Travel Thursday: Strange French geography

The other day, one of my favorite French singers, Patrick Fiori, posted his new fall tour dates on Facebook. I was lucky enough to see him perform (twice!) while I was in France last year, so I don’t really care where he goes next. But honestly, I have no idea where any of these places are. Here’s a partial list.

21/09/12    REVEL (31)
22/09/12    RIVESALTES (66)
05/10/12    SANARY SUR MER (83)
06/10/12    LA GRANDE MOTTE (34)
13/10/12    AVESNES SUR HELPE (59)
20/10/12    JASSANS RIOTTIER (01)
26/10/12    POUGUES LES EAUX (58)
27/10/12    LARAJASSE (69)
09/11/12    BRESSUIRE (79)
17/11/12    MONTFERMEIL (93)
22/11/12    CAGNES SUR MER (06)
23/11/12    MANOSQUE (04)
24/11/12    MARIGNANE (13)
10/01/13    VOIRON (38)
11/01/13    LE PUY EN VELAY (43)
31/01/13    SAINT AVOLD (67)
02/02/13    DIVONNE LES BAINS (01)

Don’t worry, I didn’t leave out anywhere important (unless you happen to live there in which case, I apologize for saying your home is unimportant, and I thank you for taking the time to read my blog in your tiny French village). Notice something missing? Or someplace, I should say. There’s no Paris. No Lyon. No Marseille. No Bordeaux or Nice or Toulouse or Strasbourg or… anyplace anyone outside of the town itself has ever heard of.

It’s not unusual for French artists to do this either. I really wanted to see Nolwenn Leroy (winner of Star Academy Season 2) while she was promoting her new album last year, but I never had the chance. I was living in Rouen, one of the 15 biggest cities in France, but the closest she ever came to Rouen was Vernon – a one-hotel, no trains after 9pm, type of town, about an hour away.

Looking at the list of tour dates above, I can’t even begin to guess where most of them are. France is divided into administrative areas called “departments” which are kind of like the states in the United States. There are more than 90 departments, and for the most part, nobody refers to them by name. They’re referred to by the first two digits of the postal code. Can you imagine? Americans can’t even keep the postal abbreviations straight for all the “M” states. (Pop quiz! MI = Michigan or Mississippi? MO = Montana or Missouri?) To make matters more complicated, the department numbers aren’t in any logical order. You live in department #1, so department #2 must be the one next door, right? Wrong! Here’s a map.

French Departments by Number
I can understand why a performer on tour would want to spread the love to smaller cities and towns, especially if they just had shows in the big cities last year. But can you see a major American artist going on tour and not playing at Madison Square Garden or the Staples Center? Can you picture Madonna saying, “Hey guys, we played Chicago, Atlanta, and Houston last year. This time I really want to go to Fargo and Helena and Boise.” That’d be great for the people of Fargo, but let’s face it, not gonna happen!

It just doesn’t make sense economically in a country as big as ours. There’s a lot of real estate to cover, so artists have to perform in the cities where they can get the most bang for their buck. There are probably more cows in Fargo than people, and the cows probably aren’t big concert-goers. (There I go insulting another bunch of possible blog-readers. Sorry Fargoans!)

P.S. Curiosity and the existence of Google got the best of me, so I just looked it up. Apparently Bob Dylan is playing at the Fargo Civic Center in August. So, um… go Fargo! (Don’t worry. There’s still nothing to do in Boise.)

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2 Responses to Travel Thursday: Strange French geography

  1. Seycen says:

    I know two of these – Cagnes sur Mer is just down the road from us, you could get a bus from Nice, and you could get to Marignane on a bus from Marseilles. I’m a bit puzzled by the map tho’, we’re in 06 (bottom right, and next to us are 83 and 13, but the map shows 86 and 16…) P.S. the departments are in an order – its alphabetical – very French!

    • nicoleegidio says:

      I knew that someone who actually lived in an area near some of these towns would recognize the names. Lucky you, you can go see Patrick Fiori in concert! (If you’re a fan, of course.) But you have to admit most of the names on that list of tour dates are pretty obscure! And you’re right, the departments are alphabetical, so I *guess* that makes sense, but unless you know where all the departments are already (which I’m guessing a lot of French people don’t know… many Americans have problems placing the 50 states and there are only 50!) referring to them by number is still going to be mighty complicated!

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