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There is a storm in London but over here the weather is incredibly warm. It is unfair, isn’t it? It is so warm that you don’t need a coat to walk. Don’t get me wrong, we don’t have a bright sunshine, but it feels nice to be able to go outside without as many layers as in London. I like it over here right now: we are able to go everywhere without being bothered by the masses of tourists we usually have during the peak of the season.

We went to various small beaches around Hyeres and Toulon. We couldn’t resist it. We had to get into the sea. So we did. This is something that I have never done as a local. But now I have an excuse: I am a Brit! So we went swimming. We were not the only ones, but clearly it showed that we are not from here. You are not supposed to enjoy a good swim in the sea after mid-September if you live here.
It was good to swim. In fact, maybe, just maybe, it is good to break old habits sometimes. Do you do it too?
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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Yesterday, I decided to go to Marseille to visit the brand new museum Mucem. Mucem is supposed to be about the Mediterranean sea. I didn’t really know what to expect. I just wanted to give it a try. I hadn’t been to Marseille for the last 15 years. The light was fantastic. And the sea, well, nothing tops up the Mediterranean sea.

Part of the museum is brand new, and in a black, rectangular building that dominates the entrance of the old harbour. The other part is in an ancient fortress. You can get from one building to the other using small metallic bridges from the top of each building. The mixture of old and new just works. Sometimes, in the new building, you don’t know whether you are inside or outside. Despite its rectangular shape, the new building’s design is quite elaborated, with light coming through intricated metallic structures.

The museum is about all the civilisations around the Mediterranean sea. We all have nationalities and labels: French, British, American, Chinese…but the Mediterranean sea transcends nationalities. Marseille was trading with other cities around the Mediterranean sea long before it became a French city. Marseille had strong ties with Istanbul. Of course the Mediterranean sea was used for wars and invasions. All main religions are represented around the Mediterranean. This made me wonder: is there such a thing as a Mediterranean identity? After all, I might be French, but I grew up here. My childhood and my education would have been very different in Paris or Strasbourg. Maybe, just maybe, despite all the different religions, conflicts and skin colours, there is such a thing as growing up on the Mediterranean. And that’s where I am from, whether I like it or not.

Never before had I felt so close to myself and my roots. However, at the same time I felt so far away from this world now.
And an old dream of mine eventually resurfaced: going on a road trip all around the Mediterranean. This is something I wanted to do when I was 20. I didn’t do it: I was to busy starting a career at the time. Maybe, just maybe, it is time to fulfill more of my dreams…

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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There is a huge olive tree in my father’s vineyard. So huge, in fact, that we called someone to assess its age. The results are back, and you are not going to believe them: our olive tree is at least 1,200 years old. Yep, that’s 12 centuries!
I wish it could talk and tell us what happened to the abandoned hamlet up the road. Or maybe, in this remote part of Provence, things have not changed that much in over 10 centuries. That’s why the olive tree could reach such an old age: things will never change at all over here.

After all, we are spending most of our days picking up chestnuts and stuffing our faces with Sharon fruits.
This is how I used to spend my days as a kid. My day, grandad and great grandad have done the same before me. Is it possible that, in Provence, things are frozen in time? I wonder.
Our vineyard is surrounded by British people who have built lovely villas. Surely this wasn’t the case before. That said, you can’t hear them at all. In fact, the only thing we can hear is the wind in the trees. But I am pretty sure that they can hear our aggressive roster in the morning. It is pretty common to have a roster and some hens to have fresh eggs. We are no exception. I hope they don’t mind.
So here I am, feeling that I am travelling back in time. Don’t get me wrong, it is nice. But don’t repeat it: I am starting to miss London. 
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

My Village: picture taken by my eldest daughter

I didn’t see this one coming. My home country has changed. I was quietly walking on the street, in my small village in France, and saw a guy sitting on a bench. He was reading, and seemed very concentrated. When I got closer, I noticed that he was reading a magazine. He was reading Glamour! What? It is common knowledge that most men love to ready beauty magazines meant for women, but usually they don’t do it in public.

What is going on? When did it become acceptable, for French men, to read Cosmo and the likes in full view of everybody? I must have missed something. How come nobody told me?

I decided to observe French men a bit more carefully. Most of them managed to pullout the ‘freshly-out-of-bed-forgot-to-shave’ look despite the fact that it was the middle of the afternoon. Nice. It must have taken them some time to get ready.

Then it dawned on me: maybe, over the last ten years, French men have become metrosexual. It was making complete sense: most were wearing pastel colours, and at the local pharmacy, a guy was buying a day cream specifically designed for men. I had never seen one doing this before.

On my way back home, I saw a guy carrying a ‘Elle’ magazine. It is official. French men have become metrosexual.

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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I have caught up with family. The grocery shopping is done. I think that I am now ready to watch some random French TV.

I sit down and realise that I am watching an American series (CSI I think). It is badly translated in French. Quite funny in fact, although I am not sure that it was the intended effect.

I change channel and I am looking at a programme on how they redecorated a huge farmhouse in a week. The funny thing is that the family insists on having a British telephone box in one of the bedrooms. They seemed to be very Anglophile. Interesting.That said, the designer is really good and I toy with the idea of calling her for my parents’ house, only to feel ashamed of having such a thought. I should be grateful that they let me stay, shouldn’t I? 

I see that there is a French version of the usual reality TV shows. Not interested, thank you very much.

On the bright side, there are less ads than in London. But when I watch the news, I simply can’t stand the condescending tone. I know that you shouldn’t watch TV for an in-depth analysis of societal problems. The journalist make it look like only the French have got it right. There is a (flawed) comparison of pension schemes. Anyone with half of a brain know that the French pension scheme is a ticking time bomb, but the French have just reduced (for some) the number of years you need to work before getting your pension. The French are the only ones to do it but are sure they are right. Absolutely sure. Such an attitude drives me mad.
My daughter gets bored with the programme and put Tom & Jerry on. We are saved. Some things never change!
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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It used to be my village

Where is home? I am not sure any more. In London, when I speak English, people who believe that they can speak French systematically try to say a few words of French during the conversation. It seems to make them incredibly happy to be able to show off their French skills. They feel very proud. I know that they are just trying to make an effort, and, even if I usually can’t understand a word of what they are saying, I compliment them. Well, I am not British for nothing. I don’t want to upset anyone.

Well, things are exactly the same in France: when I explain that I am living in London, they try to speak English. Here we go again. I can’t win. I have to listen to them. “Whaat ize ze wither like in London?”. And if even I can hear their French accent, well, it must be pretty strong. Don’t get me wrong, I smile, I am helpful and patient with them. But don’t ask me to like it.

Why does everyone feel compelled to talk to me in a different language? Is it something on my face? Do they want to make a point? I wonder. Why can’t they just talk normally?  It really feels a bit weird not to feel at home in my home country. I can still speak French, I promise.

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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There is a time to be careful and there is a time to enjoy food. I am in France, and it is time for the latter.
Over here, I only pay 60 cents for a croissant. That’s 50p. So far, I have had one every day, for breakfast. Not only does it taste great, but it is a bargain compared to London. Another reason not to feel guilty about it.
I have my morning ritual here. I wake up and head straight to the boulangerie. It is a 5 minutes walk and it is lovely. You can feel the village waking up too.
The boulangerie is the only shop open at this time of the day (very, very early). The smell of fresh bread gets to my head. I buy some breakfast for the whole family. It is nice to be able to do so. Fresh bread is taken as a given over here. i also took it for granted, until I moved to London.

Back home, everybody is happy to have fresh bread and croissants. My younger one shocked my dad when she said she wanted to have baked beans but hey, she is not British for nothing, I suppose.
It is the small things that matter, and we have a happy start of the day with a croissant. What about you? What makes you happy in the morning?

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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There is something wrong in my home country. We were at the Nice railway station yesterday, on our way back from St Tropez & Grimaud. Before entering the building, two guys were chatting on the the left side of the main entrance. The thing is, they were peeing at the same time. They acted as if if was completely natural to wee in front of everybody, on the wall, while having a conversation of course. The girls were like:

“- Mummy, what are they doing ?”

“-Nothing, Darling, just look away.”

“-Are there no toilets in France?”

“-Well, maybe they are broken.”

We went inside the station and decided to wait for our regional train on the platform. I kid you not: a guy at the end of the platform was quietly peeing on the track. The girls didn’t see him and I am grateful for this. What is going on?

Will urine cause an electrical fault on the train?

No, it didn’t! Of course not. When I took my little one to the train’s loo, she was a bit scared to see that her wee-wee was falling on the track when we flush it. See, it is perfectly normal to pee on the track over here.

What is going on? I have never seen anyone peeing in a public place in London. Why does everybody seem to think it is normal over here ? Maybe when I was living in France I wasn’t noticing it. When did France become so trashy? Come on, this is disgusting ! Is it me? Is it big cities? Have you experienced something similar!
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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It did it to me again. I had forgotten about the crisp light of Provence. I had forgotten about the sweet smells of pine and rosemary. I had forgotten about the fresh air and dark blue hills in the horizon.

I was privileged to grow up in such a region. Sometimes, just like today, I wonder why I left.
Then, I remember the lack of opportunities, the overall grumpiness and my dysfunctional family. I am glad to be living in London now.

That said, it doesn’t make this place any less beautiful.
I have a soft spot for a small village called Grimaud. There are small streets with old houses leading to a medieval castle. I love the cobbled streets: it is a real maze, but if you continue to go up, you will reach the ruin eventally. No car can go there. I am on my own. 
As a child, I used to come here at every possible opportunity. As an adult, this place still feels magical to me. And I still come at every possible opportunity. Maybe, after all, some things are not meant to change.
Right now, I just want to enjoy the outstanding beauty of this place. I will think of the rest tomorrow!
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

Well, you know that I hate labels and stereotypes. And I happen to be French. But hear me out. I have sold various pieces of furniture on eBay because we are moving house (not very far from where we were, but easier for the school run). And as my old curtains don’t fit in the new house, I decided to sell them on eBay. I just didn’t want to chuck them away. I sold them for a fraction of their original price, and I didn’t mind, because I just wanted someone else to enjoy them.

Suffice to say, most of the buyers were absolutely delighted and gave me glowing feedbacks on eBay. Some have even asked me whether I could sell them some more curtains (No, it is all gone by now). All, except one. And guess what: she happens to be French. Why am I not surprised?

Basically, two weeks after having paid a mere £10 for huge satin curtains, she said than one of the curtains had a stain of coffee. This can’t be true because:
1. I can’t see anything on the pics;
2. I had had the curtains professionally cleaned and had even paid £23 for this -I am not a great eBayer, I know-!
And finally: the curtains are worth at least 10 times more. In short, she is blaming me for something that she has probably done, and she is not happy despite having bagged a bargain.

Of course, this is not a big deal. But can someone tell me why some people are NEVER happy? And why are they often French?

I happen to be spending some time in France, and I can confirm that everybody is grumpy. Maybe, after all, it is a French trait. I wonder.  They are not happy because the weather is too cold (believe me, it is far better than in London). The (excellent) food is never good enough, they are suffering from a headache and can’t smile. And so on, and so forth.

As for me, well, I have learned my lesson: next time, I will give everything to the local charity shop and I will enjoy every minute of my brilliant life.

How about you? How do you deal with grumpy people?

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London