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I have a long running love affair with France. It started several decades ago as a child and continues today.
How does it happen that you grow to feel passionate about a country you have never visited and then when you do it exceeds your expectations in every way?
Growing up in Australia, several thousand miles away physically and even more culturally, it would be natural to expect that I would have an affinity with Britain. And of course, due to my family background, this is definitely the case.
My love affair with France was on a slow burn though and has only increased as I have got older and visited more often. Here is the story of how I fell in love with France.
My love affair with France
Childhood stories about France
Can you remember the books you read as a child. The ones that stood out for me were those that brought a sense of the unknown and exotic. I adored Babar, the adventurous elephant who overcome tragedy to live a life full of adventure.
And it was impossible not to fall in love with The Happy Lion who found a gate open at the zoo and went for a walk through town.
But my favourite was a book about a cheese loving mouse called Anatole who helped the cheese makers of Paris perfect their craft. I loved his stylish outfit and his determined quest.
As I got older I moved on to lovable Gauls Asterix, Obelisk and those pesky Romans. The stage was set for a developing interest in all things French.
At high school we were extremely fortunate to have two brilliant French teachers who fueled my growing interest in France. Algerian born Madame Smith (she had married an Australian) had many adventurous tales to tell of journeys all over the world. She taught us about French current affairs and we discussed the linguistic nuances of Jacques Prévert’s poetry.
Later, Madame Cooper, a stylish Parisienne, introduced us to Baudelaire and Rimbaud. Somehow I felt sophisticated and intellectual in that class. Sadly, I wasn’t either of those things but I was spurred on to learn more about the French history, language and culture.
The spark of passion for France
I enrolled in European Politics and History at university in Manchester with a strong emphasis on all things French – even though I had not yet visited the country.
I quickly rectified that situation. Not even queueing for hours for a visa and an overnight bus from London Victoria could dampen my spirits when I first set foot in a wintry Paris.
There is a photo of me somewhere in storage sitting on the fountain in the Place de la Concorde in the drizzling rain grinning like the cheshire cat.
I recall feeling elated that I had finally made it. On that first trip I pounded the cobblestones from one major landmark to the next. The spark of desire for a country I barely knew was lit. I was hooked on France.
Stoking the fire for France
Through luck and determination I have managed to spend a lot of time in France and have had all manner of experiences, each of them different and exciting.
Highlights include a road trip with my aunt from Brittany to Provence via the Loire Valley. We could not have laughed more as I drove our hire car through the narrow crowded streets of Carcassonne without a scratch.
In the Loire Valley we stayed in a château in a room that bore her name – Queen Margot!
I discussed the Australian political system in (very bad) French with taxi drivers and was invited to house parties as I drank cheap wine with girlfriends on our hotel balcony in Paris.
One business trip I toured the cocktail bars of the Marais with a friend (thanks Samira!) and managed to navigate the Metro less than sober on my own.
I have had exciting times in France and yes I tried all the food – from garlicky snails, to galettes, choucroute and beyond.
Meanwhile, back in Australia, I continued my French fling by consuming all things French. I even bought a Renault. Probably not the most popular brand of car in my country due to lack of parts among other things.
But I loved that car, so much so that I bought another. It was all part of the plan to fully frenchify myself.
And so my French romance continued
I listened to French music
I watched French movies
And ate a lot of French food – especially cheese
Burning flames for France
One of the things that excited me most about moving back to London was the ability to skip across the Channel to France. I quickly planned a few trips to explore the areas of France I had not yet discovered and now my love of the country is a burning passion.
I have barely mentioned my food journey in France as that probably warrants another post entirely. It is enough to say that my palate was awakened but the flavours of France, the cultural respect for seasonal local ingredients and for eating in general.
There is nothing quite like breaking the end off a freshly baked baguette or smelling the aroma of rotisserie chicken being cooked as you wander through a French produce market.
Non, je ne regrette rien…
Lucky for me, I feel my passion for France is requited. This country has not let me down once. Each visit I feel inspired by the natural beauty in each region, its elegant cities and stylish citizens and of course the wonderful gastronomic treats. And for those reasons I will return again and again.
Actually I do have one regret about my travels in France and that is my laziness to speak the language. Certainly my French is good enough to communicate at a basic level and I can understand a lot more than I am prepared to speak. Shame on me. I need to do better. After all, it is the beautiful language of a country I love.
Read more about France by Untold Morsels
My travels around France have been a huge inspiration for this blog and unsurprisingly I have written a few posts about our travels there
How visiting the Somme changed my perspective on ANZAC Day
14 ideas for a quick family stopover in Lyon
An impromptu trip to Normandy and its beautiful coast
Visiting Picardy – parts one and two
Favourite French blogs
Blogs are a great way keep in touch with happenings in France. Here are some of my english language favourites:
✪ Discover the South of France with Lou Messugo, a wonderful mix of culture, travel and local insight from Phoebe who runs a site or holiday rental on the Côte d’Azur
✪ Learn about family life in the Charente Maritime region of South West France via this charming blog
✪ There is nothing ordinary about Messy Nessy Chic – a quirky and cool guide to Paris and beyond
✪ On A Year in Fromage, writer Kazz weaves stories of her life in France around her passion for the cheeses of France
✪ I always get hungry reading photographer and food writer Caro’s blog The Taste of Savoie
✪ My all time favourite blog is by David Leibovitz, an American pastry chef living in Paris
How about you? Are you enamoured of France? Or do you feel at home somewhere else? What brought about your love for somewhere other than your homeland?
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