What would we do without the French?

16 Feb

I’m serious. The question struck me forcibly as we wandered through Lyon’s Paul Bocuse Market early on the first morning after our arrival in France. Everywhere I looked a feast for the senses. Exquisite produce, aromas, packaging, displays, menus, signage. I’m impressed anew at the time taken to listen to a customer’s request and respond with the exact thing that will turn a meal into gourmet experience. If they were about to undertake brain surgery they could not be more absorbed. The quality and attention to detail screams, ‘I am the best!’ Even in the worst recession in France’s history standards here have not slipped. There may be a horse meat scandal elsewhere but don’t mention it on this hallowed ground!

But before I can browse properly I have to defrost. I’m so cold, I’m literally freezing from the toes up. I’ve yet to buy replacement boots for the pair I wore out last winter. My Merrill trainers have no insulation. I might as was well be barefoot. The temporary solution is cafe et Calvados in the market bar. Two coffees and a hefty snifter of brandy for seven euros. Aaaah it’s good to be back!

Today is Valentine’s Day, the second in a row we’ve spent in France’s gourmet capital. We have two nights to adapt to local time and temperatures before our two months in the Alps. Last February the Rhone froze and all the fountains became intricate ice sculptures. This year the mercury hovers between freezing and two degrees celsius.

Five shoe stores later I’m about to give up the hunt for boots suited to the snow, ice and slush of St Martin. If they have the right style they have the wrong size and vice versa…. My last hope is the shoe department of Galleries Lafayette. Acres of boots. None will do. The very groomed, very slim salesman with the artfully draped scarf finally says, ‘Av you tried Erg’. I beg your pardon? He repeats, ‘Av you tried Erg?’ The penny drops. He is saying, ‘Have you tried Ugg?’

The irony makes me laugh out loud. Why would I travel thousands of kilometres to a country renowned for fashion to drop my dosh on Australian made boots I could buy in Brisbane. Ridicule non?

Ten minutes later I walk out of the store with toasty warm toes enveloped in my new Ugg boots. Voila!


The rest of the day and night pass in a blurr of jet lag but I do recall our delightful dinner with Maryse at La Cuisine de Madam Chatelet, an understated restaurant with delicious, authentic cuisine. Maryse loves her wine and food as much as we do so it makes for a good evening. We’d met Maryse at one of Michel and Denis’ soirees last year and stayed in touch. Inveterate traveller, recreational pilot, bon vivant and gourmand, Maryse has friends all over the world and a hundred stories to tell.

We leave Lyon Part-Dieu station next morning in sunshine bound for Bourg St Maurice and the Three Valleys. It’s time to put Stuart’s stroke recovery to the ultimate test – downhill skiing!

2 Responses to “What would we do without the French?”

  1. Michelle Noble February 16, 2013 at 11:04 am #

    Welcome back to France globetrotters! Beautiful sunshine in the Alps set to continue for the next 4 days. Enjoy your trip to St Martin. If you’re back over Les 2 Alpes way be sure to look us up. We have a room for you anytime 3 March – 13th March and then from 17 March (St Patrick’s Day!) onwards.
    Love and best wishes, Michelle & Bryan.xx PS: the snow is fabulous…..

    • Sharon Tickle February 16, 2013 at 2:32 pm #

      Bonjour Michelle,

      After this week in St Martin Hotel we have an apartment in Meribel Les Allues until April 12. Have a spare room so you should come and stay with us when you don’t have guests. Any time except first two weeks of March as I will be in Seville! And yes, just gorgeous on slopes today. Hope to see you, Sxx

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