I wanted to call this post “France is shit” or, when I qualified it, “Annemasse is shit” and these thoughts kept me going today in the icy cold morning as I walked the 4.5km or so each way between the Swiss border at Thonex and the Decathlon store in Annemasse. I could have taken the bus, of course, but walking is what I do, so walking is what I did.

The weather got me down a bit. The forecast had predicted sunshine and highs of around 4 degrees. There wasn’t any such high while we were out. And the sunshine stayed firmly above the thick inpenetrable cloud that hung over Geneva and Annemasse today. Mtoto was excited at the start of the day. He knew we were going to France and he knows from his maps book that France is another country. We had a bit of fun between the two border controls as Mtoto asked where Switzerland was. I swivelled the buggy round and pointed, “there’s Switzerland”. Mtoto asked where France was. I swung the buggy back and pointed and said “there’s France”. Mtoto could have gone on a lot longer with this game, whereas I tired after pointing each out about three times.

The first thing I noticed that was crap about Annemasse was the pavements. Really, in just a few metres we were on pavements that were in poor condition. They merged with other bad pavements. There were holes, there were ruptures. There were rarely dropped kerbs at the end and if there were, they were often blocked by parked cars. Cars were parked all over the place too, especially on pavements, especially blocking the whole pavement so that we had to go in the road. In one road they hadn’t bothered with a pavement and still the cars were parked haphazardly. There were lots of signs and information boards and posts placed as if in the most obstructing place possible.

So those were the main reasons that I wanted to say that France is shit or Annemasse is shit. But it wouldn’t have been fair. Especially not on France, which is otherwise lovely in my experience and especially just a few weeks ago when we visited friends in Divonne. And Annemasse isn’t so bad really.

The first redeeming feature about Annemasse was that there was less dog poo on the streets than in Geneva. Still quite a bit and still spread across the pavement, but over all it felt like less. At the edge of the park was possibly a reason why. There was a space, perhaps only a few square metres, for dogs to poo in. And it was outside the park fence, whereas in Geneva these spaces are inside the park and consequently there is dog poo all over the whole of our parks.

Annemasse’s second redeeming feature was the playground in Park de Montessuit. Recently refurbished (Google Street View shows construction works in the park), it offers two playgrounds for different age groups. Mtoto’s playground had several climbing frames and slides, three rockables and a big see-saw. Apart from the hard cold ice and frost we had a good time. The tea towel we keep for wiping playing equipment dry was kept very busy! My favourite moment was when Mtoto climbed onto the motorbike rockable and asked me to join him in the sidecar. I didn’t fit going forwards, so I had to sit in it backwards and gently rock us back and forth. When he wanted to go faster, I had to get off!

Decathlon was just like Decathlon in the UK, except that the staff were French rather than eastern European. We bought a Hamax bike seat for my Mtoto to ride on my bike, a helmet for him (big shout out to Etienne for his help!) and lots of extra running kit for me.

Me: Do you like this t-shirt?

Mtoto: No Pappa, I do not like it.

Me: Do you like this jumper?

Mtoto: Is there a smaller size for me Pappa? Why are you taking your trousers off Pappa?

Me: Because I need to know if the running trousers fit.

Mtoto: I don’t want you to take your trousers off Pappa.

It was that sort of day. Mtoto didn’t like anything I tried on, but he did like Kevin’s biscuits. Our friend Kevin recently stayed over and he and his wife brought us a pack of goodies from the UK, including McVities Digestives. Mtoto like Kevin’s Biscuits a lot! Decathlon and its prices were the third big redeeming feature for Annemasse. So much so that we’ll be back to visit the shops again. We will probably do more park exploring too, as long as it is a bit warmer!

Janathon times for today:

2.24km in 20:38 (to the park).

2.62km in 29:34 (from the park, to Decathlon including time to stop and consult the internet after a wrong-turning).

4.60km in 42:19 (distance is an educated guess based on Google Maps after Endomondo lost GPS signal after 0.7km and didn’t find it again for the next 3.8km or so, grrrr).

The birds list continues:

25. Chaffinch (seen in the park)

26. Common gull (seen yesterday, forgot to add)

27. Feral pigeon (seen every day, remembered to name it today)