For some reason, I was thinking the other day that I’ve “only” ever been to France once.
And I was thinking, maybe I should try to fix that while I still can.
That one time was a school trip around the end of junior school/beginning of secondary school. We were up in Normandy, staying in a youth hostel. Of course we visited the D-Day beaches.
I also remember a cracking market where we learned the basics of negotiating with mainland Europeans, as citizens of the UK.
– Ca, c’est combien?
– Cent francs.
– I’ll give you fifty.
– Cent francs, enfant Britannique stupide. 🙄
The funny thing is, Liam had said to us just a minute earlier that buying that leather wristband would be the easiest deal in human history.
We also made it to Mont-Saint-Michel, an island off the northwestern coast of France of historic strategic importance with a current population of around 50.
The structural composition of the town exemplifies the feudal society that constructed it: on top, God, the abbey and monastery; below, the great halls; then stores and housing; and at the bottom, outside the walls, houses for fishermen and farmers.
Anyway, the point is, we didn’t get very far south. Actually, one of the reasons I was thinking about France was that I was reading James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room for a book group. As I read it, it felt very evocative of Paris. Or at least, certain bars I used to frequent in Brooklyn. And if it made that connection, I could try to build the rest of the city from there, all dirt and food and odours and drink and washed-out sunrises.
Although Baldwin did spend time living in Paris, he settled for the later years of his life in Saint-Paul-de-Vence in the south of France, where he would receive writers and artists and musicians and actors.
And as it happens, Mrs Stroke Bloke sent me a link about recurring guest of the blog Le Corbusier the other day. It turns out that his special place to find inspiration was also in the south of France (although admittedly, a seven-hour drive away in the west as opposed to the east).
The Nasjonalmuseet in Oslo is currently exhibiting a collection of Le Corbusier’s paintings for the first time since 1966. Although the paintings would be finished in Paris, he found inspiration for them in Le Piquey.
I am drawn to places where people live naturally. Le Piquey is full of life that is healthy, calm and to scale: to a human scale…This is what civilizations destroy, plunging people into artifice and misfortune.
– Le Corbusier in a letter to his mother, 1932
But I was trying not to dwell on Brexit. All I’m saying is, these places in the south of France sound pretty inspirational. I’d love to check them out some time.