Thursday, August 30, 2012
After a three-month adventure in France, from Poitou-Charentes and the Loire, to Brittany and Normandy, my travel chapter ends and I turn the page. From May 14 - August 9, 2012, I experienced a short time-capsule of what living in France means. It certainly means a buffet of landscapes, architecture, music and cultural events, and it most definitely means a feast for the tastebuds.
Life in France may be less luxurious than Canada by the standard measures we often use - the houses are older and smaller, the cars more compact, the utilities pricey - but it often feels richer in quality, more textured, more civilized. It is easy to take pleasure from the simple moments there. Whether relaxing over an extended lunch break, feeling calm driving on roads with considerate drivers, or enjoying a museum or exhibit seen nowhere else in the world, I feel part of something special, having an experience I don't want to end.
One of the best aspects of France is its food! Magazine articles have forever lauded this feature of France, but I'm not speaking only of high-end Paris restaurants with big price tags. I'm speaking about the quality, the presentation, the taste and the experience of food in those smaller centres throughout France. Not only do the restaurants serve top quality meals, but the everyday purchases made in the local grocery stores or weekly markets are beyond compare to what I am used to. The produce is fresh, no doubt, but it TASTES like it used to about 50 years ago in Canada, when I would pluck a ripe tomato from my mother's garden, or went berry-picking with my grand-mother. Back in the time when there were no pesticides and herbicides, no genetic engineering, no hormone injections... I shopped in a local Canadian farmer's market just last week where everything was organic, and still, things were not the same as in France. Without wanting to open a political debate, I hope that France will continue to adhere to its strict regulations on agriculture and imports. Free trade would be a disaster for the French food industry.
Was there a highlight in all we visited? Karl certainly loved Giverny and insisted I include in my blog almost every flower he photographed (although there are still a few hundred not downloaded), but I am finding it difficult to pinpoint one particular event or time that stood above the rest. It is probably a collage of people watching, pink champagne and beautiful strands of music. It's a lasting memory of enjoying my brother Gérard and his family coming to share some time with us in Thouars, of Emélie discovering hot chocolate and croissants and Charlotte strawberries, of Karl and I getting in the car and allowing the road to lead us to something new. It's of the friends we made along the way, the chefs who came out to chat, the gentle lady who commiserated with us in Richelieu, the smile on a face when that person realized we spoke their language with an accent and funny expressions, the butcher who took special care to prepare a roast and presented it with such pride. It's the wild and wonderful waves of Saint-Malo, the cows that look made-up with their long lashes and dark eye shadow, and the tears shed on D-Day. These snippets come together and make me appreciate the French people, make me hope that I will one day go back to explore yet another region of this wonderful country.
Karl and I feel "at home" in France. We have been there three times for extended stays and feel we know the country well, yet have only skimmed the surface of what it has to offer. One day, God willing, we will be back. Till then, we will replay the memory recordings of our adventure and say - merci! Au revoir.
Thank you to all my readers who so faithfully followed this blog. It was a pleasure for me to write with the knowledge that you were out there, living this journey vicariously through my musings. Your comments and emails meant so much. I sign off in the hope that we will connect again. À la prochaine!
Should you wish to read the blogs from previous trips:
http://france-encore.blogspot.com (Thouars, Poitou Charentes, May 2010)
http://two-months-in-france.blogspot.com (Languedoc/Roussillon, April 2009)
http://36-daycruise.blogspot.com (Panama Canal and the Amazon, November 2008)