We talk to Carol Drinkwater, the award winning actress and author of several bestsellers including the much loved Olive Series, about her love of France…
Where was your first visit to France?
It is hard to remember now. I think it must have been when I was about ten and travelled with my parents to “the Continent” for a holiday. We were on a coach tour en route for Italy. Along the way we made many stops over several days in France, including Paris, Lyon, the French Riviera. I remember whizzing through the Alps and how afraid my mother was that the driver would miss one of the hairpin bends and we would go flying off the narrow mountain road. I remember the stunning scenery, so dramatic, in the mountains; the long lunches where children did not have to sit still and not make a sound; I remember church bells tolling; I remember descending towards the glistening Mediterranean sea for the first time. We had climbed so high into the Alps and from my child’s eye, it was all to give us that first long-distance glimpse, that astounding perspective on where land slips beneath turquoise water. The white Belle Epoque villas like giant sugar cubes; the yachts; the cries of families playing in the sea; the wash of waves. Monte Carlo where, my mother told me, a Prince and Princess lived in a palace on a cliff-top looking out to sea. It was all magical.
What are your favourite places in France and why?
I love Paris and the Cote d’Azur, but I also love the area around Biarritz down towards Spain along the Atlantic coast. Still, Paris and the Cote d’Azur get my vote. Paris, for the very obvious reasons that it is one of the greatest and most beautiful cities in the world. Its choice of art exhibitions and cinema is probably only matched by New York. I am not a city person, or no longer, but I am always excited when I arrive back in Paris because I know that for several days I will be running from one place to another, and there will be so much to see, friends to meet and talk with. There is a very deep-rooted support of the arts in France and nowhere is it more apparent than in Paris. Quality of life matters; freedom of speech is a fundamental here; respect for the individual and each individual’s belief, sexuality, lifestyle. France is a republic, and that is also deeply rooted within the national psyche.
What do you think makes France a great place to visit?
Looking at everywhere in the world I have visited or lived, there is nowhere else, in my opinion, that has the balance so well distributed. It means that sometimes one is caught up in an air traffic control strike or such but the point is the French understand that to take away the right to voice an opinion, takes away the voice of the individual. Freedom of speech. Democracy.
Family values matter here. An excellent education system and almost entirely free or very affordable…
Follow Carol at her website caroldrinkwater.com