When you say the word France, people immediately think of Paris, and not without good reason. Paris is a magnificent city. Magical really. The Eiffel tower, the Louvre, Montmartre and Sacré Coeur. It is, as Hemingway said, clearly a “moveable feast”! It is fashion and history and artists and writers. Coffee on sidewalks. Croissants and romance. It is Notre Dame. It is what was, and what will be again.
But Paris is not France, not all of it. There is so much more. Today, I’d like to take you to the lengthy, rugged coastline of Brittany. Here you will meet French people, not tourists. Here, they will wave to you (this doesn’t sound like much, but my Minnesota-nice loved it). Their houses, are not palaces, but they are manicured. Each small yard is covered with flowers. I saw a woman on her hands and knees with a scissors, cutting the grass. These people are proud and welcoming. We went for lunch at a small restaurant with white tablecloths and a bowl of caramels (the taste of Brittany) for dessert. I asked the waitress where we could purchase these caramels – I loved them! She stepped away from the table, I thought maybe she didn’t understand. She returned with both hands forming a bowl filled with these delicious caramels and she dropped them in my purse. My first (non-family) gift in France.
We went to an antique store, browsed the history, our mouths filled with butter and sugar. I was drawn to a cup filled with old paint brushes. Green handles worn from hopeful hands and spotted with paint’s proof. I held them up and asked how much they were? He said something I didn’t understand. My husband said they were free for me – gratuit! I held them to my heart – what was and what will be.
The next store I bought a sketch pad and began painting with my experienced brushes. Together, we sat at the beach and tried to capture this rugged beauty that I had never seen before. This worn in warmth of a place, that maybe needed me to tell its story, as much as I needed to feel it. An exchange of beauty. This is not the Eiffel tower, but believe me, this too, is France. Bienvenue!