Thursday, September 9, 2010

The ubiquity of the summer house

Last post about my holiday, I promise (can you tell I loved it?).

One thing I didn't mention in my previous posts was our "small world" encounter in Biot: the Irishman's aunt and uncle, who we met in Villefranche for dinner, were actually on the Cote d'Azur to spend a week with friends who own a house in Biot and several other couples who have known the Irishman since he was a lad. Though we were intending for our holiday to be more of a romantic getaway than family reunion, when faced with four sets of Irish parent-types inviting us to a big communal dinner we couldn't really say no. We ended up having an amazing meal at Chez Odile - Odile herself admonished all of the men (including my Irishman) to eat their vegetables. Adorable.

But I couldn't help but be struck at how similar the whole situation was, running into families one has grown up with in a beach resort area miles from home, to how the Jersey Shore and similar places work in America. While at first I was really impressed that this Irish family spent all of their time off in Biot, going swimming in the sea and finding little local restaurants to frequent, I realized that it's no different to all of those friends I knew (and still know) whose families own a shore house, or rent a splace "down the shore" , and use any excuse of a long weekend, public holiday, etc, to flee to the sea. The only difference here is, well, Ireland doesn't exactly get hot, and doesn't really have guaranteed sun. So it's understandable that families who crave a real summer would seek it abroad. And with a 2 hour flight the only thing separating Britain and Ireland from the Cote d'Azur, it's really not much different than driving to a British or Irish coast.

It's easy to forget, as an American, that comparatively speaking, Europe isn't actually that big; when you live in the US, you know there is this magical world across the ocean that holds so much history and culture and wonder but you don't really comprehend its geography. When you become an expat, and avail yourself of Ryanair and Easyjet and Eurostar, you start to realize that France - while linguistically and culturally still a million miles away - is actually a similar distance from the UK as New York is from Boston. The close proximity of European states makes all of the differences in food, lifestyle, fashion, everything!, so much more fascinating and intriguing - and easy to enjoy.

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