Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Cassis, Calanques and Cap Canaille

I'm taking a break from my series on Brexit here to talk about something a bit more cheerful. (The next Brexit post, on immigration, is actually sitting in my drafts folder, but it's such a complex and emotive subject that I'm a bit nervous about publishing it, hence the lack of updates over the past couple of weeks.) Understanding Frenchman and I spent Easter weekend in Cassis on what was probably our last trip with our hiking friends before the baby comes along, and it was awesome. My fitness took a nosedive after about 2 months of being pregnant, when I started to get breathless running for buses, but in the end, I think this may have ironically forced me to keep more active, because I keep missing the bus to work and having to walk instead. I'm not as fast as I used to be, and I can't keep up a conversation while walking uphill, but we still managed to clock up quite a few kilometres over the weekend.

On the first afternoon, we followed the trail out west, to the area between Cassis and Marseille known as Les Calanques. The Calanques are narrow inlets of water where a river has dug out its route to the sea between the steep limestone cliffs, and even although it wasn't very sunny, the water was still a gorgeous deep turquoise colour.

 On the second day, we went to Cap Canaille, the highest sea cliffs in mainland Europe at 363 vertical metres.This was a very direct climb up from the town, as there is a road and car park at the top, but no public transport, and definitely tested my remaining lung capacity, but the view from the top, with the dramatic cliff faces and rock formations, looking out over the Calanques, was worth every deeply-drawn breath.

 We had dinner that night at Le Patio, a traditional Provençal restaurant where I learned that the principal difference between soupe de poissons and bouillabaisse is that bouillabaisse is made with actual pieces of fish, while soupe de poissons is made with fish stock and served with garlic mayonnaise.

Our last full day was a bit damp and grey, so after the glorious sunshine at Cap Canaille, we were a bit less motivated to go out, but we managed a short walk on the dry, scrubby hinterland behind the Calanques where the air was full of the scent of rosemary bushes. As it was Easter, we played a traditional German game with boiled eggs, similar to a conker fight, where you have to bash the end of your egg against your opponent's to see which one breaks first. (We had decided against Easter Russian roulette, where you bash eggs against your forehead to find out which of the box has not been boiled beforehand ...)

On our final morning, we woke once more to beautiful weather and had breakfast on the terrace of our gîte, looking out to Cap Canaille. Then it was time to catch the train back to Paris, hoping that the sunshine would catch up with us eventually. (We're still waiting ...)

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Why I'll Be Voting to Stay in in June (Part 2)

Or, more accurately, why I don't think these are good arguments to for Britain to leave the EU. This post: Brussels Regulation.

Argument 3: The EU imposes ridiculous regulations on the UK and its businesses

For as long as I can remember, stories of absurd Brussels regulations have been a recurring event in the British media. There was one about bananas having to have a certain degree of curvature, and another which is something to do with cucumbers. This article from the BBC gives details of a further selection of the best Euromyths, and proceeds to entirely debunk most of them, while this article draws attention to the floppy-haired source of many of the stories.

It's a sad fact that the British media seems to be entirely incapable of balanced, factual reporting on European issues. The temptation to sell more papers with a bit of Frog- or Kraut-bashing is just too strong. There are two problems with this. The first is that a large proportion of the British public actually believes everything they read in the papers. The second is that certain types of (usually right-wing) politicians then get away with sweeping statements about how EU regulation is killing British business, but they don't actually mean rules about selling bananas. They're referring to things like the working time directive, which means that doctors can no longer be expected to work 72 hour weeks (and who wants to be operated on by a surgeon who's already worked 71 hours in 7 days?), maternity rights and environmental regulations.

I actually don't disagree with the argument that the EU can be overly bureaucratic at times, and when you've witnessed the difference between public administration in France, Italy and in the UK, it's easy to see how, when you bring together countries with such disparate expectations of what is normal, some conflict will arise. But that's what compromise is all about, and I would be much prouder of a UK which attempted to improve the situation from the inside, rather than throwing the toys out of the pram and refusing to play anymore, especially when its objections are based on such a biased and factually incorrect view of the situation.