What can we say about France that has not been said a hundred times before. We can only speak for ourselves, what France means to us, and in the process knowing that we are speaking for so many with whom we have compared notes in restaurants, airports and other places where Francophiles tend to rub elbows.
Our hearts yearn for Provence after we have been away for a few months. We miss the flavors of the village markets, the scents on the air, the pride in professional service in the restaurants, the cult of the chef. We love the culture's roots in history that prevents the whip lash effect of the newest fads in a country that influences fashion like no other.
It is popular to accuse all the French for the foibles of so many Parisians who often can be obtuse and egotistical enough for the entire world. But foreigners would be surprised at how the rest of France shares our opinion, often far more extreme than ours, of the pushy, driving denizens of the capital. The French living in the provinces lead for the most part a prescribed and traditional life. They don't take kindly to the self centered crowd from Paris descending on them in the summer, pushing locals aside on the road and in the boulangerie.
Despite what we may experience on the roads, there is a tradition of courtesy deeply ingrained in the French. Manners are recognized as the
grease that keeps the inevitable friction between citizens at a minimum.
Walk into a shop and if you don't "bonjour messeurs et mesdames" your service will not be the same. You may even receive a gentle reminded or your lack of manners.
Even in the restaurants frequented by everyday people, you will often hear latecomers "bonjour-ing" everyone already present.
The key to getting along with the French is not speaking their language perfectly, but being willing to try no matter how you ravage the pronunciation. Expressing an interest in food and wine, their food and wine, will always open the doors of conversation. When asked what you want to drink, ask for the Pastise and see how barriers melt.
When you think of it, we are all warmer towards people who want to know about us rather then telling us about themselves. We have found that the interest in local foods and drinks of host countries will almost always open the door to friendship. Most cultures have food traditions at the heart of their cultures along with their music.
So we bid you "bon appétit" and hope you enjoy exploring the byways of France as much as we.