A little French holiday simply brings out the best in everyone. The frissons of Saint Tropez, catching a thief in Cannes, strolling in the vineyards of Burgundy and you are off in another world. Can’t you just sense a change in your temperament when you are sitting down with a chilled kir and an open Michelin map in front of you.
There is a sense of anticipation and excitement. A little French holiday is just the ticket to bring back your smile. My father claims that I’ve been on holiday ever since I left the States to work in Paris. That’s fathers for you all over.
Out our local, Cafe Brazza, everyone is talking holiday over their morning espresso and warm croissant. Shoulders are shrugged and hands are waved with passion and gusto. This year, there is a strong focus on nostalgia. Think Les Vacances De Monsieur Hulot by Jacques Tati and you get the gist.
As cinema buffs know, Tati’s film will put in you just the right mood for a little French holiday. Analyzing current trends, the people we know are booking simple holiday’s where pleasure is easy and honest. Picture black and white photographs from the Sixties and you will catch my drift. When I think of a little French holiday, I see an endless ream of Polaroid photos like a garland of clamshells hanging over a beach cabin. Speaking of a little French holiday, the natives are quite simply a different race when summertime blazes in the Hexagone in full glory.
Recently, the weather in Paris has stirred my memories of Brittany. It must be all that rain mixed with sunshine. Eating gallettes de sarrasin washed down with country cider at the Breizh Cafe in the Marais just the other day must have triggered my flashbacks as the rain came down in sheets in the street.
All joking aside, the evenings are now long and the sun doesn’t set until after 22h30. Quite a delicious feeling, I must admit. It’s like having two days squeezed into one. The queues at Bertillon for ice cream and sorbet are long. People are in shorts and sandals. The café terraces are packed, and no one is in a hurry.
Far from the city, the Parisians are tan, relaxed, and content. Everyone is talking about where is the “hot” place to be. The general consensus is that Calvi, Nice, l’ile de Rê, and Hossegor are the in places this summer.
To people outside France only Nice will strike a bell. As in all things, style demands focus. To sport the right look, use the local holidaymakers as your style guide for inspiration. In Paris, people choose their attire with deliberation. Issues of cost do arise, but it is more about being style savvy. The French Touch, which seems so easy to do, is quite difficult to get right.
I won’t say that it appears in their genetic coding, but I will say that there must be something in the water. Perhaps the trendy, Montcalm from the Pyrenees has trace elements we should be more aware of. Women seem sexier and men seem to have that certain unfussy dash which shows true élan. On holiday, the national mood swings and everyone wants what I used to refer to back in the States as that Cape Cod wind swept and sea bitten cool. Although dress codes vary across the country, there is one thing that you will notice. Style is timeless and effortless. There is a simplicity that anyone with a sense of aesthetics can achieve with just a pinch of effort.
If you go to any of the 4 locations I have cited, bring nothing with you. Everything can be bought on location: the right clothes, the perfect bathing suit, suntan oil and even a toothbrush.
Of all the holiday hot spots, Calvi wins hands down as the trendiest place to be seen yet another year. You can spot the in crowd by their sunglasses. By far the shades of choice are Ray Ban aviators. Shirts are loose and of white cotton or linen mix. Dior beach towels dominate La Balagne, Chloe bags with a long strap swing across the chest and Sonia Rykiel dominate the “big” names.
Some of the women look like escapees from the chic stores such as Colette on the rue St Honore. Last summer, there was a woman with long blond hair, wearing a long evening dress calling out, “Marcello, Marcello” in one of the piazzas.
Recently, the French press has been running feature after feature on how chic Corsica is as a holiday destination. It is true that the coast on the side of Calvi is ravishing. However, most of the best coves are only accessible by boat, read the word “yacht”. The island has diverse eco zones and offers any adventurer every thing they need to subscribe to the Gypset.
Nice Is Back In Vogue
This Riviera destination has always had allure. Once an Italian city, you can feel straight away that it has more in common with la dolce vita. Not far outside of town is the charming port, Villefranche-sur-Mer. Last year, the town celebrated yet another anniversary of the Rolling Stones mythic recording, “Exile On Main Street”. In this town, it is only rock ‘n roll…
As you float through the narrow streets, turn up the volume on your iPod when listening to “Plundering My Soul”. To get the R&B vibe, rent an red Alfa Romeo coup for touring the countryside.
The Nicois attitude is very 1970s in the best sense of the term. No one on this side of the Riviera has hang-ups when it comes to bathing and lazing about in the sun. The Fitzgerald’s got good and lost down here and so can you. On the beaches and coves, women flaunt the gifts which nature has endowed them with without any complex. Men for the most part where a tiny slip in black.
The Promenade des Anglais still holds the magic for which the Riviera is justly famous. The lights at night along the magical palm studded crescent will delight the most jaded palates. Bling-Bling is common, but it just adds to the party flavor. The major religion here is sunbathing with fervour. Everyone seems so healthy. Of course the Mediterranean cuisine with its emphasis on fresh, local, and organic play big. Indulge in the real Salade Nicoise and you will see what truly makes this salad a French classic. Eaten on location has nothing to do with variations consumed elsewhere whether in France or worse overseas.
What I have always loved about Nice in summer is the town truly sparkles. Old Nice is where the action is and wears its Italian sense of style with nonchalance. If you feel at home with the gingerbread people, artists, and designers, you will absolutely love the fireworks display on Assumption.
Seeing the light show reminds me of that famous scene in Hitchcock’s, It Takes A Thief, starring Grace Kelly and Cary Grant. The whole area reeks of high heels, Rolex submariners, and Rivas. The opulence can be enjoyed as a perfect antidote to the any economic crisis psychology fostered by the grey skies and high seriousness in Northern latitudes. Come down and party. After all, everyone here is an exile from some street.
BCBG Paradise at L’ile de Rê
The BCBG tribe have colonised l’ile de Rê. It is as if everyone from Neuilly and Versailles decided to hold a Downeast clam bake just outside of Seal Harbor. At the beach, Portes-en-Rê, it will feel like old home week. Bad taste and bling have been outlawed.
Style trends are preppy. Find yourself a vintage Madras sports jacket to go with your Bermuda shorts. Leave your socks at home. Let your feet rejoice. Ralph Lauren would feel right at home here. The beaches are sand and the smell of Atlantic salt clings to the hair and skin. The island is very civilised and delightful for cocktails and late evening shindigs with family & friends. Bring a bag jazz records featuring Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, and Eric Dolphy. It will give you the ideal soundtrack to plan excursions. If you need to shake your booty, skip this place and head straight to Ibiza.
Further down the coast as you hit the Landes country is Hossegor. It is home to the French kahuna and you can surf your heart out. The surfing style is everything. Quicksilver board shorts and wet suits predominate. Because of the surf attitude, American trends and brands run big here. Even vintage Levis jeans are common currency among the surf set.
The younger crowd of pretty young things to quote Evelyn Waugh, is particularly keen on bright colours reminiscent of the late 1960s and flamboyant prints. There is quite a Venice Beach scene here. After a heady day on the surf, there are enough clubs for you to dance the night away until dawn.
All major airlines land at Paris-CDG and provide excellent connections to internal flights or train links.
Article Title: When You’re Hankerin’ For A Little French Holiday
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