My least favourite places to visit

IMHO these three are the worst places to visit in France. That said, their equivalents in other countries are probably no better.

1. Any mobile phone/internet provider shop

My own experiences are strictly limited to Orange but judging by the queues outside the other operators in France, they’re probably similar. Thanks to having our own company, we’ve managed to move all of our services onto a “Pro” basis. The advantage being we get “service” 24/7 and we can book an appointment with a dedicated “Pro” advisor at our local Orange shop.

However the advice, particularly when we’re talking “internet,” only goes so far because we’ve had an extension fitted so that our WiFi reaches beyond the walls of the office. We had said extension fitted by a specialist arm of Orange pitched at larger corporates, rather than ourselves, which offers an all-singing, all-dancing service costing an arm and a leg, and the rest of one’s torso. We’re currently waiting to access FIBRE which we fervently hope will give us greater capacity and a speedier service.

2. Any pharmacy

The French are by and large all hypochondriacs and, if they’re feeling under the weather,¬† their first port of call is the local pharmacy – there’s one every 100 metres. Okay, so that’s a slight exaggeration! But go into any pharmacy and you’ll generally find a long queue. Admittedly many of those queueing will be elderly and probably looking to have a friendly chat with someone about their various ailments.The outlaw (my mother-in-law) would love it here!

The pharmacists are all very knowledgable and will quiz you about your symptoms to ensure they’re suggesting the best rather than the priciest¬† products. My favourite pharmacy, largely because it’s a little goldmine, is in the Cap 3000 shopping mall in Saint Laurent du Var. It has an unrivalled selection of goodies, masses of staff, is always full of customers and has security on its doors.

Of course, the pharmacies lighten the load of the local doctors. Most are privately owned by the pharmacist, there are few pharmacy chains in France – or indeed in most of Europe. There’s (fortunately) no equivalent of Boots or Wallgreens.

3. The Post Office

Most French Post Offices are well-organised with plenty of machines to weigh and frank your post, thereby minimising the number of staff. Again, there’s a “Pro” service which allows you to jump those inevitably long queues, providing there’s someone staffing the desk. The problem is that once again the place is generally full of the elderly – you know I don’t include myself in that description – who are unable/incapable of operating said machines. Many of them use the Post Office bank and always seem to require counter assistance. I’ve found the only way to hurry them up is to give them a helping hand. While they can use the Post Office during the week, they seem to prefer Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings!

I seem to spend an inordinately long time each week at our main Post Office. During the summer, it’s a nightmare parking nearby as it’s close to the beach and is one of the few roads with free car parking, so there’s rarely a space. Of course, they could install those machines which allow you to park for 15 minutes only but any trip to the Post Office generally takes at least 30 minutes!