There are two things a visitor here from the Midwest notices right off: It's just like home, cornfields, wheat fields, pastures, apple orchards; oh wait, there's a field of sunflowers, must be France; and, although everyone speaks a foreign language (French) fluently, very few people in the heart of the French countryside speak English. For a first-time traveler, even though it is expected and understood, there can still be a bit of culture shock. Things that are taken for granted at 'home' just aren't necessarily true somewhere else.
There has been no official decree that the entire planet be 'Handicap Accessible'.
There are hotels that advertise themselves as such, but not all. The needs of everyday life are readily available: parking at the markets, elevators in government offices, etc., but there are no elevators in the castles to get one up into the towers and crenellated walks; no escalator taking one into the Palace at Versailles. There are long stairs leading one down into the Metro, and even longer ones to the actual trains. Small, country house hotels do not have elevators. We, being a family, were given a 2-bedroom apartment in the main house. How nice! A curving staircase led up to the entry to our apartment. Inside, another curving staircase led up to the bedrooms. Sis and s-i-l left their luggage in the entry.
Nature's Call is still answered naturally in 'other' places.
You will, occasionally, see cars parked alongside the road with a man standing next to it, admiring the field. He is not a nature lover. Courtesy suggests you do not stare (hoping for a peak?). Sometimes you will see Dad and the boys admiring one side of the road while mom and the girls are off 'picking flowers'….and a public toilet just down the road…. Toilets in many restaurants and most cafes are unisex: urinal on one side of a partial wall, the stall on the other, shared sink. One adjusts. On the way back from Paris we stopped at one of the big motorway stations for drinks and gas. The 'Ladies' was closed for cleaning and the sign said to use the 'Gents'. I heard a couple of guys in their chatting and waited for them to finish and leave. I went in and gave a quick glance around: it was empty. Two things happened while I was in the stall: the 'Gents' filled up with men and the 'Ladies' reopened. I had a brisk walk from the stall to the door. I'm sure the men thought nothing of it but, sometimes, the Puritan background still rears its ugly head…..glad sis and s-i-l missed that one….
And here's my favorite to debunk: The French (particularly Parisians) are unfriendly and hate Americans. After leaving the Metro with all of our luggage mon mari and I carried ours up and out of the busy Metro. I didn't wait for poor sis and s-i-l dragging their luggage up one step at a time: it was much too crowded and busy to stop on the stairs; and, once we were out of the way, one could stay with the luggage and the other go back to help. As I started back down the stairs I saw 3 young women pick up the bottom of my sis's suitcase and carry it (and, almost, her) to the top, laughing and chattering away. They set it down, smiled, wished her a pleasant stay and left. Two young men did the same for my s-i-l. Everyone was very friendly, surprising my sis and s-i-l, not me….I live here. I know people are friendly…