Posted by / Category Travel /

I think that I am now a true Brit. It is the only possible explanation, right? Hear me out: I am insanely happy to spend a few days in Provence. Seriously, what’s not to like? The light is to die for, the beaches are empty, the food is fresh, tasty and healthy, and so on, and so forth…

IMG_4240

That said, it turns out that I seem to be the only one to be happy. Restaurant terraces are empty, and owners are grumpy because of the ever-rising taxes. Shops are desert. People don’t smile. They don’t joke. They don’t laugh.

Despite the sun and the outstanding beauty of my region, everybody was complaining about the wind today. Seriously?

Continue Reading

Posted by / Category Politics /

 

For some reason, this weekend’s first round of local elections in France didn’t really make the headlines on this side of the Channel. Me being me, I tried to understand the results, and avidly read all French mainstream newspapers. The funny thing was that, for once, everybody was happy.

Is my home country in denial?

The socialists, who happen to be in office, thought that it wasn’t as bad as anticipated (they had c. 21.5% of votes nationwide). The right was extremely pleased with its 29% of votes, and said that France was seeking change. The far-right National Front managed to get 25% of votes and declared that they were the first political party in France. This is because traditional parties tend to be coalitions. That said, last Sunday was only the first round, and we should get a clearer picture of where France is heading this Sunday for the second round. Let’s not kid ourselves here: it clearly doesn’t look good.

That said, all was well for everybody. No, really.

Continue Reading

Posted by / Category Looking Good /

No, not me, silly! As you know, we French women don’t do cosmetic surgery. Because we don’t have to: we don’t age. We mature. We get better. It’s a genetic predisposition. And if some of us indulge in a little bit of nip & tuck occasionally, we will never, ever admit it. That’s just us, I suppose. What can I say? We are beautiful naturally, and that’s all there is to know. Did I also tell you that I wake up already made up? No seriously. It’s a French thing, we all have it. It is in our DNA. And no, I didn’t go to the hairdresser to have a blow-dry. Somehow, my hair places itself naturally. I promise. As for my dress, well, it just happened to be placed in my wardrobe and was just, well, perfect. So lucky, right? And of course I am naturally slim. After all, I am French. I didn’t go to the gym this morning. It wasn’t me, you must be mistaken.

This is, apparently, what everybody believes. Seriously, guys,  how gullible can you be?

Continue Reading

Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, Travel /

Today I would like to talk to you about a little bag usually favoured by men, where you have just enough space to put what you need for an overnight stay. We French call it a ‘baise-en-ville’. Literally, it means ‘f***-in-town’, but funnily enough, it is not rude at all to talk about a ‘baise-en-ville’. Everybody has one, and it is always a smart buy (also for a woman, actually). I suppose that it stems from the fact that we French like to compartmentalise our lives, and remain pragmatic in all circumstances. Hence the bag. That said, it has completely lost any naughty connotation. I assure you. Hand on heart. You can safely talk about a ‘baise-en-ville’ and everybody will be impressed.

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