The careful blog reader might have spotted the fact that I am blatantly refusing to come up with more inventive blog posts at the moment, and am instead simply running a sunnier and differently accented version of the last instalment (which you can read here, if you missed it).
And the careful reader might also say, ah. Now you’ve caught up with where you are, and you are in France, since I seem to have been having some difficulty with synchronising locations and blog posts ever since leaving New Zealand. To which my answer is, yes, but only just, as I head off again tomorrow. Regretfully.
But! Rather than being sad about leaving, I shall instead revel in all the wonderful things I have seen, done, and eaten since getting here three weeks ago. All of which I shall squish into the now-mandatory Seven Things format, which is nowhere near enough to express how much I have loved being back in France. Nowhere near. But it shall do for now. And there shall be photos. Many, many photos …
7 Interesting Things (France Version)
The sea. I realise that I have been very spoiled when it comes to my experience of the sea. I grew up partly on a wee boat in the tropics, partly on a small island just outside Auckland, New Zealand. I have worked on boats in Greece and the Caribbean, and on others that cruised to all sorts of places, which also involved the sea, mostly in very nice locations. I love empty beaches and white sands and palm trees, and I love pebbly beaches and wild, windy coasts full of crashing waves, and most things in between.
But there’s something very magic about Antibes, with the sand-coloured stones of the town walls rising out of the sea, and the beach umbrellas in exclamations of colour on the autumn-quiet beaches. The snack kiosks were packed away for the season, and the air was cool enough to bring a shiver as you got out, but the boulangeries are just across the street, and there are octopuses creeping through the rocks under the clear water, and the sun’s still hot enough to lie out in, and it was glorious.
Old towns. More specifically, in this case, old town Antibes. Narrow, cobbled lanes hung with vines and plants and painted shutters, empty of tourists at this time of year but filled with sunlight and shadow and stillness. I love wandering old streets, and wondering how many feet have passed here before me, and how many more still to come, while the buildings stand quiet and unchanged and lived in, full of quiet, continuous life. There’ll be a whiff of bread from the boulangerie on the corner, the sneaking scent of garlic cooking for someone’s lunch, a snatch of music or laughter or voices from behind shutters or in hidden courtyards, and it all speaks to the gentle magic of living.
Also, the photos are really cool, and a pain au raisin from the boulangerie is excellent walking fuel.
Sunrises and sunsets. I don’t think I need to say much about these. Those magical moments that bracket the day, the sense of possibility as the sun creeps into the world, or the sense of both contentment and loss as it drifts away again – it doesn’t much matter where you are. They’re always there, and always different, and often beautiful.
I mean, unless you’re a long way north or south, in which case there aren’t always sunrises and sunsets, but I’m going to imagine that just makes them more magical when you have them? You can let me know in the comments!
Beautiful hills. So, yes, I am a water person. I have always been a water person. But I am also a hill person, and have an almost overwhelming urge, once I see a good hill, to want to climb it. This has led to some interesting scrambles above bays in New Zealand, to the tops of light markers on Tongan islands, and a lot of wet, snowy, windy, and regrettably hail-y scampering around the Yorkshire three peaks.
I’m not entirely silly about it, and do make sure I’m not going to get disastrously lost (a little lost just adds to the fun), and tend to carry sensible things like water and a first aid kit and extra layers and/or sunblock, depending on where I am. But the hills not far inland of Antibes are particularly lovely, as not only are they riddled with walking tracks, they also hold an awful amount of quietly charming villages, and therefore lots of good places for post-walk pizza. I can’t recommend that sort of hill walking enough.
Autumn colours. Growing up for a large part in the tropics, and otherwise in the north of New Zealand, I didn’t see a lot of autumn colours. It always seems quite surreal and movie-like to me, watching the trees change as the light does. I might not be a fan of the shorter and colder days, but I do love those changing colours. And the light in the south of France is something truly special, no matter what time of year it is. It’s why it was always so popular with artists, and even as a non-arty person I can see how lovely it is.
Also it makes for pretty photos.
Road trips. Not really long road trips, although those can be fun, too. But cruisy, weekend, lunch and a walk and some poking around road trips. Road trips with sun and clouds and sprawling hills, lakes and canyons and sleeping towns, friendly local restaurants and good moments with friends. Those sort of road trips. Inland of the Côte d’Azur is good for that. You can tick all the boxes on a relaxed Saturday in October, and there are innumerable towns and villages and sights you can choose as your destination. We did the Gorges du Verdon, because they’re spectacular.
And finally, food. What, you didn’t think I’d forget that, did you? Sharing good food with good friends is one of the best forms of magic for humans, whether it’s making (or gathering) it together, poking around hills with picnics, or post-swim boulangerie visits. Food has power. It feeds and heals and soothes and creates connection, and should never be underestimated. It’s more than just fuel. It has importance that goes far further than that.
Which is also what I tell myself when I have my second pain au raisin of the day, or elect to eat half of the baguette before I get back to the apartment …
And that, lovely people, was seven lovely things about my trip to France. There seems to be a lot of emphasis on pizza and boulangeries, but these things are important. As is time with friends, time to breathe, and time to think. France has gifted me all these, and reminded me of how much I love and miss it. It’s hard to leave.
Now let me know in the comments, lovely people – what’s one place that always seems to feed your heart? I’d love to know!
And check back in a couple of weeks for a couple of lovely recipes from my friend Sylvie (human of the mushroom-inspector cat in the photos above)!