Why does The Little Black Book of Paris sit on my desk, as well as a small, handy version of Phaidon's The Fashion Book?
For the first time since coming to live in France eight years ago, I found the winter months here in the countryside to be very, very long. Why should this be, when October is one of the most beautiful months of the year in this part of southern France, still warm, with the countryside, after the fierce heat of summer, a tranquil, fresher place to walk or cycle. The animals are still in the fields under brilliant blue skies in November and, even though temperatures are dropping by then, we enjoy superb crisp weather. The valleys and hills look glorious, as the forests put on their amazing golden display, before the trees finally shed the last of their leaves.
As the first snow begins to fall higher up, the views to the Pyrenees are spectacular. December is pleasant too, passing without much of the fuss experienced elsewhere; the pre-Christmas madness doesn’t happen here. It is a time for slowing down, doing less outside as the days shorten to the winter solstice.
There is a feeling of being in harmony with the earth. As opposed to the manic craziness of my old life in Ireland, Christmas day here just means a larger than usual family lunch. The 26th is not celebrated, so everyone is back to work.
January can be bleak and we sometimes get heavy snow in the hills, but, a few weeks on and bizarrely, in mid February we often have a week or two of high temperatures and blazing sunshine, when we find ourselves wearing light summer clothes and eating lunch on the balcony. Then, in comes March with its many weathers; the temperatures plummet and it’s entirely possible to be snowed in.
The snow ploughs can get up the track to our tiny hamlet, but as ever, the advice during heavy snowy weather is to venture out only if you absolutely must.
Outside tables and chairs are uncovered and smartened up in April, in anticipation of months of Al Fresco dining. Hanging baskets, full of large green leaves go up. These will, in time, turn into a riot of fabulous red as the tumbling geraniums, named the King of the Balcony, burst into flower during May.
So why, with all these excellent things to recommend it, in a place with such fantastic scenery that people swoon when I tell them where I live, did I find the last six months went at a crawl? The reason is Paris. Yes, Paris, or rather, a serious lack of it.
Much as I adore living in Ariège Pyrénées, my heart and soul are so attached to that city that not seeing it regularly has an effect on me. My ideal life would be to have an apartment in Paris and our house here, and divide my time between the two. For most of my adult life, I have visited Paris several times each year. When I lived in Ireland I went regularly, getting to know it really well, discovering many of its secrets. Now, living in the same country, I seem to see my favourite city less and less. In the past year, I have only seen the City of Light once, and then just for forty-eight hours. It wasn’t enough.
Thank heavens I'm going back next month. I know now and I have to admit, that as lovely as everything is here in the Grand Sud, and as much as I adore Toulouse, the rose city, I long to be in Paris and want, indeed I will say need, to spend more time there, especially during those winter months.
In the meantime, my well thumbed, little black book of Paris sits on my desk, with its companion, The Fashion Book for easy reference… as I work on a master plan to find myself an apartment in the fabulous Seventh Arronddissement. And aptly, to get there, at least seven figures are needed.