I blogged a few days ago about my wonderful vacation to France over Christmas. In my 10 day journey around the beautiful country, I fell in love.  I fell in love with a country with a proud heritage and a powerful history that is beautifully preserved in its monuments and architecture. In a world bent on advancing and evolving in technology, France prefers to remain in the past.  A journey around France is like a journey back in time.  It is like stepping into a fairy tale, filled with castles and chateaus, and cottages.  Every village and district lies in the shadow of a fabulous stained glass cathedral.  As we drove the countryside I imagined royal hunts, and carriages traveling from village to village. I could almost see the French tales of Cinderella, and Red Riding Hood and Beauty and the Beast come to life in the patches of woods.

I fell in love with the food.  Every meal was carefully prepared and beautifully presented.  There is a pride in French cuisine that infuses every meal from the elegant 5 star hotel to the corner bistro.  The quality of the meats and the produce is superior and the preparation superb.  The wines had layers of scents and flavors, the breads were always fresh with a delicate crunchy crust, the pastries were layered with buttery goodness, the cakes were delicate in flavor and appearance, and the cookies were light as air. The chocolate-oh the chocolate-rich and dark or creamy and milky not too sweet covering caramels and fruits and filling delicate pastries and flavoring delicate buttercreams.

But most of all, I fell in love with the people.  They have a refinement-from the elegant elderly couple across from us in the train, to the little children dancing with joy before the animated Christmas windows, and the uniformed students swarming to class, and the business executives enjoying a leisurely lunch in a café near the Champs Elysees.  They took time for each other.  They met for coffee before work, they stood outside the university to chat. They took time to enjoy their meals, and met for wine after work.

They were patient and kind, to a foreigner who insisted on persisting to speak to them in less than perfect French although they detected the American accent and answered in English.  They took time to give detailed directions and make recommendations of places to go and things to see.  They even took time to stop and help you maneuver your luggage up and down the maze of stairs in the Metro station and lead you to your destination. One special family even opened their hearts and their home and shared the beauty of the Basque country.

Because of my love the horrific events of today have left me heartbroken.  This world of beauty was shattered by the evil that men do.

My love, however, grew stronger as I saw the French stand together by the thousands to protest the violence and refuse to be intimidated by those who would do evil.  Vive La France. Vive L’Amour. Vive Liberte.