I’m going to miss France.
I’m going to miss the trees. That is an odd thing to start this list with, but it is true, I will miss the trees. Anyone who has seen autumn, winter and then spring in France will understand the immense beauty of the trees in France. I’m going to miss the wild flowers growing on the roadside and fields of soft yellow, violet and blue.
I am going to miss the road signs in several European languages. I am going to miss the trains. I am going to miss the supermarkets, the hypermarchés : an aisle for yoghurt, an aisle for milk, an aisle for cheese. I have eaten eight 125ml pots of yoghurt every week for nearly seven months, I will miss the yoghurt most of all. I will miss the bread; I will miss having fresh boulangerie pain aux céréales or baguette with every meal. I will miss the markets: the atmosphere, the fresh produce, the camaraderie between the stalls, or the slight competitive spirit. I am going to miss Bonne Maman confiture. I am going to miss the cheese. I feel my “cheese education” still has long way to go.
I will miss the houses: the wooden chalets with hearts carved in the balconies. Or the beautiful old stone farmhouses, their walls half a metre thick, with flaws and crevices in the stones. Each one has a story. I want to live in a house with a story. I will miss the narrow village roads that wind between each house. The thrill seeker in me will miss being a passenger in a French car, the journeys often punctuated by sharp intakes of breath.
I will miss jet streams in the sky; I like my sky looking like a game of pickup sticks. I am going to miss living in a mountain valley; spectacular views partout. I am going to miss seeing old men shuffling about the town square in cloth caps and berets. And old women in fur coats, their spindly legs poking out the bottom.
I am going to miss the possibility of going to Bordeaux, or Paris, or Barcelona, or Berlin, or London. Just hop on a plane and voila! I am going to miss living in the same country as Bordeaux…
I am not going to miss the smoking, the crazy amount of smoking. I will not miss seeing fourteen and fifteen year olds dragging on their cigarettes like a form of life support. And then, the gathering pools of spit at their feet because they can’t stand the taste: I will not miss that.
I am not going to miss the opening hours of French stores. I am looking forward to going shopping on a Sunday, and goodness, even a Monday if I want to.
I am going to miss the heat. I have had a taste of summer, of the sun on my skin, of the vitamin D coursing through my veins. I feel slightly cheated to be going back to Wellington in winter, like a child given a lick of ice cream and then it cruelly taken away. I want more ice cream. But, if winter means I can walk Lambton Quay, drink coffee on Cuba Street, curse at the wind and cry over the hills, then winter, I am ready.
France, à la prochaine.