And so, after two years without a visit to continental Europe, late last month we returned to Provence. It was like greeting a familiar friend. The main square in the village of Biot, pictured on the home page, was one such example. Welcome to the Côte d’Azure! Or should that now read Covid d’Azure? Because things are also somewhat different these days.

A quiet square in the hilltop village of Mougins, a place which captures perfectly the special essence of Provence

We had got appropriately kitted up beforehand, not only with the relevant NHS app but with its French equivalent so that we (that is me, my wife, one of our sons and his girlfriend) could prove we had all been double-jabbed. At one restaurant we were asked to confirm that all four of us had got the pass, to which we said we had, but they never checked – which I guess was rather naughty of them. Mostly, even for just a coffee, they did check.

Although he was Spanish, Pablo Picasso lived most of his life in France and died here in Mougins in 1973, aged 91

Otherwise, the holiday was much as one might expect for that part of the world at that time of year; in fact, perhaps the weather was even better than one could reasonably have hoped. Most considerately, pretty much the only time it rained was while we were sleeping. Clouds were almost rare a sight as flying pigs. (OK, we didn’t actually see any of those.) It seldom got below 20 degrees even in the evening.

A quiet Saturday morning in Valbonne – mind you, you should see the place 24 hours beforehand…the Friday market is gently chaotic

There was, though, one other aspect of the holiday affected by covid regulations. We had to take a test three days before travelling back to the UK. All went well for all of us, which was not a surprise, but inevitably there is that occasionally recurring nagging doubt in the back of one’s mind in the day or two before taking it. What if I test positive? I mean, I really love being in the South of France but I’d like it a lot less well if I was forced to quarantine there! It’s hard to imagine being able to summon up much holiday spirit in that circumstance.

A bottle of red: I bought this because of the label, thinking it quite un-French to make fun of their own wine; in fact, it was very drinkable

Finally, after that visit to a familiar friend, I’m finding the feel-good factor post return has lasted longer than it seemed to do before; the sense of having had the opportunity to go away seems more abiding and deeper. It is obviously always somewhat disappointing when a holiday comes to an end, but if you never returned home, then the place you returned to wouldn’t be…er, home. Would it? Probably needless to say, I can hardly wait to do it again – although, things being what they are, I will have to wait a while.