May 12th- Ham and Cheese

I realized that I did not talk enough about our visit with Emeric François… And that’s an enormous shame, because it’s been my favorite part of the trip so far. His workshop was a very comfortable and homey environment- definitely somewhere if buy from if I had $40,000… One of the bigges things about his business that stood out to me was the fashion shows. He not only turns them into theatrical performances, but he sells the performances on their own. It’s absolutely revolutionary for his business. Nobody else in the industry does that. We watched one of them, and it was incredible. Very weird, but still incredible. He was such a fascinating guy to watch and listen to. He absolutely motivates me. The way he didn’t care about becoming a huge, well-known designer was so great. I really felt like I agreed with most everything he said- like how for him, it’s better to have a few faithful clients rather than lots of one-timers. Those are the kind of relationships we should all seek out in business (and in life) I think. He does have some really interesting clients, too- like the 4th most powerful Saudi Arabian. Holy shit. I could’ve listened to him all day, and he didn’t condescend to us. He even jumped off the “stage” a few times so that he could be on the same level as us while he was speaking.  He’s just such a respectable guy; I’d love to talk to him again if I ever have the chance.
Maybe I’ll message him on Facebook.
Today, though, was a whole different animal. Not only did the pace of our visit to Airbus greatly differ from our visit to Emeric François, but so did the atmosphere. The Airbus visit was much more formal and more technical, but it also felt like our guide was kind of just talking at us from a script she knows by heart. There is nothing wrong with that, though, it was the right context for that type of rhetoric, it was just different from the very personal conversation we had with François. It was such an interesting visit! I’ve never even thought about the assembly and production of planes before. It’s a really astounding process. In Toulouse, final parts from the UK, France, Germany and Spain all come together. They’re then assembled into a plane by hand. Quality assurance I guess! Boeing, the American competitor of Airbus, has a very different process. All parts are made and all pieces are assembled in one country. It’s kind of cool that these companies are very, very close competitors, yet the processes are completely different.
I guess it shows that there’s always more than one way to successfully do something.
There weren’t too many inside things we could learn about the company- you know, there are dangers to that! Espionage, trade secrets, terrorism and the like. That’s why we needed our passports to get in. The French don’t even report their companies’ profits! We were completely unable to find the profit margin of the company because of this. What we did learn, however was that although the cost of the planes is in Euros but the price is in dollars (because apparently international trade is conducted in USD). Also, apparently the universal measure for altitude is in feet. I guess that just makes it easier for safety and international communication!
Boeing can disclose their profits, so Airbus’ can definitely be pretty closely estimated. Thad companies are in such close competition that when one releases a new plane (like Airbus’ new A380), the country/countries where the other is located won’t buy it for a few years. Speaking of A380s, you can stand INSIDE THE WING. That’s how big these planes are- there’s room enough in the wing to stand. Crazy! I feel like at this point I know more about Airbus than any other company in the travel business. It’s pretty great!

Pictures weren’t allowed at Airbus, so here’s a selfie from when we 
weren’t sure if we’d get to shower before our visit there.

I just wanted to take a quick moment during this entry to talk a little about industry, since by now I’ve experienced the food, fashion and flight aspects of the trip. We haven’t officially done anything with food yet, but I’ve eaten enough food while I’ve been here to know a thing or two. It definitely seems that these are the tree biggest industries in France, with the addition of one more… Tourism. I think that since parts for Airbus’ planes are not only manufactured across Europe but in different parts of France, and plane manufacturing is a multi-billion dollar business, it really brings France a lot of revenue. An enormous part of the manufacture of Airbus planes is centered in France, so it’s only right that there would be a large profit here. Also, French airlines such as Air France have at least some priority when ordering planes from Airbus. There is a fairly balanced relationship between France and Airbus- Airbus has a sure customer, and France is provided with better service. Fashion of course, is another enormous industry. Paris is an enormous epicenter of fashion in Europe and in the world, and has been through most of its existence. People travel from around the world to buy clothes in France, or to purchase from French designers. There’s even some prestige in the title “French designer.” Emeric said one of his less expensive dresses were near $40,000… so imagine the revenue brought in by bigger name designers. Food is similar, in that people travel the world to eat French food. It’s why I chose this trip, actually. Plus the food is expensive. I guess the French take real pride in their food too!
Okay well that’s enough for this entry about the industries- I’ll write again about their impacts besides revenue in another post soon.

This short adventure in Toulouse has been a bit of a train wreck (minus Airbus,  of course! That was rad)… Not only do far fewer people here speak English than in parks because it’s not really a tourist destination so there’s not really a point (I’m at least figuring out the basis of French a tiny bit!), but our experience has been a little sketchy. A bunch of the girls have apparently been creeped on, followed and even chased down. It must be clear we’re American tourists too, because a bunch of people have had pretty close calls with pickpockets too. None of that has happened to me in this city, but I did have an encounter with a scary, intimidating, yelling French bar owner. On the perpetual quest for legal alcohol, a large part of the group decided to hit the college bars in town tonight. I want to spend some more time with the group and get a drink or two (it ended up being just one). We met a random 30ish year-old Arizonan man who decided to tag along. That sketched me out a lot- John and Amanda were thankfully with us- but he didn’t end up doing anything creepy (that I know of). I guess that means he was nice?
Not sure.
Anyways, since we were such a large group, we had to sit separated into smaller ones. Ours had a face off. Scary French mafioso vs. American tourists. Fight!
In actuality, I was terrified. Our waitress over charged us by about £25 for two or three drinks (not sure) that we definitely didn’t order. We tried to correct it- nobody wants to pay for something they weren’t even served- and she seemed receptive (she spoke English fairly well)… But it wasn’t long before the huge bar owner was over to intimidate us. He yelled as us in French, despite our objections that we did not speak French. He finally stopped when somebody said we would pay it (we didn’t) and he walked away. He clearly spoke English, and just chose to yell at us in French. The waitress returned to argue with us and curse at us in french (nice! Professionalism at its finest!). She then left to tell 3 other bartenders (men) about us and glare while they came ocsd go.
It was all great. So much fun. Literally NOTHING like this happened to the other table! After another attempt to reason with the waitress came up fruitless except for an admission that it was her first day (clearly a lie– she knew every single drink the bar served and recited them confidently and flawlessly… Which was a lot). First day, my ass.
We left without paying the exorbitant charges (we paid for the drinks we ordered and were served, nothing more) which freaked me out because I thought for sure someone would yell at us, follow us or attack us… But we made it home safely.

Toulouse, looking way less scary than I just described.

On a side note, I had my first authentic ham & cheese- excuse me- jambon et fromage sandwich; just like the ones Mary Beth has been describing all semester. It exceeded expectations! I would never order a ham and cheese stateside because I’d just end up with white bread, shitty lunchmeat and American cheese.

The bar where that fateful ham & cheese was served

Looking forward to a day of caves and kayaks.

Here’s to surly bar owners,
– Maddie


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