I just returned from a two-week vacation in Paris, the Rhone River Valley, and Barcelona, and wish to report that socialism, with all its predictable ills, is alive and festering in France and Spain.
First, the good news. The French still know how to cook, and the Spanish still know how not to let work interfere with life. French pasty shops still look like jewel boxes and French cheese still has a delectable goût that the pasteurized, processed gunk sold as cheese in U.S. grocery stores will never match. Barcelona has tapas and some delightfully satisfying cava. Famously, Barcelona also has Gaudí, the Dr. Seuss of architecture and genius behind the Sagrada Familia Cathedral and Park Güell.
Now, some not-so-good news. Graffiti in Paris and Barcelona is everywhere, including on historical landmarks, public thoroughfares, and shuttered storefronts. The stones of Notre Dame are disintegrating. Bridges over the Seine are defaced with "love locks" that once might have seemed quaint, but now pose a visible blight and a structural hazard (due to the weight of all the locks). France's protestors, malcontents, unemployed, and poorly prepared youth desecrate La Place de la République, sight of the Je Suis Charlie Hebdo, post-Islamic-massacre demonstrations.
In Barcelona, the walls of the city's Roman-era and medieval Gothic Quarter, especially, the store fronts, are emblazoned with spray-painted "tagger" logos and separatist slogans. Our private tour guides referred to the graffiti as "free expression.'' I hold a different opinion. I think the graffiti in Paris and Barcelona is a sign of social illness. The authorities in charge don't care. Our American-born tour guide in Paris told us that le flic (i.e., the cops) do nothing.
In Barcelona, we were treated by locals to admonishments against the evils of capitalism and human destruction of the environment. Some of these people were actually educated. One was an ex-pat Frenchwoman with evidence of wealth. Another was a young English attorney, undoubtedly of fine family, pursuing her true calling in the arts, having put her nascent law career on hold. A young, inexperienced and poorly trained waitress at a pricey restaurant in an affluent residential neighborhood in Barcelona informed us that there is no such language as Spanish; only Castalano, and other regional dialects dating back to Spain's pre-nationalist past. The waitress struggled clumsily and without the obligatory linen towel to pull the cork from a bottle of cava. If not for tourists, she would be an unemployed graffiti artist, freely expressing her belief in the socialist socioeconomic system that is leaving all but Europe's elite to rot in "equality."