Of course, you've also been dining well on the food.
The food that you crave for when you're not there, and when you are, it satisfies you in a way that has been too long forgotten. It's rich and the flavours are intense, food for your stomach and your soul alike. It's the crackle of the crust of the bread, or the silk of a perfectly ripened cheese; the flavours in the soup that are as old as you can remember, but as new to you now as they were that first time.
But then of course, like any great feast or banquet, it comes to an end. You've eaten your fill and now it is time to go. You look around enviously at the other guests of the country, those who don't need to leave as you do. Perhaps you hesitate, you consider just stepping back, just another taste before you go, and then you remember that the world carries on and there are things to be done. So you leave, unsure of when you will return but confident in yourself that you will, because how could you not?
Now you're home, you're across the channel, or further away. You're contented for the moment, but soon the hunger returns. You relive in your head those moments, those tastes, sounds, smells, and memories, and you want more.
You go to your local supermarket and gaze at the items on the shelves, you gravitate towards the tiny markings on the labels: 'Produit de France'. There's so little here, and most of it is lacking. You squeeze the bread but it collapses in self-pity beneath your fingers, the meat lacks the poetry, and the chocolate lacks rhythm. The shelves may as well be empty to you. They don't have what you need, so you eat, and you go hungry.
Over the top, non?
I guess what I'm trying to say is that here at Vive Trianon we're suffering from serious withdrawal symptoms, and if any of the above passage is familiar to you then you know what we mean. Quality French food is sometimes just too hard to come by in the UK. There are, of course, the occasional market stalls selling French cheeses and meats, the odd treat, but it's not often you can come across the every day food items that fill the supermarché shelves. These are the items that we take an empty suitcase for whenever we visit (on our last trip we overfilled a bag so much that a bottle managed to somehow break itself inside, and leak all over the carriage of the Metro - cringe!).
It's not exactly a recent thing (in fact it was introduced almost two years ago) but the online grocery store Ocado, which usually stocks Waitrose food, has now got a deal with the French supermarket chain Carrefour, and is now stocking a selection of authentic French produce including the Reflet De France range. This range was launched by Carrefour in 1997 as an initiative to showcase local produce deriving from French culinary heritage.
They do have an interesting range, and it is a great way to stave off those intense cravings for good French food, but we'll be the first to recognise that it isn't a flawless alternative (for one you need to be in France for French food to truly work). They don't have a complete stock, it's mainly just the highlights, and the prices aren't all that agreeable when you're on a tight budget.
In all honesty, we've never even considered shopping with Ocado, or Waitrose, before, and we only happened upon this discovery whilst ordering from what seems like the sole French supermarket in England, French Click (does anyone know any others?). However, just as with French Click, Ocado's Reflets De France range may be nice to do every now and then as a bit of a treat, but it's definitely not something that we'd be able to use as our only source of food.
Has anyone used this Ocado service? If so what was your experience and would you recommend it? Also, does anyone else know of any other UK-based French supermarkets, either online or instore?