My France - Sally Boazman

SALLY BOAZMAN is better known as Sally Traffic’ for her Radio 2 travel updates. A regular visitor to France, she tells Carolyn Boyd there’s nothing she loves more than to jump in the car and head over the Channel for a day or two in Nord-Pas-de-Calais

What do you like about France? I always had this dream from a very young age that I would end up in France, but then I had a child. As soon as I think he doesn’t need me anymore then I’ll be off. I just think the French have the most fabulous way of life. All their priorities are much nicer than ours, food and sex and all that, they get it all in perspective, they don’t work too hard and it’s an absolutely great culture.

What’s your earliest memory of visiting France? Well, when I fell in love with it years and years and years ago. I was in my very early twenties, I worked for a publishing company and one of the editors, Max, had a place in Lot and he used to rent it out. I put on a backpack and got a student rail ticket, and I did this journey all on my own down to Lot by train. I didn’t know anyone in the area and Max had arranged for some local people to meet me at the station. It was a great adventure, I’ve been back so many times since.

What part of the culture do you like best? I suppose I quite like the food and the drink. I lived in Bordeaux (pictured below) while I was a student. I went over there to teach in an English language college and I had this tiny bedsit studio with a little bathroom. Over the road from me was a place where you could take your empty bottle and they would fill it up from the vat with wine. In those days, it used to cost me the equivalent of about 15 pence, which was so cheap even then. I thought that this was so civilised.

Where else have you visited? Last year I went to the Vend�e, which I’d never been to before. It was really lovely and quite unspoiled. I tend to go all over the place; I’ve been to Paris, obviously, I’ve been to northern France, but there’s a whole lot more of it I want to explore. It’s a very, very big country!

How is your French? When I was working there I spoke it reasonably well but not being there all the time means I can easily get by, but it’s not brilliant. I’m sure if I stayed there for a while it would come back. My greatgrandmother was French so I think I have a real French connection and, when I was teaching English, everyone used to say my grammar was terrible but I had a fantastic accent. I think that’s because I’ve got a little bit of French in me, and it makes me love France more!

Do you often drive when you’re in France? Yes, the motorway system has improved over the years. Now it is brilliant. Because they have this system of tolls, the roads are so well made and you’ve got great places to stop at, which have great food. When you’re over there and you’re driving you think why is it not like this in England? I’m not sure about when you get into Paris and you have to drive around the p�ripherique, that’s a bit scary.

Most Read

What do you think of driving in France? I just think they have a different way of driving, which is not only French, it applies to the Continent as a whole, and has always been more risky than our own. The driving in France is a little, shall we say, erratic, although they are trying very hard to crack down with their speed-camera system. It’s certainly better than it was.

Do you have a favourite drive? If I am feeling a bit France-deprived, I’ll go either for the day or the weekend. I’ll drive down to Dover, get on a boat and I’ll drive from Calais down to Saint-Omer. I’ll just go to the market and have lunch and come back or will stay in a ch�teau or somewhere, then come back. The drive from Calais to Saint-Omer is quite lovely in places, and it’s just thrilling to be in France and realise that, even two hours from Dover, it’s so, so different with such beautiful countryside and much wider spaces.

The Sally Traffic Handbook (Haynes Publishing, �6.99) by BBC Radio 2’s Sally Boazman, with a foreword by Steve Wright, is out now in paperback.