My lovely teenage daughter has arrived from London, laden with treats. From the depths of her suitcase she produces a mauve box of M&S Empress Grey tea bags (they’re simply the best), three mosquito nets, some Rococo fudge for her brother and a copy of last night’s Evening Standard. Even though I left my reporting job on the paper years ago, I’m an Evening Standard addict and the thought of reading it in deepest rural France is one of life’s little luxuries.
I take the paper to the Café de Globe to read in the sun over a coffee. After years of getting the etiquette of French coffee completely wrong I now know it’s essential to order a café crème. If you ask for a café au lait the waiter (with a very withering look) will present you with a bowl of coffee topped with an alarming mass of whipped cream. On the same note, never ask for a café crème after midday in France. It must be a petit café or an espresso. Nothing else will do.
My teenage son dashes across the street to buy croissants from the boulangerie and we sit and eat them with our coffee. I can’t imagine Starbucks being impressed by customers arriving with breakfast from another shop but it seems utterly normal in France.
The pavement outside the Café de Globe is so hot that the waiter hurries out to extend the awning and give us a little more shade. The café is packed with old men drinking Pastis and poring over Le Figaro and workers from the Crest Jazz Festival (see above) chatting about last night's storming performance by pianist Chucho Valdes. When I open my Evening Standard. I’m stunned by the terrible news from home. While we have been merrily painting, decorating and rearranging furniture at the House with No Name, stock markets across the world have plunged into turmoil, an Eton schoolboy has been killed by a polar bear in Norway and there's been a riot in Tottenham.
Suddenly our pretty sunlit café in the south of France seems the most peaceful place in the world to be.