A week in Provence

My husband had a migraine yesterday. He’s started getting them periodically over the last year, and we’re still trying to work out the triggers, but one of them seems to be release of stress – he’s fine while the adrenalin is still pumping, but when things calm down his body protests. Apparently this is quite common, and the phenomenon is sometimes known as ‘weekend headaches’. In this case, however, the migraine came the day after we got home from a week’s holiday. I suggested that this time it could be straightforward nerves, as he is not only back to work today, but also starting a new job. He said it wasn’t, it was actually the release of stress after successfully completing our holiday, in particular the nine hour journey back from the South of France by train. Holiday planning and booking is very much husband’s job in our household, and apparently he was so stressed out by how annoyed I would be if he had messed up the bookings and we found ourselves stranded in Lille that it triggered a migraine. Oops. Note to self: Be nicer.

I wouldn’t say the journey home will go down as one of my favourite ever days. For a start we had been inadvertently booked in the quiet coach, and ‘quiet coach’ isn’t a concept you can really convey to a fifteen month old. Not an English one anyway. French children, apparently, not only refrain from throwing food, they have all taken a vow of silence. My attempts to exchange conspiratorial eye-rolls with other parents were met with frosty glares, and I actually thought the middle-aged woman across the aisle was going to spit on us. I felt slightly guilty about disrupting her journey, until I was pacing the vestibule area with Sophia and discovered that being a stickler for the rules on quiet carriages didn’t prevent her sneaking off to the loos for a sneaky fag or eight. Puh. However, none of this was my husband’s fault. And I didn’t shout at him. I just drip-fed Sophia raisins whilst internally exercising my A-level French to the max in order to compose cuttingly sarcastic comebacks which I would obviously never have the nerve to utter.

The week preceding the journey home was lovely, though. For a start we broke the outward journey with a blissful 24 hours in Paris, managing to cram in a walk along the Seine, people-watching and listening to live jazz in a street cafe, a sneaky coupe de champagne or deux, and a very decent amount of croissants, pains aux chocolats, quiche and profiteroles. Oh, and a four-hour stint kneeling on the wooden floor awkwardly leaning over the side of a travel-cot to which Sophia had taken exception, and would only consent to lie in if I stroked her tummy. Every 20 minutes or so she would look so deeply asleep I would think it was safe to withdraw, and every time eyes and mouth immediately snapped wide open. Finally, I discovered that singing to her had the same soothing effect without crippling me, so I lay in bed next to her, singing lullabies until fell asleep, and I assume she must have done too.

We were staying  the rest of the week in Marseille. Anna is now a huge fan of Marseille, largely because the flat we were staying in had a hammock in the bedroom and a treehouse in the garden. I was slightly less sure. The people were so warm and friendly, and the views from the many hills were spectacular, but there was a bit too much graffiti, noise, dog poo and dangerous driving for my lamentably Northern European sensibilities. However. We ate some truly fantastic food. Fresh seafood in a cafe where you chose what you wanted from an enormous ice-chipped counter, and then they cooked it for you fresh. With mountains of the best chips I’ve ever tasted. And home-made alioli. Stuffed vegetables and gratin dauphinoise from our local traiteur. Mille-feuille. Local strawberries. Cheese. Pate. Fresh bread and pastries. Ratatouille. Crepes. To be honest I’ve never totally ‘got’ French food before this trip, always finding it a little bit too rich and heavy and lacking in vegetables. Maybe my tastes have changed, but I also think that Provencal cooking has much more emphasis on loads of fresh vegetables to accompany the inevitable cheese/butter/cream fest, and I prefer it for that. Anyway, I came home 1lb lighter, despite eating like a pig all week!

We also had fantastic trips to Les Calanques – the dramatic rocky cliffs and coves around Marseille, Aix-en-Provence and Arles. The weather was mixed, but good enough that my beloved Saltwater sandals got their first outing of 2016 and we could introduce Sophia to the delights of paddling.

The nicest thing about the week, though, was some proper family time uninterrupted by the demands of housework, paid work, school and all our various mobile devices. Absolute bliss. And now my husband has recovered from the migraine seemingly brought on by terror of me losing my temper, we all feel refreshed and ready for the new term. salawaters

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