Live to leave

Provence smells of roses and lavender, of chilled wine and Pastis, of tomatoes fresh from the garden, of basil on quick fingers, of soft white cheese crushed onto baguettes still warm from the boulangère’s oven, of sunshine on smooth stones, of Nutella crèpes beside clear canals, of moss, of chicken roasting, of steak, of 50+ sunscreen, of long afternoons.

Paris smells of someone else’s cigarettes, and tastes of them too, smoked down to the tips of my fingers at 3 in the morning on a side street in the Marais. It tastes of coffee, strong and sweet, of buttery pastry, of Long Island Iced Tea, of a Frenchman’s stubbled cheek, of light rain over gravestones, of pretzels shared with old friends, of pizza, of thé vert, of soup du jour in Rodin’s garden, of picnics on the TGV.

Marseille sounds like sirens, like seagulls, like breaking waves, like stallholders crying “uneurouneurouneuro”, like squeals of delight as old friends spy one another across busy streets, like horns, like traffic, like wind in a thousand masts, like a language I understand without having to concentrate, like sand under bare feet, like plates being slid onto tables, like glasses clinking, like buskers, like reggae, like a tiny Citroën’s engine straining up Rue Vauvenargues, like a shutter clicking, like the metro rattling into La Timone.

Holidays look like tanned shoulders, like familiar faces, like permanent smiles, like photos taken for the seventh time, like old haunts, like the sea, like sparklers, like speedometers reading 130 km/hr, like breathtaking mountain views, like windswept hair, like a quivering lip and teardrops swiped from eyelashes.

France feels like home.

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