As the long weekends of May melt into the hot, lazy months of summer, vacationers throughout Europe will be heading south in a seasonal game of musical chairs (or rental properties, as the case may be).
To those headed for France in search of some idyll of provincial calm complete with crusty baguettes and tree-shaded country roads, I have the following advice:
The authenticity of a French town or village (or the index of its relative isolation from all things Tourist and Parisian) can be measured by the inverse ratio of joggers to other pedestrians on a given Sunday morning.
If there are more prim women "of a certain age" walking their dogs, more old men waving each other to the counter at the local café, more children clanging metal scooters over cobblestones and more weekend fishermen stooped over their poles and their newspapers along the river than there are Parisians plodding along plugged into their iPhones, you've found the Real France.
(This Sunday, May 11, 2009, Troyes passed the test with flying colors, as it always has in the ten years I've known it. My husband and I were the only ones foolish enough to be out jogging in circles in the rain.)