…Plus ce n’est plus la même chose ! 🙂

As I sit in my sister’s apartment on the coast of Brittany this Easter, the thought comes to mind that it’s nearly five decades since my first visit to France as a callow schoolboy in 1971.

This realisation has prompted me to consider just how much France has changed – albeit gradually but nevertheless steadily – over the intervening years. Below are four (for the sake of brevity. Ed.) obvious changes your ‘umble scribe has noticed have changed, haven’t changed and are completely new.

Things that have changed or are now apparently rare

  • The distinctive smell of French built-up areas, the odour being composed mostly of bad plumbing and the pungent aroma of Gauloises and Gitanes.
  • Mopeds, particularly the 50cc Mobylette or front wheel drive Solex, plus the classic Citroën 2CV.
  • In one and a half weeks here, I have yet to see someone working for the French state wearing a kepi. This headgear is now only worn by Customs officers and gendarmes on ceremonial occasions and by the military on “appropriate occasions”.
  • The lack of public conveniences; the average small French local authority now has more public loos than even large city authorities in the UK (who’ve been shutting theirs under austerity and costs-savings measures. Ed.).
Solex and kepi

The Solex and the kepi – destined for obsolescence?

Things that haven’t changed

  • Grumpy-looking gendarmes and police officers.
  • The excellent quality of food on markets and in supermarkets and shops, plus affordable prices for alcoholic beverages.
  • French motorists’ psychopathic attitude to other motorists and contrasting extreme courtesy to cyclists.
  • Drinkable coffee and lovely hot chocolate in bars and cafés.


  • Ubiquitous cycle helmets, along with cycle routes and cycle lanes.
  • Roundabouts working on the same principal as in the UK (traffic on the roundabout has priority over that entering) have proliferated in the last 2 decades.
  • Pre-packed British style sandwiches on sale in supermarkets, along with ready meals: definitely a retrograde step. 🙁
  • Major stores opening on Sundays.

If any readers wish to add to either list, comments are welcome below.