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26/40 – Vive La France

Those of you (my mother at least) who keep up with my weekly stream of consciousness will know that our soon to be expanded family sailed of to France a couple of weeks ago in a mood of high excitement – tempered only by a deep fear that I had forgotten something crucial, or would get us thoroughly lost in the Brittany Wilderness (well, on the b-roads around Roscoff anyway). In fact, I did not leave anything behind – and that’s a literal statement. The house was stripped bare when we left, and the back of the Focus was a bit like the Tardis, only without the actual space. Nor did we get (too) lost -there was a slightly hairy situation towards the end of the journey when certain pregnant people forgot that they were navigating and started admiring the lovely seascape, but recovery was quick, and absolute catastrophe was averted.

Most importantly, we had a blast. France is an excellent country for holidays – and not just for the obvious reasons like sun, proper croissants, and cheap wine. All these things are indeed great (especially the croissants) but they don’t even touch the surface of why a pregnant woman armed with a toddler and a husband would love holidaying there so much.

For example, French Supermarkets are truly wonderful places. They are stocked with lovely French products, many of which are unheard of here in Ireland. A personal favourite is Dijonnaise, which is mayo, with a bit of French mustard mixed in. Lashings of Dijonnaise on my lunch time baguette, or whatever, brightened my day and made even the simplest meal feel so much more… French. And while you can’t get After-eights in France, there are many other tasty varieties of dark chocolate with minty bits… The first few days were happy experiments in chocolate until I found “my” brand, and settled down contentedly with it for the rest of the holiday.

And to continue on the theme of fab French supermarkets… They have priority aisles which pregnant women can use to check out! What a considerate idea. These were actually really important, as by the time I had wandered around gazing in awe at the amazing products on offer, I was usually bursting to use the loo, so legitimate queue jumping was a real blessing.

But how, you may ask, did I do all of this gazing with the toddler in tow? Well, the innovative and houghtful French have that angle covered. Every supermarket, even small local ones, has a set of mini trolleys for little ones to use. The toddler proudly pushed her trolley around, and was as good as gold the whole time. The bigger supermarkets also have little car trolleys for kids. You’ll have seen them in Irish shopping centres, little cars that toddlers can sit in, with a decent size trolley on the back for Mammy’s shopping… The difference is, in France, these fellas are free, where as here you pay about 5EUR an hour for the privilege!

The beauty of shopping in France is that a supermarket is only a part of the experience – where you would buy Dijonnaise and minty chocolate (to pick two random examples). Other, fresh, produce is bought from local shops. The pregnant mammy, the toddler, and even the husband – loved this too. The butchers for meat, the bakery for baguettes, croissants and other beautiful bready things, the fishmonger for fish, the deli for nice lunch stuff. Great fun altogether and a useful way to keep the toddler amused until the sun (yes, sun, and lots of it) was cool enough to get buckets and spades and head to the beach (if you thought all we did was shop and eat, you were wrong, we shopped, went to the beach, and ate).

Of course it wasn’t perfect. Slightly cramped conditions were rendered even worse by the ridiculous amount of gear that had to be taken out of the Tardis, sorry, Focus, and stored in the holiday home. There was some rain. The outdoor pool was a bit cool even when it was sunny. Sand got everywhere. The toddler had some amazing and enduring tantrums… But, honestly, that’s just nitpicking… As Winter comes in, and this baby gets closer to greeting the world, I’ll think back to the evenings sitting on the terrace with the husband, eating nice bread and Dijonnaise – while the knackered toddler snored inside, and I’ll look forward to the four of us doing the same again next year.

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