I’ve just come back from a trip to the Loire. A friend is currently trialling working from Lille rather than Oxford (his commute to near Stevenage remains the same time, and roughly the same level of shlep) and he decided this was an excellent jumping-off point for a cheap trip round France’s hotbed of dirty chateau action.
The castles were pretty remarkable, but even more so the gardens: a shame it rained for Chenonceaux, but Villandry was like watching a fireworks display, seen as it was on a sultry, almost baked July afternoon. The locals were also on the whole very pleasant, more polite and friendly in the Loire (and indeed in Lille) than in Brittany (not to mention Paris.) I remarked to my friend that I hadn’t realised before that “bon journee!” was a thing people actually said to you. And for reasons of brevity, we should of course pretend I’ve already made my standard complaint about France’s terrible vegetarian food, and instead give honourable mention to Le Gaulois in Tours, and L’Annexe in Blois, both of which pulled out the stops – if not actually making much effort with their printed menus.
What I think I liked about the holiday, more than the scenery, architecture and food, was the option to briefly be another person, or at any rate another version of me. Now that I’m freelance, I was able to bookend the trip with a day’s remote working either side at a cooperatively-run coworking space in Lille. My quondam employers would scarcely (and understandably) have ever conscienced such a thing. Suddenly I am this person. This international freelancer. This jetsetter. This fluid, subtle creature, its very subtlety enabled by the portals of modern travel and trappings of modern technology.
Which of course makes it all the more disappointing when you return home, only to find that older version of you standing where you left them, waiting for you to zip yourself back into their skin.