Words and Photography by Oliver Barton
The last however-long-it’s-been of Bush has been filled with more than enough chin wagging and pen scribbling about the Tyrant From Texas. The problem is that while there is no shortage of opinions, not many people are doing anything about them. The French can stand proud as one of the few countries who did more than run their mouths and print some bumper stickers and voted with their feet, choosing not to hold America’s bio-suited hand in the Middle East. With more American soldiers dead in Iraq than the same time period during the Vietnam conflict, you are existing in an independent-news vortex if you have not figured out by this stage that it was a better idea to stay at home and have your potato snacks referred to as Freedom Fries.
France has long tooted the horn of freedom-the Statue Of Liberty herself was a present from the French-but in reality are the French in any position to take a stance of higher ground on the freedom stakes? Chris Rock commented that you know the world is a f-ked-up place when the French are accusing the Americans of arrogance, and how would we know if the tables have turned and the title “Land Of The Free” now rests on the European continent?
The skaters’ perspective gives a very telling insight from which to learn about a country, town, village, or neighborhood: You are on the streets, you run into everyday people, you deal with the cops, and most of all you see just how free the use of public space is. Let’s put it this way, if you’ve ever tried to skate the streets of Huntington Beach midweek (or even HB skatepark, for that matter), you’ll find out pretty fast just how “free” it is there. From the Moroccan street markets in Casablanca to the neon subways of Tokyo, the Clichà‡ team has put in their street time across the world, and for the most part, they choose the streets of France as the best place to navigate on a skateboard. This summer, Cliche decided to avoid the major cities of France and sightsee the smaller streets of their own shores under the guise of the Kronenbourg-sponsored Apero Tour (“Apero” being short for aperitif from the Latin apertitiuvum, a small alcoholic tipple before dinner to stimulate the appetite).
There can be few better ways to see if the mantle of freedom lies in a country who swears its national identity by “Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite” (Freedom, Equality, Brotherhood) than from the window of a skate van full of Frenchmen, a Spanish guy, and a bloke from Portugal. The Apero tour was the best skate trip I have been on to date; we ate great food, drank fine wines, saw amazing sights, laughed until our sides split, got kicked out of maybe four spots in two weeks, and witnessed some remarkable skateboarding. It’s ironic that the French might no longer be regarded as the most arrogant people in the world, because judging by the Apero tour-forgetting the Lacoste tracksuit lurkers and their questionable hip-hop-it turns out the French might have more to be arrogant about than any other country in the world.
Jean Jacques who had the final word when the 50 and a Smith went down.