Gordon:  We have survived “Black Saturday”, the busiest day of the year on the highways of France.  Many people still take their annual vacation in August, and this was the kickoff weekend.  According to the media, the roads, hotels and campgrounds are all at the bursting point as people make their way to their holiday destination, often the sea or the mountains.  Fortunately, we were almost oblivious to all this movement, as we have spent the weekend almost entirely on bike paths running beside canals.

While much of the working population is temporarily away from work in August, more permanent changes are occurring that lead to the chronically high unemployment rate. We have previously commented about the loss of bakeries and food stores in small towns in France, victims of the car culture and supermarkets, but we have noticed some new changes on this trip.
We book most of our hotels through an app that finds good rates in a specified area.  As a result we have encountered the future of budget hotels, and it doesn’t involve a lot of employees.  Chains such as F1 and B&B Hotels (a very deceptive corporate name) have an electronic check-in process and provide minimal services, with the result that at certain times of the day you would be hard pressed to find an employee on the premises.  These are large chains, with hundreds of hotels, and they are successful because cheap people like ourselves are willing to accept fewer amenities if a hotel room costs a little less.

Another innovation we noticed today is the automated baguette dispenser.  We passed several towns where these vending machines have replaced the boarded-up bakeries.  A local who was purchasing a loaf assured us it was as good as one from a bakery, and they can be bought 24/7.  The price is comparable to a bakery.

Of course these types of changes in the economy are occurring everywhere, and it leaves me feeling relieved that I no longer have to participate in the world of employment.
On a personal note, today marks the anniversary of Ruth and I commencing our relationship.  It has been 26 years since we began our cross-species (Amazon/Troll) breeding efforts.  Although we have yet to have any tangible output , we continue with our efforts.  I am sure that it is just a coincidence that the hotel where we are celebrating our anniversary is located on Rue de la Sinne.  Really. 

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