‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder.’ So I was reminded by a friend last night as we caught up on six and a half months of gossip, not having seen each other since June last year, over a couple of glasses of wine too many. Never has this saying meant more to me than this past weekend, when I took a trip from Nantes back to Bath to collect some belongings from the house I lived in last year.
The trip should never have needed to happen, since I had intended to make the journey to Bath from Cornwall while I was home for Christmas and New Year – but alas, my body had other ideas and decided to keep me bed-ridden from Boxing Day through to the 2nd or 3rd of January, and not feeling on top form until just a few days ago. But as it happened, it was the perfect chance to catch up with old friends and just have a weekend off – and one that I’m very glad had the chance to crop up.
Bath didn’t get the chance this weekend to shine in the glory it does when it enjoys bright blue skies and gorgeous sunlight warming its instantly recognisable sandstone buildings. Yet as I wandered around on Sunday afternoon, relaxed after an indulgent ninety minutes’ deep tissue massage and undeterred by the spitting rain that made a trip to my all-time worldwide favourite chai latte spot all the more inviting, I felt a buzz for the city that I’ve perhaps never felt so strongly before. I love Bath – the west country feel perfectly balanced out with a healthy dose of cosmopolitanism, the beautiful architecture, excellent shopping and great foodie scene, its close proximity to London and everything else the city has to offer. I already knew all of this, of course, but it is only having spent nearly seven months away – and it will likely be at least another eight before I spend any considerable length of time there again – that I have that feeling so strongly again for the city I consider my UK home.
It is, of course, the same situation that it is all too easy to find yourself in anywhere – you live somewhere so, while you realise its beauty, you take it for granted (at least a little) and don’t really reap the full rewards of being able to call that place your home. Visiting somewhere on a break gives a totally different experience – and one that is so much the richer when, because you’ve already spent two years living there, you know all the nice spots that most visitors don’t see, but you come with a fresh head and a sense of relaxation that you just don’t have while you’re permanently living somewhere – meaning you are in exactly the right place to get the most out of the insider knowledge you gleaned while it was home.
It was about half one this morning by the time I left my friend’s, the hours seemingly having literally disappeared as quickly as we finished off the bottle of wine – both of them a sign of how much we had to talk about. I didn’t walk home, though – I bounced home, a real spring in my step, excited beyond measure to be back in my favourite UK city and nearing the end of the perfect weekend. I honestly cannot wait to be back in Bath at the end of September – but I am also still loving Nantes and French life generally, so in the meantime I intend to savour that and squeeze out every last drop while I have the chance.
PS: I know it’s been a while since I blogged properly, and I have lots of French life, teaching tales and hideous festive travelling horrors to share – so I’ll be back into the swing of things very shortly.