A Longing for France, to Reflect and Celebrate

Aug 10, 2020

When I want to savor memories of France, I step into the kitchen.

Choosing a recipe I know by heart or a new one I find in a magazine such as Cooks Illustrated (above) or an ingredient I decide to explore, I excitedly imagine what the taste and flavors might be. Doing my best to cook with the seasons as it reliably offers the simplest and most delicious dishes, each new year and each new season is a classroom of sorts and I savor the opportunity to continue to be a student.

This summer was the first summer I was able to step outside into my garden and bring fresh produce directly into my own kitchen with a transport of only a few steps. This past weekend, Norman joined me as we tootled about in the garden, trimming a few nasturtiums for the salad and simply delighting in the Echinacea conehead flowers and how beguiled the bees were by their pollen (see images below).

~Nasturiums~
~Echinacea conehead flowers~

Fortunately, I had not planned on traveling to France this summer as any travel plans abroad would have had to have been cancelled, but simply knowing I cannot travel to the country that has inspired so much of the way I enjoy living tugs at the heart a bit. Here are a few moments, tastes and experiences that upon immediate contemplation I am longing for when I think of France . . .

. . . the neighborhood markets full of fresh produce, the hustle and bartering, woven baskets, and spices. (watch the video below to be swept away to the markets in Provence).

. . . the croissants, and only for a mere Euro.

. . . the brilliant, surreal blue sky of Provence.

~captured while walking along the roads in the Luberon near the hamlet my vacation rental was located.~

. . . the mistral that sweeps through to brush the sky, presenting an even bluer hue, if that is possible.

. . . the chirping symphony of the cicadas. Listen to episode #216 in which I recorded while I was walking near the vineyard you see above to hear some of the lovely sounds of the outdoors in Provence.

. . . the small and large museums. (I could take this tour again, and again, and again – it was shared in last year’s French Week.)

. . . long, long, long leisurely lunches that drift into the hot afternoon and early evening.

I will always remember fondly and with great affection each of the five lunches shared with my classmates and Patricia and Walter Wells that lasted for hours.

. . . apéro hour.

Apéro hour at Susan Hermman Loomis’ home in Louviers last summer.

. . . fougasse bread from Provence.

. . . fromage as a course.

. . . sitting in the Palais-Royal garden and listening to the fountain whilst catching a breath and putting up one’s feet. (view more pics from visiting the Palais-Royal last summer – as seen below – here in this post.)

. . . French butter.

~Susan Hermann Loomis’ shares the French butter she can pick up at her local grocer in Louviers. View my Butter Tasting and discover my favorite French butter.

The list could go on and on as no doubt you are scrolling through your own longings that are unique to what you love, but I know when each of us does have the opportunity to return or visit France, we will savor it in an even deeper appreciation than we would have without this temporary pause of travel.

To be able to explore another country and/or culture safely, comfortably and with untethered curiosity is indeed a privilege, and much gratitude is due to the country that opens its doors and provides such feelings to its visitors. Perhaps this year’s TSLL’s French Week in its own way is a week to extend a grand merci in whichever way communicates for each of us what the culture means to us and our life’s journey of awakening.

An awakening encapsulates most appropriately what France has meant in my life. As I share in my first book in more detail, my first trip to France was a culture shock. At the age of 20, I had never previously traveled outside of North America (except to Hawaii), and doing so was well overdue. The currency was still the Francs, and paper maps were the only way to navigate, along with a hope you might run into a friendly stranger who obliged a traveler who didn’t speak French well at all.

From the long lunches, to what butter with high butter fat could do to the flavor of a pastry, tartines for breakfast, wine with every meal, and hostels with other international travelers in their early twenties choosing to explore the City of Light, I didn’t know it at the time or could consciously put it into words, but my life had forever changed. To a small country town college student, my study abroad in Angers and then time in Paris was initially frightening at times, but with each passing year, I have come to acknowledge and celebrate that it was the best trip and experience for growth my life journey could have been gifted.

To long for France need not be a state of sadness but rather an observation of appreciation and then celebration of all that now is part of your life because of your time spent in a country and culture or celebrated from afar that spoke/speaks to you in a way that is unique to your life journey.

The journeyperson finds what they need, not necessarily what they are looking for when they set out to a new land and culture, and only if they cast a wide look and choose to take in what is truly there. Maybe this week, take some time, pour yourself a glass of French wine or make your favorite French meal or listen to some classic cafe music as was shared in this week’s inaugural post, and simply reflect, remember, and who knows, maybe something new will share itself with you as you examine your times in France through a new lens of life.

May we all be so fortunate to have visited and/or visit France, and may we be so lucky again and again and again.

Bonne journée mon amis.

PREVIOUS POSTS from TSLL’s 5th Annual French Week






18 thoughts on “A Longing for France, to Reflect and Celebrate

  1. This makes me long for France, Shannon! And I really loved your interview with Lindsey Tramuta. Thank you for stirring up these memories so that we can dream and prepare adventures coming our again! 💋

    1. Unlike past French Week’s on the blog, I don’t have first-person travel content as I would like, but simply going back through my old pics and videos is a comfort. Thank you for tuning into this week’s podcast episode. Lindsey’s book and her conversation we provided needed insight to make sur3 we are appreciating a culture well and helping, not hindering what we love and want to support.

  2. Good morning Shannon I had hoped to return to Nice this summer but plans are on hold, trying to be sensible, which is difficult for us in the UK when France is so near, but now seems so far. Forever the optimist I am holding onto the hope that travel will be possible again for us all before too very long. Loving French week as a reminder of the good things in life. Very best wishes, Sue.

    1. I can only I Aline how hard it is to wait largely because of France’s proximity. Perhaps our affection will deepen even more than we realize. Thank you for stopping by during this week of celebration Sue. 😌🇫🇷❤️

  3. Your description of your time spent as a student in France reminded me of mine as a senior in high school. I put in many after school and weekend hours working at McDonalds to pay for the week long trip during our April school break. How impressionable it all was to a 17 year old girl! I soaked it all in and my life was changed forever. Extra bonus…. my French teacher said my accent was so improved after the trip. So, I experienced a journey, a cultural experience, language lessons and enlightenment for a lifetime.

    1. Jan, thank you for sharing! Visiting in our teens and early twenties is so powerful unknowingly so. It really did not hit me until later how much it had made an impression. How fortunate we were!

  4. I appreciate your focus on what we can do right now…bring France to our lives, be content and find joy in our circumstances…I have a friend in France who is doing just that, and she likes to hear what things we are doing in the States to remain joyful and at peace….armchair traveling is a beautiful thing!

  5. Travel is in my very marrow. At only 6 mos. of age, the household packed up and moved across states for my father’s graduate work. Countless childhood summers traversing states for summer-school teaching, combined with two years USAID work in East Africa and the rich experiences of European travel to & from, have meant that I love “home” but am always anxious to be off & exploring too. My little cottage home now hardly knows how to store suitcases and related travel equipment! it’s supposed to be standing by ready to GO! And just as my husband was really beginning to enjoy the GOing also . . . At least the planning doesn’t have wait.

  6. Everything about this makes me smile. I, too, am longing to be in Paris and Provence. Missing summer travel and hoping to plan a trip to France next summer. A simply luxurious retreat with rosé and fromage and chocolat! Sending you joy from New York!

  7. Shannon, I have so many similar feeling about France! I too studied abroad – in Paris – at 21 yrs old. It changed my life. At times it was difficult attempting to speak French, and calling loved ones from a phone booth down the block very late at night, but the people and the food and the wine made every discomfort worth it. I had a wonderful college professor who took us on field trips to Chartres for the stained glass, Rouen (where we learned about Joan of Arc AND champagne), and he organized an impromptu cheese tasting course before our American Thanksgiving dinner. Such fond memories! Thank you for sharing yours for it reminds me of mine.

  8. Having been a Francophile for decades, I finally visited France for the first time in 2018 when I turned 50, and can’t wait to go back! My husband and I had discussed going this year, but alas… Anyway, while I always enjoy French Week, this year it has especially helped me feel less sad, and I am inspired to sift through my pictures and memories as well. Thank you for reminding me to add a special dish, wine, dining alfresco, cafe au lait, and other French favorites to make my “homesickness” better. :))

    P.S. I apologize for writing a run on sentence with such horrible punctuation to an English teacher… I have no idea what came over me! ;))

    1. Joy, I enjoyed every bit of your comment. The rules are meant to be broken to reveal your enthusiasm and longing in this case. I am so happy to hear you were able to visit France and had a most memorable time. Thank you very much for sharing and for joining fellow lovers of the French culture here during French Week. 😌💛🇫🇷❤️

  9. I too traveled to France for the first time in my early 50’s. I have had the luxury of travel throughout my years but never a trip as inspiring and influential as this!
    The connection I feel from my trip to France is not solely the respect and love I have of the history, architecture, fashion and cuisine. But is that I shared this experience with my 23 year old daughter Dylan at the time.
    We both have such an appreciation for that which we experienced that we are forever connected in this way. They day we had to return home was the day we decided we were going back together again.
    It’s amazing the influences that can be had by travel. Our love of cooking and fine wine has only developed further. Visiting Reims and learning about French champagne remains so inspiring. Dylan’s love of wonder food and its importance has challenged her into the amazing home chef she has become.
    The education we both were fortunate to have is life changing. The grandeur of tParis and the softness of the country side is so alluring. The kindness of humanity we experienced was so incredible . My daughter needed to be seen by a doctor and the language barrier was a challenge for us. The kindness of a patient before us offered to stay and translate to help us. There was beauty all around us in so many ways! We are forever blessed!

  10. Aah the longing for la belle France. I remember it only too well. We always drove there from the UK and so had space for a lot of goodies for the return trip. We booked our table at our local French restaurant before we left the UK and it was the first of our rituals on our return . Then each day after that we would enjoy un petit plaisir until our next trip. It was like a beautiful romance. France does that to you. Heady and intoxicating.Your nasturtiums and Echinacea look lovely. I have just made a batch of pesto using the nasturtiums leaves. I also use the leaves to line my cheese platter and they are great in sandwiches. Make sure you make some tea with the echinacea either fresh or dried but add some other favouring in the form of ginger or lemon elderberry to keep your immune system boosted😊

  11. I love France and Paris but would love a visit to Provence it is on my bucket list. Hoping they will welcome Americans in the very near future. For now cooking French and visiting blog about France will have to suffice. 🙂

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