Back in Seattle after 10.5hr. Flight on Delta.
Upon returning home, I often think about things that the Europeans do so well, and of course things that they don’t do so well. Just as there are things that we do very well in the USA and things that we don’t do well. For instance, restaurants: French restaurants tend to be very closely seated and people speak in fairly hushed voices. There are NO Televisions! Noise level encourages conversation. Often lighting is very bright. USA restaurants tend to have televisions everywhere, even in expensive restaurants. Noise levels, at least in San Francisco places have become so oppressive that there are many places with good food that are untenable because of the noise. Lighting tends to be much more subdued in restaurants in the USA. Menus tend to be very regional in europe, so, in any given town, many of the restaurants serve exactly the same menu. We definitely have a greater variety of food in most US cities of any size. Transit: It’s amazing to me but almost every European bus made is less noisy than every bus in the USA. Not sure why our transit systems can’t spec out quieter mufflers, since often it is the exact same manufacturer. I know it can be done. In Europe the expectation is that you can reasonably get around almost anywhere with out a personal car. Sometimes it’s more convenient than others, but for example, in Chamonix, a lift ticket entitles you to ride on the buses. Paris has the metro, which has been running at about 4 minutes between trains. Wonderful. Not sure why we can’t get our transit right here, but I do know that General Motors deliberately bought up municipal transit companies and put them out of business so they could sell more cars. Trains are generally great and you can get almost anywhere in Europe by fast train in a comfortable manner. The advantage being that the train in addition to being more comfortable usually takes you right to the center of town. Cafes: It’s wonderful that you can sit on the sidewalk and enjoy a coffee or a drink anywhere in Europe. Less wonderful is that at least in France, the coffee is terrible. Wifi is generally available, but often not fast enough to be useable in Europe. The good part of this is that you rarely see a cafe full of “laptop clones” as is so common in Seattle. Accommodation: Many buildings in Europe are really old, so in general things are smaller and funkier. With the new LED lighting, it will be nice when hallways are lit at least at some minimal level. Right now, most buildings have a button to press and the lights invariably go out midway up to wherever you are headed leaving you in the pitch black. Not sure why motion sensors aren’t more common. French condos, or coproprietes, seem to be reluctant to spend a dime on any public area or on building maintenance, so often, even thought the unit you are staying in is fantastic, the lobby and the stairs will be terribly shabby and poorly maintained. Not sure what that’s about. Airports: While the US has its share of crummy airports, for the most part they are better thought out than most European airports. For example, I changed planes at CDG this time and ended up in terminal 2, beautiful architecture, light pleasant. However, no bathrooms anywhere near the gates, no drinking fountains, no food anywhere near the gates. This is a huge terminal, seems amazing you wouldn’t put a bathroom near the far end. Other European airports, such as Frankfurt, forgot to put gates and jetways, so you end up parking out in the next country and taking a bus to the terminal. Bologna has 3 flights of stairs down to the ramp, not really compatible with most travelers roller bags. Amsterdam is pretty good and run with Dutch efficiency, but at times it can take 30 minutes to taxi to the airport. You can see if off in the distance out the window looming like Camelot or Brigadoon.