France: not just clichés
Find out what makes French people and tourists alike long for l’Hexagone
By definition, a cliché is an idea, a notion, or a concept, that has been used so much that it has lost its originality and its impact. It seems that we often dismiss the old clichés, and we rather search for variety… unless the clichés are about France.
When it comes to France, we, French natives, are hungry for clichés, and we want more. We cannot wait to go back to France and have a café au lait with a croissant beurre, a glass of red wine, and walk the narrow streets of a picturesque village. We cannot help it, we crave it!
What if you are a tourist? You cannot help it either.
Whatever it is in France, if you have enjoyed it once, you miss it. You crave it. You want it. It is not just about food; it is about the accordionist around the corner or the saxophonist at the metro station. It is about the ivy trailing around the old well of a courtyard. It is about the vaulted art shop on the way to some Cathar ruins. It is about the sycamore trees along the Canal du Midi. It is about the lifestyle, the joie de vivre and the casual elegance with a touch of insouciance. It is what makes France so French.
We have so many traditions in France, so much “savoir-faire” and so many trades that are still closely connected to our history. From Paris, you may want to start with Bayeux, home of the famous and splendid 70-yard long tapestry which represents the Battle of Hastings. You will then understand why tapestry-making is still the pride of Bayeux. As you travel to the Vosges mountains, you find the oldest glassworks factory in France, founded in 1475, where the mouth-blown technique is still used to press the old bistro-style glassware.
Whatever you are looking for, you find it – a master roofer specialising in the restoration of historical monuments, a gold leaf finisher who refurbishes the royal portrait frames in Versailles or other châteaux across France, a leather worker who restores original Hermes and Louis Vuitton trunks to perfection, a lace maker who designs and creates the finest headpieces in Normandy and Brittany, exceptional craftsmen in wood furniture, in silk, in handmade wallpaper… the list is endless. Its heritage is incredible and still produces today a variety of highly skilled and interesting people.
History is really what connects us all, and the clichés of France are mostly based on traditions. That is probably why we are so attached to those clichés. They are part of us all. They are our roots.
If you have traveled to France before, I know you will have fallen in love with the clichés. If you have never been to France, I know you will want to see, taste, and feel those clichés.
France can be more than a dream. Even from a distance, it can be reality, a reality that I personally live and share every day and that keeps me going. As the people around me know, you can take the girl out of France, but you cannot take France out of the girl!
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