Travel isn't always about touring capital cities and A-list attractions. To gain nuanced impressions of a nation sometimes it's far more rewarding to head to small towns and villages, where the pace of life is gentler. Quietly observing everyday scenes from the shaded seat of a provincial café is as much a part of experiencing France as snapping selfies in front of the Eiffel Tower.
Who doesn't love chic and sunny Cannes, Nice and Antibes on the French Riviera, so an invitation to Hyères, the 'original Côte d'Azur' piqued our interest. Hyères, with its medieval centre and nearby beaches, covers a 30 km area and was a favourite destination from the 18th-century onwards among the international jet set.
I believe it's incumbent on those who want change in the European Union to offer up a positive alternative vision that would benefit the whole region rather than take a "me first" approach that many Euro-sceptics take. So here is a Europe I passionately believe in, a Europe that can genuinely advance the causes of peace, prosperity and democracy for the benefit of all...
Perhaps if we remembered that in this bleak world of ours Britain shines like a beacon of freedom, tolerance and compassion then we can be proud of ourselves, proud to help others and proud to push the international community to do its best. If we can rally round a positive patriotism about the place we're lucky enough to call home then we can drown-out the anti-British naysayers as well as helping those who sincerely need our help.
I've been thinking all day about how I can find the words for what we experienced last week. An hours drive from my house, then half an hour on the Eurotunnel, and we were in the world's worst refugee camp in terms of resources and conditions, yet we were welcomed with open arms. It's amazing how only the people who have nothing really know how to share.
What troubles me about the French attitude to dogs is that they seem to regard these cute canines more as commodities than we do in the UK. In France, as in large swathes of the continent, you can easily buy a puppy from a pet shop. You can, if the mood took you, pop out for a pint of milk and come back with a pooch.