No one prepared me for this. I figured I’d go to France for a month and that would be it. I’d do some traveling while studying French in Villefranche-sur-mer. I’d have a great time away and then come home to Toronto and all would be fine. Life would go on as usual. I assumed I’d go back to working in the media and pick up where I left off. But that isn’t happening. I find myself constantly comparing everything to a recent French experience.
Read Leslie’s delicious account about why she chose to study French Under the Villefranche-Sur-Mer Sky.
I’m organizing dinner parties just to use the stunning linen tablecloth I bought in a Grasse boutique. It has petits homards rouges (little red lobsters) and seaweed embroidered on it. Obviously, dinner will consist of fruits de mer avec des bouteilles de chablis…
I’m visiting art galleries in my neighborhood and trying on shoes in shops that cost more than my flight to France. And, I’m wearing my Lacoste tennis sweater at home during a Canadian heat wave. I bought it in Nice.
I’ve developed a sense of loss. A general malaise. Something is missing. It feels like I’m hungry when I’m not. I find myself searching for restaurants that serve a rich bowl of soupe à l’oignon, or crispy frites, fresh pain au chocolat, and unforgettable fromages. Craving for the chef’s daily plat du jour.
Since I’ve been home, I’ve been shopping at small markets with huge cheese counters. Buying crusty bread and planting new herbs in my garden. I lost my lavender, but I’m doing much better with my rosemary and basil. I’m sketching sunflowers and drinking rosé early in the day.
And then I started seeing online posts from my friends in France. And huge headlines: “France WINS the World Cup!” “Looking ahead to another Paris Fashion Week”. Everywhere I look there’s happy news about France. Beautiful photos on everyone’s Instagram feeds. Images of art and stylish people. Glorious beaches. Perfume. Soap. Flowers. Markets. From Nice. From Paris. From Burgundy. From Bordeaux. From Aix. From the Loire Valley. Of course, it doesn’t help that I now follow numerous French Instagram accounts. Official tourism sites. Fashion sites. Art galleries. Businesses. Wineries.
This is of my own doing. It’s like I’m punishing myself for leaving. I’m homesick for a country that’s not my own. And why does it seem that so many people are now into French culture?
I’m meeting more and more people who say, “I’ve just come back from France.” Or, “we’re spending Christmas in Paris.” Why can’t we be happy at home?
Can we have the same cultural experiences here as we do in France? Canada has a handsome, young Prime Minister just like France’s “dishy” President Macron. But, it just doesn’t feel the same. Maybe le sexy President is helping to raise the profile of everything French? One of my friends just bought a Hermès Kelly bag and all I could think of is WOW for that amount of money, I could almost move to France for a year!
I have friends in Toronto who speak French. Rarely do they encourage my use of the language. I speak to them in French anyway. They may reply for one or two sentences but then switch to English. So much for practicing my language skills.
I’m running out of French restaurants in Toronto to try. None of them have measured up to the meals I ate regularly in France. Everything is “meh”. But, maybe it’s me.
Maybe it’s just that I haven’t accepted that nothing will feel like France but France.
I did have one experience in a Toronto cheese shop (the Cheese Boutique) where the salesperson offered me a taste of L’Edel de Cleron. (On the label: “A true European brute, it comes surrounded with a thin piece of smoked cherry bark. From Comte, France.”) It was so good. So lush in the mouth. Oozing with flavor. It made me crave a glass of full-bodied cabernet sauvignon to swish around with the cheese. It literally brought tears to my eyes because it was so delicious. Was it just the cheese? Was I feeling vulnerable? No. I think it’s just that that little sliver of cheese tasted like France. I recognized it instantly – it felt familiar and it made me smile.