Me too, Julia, me too.
The place where I feel most French is the gloriously sun-drenched Southern part of the country, particularly the region between Nice and Marseilles. The colors appear more vibrant there. The grapes taste of the earth in which they were grown (terroir, as the French call it). The hillsides look like patchwork quilts in varying shades of green.
One of my favorite activities in any country, but especially in the South of France, is aimless wandering through local markets. The artfully arranged stacks of freshly picked produce, bundles of local flowers, artisanal cheeses or soaps that smell of lavender---these markets engage and overwhelm every one of the five senses in the most wonderful of ways.
All images taken on my last trip to the Saturday market in Nice, 2007:
It's Monday, y'all.
So, I'm guessing you could use a little rum-infusion.
Classic Mojito (you'll feel like it's summer in no time):
1 teaspoon powdered sugar
juice from 1 lime (2 oz.)
4 mint leaves
1 sprig of mint
2 ounces of white rum
2 ounces of club soda
Place the mint leaves in a glass and squeeze the lime over them. Add the sugar and then gently muddle the lime, sugar, and mint. Add crushed ice. Add rum, stir and then top with club soda. Garnish with the mint sprig.
Sip, close your eyes, smell some Coppertone and pretend you're on South Beach.
-- written by Max Ehrmann in the 1920s --
Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.