Vivre La France!

What does ‘France’ conjure up for you?

Frogs legs? Snails? Garlic? A language you probably had to learn at school?

For us it is long, straight empty roads, old farmers in bright blue overall-type trouser and delicious food.

We have just returned from a short trip to the Loire. We are confessed Francophiles – we love the place. We have a very soft spot for Paris but also feel right at home in rural areas. This visit however has seen me being more objective in my ‘looking’. I suppose it is partly from having this blog and wanting to share my experiences with you.

The French are proud of their communities. Each town has a corporate approach to floral decorations for instance and my goodness flowers are everywhere! The hanging baskets are huge with blossoms just pouring out and obviously, there are flowers in beds in parks as there is in England.  However, the opportunity to brighten towns and villages with floral decorations anywhere – on roadsides, roundabouts, even chicanes – is taken, all following a colour scheme which gives it a unified feel.

Putting chicanes to slow traffic along the main road of the town rather than OTT signs everywhere do give an air of calm and peace.  Roads appear to have all been recently tarmaced as there are no potholes.

Many towns, even small ones, appear to have Hotel de Ville – town hall. These are grand buildings (not necessarily huge) that usually have a square in front (full of flowers of course!). Flags fly in a patriotic way and they do remind me of Trumpton! For those of you who are not old enough (and those who sadly are!) have a little look at this! TRUMPTON

Although in many ways they appear to still be in the 19th century, what they do have is a sense of pride in their community.

Invariably as you approach the outskirts of towns and villages, there will be a crucifix of some sort. Some are plain, others very ornate but all show the place that religion plays in the lives of the French.

Flowers seem to be an integral part of French life. The flower shops are all over the place with full stocks including some very exotic blooms. They start early (well early for France!)around 8am and are still open at 8pm. On Sundays, they do a roaring trade as it is tradition to spend the afternoon with family so flowers are always taken along.

Life is taken at an easy pace most of the time. It can be infuriating to arrive somewhere around lunch time to find most of the shops closed for lunch. It reminded me of the same situation here in England when I was young when all shops closed for a half day on Wednesdays. In France the shops may be closed but the bars and restaurants aren’t because the French take their breaks very seriously.

Their cafes are very much social centres for the population who gather regularly to catch up on news and meet up with friends. Here in England we are just catching on to ‘doing coffee / lunch’ but over the channel it is well established.

Overall, it was a restful, chilling-out break in a place that always makes us feel welcome. Our French is not fluent and there is little English spoken in these areas but it never seems to get in the way.

I do need to start looking at the towns and villages here at home as I’m sure they can do match the French. It just feels a little more hit and miss.

This is the second post about the holiday. Post 1 is HERE and in the next episode we will explore food and in particular the French market!

Are you a Francophlie? Is France one of your ‘places to visit’?

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