When in France, be chic. We’re in the thick of the French end-of-season horse trials, and for those British spectators who want be à la mode, here are a few handy tips.
1. Leave your hoodie, fleece and trainers at home. The accepted French dress code is smart/casual. Both ladies and gents tend to wear collared shirts, leather shoes or boots — and tailored jackets. Women usually wear jewellery and a swathe of elegant scarves.
2. Even if the mercury is nudging 25°C, do NOT wear shorts. We Brits tend to strip off at the merest glimpse of a sunbeam, but the French only wear shorts on the beach.
3. Don’t look for a burger van. There isn’t one. Instead, you can feast on “fouées” (medieval-style pitta bread) stuffed with “rillettes” (potted pork or crab); wooden boards with delicate ruffles of jambon cru and cheeses; baskets of oysters (seriously) and of course the ubiquitous baguette sandwiches. A word on the latter — if you want to sound French, a plain ham sandwich is always “un Parisien”.
4. Naturally your quest for a breakfast bacon buttie will be fruitless too — but do have a croissant. And if you want tea with that, you’ll have to make do without milk. The most they’ll garnish your tea with is a slice of lemon.
5. There will be a midday pause. All the French eat lunch at 12, and there’s always a break in proceedings for a slap-up meal and glass of wine. This is a good moment to hold on to your Britishness, and eat whenever you feel like it, as the food queues will be much improved later on. But never eat on the go — this is downright rude. Sit down, drink some wine and enjoy the moment.
6. Find a French rider to support. They are mobbed as they walk through the tradestands, and greeted like football stars in the ring. And the French crowd will certainly whoop at a rolled pole by a highly placed Brit — while woe betide the lone English fan who cheers a non-Frog, you’ll get some icy stares.
From James, the pint-sized pony rider, to Harriet,
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7. Don’t be alarmed by the anti-terroism patrols. Bags are searched on entrance and both armed police and groups of soldiers with machine guns and pistols march around the site.
8. Finally, stock up with Christmas presents. We’re used to tradestands selling jams, pickles and hot dogs, while in France it’s foie gras and champagne. They sure have style.
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