Northside - Andrew Martin prefers a hearty northern breakfast
I have never seen anything in France that you might call proper bacon
Being in France - and I was in Provence last week - does not make me feel British or English so much as very Yorkshire. After two days of croissants for breakfast, I always start trying to recreate the hearty northern breakfast of bacon and eggs. The egg side of the equation is no problem. They do have eggs in France, and you can fry them, thereby creating oeufs au plat, which translates as "eggs on a plate", a term so devoid of energy and inspiration that it seems to reflect the French lack of enthusiasm for frying eggs, as opposed to doing something much more complicated with them.
The real difficulty, however, is the bacon. I have never seen anything in France that you might call - if you were from Yorkshire - proper bacon, so I have to improvise, using Parma ham, salami, or some other bit of charcuterie.
I also always want a good strong mug of tea after a couple of days in France - or a mug of coffee, at least. The French, I know, drink a thing called cafe au lait using the cereal bowls from which, if they were more normal, they would eat cereal. But I somehow crave a big cup with a handle, and our self-catering place had only thimble-sized cups for drinking espresso, so I bought a Winnie the Pooh mug at a street market in Marseilles. My son, however, accidentally smashed this as soon as we got back to our apartment, which made me feel so alienated and out of sorts that I went straight to the restaurant within the complex where we were staying, with the aim of securing the nearest possible equivalent to a mug of tea.
The French do drink a lot of what I believe is informally known over here as "poof's tea" - tea with lemon, herbal tea and so on - and, sure enough, this restaurant offered "the arome". But, slightly more promisingly, there was also "the nature", which I ordered along with the nearest I could get to a pint of bitter, namely a largish bottle of a Belgian beer called Grimbergen. The tea was presented as follows: cup, saucer, three tubular paper sachets of sugar decorated with the name of the manufacturer's website, pot of hot water, tea bag marked "Breakfast Parney", all accompanied by a chocolate-coated coffee bean, as if to remind you of what you really should have ordered. I would gladly have traded that coffee bean for a bit of milk, and I would have called for milk, had I not already - and all too obviously - established myself in the eyes of the waiter as an utter madman.
In the end, it all went down pretty nicely, especially the Grimbergen, which had an alcohol content of 6.7 per cent. But when, later in the holiday, a friend told me that in social and economic terms the south of France was the equivalent of the north of England . . . Well, I just could not believe it.