Out of respect for a beautiful nation and its spirited resilient people, I allow myself to unleash my inner Francophile this time every year and expound the virtues of France:
Starting with Paris, I learned that the myth of Parisians being arrogant is exactly that - a myth. In fact, we found Parisians to be helpful and polite, going out of their way to give us helpful tips and assistance, many times without having to ask for it. With 20 arrondissements to sift through and each district adding its own unique flavour and culture, the saying of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts truly applies to the ‘City of Light’.
In a delicious contrast to Paris, the Alsace countryside in Springtime is a symphony of greens, punctuated by lakes and the occasional castle, with hundreds of acres of vineyards spread wide over a sweeping landscape. Our experience was further enhanced by a very special B&B, a charming converted farmhouse s ituated in the mountains above the tiny village of Freland, just off the famous Routes des Vins. You can take a peek at La Haute Grange in a YouTube video here.
Few places beat the romance of St Paul de Vence, in France’s south. Sitting majestically above the hustle and bustle of the Cote D’Azur coastline, St Paul de Vence is one of the oldest medieval towns in the French Riviera and a haven for artists and celebrities since the 1960s. I was so taken by this part of the world that I was moved to make another short video of our stay.
In a region renown for white wild horses, black bulls and pink flamingoes, worlds seemingly collided in a whirlwind of dance, music and colour at the heart of the Camargue, at Saintes Maries de la Mer, during the Romany Gypsies’ annual festival commemorating “Black Sarah”.
Scaling the heights of the Pyrenees at 2877 meters is an experience that I will never forget. After a one and a half hour drive from Haute Garonne towards the Pyrenees, we took a cable car from the ski town of La Mongie to Pic du Midi. With a breathtaking panorama of 300 kilometers from every angle, this is said to be one of the most magical views in the world.
After shaking off its monarchial shackles, France declared itself to be an "indivisible, secular, democratic and social Republic”. All the more surprising her choice of current President Emmanuel Macron based on his liberal economic and political leanings. In fact, the very word ‘liberalism’ remains an anathema in French intellectual life. Through France’s choice of Macron, however, she expressed a resolute refusal to accept the anti-immigrant, anti-Europe, and fear-mongering of the Front Nationals. For this reason alone I raise my voice in respect and say “Vive la France”. Long may you flourish. I look forward to exploring more of your magnificent lands and charming culture in the years to come.