What I miss about France

From my seven-month stay in that rural corner of Normandy, there are several things I miss:

  1. French. Not necessarily ‘the French’ (their rude reputation is unjust; I’d argue that they are merely reserved) but the language. Full immersion in a culture is the first step towards fluency. Now I’m back in Scotland, watching the 8 o’clock news on TF1 isn’t quite the same.
  2. The smell of bread. When  you live in France, you begin to sniff out boulangeries, quite literally. Within a few months of living in Normandy, I was able to tell from half a mile away if a patisserie was approaching. Warm dough, sugared cakes, condensation on the windows as the baguettes are removed from the oven…
  3. The Mont St Michel. I do rather miss seeing this half-diamond rising from the grey sands on the horizon. From the windows of my classroom, I could make out the tiny speck of the spire; scan the seas and watch for rainclouds moving in.

And, something I’d rather forgotten about, until I was reminiscing…


Memories usually go by year. What was I doing this time last year, two years, three years ago? Who was I with? What was I feeling? On this precise day, il y a 365 jours, myself and my best friend J were wandering around the cold jardin of my remote Normandy town. Spring attempted to push through the soil; pale lilac heather and pixie flowers fought the ice; fields in the distance showed a hint of summer yellow.

The day before I had collected her from Granville, a maritime town clinging to a jutting peninsula, holding itself above the cold Atlantic waters. She had arrived from Paris, cold, tired, above all hungry. A Subway lunch (yes… France has not escaped our crusty fast food) was below par. We needed sustenance and warmth, delivered like drugs in the form of sugar.

These rainbow shaded macarons heated our stomachs. From a little side street shop, l’Atelier Gourmet,  the crisp discs lifted our return bus trip from standard to sublime. There is nothing like a real French macaron (or macaroon, as we Brits mistakenly call them) with its crumbly shell and silky filling.

The vanilla’s mine. Which one’s yours?

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