I went on that picnic on Saturday! Sézanne is a really lovely town. They have a walk around the town walls (called ramparts) that’s a bit different – there’s no walls. Back in the day when it looked like all the fighting had stopped and everyone was getting on together they decided to disassemble the walls and use the stone to build nice houses. Aren’t the French very civilized? This was before World War 1 but walls wouldn’t have helped by then anyway.
So instead of a wall it’s a wide path with gorgeous houses set back behind their own walls on one side and a grass bank down to the new town on the other. And on both sides of this path there are trees providing shade from the heat. And there are benches, of course there are. This is where I had my picnic. I had accidentally picked up great picnic ingredients – a cheese pie, a fruit juice and a bag of cherries from the market. When I noticed the perfect bench in the shade it all came together. I lay down my scarf on the bench and my market bounty on top.
It was a marvelous thing! It is no exaggeration to say that every French person that passed said Bonjour and at least three stopped to say Bon appetite! They encourage picnic-lovers here because they are picnic-lovers themselves. There was one couple who tried really hard to avert their eyes from the woman eating alone on a park bench (me) but they weren’t French. They probably thought I would be embarrassed if they had a look to see what I was eating. But I didn’t feel a bit self conscious because so many French people demonstrated their acceptance of my behaviour.
It was a really lovely experience to be accepted while doing something that back home might be considered odd. I wonder do I have the courage to lay out my scarf and picnic alone on a park bench in Greystones? Probably not.