Last month I traveled to France on vacation. Beyond the obvious reasons, we were really excited because we planned to stay with our former landlords. Recall that I spent six months of 2009 enjoying the South of France while my wife worked as an in-house French to English translator (Castle in My Back Yard, July 24, 2009). It was particularly interesting to see what had changed since our last visit.

Sophie and I on the seawall in old Antibes

As ever cafes are the heart of French society, but I noticed a peculiar thing. About half of the patrons were tuned into their smart phones while sipping their apéro. This seems to be a big hit to the French sport of people watching. It probably shouldn’t be so surprising that the entire world is adopting the same technology that has thoroughly hooked America. It’s just funny to see it integrated within the local cultural norms.

Other aspects of The American lifestyle appear to be permeating the French culture. The small towns we visited seemed in a struggle to keep boutiques open, as more young people prefer to shop at the supermarché. I was even a little disappointed in the fashion trends. It seems that camouflage patterns with faux branding from the US Army are en vogue.

Meanwhile, roadside billboards warn of the dangers of snacking between meals because more Frenchmen are struggling with weight gain. McDonalds is one of the hippest resto’s in towns. We stopped on a number of occasions always confident of clean bathrooms and a strong free wifi signal. I have to admit, the French menu… I’m lovin’ it.

All this pessimism is a little unfair. While the pensioners will lament the changes to society, there is still no better place to experience the belle via. We split our time between the beach and wine country. We rested two nights on the Côte d’Azur, near Antibes. It was wonderful relaxing in the surf, needing only to wander a few blocks down the boardwalk to grab a baguette sandwich and go. Our hostess in the Côte du Rhone prepared a traditional French meal every night of our stay. The hospitality and culinary traditions of the South of France cannot be beat.

Maschkes and Bérards à table for the first course

I have faith that the French will incorporate the best of modern society as they have done for centuries. In that way, France is like an onion with layers of culture to discover with each visit. I can’t wait for my next trip!

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