Posted by / Category London /

 
It’s almost Valentine’s Day. In London, red roses are already overpriced, and restaurants overbooked. I think that I am becoming an old fart: I can’t stand this charade any more. Because love needs to be celebrated every day, right? Why would you wait for a specific day to show your love? Any day is as good as Valentine’s Day to declare your flame. In short, I am in a foul mood. I don’t know why.
To cheer me up, I decide to have a cupcake break. It always does the trick. I am immediately feeling a lot better after a few bites. I decide to call a French friend of mine. Well, it certainly looks like things are a lot more exciting for her.

You see, this friend is a maneater. You may remember her from an old post here. To cut a long story short, she is in a little bit of a pickle (that’s actually a British understatement).

Continue Reading

Posted by / Category London /


As you know, Valentine’s Day is coming up. I will be writing about it this week. It’s this time of the year. There is no escaping from overpriced red roses anyway: they are everywhere. You may not know it, but it looks like, once again, the French have invented Valentine’s day. What can I say? Anything to do with love can be linked with France. That’s the way it is. I don’t always like the reputation we French have, but I just have to live with it.


I have always wondered why Valentine day was mid-February. Surely summer would be well, nicer. Or at least warmer. But I was wrong again. Apparently, both in England and France, birds and other animals paired off and mated in the middle of February. It is thought that people started to, well, do the same, and celebrate the 14th of February as the special day for lovers. 

There is another reason why Valentine Day originated from France: the oldest known Valentine still exists today as a poem written by the Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. The greeting was written in February 1415. The Duke of Orleans stayed in captivity for 25 years. He wrote a lot and apparently could barely speak French when he was freed. The only way to reach his lover was to write. You thought that you had it hard? Well, you see, it could be much, much worse.

This story inspired a song called ‘Ma seule amour’ by French singer Laurent Voulzy (I think that he lives in the UK too, actually). The chorus says it all:
” Stay away from the door it’s locked for ever.
Write a song no other way to reach your lover…”

Continue Reading

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

 
It was one of those days. Such days are bound to happen, right? During an otherwise lovely conversation with my grandfather -whom I adore-, I was told:
‘ It’s such a shame that you are not a man: you could have been in charge of the family’s wine yard’
He meant it in the nicest possible way, I was sure of this. To him, it was a compliment. But it really hurt. I was on the verge of tears. I simply wasn’t expecting such a sexist comment from a man I adored. The thing was, I prided myself in being independent, strong and also human. But at the end of the day to him I remained just a woman, and as such there would always be limits to my achievements. 


I decided to check out my emails. I needed to escape. It was the right thing to do: I had a message from ActionAid; they were asking me to help them with their campaign against female mutilations. I was especially moved by Janet story. She had to leave her family at 13 to avoid being cut. How, in this day and age, was such a thing even possible?
 

Continue Reading

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, London, Looking Good /


I hadn’t realised that there were so many articles about the French paradox out there. That’s actually another paradox: we French are not really aware that there is, apparently, a French paradox. So what is it all about? Well, to cut a long story short, despite drinking more wine and eating an awful lot of fatty stuff, we French tend to suffer less (20% less, if you must know) from coronary heart diseases. What can I say? Life is seriously unfair.

The Internet is awash with lessons that the world needs to learn from France. Other deny that such a paradox even exists. Fear not, I will not lecture anyone. It’s not my style anyway, and I hate lecturing (or being lectured, if you must know).
 
I first realised that there was a French paradox when a British colleague of mine explained it to me. I couldn’t believe it. She added that it was healthy to drink a glass of red wine a day, and that from then on she had decided to do it (because it was healthy, of course). I wasn’t convinced. And I wanted to point out that a glass of wine wasn’t the whole bottle anyway. I didn’t say anything in the end. You can’t fight all battles, right?
 

Continue Reading

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, Travel /

 
Despite the fact that I still feel guilty to have left my children in London (ah, the joy of being a mum!), I have decided to pull myself together and enjoy my stay in France. So, here is how I am going to treat myself…the French way. Who is with me? Come on, let’s get started, there is no time to waste. After all, I am only here for a few days.

1. It is all about quality, not quantity. So yes, I will enjoy good food. I will get a buttery croissant and also a chocolate eclair. Because it makes me really happy. I will get a bouillabaisse (French fish stew-delicious!) and maybe sip a coffee in Saint Tropez, right on the harbour. That’s what life is about, right? To top everything up, the sun is shining, and it feels like stealing moments of happiness. I love it!
 
2. What would we do without friends? I love catching up with friends, old and new. Friends always lift my spirits. Always. And over here, we all share a similar love of Provence. It’s something special, it can’t be explained, it has to be experienced. Growing up here was bound to leave some marks, and they understand. Over the last few years, I have reconnected with childhood friends. I wonder what took me so long to do it. It feels like finding little pieces of forgotten childhood again, it’s a marvellous gift.

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences /

The unthinkable is happening: I am spending a few days in France, on my own, without any children. It feels weird, and also strangely relaxing to have nobody to cater to. It hasn’t happened for years. I am slowly starting to feel like my old French self, but I must admit that it isn’t as easy as I anticipated. I don’t know if it is me or my home country, but something has definitively changed.


First of all, I had to take the Eurostar, and then I had to catch a flight from Orly, one of Paris’ airports. I tried to buy my train ticket to the airport from the Eurostar lounge in London, but it wasn’t possible because:
A. I couldn’t buy tube tickets by the unit there. I would have had to buy 10 in one go (and I didn’t need 10 tickets as I was on my own)
B. They were only selling train tickets for zone 1 in Paris anyway (or any Tube destination). The airport is obviously not in the city centre.
Suffice to say, no explanation was given as to how I could reach Orly, apart from the fact that I ended up being told that it would probably be easier to do it from Paris. 
 
Thanks, guys. Very helpful.
 
Undeterred, I decided to book myself a cab. I called the cab company in France, only to be told that I needed an account to get picked up from the train station. As I go to Paris once in a blue moon, I didn’t want to set up an account.
 
Welcome to France!
 
Once at Gare du Nord, I managed to buy a ticket to Antony, but not to Orly. This was because a different company was selling the ticket from Antony to Orly (did you follow?) and not all machines were selling it (mine certainly wasn’t).
 
Seriously, why was life so complicated?
 
Everything was soon forgotten when I boarded my train. I was on the RER B, my good old friend. I used to take this very line all the time as a student. I felt 20 again.
The stations hadn’t changed one bit, and the train was bang on time for a fraction of the price I would have paid for a similar journey in London. I was happy. I started leaning on the glass window. I started smiling. Life was good.
 
I quickly noticed that people were looking at me as if I was, well, a bit mad. It suddenly came back to me: I had broken one of Paris’ cardinal rules : you are not supposed to smile (or be happy) on the Tube, let alone the RER. Silly British me.
 
I hoped that the smile police wouldn’t arrest me. I was about to burst off laughing, they would have had to send me to jail. I managed to pull myself together and look miserable.
 
Once at Antony, I had to queue again to get the right ticket. I eventually reached Orly, and it had taken me only 30 minutes from the train station. France’s transport network was simply amazing. In Orly, I was pleasantly surprised by the choice of shops and the quality of the food. Why did I leave France again?
 
I started looking around, and noticed that everybody looked grumpy. What was going on? How could they not see what they had? 
 
I didn’t understand. We eventually landed in Toulon. The lady next to me started complaining because she felt it was too cold.
 
I couldn’t care less: to me, this didn’t feel cold. And the air had this zingy taste of the Mediterranean. 
 
How could they not see it? I wondered…
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London