France is just as you expect it to be, the clichés do not disappoint.
I had waited so long for a holiday in the south of France that I would have felt robbed without the fields of sunflowers, the grapevines, pretty shuttered houses, tree-lined roads, rustic farmhouses, good bread, cheese and red wine. It was exactly like that, exactement, and heaven knows that made me one happy lady.
But it was the things we didn't know about France that made our trip so really brilliant, the things that nobody told us, the things that people had said would be perhaps a 'challenge'.
The unexpected laid-backness of the place being top of the list, it's just so amazingly chilled out in France, it really is. The uptight, rigid culture of corporate homogenisation and extreme busyness that is so abundant here hasn't taken hold over there and it's rather refreshing to walk into a supermarket where people don't wear uniforms, where the fruit is all bashed and bruised and real looking, where every petrol station looks different and the shops are shut on a Sunday...and a Wednesday...and for two hours at lunch time on all other days.
People walk to the boulangerie to get their bread in the morning and stop for a chat along the way, stop for a chat in the shop, stop for a chat with the postman. There's no hurrying, no rush and the streets are wonderfully devoid of the unrelenting march of a branded coffee cup.
It was lovely to slip off the uptight english overcoat for a short while and relax, once the initial panic of forgetting your schoolgirl french and not being able to buy food on a Sunday has gone, you can't help yourself. The French countryside is a dream, there is literally no traffic anywhere, we would go on short day trips expecting UK-type car chaos and not see one person. We were continually wondering where everyone was and constantly delighting at the lack of vehicles and abundance of parking spaces.
And to top it off we found it friendly, we had been told not to expect smiles and civility but the peoples were wrong about this too! Betsy helped, being so freaking cute, especially once we taught her to say 'bonjour' - that was it, local hearts melting all over the south of France, big smiles and hearty slaps on the back everywhere.
So get thee to France, it's brill* and have yourselves a very bonne journée!
*except for the flipping eurotunnel which had an 'incident' on the day we were travelling home which left us stranded at the terminal for over eight hours....yep.