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Dinner with friends always rounds out a day

Loran Smith 

Loran Smith 

PRESTON, England — This is my final destination of a fortnight which began in London where I arrived in time to see the televised singles final at Wimbledon with English friends.

With Andy Murray playing Roger Federer, there was the assumption that everyone in the U.K. was pulling for Murray since he was the first Brit to reach the finals since Fred Perry won in 1936. Not so fast was the reply of Jasper and Mo Knight, who live near Canterbury. Upon further review I learned that Murray, the Scot, had this to say about identifying his favorite soccer team: “Anybody who is playing England.”

The antipathy between the English and the Scots is not a latent thing and it is far more hard edged than we experience with Southerners and Yankees. If you are keeping up, the vote for Scotland to become independent is coming up in a couple of years. The last time they voted, the status quo prevailed. What if Scotland ever goes independent? What would be the fallout? Some think it would be like the dog chasing the car. When he catches it, what does he do?

I was in London in 2005 when the U.K. and France were competing for the right to host the ‘12 Olympics. There is a rivalry, too, as you likely know between the two countries. The French prime minister at the time, Jacques Chirac, let it slip that hardly anybody had a worst cuisine than Great Britain. Just a fraction better than the Finns, he suggested. What an uproar Chirac caused but what rejoicing in the streets when Great Britain edged out France for the Olympic prize of hosting the 2012 games.

With ticket sales on the decline for several upcoming Olympic events and the company contracted to hire security personnel having thrown in the towel, the French are getting the last laugh. At least in some circles. I like the British, and I like the French, raising a warm toast to the host country wherever I went. In Bridge, I got out early every morning to get the daily paper and coffee. The newspapers in the U.K., compared to the U.S., are flourishing. Taking a walk followed by coffee and reading the newspaper in a village which has no traffic light and no stop sign was a highlight of an arresting trip.

The ride on the Euro-Star from Ashford to Paris is a technological advancement to appreciate again. To think it took the Allies four years to cross the English Channel in World War II and we can make the journey today from London to Paris by rail in a little more than two hours.

Paris has become an annual stop lately, and I am grateful. Just to walk the streets of Paris, seeing the museums and experiencing the street life on the Seine continues to rank as an unforgettable experience. Didn’t the song writer say he loved Paris in the springtime? And in the fall? Paris is to be loved anytime. Riding the metro can be a challenge if you don’t speak French, however. All you have to do to remedy the problem is to politely ask for help. Never had a Frenchman decline a polite request.

Dinner at the flat of longtime friend Francois Pelou and his friend Bernadette, was a warm renewal of friendship. A retried journalist, our evening was spent in pleasant conversation, accompanied by a nice wine. Leaving Paris for Biarritz, I said, almost aloud, “Vive le France. Life is good.” I felt like my emotions were shouting my feelings.

In Biarritz, dinner with retired sportswriter Denis LaLanne was fraught with reminiscing and drinks by the sea which is always flexing its muscle on this spectacular coast. Lunch with Maurice and Christine Tardits and their family leaves you overwhelmed. A Bordeaux and a Burgundy, the tastiest meal and Armagnac afterwards.

You can go for the La Tour D’Argent in Paris, if you like, but my preference would be in the refreshing setting overlooking the rambunctious Atlantic with the Tardits family.

Loran Smith is affiliated with the University of Georgia and can be reached via e-mail at loransmithathens@bellsouth.net.