1. Wine (you aren’t really surprised by this one are you?). The wine selection at the grocery store is greater than the selections of juice, soda, cereal… anything really (well maybe except for cheese). There are so many types to explore beyond Bordeaux, Merlot, and Sancerre and I’m definitely up to the challenge. When I’m back in the States, shopping for wine makes me want to cry. Now that I’m used to proper wine labels, as in labels that just state the name of the maker, like Château Blah-Blah, the type of grape, and where it’s from, when I’m looking at wine in Texas I’m totally confused… Dashing Horse, Leaping Frog, and all the other critter labels. They’re cute and all, but how am I supposed to know what that tastes like???
2. C H E E S E (I don’t think I need to say anything else about this one).
3. Sticking with cheese… whole parties devoted to cheese, i.e.; raclette and fondues. From now on to me, winter will forever be associated with melted cheese and that’s awesome.
4. The pizza van. And I’m sure you’re all like, “yeah we have food trucks too” and I know they are super trendy right now and everywhere peddling their yummy mobile goodness, but they aren’t exactly trolling around rural areas now are they. But here, every village has a pizza night where a van provides delicious sustenance cooked by someone else and that’s a big treat when you don’t have fast food on every corner. And here’s the thing that many of you may not know… pizza maybe Italian but is also somewhat of a speciality down here in the south of France (Marseille has a large Italian community, even The Husband’s grandmother was from Italy) and it’s so delicious that the reigning World Pizza Champion is French, has a pizzeria in Salon-de-Provence, and I have a date to eat there in a few weeks with La Professeur. Lucky me.
5. The weekly markets. Love them. Sure they aren’t too much fun during the height of tourist season but hey, everyone should get to experience the wonder that is the Provencal market. Depending on the size of the market, you can buy anything from, cheese, saussion sec, tapenades, linens, rotisserie chickens, home wares, pottery, and the cute baskets to carry all your market finds in (I’ve had two of these cute baskets, Fifty has eaten both).
6. Only in rural Provence would you come across this…
7. Saying bonjour to everyone is a rule. You walk into a store or bank, and you say bonjour, it’s considered rude if you don’t. It’s just plain polite and I like it. And of course there’s, La Bise (the kissing). I love la bise, even though it confuses the bejeezus out of me. In Le Petit Village, we give two kisses, but in Avignon, only a little over an hour away, they give three. Where’s the border? Is there like some kissing line we drive over (someone really should draw a map). And check this out, Saturday night we had a dinner at a friend’s house and the friend and I exchanged two kisses, but then when I saw him the next day, at a party outside of Avignon, he gave me three! How am I supposed to know what the what is? I think from now on I’m just going to outdo everyone and give four.
8. The ritual of the meal here, especially lunch (Aidan just wrote this post about the tradition of lunch in France). It’s a big deal and not to be rushed. It’s nice, drawn out and very relaxing, and it always begins with an apéro. Which brings us to…
9. L’apéro. L’apéro is designed to whet the appetite and you always have one before beginning a meal with friends whether at a restaurant or in a home. It’s a drink such as Martini Blanc, Martini Rouge, a Kir Royale, a glass of Champagne, or a Pastis (or really any ol’ thing you’d like to imbibe) as well as a snack like olives or nuts. There’s something about it that feels old fashioned and decadent and it’s probably one of my favorite things about life here.
10. And the thing I like the most about most France… it made this guy.