Europe: We love you

Europe We love you | Kathy Lette

A woman’s favourite destination is a cosy little spot that goes by the name of “G.” But, Europe comes a close second. The Continent haemorrhages history. There’s a host of ghosts in every nook and cranny. The whole place is casually strewn with medieval citadels, grand chateaus and Roman ruins, which is great because being photographed in front of ancient monuments makes a girl look soooo much younger!

I’ve lived partly in London for 30 years. The biggest benefit of living in England is its proximity to Europe. Every spare weekend, I’ve ricocheted across the channel for some close encounters of the continental kind. As a social climber, I have a head for heights, which is why I’ve yodelled my way around the Swiss Alps and done a little light Julie Andrew type twirling in Austria. I’ve patted the Lippizan horses which are one of Vienna’s um, mane attractions and enjoyed concerts by locals boys– Haydn, Beethoven, Mahler, Liszt, Bruckner, Schubert, Schuman, Strauss, Mozart, Freud (okay, he didn’t play an instrument, but he did deal with highly strung people.)

Bayreuth is where I go for Wagner and Berlin, for cabaret. Yes, the German language is grating and the food is boring – every time I eat in Germany I want to scream, “You people occupied France and Italy! Did you learn nothing?!” – but their musical menu is scrumptious.

I’ve done laps in the silky, shark-free Med and clambered over Greece’s ancient mosaics, amphitheatres and smashed marble pedestals. In Delos I became a columnist, literally, when photographed atop a plinth…. I always knew One Day My Plinth Would Come. I’ve cycled the Algarve, flamenco danced in Cordoba and been introduced as ‘Café Latte’ on Italian book tours. Dubrovnik, Prague, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Venice – I’ve been lucky enough to sample the whole geographical minestrone.

But my favourite place by far, is France. When initially visiting Paris, my first thought was – isn’t a bidet really too small a bathtub in which to wash your whole body? I really didn’t understand much about the French, except that they have a proud tradition of hating absolutely everyone. I also knew you can tell a French film by the amount of talking which goes on in it. The French don’t really need a traditional army; they could simply bore their enemies to death with a crack team of existentialist philosophers spreading ennui. The opponents they don’t succeed in smugging to death, they could just wipe out with passive smoke inhalation from Gitane fumes.

Obviously, I wasn’t in any danger of breaking the savoir-faire barrier. Arriving at Gare du Nord, I was worried I’d be arrested by the Chic Police and told to “Never darken our Dior again.”…Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong. It was love at first bite. The gateaus, the chateaus, the glamour, the art galleries, the vintage vino, the flirtation… A day or two in Paris and you realise that it’s not that the French are arrogant; it’s just that the rest of the world suffers from delusions of adequacy.

Of course, post Brexit, these easy, breezy excursions will become much harder. There’ll be visas and passport queues. I’m not sure Johnson and the other pinstripe-under-panted Tory pterodactyls have properly thought through a Europe-ectomy. Scotland will have a referendum and remain in Europe. Ireland will reunite and remain in Europe. Then Wales will realise they can’t cope without funding from Brussels and skedaddle back to the EU. And all that will be left of Great Britain will be a shrunken little England – a museum of Morris dancers and spotted-dick digesters.

Not so much Rule Britannia, as Fool Britannia. Okay, gotta go. Must pop to Rome for a risotto and Poland for a polka, while I still bloody well can.

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