Places that make my heart glad: France.

Having watched Amélie at the weekend, I’m missing France this week. If I were to advise an American friend as to which single European country to visit, without a shadow of a doubt I would tell them to go to France. To fly into Paris and then get exploring the rest of the country. I love this place deeply which is why I miss it so badly now I’m the wrong side of the world. I did a French degree, and being able to speak the language opened the country up to me..and golly I love it.

The amazing rock formations near the little village of Remuzat

It is the perfect country in terms of topography. France has EVERYTHING. Spectacular beaches, of both the windswept and sun-drenched variety. It has mountains and lakes (necessary for a country that wishes to keep my heart captive). It has an incredible capital city and wonderful provincial cities. It has millennia of history. It has incredible culture – music, literature, theatre, film. The food is spectacular. The wine is gorgeous. Its people are beautiful and stylish. The French language is achingly sexy and includes the word ‘Éclater’ – to burst – which is my favourite.  It has regions which are windy, cold and grey and regions which are sun-baked, golden and lush. Cycling is a national sport and its drivers are incredibly courteous to cyclists. It has thousands of miles of quiet country roads which are perfect for cycling.  It has the best bread on the planet. It gave the world the pain au chocolat, Emmanuelle Béart and the Citroën 2CV.

The French are very different to Americans, which has given them an unfair reputation in American eyes. Likewise, the Americans that France reads about are very different to the lovely people we’ve met here. (I actually think the Americans are the most misrepresented nation in the world). I read a very funny and pretty accurate blog post about this earlier in the week.

But suffice to say…I love this place with all my heart. And here are my favourite bits.

Paris. FLIPPING LOVE IT. I actually don’t know where to begin describing what I love about it, so I’m going to let the pictures do the work for me. This place is magical.

The Eiffel Tower from the Rodin Museum

The Alps. I LOVE the French Alps. I love the mountains, the skiing (and alas the hospitals that treat skiers’ broken bones), the fresh air, the chalets, the fondu restaurants and it’s just so beautiful in both summer and winter.

Méribel…in the Three Valleys ski area

Poitou-Charentes. This little known region on the west coast is gorgeous. It’s sunny, has lovely white houses with blue shutters,  it follows the beautiful lush Charentes river and it’s not full of Brits quite yet. I spent two summers working there and it was wonderful.

Lovely La Rochelle

Provence. I had the luck to study in beautiful Aix en Provence for three months and fell in love with this elegant little town. The region around it is spectacular – we’ve explored it by bike and would love to go back and do more!!

Old church in the Luberon National Park

I think France is best seen by bicycle. We’ve done some amazing trips there – it’s probably the best European country to tour by bike in!!

The top of my first ‘col’ (mountain pass) was a moment of triumph!

So there you go. France. Where I would live if you let me live ANYWHERE. My long-term dream is a owning a B&B in Annecy, one of my friends actually does that. So when she decides to sell…Harriet, call me.

Annecy old town…photo by the very lucky Harriet

If you fancy going and need a travel advisor…I’m your gal!

4 Comments Add yours

  1. I forgot to read this post (I saw you put the link on “Running the World: France” and forgot to check it out before today). Oh… now, I miss France. I want my baguette and my chocolatine (I am from the South of France and there we don’t say “pain au chocolat” but “chocolatine”… big debate between French people) and everything you can find in a boulangerie 😦

    You are right, France is a really beautiful country. You have almost everything: lakes, ocean, sea, mountains… etc… in a small country. I think what I miss the most from France is the fact that things are little. It feels more confidential that what we can see here in the USA. I love the little roads in the countryside which are perfect to run or to bike.

    Also, you know I lived in Paris. I like the city in itself, but, living there didn’t make it me like it. I think Paris is beautiful to visit but not to live in. At least, for me.

    Anyways… I want to go down the street to the boulangerie to buy nice little patisseries right now 😦

    1. Cathryn says:

      I really miss the little roads for cycling! It’s one of the things I most miss about being in the US. I KNOW that if we’d stayed in the UK, we would be cycling in France all the time with the Dude as it’s so much safer than here! There are definite benefits of California over Europe but those little roads…I miss them too.

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