Je suis arrivée en France!
It was an easy trip. Surprisingly, I was able to sleep on the plane and so thankfully I don’t feel the usual hard slap of jet lag. Estelle picked me up from the airport and we were so happy to see each other that we started jumping up and down, clapping (I’m realizing more and more that I clap when I’m happy; sometimes awareness makes your life more uncomfortable because you’re now cognizant of that fact that you’re standing in the middle of an airport, jumping up and down, clapping). But I didn’t care; we were both smiling from ear to ear! I will have to tell you more about Estelle and our friendship, but for now know that she is probably one of the few people on this earth who truly gets me. We are cut from the very same (French) cloth.
First stop: petit déjeuner! We sat at a little café by the water and ate pain au chocolat. I watched the
boats yachts drifting around their anchors while I sipped my café crème.
After breakfast we did a bit of grocery shopping for the week. We stopped at le maraȋcher to buy fruits and vegetables, where the strawberries smell like strawberries, and the tomatoes are plump and red and juicy. We bought tomatoes, radishes, nectarines, figs, lettuce, basil, melon, and avocados. Then it was off to la boucherie for ham, la fromagerie for cheese, and la boulangerie for une baguette. It seemed like everyone in town was there to buy des baguettes to bring home to their families for lunch.
We ate lunch on Estelle’s terrace overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. She made a simple tomato and avocado salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The tomatoes were the best I can remember eating. We nibbled on radishes and slices of ham. And of course, there was rosé. We spent three hours eating lunch and talking about everything from work to politics to love.
This is the French way of life. It’s not just about sitting down to enjoy a meal, it’s about connecting to the process of making a meal every step of the way—from the pilgrimage of shopping for your ingredients, to the loving preparation of your food, to the event of sitting down at the table. At each meal, the French are connecting to the food, the ritual of eating, and the people with whom they’re breaking bread. It reminds me of sutra 1.41 where Patanjali describes samapatti, or engrossment, where what is being experienced, the person experiencing, and the experience itself becomes one.
A meal in France consists of sitting at the table and sharing the fruits of your efforts over a bottle of wine. You push pause on your busy day and you talk about life. The meal lasts for hours. Shop owners close their doors for lunch, and many people leave their office for two hours so that they can go home to eat lunch with their families. Food is at the heart of French living; their relationship with food exemplifies their life philosophy, which is to honor the process—to do something for the joy of doing it and to relish in the effort behind the rituals they love.
After our lunch, we decided to go down to the pool, where the sun, the rosé, and the jet lag lulled me to sleep.
Later that evening we ventured to Hôtel Belles Rives in Juan-les-Pins for drinks. Hôtel Belles Rives is a famous hotel where F. Scott Fitzgerald used to stay when he visited the French Riviera. It has a very 1930’s vibe. We sat outside and sipped cocktails and just watched the world go by.
Dinner was more tomates, this time avec de la chèvre, du pain, et du jambon. What an amazing day. I kept pinching myself; to be here with my dear friend, soaking up France in a way that I’ve needed to for a long time seems almost too good to be true. I really feel like I’m h(om)e—completely at ease with myself in the moment. I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. I dreamt that heaven smelled like cheese.