So this week has been eventful – a few days off in Provence, southern France, enjoying sun, heat and food, courtesy of the in-laws, (A major food discovery in Aix was melon served up by my sister-in-law at their house in Rians, more on that later) and we had two birthdays (me, now 43, and my oldest turning into a teenager).
Aix in early summer – v Nice!
A few random observations:
Driving in Provence
Don’t. The roads are full of people who think it is an absolute requirement to drive right up your arse and then over the top of your car and then onwards.
Now I’ve been driving a long time, in London mostly, where ‘White Van Man’ has a civic duty to piss everyone off. But when you find yourself defending your life against an octogenarian grandma in a 25 year old Renault 4 at 80 kph on a blind bend on the A8 to Marseille you better believe that you start wondering about whether you should have gotten that bus after all.
The quality of on-board assistance on ‘budget’ airlines.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m no frequent flyer but I know a bit about travelling at 38,000 ft. And I know that I will fly EasyJet and I won’t fly Ryanair (because the CEO is a gurning crook) or Monarch (because they play fanfare music over the tannoy when you land, like it’s some kind of miracle that everyone made the flight in one piece).
On the way back to England we sat in the last row (to enjoy the extra fun of bouncing around) and endured the high-level conversation between the two 16 year old attendants, which basically involved the boy talking shite and the girl laughing hysterically at everything he said. Then the boy started tapping out a drum beat on the microwave whilst the girl stared vacantly into space. Comes the time to serve refreshments (I passed but the man next to me didn’t):
Girl: ‘What can I get for you today sir, coffee, tea, sandwiches’?
Man: ‘Oh, yes please, I’ll have a green tea and what sandwiches do you have’?
Girl: ‘Well we have a bacon baguette or a ham and cheese sandwich’.
Man: ‘Is it a croque monsieur’?
Man: ‘The ham and cheese, is it a croque monsieur’?
Girl: ‘Sorry, I didn’t get that…’
Man: ‘…croque monsieur’
Girl: ‘ham and cheese…’
Me: ‘Jesus fucking wept’ (In my mind, not out loud)
Man: ‘I’ll have the ham and cheese..’
Girl: ‘That’ll be £27.50 sir’
Now I didn’t know who came out of this conversation sounding more stupid; a) the pretentious man who for some reason thought that because he was flying out of France he should be eating French sandwiches on the third crappiest airline in Europe or b) the stewardess who, despite flying the Gatwick-Marseille route day in and day out had no idea (and had not been taught) that the meat, dairy and bread creation she served probably several hundred times a day was in fact called a croque monsieur by about 50% of the passengers she served.
French food is better than British food
There I’ve said it. And the way the French eat is better than the way the British eat. You don’t sit down to a meal in Provence and expect to be done in half an hour. It takes a long time. There are multiple courses to deal with. And you take your time. It’s the way it is.
So when we went to my in-law’s for lunch in the middle of Provence I knew we were in for a treat!
And we weren’t disappointed. For a start there is the house they live in. My genius brother in law (let’s call him Joe to protect his identity) has built a full scale BMX track in the back garden; here is just a small section:
Now to the food. We had four courses. First off the hors d’oeuvres:
There were cashews, olives, beans, feta cheese and tomatoes, the MOST AMAZING melon balls (everything fruit and vegetable related grown south of Lyon tastes amazing – must be the sun or something), and some fantastic fish-based pastries (not shown here because I think I ate them all before I remembered to take a photo). And wine, of course.
Then on to the main course which comprised kebabs – we had the fish course (scallops and prawns), followed by beef, mushrooms and courgette. Now by this time I had (temporarily) abandoned the diet:
I didn’t take a photo of my plate but lets just say I think I ate nearly all those prawns. Then there was a cheese course – goats cheese marinated in….well I can’t remember but it was damn nice, eaten with olive bread.
Then the pièce de résistance – chocolate coconut mousse. With miniature fruit salads. Oh, and chocolates. You can’t have too much chocolate:
And all this was prepared by our superb hostess! It’s good to be related to the French, it really is! But by now I was stuffed. Totally. And we had to get back to Aix. So before we hit the road (good, straight roads BTW) I took a final look at the garden…
It’s like a holiday every day of the year! See that hose in the bottom right-hand corner? That’s a badminton court. Life is good if you’re in the south of France! Thanks in-laws for a lovely day.