Europe Dispatch: The Very Long Drive – A Summary

The further you get from Paris, the more pleasant the French become. Regardless, they still manage to retain the classic Gallic qualities of doing what they please and really not caring what you think. This is admirable in some respects, but infuriating when you expected the store to be open during its posted business hours.
Any visit to France leaves you wondering how they have an economy. Case in point: They close most businesses from 12:00pm to 2:30pm for lunch. At 1:15pm we go to a restaurant with plenty of seats. The hostess says “I won’t seat you” and walks away. We find another restaurant where the waitress grudgingly agrees to seat us after declaring half the menu off limits.
The first person to introduce baguette-length bags to France will make millions. The current system is to wrap a tiny paper square around the mid-section of your three-foot stick of bread and lay it on the counter.
The first person to introduce the concept of not handling money and food at the same time may not make millions but will endear themselves to germ freaks.
France makes some of the ugliest cars in the world. Whoever designed the Renault Megane should be exiled.
You have to love a country so cultured that you can find $275 bottles of wine sitting on the supermarket shelves. The best my local New York supermarket can do is a $3.99 bottle of Chateau Diana “wine product.”
The French enjoy amazing food yet they are not fat. This is because they have learned that eating lots of food makes you fat. This is something that I hope Americans will one day figure out.
A very small, silly monarchy that resembles Las Disney Vegas World because it feels fake, gaudy, and has huge crowds of slobbering tourists.
Citizens have one of the highest standards of living in the world, thanks in no small part to its status as a tax haven, not to mention the casino that lets Russian oligarchs launder their billions.
Italians travel in packs of twenty and drive like they’re fleeing a volcano.
All Swiss people do is hike the gorgeous countryside in shorts whilst remaining neutral.
A country so small and army-less that my son’s pre-school class could invade and occupy it between song circle and snack time. Its prince once threatened to sell the country to Bill Gates.
An absolutely picturesque country that gave us Schwarzenegger, Freud and Hitler.
The Autobahn. There is no greater automotive bliss than being able to drive 110/mph without worrying that a toothless Massachusetts State Trooper will walk out into the middle of the highway and flag you down.
Germans know what the left hand lane is for and will actually get out of the way of faster cars. This is because in Germany, as in many European countries, drivers licenses are earned rather than handed out with Happy Meals.
For some reason German cab drivers lock the back windows closed and drive with minimal air conditioning.
Germans tend to speak excellent English, they have great beers and anyone over 80 could have run a death camp.
Once people in Poland realize you’re not Polish they start speaking to you in German. Once they realize you’re not German they continue speaking to you in German in the hopes that you’ll pick it up.
Rusting cars, the dreaded Fiat Maluch, tour buses and newly-moneyed meatheads in shiny BMWs – all trying to overtake slow-moving tractors and wheat combines on narrow, collapsing, communist-era roads lined with thick trees every five feet. Excellent combination.