Today is Waitangi Day, a public holiday in New Zealand, to celebrate our history, and the signing of our founding document, The Treaty of Waitangi. It is the most magnifient of summer days – blue skies,with a light and balmy breeze to take the sting out of the hot sun. Idyllic really, so why then am I sitting on our deck, in the beautiful leafy suburb of Titirangi, longing to be in France?
The longing started as soon as I plonked my treasured soft-brimmed sun hat on my head – the one I bought in a side street shop on the way back to our hotel that first day we arrived in Nice – the one sold to me by a lovely middle-aged French woman, herself the epitome of understated elegance, who insisted it was the perfect shape and style for me. And she was right – I love this hat, not only because it suits me, but because it is brimming full with memories of Southern France (pun intended of course).
So, couple my hat full of memories with a book called My French Life by Vicki Archer which came out into the sun with me as I had a few last pages to read, and the longing begins.
I purchased the book with an Amazon gift voucher given to me at Christmas time, and it arrived a couple of weeks ago – I was not disappointed – it is simply beautiful -printed on high quality paper, with evocative photography by Carla Coulson and a fascinating and oh so enviable account of the purchase and subsequent move to Mas de Bernard, a run down Provencal farmhouse set on fifty acres in Saint-Remy-de-Provence.
In finishing the book and then flicking back through each luscious page, I started thinking about why France is so alluring – in a nutshell it is the history, and the colour it brings to French daily life – the architecture, and the culture which has flourished over such a long time – New Zealand is so young in comparison, with much less settlement history.
What I read and see in the sumptuous the pages of My French Life reflects so well how France feels to me. So many things that took my eye in my previous two visits are mentioned – those ubiquitous Provencal shutters (can’t get enough of them), the markets, the Roman ruins, the lavender fields, the food, brocanctes, French style, Parisian arondissements and architecture, … and so much more.
I will never be lucky enough to have what the author has, but I can live vicariously though the pages of this book, and I certainly count myself lucky that I have seen that colour and vibrance that Vicki describes in both the South of France and Paris, though they engage me in quite different ways.
I can also count myself lucky that I shall travel to France again next year. My journal is full of notes and comments from My French Life, which one probably wouldn’t find in a guide-book – it will ensure that I am a little better equipped to understand French life and culture from an Antipodean point of view … roll on May 2014!