Thankfully this week most of the megas that have turned up are ones I didn't need. I spit, for instance, at Eastern Crowned Warblers. And a good thing too, as I've been out of the country for a change, this time in France en vacances avec most of la famille. On the Côte d'Azur to be precise, enjoying cloudless skies and warm sunshine. I understand it has been pretty agreeable here too, but I've had acres of lovely cheese and many vats of wine. Côtes de Provence rosé is magnificent in the right setting, and sat outside in a warm breeze somewhere between Fréjus and Sainte-Maxime is most definitely the right setting. Of birds and birding there was very little. Sardinian Warblers tchack-tchacked from all around, and there were billions of Magpies and Collared Doves, but on the whole I paid very little attention to matters avian. Too busy with the corkscrew mainly, but also too chilled out to worry about it. I took bins, used them a couple of times but really it wasn't the time or place.
The riviera was fabulously French. People impeccably turned out, people impeccably snobby. Where else would a hotel reception be closed between 12 and 2, leaving arriving guests stranded? Rules abounded, no children this, no doing that. Ah non monsieur in response to an as yet carried-out indiscretion, they read your mind these people. Favourite moments included being herded away from the entrance to the indoor pool before I even got there, and having the cricket bat confiscated at Nice airport security. A toy I said, as my daughter wept. Ah non monsieur, the bat was wielded menacingly. I returned to check it in, this dangerous soft balls only foreign object that had travelled quite happily from Gatwick on the same plane a few days earlier..... Once back through I briefly considered buying a magnum of Rosé de Provence and returning to security, there to whirl all 3kg of it it by the neck in the manner of an elegant cut shot towards the smug official that had been unmoved by tears, but it was 32 euros and likely delicious so I didn't bother. Ah France, a country that is truly blessed with many fine things, but has the misfortune to be inhabited by the French, many of whom can be insufferable. You deal with it though, and by being polite and passing the time of day you begin to understand how it all works. Not for the French the incredible speed of modern life. Being from London it is almost incomprehensible, but if you can manage to slow it all down you're 99% of the way there, and you realise quite how irritatingly pleasant it all is. The quality of life - for instance hotel receptionists get two hour lunch breaks - makes it all worthwhile. They know how to live, and it's a wonderful place for a short recharge in the Mediterranean tempo.