Travel log Maigret's journeys in France
Arpajon / Avrainville
La nuit du carrefour - 1
Paray-le-Frésil - Châteauneuf-sur-Loire - Sancerre - Arpajon / Avrainville - 2 - Dizy - Givet - Meung-sur-Loire - Ingrannes - Poissy/Orgeval - Nemours/Glandelles - St.-Fargeau - Le-Coudray-Montceaux - Morsang-sur-Seine - Vichy - Jeumont
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Arpajon / Avrainville Essonne(91) - Ile de France
South of Paris
Avrainville, the village where the crossroad in La nuit du carrefour is situated, is to be found 3.5 km (2 mi) south of the town of Arpajon (9.056 inh.).
Historically Arapjon used to be an important transshipment town for vegetables coming from the regions south of Paris and going to "Les Halles", the famous Parisian wholesale market for foods.
Therefore the N20 highway, on which the crossroad from the novel is located, from Orléans to Paris always was an important access route to the capital.
"La Grande Rue" in Arpajon early 1900's
The N20 at Arpajon, direction Etampes early 1900's The N20 at Avrainville in 2003
Almost the whole region south of Paris as far as Etampes (50km, 30 mi) became part of "la banlieue Parisienne" - the belt of Parisian suburbs - .
The largest part of the territory seems to be taken in by motorways, traffic junctions and traffic circles, power lines, department stores, trash heaps and car graveyards.
The outlook on a social and human level is not much healthier. Poverty, questionable housing, ominous boroughs and intimidating groups of seedy-looking individuals are ubiquitous.
Claude Menguy mentions in one of his articles "the aggressiveness" of the region south of Paris in comparison with Simenon's time.
Paris "la banlieue" - Outskirts of the capital
It is astonishing that, going south, this feeling changes abruptly. Just about at Etampes a rural outlook takes over. The towns become friendlier, the people seem to be more at ease, the landscape becomes more serene.
The small village of Avrainville, situated almost right on the frontier between the bustling and the tranquil, is a calm, picturesque and so charmingly French oasis.
The French in traffic
Traffic in France, especially in this area is frantic! The driving habits of the average French means an extra impede if you want to make your way by car, in one piece, on French highways.
The French are no "gentlemen" in traffic. Once on the road, most of them forget all about the refined manners they usually put forth.
Behind the wheel they are sturdy and jagged, aggressive and much too fast. In a car, patience and tolerance are the last things on their mind.
One of the most dangerous traffic-points in the world, the roundabout at the "Arc de Triomphe" in Paris (Photo: Stephen Parks) Obviously some efforts are being made to reduce the number of accidents
Statistics of fatality rates in traffic in Europe put France on the 5th place, after Spain and before Belgium. Portugal is the "front runner". If it wasn't for the excellent quality of the roads and the traffic infra-structure in France, I'm convinced they would score much higher.
It must be said though, that because of stringent measures, mortality and accident rates dropped considerably during the last year.
In daily life French people, in general, are nice, amiable and tolerant. Isn't it strange that they become a kind of rowdies, once behind the steering wheel of a car?
The French as "polyglots"
"Mathematicians are like French: whatever you say to them they translate into their own language and forthwith it is something entirely different."
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe -
A few years ago a secretary in the Dutch government caused an international incident by saying: "France is a magnificent country, it is only deplorable the French live there". The Dutch "minister-president" had to apologize publicly for this untactful statement.
I certainly don't agree with the "judgment" of the Dutch minister, on the contrary, I think most French are pleasant and agreeable people. Being Belgian myself and therefore in between the two parties I know what the problem is: language!
Most Dutch people speak, besides their own language, also English, but almost no French.
The French are very chauvinistic about their language. For a very long time they considered their language as the world's most important means of expression. Historically they were not totally wrong, but times change. Because of this linguistic bigotry the educational system did not pay much attention to the tuition of foreign languages. This results in a very scanty knowledge of English by most French people and catching up the arrears is not evident. It will take an intensified effort during a few generations. And let's be frank, what I call linguistic narrow-mindedness, is far from only a French problem.
All this to elucidate another seamy side of a visit to France: searching thoroughly for information and facts without knowledge of the language is impossible. If you don't speak the lingo, you will be very limited in building contacts with the autochthones and even have a good chance of being ignored.
We all have our downsides.
French in the world. In the dark areas French is spoken as a native language. In the lighter areas only a part of the population speaks French.
Go to Arpajon / Avrainville - 2
Paray-le-Frésil - Châteauneuf-sur-Loire - Sancerre - Arpajon / Avrainville - 2 - Dizy - Givet - Meung-sur-Loire - Ingrannes - Poissy/Orgeval - Nemours/Glandelles - St.-Fargeau - Le-Coudray-Montceaux - Morsang-sur-Seine - Vichy - Jeumont
Home Page - summary of works - Travel log (main page)