On December 23rd I went shopping in Quimper, capital of Finistere. I came off the motorway (very little traffic), drove straight into the city centre, parked in a half-empty multi-storey car-park by the river, and walked through the precinct of the beautiful Gothic cathedral to a multitude of interesting shops in stunning medieval buildings. No-one has better presented shops than the French and Brittany is no exception. But here the lack of frenzied buying and spending means you can actually browse at leisure. The streets are quiet, the only 'crowd' is a cluster of spectators for the ice-rink erected in the the cathedral square. The indoor market with its extensive food stalls is busy, but in a laid-back kind of way: no-one hurries to serve or be served. There is plenty of time and plenty of room. I stroll back to the car with my purchases - beautifully gift-wrapped at no charge in each shop - after a coffee in my favourite Café des Arts on the quay. In three minutes I'm through the one-way system and on the motorway again, relaxed and happy after an enjoyable morning.
London it isn't. Quality of life, it is.