Our time in Provence passes far too easily. The days slip by in a gentle pattern of dog-walking, cycling, pottering around local villages and just sitting, chatting, whilst we set the world to rights.
I know we should be doing lots of other things too, like making the most of visiting local restaurants and enjoying evenings out, but however hard we have tried, it just isn’t us. I find I spend too much time stressing about what I should wear (from my extensive wardrobe of 2 dresses) and can never fully relax when we are out, I suppose after nearly 55 years, I should just accept it.
We often feel that we are swimming against the flow of everyone else, with my Instagram timeline filled with photos of people’s beautifully presented plates of food, or elegant wine glasses filled with Rose, delicate beads of condensation, dripping down the outside. We try really hard to want to be that person, but in the end, if the truth be told, we would much rather just potter out and take a picnic.
Don’t get me wrong, I will wear one of my two dresses, even perhaps put on some make-up (if I can find it) and am very happy to have a meal out, if it feels like the right thing to do, perhaps when we potter into Avignon for an evening, or are having a night away somewhere, but it tends to be the exception, rather than the rule…
I always remember watching old TV programmes when I was a child, with couples having picnics, everything spread out on a checked rug, with colourful tupperware containers packed with food. It was something that old people did, not me. I decided that I would eat at restaurants, be waited on hand and foot, not sit on the grass eating normal food, knowing that I would have to do the washing-up later. But I never did manage to live that imagined life, and realise that I am actually far more comfortable being that ‘old person’ I had vowed never to become.
So often, when we are out cycling, we see cars parked in field gateways, with a table and two chairs set up under the shade of a hedge or nearby tree. The table is laid with cheeses, charcuterie, bread, fruit and even cakes, as the couple sit down to enjoy a quiet meal, away from the hubbub of the towns and villages. We shout a cheery ‘bon appetit’ as we pass, our stomachs rumbling at the sight of food, keen to get home for our own lunch.
Even when we first started coming to France over 30 years ago, we used to enjoy simply grabbing a baguette, some cheese & tomatoes and would head off in search of a ‘perfect picnic spot’ for either lunch or supper. In fact I still love looking back through our old photo albums, with pictures of us, fresh-faced and full of youth, sitting by a river, or relaxing with our backs against rocks, overlooking a magical view, drinking wine out of plastic glasses (the height of elegant dining)
These gentle, ad-hoc evenings are much more who we are, and I suppose it’s now far too late for these leopards to change their spots, so more and more we find that we are heading out in the evenings, with a basket of food, in search of somewhere to sit and watch the view.
The main thing that has changed, is that we now use it as an opportunity to take Fifi out for a drive, with Millie sitting panting in the back. Somehow, everything is so much more fun in a 2CV.
We have also progressed from the simple baguette and bit of cheese approach, now taking a basket with home-made salads, knives and forks, bread, butter, salt & pepper and a complete range of salad dressings …. In fact the only thing we really should think about packing to get the full effect, is a tablecloth and candelabra!
Over the last couple of weeks, between me getting back and Andy leaving (again), we’ve pottered out on a few evenings, heading up to Saignon, Caseneuve and Viens, in search of a new selection of ‘perfect picnic spots’.
The joy of a picnic supper is that you are able to choose your place, finding the best view…
Deciding where to sit (sometimes there is a choice of tables)….
Sometimes it is just a bench….
Or of course there is always the grass…
If the place you first arrive at is busy, then you can simply go somewhere else, and just find the place that is right for you..
We feel we are starting to perfect our evenings now, and we’ve sat mesmerised by the views, watching the colours shift with the setting sun, enjoying the peace that comes with the end of another day.
The joy of a picnic is that it is how you want it to be, you can wear what you like, eat at a time that suits you, choose the menu, and the wine, or more often than not in our case the juice and fizzy water. Rather than music or the babble of people talking, the soundtrack is the chatter of Bee-Eaters heading home to roost, or the shift of the cries of Cicadas to the rhythmic chirruping of the night insects.
If I’m honest, I love these evenings. I accept that after a salad has bumped around in its container during a trip up a hill in a bouncy 2CV, the presentation of the meal may not be the best, but it still tastes good and I wouldn’t have it any other way….