France, Spain and Christmas

I watched Amelie last night on the new DVD player we bought in El Corte Ingles.  I love the music and the quirky artwork and effects throughout the film.  For me, the whole film encapsulates the essence of the romance we Brits associate with the idea of living in France and the artistic mentality that goes with that romance.

This romance takes me back to living in France very briefly a few short years ago.  It was in September 2007 as part of the Erasmus programme that I arrived in Tours, France.  Barely unable to string a sentence together in French despite many years studying it and a fantastic grasp of the grammar, (I think I’m the sort of language student  that Jeremy Harmer was describing in his post yesterday!  The one with the internal dialogue rather than the external conversation, albeit very strong with languages in general) I struggled from Paris to Tours.  People must have thought I was thick, and you’ve no idea how frustrating that is!  I’m a great student of languages, but it takes me a while to “speak”, that’s all.  And because of this, I don’t judge my students’ ability on their communication skills alone.  Anyway, we’re going off the point of this post.

Those few short months on Tours were wonderful and frustrating and a dream.  It was everything that France promises and more.  I drank coffee late at night in bars wearing my jeans (something not really “done” in England.  Try ordering a coffee or anything less than a double vodka at night-time and they look at you like you’ve asked them to put Teletubbies on their giant plasma screen instead of the half-naked, dancing beauties who can’t sing more than three notes.  And I do order coffee at night for the simple reason that I don’t care what you’re “supposed” to drink.  I’ll have what I want, cheers.  In France, drinking coffee was okay, as was reading a book (Sartre or otherwise! 😉 ).  There were little, intimate book shops with staff who knew their literature and would look at you bizarrely if you asked for something more modern than Moliere.  There were big shops which sold expensive books with snazzy covers which fold inside and often have a little extra strip telling you about the author.  There were many little cafes and restaurants with croque-monsieurs or should that be croque-messieurs?  There were little side streets with shops displaying a wealth of hand-made treasures including jewellery, paintings, ceramics, you name it.  I felt wonderfully integrated after a short-while, being a familiar face in the rather intimate city centre.  My language was improving immensely, I felt inspired and I had some great friends from different places.  I’ve never felt so accepted in a place before or since.  It was okay to be me.  I didn’t have that usual feeling of being slightly embarrassed about the things I say and how I say them and my constant anxiety resulting from over-analysis.  I didn’t feel that I was a geek or that I wasn’t educated enough, or not “cool” enough (well I did, but only when I was with narrow-minded English people, which, fortunately, wasn’t very often once I’d got to know people from other countries).  I felt that Tours was the perfect place.  When I watch Amelie, some of these memories come back to me, though really, it wasn’t anything like Amelie.  For one thing, it was a bit more modern…

The truth is I fell in love with France in a way that I still haven’t with Spain.  I like Spain.  Spain has its strong points.  Spain, or at least Cadiz, is relaxed.  You can go for walks along the paseo, I like the little unpretentious bars with metal chairs, I like the people who you can approach without a feeling of coldness emanating from them.  I like sunset, here, as some people may have gathered.

Now the link in my brain from Amelie to France to Spain now goes to Christmas.  I’ve never celebrated a Christmas here in Spain.  For me, nowhere, not  even France does the wonderful build up to Christmas like England.  However, I associate November time with little city visits to cold places.  There was the trip to Paris and then Blois in 2007, last year it was London, this year it’s….well….I haven’t got money to go to Paris and no time to go to London, so where can I go that’s not far from Cadiz to satisfy my November pre-Christmas preparation urges?

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5 Responses to “France, Spain and Christmas”

  1. David Warr Says:

    1 Wonderfully told.
    2 I think you’re cool.
    3 Manchester.

    • crazykites Says:

      Don’t like Manchester :p If you’ve never been, I highly recommend you go to Liverpool for a weekend. It’s MUCH better than it’s rival city. We have nicer architecture. And a river. And the Albert Dock. I’m sure your wife would enjoy it a lot if she’s a keen shopper with the Liverpool 1 shopping centre planted in the middle of the city. There’s also a couple of nice art galleries in phenomenal buildings.

  2. Carole Says:

    You should have seen the mist rising from the earth in Sefton Park this morning…and the rays of the sun radiating, through the branches of the leafless trees…priceless! I’ve always fancied Germanic places at this time of the year. Auntie Maria is off to the Christmas Market at Cologne in a couple of weeks.

  3. johnnytownmouse Says:

    Sevilla! It’s so close to you and it’s so beautiful. I took my honeymoon there last January – well we went to Sevilla then drove to Granada, then to Murcia (where we first met). Nice Christmas decorations, plenty to see, cosy bars to drink chocolate at night… Granada is pretty awesome too. Oh I love Andalucia and Murcia! You could go to Malaga – I spent a few weeks there this summer doing research and Malaga has a lot going on – I think the nightlife there felt sort of like the nightlife in Newcastle – lots of girls in high heels and small clothes – you don’t get that so often out where I am – here I occasionally ride my bike to bars wearing heels and people act like its the funniest thing they’ve ever seen 🙂
    If you drive through Andalucia just make sure you take a copy of Romancero Gitano – maybe a cliche but sooooo great!

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