Reunited, and it feels so French
By Connie Lai
Deciding where to go for a family holiday is usually quite a straightforward affair but planning for our trip to southern France earlier this year proved somewhat challenging. The wealth and myriad of sights and experiences aside, there was also another factor -- nostalgia, a term commonly used by people with more ’wisdom hair’. Twenty-six years ago, I stepped in this country for the first time as a graduate fresh out of university; revisiting the beautiful landscapes and postcard-perfect countryside has been at the back of my mind since. My two teenage sons, who’d set their sights solely on the City of Lights, needed much persuasion!
One of my family’s first stops was Nice. Promenade des Anglais and bikini-clad women were two of the things I remembered about this ancient city; back then, we teasingly reminded the guys in the group to stop ogling at the babes tanning by the beach. This time round, the season was wrong for sunbathing so there was hardly any beach-goer (to my sons’ dismay!). The promenade, however, is clearly still one of the main highlights for tourists. Another notable difference was that Nice is now distinctly more crowded. Places such as the area around the train station and Place Massena, lined with shops and restaurants, were packed with tourists and immigrants.
Ever-romantic Paris evoked the same emotions in me as it did around a quarter of a century ago. This mother of two faithfully fulfilled the city’s top must-dos and must-sees such as Eiffel Tower, Place de la Concorde, River Seine and Arc de Triomphe, not to mention squeezing in time for Champs Elysees and Avenue Montaigne for people watching and shopping. Paris was classic as usual, although probably the one changing facet would be the throngs of Asians queuing to enter the Louis Vuitton store!
We managed to do some self-driving in the region during our two-week stay, prompted in part by the interesting travel stories from many of my clients. Avignon, the old fortified city; Aix-en-Provence, the city of fountains and markets; the perched villages of Gordes, Roussillon and Merebes -- all of these small towns hold many fond memories for me. The Provence region was where I’d left my heart this time around and hopefully, I don’t have to wait another 26 years to head back to this lovely area!