Ohlala! Detoxing in France!? Seriously?

Mirabeau is just one of the many vineyards nearby http://www.mirabeauwine.com/life-is-rose-for-expats-in-cotignac-provence/

Mirabeau is just one of the many vineyards nearby http://www.mirabeauwine.com/life-is-rose-for-expats-in-cotignac-provence/

Here we are in the land of buttery croissants, tantalizing Rosé, excruciatingly gorgeous cheeses and yet we are detoxing. Ohlala. What the heck are we thinking?! Our friends give us crooked looks. They have 'non' respect for this sort of behavior and don’t hide their dismay: You are too American. Relax, be happy. What’s a little sugar?You are on holiday, yes?

I completely agree. They are right to question this odd behavior, for there is nothing better than to arrive at Nice airport, take deep breaths of the dry coastal air - an aromatic mix of thyme, rosemary, dried earth, sea and cypress – and count the minutes speeding down the Autoroute only slowing for speed cameras until you can at last press a chilled Rosé to your lips.

From the moment you touch down and say “Merci. Bonne journée” to the friendly immigration officer and then stuff your American passport away, every one of your senses is firing away, urging you to Relax. Enjoy life. Be in Rome when in Rome… or Provence. Fear not, my friends. Those lovely French sirens are not being completely ignored. They are just being held at bay, albeit for a ridiculous ten day sugar detox in the South of France. I’ve done stupid things in my life and this might be one of them, but hear me out: there are some very good reasons for it.

First off, if we were staying for a two week holiday, there would be NO detox. We would dive into life over here and enjoy all that is on offer and relax with impunity. We would deal with the consequences upon returning to the states and figure out some kind of detox after the fact ...but we are not here for 14 days. We are here for 60, so taking it easy for the first ten days is a healthy way to allow a digestive system to adjust gradually to the travel, time change and dietary wonders. Talk about Slow Travel…this is definitely a surreal stop on The Slow Road.

Despite all those concerned looks we’re getting from friends, it’s not all bad. It’s not like we are detoxing on multiple levels. We’re just knocking out the sugar for ten days.  Besides, it is far easier to detox away from home once you've broken your routine. My husband Tony and I quit smoking together twelve years ago. We went to Parrot Cay for two weeks and slept it out of our systems for the first three days and then spent the next eleven days replacing old habits with new. Tony opted for the impressive afternoon tea cakes while I opted for Pilates, yoga, and Reiki treatments. He's been enjoying tea cakes ever since and now he’s ready to jump off that proverbial cliff of a sugar cube and put an end to sweet urges.

This is my husband’s first sugar detox and I am really happy he is doing it - that’s why I am doing it with him. Granted, I have an unfair advantage.  I did my sugar detox once, and have since maintained a low glycemic diet so this is easy for me. I [truly] enjoy a routine sugar purge, but it’s tough going for him. He loves his morning toast with butter and marmalade or honey. His day peaks with tea and tea cakes in the afternoon.  He prefers his wine over tequila and can’t imagine a French meal that isn't capped with something deliriously egg-y, creamy and sweet.

To be fair to him, that’s why we are only focusing on sugar. To go the full nine yards for a total detox would be impractical, stupid … imagine no dairy, no wine and no caffeine in France…now that would be insane. Baguettes might not be sticking out of our market bag but we are still enjoying our grand crèmes [café au laits]; wrapping our gloriously stinky cheese in roti ham; and devouring piles of market fresh vegetables each day.

While I am not drinking alcohol, Tony has put aside the Pastisse on ice, chilled Rosé, and le petite pression [tiny beer]. Instead, he is discovering the no-sugar freshness of chilled tequila with lemon and fizzy water as an apéro.  After a session with his head stuck inside the engine of our ancient Renault [aka “Jolly” because she is not so Jolie] he admits the disarmingly simple Mexican tincture is “rah-ther refreshing.”

Apart from giving our systems a gentle introduction to all things new and French, there is also a subliminal bonus to this bizarre sugar detox in France. For all of us who travel, we know that from the moment the wheels hit the road, the boat sets sail, and the plane takes off, we leave “our world” behind. We move towards a realm that is beyond our every day and it is here where we can relax, let go, and “cleanse” ourselves of the weight of our every day. We replace it with things that are lighter, brighter, uplifting. In doing so we recharge, reboot and revitalize and let go of the debris that weights us down. That, my friends, is exactly what we intend to do this summer, but it goes even deeper for us. 

First morning. View from the olive terraces 

First morning. View from the olive terraces 

For every year that we have lived in the states we have spent as many away from our home in France. It is a place that is dear to us yet we tend to its taxes, its bills and its maintenance from thousands of miles away. The 300 year old stone farm house waits, silent and boarded up until our return. In turn, our year is marked by the time in between our two worlds. When we do return, we get straight to work. We haven’t stopped since we arrived.

As much as we are outwardly busy with projects, we are just as busy inwardly as we reconnect with a place that holds many memories and much meaning for us. For years, we have watched the sun cast shadows over its fields from morning until evening and apart from the mistral that currently assaults us, it is always peaceful and still. Soon the sound of the mighty winds will be replaced by the songs of cigales and while the wind continues to whip up and the shudders bang shut, we keep busy "putting things right". As each day edges us closer to full-on vacation mode, we let go of our day-to-day life in America.  The physical detox is joined by a spiritual detox as we process the past year and shift our focus to the silent, pensive parts of our hearts and minds. 

As odd as this may seem, our home is also in need of a metaphorical detox. Pipes are calcified from lack of use; my claw-footed iron bath groans as we turn her on for the first deep salt and lavender bath of the season; and the dishwasher and washing machine ache as they are called to duty. It will take a while for our house, as well as our own systems to unclog and reawaken after a year’s pile up.

Beneath all our chores, there is a metaphysical give and take between us and our home. It feels good to be back in our home attending to all her needs, breathing life back in and allowing air into all the dark corners that have been left untouched, not unlike the way a detox clears away our dark patches. We are swept up within her walls and over her fields where the rhythm of a home has no alarms to wake us and timing has nothing at all to do with hands on the clock. Unwind indeed. It is a peaceful place, a perfect sanctuary for proper rest and a healthy detox to clear away the cobwebs, literally and metaphorically.  

If home is indeed where the heart is, then on some magical level, this home needed our heart beats for it to come alive and for a pulse to run through it. For that alone, I can’t think of a better place to undergo a detox than in France while reconnecting with our home, whose pipes are as rusty as our own. Maybe, just maybe this detox in France is not such a crazy idea after all?