France: not just Clichés
Updated: Sep 16, 2020
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, the 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 and other viennoiseries in a Parisian café, have a glass of red wine and sample some morbier in Burgundy, and walk the narrow streets of one of the most beautiful villages in France. We cannot help it, we crave it!
What if you are a tourist? You cannot help it either. If you have been to Collioure before, you want to go back to Collioure and admire the same dramatic coastal views as we, natives, never get tired of photographing. If you have been to Mirepoix before, you want to go back to Mirepoix and sample the cheese that we, natives, never get tired of savoring. If you have strolled along the Canal du Midi, you want to join us, natives, on a bicycle ride from lock to lock and stop for a picnic under a majestic sycamore tree.
Whatever it is in France, if you have enjoyed it once, you cannot wait to experience it twice or more. 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 lifestyle, the joie de vivre and the casual elegance with a touch of insouciance, may I say. It is what makes France… so French. These are all clichés, but unlike most clichés that we consider “passé” or even “boring”, we cherish those, we need them, and we keep going back to France for them.
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. That is where you will admire the famous and splendid 70-yard long tapestry which represents the Battle of Hastings. You will then understand why tapestry is still the pride of the “tapissiers de Bayeux”, the tapestry and upholstery experts of the Bayeux area.
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 glass and fire to polish it.
As you head south, you can stop as many times as you wish. Whatever you are looking for, you will find it. A master roofer specialized in the restoration of historical monuments, a gold leaf finisher who refurnishes the royal portrait frames in Versailles or other chateaux 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.
The heritage is formidable and still produces today a variety of highly skilled and interesting people who connect us to the history through their knowledge and their multiple areas of interests.
History is really what connects us all, and the clichés in 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. And I must say, it was not until I went back to France many years after leaving that I became aware of them.
I remember looking at my dad oh so French, coming out of the local grocery store some years ago with a couple of cloth bags, shoes matching the jacket, and I realized how “cliché perfect” that was. I did not pay much attention to such a scene as I was growing up – After all, I was part of the scene! I would get on my white bicycle five days a week before school to get the daily fresh baguette for the family (and cigars for my dad… yes, cigars at the tobacco shop! I was probably seven years old, if can you imagine!!!). Looking back, I wish I had taken a picture of my dad… I took a picture of another French man who strangely reminded me of my dad a couple of years ago. I could not help myself!
If you have traveled to France before, I am sure you fell in love with the clichés and you are now missing them. If you have never been to France, I bet you would love to go and see, taste, and feel those clichés.
Until you can book a trip to France, why not follow me there virtually? I promise the trip will be authentic. There is always an answer to your wishes, and France can be more than a dream. It can soon become a reality!