dimanche 31 janvier 2010

Is « La douce France » still alive?

France remains the first country for tourism, and this, despite the arrogance and contempt that some actors of tourism demonstrate, particularly towards foreigners.
What are these tourists looking for?
-          A diversity of friendly landscapes of an incredible variety. Few countries offer such a variety of climates, mountains cover with snow and glaciers, green landscapes, wild areas with very few people.
-          An architecture as diversified as landscapes. Simple Provence houses and the Château de Versailles chateau. The castle of Pierrefonds or the Royal Abbey of Fontevraud. Roman arenae and the Millau bridge.
-          A history, a culture and an art as old as 30 000 years. Ranging from the Chauvet cave to Beaubourg or the Joconde painting of Leonardo da Vinci. Museums of all kinds are confirming this heritage we share with visitors.
-          Gastronomy and wines of high diversity and quality are another facet of this wealth.
-          Motorways and fast trains (TGV) facilitate traveling. Sufficient hotels and “chambres d’hôtes” are scattered throughout the whole country. Good harbors can shelter leisure boats on the variety of coast lines that France enjoys.
-          Theme parks copied onto the American models are also attracting a category of tourists, namely: EuroDisney, the Futuroscope nearby, …
Are some tourists looking for something else?
A few people, predominantly those of higher education, are searching what is left of the “art de vie a la francaise”. In fact they hope to find the individuals who have survived in sanctuaries as the last representatives of what is left of “la douce France”. They come to rediscover and share the live style of these original human species of an era which has almost completely vanished.
They are French and English. They also come from Belgium, the Netherlands, Australia, … They would love to share evenings around good food and good wines, sleep in genuine manor houses or castles.
Will these outdated places survive much longer globalisation, economic pressure, forced industrial standardization? Could  they maintain their unique and isolated environment growing their organic vegetables from their own seeds collected year after year and using their well for getting water? Would they succeed to comply with the overwhelming constraints of new regulations to, supposedly, protect the community? Would they survive in a world lead by money,  efficiency, productivity, return on investment. Would they be allowed take risks considering the new “Precaution Principle” written down recently in the French Constitution, the most recent misadventure. French people are aging and looking for an all-risk insurance at the national level. We are getting tighter and tighter in our  “equality and fraternity” straight-jacket.
Notheless, there are a few survivors who have managed in an isolated way to preserve this “French way of life”. They are seen, by most French people, as privileged individuals who have a steal soft life in their secluded place.
Such people are , generally, wealthy retired people who barricade themselves behind thick  iron fences in their large manor house inherited throughout generations. Tourist have no access to such private places where one can observe such relics of the mythical “douce France”.

Château de la Motte has just been selected to be part of the guide book “Go Slow France” to be published soon by Alastair Sawday. This is a kind of inventory further to their search for authentic  Bed & Breakfasts places offering this vanishing way of life, so attractive for educated people looking for authenticity of dwelling, food, ambiance, social behavior, positive thinking and environment. There you can escape our mad world for a few happy days.

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