In rural France you don’t get bars or pubs as we know them. In England we get home from work at 6ish, get the tea straight on and get down the pub for about 7.30. By 10 we’re a bit tipsy – if you make it to 12 things have probably got out of hand. Possibly because they all have a 2-hour lunch break and they’ve got work to catch up on, or possibly because they’re enjoying the weather or napping, in rural France no-one emerges from their homes until at least 9ish, when they usually go to a restaurant for a long late dinner with a few drinks. The continental way, you start drinking later and it’s with food so you don’t get drunk. But where’s the fun in that?
I’d been on my best behaviour for a few weeks when a good friend came to visit and we decided to show them how the English do it. I’d been unable to really let loose when out with the English couples mostly of retirement age and with the boyfriend’s mother lurking in the background, and had not really been party to what was going on when out with the young French people, who are lovely but tend to talk unintelligibly in French. When my friend arrived it was as if until then I’d been cast away on a desert island without realising it, and now I was catching up on so much gossiping and chortling. We cracked open the champagne at lunch time and put the world to rights swinging in the hammock.
I had, just for a few days, the perfect combination of good friends and this stunning location. On a wave of tipsy hilarity, we swept up to the only decent local café bar and proceeded to drink too much, become quite popular with the local chaps, steal a bike and ride it round the square, smoke a cigar for a laugh and spend the rest of the night being sick in the toilets. It’s good to bring a touch of your own culture abroad to help increase the area’s diversity. I think we impressed.