Monday, 12 February 2018

So French, so very French

We're just back from a week in France, and it's been a real pleasure. .

It felt a bit like a homecoming. This is partly because we used to live there, partly because as well as being undoubtedly English, I also hold French nationality (for which I am profoundly grateful in the light of Brexit), so I think of France as my second home anyway. So I suppose it was a bit of a home-from-homecoming.

What was particularly attractive were the specifically French touches we met in the course of our stay.
France may be in top place, but the EU and Provence are right there too
It started at Marseille airport. Outside the terminal, three flags were blowing, practically rigid in the Mistral wind. It was striking that, though pride of place was given to the flag of France, alongside it were the flags of the traditional province to which Marseille belonged - Provence, whose name comes from the Latin word for province, so in a sense it's the province - and the flag of the European Union.

It seems that the Marseillais have understood that you can be a member of the European Union, and proud of it, without giving up the slightest trace of your attachment to your country or even to your local roots. A lesson that many of the English, sadly, seem not to have grasped.

From the airport we trekked up into the mountains. We were in France for the skiing, after all. These mountains were in the Southern Alps. The advantage is that the weather tends to be far better than in other parts of the same range, though the risk is that the snow may be poorer. Fortunately, this time there was plenty of snow as well as plenty of sun. Fair-weather skiers that we are, the combination was just what we needed.

We stayed in a private flat rented out by its owners. It was luxurious for the four of us and would have been comfortable for six. But six was the maximum. Which made it gloriously French to discover that the kitchen cupboard contained sixteen dinner plates. Food, you see, matters.
Just about enough dinner plates for four. Or even six
Even more to the point, among the huge collection of glasses - for water, for red wine, for white wine - there were even ten champagne flutes. I suppose champagne is just one of those things you have to share with your nine best friends.
Among all the glasses, just about enough champagne flutes
Still it was a glorious place to stay. You could see the first ski lift from our bedroom window. An ideal location from which to enjoy the ideal conditions.

We could see the nearest ski lift from our bedroom window
As you can see, the fashion in ski clothing this year was for the
understated and inconspicuous
On the way back, we stopped at a local cheese shop. I was particularly impressed by the locker system they've introduced. A client just phones ahead (or, I suppose, goes on-line); the shop takes the order and the payment for it; and a few minutes before the stated collection time someone on the staff pops out and fills the appropriate locker with the goods ordered.

Amazon does something similar in England with books or films or household goods. It again feels distinctly French find that, even up in the Alps, they do it with cheese. French and endearing.

Cheese lockers - because you need your cheese fresh. And convenient
So it was truly a home-from-homecoming, and a great way to spend a week. Especially as the sun was out when we got back to Marseille, to the extent that we could eat outside in our friends' garden out on the coast. What a restorative for the winter-weary…
Sun on the sea in St Cyr sur Mer

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