L’Escapade. Episode 5

French Kissing in the Haute Ariège.

Embraced by the warmth of the quietly crackling wood fire, it’s orange glow caressed the entwined bodies of Charles and Camilla, purring in contented feline slumber in Colin’s finally vacated chair. Closed shutters formed a reassuring comfy-blanket around the little house. Fleetwood Mac’s Albatross swished waves of gentle sound around the now tidy room.

John lifted his glass of JD saying, “Salut Caroline. To the rest of our lives!”

I echoed “Salut”, and snuggled closer. We both took a sip and then our lips met.


We’d been up since 4.30 am; John to take Colin to the Airport and me to wish “Bon voyage”. Knowing I’d never get back to sleep, I began the task I’d been itching to start for the last three and a half weeks: cleaning, tidying and sorting the house to a standard acceptable to us. Never thought I’d ever long to do housework. So, by evening, fatigued but content, instead of the romantic picture described above, John tuned his iPad into BBC Radio Northampton to listen to the Saints v Scarlets commentary.

BISOUS (the traditional French greeting) is the fascinating ritual I intended to write about. One of the most extreme incidents I observed was in the middle of a large store in Toulouse when a young assistant came on shift and went round all 9 or 10 colleagues giving the two kiss greeting, even to those serving or helping customers. Thank goodness it’s only two bisous here and not 3 or 4 as in some parts of France.

Another time I remarked how young children followed the ritual as they met in a town square for a summer Fête. Sometimes the young lads just formally shook hands instead of kissing, however males kissing in greeting is common here regardless of age. John’s a bit nervous about how he’ll react when some old guy first puckers up to him!

I find it slightly odd that such an intimate act is freely adopted whereas one has to know someone well before the familiar “tu” can be used in place of the formal “vous”. For example, when Colin’s friends arrived for the dinner described in Blog 4, everyone kissed me and shook hands with John even though we’d never met them, but they used “vous” when speaking to us. Our builder once told us his mother-in-law insists he address her in the “vous” form as a sign of respect. I suppose it’s a bit like calling someone Mr or Mrs instead of using their first name.

Alors, vivent les differences! It all adds to an interesting life.


This blog is based on truth but for privacy and security many of the names have been changed and some of the story may be embellished at times for dramatic effect.