Swiss or Belgian. There seems to be some confusion about Scotland and the UK. It is often referred to as a region within Great Britain. I have to say this was fairly irritating even if understandable. People are only given information and in fairness the United Kingdom has become increasingly irrelevant while simultaneously being horrendously slaughtered by it’s European counterparts thanks to the way its been dealt with.

 

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”The Real Queen Elizabeth.”

 

A fleeting conversation I had with a gentleman from South Africa has stayed with me due to it’s insightful nature. This man was French by heritage and he claimed during the colonization of the country the Dutch banned the French navy workers from speaking the language in order to halt any possible revolutions. They were forced to learn Dutch and thus the French culture is only remembered by the ancestors (such as the Monsieur mentioned) and the names of towns and districts still preserving their distinctly French names. I found this fascinating however I’m still very unsure of it’s truth. If anyone could add to this or rectify any wrong points, I would be most grateful.

As stated in my previous post I would continue to share music currently soundtracking my journey. Here’s another popular French song by a well-known group here, and the video is quite a laugh too..