Sweet France

La douce France, sweet France, land of fragrant food and refreshing wine, celebrates her 217th birthday as a Republic today, her Fête Nationale. A festive day!

Vegetable pie.JPG Wine at Conty.JPG Risotto at Conty.JPG
Summer supper at Le Conty in Beaune: vegetable quiche; 500-ml bottle of Mercurey; risotto with shiitake mushrooms, asparagus points and hazelnuts, perfumed with dill and blue cornflowers.

Tourism is the number one industry here by far. It's a land of 65 milllion, give or take, who welcome 75 million visitors a year, more than any other country. Yet it's fragmented: tough convincing a mechanic that he's part of "tourism" even though he fixes the tractor that plows the vineyard that produces the wine that draws visitors to Burgundy in the first place.

And why do Americans come? Cultural history and gastronomy are the biggest attractions. What the French call art de vivre. We stay an average of 9 days, about as long as Irish tourists, but the Irish go to the beaches and religious sites. Indians, Japanese and Hong Kong Chinese go shopping. Israelis and Swedes go skiing. Norwegians go barging. Italians go to spas. Mexicans go sightseeing. Visitors from the Emirates are into soft adventures. Chinese and South Koreans are into historic monmuments.

Germans and Brits are the most numerous visitors, by the way. North Americans account for maybe 5 percent. Still comes to 3 million a year, but not the be-all and end-all we like to think.

The French Government Tourist Office has published a booklet to help hospitality professionals keep track of the preferences of visitors from three dozen countries. Rye bread at breakfast for the Finns, lunch at 3 PM for the Spaniards. Good morning is Goedendag for the Flemish, Bom dia for Brazilians. They know their wines in Luxembourg. Contrary to myth, Japanese eat more than just fish. 'Merkins want a glass of water with dinner, call the main course their "entree" and expect coffee before dessert. Mon dieu! it's no wonder the waiter has trouble keeping things straight.

Could it be that 'Merkin travelers--used to being the center of attention at home--make for bad tourists overseas? Not all, to be sure. But the self-absorbed loudmouths who aren't happy unless they have all the comforts of home (stall showers; non-fat fromage, double-tall Diet Cokes; double-wide king-sized beds; "customer-is-king" deferential service), well, maybe they should just stay home.

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This page contains a single entry by Cornichon published on July 14, 2006 7:52 AM.

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