Remember when I wrote that post about how wonderful it is to be taken in by strangers? Well, neither do I. It might very well have been an assignment for Langue class. Anywho, you never really know a country until you've been taken in by its citizens in their homes, and France certainly wins the blue ribbon for Best Hosts Ever (including a sweeping landslide in the subcategories of Friendliest Invite, Most Thoughtful Gestures, and Most Welcoming Conversation).
My French friend Claire had me over to her apartment today for lunch, and was so wonderful to me. She made sure I had lots to eat, including bonbons and un gouter of an after-lunch red wine, loaned me lots of French poetry books, and even though to fill my water bottle up before I left. Mme. Soleil, whose family so warmly invited me to lunch a month or so ago, was the same, inviting me to play hide and seek (cache-cache) with the family, driving me all the way back to my house, and insisting that I come back at least once before I leave.
Our friends in Marseilles were equally generous, sending us off to see the city with lots of maps, tourist books, and advice, and seeing us off to Italy with way too many snack foods and hugs. Hooray!
So don't let anybody tell you the French are a distant or anti-guest people; it's just not the case. Sure, when you pass tons of strangers on the street and none of them smile at you, it seems very different, but it doesn't mean that if you suddenly found yourself without recourse they wouldn't jump to help you, or maybe even pour you a big glass of cidre and want to know whether or not you think that France is prettier than England (you always answer this yes).
I find as I get closer to leaving France, I get more sentimental. Today, I'm sad to be leaving the incredibly sweet people that have helped me acclimate to this lovely country.