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French Take-Out ~ La France à
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"Deep France ~ La France profonde"
To my mind, one of the best things about France is the French countryside. These are just some of the images that come to mind: Driving down a rural lane past centuries-old farms in Normandy or Burgundy. Taking a long walk in the once-royal forest of Fontainebleau. Picking my way through moss-laden trees in the Dordogne woods. Smelling the pines and sea air in the hinterlands of the Médoc or in the hills behind the Cote d'Azur. Getting stopped by a rowdy herd of goats on a remote road in Corsica or Provence. Biking around the scenic Ile de Ré. Tracing the outline of bare trees against open fields in winter. Seeing thousands of yellow sunflowers swaying in the wind. Watching the sun slowly set over rolling green vineyards. The possibilities of French landscapes are almost endless - and so easily obtainable. All you have to do is get out of the city and voila, the French countryside is there.
Thinking about the non-city experience in France reminds me of the wonderful French expression 'la France profonde' - deep France. As one of my French friends puts it, "la France profonde signifie la France des campagnes. Sans urbanisation et progres, et ancrée dans les traditions." In other words, deep France is the French countryside untouched by urbanization or development and anchored in tradition. In this view, French rural life is simple and idyllic in a positive sense. To another French friend, however, la France profonde is rather pejorative. It reminds her of a remote backwater, its inhabitants out of touch with modern life. Perhaps the American expression the 'deep South' is similar, both positive and negative depending on whom you talk to.
Recently, I had a very deep France encounter in its best sense. You know when you're really in the mood for something and then it happens that the more than the perfect thing comes along to satisfy that wish? For me, it was just that with the extraordinary French documentary film "Le Cousin Jules." Originally released in 1973 and despite receiving critical acclaim, Cousin Jules languished in relative film obscurity until it was digitized and re-released this past year.
(Please note that this software program does not support all accents for French words - check the article at www.elizabethnew.com for the true French spellings!)