I’d been to Paris on my honeymoon years ago when foreign travel was something Glaswegians did only when they followed their football team around Europe. I then had the pleasure of making a tour of the Loire Valley Chateaux and the Champagne region with J one year. At IBM and BT, I actually worked in Paris at La Défense for a few short weeks. I’d been to Calais quite a lot on ‘booze cruises’, long before they built the channel tunnel and I’d skied in the French Alps on a few occasions. I loved France, French food and the little bit of the country I had seen on my early travels.
It was only when I moved down to Tourrettes and saw the full beauty of the countryside that I really came to appreciate the fact that of all the countries in Europe, France probably has the most magnificent and varied scenery, and that includes my native Scotland.
It’s a well known fact that the vast majority of French people do not travel outwith their country when the summer hols come around and after seeing quite a bit of their country over the last few years, I can understand why. I mean they’ve got majestic mountains in the south and east, magnificent beaches in the west and rolling fields and extensive history in the north. And then there is the fabulous weather and fancy resorts in the south. The gorges and rivers which criss-cross the country are amazing and the chateaux which are more numerous than you can imagine, are spectacular in their splendour.
Then there’s the food. I’ve said to J quite a few times that you can get good food in London for much the same price as you would pay in France, especially now the exchange rate has moved against the Pound. But what you don’t get in the UK is the pleasure of walking into a smallish rural restaurant and discovering a great chef, making wonderful food at reasonable prices.
Years ago when J and I lived in the UK, we splashed out and went to Bray for Sunday lunch at the Waterside Inn which is a three-star Michelin restaurant. That day I tasted food, the like of which I had never experienced before – it was sumptuous. Then I got the bill! Now this was some 20 years ago but the total on the little bit of paper was, and I’ll remember it forever, a mind-blowing £164! You could dine out here in local restaurants for a month on that figure and although the food wouldn’t be up to Michelin star standard, it would still be of a very high quality. Indeed, our local hotel, where we got married does a three-course lunch for €20 and the food is absolutely fantastic.
So given all this; the scenery, the great food and the fact that the French love their country and holiday within it’s borders, why then have some French people opened the following establishments down here in sunny Provence? I reckon it’s for the Brits – it must be!
The Thai hotel serving ‘authentic Thai food’, created by their very own French Chef who just happened to marry a Thai girl. Probably found her on ‘MeetThaiGirls.com’! All the normal delicacies you’d find in your local Thai are here. The Green Thai Curry, the spicy soup and the deep fried vegetables. I suspect however that it’s not like some UK Thais where you have to take your own wine.
Then there’s the Mongolian Hotel where you stay in tents and eat ‘Mongolian’ food whatever that might be! Apparently, the owners (both French) saw these tents on a trip to that far-away country and decided it would be a good idea to get some shipped over and get people to pay for the ‘Mongolian experience’!
Now call me an old fuddy-duddy if you wish, but this is a travesty. Before you know it there will be an ‘English Hotel’ somewhere down here, staffed by eastern Europeans and serving awful food. But at least they’ll keep the bar open until 2am!
In my view, there’s nothing better than getting to a small French village or town and finding a truly authentic French owned, French run, French style auberge serving delicious local food. Ok – a bit of diversity is a good thing but Thai and Mongolian hotels is ridiculous! But hey, I’m a great critic of many aspects of French life, so maybe somebody’s been reading my blog and decided that things needed to change a bit?